King's Evangelical Divinity School

2 March 2010

Blog From America 10 (worship)

Apologies for not posting anything the last couple of days. Been away from a connection and also very busy. Anyway, will try and get a couple or three posts published in the next day or two.

I spoke at two services on Sunday and one of the things I'm often struck by when attending a large church over here is the attention given to worship. Of course, worship differs according to which church or denomination one attends, but on the whole the various churches I've visited tend to have a choir, a band consisting of various skilled musicians, and worship leaders. Often times, churches which can afford it will employ a minister of music who is responsible for every aspect of worship. I really enjoyed the service on Sunday, and there is no doubt that when skilled musicians lead three or four hundred people in worship it can be uplifting.

Leaving aside my Sunday experience, the subject of worship in general raises various issues for me, especially in a country like the U.S. where churches can be very large and consumerism means many people often choose which church to attend on the basis of the style and prominence given to worship. I think worship represents an incredibly important part of any church service, provided it is sincere and we are motivated by what worship is all about, giving glory to God.  And this raises two very important issues. First, it is important to strike the right balance between making the whole worship experience as skilled and professional as possible (note that in the Bible the temple musicians were to be skilled musicians) yet not allowing it to degenerate into a form of entertainment of self, which of course is the complete opposite of what worship is supposed to be. So I, for one, believe worship (whatever form it takes) should represent the very best we can offer God, but it is also essential to ensure our motives are sincere and we are not driven by the need for entertainment. Second, we should take great care to ensure worship involves all people and age groups within the church, rather than alienating a particular segment of the congregation. Sadly, in some of the larger churches in the U.K. this is not always the case. I've written more on this here.

As a skilled musicians and former church organist, I'd be interested to hear what Chris Lazenby thinks about this whole issue. By the way, Chris has completed several modules on theology and history of Christian worship for our Bachelor degree at King's, and we will be launching these modules in September.

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