What Do We Know About

Contemporary Worship And Other

Changes That Are Taking Place?

 

††††††††††† The highest obligation of mankind is to worship and serve his Creator. It is therefore essential that we understand what God says constitutes worship and what attitudes are involved in true worship. In Revelation 14:7 we read, "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." We must worship God only and our worship must follow His prescribed pattern. What is worship? Worship is the glorification of God out of an attitude of submission to His authority and awe at His grandeur. The term "worship" is found more than 100 times in our King James Bible. Let us observe that not everything that we do in life is worship and also let us learn that our worship must be that which pleases God. The first use of the word worship is in Genesis 22:5. God had told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. "Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." (Genesis 22:5) The preparation was not worship. The going to the correct place was not worship. What he did while he was there was worship. What he did there was acceptable worship because he did exactly what God had prescribed. Worship and service are two different things. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Matthew 4:10)

 

††††††††††† New Testament worship must be spiritual worship and it must be according to truth. New Testament worship is simple and spiritual. The main goal of our life should be to worship and serve God acceptably. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28) True worship involves both actions and words. "And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Revelation 4:8-11) The elders fell down and cast their crowns before Jehovah. They also worshipped "saying." Worship is the conscious glorification of God. True worship flows from an attitude of submission to God's authority. Worship looks at God in awe because of His majesty.

 

††††††††††† Now in our day we are hearing much about "contemporary worship." In an article titled "Upgrading a Church of Christ Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar" Jay Guin said this:

 

††††††††††† "Under the guidance of our present worship minister, things have gotten  pretty good. I know this is true because Ė * No is complaining much about the worship, * The numbers are up, and * Some people wish the service was longer!

 

††††††††††† Anyway, since weíre on the subject of worship, and since I really think churches can do a lot better with their acappella singing, I thought Iíd address the topic of how to make things betterĖ without buying a guitar.

 

††††††††††† Get a great worship leader. This is, of course, easier said than done. And I donít have any solutions. Nor am I aware that any of our colleges are seriously training worship leaders (although they may be). If you donít have one, train one. Send him to one of the Zoe conferences held around the country each year, for starters. If you know someone who is an excellent worship leader, ask if heíll spend some time coaching your leader. And, if you can, offer to pay for his time. ďThe worker is worthy of his hire.Ē You see, excellent leadership is the most important key to excellent acappella singing.

 

††††††††††† Singing during the Lordís Supper is an excellent move. We should do more of it. I know some people oppose this, but itís just not a Biblical issue. My church sings sometimes, and we donít other times ó itís a Romans 14 kind of thing, you know. And variety is nice. And those who think itís wrong are welcome to sit silently. They donít have to sing.

 

††††††††††† Nothing in the Bible requires that communion time be meditation time. Nothing in the Gospels suggests that the apostles meditated quietly while they ate and drank at the first communion meal...

 

††††††††††† Stamps Baxter has to go! I grew up on this music. I actually enjoy it. Now, it doesnít move me and help me feel Godís presence, but I enjoy it. For me, itís nostalgic. But no one who grew up outside the Churches of Christ likes it. In fact, many young people consider it so bad as to be hilarious. Iíve seen visiting college students struggle to avoid laughing out loud! It might be a good idea to have the occasional nostalgia Sunday (once a year, maybe). For the sake of the older members, we could have a true country singing, with an outdoor, covered dish dinner with homemade ice cream (nothing store-bought allowed)... A lot of kids have never experienced anything like this. This would be enjoyed by those who love the Stamps Baxter songs without messing with the other services. But, please, PLEASE donít sing these any other time...

 

††††††††††† Praise teams. I used to think this idea was silly ó sort of a worship minister affectation. Just a bit of fashion among the ministerial class that would go away if I ignored it. I was wrong. Nothing improves a congregationís singing more than an excellent praise team. Now, some get bent out of shape thinking thereís sin of some sort in this. But it really should satisfy even the most conservative interpretation of the scriptures. ††† I mean, a female alto is leading the female altos. I think itís really okay.

 

††††††††††† And the old argument about this being entertainment is just so wrong.

 

††††††††††† My church is quite conservative. We have our team sit at the front of the auditorium, give them microphones, and they just sing ó like everyone else, but better...I also think you need at least 8 members. I canít explain it. Weíve tried it both ways, and 8 is better...

 

††††††††††† Clap. I know this bothers some people. I personally prefer not to clap. But itís wrong to deny people the joy of expressing themselves this way. And modern worshipers are just used to having a rhythm section on upbeat tunes. And the song leader needs to lead the clapping. Lots us have no rhythm. By the way, in the recent debate over instrumental music at Freed Hardeman University, the spokesman for the Church of Christ position, an FHU professor, argued that clapping does not constitute instrumental music, being merely an aid...

 

††††††††††† Break with tradition. Itís a struggle for an a cappella church to appeal to modern listeners. Many of our children have never heard a cappella singing except at church. Therefore, to sound halfway decent to their ears, we need to get out of our rut and be a little artistic. Put an excellent soprano or tenor on the praise team to improvise a countermelody or descant over the lead. Some hymns have these written. If so, have someone sing them and mic up the singer. Itís not a solo. Itís really okay.

 

††††††††††† Sometimes, have the praise team sing while the congregation listens. This is called a ďmeditation.Ē If the preacher or some college kid can talk before communion while everyone else listens, why canít we sing the meditation while everyone else listens? This technique will also allow you to introduce some beautiful music thatís too difficult for congregational singing. And letís have some solos and duets ó if you have the voices. There is absolutely nothing unscriptural about these forms so long as you donít eliminate congregational singing. We need to stop being scared of our shadows and have the courage to enjoy the freedom Jesus died for us to have. (Gal. 5:1a) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Be creative! Let the solo illustrate the sermon right in the middle of it. Sing a duet before or during communion.

 

††††††††††† If God has given your people the gifts, use them. Thatís why he gave them to you.

 

††††††††††† All of these changes promoted by Jay Guin and those that share his thinking are a move in the wrong direction. They take us away from God instead of strengthening our walk with Him. What we need is to get back to Bible study, back to the God of the Bible, back to the Bible Savior, back to Bible salvation, back to the Bible church, back to Bible worship and back to Bible faithfulness. Getting "back" to these things is what will get us "up" to heaven.

 

††††††††††† What has brought us to where we are today? Much of what has brought us to the point where we find ourselves today is a disrespect for God, a disrespect for things that are holy and reverend, a disrespect for God's word, a desire to be entertained and a desire to please self instead of God. Our day is a day of disrespect for both reverence and headship. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3) The changing role of women in society has found its way into the church. Many of our own brethren are now arguing that the church would be better off if women were allowed to teach any class, preach, lead singing, serve as elders or deacons, serve communion and do any other service in the church. This line of reasoning is very foreign to the true teachings of the Bible.

 

††††††††††† Many of the changes have come because good young men have gone to denomination schools for higher education and have been trained at the feet of men that have little or no respect for the Bible. They come from those schools with Doctorate Degrees, but also with minds filled with denominational practices. Many of our own "Christian colleges" have given way to practices and teaching that have opened the doors to many of the things happening in the church today. On our Christian campuses (1) A women taught Greek to preacher students, (2) Many women are Deans or Heads of departments with both men and women in submission to them, (3) Women teach Religious Education courses with both men and women students, (4) Women speak at chapel at Christian schools, and (5) Women serve on various boards at Christian colleges and other organizations. In churches of Christ women now, (1) Women teach classes with both men and women present, (2) Women speak on conferences with mixed audiences, (3) A few churches even have women preachers, (4) Women are serving as deacons, receiving the offering, reading scriptures, leading prayers, leading singing, serving communion and serving as church treasurer. Some congregations use entire family units to wait on the table and serve communion.

 

††††††††††† Looking in the wrong place for a cure. The church as a whole has not grown over the last few years. In fact it has shrunk in the United States. The result of this loss of size has caused many to look to these changes hoping to increase attendance. In 2009 the "21st Century Christian" identified 12,629 a cappella Churches of Christ with 1,578,281 adherents nationwide. This number shows 526 fewer churches and 78,436 fewer people than just six years ago. The reason for the decrease in growth is a lack of face to face evangelism. The suggested cure for the problem is all kinds of non Biblical changes.

 

††††††††††† Chris Kirby said: First- So much of our "growth" in the 20th century was through the "conversion" of Baptist, Methodist, etc... Now, we are reaping what we sowed. Is it surprising that a movement which convinced others that things like acappella singing, not letting women participate in worship, and having the Lord Supper in the exact same fashion every week were a core part of salvation would be struggling now? Think about it. We've had several generations of growth built on the little things, not necessarily teaching the power of Jesus. So, now that the world is changing around us, our churches aren't dynamic, creative, or focused on the power of Christ to be relevant. Think about some of the things that we've argued about and even split churches over:

††††††††††† -Small Groups vs "Sunday Night Worship".

††††††††††† -Clapping in church

††††††††††† -Is it OK to listen the Christian music

††††††††††† -Powerpoint versus hymnals

††††††††††† -"camp fire" songs in Sunday worship

††††††††††† -Eating in the church building

††††††††††† -the list could go on and on.

 

††††††††††† Do you really think the hurting people around us give a rip about any of these insignificant issues. Plus, why would "church" remain important to our young people if this is what they think it's all about. WE MUST WAKE UP!! God can not be happy with the name we're giving to his body...I think that more of our churches need to look like the Richland Hill's of the world. Not because they have instrumental music, but because they are involving themselves in the community around them, loving folks, and bringing people to Christ.

 

††††††††††† Does that New Testament contain a divine pattern for worshipping God? The New Testament shows that Our God desires to be worshiped through five avenues of worship today. The New Testament commands each Christian to praise God in song. (Colossians 3:16) Every example of music employed by the New Testament church is vocal music. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper or communion to be observed every Sunday.(Matthew 26:17-30, Acts 20:7) God desires that we give cheerfully and proportionately every Sunday. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) Praying to God will always be a part of New Testament worship. (1 John 5:14-15) Preaching is likewise a part of our worship. (Acts 20:7) Contemporary churches long for a worship that is no where found in Scripture.

 

††††††††††† Just a word about deaconesses:Some say because Phebe was a servant of the church that means that she was a deaconess in the church and therefore women should be deacons today. (Romans 16:1-2) Some even say that 1 Timothy 3:11 is referring to female deacons. Many in the church are saying, "God needs Deaconesses. They are by nature fitted to do some things well, that a man could not do." Many push for a broader role for women in the leadership of the church, regardless of what God says. We do well to be reminded that 1 Corinthians 11:3 is still in our Bible and it is still true today.

 

†††††††††† Those that serve God are blessed. It should be our desire to honor God by following His teaching. Is it your desire to honor God? If so it is time to become a Christian now! To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Acts 8:37), and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21) After baptism follow Jesus in faithfulness as He leads you home to heaven. (Revelation 2:10)

 

By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA