This follows on from my previous post, in which I argue that our sung congregational worship ought to be Christocentric. In that post I laid out two main premises which I will be elaborating on, the first of which is:
Sung congregational worship is a part of a holistic life of worship.
Worship isn’t just something we do on Sundays, or when we sing Chris Tomlin songs, it’s something we are called to do with our whole self and life. Paul makes this very clear in his letter to the church in Rome:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
Paul is taking the Old Testament imagery of Jewish worship, the sacrificial system and calling us not to sacrifice anything less then our whole self. What is it that makes Paul conclude ‘therefore’? He puts this offering in the context of a response to what God has done. If we read the proceeding chapters, the thing which ‘therefore’ requires this response is the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. We don’t offer sacrifices to appease God, but rather, because Jesus has made the one true atoning sacrifice, we offer our whole selves in worship. True worship is that which is a response to what God has done for us in Jesus, and I think this means our sung worship, a particular verbal expression of whole-life worship, will be focused on the work of Jesus Christ.
Even in the Old Testament system of worship, it was always something which God made possible. His people were to approach him on his terms; adoration was a God-initiated response, which perhaps is somewhat foreign to the contemporary idea of worship being an intimate expression of personal feelings. As David Peterson puts it (Engaging with God, p 73):
Adoration was not a form of intimacy with God or an indication of special affection towards him, but rather an expression of awe or grateful submission – a recognition of his gracious character and rule.
Instead of providing lambs, God has provided the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. He has initiated and made a way for us to worship him, and it should necessarily involve a response of adoration of Christ’s work, and a grateful submission to his loving kingship. Our vocal expression should therefore reflect this.
There are no doubt things to add, and perhaps some additional and pertinent thoughts will come with the next post, which looks at how sung worship is a part of word ministry.