Worship Leader Magazine Volume 29 Number 4

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S I N C E TH E FI R S T P R I NT I S S U E I N 1992 , WO R S H I P LE A D E R H A S E VO LV E D I NTO O N E O F TH E WO R LD ' S M O S T AU TH O R ITATI V E A N D R E S P E C TE D C H U RC H LE A D E R MAG A Z I N E S .


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J O I N

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6 FE ATUR E S

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A Tribute to Chuck Fromm

Robb Redman

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Worship as Cultural Confrontation C. Dennis Williams

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Universal Cultures of Worship

18

Vaughn Thompson Jr.

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Worship as Counter-culture Nancy Nethercott

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Worship as the Reordering of Power

Mark Labberton

L E A DER S H I P

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22

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Back to Basics

Dr. Chuck Fromm with Andrea Hunter

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Missional Worship What Time is it? Worship

Confronting Culture

by Tanya Riches

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Team Dynamics Shift Team Culture in a

Season of Change by Rich Kirkpatrick

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44 More Than Music

The Psalms of Joy and Lament by W. David O. Taylor

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WORSHIP LEADER MAGAZINE VOL. 29, NO. 4

Table Talk

Worship as

Cultural Confrontation by Brendan Prout CONTENT/DESIGN/PRODUCTION M U S I C

51 Songwriting

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with Matt Redman

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54

Lost + Missing Prayers The Missing 'Them' in We

EDITORIAL/ADVISORY BOARD Steve Berger, David Bunker, Constance Cherry, Scott & Vonda Dyer, Stan Endicott, Craig Gilbert, Zac Hicks, Jim Van Hook, Andrea Hunter, Monique Ingalls, Ray Jones, Stefanie Kelly, Reggie Kidd, Roberta King, Rich Kirkpatrick, Chuck Kraft, Greg Laurie, Nikki Lerner, Kent Morris, Rick Muchow, Rory Noland, Robb Redman, Steve & Shawn Reed, Tanya Riches, Mark Roberts, John Schreiner, Laura Story, Chuck Smith Jr., Scotty Smith, Leonard Sweet, Dave Travis, Vernon Whaley, C. Dennis Williams

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Theories That Work R E M E M B E R I N G L E G AC Y

C H U C K O F

F R O M M ’ S

I D E A S

August 3, 1950 - July 27th, 2020

C

huck Fromm needs no introduction if you’re a regular reader of Worship Leader, or if you attended a National Worship Leader Conference (NWLC) over the past 25 years. You already know Chuck was a key contributor in shaping the worship movement that we are all part of these days. Chuck always had something on his mind; his brain just worked that way. He thought about worship, music, the Church, the arts, theology, communication theory, ministry, markets, and musicians. But most of all, Chuck’s mind was on the Triune God; Jesus was the fixed point in the midst of a thought-world constantly in flux. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT) Jesus is the heart of worship. Chuck often spoke and wrote about the mediation of Christ in worship found in the letter to the Hebrews. Jesus is both the New Song given to the Church for its worship of the Father, and he is the true worship leader who faithfully leads his people to the Father‘s throne of grace and constantly prays for them.The big ideas that were on Chuck’s mind flowed from his life in Christ, his experience of the risen Lord Jesus, and by God’s grace they became the tools he used to help us understand worship, community, and our work in service of the Triune God. Those tools are now the legacy he has left for us. 6 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

NEW SONG Even before the beginning of Maranatha! Music and his tenure there, Chuck knew, as did everyone involved, the Jesus Movement was about far more than just new kinds of music; it was the movement of God to refresh and renew the Church in worship. To be sure, the In-church concerts added another component to commercial concerts and festivals, which drew large crowds, and the crowds that gathered included many young people who had never been to church or who had stopped going. Thousands of them accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. Calvary Chapel, where Maranatha! began, erected a giant circus tent to accommodate the growing numbers while they built a bigger sanctuary. Personally recorded cassettes from church services traversed the country along with professionally recorded albums, spreading the music and the movement. Churches grew and planted more churches. Bible studies formed in the wake of concert tours by bands. The movement was spreading, impacting established churches, and gaining national media attention. By the late 1970s, Chuck began speaking and writing about the worship renewal taking place in the Jesus Movement. The renewal involved new musical styles and new ways of engaging


The big ideas that were on Chuck’s mind flowed from his life in Christ, his experience of the risen Lord Jesus, and by God’s grace they became the tools he used to help us understand worship, community, and our work in service of the Triune God. Those tools are now the legacy he has left for us.

people in congregational song. He sometimes quipped that the guitar and the overhead projector were the two biggest developments in worship since the organ. He termed the musical fruit of the awakening “New Song,” based on Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV): “He has put a new song in my mouth. Praise to our God.” But New Song was more than just new musical styles and instrumentation; for Chuck, it was a renewed emphasis on the centrality of worship for the Christian life and community. He found that Ronald Allen’s pioneering work on the Psalms provided the biblical foundation for this comprehensive view of worship. Chuck also sensed the historical significance of the Jesus Movement and New Song and its place in Christian history, in particular the history of revival. In 1983, he delivered a paper to the Oxford Reading and Research Conference entitled “New Song: The Sound of Spiritual Awakening.” Following up on insights from the church historian Edwin Orr, Chuck noted that throughout Christian history, revivals have been accompanied by a fresh outburst of worship, often in the form of new songs. “Almost without exception,” he observed, “genuine spiritual awakening has resulted in the birth of New Song.New Song is associative to God’s work, not causative, although it serves several important functions. It bears the message of renewal. It unites the people in worship. It records God’s work.”

The first issue of Worship Leader Magazine

For Chuck, New Song was a worship awakening, not just a shift in aesthetics. Chuck had in mind a different approach to understanding congregational worship. Following up on Ronald Allen’s research on worship in the Psalms, Chuck came to regard worship as a comprehensive term that includes all elements of a community’s gathering. A worship service includes music, prayer, reading Scripture, preaching, the offering, baptism, and communion – everything. This conviction led him later into fruitful collaborations with worship scholars Robert Webber and Hughes Oliphant Old. While they differed on many matters, Webber and Old agreed that worship makes up the whole service, not just part of the service. Leaning on their scholarship, Fromm challenged several evangelical misconceptions about worship gently but firmly, including some who thought of praise and worship as different things, and others who separated worship and the word (preaching).

THE WORSHIPING COMMUNITY Another key insight that came early in Chuck’s career at Maranatha! Music was the importance of community. New Song was a movement of God that formed community as well as evoked authentic worship. In 1984, Chuck produced the VO L . 29, N O. 4 | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | W O R S H I P L E A D E R

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Chuck (far left)

Chuck (left) with his uncle Chuck Smith (right)

Chuck, CEO of Maranatha!

first of the Psalms Alive albums, which featured the Worship Community, a large choir made up of amateur singers from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and other churches, rather than featured soloists. While highly skilled musicians accompanied the Worship Community, scored and composed the “new song” version of the ancient Psalms, Chuck believed the Praise albums were spiritually significant because they captured a community of ordinary people lifting their hearts and voices to the Lord. Chuck continued to think about worship and community, and the formation of Christian community became the focus of his graduate studies leading to his doctoral dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary; he used the Jesus movement at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa as his case study. His thesis was that the revival that took place there was the formation of a “textual community,” a term he borrowed from the communications theorist Brian Stock. Chuck argued that the “charisma,” the spiritual vitality of the Jesus Movement at Calvary Chapel, was not to be found primarily in the personality of Pastor 8 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

Chuck Smith or in the new music, as many supposed. Instead, Chuck found that the charisma resulted from a convergence of a profound devotion to the Word of God and a commitment to free expression of praise from the people, especially young people. In other words, the “secret sauce” of the Jesus Movement, at Calvary Chapel anyway, was the result of a shared commitment to the Word of God and the Spirit of God – a textual community. Chuck saw that convergence through those who interpreted the Text (charismatic interpreters), the education process, the symbols and rituals and the way the church’s history developed, and was kept and told, and felt that understanding these could be used to enrich, refresh, communicate, and deepen worship. Those commitments were associated with revival – creating space for God’s Word and Spirit – but they did not cause revival; God was the cause of the Jesus Movement and the resulting New Song. Based on this, Chuck warned that attempts to replicate a revival by “producing the sacred” were bound to be short-lived and superficial.


THE WORSHIP LEADER While Chuck did not invent the term “worship leader,” he did more than anyone to define the role, to establish its significance, and to equip those who were called to this ministry. In 1992, Chuck founded Worship Leader magazine as a vehicle to connect and equip worship leaders, worship team members, and pastors, which built on the foundation of his original publication Worship Times, begun in 1986. It was immediately successful, and led to several other important ventures, including Song Discovery, the National Worship Leader Conferences, a series of books, and the Worship Leader Webinars. And one of his personally most gratifying endeavors, The Odes Project, which remediated some of the first sung hymns of the Church in the first centuries following Jesus crucifixion, resurrection and ascent. One of Chuck’s primary concerns was to relieve the sense of isolation that many worship leaders felt by helping them connect with other worship leaders and helping them to communicate better with their pastors and team members. His message to worship leaders was clear: “you are not alone, and you are not on your own.” Drawing on his enormous network of friends and acquaintances, Chuck enlisted an impressive variety of recording artists, working worship leaders, pastors, tech experts, and scholars to write columns and articles, give interviews, review albums and books, and report from the field. Chuck was always on the look-out for anyone with something important to say to worship le One tangible result of Chuck’s promotion of the worship leader was the growth of training and educational programs for worship ministry. When Chuck launched Worship Leader in the 1990s, there were only a handful of training programs and virtually nothing for worship leaders at Christian colleges or seminaries. Today there are hundreds of programs and consultants available to worship leaders, and dozens of bachelors, graduate, and doctoral degree programs. It is not exaggerating to say that the growth of worship leader training and education is the direct result of Chuck’s tireless efforts on behalf of his “tribe.”

Praise God, Chuck is now in the presence of Jesus. What was once confusing now makes sense to him. The dots are all connected, and his restlessly active mind is at rest. As Charles Wesley put it in “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” Chuck is now “lost in wonder, love and praise.” Those of us who remain behind have our work cut out for us. There is a Church that is still confused about the God she worships and why, there are new believers who are hungry for authentic community and a fresh expression of praise, and there is another generation of worship leaders to equip and train. It is a challenging time to be a worship leader. But the work should not be too difficult because Chuck left us his tools.

WATC H

M E M O R I A L

AN ACTIVE MIND A verbal processor is someone who talks to work out his or her thinking. Chuck was a verbal processor. He often began our calls by asking, “Do you have a minute?” Then over the next hour or so he’d explain what was on his mind and wrap it up with one of his best-known sayings, “I’m just thinking my confusion out loud.” Sometimes what Chuck had to say was confusing, but that was just because he hadn’t finished thinking about it. More often than not, the next call or the next editorial in Worship Leader would feature another nugget or two of his insight that made worship, community, or the role of the worship leader clearer for the rest of us.

The Fromm Family

BY

R O B B

R E D M A N

Robb is the Director of the Worship Leader Institute and serves on the editorial board of Worship Leader Magazine. He is also Professor and Director of Ministry Programs at South College of Tennessee. He lives near Savannah, GA with his wife Pam, and daughter Martha.

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WORSHIP AS CULTURAL CONFRONTATION P RO P H E TI C

D OXO LO GY

I N

Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus. REVELATION 19:10

And when He comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment… JOHN 16:8

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WO RS H I P


IN

T H I S

I S S U E

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e began the year looking at Textual Community and how that orders our lives as Christians. Certainly, if we’ve been in community for any time at all, we know that confrontation is an inevitable part of that. The history and culture-defining moments in Scripture often have confrontation at their core— with the pregnant potential of being a healing agent for change in us, our surrounding communities, and the world. When we read or hear the word confrontation, scenes can play out in our head: the confrontation between nations known as war; a verbal spar in a family law courtroom; a public demonstration in support of a cause; a violent pushback against a known enemy by a Marvel Comics superhero. The examples are literally endless. We live in a culture of confrontation, but what does the Bible tell us and show us about the ways, means, and possible results of confrontation? We don’t often pair the word with worship or love or peacemaking, but in truth confrontation at its best is a pathway to life, restoration, repentance, renewal, transformation, and holiness. Oliphant Old said it best in Themes and Variations for a Christian Doxology: The key to the prophetic doxology [in worship] is that the holiness of God demands the holiness of His people. The holiness of God is magnified when it is reflected by a holy people. This is what the second commandment is about. God’s people are the proper image of God and the most significant reflection of God’s Glory. Neither gold nor silver nor stone can reflect the righteousness, the faithfulness or the loving-kindness of God.... What God asks of us is the love of a pure heart, the well-ordered devotion of a righteous and just people.

There is nothing as culturally confrontational as this. God confronting His people is a call to holiness. It begins with Him telling us the truth about who we are, where we are, and our dissipated condition. He and His Prophets call out the ways we have turned from love, dishonored our parents, not esteemed our sisters and brothers, neglected our children, missed the mark, and been drawn away by vanity, greed, idolatry, and

consumption. Yet even in the direst of circumstances, the most obvious rebellion, and betrayal, God pairs the reality check with an invitation to return and a promise of restoration and blessing. Confrontation takes many forms. Christ confronted the powers of Sin and Death at the Cross, defeating them and reordering the kosmos. In Matthew 21:12-13—also John 2:14-16, Mark 11:15, and Luke 19:45—Christ confronts the religious system of His time. He fashions a whip of cords, throws over the coin tables, and drives the moneychangers out of the temple, making a statement about God and worship: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Alternatively, when He confronted the ruling powers of this world, both the Sanhedrin and the Roman government, He confronted them in humility, self-giving, and in the words of Isaiah 53:7, “… He did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” What was the most effective confrontation of evil in history? Righteous silence and sacrificial love. The example of Christ and His servants in Scripture and God’s ongoing conversation with us leaves us with important choices. Instead of taking an approach based on the kingdom of this world (defensive, hostile, loud, brash, aggressive, duplicitous, and self-serving), why not explore Scripture and history and discover how God and His people have established His kingdom and dealt with cultural confrontation? Our hope is that as you read these articles you will ask yourself, “In what ways is God confronting me? What is the invitation? What is the promise? How do I respond?” And additionally, “How is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit leading me to be an agent of change, reflecting His image, and incarnating His purposes in confronting the culture around me? How can the Spirit of Prophecy bear testimony to Jesus through me and define my worship? How can I put flesh on and embody the first and second commandments in a way that honors God—and people—and extends the borders of heaven on earth with holy worship?”

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BACK BASICS

to

CO N F R O NTI N G TH E

C U LT U R E

O F

WO R S H I P

W ITH

WO R S H I P

B

ack to Basics is a regular feature drawn from the writings of Worship Leader magazine’s founder Chuck Fromm (see tribute, page 6). His theories and theology surrounding worship and communication are woven together by various editorial collaborators and used to elucidate and underscore each month’s theme.

Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will hear not the melody of their viols… BY

D R .

C H U C K

F R O M M

AMOS 5:23

scribed by Andrea Hunter

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him. PSALM 40:3


In the overarching Culture we share, there are many subcultures, and defining it and them is not an exact science. Music, folk, traditional/classical, and recorded performance collided in the Jesus Movement, creating a path to what is now called Contemporary Christian Worship (CCW). In the process it became genetically modified in a manner of speaking. (I might add that all worship is and was contemporary at some point in time.) The identifying characteristics of many of the songs that have profoundly impacted people across history is that they are deeply personal and at the same time universally experienced and felt. Labels with logarithms, demographics, and a bottom line produce songs that may or may not be personal, transformative, and deeply Scriptural. And the allure of reward (whether fame or fortune) can play with the motives of the would-be songwriter (label/manager/church, etc.).

believers. It is generated from the heart, captured by cultural artifact, and in our day—for better or worse—it is generally transmitted by commerce. Not that the collision of commerce and “church” music is something entirely new; hymnals, artist patronage, and music publishing have existed for hundreds of years. But the commercialization of worship through the music business has raised new issues and questions for us.

WORSHIP WARS AGAINST THE POWERS At its best, worship glorifies God, interprets the Text, touches the un-churched, educates both the singer and those he sings to, and tells personal and biblical history within the community of God. Throughout history, music has served many functions in the Church. While it extols God and worships Him, it also forms His people and corrects questionable doctrine. Some of the earliest examples of Christian

The experience of salvation becomes the substance of song. God is glorified, faith is revitalized, and the community is blessed.

NEW SONG: STREAMS OF REFRESHMENT In Psalm 40, as elsewhere in Scripture, we see a distinct pattern for New Song—a biblical prototype that repeats itself throughout history. The human spirit responds to an encounter with God; man is delivered, renewed, and set on a high place. A fresh expression of spontaneous praise and worship celebrates the deliverance. The experience of salvation becomes the substance of song. God is glorified, faith is revitalized, and the community is blessed. Think of Psalms and songs such as “It Is Well With My Soul,” “Amazing Grace,” and Psalm 51, written from a place of deep personal connection. Even centuries after they were penned, at key moments of life, they mediate meaning, hope, comfort, and repentance. Thankfully we see a trend in this direction and an increased desire to write as teachers, prophets, evangelists, culture-changers, community builders, and those who worship God and love His creation. Think of your favorite worship songs. What amplifies their meaning for you? New Song is the song of faith that is passed from generation to generation. During times of revival or spiritual renewal it often resurfaces afresh, like a deep flowing underground stream bringing a reservoir of refreshment for a new generation of

hymnody were written to counteract Gnostic and Arian heresies: Chrysostom sought to overcome the perverting influence of Arian hymnology with solemn doxologies. Hilary of Poitiers, the first hymn writer of the Latin Church, also composed orthodox hymns to oppose the spread of the popular Arian hymns. Ephraim, leader of the Syrian church, introduced to public worship a body of poetry that countered the heretical poetry of the Gnostic Bardesanes. St. Ambrose, the father of Latin Church song who clashed with the Arians in 386, is quoted as saying, “…some claim that I have ensnared people by the melodies of my hymns. I do not deny it." As the fourth century Bishop of Milan, Ambrose's compositions, which made use of popular Greek melodies, facilitated spiritual awakenings as well as combatted heresy. Now, as then, of course, there is opportunity to introduce heresy or misinformation about God as well as to correct it. But now, those who filter and promote our worship songs are not necessarily pastors, scholars, or believers with sound theology. The criteria can be more, “Does it have a good hook?”; “Is it catchy?”; “Will it sell?” Not, “Does it support the ‘Text’ at the center of our faith and community?”; “Does it form Christ in the singer?”; “Can most people even sing this song?” That’s really why Song Discovery was founded, so that songs could be evaluated on an equal footing whether the writer was VO L . 29, N O. 4 | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | W O R S H I P L E A D E R

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associated with a church or a publisher or label, and songs could be looked at in terms of their truth, freshness, singability, biblical imagination, service component support (i.e. call to worship, communion, thanksgiving, offertory, etc.), and the Word of worship they embodied. This way, the large companies with big budgets would not determine the global hymnbook.

HISTORY AND OUTLOOK Music has been alternately personal, expressive, and inclusive, and institutional and exclusive. At different times creativity and spontaneity have been expressed and encouraged, and at other times suppressed and tightly managed. Money has been exchanged for performance or offered as patronage long before the emergence of the Christian recording industry. But it’s taken on a new patina…or dullness. Contrasting the high church's entrenched musical traditions is the simple and pragmatic approach of men like Martin Luther. One of Luther's stated goals was the restoration of true worship. He understood the tremendous benefit resulting from hearing the Word of God and then uniting as a congregation to offer thanksgiving in song. This stress on congregational participation in worship became a linchpin of the Reformation. And congregational participation and formation should still be our goals. If it’s just a song we can clap to and move our body with, it’s not enough. With that said, let’s consider some questions around Contemporary Christian Worship, and then together foment a plan to save the best of it, turn away from the worst of it, address the business entities who amplify, muzzle, and direct creative flow, and offer gratitude to those who are able to keep the faith and create and produce worship that meets the criteria of Biblical imagination and faith in a commercial environment largely owned by non-Christian companies. And let’s encourage the local church to celebrate the Text at the center of our faith with worship locally grown in addition to the worldwide hymns we sing.

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The following questions are just a few adapted from New Song To Entertainment (Chuck Fromm)

Production Culture Issues in Contemporary Christian Worship (CCW)

ARTI ST •

• •

• •

Are the aesthetic principles required in music coming from the inside-out or merely being applied in the studio? Are we creating a spiritualized commodity or commodifying spirituality? Are the marketing customs and patterns around worship artists consistent with the Christian message? What aspects of the CCW product make it Christian: lyrics, performer’s lifestyle, the company’s ethos? Is CCW celebrity-driven or song-driven? What is the purpose of CCW?

L AB E L •

• •

Does the corporate ethos have to be Christian to support such an artist? Are we participating in the transformation of a media culture or merely joining it? Have we turned a mission into a marketplace? How do we discern purely commoditized culture vs. genuine and authentic expression? Is it possible to maintain biblical values, language, and behavior in the CCW media system including radio, concerts, agents, promoters, and labels? What institutions do CCW sales promote, and how do those institutions support spirituality? Can we develop industry leaders who regard God above capitalism?

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If the culture of worship has lost its sacred edge, how do we confront the culture that is supporting and distorting it?

M E SSAG E •

• •

• • •

What is the message of Christian Music, and should it be distinguished from other messages in the mass media? Does mass media support or fight against the incarnate message of Christ? Are we confusing production process issues with content, and is the form more impressive than the content? What is the meaning of “quality” when applied to CCW? How can we avoid the repeated sameness that plagues production culture? How does form structure the message, and can the form create symbolic confusion for the listener/singer? Are forgiveness, repentance, humility, morals, and devotion modeled by the Christian label artist? What message is being sent along with the song? Does/should production of the sacred differ from production of the secular?

AU D I E N CE •

• • • •

• •

• •

Is the music forming listeners morally and spiritually, or merely moving them emotionally? Are the audiences worshiping the artists or God? What message is the audience hearing? Can we capture the industry without being captured by it? Are the artists truly giving voice to what the Spirit is saying or rather what the audience is feeling or wants to hear? How is CCW shaping the values, beliefs, and attitudes of people today? What is CCW teaching the audience about God, about Life, and about Christian community? Does CCW encourage faith among its audience or promote new gods? What are the motives of the sellers of Christian music: financial or spiritual?

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CONCLUSION If the culture of worship has lost its sacred edge, how do we confront the culture that is supporting and distorting it? Making a laundry list of trespassed lines, deficits, and holes is “moralistic” at best, and “religious” at worst (unless a song is heretical). The most effective way to confront empty, formulaic music created in the image of Billboard is to create its opposite. First, let’s create dialogue between the Church and commercial producers and spreaders of worship music. Next encourage writers to create from encounter and engagement with God and His Word (which thankfully many writers do, including those on Billboard’s charts), and create new avenues of distribution, where the spreadability factor is not stacked against the artist without a publishing company gaining premium entrée to licensing and distribution. Most importantly, write songs to God and for people and care more about formation than chart position. Encourage the writers of songs and those who lead worship by providing tools, teaching, and opportunity to develop New Song. Encourage the poets in local congregations. Look at the rich treasure of past worship and (don’t resurrect) but remediate it— bring its fire and truth and glory into the present language. The only way to create an alternative to isomorphic sameness, shallow lyrics, and bad theology is to be led by the Spirit, embody Christ, worship God, and cling to the Text at the heart of our communities: the Bible. Don’t take away the Pablum unless it’s poisoned, but for goodness’ sake, give them some milk…and ultimately veggies and steak (Heb 5:11-13). Trade a culture of narcissism for a culture of servants, and encourage cooperation and collaboration between business, scholars, pastors, worship writers, and worship leaders. Sing a New Song that we live and breathe and share with others. BY

C H U C K

F R O M M

W I T H

A N D R E A

H U N T E R


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C DENNIS WILLIAMS

WORSHIP as

CULTUR AL

CONFRONTATION

BY

C .

D E N N I S

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n 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District was known as the Black Wall Street. It was one of the most prosperous African American communities in the United States. Almost every business— banks, hotels, cafés, clothiers, movie theaters—and nice luxurious homes during this time were black owned. Airplanes were owned by black families even though there were only two airports, and black well-educated teachers taught in the school system. However, one day all of this changed. In May of 1931, the Tulsa Tribune newspaper reported that a black man had attempted to rape a white woman (which was never proven), and without waiting for the investigative process to be conducted, people erupted into two days of racial violence, destroying 35 blocks of businesses. There were 300 deaths and 600-800 people injured. Mobs brought guns, shots were fired, and Black Wall Street was eventually eradicated not only because of false reporting, but because whites were jealous of the blacks’ upper-class lifestyle, education, and entrepreneurship. The end results were white terrorism and black dispossession of the land and businesses they had worked hard to invest in. 18 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

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This worship, real worship, will wrinkle your clothes and make your mascara run down your face, and it will make tears flow from your eyes, not because anything is wrong but because everything is right.


THE DEADLY COST OF LESSONS UNLEARNED

SEEING THROUGH THE LENS OF CHRIST

And now here we are in 2020. It has only been a few months since the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and most recently the injury of Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This kind of pejorative, vitriolic, bellicose violence toward minorities and people of color is evocative of the fact that 55 years after the Civil Rights Act and 52 years after the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have not really come very far. According to the Brookings Institution’s February 27, 2020 report, we still have wealth gaps between whites and blacks—white households have 6.7 times the wealth of black households. We are still in a polemic and have not gained much momentum. However, even though political systems have changed and inglorious acts of violence and racism have become more emboldened, the spiritual nucleus that continues to bind us together has never changed: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8 records that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” and if we as a nation can just return to the biblical tenets that our Constitution and nation were built on, we would see a surge of evangelism like never before.

One of the greatest examples of cultural worship and confrontation is found in Acts 8:26-40. We read about a black eunuch who was returning from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship. He was sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah 53:7-8 when he was approached by Philip who asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The black eunuch replied, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” At that moment he invited Philip to sit In his chariot, and Philip explained the gospel to him, led him to Christ, and baptized him. This story is such an example of what the church should be like today. Permit me to illuminate on the following observances:

THE HOPE AND POWER OF REAL WORSHIP Evangelism is a key component of Christendom, but we can’t evangelize until we have been educated on the concept of worship. The most common Greek word translated for worship is “proskuneo,” meaning to kiss the hand of a superior out of deference or love, or to give of oneself to another. What a vivid depiction of what the church should do—worship. Even though we have different cultures, different denominations, and different theological praxis, there is one thing that we can all do as one and that is worship! Worship happens when we stretch our arms towards heaven with open palms so that God can deposit into us what he wants us to have. Worship happens when we turn everything over to God so God can carry the weight of our burdens for us. It is turning over everything we have to the Lord. This worship, real worship, will wrinkle your clothes and make your mascara run down your face, and it will make tears flow from your eyes, not because anything is wrong but because everything is right. I believe God enough to say that true, genuine, sincere worship will stop the division, brutality, deception, and systemic racism that we are contending with in this country right now. The Church must stand at the intersection of faith and promise, and serve as the bridge that unites black churches with white churches, Baptist churches with Methodist churches, and Pentecostal churches with Presbyterian churches. Heaven will be a non-denominational place with an O-blood type that stands for universal.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES Notice the cultural differences between Philip and the Eunuch. Philip was from Caesarea, Israel. We are first introduced to him as one of the seven chosen by the early church at Jerusalem to take charge of the daily ministration of charity to the poor widows (Acts 6:1). When this work was hindered by the outbreak of persecution following the death of Stephen, we find him at once departing to enter on active missionary work elsewhere (Acts 8:4). The fact that he should have selected Samaria as the scene of this new work is itself a proof that he was able to rise above the ordinary Jewish prejudices of his time. And this same liberal spirit is further exemplified by the incident with which he will always be principally remembered—the conversion and baptism of a black man. What an example to the church that different cultures can worship together in unity.

The Church must stand at the intersection of faith and promise, and serve as the bridge that unites black churches with white churches, Baptist churches with Methodist churches, and Pentecostal churches with Presbyterian churches.

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FALSE PERCEPTIONS Philip did not pass judgement on this black man. He did not assume that he was a criminal because of his race. He looked at him not as the world did but as Jesus would—only as a sinner who needed salvation and understanding. Philip did not make any assumptions, but in fact this black man in the aforementioned scripture was a treasurer to the Queen of the Ethiopians and was in charge of the entire treasury. This eunuch was a high ranking official who served under the Queen of Ethiopia, Candace. (This is not the name of a particular queen, but the title of a dynasty of queens such as the title Pharaoh.) He was trustworthy and financially astute. What kind of cosmos and church would we have if we all looked at each other as Jesus does, not with preconceived notions but with love, nobility, hospitality, and genuine concern.

RESURRECTING OUR VISION Chicago Temple in Chicago has the highest cross in the world, but people drive by it every day and never notice it. Until one day when something happened. There was a traffic jam because a man slipped while cleaning a stone on the cross and was hanging on the cross. As long as the cross was empty no one noticed it, but when they saw a man on the cross they stopped and looked at that cross. Worship happens when we keep our eyes on the Cross. And when we do, our worship will always line up with and embody the centrality of the gospel.

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C. Dennis Williams is the Senior Pastor of Smith Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Paul Quinn College, Dallas, Texas.

RESPONDING TO R ACIAL INJUSTICE AS CHRISTIANS with Pastor Mark Foreman & Reverend C. Dennis Williams

During the June WL Gathering we had a relevant Q&A with Pastor Mark Foreman and Reverend C. Dennis Williams.

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For more content like this visit WorshipLeader.com

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UNIVERSAL CULTURES OF WORSHIP BY

VAU G H N

T H O M P S O N

“M

ulticulturalism has failed.” In reading articles about cultural efforts in European countries over the past decade, there seems to be a consensus that a multicultural political philosophy for societies has caused more division than unity. “Multiculturalism is ultimately doomed to failure. In championing difference over cohesion, it fails to provide a central moral and cultural standard,” says Rakib Ehsan, a Spiked [Internet magazine] columnist in Britain. What can we, the Church, learn from this? If it doesn't work for them, how can it work for the Church? In multicultural worship discussions I have been involved in for almost 20 years, there seems to be a lot of good intentions lacking in fruit. It’s not uncommon to hear Revelation references that speak of that Day to come when we will all worship together. I love the image. I, too, long for that Day. But what in the world do we do until then with so much tension and division? Our world is experiencing a lot of friction in the area of race relations. It's not only affecting our cities but also the Church. I agree we need to listen and learn from one another. But I also believe that the Church needs to lead the public discourse on unity. This is our story. This is the Gospel: for God so loved the world. I believe it's important for the Church to celebrate diversity, but in this day and age, I believe it's more important to focus on unity. Let the multiculturalism projects in Europe be an example that you can fail when you “champion difference over cohesion.” So what is the Church's "central moral 22 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

and cultural standard?" Well, we have one thing going for us that they didn’t—the X-factor. Jesus. I want to suggest three cultures to consider using when creating sacred spaces for multicultural worship.

CULTURE OF SERVANTHOOD Remember when the disciples were arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom? Jesus spoke a phrase that probably dropped their jaws and sent chills up their spines at the same time. "The greatest among you will be your servant” (Mt 23:11). When we assume the position of servant, this crossculturally communicates value to those you are serving. This is a language. Think about that. Servanthood is a universal language. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil 2:3). Leadership is not about how many follow you, but about how many you are willing to serve. You want to facilitate multicultural worship? Learn this culture!

CULTURE OF SACRIFICE Mary and Martha have been talked about a lot in worship circles. We often refer to the powerful image of Mary at the feet of Jesus and the contrast of Martha in the kitchen— worshiping God in contrast to working for God. We've heard


SERVANTHOOD IS A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

We can't sing in every language and have every musical style covered in every service. That's absurd. But we can create sacred spaces that make many feel included, with Christ at the center. many times how we need to be like Mary and give priority to Christ. However, what has been life-changing in the way I approach leading multicultural worship is to consider Martha as the model. Martha? Really? But Mary chose what was better, right? Exactly! The scripture in Luke 10 describes how Martha opened up her home to Jesus. Martha prepared the meal and according to the text was "distracted by all the preparations that needed to

be made." So if Mary was worshiping, then it seems logical to me that Martha was the one responsible for creating the space for Mary to sit at His feet. Martha was the worship leader. She created an environment for Mary to have a moment. That is our job—to create sacred spaces for people to have Mary Moments. Our weeks are filled with rehearsals, planning, praying, practicing and administrating to serve the sacred space of meeting. I tell our teams “thank you” all the time for serving, because in order to say yes to this, they had to say no to a lot of other things. Serving is sacrifice. Cultivate this spirit in your teams. Let the cultural norm of sacrifice for the other fill your church. Again, this is language that is understood crossculturally. Learn to sing their songs. Learn to sing in their language as well. This culture of sacrifice will build bridges of relationships and trust. Also learn from Martha’s attitude and Jesus' gentle rebuke: This is not about you, Martha. This is about the moment. We must integrate this culture of sacrifice.

CULTURE OF SACRED SPACE The moment Mary had was a sacred moment if there ever was one. She was immortalized in Scripture and had Jesus literally validate her moment of sacred space. There is no debate here that Mary chose what was better, which also means that Martha didn't. Here is a personal revelation that changed my heart to serve in worship. The stage that we lead worship from every week is the worst VO L . 29, N O. 4 | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | W O R S H I P L E A D E R

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I believe we should move the multicultural worship discussion further from a focus on varied expression and closer to a focus on the spirit on inclusion by using these universal cultures of sacrifice, servanthood, and sacred spaces. Let's be the answer to Jesus' prayer request...God make us one!

seat in the house. This is not a platform for stars. It's a place of servants. This is not where we shine. This is where we sacrifice, selflessly giving up our moment at the feet of Jesus to let others have the best seat in the house. But here is the catch. If Mary chose what was better, and she did, then so should we. And if we can't occupy the best seat in the house while we are serving, then we need to be sure to sit at His feet before we get there. We must occupy sacred space on our own time so we can serve others. When I was waiting tables to put myself through seminary, I remember our trainer said, "Remember when you are serving that this is their night out, not yours." They made sure that we ate before we started our shift. Imagine how ridiculous it would be for me to serve a customer their food and then proceed to sit down and eat with them? You can help others eat a lot better when you aren't starving yourself. Make sure your weekends are about others sitting at the feet of Jesus. Create a culture of procuring sacred space before you get to your services.

one can do that. The responsibility of multicultural worship is the responsibility of THE Church‌ not our local church. The Church is a symphony, and the diversity amongst us is what makes beautiful harmony. We need to discover our uniqueness, listen, and learn from other cultures—absolutely. But the particulars of what that looks like varies from church to church. All these well-intentioned efforts will seem disingenuous and contrived if we don't get the spirit of them right. We can't sing in every language and have every musical style covered in every service. That's absurd. But we can create sacred spaces that make many feel included, with Christ at the center. I believe we should move the multicultural worship discussion further from a focus on varied expression and closer to a focus on the spirit on inclusion by using these universal cultures of sacrifice, servanthood, and sacred spaces. Let's be the answer to Jesus' prayer request...God make us one!

CHRIST AT THE CENTER Multiculturalism may have failed as a political policy in some areas of the world, but it does not have to fail as a worship philosophy in the Church. The job of the worship servant is to facilitate the meeting of the many and the One. The unifying principle is Christ, our common denominator. Yes, we need to learn other cultures and integrate cultural experiences into our music, our decor, our staff representation, and all that. But I promise you that these three cultures I described will cross cultures. Be free of the burden to be all things to all people. No

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BY

VAU G H N

T H O M P S O N

Vaughn is a worship leader/singer/ songwriter, speaker, and author, and currently serves together with his wife, Irene Marin Thompson, as Worship Pastors of Cathedral of Faith, a multi-cultural, multi-site, 7,000+ member church in San Jose, Calif. Together, they have formed Third Culture Worship.


TREVECCA AD

BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN MUSIC AND WORSHIP The Bachelor of Science in music and worship equips students to lead the Church. An innovative degree for students across the country, Trevecca’s Bachelor of Science in music and worship is designed for students who are called to work as a full-time or bivocational worship leader. Graduates of our creative, innovative and highly-specialized music degree program are equipped to work as worship pastors, worship leaders or worship artists.

OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM • Equip students to work as professional music and worship leaders in the local church and broader evangelical community • Provide students with “real-life” ministry opportunities in music and worship • Prepare the students as skilled worship artists and music performers • Develop student music and worship competencies so that they will be accepted into a graduate program

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For more information on this degree or our Associate of Arts in Worship Studies, please visit: www.trevecca.edu/worship or call 615.248.1288.


worship as

COUNTER-CULTURE BY

I stepped into another world—another culture—where my attention was captured by vaulted ceilings filled with beautifully painted biblical scenes creating an atmosphere of mystery and awe, where silence was valued and encouraged, where ancient beauty and art were celebrated, and where prayer was invited.

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N A N C Y

N E T H E R C O T T

alking through the noisy streets of New York, I noticed people talking loudly on the phone or with headphones on listening to music, some loud enough for me to join in on what they were hearing. I felt accosted by the noise overload from the sound of traffic and construction, and by the visual overload of advertising. Needing a break from the sounds and sights of distracted life, I ducked into a church whose doors were open and invited me in with a sign that read: “Enter freely; enter quietly.” I stepped into another world—another culture—where my attention was captured by vaulted ceilings filled with beautifully painted biblical scenes creating an atmosphere of mystery and awe, where silence was valued and encouraged, where ancient beauty and art were celebrated, and where prayer was invited. As I sat quietly in one of the pews, I felt my heart crying, “Oh, give me something different from the world out of which I have come! My heart yearns for a different world and a God who is so much bigger than me and my problems.” I needed the mystery, transcendence, and hope that this peaceful “countercultural” environment offered me.


CREATING A DIFFERENT WORLD We tell people that Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest,” but then we have a fast-paced service with no time for silence, meditation, prayer, healing, etc. It is no different from the world out of which people walked as they came into our doors. How are they hearing that text? How can we attend to the heart-longings of those who come seeking rest for their weary souls? Are we offering people more of the same, or something from a different world…a world centered on God's heartbeat? What does it mean for us to be counter-cultural? Walter Brueggemann, in The Bible and Postmodern Imagination, gives us a glimpse of the mystery of what happens in biblical counter-cultural worship when he writes, “The action of meeting begins—music, word, prayer, theater. At its center, the minister reads...these very old words, remote, archaic, something of a threat, something of yearning. In the listening, one hears another world proposed. It is an odd world of ‘no male or female,’ of condemned harlots and welcomed women, of sheep and goats judged.... If one listens long and hard, what emerges is a different world.”1

illustration above relating to my day in New York City highlights two examples that compete for our love and attention: the trap of busyness and an addiction to noise. These forms of brokenness may seem harmless or trivial, yet need to be considered as we contemplate ways to incorporate stillness and silence into corporate worship. My church begins each service or prayer time with silence, inviting us to become present with the God who is always present with us. Stilling our hearts and minds and being present to one thing or person is actually very counter-cultural!

BEARING WITNESS TO THE WORLD As we listen to the pain due to oppression, systemic racism, and social injustice, we need to encourage those who are contemplating how worship should go against the surrounding culture. Many churches are grappling with these issues in a new and intentional way. The call is to choose to create worship spaces a nd events where all are welcomed to “enter freely,” where uncomfortable issues are named and talked about, and where the immanence and transcendence of God is palpable, so that we can become the Church that transform(s) people and cultural patterns by “acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God, the Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6; Mic 6:8).3 We are called to live out Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” A few of us from my small group are engaging in a webinar on racial injustice and then meeting on Zoom to grapple with what we are learning. This is a small but necessary forward step towards hearing the cries that can give us insight into how to create safe space in worship for everyone and aid in our imperative personal transformation. Jill Ford, Arts Lecturer at All Nations Christian College (UK), encourages us to be attentive to the voices of the culture around us because the true essence of the Church is people,

We tell people that Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest,” but then we have a fast-paced service with no time for silence, meditation, prayer, healing, etc. It is no different from the world out of which people walked as they came into our doors.

FINDING STILLNESS Another way to see worship as counter-cultural is the call for our worship planning and practices to not be informed by a secular, worldly, and materialistic mindset, or even a religious one which runs counter to Christianity or the Gospel. Yes, we need to keep our ear to the ground, ask sensitive questions, and listen well, but Scripture must guide our thinking about worship as we use wisdom and discernment. Listening to the voice of Jesus and following Him should actually make us a nuisance, a wrench in the wheel of the surrounding culture, not an echo or mirror. Anne Zaki, an Egyptian pastor and theologian, reminds us that “every culture contains some sinful, broken, dehumanizing elements that are contradictory to the gospel and present us with ‘rival secular liturgies that compete for our love.’”2 The

1 Walter Brueggemann, The Bible and Postmodern Imagination, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN: 1993. 2 Anne Zaki, “Four Ways Culture and Worship Relate” in Mission Frontiers, Pasadena, CA: Sept/Oct 2014, Issue 36.5. 3 Zaki.

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living in transformed community—a community that is a counter-cultural vision of humanity—and because “it runs against the natural tendencies of humans to assemble only with like-minded persons.”4 There is an evocative invitation in Ford’s words, “The mission of the Church points to the future reality that all people are included in [the invitation to] God’s

Your church, and my church, bears witness to the world. What kind of witness do we bear? kingdom, and it already embodies that counter-cultural vision by demonstrating that God calls all people, nations, and races into a transformational relationship with Him. In light of this, there is a need for the church to consciously and constantly re-contextualize itself and its worship forms to bear witness to the world as a counter-cultural fellowship.”5 Your church, and my church, bears witness to the world. What kind of witness do we bear? Do we offer hope to people that life can be different from what they are experiencing? Who is welcomed and included in our worship communities? What kind of atmosphere do we value and cultivate? What are our priorities? We need to seek God’s wisdom and spend time paying attention to the culture around us in order to discern what it means to be “in the world, but not a part of it” (see INSET). Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy on us as we navigate how to be God’s counter-cultural witness in our world. Lord, enable us to listen—to the Holy Spirit and to others. 4

Jill R. Ford, “Worship as Counter-Cultural” extract from a chapter in her doctoral thesis for The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, Jacksonville, FL: Sept 2020. Ford quotes Timothée Joset, “The Church as a Counter-Cultural Eschatological Fellowship. What is the Church and Why Does it Matter?” European Journal of Theology 25:1 (2016), 64-72.

5 Ibid.

BY N A N C Y N E T H E R C OT T, D .W. S CHAPLAIN, THE ROBERT E. WEBBER INSTITUTE FOR WORSHIP STUDIES Nancy Nethercott was a missionary in Japan for 28 years and currently travels training leaders in foundations of biblical worship and spiritual formation globally. Nancy's doctorate is from The Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies (IWS), where she serves as Chaplain.

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NAIROBI

Statement on Worship & Culture

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ow does worship relate to culture? How is worship in culture, but not of it? The Lutheran World Federation's Study Team on Worship Culture met in Nairobi in January of 1996 and produced the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture. The statement presents four central principles—succinct but subtle, clear but challenging—of the relationship between worship and culture:

ONE. WORSHIP IS TRANSCULTURAL. Worship has certain dynamics that are beyond culture.

All worship should have some universal elements (prayer, baptism). Often difficult to discern core things from cultural things. TWO. WORSHIP IS CONTEXTUAL. Worship reflects local patterns of speech, dress, and other cultural characteristics.

In-Culturated: must be somewhat contextualized and relevant to local culture. THREE. WORSHIP IS COUNTER-CULTURAL. Worship resists the idolatries of a given culture.

Must be somewhat challenging to local culture. FOUR. WORSHIP IS CROSS-CULTURAL. Worship reflects the fact that the body of Christ transcends time and space.

Must be connected to church in all times and places. Beware cultural arrogance.

We have found that the most meaningful worship—and the wisest worshiping community—does not just choose one of these four as its defining principle, but instead is invigorated by the truth of all four. Note how this statement nuances the model of being "in but not of " culture, and calls us to a more sophisticated understanding of worship's relationship to culture. We encourage worshipers and worship leaders to reflect on it as they consider the context and challenges of their culture, and answer God's call to worship within it and minister to it. The complete text of the Nairobi Statement is posted on the website of the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

READ MORE


FIRST IMPRESSIONS CONFERENCE

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WO R S H IP

reo rd eri n g o f

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God’s people are not just those who act out worship “as if ” they meant it, but those called to seek and actually reflect the God they worship by how they live in public, and especially in relation to the poor and vulnerable.

BY

M A R K

L A B B E R T O N


It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed— this, despite the gospel. HOWARD THURMAN

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? ISAIAH 58:6-7

T

he peaceful and the violent demonstrations roiling across America reveal an urgent crisis of worship. This connection is not drawn by Fox or CNN, by NPR or MSNBC. It’s drawn from the Bible, and Isaiah 58 could be an example. The prophet underscores that God’s people are not just those who act out worship “as if ” they meant it, but those called to seek and actually reflect the God they worship by how they live in public, and especially in relation to the poor and vulnerable. The evidence of true and faithful

worship is that as disciples we allow God’s expressions of loving and just power to define and direct our own and seek to build systems that do likewise. In a broader sense, Christian worship is about rightly-ordering power through the love, mercy, and justice of God in Jesus Christ so God’s people live as faithful worshipers, bearing light in dark places and spreading salt in dying places. We show God glory by reflecting His character in action, not just by saying or singing the Word. If voices in the streets shine light on personal and systemic injustice, it should raise some serious questions for Christian worshipers about uses and abuses of power. We do not live in a theocracy, but in so far as it is possible for God’s people to reflect God’s just and righteous character in the world, it serves as a manifestation of our worship. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty is not an incantation of religious imperialism, but a reorienting reminder of Who creates and holds all other realities and powers. Singing, “There is power in the name of Jesus, so break every chain, break every chain,” is not a tribal chant, but a cry to realign all of life in relation to the One Who can and does set us free. Our worship is meant to continuously re-order who and what power is primary in our lives, who redefines and recalibrates our understanding and engagement with any and all other forms of power, and how God’s people should move into those places committed to pursue the honest, just, and hopeful use of power. This is all part of living into joy, not just hoarding personal happiness.

A GOD’S-EYE VIEW OF WORSHIP…AND POWER Worship involves living out in our own lives, and in our complex, pluralist, power-abusive contexts, how in Christ we perceive and act in relation to all manifestations or claims of power. We don’t seek God as a justification for protecting our personal power, defending our social tribe, or turning a blind-eye to systemic power issues that prejudice some and privilege others. Even in small ways, we can easily delude ourselves just here. The God Who seeks our passionate worship

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Power is never neutral.

passionately wants it to show by seeking justice. I recall once a co-leader in worship stepping all over my feet throughout our singing—hands raised in glory, feet unfetteredly tromping on mine. I confess wondering, “If you do not love the neighbor you do see, how can you love the God you cannot see (1 Jn 4:20)? When the people of God step on our brothers and sisters in Christ, or systemically do so on our neighbors, our worship is bankrupt. In this frame, “I can’t breathe” should resound to us as a call to worship: The Lord, high and lifted up, hears our cries. Seamlessly, we as worshipers of that God then ask, “Who is crying out and why? Who is the source and sustainer of life? Who has human power to put life itself in jeopardy, let alone put it to an end? What power is being exercised? In light of what history, jurisdiction, or social structures? What assignment of power has been given and justified? What are the vulnerabilities, assumptions, traps, and distortions of such power? When breathing has been ended, what has power done? By what measure will it be judged to have been just: a right ordering of power for the thriving of all? How is such power measured, examined, and able to be called unjust? By what power will it be made right?” These are worship questions requiring worshipful answers. Worship is the essential awakening of people to God and to God’s love for the world. This means that in worship we are called again and again to admit and repent of the ways we have both offered ourselves and been taken hostage by lesser powers. Our necessary admission is that we bow our knees before a plethora of powers: time, money, status, education, beauty, influence, health, relationships, access. And we do so before the gods of safety, social identity, and tribe. “Only God is God,” we say. But the worship our lives enact exposes that we actually revel in other kinds of lords. Faithful

1

Echoing Romans 14:11 and numerous worship songs

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Washing Their Feet | By Wayne Forte

worship clarifies the distortions, purges competing deities, celebrates the gifts, reorients us in community with others, and moves us towards living first in light of the reign of God in which “Jesus is Lord.” Only the One before whom “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”1 knows in the most intimate detail how trusting you and me with power and freedom may be a gift, even as it can be such a problem. The anguish, rage, peaceful demonstrations, and violent acts on our streets embody our collective and individual suffering. Power is never neutral. Sometimes power is wonderfully used to build up, and this happens in countless ways. But too often the uses of power subvert and destroy lives made in the image of God. Systems of power can do so repetitively and destructively, calling it “normal” as a euphemism cruelly masking a multitude of sins. In our worship procession or opening singing, we lift up the Name above all names. As we do so, we must come too to confess and lament before God that other forms of power often violently and brutally undermine the lives and welfare of those, like us, who are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We admit that Evil is deeply


woven into this devastation. We pray knowing that our foe is not only flesh and blood, but a lion crouching at the door seeking someone to devour. Does our worship evoke doing serious business against these forces with a God who suffers over the suffering of those bearing God’s image? The litmus test of faithful worship is not its orderliness but its integrity. As Isaiah 58 makes so clear, it is not an integrity measured only by what happens in the sanctuary, but by what we do or fail to do in the streets. Just consider this: worship framed the Middle Passage. In Ghana, the slave fortresses were holding tanks for brutally stolen and manacled men, women, and children, on their way to the Middle Passage, and, if they survived, to the suffering that lay beyond. Since slave traders were people who represented Christian countries, chapels were not uncommon in these slave fortresses. In at least one case, an especially elegant chapel was intentionally built astride the very gangplank across which the slaves would be loaded and imprisoned for the sake of their awaiting owners. Let’s get this in our minds: those in charge of the slaves, and those sailing the ships, would gather for worship—singing, praying, reading, hearing God’s Word, asking for safe passage, receiving the Eucharist—before setting sail with enslaved human cargo. Probably relying on a prayer book, on a lectionary of Bible readings, on a psalter for their singing, they turned to the same God you and I turn to as we lead others into the presence of God. Clearly, despite all of this, the worship in their chapel did not threaten, and probably justified, their abuse of power against the people manacled in their holds.

LISTEN …AND CONSIDER We may be amidst, or looking at, the thousands on our streets across the U.S. this summer, the throngs crying out for justice with peace, some full of rage. Men and women who take worship seriously need to reconsider how our worship enables or hampers us in our listening, discernment, engagement, and sacrifice, and our refusal to deny, avoid, deflect, or justify. How many times do the Scriptures call us to attend to those whose power is most vulnerable, who are most oppressed?

This is not the “democratic” parts of the Bible versus the “republican” parts of the Bible. This is the Scripture that calls all of us into account for our individual and systemic uses of power. Knowing that millions of people who confess “Jesus is Lord” are everywhere in America, and that the besetting sins of America are intertwined with the building of this great nation, we have to ask what God wants to say to any of us claiming to be disciples about our use or abuse of power. Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, Asians, women, the poor, the imprisoned, children—victims without sufficient power—are oppressed in the name of our Lord by the brutalities meted out through the Doctrine of Discovery and the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny. These horrors should remind us daily how easily we can be and may be deceived by dominant power. True worship pulls back the lies and offers freedom and joy in their place. As a seasoned African brother I know once said to a mature group of white Christians, “It’s true, African Christians may lack the spiritual depth we need, but what is more remarkable is that we know what it means to find joy in the midst of suffering and pain. We worship in spirit and in truth.” The Bible speaks to us in this real world in this real time. Hearing the Scriptures in worship is part of the community listening not only for what we can readily hear, but listening for how God’s Spirit will speak far deeper into what we know is beneath the surface of our lives. This means that as worshipers, we know that underlying the disorder we can see are disorders we can’t see. So the demonstrations and riots are only the surface of need, and God wants to address the

How many times do the Scriptures call us to attend to those whose power is most vulnerable, who are most oppressed?

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Cape Coast Slave Castle, Ghana

Whose reality makes the most encompassing claim on us? Whose cries get—and don’t get—our attention? underlying conditions. For some, this means the answer to injustice is a call to deeper piety. But that can be an easy hiding place from acknowledging that the underlying condition is not only answered by pursuing piety but by seeking justice. Or better yet, pursuing piety includes pursuing justice. David wrote some great songs, but some of those were written while he was still blind to and arrogant about his own abuse of power. It is what lies beneath, behind, under, and intertwined that brings us to the real issues—in us and among us. That’s just where authentic, faithful, biblical worship must lead us.

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RETURN, REST, REORDER So let’s first take a deep breath—starting where we are meant to start, with Sabbath rest. Our vocation as worshipers does not start with us or with busying ourselves, but with the fundamental acknowledgement that God alone is God. All glory and all pain are held in God’s arms of love and justice. Sabbath-keeping reminds us to never let ourselves be more than six days out from laying down all the implements and signs of our labor, to remember the One Who made and rests, to remember we are to be caretakers of what does not belong to us, and to remember that God is the


One Who alone holds all reality and power. This is essential for our worship together to be able to recalibrate the worship we go out to live through the week. In the deeply enervating and overwhelming time we are now in, Sabbath rest is all the more important. As worship leaders, we k now deeply just how difficult it is to shape services that meet God and converge with the immediate needs of our congregation, whether in-person or online. Forming services that organically integrate the conscious and intrinsic re-ordering of power—private and public—in our corporate worship is both an urgent and a long-term process. Just to be clear: this is not about importing partisanship. It is about realizing that for people of Christian faith, “ just” names God, not a social or a political agenda. It points to the right ordering of power for God’s world to thrive. So the journey in worship that focuses issues of power is going to be exceptionally centered on God, not on us. Any other center needs to die as an idol. We cultivate now and over time an appetite in our congregations to receive and live out the fullness of life filled with God’s loving, healing, just power—to live out a life that seeks justice in the world of which we are a critical part. The richest piety should—and

BY

M A R K

will—feed our risk-taking faithfulness towards vulnerable brothers, sisters, and neighbors, and towards the kinds of systemic change so urgently needed. These are links we as worship leaders need to enact in our own lives and nurture in the lives of others. We have often named the right words, but failed to allow them to make the mark they are meant to produce. In the prayers we offer, in the lyrics we select, in the intro’s and outro’s we use, in the images we project, in the voices we lift up, in the stories we invite, in the names we cite, in the needs we lift up, change may be called for. Note, this is not “redecorating” our service to be more “diverse” but attuning ourselves to God’s private and public agenda for our worship. It starts with us taking prayer walks in our neighborhood and city, attuning ourselves instead to what God sees and hears. It includes desperate prayers for God to open our hearts beyond our limited compassion and courage in order to live a worship that authenticates God to our neighbor, town or city. It means hearing firsthand and learning to name the suffering and injustice around us, standing in the capacious love and justice of God. Whose reality makes the most encompassing claim on us? Whose cries get—and don’t get— our attention? When God asks through Isaiah 58, “Is not this the fast I choose?” we are pointed away from ourselves, and towards those unseen or underseen, towards the people and the systems that crush people bearing the image of God. Our true worship, the fast that God chooses, appears where and when we lead ourselves and others to show forth the glory of God’s mighty power in a world of pain and suffering, the power of a just God Who wants worshipers to show Who He is by seeking justice in a world of disordered power. Let the people sing and show, “Waymaker, miracleworker, promise-keeper, that is Who you are.”

L A B B E R TO N

Mark has served as President of Fuller Seminary since July of 2013. He served in pastoral roles for 30 years prior to coming to Fuller, most recently as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California, for 16 years. Author of books and articles, Labberton published "The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice" (2007), and in December 2010 Inter-Varsity Press released his next book, “The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Heart of Jesus.”

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q uestions

for

REFLEC T ION 1

How do we reflect God’s just and righteous character in the world?

2

How can we build systems that allow God’s expressions of loving and just power to define and direct our own?

3

Who and what power is primary in our lives?

4

Who redefines and recalibrates our understanding and engagement with any and all other forms of power?

5

How can we pursue the honest, just, and hopeful use of power?

6

Where have we juxtaposed Christian symbol and practice with injustice and self-interest?

7

What powers and gods do we worship: time, money, status, education, beauty, influence, health, relationships, access…safety, social identity, and tribe? And what would our repentance look like?

8

Do I pray to justify myself and protect my (or my tribe’s) personal power, or do I intercede for the world (and individuals) whom “God so loved?”

9

Which kingdom are we investing in with our words, actions, and expenditures of time and money?

10

If we do not hear the cries of the poor, will God listen to our cries for rescue?

11

Does Scripture shape our response to injustice or have we created an alternate gospel and god based on our own preferences?

12

What is God speaking at this kairos moment to you and His Church about the use of power? Whose reality makes the most claim on us? Whose cries get—and don’t get—our attention?

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These questions are adapted from preceding article


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MI S I O N A L T E A M M O R E

WO R S HIP

3 9

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T H A N

MUS I C

TA B L E

TA L K

LEADERSHIP.

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iblical scholar Walter Brueggemann suggests that the prevailing “status quo” has always influenced us and our relationship with God at any given point in time… whether or not we acknowledge it. His book The Prophetic Imagination has sold more than a million copies and is one of the most influential contemporary theology volumes today. To make his point, Brueggemann notes the prophet’s role in the context of Israel’s history and community.

A TIME TO UPROOT At various times in the Bible, the prophets “deconstruct” or denounce the prevailing culture on God’s behalf. When His people have become “established” and comfortable, numb, losing vision then God’s prophets freely criticize oppression by the people of God. The prophets act to call the people out of the weight of bowing to slavery (accepting slavery for themselves or enslaving others) and back into who they were called to be. Once the prophet speaks, things taken for granted in the social context are now suddenly clearly out of line. Individuals and family groups within Israel must decide how they will respond to these denunciations—whether they will be obedient to what God asks of his people. We can see how deeply committed Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many of the other prophetic figures are to the task of making this message clear.

What Time is it? WORSHIP CONFRONTING C U LTU R E

A TIME TO PLANT At other times in the biblical text, however, various leaders, such as Ezra, are tasked by God with rebuilding the walls. Similarly, Jesus offered more than just a social critique. Instead, he provided a completely new society. In his vision, the world is reconstructed anew. In these cases, the work is not about breaking away from the prevailing culture, but more about just actively getting on board with what is happening. Brueggemann argues that these are two interconnected types of prophetic action. His work suggests that picking the moment or time is the key, which draws on the idea in Ecclesiastes that there is a “time for everything under the sun” (Ecc 3).

BY

TA N YA

R I C H E S

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LEADERSHIP M I S S I O N A L

WO R S H I P

WHAT IS THE TIME TODAY? So the critical question is, what is God asking of us as Christians, creatives, and worship leaders at this very moment? How we answer this question will assist us in discerning the right posture with which we enter worship. It will determine how we as leaders guide other Christians through these times, pastor them through the emotions they may feel, and use the spaces available to us in any given moment. It’s critical that we judge this rightly. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever followed the wrong impulse. A word of critique in the wrong moment can destroy a team. To continue to deconstruct the status quo past a certain point deeply hurts those around you and brings disunity to the church. But similarly, if you never address the sinful attitudes and practices of worshipers, then you’re fostering a cheap type of performance that will not bring glory to the message of Jesus, but rather hinder it. Both constructing and deconstructing are biblical actions. What is in question is the time. What time is it?

THE CLOCK IS TICKING There is a children’s game, “Mr Wolf?” that we play in Australia. Each participant takes a step at one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock… on and on until it’s DINNERTIME when everybody races back to the start! There is grace upon grace upon grace...but sometimes there are consequences. The difference between whether we should be moving forward or backward in that game is the time. The Bible suggests that God reveals the times to those who ask in prayer and gives wisdom liberally (1 Chr 12:32; Lk 12:54-56; Jas 1:5). Thank goodness for those of us who desperately need it! I’ve tried to tell the time by “reading” the people around me, making sure that I observe what they are going through.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Some communities are affected by that more than others. But for many of us, the ways we gather together have been changed dramatically– some of us are meeting online, while others of us are present together in person but spread out in “social distancing” and wearing masks. There are many emotions that people bring into worship from their personal and family lives. There are layers of grief as the world we once knew disappears, and as a new world with its challenges and opportunities appears. In amongst all of that, there’s extreme political polarization. The challenge to authority is stronger than ever before. Various groups remain unconvinced by medical science, epidemiologists, and global health authorities. The economic costs of shutdowns and lockdowns are debated at length in public spaces. Many congregation members have reduced working hours or have lost their employment. Some of us have loved ones who have died. The anger at the injustices of the existing structures has been overwhelming. In some places, there have been violent riots.

A SONG OF TRUTH I think maybe this is the time for telling the truth. This is the time for describing the world as we see it and being honest about how we really are doing. Nobody does that better than millennials! There’s a recently released song by Hillsong’s Young and Free, and it cracks me up because it’s just so real. There is no fear of telling the truth within perfect love. In fact, perfect love casts out all fear. You can tell by how our youth yell this song that there’s something it has just gotten right. It’s a bit uncomfortable to hear, and there’s a Bob Dylan reference that some people don’t get, but it’s told the time. As worship leaders, let’s be prophetic to the culture around us and offer something more. Let’s talk about the higher way…and about what Jesus offers for those of us who are longing for something more genuine and true.

BY

TA N YA R I C H E S

SENIOR LECTURER, MASTERS PROGRAM COORDINATOR AT HILLSONG COLLEGE

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Tanya co-leads the research pillar at The Centre for Disability Studies, an affiliate of the University of Sydney.


“All of my Best Friends” WORDS AND MUSIC BY JOSHUA GRIMMETT, AODHAN KING, BEN TAN, BENJAMIN HASTINGS & KARINA WYKES

I don’t want to be on my phone, but I can’t be alone Welcome to the modern way Trying to be somebody I’m not, but it’s not what I want Tell me there’s another way All of the lights I chased are now faded All the cheap thrills Were only time wasted Tell me why society’s plan should define who I am Surely there’s a higher way

All of my best friends Are sick of pretending We want the truth So much is missing So give us the real thing I know it’s You I don’t want a stereotype To decide who I am It never knew me anyway I’m over trying to find the next hype Cos the high never lasts Imma go another way

All of the lights I chased are now faded Dylan was right The times they are changing Tell me why society’s plan should define who I am Surely there’s a higher way

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LEADERSHIP

SHIFT TEAM CULTURE . . . I N

A

SE A S O N

O F

C HA N G E

Since your team is already uneasy, why not make even more changes?

T E A M

DY N A M I C S

BY

W

hen things are changing, making changes makes sense. No. Really. Everyone is screaming for certainty, but the best thing we can do is use that uneasy feeling to improve vital areas that leadership sees as necessary and to align more fully with the values God is communicating. Our tendency as leaders is to minimize the disequilibrium, knowing that we are in peril of losing our position. Changing culture, more than anything else, requires courage. Right now is our moment for such a sign of courage. The coronavirus pandemic is both a terrible force negatively impacting how we do church and an opportunity to change how we do church for the better. Confronting culture is part of the artist's role within society as well as within the local church. The local church is not immune to the ways of thinking that the general culture espouses, whether it fits our faith or not. Also, the local church, like any organization led by people, is prone to building a strong culture. Change aversion awakens when uncontrollable circumstances arrive. But, for those of us who are leading teams and planning, we may finally be able to make changes unheard of just months ago. Values and mindset are the keys to making even the smallest changes work for a team. Here are some cultural values rooted in experience and Scripture to introduce and adopt on your team (if you haven’t already).

R I C H

K I R K PAT R I C K

…people are what makes the tool valuable–not the other way around. MAKE WORKING TOGETHER AS RELATIONAL AS POSSIBLE. Don't assume people know that you care for them. Yes, we all cry when we lose the best vocalist or front-of-house mixer. I am talking about something a bit deeper, however. In some of our church cultures we love to fill a position, and people on worship and production teams are especially prone to finding strong identities in their roles. Community plays out in how we interact online. Every time you gather, how is each person seen as valuable beyond the skill or time they provide? Writing notes, texts, and prayers of encouragement can go a long way. Saying, "Thank you," is energizing for people who love to serve. But saying, "I care about you," can be life-giving. Change the culture to see past the gift to the hearts of your team members.

TOOLS ARE ESSENTIAL ONLY FOR HOW THEY HELP PEOPLE. Prayer, a vital activity in any ministry, can now be facilitated online. One of our leaders introduced the use of the Discord platform for the production team. Discord is an app that any smartphone or computer can download. It has channels to break up the stream into conversations that work. This tool helped us facilitate a significant cultural change: regular intervals of prayer. Praying for each other, the ministry, the leadership, and the nation keeps a team focused on the right priorities. Whether we are using Slack, or Google Suite, or Zoom, people are what makes the tool valuable–not the other way around. 42 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

Every time you gather, how is each person seen as valuable beyond the skill or time they provide?


SIMPLICITY IS STILL YOUR FRIEND. Things can get rather complex. Leadership is often about clarity, so the moment may be an opportunity to consolidate things. One church leader with whom I talked was embarking on two live-streamed services, an outdoor service, and the possibility of a new worship service with a different musical flavor happening at a fourth-scheduled time. In contrast, some churches have been smart to embrace ways to consolidate and simplify their processes. For instance, prerecording part or all of a streaming service can eliminate the need to perform live several times with all the hours and work that entails. Adding services might make sense, but adding complexity should be questioned. Keeping things simpler may very well cure or keep some of the typical church over-calendaring disease at bay. I hope this list helps frame some principles. Whether we are talking about tools, relationships, strategy, or simplicity, our role as leaders of worship is one we cannot do alone. We need the Spirit. And we need each other.

Change now what you know you want to change later. MAKE CHANGES YOU WANT TO SURVIVE BEYOND TODAY. Each change you make should be one that doesn’t just meet the moment but takes you much further, way beyond the moment. Think back: when you had a live service format in play, you had a programming, preparation, and rehearsal rhythm. This template helped keep everything moving on the 52-weekend worship service train. But now, there is an opportunity to plan further out, include more people in collaboration, and share the content you create. If you know you need to start a choir, find a way to do that now. If you know the future requires adding some elements to worship such as responsive readings, do it now. If you want to expand musical styles to grow inclusion and train your church's culture to appreciate the idea of exploring, do it now. Change now what you know you want to change later.

R I C H K I R K PAT R I C K AUTHOR, MUSICIAN Rich is the author of The Six Hats of the Worship Leader, writer for several ministry publications, and leads worship with A Beautiful Liturgy.

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching

worship.calvin.edu

online

SYMPOSIUM ON WORSHIP January 6–26, 2021 You are warmly invited to engage in a free learning experience around key topics and themes in public worship and the Christian life at the Calvin Symposium on Worship. Join with participants from around the world through online media to learn and connect together. The Symposium features flexible learning options available to all people regardless of their location. Registration is required and will open Fall 2020. There will be no fee to access the Symposium. VO L . 29, N O. 4 | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | W O R S H I P L E A D E R

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LEADERSHIP

In times of loss, challenge and conflict it is essential to have both the psalms of lament and the psalms of joy in your heart.

M O R E

T H A N

M U S I C

THE PSALMS OF BY

W.

DAV I D

O .

TAY L O R

D

uring my years as a pastor in Austin, there was a young man whom I will never forget. His name was Tim. At the time, he was an MBA student at the University of Texas and had joined our congregation during his sojourn in college. As I remember him, Tim was the perfect image of the conservative business student: khaki pants, button down dress shirt (either white or blue), soft spoken, polite, gentle, measured, a clean haircut and smart as a whip. But Tim was also a complete surprise of a human being. While our church was theologically charismatic, we were practically a moderate charismatic bunch. Hand raising and the occasional holler of praise to God would not be uncommon. We were not, however, the typical nonstop tongues-speaking, miracle-generating, Spirit-slaying, pentecostal-two-step hopping congregation. People rarely, if ever, danced extravagantly. Tim did. At a certain point during our extended time of congregational song, Tim, standing usually at the end of a pew, would launch out into what can only be described as part hopscotch,

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part hand windmill-movement, part Maria von Trapp-singingher-heart-out-at-the-hills-that-were-alive-with-the-soundof-music. It was an utterly un-self-conscious and pure-hearted expression. I would often watch Tim with a combination of delight and envy. I thought to myself, “That’s how praise goes, uninhibited by others’ judgment; that’s its free and full-hearted spirit.” I never once joined him, much to my regret today. But I did eventually ask him why he danced. His answer humbled me. He danced, he said, out of obedience. Dancing this way did not come “naturally” to him. It was instead his sacrifice of praise to God. “In singing praise,” writes Walter Brueggemann, “all claims for the self are given up as the self is ceded over to God.” This is why in the psalms the sea “roars,” the field “exults,” and the trees “sing” (Ps 96:11-12). Such is the nature of self-abandonment, as the unqualified response of our lives to God. Tim understood this fact well. And it is why, with the psalmist, that he laughed often, because the goodness of God overwhelmed him. The entire Psalter is called the Tehillim, the “Book of Praises,”


for a reason. For it is here that we see what praise looks like, what praise sounds like and what praise says to God. It says what creatures need to say to God. It embraces the praise of saints and sinners. It starts in praise and it yearns towards praise.

Three observations are worth noting about the psalms of praise First, joy is what the whole creation does. All throughout the psalter, creation raises its joyful praise to God. The rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy (Ps 98:8). Both sunrise and sundown ring out with songs of joy (Ps 65:8). The pastures and the meadows and the valleys shout for joy (Ps 65:12-13), the trees sing and the fields make merry (Ps 96:10-13). In the Psalter it is not just heavenly and earthly bodies that rejoice in God, however; it is also human bodies that rejoice in God: the mouth, the throat, the lungs, the hands, and the feet. All throughout we find the language of “shouting,” “bursting,” “reveling,” “resounding,” “clapping,” “thundering,” “crying,” “exulting” and “dancing.” From the perspective of the Psalter, both hearts and bodies get to leap for joy. At times our bodies may need to lead the heart and mind in acts of joyful praise. At other times our bodies will need the heart and mind to lead it.

Second, in the psalms, joy is not just a tonic for the embattled soul, joy is also a response to the experience of God’s rescue.

When God offers the psalmist refuge in the storm, the response is joy (Ps 5:11). When God gives victory in the face of defeat, the psalmist shouts for joy (Ps 20:5). When God forgives sin, joys wells up in the heart (Ps 51:8). When God consoles the anxious heart, joy slowly but surely takes its place (Ps 94:19)

THE MOVEMENT IN PSALM 126:4-6 IS SIGNIFICANT • • •

Sowing reaping Weeping shouting for joy Going away coming home

This is where God always seeks to take us: from hard labor to the fruit of our labor, from sorrow to gladness, from exile to home. And for the psalmist, there is always a sense in which joy retains a poignant residue of sorrow, of a kind of happysadness that marks our earthly pilgrimage.

Third, throughout the Psalter joy precedes sorrow and follows sorrow, and as often as not, joy exists alongside sorrow. While a song of praise may erupt from a spontaneous outburst of affection for God, our songs of praise may also require a decision. In Psalm 107, despite the immediate experience of grief and loss (vv. 4-28), the psalmist offers to God a sacrifice of praise in the presence of God’s people (v. 32). In verse 22 he says, "let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy." The psalmist frequently praises God despite his feelings. In the psalms of joy, praise arises out of contexts of suffering and it does not ignore that suffering. It declares itself in hope, not in a denial of reality. This is why, as the psalms see it, joy always makes space for sorrow, while happiness, as it is usually understood in our society, cannot. This is why our acts of praise often involve a sacrifice of praise, with our eyes set on the fulfillment of praise. In the end, the psalms of joy offer us an antidote to all the things that would tempt us to become a joyless people. They take our shriveled, hardened hearts and open them out to God again. And they offer us the grace to become a people who, like the mountains and hills, sing together for joy so that we may bear witness to the weeping that comes in the night and to the joy that comes in the morning.

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LEADERSHIP M O R E

T H A N

M U S I C

THE PSALMS OF O

n April 17, 2010, my wife and I lost our first baby to a miscarriage. For months afterwards we carried around a gnawing pain—a pain that slowly ate us up from the inside, leaving us profoundly disoriented. On September 11, 2011, our daughter Blythe came into the world. Hope again surged in our hearts. Other children would now come easily, we thought. Our dream of a big family—5 children!—could still be achieved, our advancing years notwithstanding. Two days shy of Christmas 2014, after months of fertility treatments, we lost our second child to miscarriage. After this our marriage suffered considerably. Our communication repeatedly broke down, even as our capacity to meet each other’s needs dissipated. Small hurts flared up into angry conflict, and each of us resorted to surrogates that we hoped might dull the pain but which only made things worse. There are days, still today, when the pain feels almost unbearable. Neither of us is getting younger, our parents grow older, our friends’ children reach their college years, and the train, so it feels, passes us by. What we have needed is language to say out loud, what our hearts could only grasp at with inarticulate groans. What we’ve needed is a community to whom we could bear witness our sadness. What we’ve needed is for God to be able to handle our broken hearts and our raging words of protest. 46 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

This is what the psalms would provide us. Here were prayers of lament that furnished us with language for the seemingly unspeakable. Here were songs to name the sorrow in the company of the faithful. Here were poems that gave coherent shape to our incoherent feelings in the presence of our Maker, who had seemingly abandoned us to our inconsolable pain.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. PS 25:16

What the lament psalms offered us in our hour of need, they offer also to all who find themselves in need: edited language to give expression to our un-edited emotions.

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING THINGS ABOUT THESE LAMENT PSALMS IS THAT THEY INCLUDE THE INTERROGATION OF GOD This, as it turns out, is a divinely approved form of address. The psalmist dares to say, “Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!” While Psalm 121:4 confesses that the Lord is the one who neither sleeps nor slum-


bers, but watches over us, here, in 44:23, the psalmist sounds like Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:27 (in the NIV), who taunts the priests of the god Baal:

Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought—or busy!— or traveling! Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened! Is this the way one speaks to the Maker of heaven and earth? Is this how you talk to the Holy One? Is this how we ought to address the Sovereign God? According to the psalmist, the answer is, at times, yes. This is no faith-less cry against the Almighty, however. Nor is it the attack of an atheist. This is the wrestling-out of faith in the presence of the Lord. For the psalmist, there is no “civilized” speech; there is no stiff upper lip or quiet resignation. There is only more intense address before the face of God.

IT IS NOT ONLY THE PSALMIST’S LIFE THAT IS AT STAKE; IT IS ALSO, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE LORD’S NAME THAT IS AT STAKE. It is God’s reputation that is in question. It is God’s character and capacity to fulfill his promises that are at issue. “Deliver us for your name’s sake,” the psalmist exclaims in 79:9. Brueggemann comments that while such prayers may trouble us, and that while we may resist praying this way often, they are thoroughly biblical: “The speaker is honest enough to know that yearning, and the speaking is faithful enough to submit the yearning to God.”

THE PSALMS OFFER US YET ANOTHER GIFT. In the face of incoherent experiences, the psalms offer us a coherent poem. This may seem like an odd gift. Who needs a poem when you need justice or a livelihood? Who wants a rhyme when we want a family member back from the dead? But when nothing makes sense, the lament psalms give coherence to the incoherence of our world. They offer a beginning, a middle, and an end instead of a seemingly meaningless narrative. The present a rhythm of sounds instead of a cacophony of noise. They suggest an orderly world of metaphors instead of a disordered mess of thoughts and feelings. In offering these things, the psalms re-frame our sense of life.

IN THE END, TO IGNORE THESE WORDS, OR TO CHOOSE MORE “POLITE” WORDS, IS TO BELIEVE THAT GOD CANNOT HANDLE OUR BROKEN HUMANITY. It is to believe that God has forgotten how we are made. But God has not forgotten. God has not run out of compassion. In Christ He suffers with us. In Christ he shares our brokenness. He, too, knows what it is like to pray with loud cries (Heb. 5). He, too, grieves and feels distress (Mark 13). He, too, weeps (Luke 19). He, too, has felt abandoned and forsaken (Mark 14-15). John Calvin sums up well these psalms of lament: here “we have permission given us to lay open before [God] our infirmities, which we would be ashamed to confess before men.” This is an incalculable gift. It is a gift that Phaedra and I have received, as we mourn all the small and big things in our life, alongside a community of those who seek to walk with Jesus, trusting that these psalms are God’s chosen vehicle for making us not just whole and holy, but by the Spirit more deeply compassionate to our suffering neighbor.

Bono & Eugene Peterson | THE PSALMS

BY

WATC H

N OW

W.

DAV I D

O.

TAY LO R

W. David O. Taylor is Associate Professor of Theology & Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of several books, including Glimpses of the New Creation: Worship and the Formative Power of the Arts and Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, from which these two essays are excerpted. He and his wife Phaedra have also produced a set of illustrated psalms prayer cards. He tweets @wdavidotaylor.

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LEADERSHIP

WORSHIP AS CULTURAL CONFRONTATION

TA B L E

TA L K

T

o confront can mean to meet someone face to face with argumentative intent, but just as often, it carries the connotation of facing up to a difficult situation. Since its beginning, worship has been embroiled in confrontation on both sides of that definition. From Cain confronting Abel, to the people of God confronting other nations in battle, to the confrontations within churches over styles and preferences and traditions and expressions, to the unseen spiritual battles going on within and around us as we engage in it, the act of worship has always been inextricably involved in confrontation. However, there is a massive worship-related confrontation that often is ignored by too many worship leaders: the challenge when our worship fails to match up with what we say we believe. I’m not speaking just of our music time in our weekly gatherings, but of our worship as defined by Romans 12:1, Colossians 3:17, and 1 Corinthians 10:31. These verses basically define worship as everything we do and how we live. That is our worship. Our desire is that our externally-lived worship reflects things going on internally: our love for God and others, the Holy Spirit indwelling us as believers, the Word of God washing us and renewing us as we soak in it daily, death to our old selves, and life in Christ. Here is inspiration from God’s word to guide us:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. JESUS (JN 13:34)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. PAUL (GAL 5:22-23)

When I think someone ought to be more loving, it’s usually me. BOB GOFF


SPIRIT-FILLED WORSHIP

CONFRONTING UNHEALTHY CULTURE WITHIN THE CHURCH

The world around us is messy, vitriolic, angry, spiteful, prideful—everything to which the fruit of the Spirit stands in opposition. So what does worship that confronts culture look like? Hopefully this is not a rhetorical question. Our worship expresses something different than the world around us. Not in a condescending, mean-spirited or elitist way, but in a way that follows the living example of Jesus and embodies the fruit of the Spirit: loving, patient, kind. Our worship as evidenced by our daily lives is Spirit- filled. it overflows with the fruit of the Spirit. And yes, also showcased in the gathered worship of the Church as we are privileged to prayerfully plan and lead it. That is our vision. May it be our experience. I am not—I repeat NOT—saying that our gathered worship experiences will be so radically different from modern concert experiences that unchurched people around us have zero cultural context or understanding of what we’re doing when they visit a church for the first time. I’m not saying that our worship would be so solemn, morose, prim and proper that only people in formal wear would feel at home. I’m not saying that our worship would be so serene and subdued that it puts us to sleep. But as the Apostle Paul denotes, when unbelievers find themselves in the midst of our gathered worship, they would feel the presence of God and be confronted, invited, welcomed, and embraced by that truth. To worship is to ascribe to the Lord the value He deserves and the honor His Name is worthy to receive, and to express our hearts toward Him. Amazingly, He invites us to engage with Him in both solemn ritual and in joyful celebration and communion! When our expressed worship of the Lord is not aligned with how we live our daily lives, it fools nobody but ourselves. If there is no fruit of the Holy Spirit evident in how we regard one another as we interact via social media, well folks, there’s a problem—especially in the midst of the global pandemic keeping many of us holed up at home, with our main connection to others being through social media. This kind of behavior and confusion, God takes issue with, to the point that He says in those circumstances He doesn’t even want our worship. He says it dishonors Him when we bring him loud songs on one special day, but the rest of our lives are filled with injustice, selfishness, division and a lack of love. Check out Amos 5:10-24 for His Words on that. Fortunately he is always available and as we connect with Him in repentance, he gives us the grace and mercy to live from His Love. The world around us is filled with people far from God who need those of us who love and follow Jesus to be about the work He commissioned us for: rescue operations through love in action.

There are those who argue that worship of the Lord is solely intended for Him and the benefit of His people, not for evangelistic purposes or for outreach. Scripture says it’s both (Ps 96) and the reason I know this is that the Lord used His worship to reach me. That’s my testimony. I was drawn to Jesus by the power of the Spirit inhabiting the praises of the people of God in gathered worship, just like the unbelievers Paul mentions. Whatever side of the fence you sit on regarding predestination/election/freedom—whether you believe I sought God or He sought me—I’ll say it again: my personal testimony is that the Lord saved me using the vehicle of corporate worship experiences to draw me to Him. Worship. He used gathered worship to save me. Paul speaks to the power of this in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. We’re not only talking about worship confronting the world outside the church; worship can be and often is something the Lord uses to confront unhealthy culture within His Church in a wide variety of contexts. This is not to say that just because you like the latest stage design or song from Elevation that you need to turn the worship culture of your local church on its head. But...there’s something to be said when a song is used by the Holy Spirit all around the world to unite and bless and encourage and build up the children of the Lord. True worship—worship in spirit and in truth—stands in confrontation not only to the patterns of the world, but it stands in confrontation to some patterns that have become codified, entrenched, stagnant doctrines and traditions within the Church. Let us engage confrontation with unhealthy culture, wherever we find it, through our daily personal and corporate gathered worship. As the Church in the Spirit, reasoning together, dwelling together in the sweetness of unity…and diversity, let us showcase the goodness, loving-kindness, and grace of God in Christ Jesus, giving glory and testimony to Him.

BY

B R E N DA N

P R O U T

Brendan is a husband, dad, pastor & worship leader who loves Jesus, music, guitars, San Diego, Comic-Con, Star Wars, all things geeky, coffee, cars & not driving off cliffs anymore. He has been leading worship for over 30 years and loves helping people develop their skills & training for the Lord in music. Find @brendanprout on instagram, facebook, youtube, reverbnation, soundcloud, or brendanprout.com

VO L . 29, N O. 4 | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | W O R S H I P L E A D E R

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MUSIC. S O N GWR I T IN G LO S T

A ND 2 0 2 0

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SON GWRITI N G

M A S T E R C L A S S //

T H E

Q U E S T I O N

W ITH

M AT T

R E D M A N

How can we edify, encourage, confront and call the Church to holiness through the worship we write and lead?

He’s one of the most well-known and respected songwriters and worship leaders in the world. And now, Matt Redman is sharing his hard-won wisdom with you! Read along as Matt helps tackle the intricacies of compelling song-writing and shares insight on maximizing your effectiveness as a leader within smaller contexts.

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MUSIC

TH E

A N S W E R

We have to fight for this in the Church—songs that reach beyond the dumbed-down patterns of culture and confront us with One who is unmistakably, unfailingly, and unfathomably glorious.

Q U E S T I O N S

A N S W E R E D

I

love this question. Firstly, it reminds us that our songs, in and of themselves, are never going to be enough. We have to complete the integrity of the sacred songs we sing by living the way God has called us to live. But this question also tells us that our songs can be part of the equation—if we get it right, they can help call us to account, guide us, challenge us, and spur us on—to live a holy life. Holiness must be one of the most underused themes in many of our modern worship expressions. Yet it is such a prevalent theme that runs throughout Scripture—time after time we’re reminded that God is holy—and the way we truly honor Him is by reflecting something of His holiness in our own lives. The New Testament letters are full of exhortations towards a life of holiness:

…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 CORINTHIANS 7:1

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ PETER 1:15-16

SINGING THE HOLINESS OF GOD First things first, our songs need to convey something of a holy God. Before we even start to think about singing about holiness in our lives, we must first sing about the One whom our holiness is based upon and flows from. We need inspired, Scripture-soaked lyrics that somehow go against the flow of culture and convey a picture of One who is completely set apart in glory, power, purity, love, and radiance. We do have songs on this theme, but we need more. We have to fight for this in the Church—songs that reach beyond the dumbed-down patterns of culture and confront us with One who is unmistakably, unfailingly, and unfathomably glorious. (On this, I love John Piper’s thought that the glory of God is the holiness of God “gone public.”) From there, we must start to let the holiness of God affect change in our own lives. And our songs can for sure help us with that. I love that the question above used the word “confront”— because that is essentially what will happen. Becoming holy is not often a comfortable process. Many of our songs tend to focus on being affirming, uplifting, and encouraging—and of course that is a beautiful part of the picture when it comes to encountering Jesus. But there is another aspect too—we are being refined in the fire—and at times it will be distinctly uncomfortable for us. Sometimes it seems our songs and services are all designed to put us at ease, to help us feel good about ourselves, and to cheer our hearts. But that is not always the pattern of Godencounters in Scripture. Look at Isaiah 6, look at John in Revelation chapter 1—and so many other moments. These are intense moments of facing up to the glory of God, and in light of that, facing up to how our lives must be changed. At the end of the day, as one wise soul once said, “Worship without change is just a game.”

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. HEBREWS 12:14

You’ve got questions. He’s got answers.

52 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4

ASK MATT


LBC is excited to host and partner with Atoma Worship Conference The Music, Worship & Performing Arts Department (MWPA) at Lancaster Bible College exists to honor God by developing highly skilled artists to influence culture with grace and truth. lbc.edu/music

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MUSIC

THE MISSING THEM IN WE

L O S T

&

M I S S I N G

P R AY E R S

I

n the historical-fiction novel, Number the Stars, the author Lois Lowry builds a strong argument on the non-negotiable responsibility and intrinsic dignity we all have as humans. In the novel, after the Nazi occupation, the Danish king—King Christian—continued to ride his horse around Copenhagen without any escorts or guards to protect him. Why would he do that? Because he knew that all the Danish people were willing to give their lives to protect him. Skillfully, Lowry develops this idea throughout the story by placing a minoritized and discriminated ethnic group at the center, the Jews. “Friends will take care of them. That’s what friends do.”—Mrs. Johansen affirmed. And just like that, the immigrants were regarded with the same dignity as King Christian.

The nation of Judah was judged based on their love for God and for the ger—the foreigners. Because they had not been just and hospitable to the immigrants among them, they were stripped from the land into exile. God allowed Israel to become the ger in Babylon—a minority of “them.”

THEM IS US How does our perception of the “them” influence our own understanding, not only as Christians but also as humans? Worth, dignity, rights, responsibilities, and what it means to be human are matters that undoubtedly should be at the center of our conversations and prayers within the church. Our perception of “the other” must be beyond the object of our evangelistic

WHAT DOES GOD REQUIRE? There is a Hebrew word for people who were considered immigrants among the people of Israel. It’s the word ‫— רּ ֵג‬ ger and it is often translated to English as “alien, stranger, sojourner, or foreigner.” If we take a careful look at the places this word is used in the Old Testament, we will recurrently notice two things: (1) God’s caring love for the foreigner, and (2) people’s apprehension towards “them.” In multiple instances, God calls Israel to treat the foreigner among them with fairness and equality in every social dimension (Ex 22:21, 23:1-9; Dt 24:14-22). God insisted that Israel must allow outsiders to voluntarily participate in their religious life, such as Passover (Ex. 12:48), making offerings and sacrifices (Lv. 22:17-19), and observing the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11). Failure to comply with God’s commands regarding strangers had severe implications for Israel. In Jeremiah 7:5-7, the prophet says:

Worth, dignity, rights, responsibilities, and what it means to be human are matters that undoubtedly should be at the center of our conversations and prayers within the church. endeavors, or charity; forgetting this is mostly neglecting our identity as the people of God. As Christine Pohl pointedly observes: “[the] experience of the people of God as aliens or exiles on earth . . . is normatively central to Christian identity.”1 Could it be that to be a ger is more of an expectation for all of us than a label ascribed to “them”? I invite you to meditate, pray, and write songs about God’s acceptance of the immigrant, the foreigner, the exiled, and the “other” among us. Perhaps then we could find the missing ger in 'we.'

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.

1 Christine D. Pohl, “Biblical Issues in Mission and Migration,” Missiology 31, no. 1 (January 2003), 5.

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BY

R E V.

YA M I L

AC E V E D O

Rev. Yamil Acevedo served as Lead Pastor in San Juan, Puerto Rico before moving to Indiana in 2015. Yamil is currently journeying the last stages of a PhD in Intercultural Studies (Missiology) at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife, Yaremí, are members of Trinity Wesleyan Church in Indianapolis. They have two children, and love to eat sushi, travel, learn about history and cultures, and meet people.


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E X I ST S

SO N G S

TO

&

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R ES O U R C ES

TH AT A D D R ES S

N E E DS

O F T H E

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MUSIC

2020 SELECTIONS

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A

lthough we all have seasons of uncertainty, fear, or insecurity, this year has increased the level of intensity for many people. It is easy to get lost in the storm of life, feeling overwhelmed and alone. In times such as this, powerful worship to our Father can bring peace and restore faith in His promises. “Peace Be Still,” written by Hope Darst, Andrew Holt, and Mia Fieldes, is a declaration of trust that can bring great healing. When Darst first began writing the song, she was personally coming from a place of anxiety. Darst shares, “We wrote ‘Peace Be Still’ back in a season when I was really struggling with fear, anxiety, and insecurity. One of the co-writers, Mia Fieldes, came into the writing room the day we wrote this song, feeling like a situation in her life was falling apart. As a result, she was fighting an all too familiar feeling of disappointment. She said she needed to write a song about peace to combat what she was feeling that day. “Her vulnerability opened the door for me to share the anxiety and fear I was feeling in that same season. Neither of us felt peaceful that day, but we knew God promises us peace. So we chose to prophetically sing God’s promise of peace over our lives, our hearts, and our minds that day.”

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Never A Day The Hedgerow Folk WRITTEN BY JON MYLES & AMANDA HAMMETT

All I Need Citizens WRITTEN BY BRIAN EICHELBERGER AND ZACH BOLEN

Full of Your Glory Wesleyan Worship Project WRITTEN BY WESLEYAN WORSHIP PROJECT AND HEATHER HAITHCOCK

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Congregational Connection in a Covid World... and Beyond

I

t’s one thing to successfully livestream a church service, but quite another to secure connectivity with the congregation. In a live service with people present, their feedback and response are immediate and unequivocal. This process is how the church has functioned for two thousand years. Today, online church services have a tendency to look and feel isolated. However, even when the congregation is remote, is there a way to see and hear their reaction? Are there techniques to use in order to create a more immersive experience? Yes, there are some tools we can use to restore the two-way communication between the servers and those we serve and thus thrive, not just survive, today’s challenges.

WAYS TO CONNECT Additionally, the comments allow the administrator to immediately direct inquiries to counselors in waiting, while a simple “text Jesus to 44615” or similar banner across the lower third of the image provides a safe and private method of engagement. For the giving portion of the service, many churches have found it beneficial to provide a giving box on

the church website homepage and reference it on camera as the service stream closes out. Since live services happen in full scale, it makes sense to encourage viewers to experience the livestream on as large a device as they own. The engagement difference between watching a service on a five-inch phone screen and a sixty-five inch flat panel display is immense. The near one-to-one scale mentally allows the viewer to cross the line from observer to participant. As socially-distanced events and drive-in services are becoming acceptable, the narrative of places that constitute worship services has expanded to include parking lots and lawns. With the ability for people to see each other, yet not be able to hug or greet one another physically, it is vital to find ways to connect. One thought is to video record members as they arrive (safely distanced, of course) and play back their greetings on the video display in the ten minutes leading up to the service launch. Another option is to use the church’s plexiglass drum shield as a see-through barrier to allow friends to chat after service in a health compliant manner.

TECHNOLOGY TO BRIDGE THE GAP When barriers, face masks and distancing make it impossible to communicate unaided, Listen Technologies has the answer with their new ListenTALK system. Essentially a mobile two-way radio system, ListenTALK combines a compact transceiver with the wearer’s own earbuds or loop mic to create a safe, simple and effective means of communication. With a range of 300’ indoors and 600’ outdoors, now drivein service ushers can talk with parking lot attendants, while lighting techs can confirm angles and brightness of stage lights with one another without the need to shout or make a phone call.

… there are some tools we can use to restore the two-way communication between the servers and those we serve and thus thrive, not just survive, today’s challenges. VO L . 29, N O. 4 | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | W O R S H I P L E A D E R

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TECH + GEAR 18 Songs including: Hymns Modern Worship Songs Original Recordings by Anthony Evans

Listen Technologies also offers their Listen Everywhere wireless audio streaming system designed to operate via an app on the user’s phone. Up to one thousand devices can be supported, and the product now supports a QR code interface to make the connection even easier. Livestreaming has a tendency to be isolating, but it can be nearly as engaging and fulfilling as an in-person service. By adapting technology to function in natural ways and using responsive tools, a church’s livestream service can fulfill the Great Commission in a safe and healthy manner.

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Building Connection 1

Turn on comments and reaction points during livestream so listeners can participate.

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Have a seasoned administrator immediately direct inquiries to counselors and also screen for comments that need to be filtered.

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Supply a text where those watching can directly initiate engagement if desired.

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Download today. Use in Worship tomorrow. Visit LifeWay.com/AnthonyEvans PRESENTED BY


ENCOURAGEMENT. INTRO TO ENCOURAGEMENT

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ECOURAGEMENT

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Darlene encourages us from a difficult time in her life to embrace Jesus and discover unity in our time of conflict and challenge. This article was originally published in 2014.

L E T T E R S

We can dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way; oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit—these we must have, or our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ. The closer the unity the better, for the more of the good and the pleasant there will be. CHARLES SPURGEON REGARDING PSALM 133

Hey friends, It’s hard for me to explain my passion for the worship of God. It stems from many life-changing encounters where the power and presence of Jesus has wonderfully interrupted my natural life … leaving me changed, challenged, and desperate for everyone to experience his great love. Music finally made sense to me after receiving Christ. And everyday I’m aware of his song, and its ability to express the inexpressible from the core of our being. I think this is also why 66 W O R S H I P L E A D E R | W O R S H I P L E A D E R .C O M | VO L . 29, N O. 4


If we were all the same and expressed our worship the same, what a sad reflection of our Creator we would be. I’ve never really made it my battle to haggle around the issues of diversity within the body that has traditionally brought division, as you would be surprised, where I have been during some of these life changing God encounters. You can challenge my theology, but you cannot take away or diminish the permanence and wonder of my personal experience. I love God’s Church. Her diversity is her beauty—ancient songs and styles woven together with modern melodies and musings all straining to give voice to praise that will never be exhausted.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. PSALM 133

AGAIN MADE NEW During this last six months where my body has been pushed to physical limits during chemo and radiation, and as my heart and soul have ached with questions that I never thought I’d find myself asking, I have to say that I love and appreciate the greater Church in a whole new way. Like well-appointed generals, there have been people of faith planted across this whole journey from every type of church imaginable, doing what they are born to do—bringing healing, encouragement, and solution every step of the way. My heart has been made so aware that the Church

at prayer across all aspects of humanity is as vital as the air we breathe—prayers offered in faith, in song, in triumph, in hardship … and in unity. And interestingly, the songs I’ve clung to have not necessarily been songs that are the newest and latest, but songs that declare Scripture and hope, with strong melodies that defy denominational preferences. I have needed people and songs of faith around me, wherever they are from. It’s interesting to me the things now that I will not allow into my spirit, and how protective I’ve become of what I allow close to me. Through my recent life’s journey, every moment I’ve had the opportunity to talk about Christ and all he has done for us, not once has where or how we worship been an issue. We always come back to Who it is we worship.

GOD’S GLORIOUS ARRAY If we were all the same and expressed our worship the same, what a sad reflection of our Creator we would be. His vast array of colors painted across the sky every single moment of every day should give us a hint as to his surpassing beauty, endless fun, and endlessly creative nature. So back to his worship: every time our diversity or preferences bring fractures or cause others to take their eyes from Jesus and onto a meaningless display of immaturity, we need to re-think our practices. Lift up your eyes, look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Ask him for grace and understanding and a genuine love for others who display their worship expression in a different way than our own. When Psalm 133 says that where there is unity God demands a blessing, this blessing describes God’s picture of blessing, not ours. Here’s to new days of his glory and power as we serve Jesus together.

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MINISTRY AND YOUR KIDS WITH SPECIAL GUEST LEELAND LI S TE N

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Leeland Mooring grew up in a ministry family and is still as passionate about God as ever. In this podcast he shares how he is passing on to his family the lessons he learned from his parents.We also discuss his latest projects and of course his biggest worship fail.

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