Last week, at the “Text and Tunes for Today and Tomorrow,” I gathered with 75 or so worship leaders at Carson-Newman College for two days of pure refreshment. Maybe it was singing with a room full of musicians. Hymns and songs were sung with joy and harmony no matter how new or old. I am by no means a musician, so this experience gushed over me. We heard from three outstanding musicians from the UK, two Anglican and one Reform. In addition to those gentlemen, one American, Dr. Constance Cherry reminded and challenged us to keep the main thing the main thing in worship.
Fundamentals of worship may sound obvious, but in a world where too much worship equals the Sunday Show, these basics are often overlooked. Preachers young and old need to eagerly pay attention to Cherry’s book The Worship Architect. In it you’ll find a rich theology and practice for Biblical worship.
Cherry shares her gifts as a professor of worship at Indiana Wesleyan University, and has for many years been bi-vocational as both educator and United Methodist minister. Her earlier training was in church music and later the pastorate. She is an immensely warm person which is happily evident not only when she speaks but in her writing as well. The Holy Spirit obviously dwells in her and you want to know what’s on her mind.
In her instruction to follow non-negotiable worship principles within the context of the congregation, she very simply states that worship must be the revelation of God’s truth followed by response to that truth. She emphasizes the importance of this order and sees great confusion when worship begins with music that is response driven, before God’s story has been offered. Such truth can come in many forms other than the sermon, but it must come first. She stressed this by saying, “We need to order our thoughts and think critically about what we are feeding our flocks on any given Sunday.” Though her point was being heard mostly by church musicians, the message is for all in church leadership. If the pastor is too busy to meet with others for worship planning, then the result is typically an out of sync service with no real thought as to how, or if, God is being glorified.
A ready example comes to mind in a congregation I’m familiar with. The worship leader plans the first half of the service and the pastor plans the second half. No matter how well each does his job, the result is unsatisfying. (I think I will to buy a few copies of Cherry’s book and offer them as gifts.)
The message of ordering our thoughts for worship needs to grab the attention of those of us committed to preaching and help us understand our role in the total process of bringing glory to God in worship.
From The Worship Architect:
God’s people gather to proclaim the Story of God and to testify to the truth of that Story.
- · Gather
- · Are addressed by God
- · Respond to God in surrender
- · Are commissioned to serve God’s purposes