Musical worship is a fixture in Christian culture. Many of us sing worship songs multiple times a week. We have hundreds, if not thousands of worship songs accessible to us through our phones, YouTube and Pandora. We go to worship nights, worship concerts, worship jam sessions. Musical worship is all around us. But is it changing us for the better?
If you are a worship leader or just someone who is passionate about musical worship, here are three diagnostic questions to ask when assessing your musical worship.
Diagnostic #1: Does your musical worship help others grow in their relationship in Christ?
Every time your ministry gathers together for worship you have an opportunity to respond to a glorious spiritual reality: We are in Christ!
Our relationship in Christ is a rich theme woven throughout the New Testament. When we received Christ we became united with him in his death and resurrection (Romans 14:8, Galatians 2:20). We are in Christ and Christ is in us (John 15:4). We are so “in Christ” that Paul describes our lives as “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
This “in Christ-ness” has powerful implications for our Christian lives:
- In Christ, we are chosen, beloved sons and daughters, adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15-16, Ephesians 1:4-5, 2:13).
- In Christ, we were created to do good works and can bear much fruit (John 15:5, Ephesians 2:10).
- In Christ, dividing walls have been destroyed and we have been reconciled with others (Ephesians 2:14-15).
- In Christ, we have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).
And that’s just to name a few. How powerful would it be if musical worship consistently helped our communities live more deeply into the truth of our relationship in Christ?
Practical Suggestion: Read “in Christ” scriptures during musical worship. By corporately reading Bible passages such as the ones cited above, you can offer fresh reminders of the powerful spiritual reality of our relationship in Christ that are the reasons we worship in the first place. Let these Biblical truths fuel your worship.
“In Christ” Song Recommendations:
Diagnostic #2: Does your musical worship help others to grow in character more like Christ?
As people who are in Christ, we are also called to live like Christ (1 John 2:6, Philippians 2:5). Paul exhorts us to “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, after every worship gathering, your community looked a little bit more like Christ?
If I’m honest, this doesn’t happen in my community as often as I would like. In fact, there are three major temptations specifically in musical worship (for both worship team and non-worship team folks) that prevents us from becoming like Christ:
- Temptation to become a prideful performer: when I want people to notice my abilities or skills.
- Temptation to become a self-centered consumer: when I only care about my personal spiritual needs and what makes me comfortable and feeling good.
- Temptation to become a judgmental critic: when I criticize the music, the lyrics, the style or even other people worshipping.
Musical worship can be a sacred space of character formation where God can shape us, break us and remake us to become more like Christ in humility, other-centeredness and generosity. Facing these temptations head on can be a powerful step towards Christ-likeness.
Practical Suggestion: Practice confession and repentance. Create space to honestly assess where you’ve been a performer, critic or consumer in worship. Share vulnerably as a community. Model confession and repentance and extend grace.
“Like Christ” Song Recommendations:
Diagnostic #3: Does your musical worship help others to grow in being sent on mission with Christ?
Christians are called to a life with Christ. We follow him, doing what he does, saying what he says, loving like he loves. One of Jesus’ first commands to his disciples was, “Come, follow me and I will send you out as fishers of people” (Mark 1:17).
We are invited along with Jesus on a mission: to make disciples of all nations, to be his witnesses, to preach the Kingdom of God. And as we go on this mission with Jesus, we are reminded of this promise: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
The Christian life is about being sent out with Christ into the world to the lost, to the hungry, to the broken. And yet, isn’t it easy for our worship to be overly insular and internally focused? Too often we leave our times of musical worship not being sent out into the world with Christ, but more like stuffed consumers stumbling out of Chipotle.
What if our musical worship was a springboard for following Jesus into mission? What impact would that have on your community? On your campus?
Practical Suggestion: Always close your worship gatherings with a sending. Just as we are called to worship, we are also called into mission with Christ to be light in a dark world. Closing your gatherings with a sending reminds people that our worship continues after we leave. This can be done through a sending prayer (or “benediction”), a song or a corporate reading.
“With Christ” Song Recommendations:
As you prepare for a new semester, how would you diagnose your musical worship?