The teaching function of worship, p. 4

John Newton used to write worship songs to go with his messages. He wanted to reinforce the truths he was teaching, and for the people to express them in song.

Of course Newton is best known for writing “Amazing Grace” and that song has done pretty well…

Worship historically served to “teach” in that people came away with expanded understanding and experience of God’s nature.

Expressing some revealed aspect of God’s mercy strikes a chord in our hearts and minds. It sets our feet upon a Rock, taking us above our circumstances where we can see more clearly. Just think about coming away having expressed and experienced the revelation of God as Provider, or Peace-Giver, Healer, Deliverer, Comforter, Forgiver, God of Heavenly Armies (what’s up with that?), Defender, Safe House, All-Knowing, etc.

I remember singing some worship songs dozens of times, then to be blown away by some of the words I’d never noticed before. It was as though they were being highlighted by the Holy Spirit. We were singing “Your lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3) and I was hit right between the eyes. An issue I was struggling with quickly faded into the background as I saw His lovingkindness permeating everything.

Expressing those words to God versus just about Him is also central to worship. It is like prayer in song (kinda like the Psalms…).

Worship leaders have an obligation to instruct. They are leading God’s people into His presence, in spirit and in truth. The songs can be used to make the worship leader feel better by impressing people with their skills. Songs can make the people feel better in the moment through self-expression and catharsis (see last post). Or they can bring people into an awe-inspiring encounter with God.

I’m all for creative expression and for using musical styles people enjoy. It is vital to use language people can relate to, and keep it simple (being out of breath trying to sing 20 words in 5 seconds isn’t so helpful).

Bottom line: there is a way to be profound and simple at the same time in worship, and that is the challenge. That’s when teaching really happens.

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