Sorry for the delay in getting this posted, life can be crazy and hectic at times, especially during the holidays. Today is a look at the third part of our mutual submission series this time focusing on church worship. For the previous posts in this series see the introduction and part one – evangelism.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… Philippians 2:5-7
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 1 Corinthians 14:26
Having grown up in the church, and been to both a Christian college and seminary within a decade, I’ve been involved in the discussion on the much maligned and unnecessary ‘worship wars.’ It baffles me why on earth anyone, especially those in the church with their brothers and sisters, would want to go to war over anything. I also have a hard time seeing Jesus being thrilled with the idea of his church being splintered over such issues like ‘contemporary’ or ‘traditional’ music.’ Or, as seen below, the contemporvant style.
I don’t think the answer to questions about worship style, order, genre, or theological prowess can be answered when we approach church this way. I’ve known churches that have had members (with a particular investment in one musical style) keep track of the number of songs only to get to the end of the year and say, “But we sang six more contemporary songs this year than hymns. Why were we so unbalanced?” Instead, we have to realize a few things about the way our churches plan, lead, and design the worship experience.*
- It’s not about you. Really. It’s not. Worship is first and foremost about God. The purpose of a worship leader, planner, player, or participant is to create a place for people to encounter the resurrected Jesus in real and powerful ways. Traditional worship war debates are stalled because they turn inward, looking at what ‘I’ or ‘we’ like. When we do that, as with anything else in life, we begin to idolize something that is created more than the creator.
- It should help the non-believer feel the power and presence of Jesus. While the gathered church time should be geared to reach both the long-standing Jesus follower and the seeker, the service design should be towards that of the seeker. Those who have spent significant portions of their life in the church should (assuming the church has been doing its job well) have multiple outlets and venues for them to grow, fellowship, and grow in Christ. Chances are they have friends, Bible studies, and ministries where they are connected and uplifted. Rarely though do the lost, hurting, and broken experience that connectedness to others in the church or God. The gathered time is a chance to not only introduce them to the life of the church, but connect them with a God that loves them.
- It should consider others first. The presence of mutual submission in worship will be characterized by the ability of not only those planning, but of the established church that’s participating to be able to to consider others first. The group that prefers hymns should be able to say (without gritting their teeth): “I love you, and I love Jesus. If singing contemporary songs helps you grow in Jesus, then I’d love to sing contemporary songs.” Similarly, those with preferences towards contemporary music should be able to give up their choices for those with interests in traditional hymn style music.
Healthy, worshipping communities should be able to prioritize God’s glorification and others interests above their own. When we miss this and deteriorate into in-fighting, we show that our level of Christ-likeness is minimal, choosing instead to be shallow and selfish instead of extravagantly gracious.
So what will your church look like? What will the musical selection be? I have no idea, but I do know, if you follow these steps, it won’t really matter because God will be glorified, the people will be encouraged and equipped, and the community will experience a deep love for one another.
By this I mean the Sunday (or large-gathering) time where the large majorities of members show up together for corporate worship.
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I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture.
In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society.
I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith.
I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary.
I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.