Newsflash! Ragged Attempts at Worship Renewal Continue
It seems many attempts at worship renewal continue to be attempted with an old method known as by-the-seat-of-our-pants, meaning with little biblical basis and only pragmatic intentionality.
Leaders may ask, “What’s wrong with these pants?”
- The seat-of-their pants may have been carefully tailored through decades or centuries of tradition,
- or their pants might be fresh off the rack at the mall,
- but each trouser is just the garment they wear to worship, not the worship itself.
A Doctrine Never Developed
It has always amazed me that believers will search the Scriptures to find “important” doctrines, codify those doctrines into systematic theologies that can be written down, charted out, and passed on to the next generation and then worship with each other by-the-seat-of-their-pants.
- They follow their worship instincts as if their preferences were infallible with no possibility their desires could ever conflict with the heart of God.
- It is possible to lead worship, or even to go about the work of worship reform, as if there were no teaching in the Bible on the subject.
- This seems to be the assumption—people have to learn doctrine, but worship? Everybody knows how to do that!
Really? Are we left to our own devices in the most important of Christian adventures?
Can we talk about this?
Asking the Right Questions
Reformers always begin with questions:
- Why do we do this?
- Why do we always do it this way?
- Why can’t we change how we do this?
The first step on the journey to Worship Renewal is learning to ask the right questions:
- We must question our practices by the culture.
- We must also question our theologies by the Scripture.
Just as there are preferences and opinions that can divide us from one another, there are truths than can bind us together. Where can we find such adhesive material? The answer is obvious—the Bible. Too often, when we do talk about it, the discussion becomes a debate, or worse, a battle. How have we come to this shameful place? Where else can seat-of-the-pants worship take us?
The Canonization of Worship Styles
If the preferences of the worshipers are in control, what is done in worship will be driven by those preferences.
- The canonization of worship styles and the shameful use of worship as a church growth tool or a political pacifier, are evidences of the chaos of culturally driven worship, worship shaped by culture—by the-seat-of-our-collective-pants.
- While worship should be done in the textual, musical, and ceremonial languages of the people, it should not be driven by the culture, especially if the values of that culture conflict with the Kingdom of God.
- The church is a holy counterculture. (For more on how to understand how biblical truth can impact worship, I recommend an article of mine, “Six Keys to Worship Renewal.”)
When the Bible is recognized by all parties as the higher authority, peace and consensus can be achieved, as well as the blessing of the Holy Spirit. We can be saved from the-seat-of-our-pants. Without a higher court to which combatants may appeal, the winners are those with the power and the losers are just out of luck.
Why Do We Need to Find a Biblical Road?
For a few all-important reasons
- We need truth beyond our selves—truth for the ages—all of them—young, old, and those in between. The principles and commands of Scripture are relevant in every age and in every culture.
- A thorough knowledge of the heart of God as He reveals it the Bible will protect against heresy, the cult of personality, and spiritual abuse. Knowing what is right causes what is wrong to stand out in bold relief.
- When schooled in the Scriptures, local leaders can confidently tailor their leadership to the needs of the people they serve.
- The Biggest, Most Important Reason is this—The Truth Sets People Free!
Creativity, talent, technology, and good intentions do not set people free. Only the Truth of God does that. It is a promise from the Savior Himself!
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
Worship Renewal is about setting people free to worship God in the ways He has chosen as the Spirit leads. Worship leading is about seeing positive change as the Spirit does His work in the hearts of the worshipers. Cosmetic, artistic, and gimmicky change works from the outside-in. The Holy Spirit works from the inside-out.
Leaders who teach the Scriptures and base their reforms on the truth of God will see real, inside-out change.
- Worship wars produce chaos and casualties.
- Culturally driven reforms only exchange one set of preferences for another.
- Worship Renewal produces consensus, peace and progress.
The Biblical Road to Worship Renewal
The task before me at this website is to open the Book and see what is there. You, my reader and my beloved colleague, can judge what I present by the Scripture and, if you choose, make an application of it to your ministry. Perhaps you can join me in this prayer, “Lord, save me from the seat-of-my-pants!”
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved