How is your church’s worship diet?
Recently, I’ve been reading the book The Worship Pastor by Zac Hicks. If you are involved in worship music ministry, I highly recommend reading it yourself. I think it is one of the most thoughtful but accessible books I have ever read on worship ministry.
One of the chapters in his book is called “The Worship Pastor as Theological Dietician.” Have you ever thought of having the responsibility as a theological dietician for your church? In a nutshell, Zac talks about how the way we plan our worship services determines the type of theology our congregation is consuming on a weekly basis.
Does your church’s worship gatherings consist of primarily joyful, happy, praise music? Obviously, that is an essential part of how Christians should be worshipping. There is a lot to be joyful about because of the Gospel. The problem occurs when this type of worship makes up 100% of our worship gatherings.
When worship becomes out of touch with reality.
Zac Hicks gives the illustration of your average guy who attends church with his wife and kids. It’s a healthy, vibrant mega-church, and the worship music is always celebratory, God-is-good-and-life-is-so-great type of music. Then one day the guy's wife is diagnosed with cancer and life takes a turn for the worse. All that his church sings on Sunday is happy and celebratory songs. It causes the man to become bitter and even leave the church because he feels it is so out of touch with reality.
This is an extreme example, but it reminded me of the importance of planning a healthy diet of songs for my church. Each week I try to pick some songs that are celebratory and others that maybe are more somber and reflective. Some songs are for praising God, but others are for lament and crying out to God for his healing presence in our lives.
There are theologically rich songs being written today (even by the mega-churches!)
Here is what’s exciting. The modern contemporary worship music is still relatively young, but within the past decade, I have seen how the songwriting of even the popular worship leaders is beginning to mature. Of the new music being written these days, fewer songs are peppy and happy-go-lucky, and more songs and songwriters are focusing more on the realities of life and how the gospel comes into play no matter what the situation.
I’m a HUGE Hillsong United fan. Maybe it is because when I first started leading worship in high school, that’s when Joel Houston and the gang started to have an international platform and I learned how to lead worship using their songs. Remember songs like “Break Free?” Sure it was a great song, but it’s the epitome of happy-go-lucky worship music. But I don’t blame Hillsong United for writing it because they were writing songs for their youth ministry. Fast forward ten years and now Joel is arguably the most thoughtful and theologically informed worship songwriter out there. Watch the Hillsong United documentary, "Let Hope Rise," and you will see what I mean. Now Joel and his friends are writing songs like “Even When It Hurts” and “Prince of Peace.” I am nearly moved to tears every time I listen to or sing these songs, not merely because of the emotion of the songs but also because of the theologically-rich lyrics.
It excites me to see songs like this being written because finally, the contemporary worship scene is starting to have a healthy diet of songs. Just a couple of days ago Hillsong United released their new songs, "Wonder" and "Splinters and Stones." Together these songs display a balanced diet of worship songs. "Wonder" is more celebratory and joy-filled, while "Splinters and Stones" is more somber, reflective, and contains elements of lament and confession.
Do not let people tell you that you need to incorporate old hymns into worship to have theologically-rich music. I love hymns, but people who think hymns are holier to sing and more substantive than modern worship music need to pull their head out of the sand and just research more of what is being written today
Sorry, my rant is over.
How is your church's worship diet?
Reading this chapter about the worship pastor as dietician reminded me how important it is to have a healthy variety of song selection in worship. I also like to throw in some other liturgical elements, but that’s a topic for another article. Don’t just feed your congregation theological comfort food. Make sure they eat their fruits and veggies as well. It may not taste good, but they will be much healthier down the road.