Worship Renewal: Unity
Generation to Generation
Three Characteristics of Unifying Worship
God Wants Us to be One.
You can hear it in the book of Psalms:
Psalm 79:13 NIV
“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.”
You can hear it in Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel of John:
“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
God wants us to be one.
He responds to our unity. Look at two great visitations in the Scriptures: the dedication of Solomon’s Temple and the Day of Pentecost.
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 NIV
The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
In each case God responded to the unity of the hearts of His people. He couldn’t resist. He came to them and manifested His glory among them.
Today, in an absolute torrent of music and musical styles that none us can keep up with, God’s people are pouring out new expressions of praise and worship. In addition, we still have the traditional song of the church as well as the traditional worshiper who wants to minister to the Lord. All too often we allow the diversity of our expression to destroy the unity of our faith. We are building churches within our churches on the foundation of musical preference.
I submit that this must be a temporary solution, a house of passage that leads to the desired goal.
- How else can my children’s generation learn from their grandparents about the glory of the Lord?
- How else can my parents rejoice in the worship and testimony of my children?
In this article I want to present the heavenly vision I am pursuing as a worship leader—that every worship service would be an inter-generational discourse on the glory of the Lord.
From the careful study of the Scriptures and extended observation of the trends in public worship, I can see three characteristics of a congregation that is ONE—the answer to Jesus’ High priestly prayer. For those leaders and churches endeavoring to find unity with diversity, these become three goals to pursue.
Characteristic Number One: A United Vision for Public Worship
Unity with diversity is God’s way. The most casual observation of nature will reveal this.
- We see it in the astounding variety of floral beauty in the plant kingdom. This is extravagant diversity and it is all built upon the unity of photosynthesis: water, root, stem, leaf, flower, sunlight and seed.
- Look beneath the sea at the teeming display of aquatic life or look to the skies and witness the dazzling display of birds.
God could have said, “OK. Here’s your flower and your fish and your bird—enjoy!” and made just a few of each. But he didn’t. He created overwhelming variety on the genius of singular forms—diversity out of unity. Creation is telling us about our God. If this is the way He does things, why should public worship be any less varied and unified? It is, after all, the most important activity on earth.
True Worship reflects the nature of its true object—God Himself—incredibly diverse and powerfully unified. Too often our worship has only reflected us—predictable and powerless, anemic and aimless. We have become skilled at reflecting our denominational, traditional and contemporary visions, but isn’t the God we worship bigger than that?
We need a vision for worship that goes beyond anything we have known before.
Not because our forefathers got it all wrong, but precisely because they got it so right. They gave us our future and now we must get it right so we can give our children and grandchildren their future. The Kingdom won’t stop moving forward for anyone’s generation, not even mine. Some worship leaders seem to be happy to ignore a part of their own faith family. It may be the younger generation or the older generation, but these worshipers are just calculated out of the worship experience as if they did not matter.
The Bible says we are a household of faith, a family.
Imagine a family reunion gathered together for the annual picture but one generation is missing.
- If it is the grandmas and grandpas, there must have been a terrible disease of the aged.
- If the fathers are missing, there must have been a devastating war.
- If the youth are not in the picture, there must have been a rebellion against authority.
- If there are no children, some Pied Piper must have lured them away to certain destruction.
It isn’t truly a family unless all the generations present.
- Could it be that we are the ones who have failed to stop the spread of the disease of traditionalism?
- Why have we not called a cease-fire in the worship wars?
- Have our youth rebelled against our politics and posturing in the name of worship?
- And, can it be that we have allowed Satan to steal the affections of our children away from the Lord?
Our Lord’s Day public worship services should not be age-specific events. God wants the whole family to come together to celebrate His abundant goodness and declare His works to one another.
A unified vision is the starting place.
We need services that do three things:
- celebrate our heritage,
- sustain us in walking with God today and
- lead us into our destiny in God.
Each of these three points of vision is essential. We must transfer faith to the next generation through our services.
Traditional songs can be used to promulgate godly traditions and biblical doctrines.
Also, we have to have services that meet the needs of the congregation as we spend time in Father’s house in preparation for the week ahead. Both traditional and contemporary songs help us realize this part of the vision.
Also, every Sunday service should take us another step toward the will of God for us as a congregation. God is speaking His contemporary will through contemporary songs and I don’t believe we can get where He wants us to go if we ignore His “new songs”.
Here is the vision in nutshell:
A United Vision for Worship:
- The Whole Family Gathers as One to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth.
- Our Worship Celebrates Our Heritage,
- Sustains Us in our Walk with God Today, and
- Leads us Boldly into Our Future.
Characteristic Number Two: A United Purpose for Worship
The unified vision can be realized when we all agree on the purpose of worship. This is the real key to peace among the generations. Conflicts arise when different people possess differing expectations of the same event.
Somewhere along the way, evangelical Christianity has lost track of the true purpose of a worship service. I am confident that a casual survey of God’s people concerning the purpose of the Sunday morning service would yield answers like these:
- “The preaching of the Word.”
- “The saving of souls.”
- “The discipleship of believers.” These answers are no more correct than to say,
- “The presentation of Praise and Worship.”
All of these purposes can divide us into camps of preachers, evangelists, teachers and worshipers, each having his “own” time in the service.
We must ask who the worship service is for, God or man?
- If our vision is toward mankind then, indeed, the purposes of the worship service are fellowship, discipleship, affirmation and evangelism.
- If, on the other hand, the worship service is for God, then everything changes.
I believe the true purpose of a worship service is True Worship.
We gather for the express purpose of giving unto the Lord “the glory due unto His name.” (Psalm 29:1,2) We meet to minister to the Lord! As we worship, He meets with us and ministers to us through prayer and the preaching of the Word and all the other events.
When the whole church agrees to this purpose there will no longer be conflicting goals, competing needs, and clashing cultures. True Worship fulfills all these things. What is True Worship? Jesus said the Father was looking for True Worshipers who would worship Him in Spirit and Truth(John 4:24)
There is much more to this than this article can relate so, let me just bring out the definitions of these terms.
- To worship in Spirit means to worship from my spirit as I am led by and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- To worship in Truth means to worship with my truth (total sincerity, without mixed motives) according to the Truth of the Word of God (not my tradition or personal preferences).
If we take “spirit” as a synonym for worship and “truth” for preaching/teaching, we see that the Father wants both. He wants our praise and worship and He wants His Word to be proclaimed.
The Lord doesn’t have any conflicts about these things. When He finds a congregation of people who will minister to Him, He will minister to them meeting all their needs and He will minister through them. He will minister to the needs of a fallen humanity. Far from being a preliminary event to the preaching of the Word, worship becomes a primary expression of the Word.
Another way of expressing the true purpose of the worship service is to say that we meet to pursue the Presence and Glory of the Lord. When this becomes the agreed upon purpose, distractions (traditions, fads, the clock, standing/sitting, musical style) fade into a much lesser significance. What are these things in comparison the Manifest Presence of God? They are nothing at all, but many times these are the very things people fight over. Why? Because we think the worship service is for us.
When we realize that it is really for Him, then His desires become our measuring rod, our chosen methods, our united goal. When we set our hearts on His presence, when He visits us in power there is no telling what He will do. We must be ready to go where He leads us whether or not it is in the plan.
A United Purpose of the Worship Service:
- We must Minister to the Lord, giving Him the Glory due unto His Name.
- We will do this by Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth and by Pursuing His Glory.
Characteristic Number Three: A United Family in Worship
Musicologists and music therapists tell us that music unlocks the human heart. This is one reason why music is the principle art of worship. Locked up hearts can’t worship. Music unlocks the heart so that its contents can spill out and the Word of God and Healing Presence of Jesus can flow in. Finding the music that does this is an essential part of worship leading.
I believe each generation and each culture has its own heart-song, that is, a certain musical language and textual message that unlocks the hearts of that generation or culture. Worship Leaders must know the heart-songs of their people if they are to lead them in True Worship.
The following analysis of the generational heart-songs is purely my own observation and is not based on any research. Your observation may be different but these are my observations of the contemporary American church.
- The heart-song of the Builders Generation is, “Jesus Is My Savior”. This is the generation of people who were born in the depression and who fought and won WWII. The Lord has sustained them through all of these trials so their songs are full of testimonies and exhortations: “He Touched Me,” “Jesus Saves,” “What a Friend we Have in Jesus, “Victory in Jesus.” These songs also teach the great doctrines of Salvation, Divine Healing, Deliverance, the Holy Spirit, and the Second Coming. Builders want to celebrate their Savior.
- The heart-song of the Baby Boomers (that’s my group) is, “Jesus Is My King”. My generation came up in the 50’s and 60’s. We’ve had a president shot dead and we’ve seen another resign in disgrace. We are the Viet Nam generation; the ones sold out by our government. No wonder we want a King whose broad shoulders can carry the government of heaven and earth. The songs we wrote in the 80’s are all about the Lordship of Christ: “Majesty,” “All Hail King Jesus,” and “Mighty Warrior”. We developed songs of the Throne Room: “To Him Who Sits on the Throne,” “You Are My God.” We Baby Boomers want to celebrate our King.
- But our children and grandchildren have a different heart-song. They are the post-moderns. They are from a friendless and fatherless generation. So, it follows that their heart-song is based in relationship: “Jesus is My Friend, and God is My Father.” If you listen to their music, you will find it full of longing for true and lasting relationships, for a friend and a Father: “Good, Good Father,” “The More I Seek You.” Younger worshipers want to sing songs of intimacy.
The exciting truth is that each generation needs to sing the heart-song of the others. How?
- We can lead them to enjoy songs beyond their natural preferences.
- I want to lead them all in worship so I am careful to sing their heart-songs whenever I can. I do not do this as a man-pleaser.
- My job is to please God with my worship plan.
- When I have discovered the theme of the service, I deliberately draw from the music of all three generations to bring out these truths so that all may participate.
- This pleases God, too. I must sing the songs that unlock their hearts.
So, how does the whole family come together in worship?
- by agreement on the vision for worship,
- by establishing the purpose of worship, and
- by singing each other’s heart-songs.
In the plan of God, public worship honors the Lord and unites the church.
The Truths we all hold dear unite us:
- Jesus is Savior, King, Friend and God is our Father;
- The Bible is the Word of God
- The Holy Spirit is our Helper;
- Jesus is Coming Again;
- We are the People of God.
Our cultural expressions are differences to be celebrated:
- young people listening to the musical testimonies of their elders and
- older people rejoicing in the new songs of their children and grandchildren.
“From generation to generation we will recount Your praise.”
© 2012 Creator Magazine and 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved