When the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached in the worship set, there you have had a great worship set. Martin Luther was right: “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.” If your minister of music accomplishes that week after week, you are fortunate; you have a minister cut from the same cloth as Asaph.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 25:1
David and the army commanders then appointed men from the families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to proclaim God’s messages to the accompaniment of lyres, harps, and cymbals.
In the broader sense, worship is about offering all of our lives before God as an offering, which is how the Apostle Paul clearly spelled it out in Romans 11:36-12:1,
For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory. To him be glory evermore. In light of that, I plead with you to give your body to God— your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and let it be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? (Paraphrased)
In the narrow sense, we mostly think of worship as what happens in our corporate gatherings as we lift music and singing to God. That is an accurate but partial explanation of worship. Now what we need to keep in mind is that the narrow sense of worship must be defined and controlled by the broader sense of worship. Namely, the offering of our lives and praise is not primarily to make us feel good, though it does, but it is the logical response to God for who he is and all that he has done. Worship is all about our response to God. As Paul said, “Everything is from him and through him and for him.”
Since that is true, I would argue that praise and worship services ought to be designed with a ruthless commitment to fulfilling that statement. It ought not to be so much about what moves us, or what the latest, greatest song or lighting technique or creative technological or theatrical movements are. Nothing wrong with making effort to be contemporary, mind you, so long as it is committed to being “by him, though him and for him.” Worship ought to be about proclaiming what God wants to hear and to be heard.
David got that right, and he actually codified it for all time by writing it into the job description of the first organized worship leaders of the temple era. He charged Asaph, the senior worship pastor, to ensure that his associates led the music and singing in such a way that what was done “proclaimed God’s messages.” Now that is the standard for judging any worship set as great. Did it proclaim God’s messages?
It is my sense that too much of modern worship in America misses the boat on that. The lyrics are light on good theology and the music is good mostly for entertainment sake—it’s hip, it’s edgy, it shows off the talents of the musicians, it makes you want to move your feet. Again, nothing wrong with that, but if the primary focus doesn’t meet the prophetic benchmark—proclaiming God’s messages—it falls short.
When the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached in the worship set, there you had have a great worship service. If your minister of music accomplishes that week after week, you are fortunate; you have a minister cut from the same cloth as Asaph.
If that is the kind of worship leader your church has, make sure you show your appreciation for her or him. Give them the greatest compliment any musician in the house of God could ever receive: “you helped me hear God’s message today!”
Here is to the modern day Asaphs in the body of Christ: May your tribe increase!