Top Five Friday: 5 Ways to Worship God without Music

A common misunderstanding when it comes to worship ministry is that worship is music. It is not difficult to understand how this belief came about. In a church service, the time of singing together is almost always referred to as “worship” time. Worship pastors are musicians. There is an entire market of worship music. Whether we come right out and say it or not, the way we structure church and especially worship ministry, this is what we believe about worship ministry.

But is this true? Is music the only way to worship God? It is a very good way to worship God, but it is not the only way. In today’s Top Five Friday post, I want to explore five ways we can worship God without music.

1. Communion - This is something the Catholics and some of the higher church Protestants have Evangelicals beat. Communion is the most consistent, unique, and historic form of worship the church has. When we take communion, we reflect on the body broken and the blood shed for our salvation. Out of fear of communion becoming ritual, many Evangelical churches have withdrawn from doing this frequently or at all. But what better way to worship Christ directly than spend five minutes every Sunday reflecting on his sacrifice?

2. Lectio Divina – A lectio divina (divine reading) is the practice of picking either a section of Scripture or some other spiritual writing and reading it multiple times with periods of quiet reflection in between. This is something common in a lot of monastic community, but possibly out of fear of the awkward quiet of reflection we don’t see it happen much in our Evangelical churches. The repetition of the same thing over and over again makes the listener engage the reading with depth often times missed in a single reading.

3. Storytelling – One of the common ways the Israelites would worship the Lord during their festivals (especially Passover) is telling the story of the Exodus (cf. Psalm 106). When we tell stories of God’s redemption in our lives, whether it be a salvation story, a story of healing, a triumph over sin, a healed relationship, or cultural renewal, we get a chance to see what God has done and give him credit for it. hearing the stories of how God is working in the lives of people we see everyday makes the things we sing and preach about real.

4. Social Justice - God is worshiped when we care for others, especially the poor, oppressed, widows, orphans, and strangers. As worship leaders, we miss an incredible opportunity to lead our congregation in worship when we neglect including intentional social justice into our liturgy. This is why the church I pastor at takes one Sunday out of the month and dedicates it to serving the community instead of music and sermon.

5. Art – This is obviously a broad term. What I mean is either creating art or reflecting on art. If you have some artists in your congregation, ask them to create a piece of artwork to be presented on a Sunday morning and then have your congregation reflect on it. Art draws on the aesthetic beauty of the God we worship and the depth of his nature and is incredibly underutilized in the church. If we remember our history, the church used to be the largest patron of the arts. Now we consider Christian art a picture of a mountain with a bible verse in front of it. Real art is a great way to reflect on God’s beauty.

What are some ways that you worship God without music?

Don’t Miss the Temple for the City

The month of September for me has become the month of the minor prophets. The minor prophets are the shorter books written by the prophets in the Old Testament that usually appear at the end. With the bible reading schedule I follow, the month of September is dedicated to reading through them. Now if you have ever read books like Zephaniah, Micah, Malachi, or Nahum, you will understand what I mean when I say that it’s not the most interesting devotional reading. I’m sure the prophecy of the destruction of Edom was very interesting to the Edomites, but it doesn’t really connect with me well.

Let’s just say, you probably won’t be going through a Beth Moore study on the book of Joel anytime soon…

All that said, there is one very important theme running through almost all of the minor prophets. Temple worship was being defiled by the lack of lifestyle worship in the city. Amos 5:21 – 24 says,

““I absolutely despise your festivals! I get no pleasure from your religious assemblies! Even if you offer me burnt and grain offerings, I will not be satisfied; I will not look with favor on your peace offerings of fattened calves. Take away from me your noisy songs; I don’t want to hear the music of your stringed instruments. Justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up.”

Again in Micah 6:6-8,

“With what should I enter the LORD’s presence? With what should I bow before the sovereign God? Should I enter his presence with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Will the LORD accept a thousand rams, or ten thousand streams of olive oil? Should I give him my firstborn child as payment for my rebellion, my offspring–my own flesh and blood–for my sin? He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.”

This is a theme permeating the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures and is continued in Jesus’ ministry. In Matthew 12, when confronted for breaking the Sabbath law by allowing his disciples to glean on the Sabbath and repeatedly healing people on the Sabbath, Jesus responds by quoting Hosea (a minor prophet), “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” Later in Matthew 25 Jesus refers to true worship as taking care of the sick, the orphan, the widow, the stranger as a true worship of God.

If you read through any large chunk of the Old Testament and miss this theme, then you have not read it very carefully. That is how pervasive this is. We could be doing everything right on Sunday, singing great worship songs, diligently participating in the sacraments, preaching and listening to biblically sound and compelling sermons and keeping our own bodies moral, but if we neglect worshipping God by engaging the city with love, justice, and restoration, our Sunday worship is meaningless. I’ve written about this before in a few other posts, which you can read here, here, and here.

Then there is the small two chapter book of Haggai.

Haggai was a prophet during the time of Zerubbabel. Unlike most settings for prophets, the time of Zerubbabel was a time of spiritual renewal where they had destroyed the areas of false worship in Israel and addressed the issue of exploiting the poor (cf. Ezra and Nehemiah). At a rare point in Israel’s history, they were actually exercising lifestyle worship well. So what is it that Haggai is complaining about?

Haggai approached Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest at the time and said, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4) Although the Israelites were worshiping God in their lifestyle, they hadn’t taken the time to rebuild the Temple after it was destroyed by the Babylonians. They had lifestyle worship, but no temple worship.

I think my generation has done well in responding to the call to worship God through a lifestyle of righteousness, justice, and love for the city. More and more young churches are involving themselves in the plight of the poor, developing relationships with the “strangers” in our country, and taking seriously the call to seek righteousness.

But we’ve neglected the plea of Haggai. So much of my generation will spend their weekdays worshiping God in their lifestyle but neglect the formal worship time in church on Saturday or Sunday. It’s just not a priority. It is true that a lot of “worship” happening in church has been defiled by the utter lack of worship in the lifestyle of those participating, which is why so many young Christians have withdrawn from church. But we don’t want to miss the temple for the city. Lifestyle worship gives meaning to temple worship, but temple worship gives clarity to lifestyle worship. Haggai continues to say, “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.” (Haggai 1:8)

God is glorified in the temple. He is glorified in the songs we sing, the fasts and prayers, the sermons, and bible studies. The temple worship of God guards us against slipping into worshipping the wrong God and misunderstanding His nature. Temple worship clarifies lifestyle worship.

Yes, it is true that if we want our temple worship to mean something, we need to live lives that worship God. But that doesn’t mean stop coming to the temple.

How to Handle Technology with Kids – A Guest Post

On the Family Matters blog, I have written another Postmodern Parent post on how to handle technology in the home called “Technology – A Parent’s Best Frienemy.”

Here’s a snippet:

Yes, you read the title correctly. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term frienemy, Urban Dictionary defines it as “someone who is a friend, but at times becomes your enemy.” If you have teenagers, use it in front of them and you will be guaranteed to impress them with how cool you are. Also, tell them you are Team Jacob…

As strange as it may sound, I’m so glad teenagers invented this word. It perfectly describes the relationship between parents and technology. Technology is our friend. It has connected us to the rest of the world in a way unimaginable 100 years ago. It enables us to stay in touch with family, even seethem through things like Skype or FaceTime. Technology has opened up doors for sharing the gospel, developing believers, and strengthening church community. Technology is our friend.

But, at times, it’s also our enemy, especially when it comes to our kids. The Internet is an incredible research tool, but it is also easy access to hundreds of thousands of pornographic websites. Computers and cell phones are a great way for our children to connect with friends and family members, but they can also foster cyber bullying. When used in moderation, video games can be a lot of fun, but in excess can become addictions that breed laziness in our children…

Be sure to check it out and leave your feedback. Thanks!

Question of the Week: How Do You Care for Your Soul?

Every Tuesday morning, the staff at Fellowship Bible Church meets together to pray for each other and our congregation. As part of our morning prayer, we read through a chapter from the book Replenish by Lance Witt where he talked about the difference between our “front stage” ministry life and our “back stage” ministry life. The point he was making is that people in ministry spend a significant amount of time on their “front stage” life, but often times neglect their “back stage” life. We neglect caring for our souls?

I know that I have felt this before. I become so busy with the work of ministry, the busyness of home life, of school, that I push aside the time of quiet meditation, prayer, and reading I so desperately need. After reading through the chapter this morning, we spent some time asking each other the question, “How is your soul?” It’s a question I probably don’t think of enough.

With that in mind, how do you take care of your soul? If we cease caring for our soul, then our public life will eventually crumble. So what are some of the ways you take care of your soul? How can we keep our private spiritual lives strong?

SAFE is a Four Letter Word

As I was driving home from work the other day, I overheard an advertisement for a Christian Radio station. It was a pretty typical testimonial style ad where different people weighed in on why they enjoyed the particular radio station so as to convince others to listen to it. As a seminary student, I’m trained to listen for repetition of words as an indicator of theme or emphasis. So as a good seminary student, I applied the principle to the ad.

The word repeated more than any other word describing the Christian Radio station was ‘safe’. The station was ‘safe for kids,’ ‘safe listening at work,’ safe for the morning drive,’ etc. As I thought about it more, the term ‘safe’ and ‘Christian’ seems to be a pretty common combination. Christian schools are safe schools. Christian music is safe music. Christian movies, safe movies. Christian youth groups, safe youth groups. I think you get the point.

There is a way in which it is wise to be safe. We don’t let children (or adults for that matter) run around with scissors. We don’t build a house in a war zone or let a ‘pet’ tiger live in our house. However, this is not the way the word ‘safe’ is being used with regards to Christianity and it makes me wonder: If Christianity is described as safe, is that an accurate description of Christ as well?

Some verses to consider:

““Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 ESV)

““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV)

“but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;” (2Corinthians 6:4–5 ESV)

“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:9–10 ESV)

The impression I get from the Gospels and Epistles is that Christ is anything but ‘safe’. Christ is dangerous, constantly putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of doing the will of His Father and proclaiming the coming of the kingdom. Christ, if we recall, was put to death because of the confrontations he had with the leading religious leaders of the day.

His disciples shared a similar path. Paul describes being beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. He was ultimately beheaded in Rome. Peter was crucified upside down. James was thrown off the roof of the Jerusalem temple.

So why do we insist on Christian things being safe? 

If God is not ‘safe’ in the sense of withdrawing from the dangers of the world and retreating from the opposition of sin in our present reality, then why is that the predominant term describing Christian culture in America? Ironically, in an attempt to protect ourselves from the four-letter words prevalent in ‘non-Christian’ institutions, we have created a four-letter word far more offensive to the nature of Christ.

Here is my prayer:

  • That Christian schools would not be known for it’s safeness but for its risky engagement of culture and dangerous promotion of gospel and shalom in the secular world.
  • That Christian music and art would fearlessly dive into the hurt of sin, the antithetical conversations of the culture, and the offensive redemption of the world through Christ instead of floundering in the sterile environment of safe moralism.
  • That Christian churches would be known for running towards the dangerous needs of a dying world and not for disengaging to form a parallel culture safe from the intrusion of those Christ called us to love.

A safe Christian is a Christian living in direct opposition to the character of Christ and the history of his followers. Safe is a fowl four-letter word.

 

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