The Breadth and Depth of Worship
There is nothing so popular and misunderstood and divisive in churches today as “Worship.” The Charismatic movement of the 1960’s has emphasized it as an experience to be sought. The Rock and Roll movement of the hippies of the 60’s has given modern worship the rock beat for its music. Rock and Roll is itself associated with sexual intercourse.
The hippies at that time were in rebellion against their parents and against the government and against all authority and moral standards in general. They used their rock music to express their rebellion. The Contemporary-minded Church, of the 60’s chose to adopt their rock music for worship in order to try to reach them for Christ. For fifty years now their rock beat has been the medium for worship music in what is known as The Contemporary Church. God, not numbers, is the judge of how successful that has been.
We’re presently studying the third chapter of Ezra in which the people of Judah are setting up the altar and preparing to build a new temple. You may remember that Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he conquered Judah and took them into Babylonian captivity.
In this third chapter we see them preparing for the Feast of Tabernacles, a time when they built lean-to shelters of branches to temporarily live in as they celebrated God’s faithfulness to them during their wilderness wanderings.
Ezra 3 gives us three facts concerning their worship and how we must worship and carry out the work of The Church.
1. Everyone was united as one man in this concern. Ezra 3:1
2. Everything was done according to the Law of Moses. Today we can broaden that to the complete Word of God. Ezra 3:2,4
3. At the heart of worship was the burnt offering which typified the importance of Christ’s blood sacrifice, whose sacrifice is the foundation of Christianity. Ezra 3:3
Let us keep in mind than when it comes to worship and to how we conduct church services, our final authority is not our opinions nor our preferences. Those are what divide churches and Christians in general. Rather, our final authority must be The Word of God. God’s principles and standards are applicable to any age.
THE PEOPLE WERE UNITED
The people were united in Ezra’s day according to Ezra 3:1 just as they were united when the Church got underway at Pentecost, as we see in Acts 2:1 There were no denominations or factions at that time. Acts 2:44-47, 4:24, 32-35. According to Ezra 3:11-13 the sound of their music and the shouting of the young men and the weeping of the older men could not be distinguished and it was heard from afar. They had a united testimony. There was no “generation gap”.
Any worship that does not make much of the shed blood of Christ for our sins, is counterfeit. In true worship as we stand before God; age, gender, race, wealth, status and personal preferences all fade away into insignificance. All that matters is God’s glory.
Our God and our worship of Him is all bigger than ourselves and our preferences. You and I have no right as individual Christians to determine by our preferences what is and what is not acceptable to God. God’s Word must be the final authority. Our God and our worship is too small when we limit the expression of our worship to the values and musical tastes of a particular generation- young or old or to a particular period of time or a particular nationality.
One thing we know from the Bible is that worship has been expressed through melodies that spring from regenerated, joyful hearts, as we see in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16. The essence of Christian music is Scriptural truth perfectly married to beautiful, singable melodies.
According to Psalm 47, worship may also involve clapping our hands; not necessarily as we would clap for a musical performance in a recital, but spontaneous clapping that expresses our joy and agreement in worship, much as AMEN is used to express agreement. Of course, it is possible to totally distract from the preaching of the Word by dancing in the aisles and chasing people around the church sanctuary as I have observed in some church services.
CONSIDER THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF WORSHIP
All music consists of melody, harmony and rhythm. What concerns me about contemporary worship is not so much the rock beat rhythm, which I could understand, though probably never appreciate in sacred or secular music. What concerns me most about contemporary worship services is its limitation and lack of breadth of worship music. It all seems limited to the rock beat. It seems to me that this generation of worshipppers are afraid to stray from the Rock beat.
What grieves me deeply is that in the contemporary worship services, generations of Christians born after the 1960’s are missing out on knowing and singing over several thousand great hymns of The Faith, as found, for example, in church hymnals of the past. What grieves me is that this generation of Christiansare becoming spectators as they watch and listen to the worship teams. They are losing their ability to sing. I listen to them groaning, not knowing where the melody is going.
I grieve that they will never hear nor know about thousands of hymns and Gospel songs by Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, a blind saint of God who wrote about 8,000 Gospel songs, including Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, Blessed Assurance, To God be the Glory, All the Way My Saviour Leads Me, I Am Thine, O Lord, Draw Me Nearer, and My Saviour First of All, a song in which she describes her joy as a blind person of one day seeing Jesus.
Then there are hundreds more hymns and Gospel songs written by hundreds of song writers, including: Al Smith. Oswald Smith, John Peterson, and Bill & Gloria Gaither. Frank Garlock and Ron Hamilton have added a large selection of beautiful hymns and Gospel songs with their beautiful, rich harmonies to church music.
THINK ABOUT THIS
Contemporary Christian Music and its monotonous rock beat has become the exclusive, staple sound and atmosphere of contemporary worship. The Christian music of past centuries has been BANNED from this generation as being embarrassingly out of date. It’s like a young family locking their grandparents in a closet so that they will not be embarrassed by their age. It’s like a young woman not being caught dead in her mother’s dress, for fear of being out of style.
Again I remind you that the CCM crowd who consider themselves contemporary and up-to-date are actually locking themselves into a style of music that is now over seventy years old. Why do they call it contemporary? Who cares whether it is contemporary? The questions that matter are: “Does it speak Biblical truth to the heart? Does it reflect our response to Biblical truth? Is the music really beautifully married to the words?
Worship music must not be based on that which appeals to the opinions and preferences of unregenerate sinners. They have no idea what true worship of God is, nor do they desire to worship Him. They live in rebellion to God.
Why should rebellious sinners be allowed to dictate to us how we are going to worship God and what we can and cannot sing or preach?
Christ is building His Church. We are not called on to rebuild or reinvent the church. Over the past several decades there has been a concerted effort to rebuild the church to try to meet changing needs of each generation. They want to change the worship style, music and preaching content. Each new generation wants it different from the former generation. Vainly the church tries to be in vogue by changing styles as often as hair styles and dress styles change.
God gave the pattern, as well as the standards for church leadership for the church, in Acts and in Paul’s Epistles.
It is not our calling to attempt to try to make God more popular with fallen sinful man by ignoring or overlooking the need to confront sin.
Looking at verse 10-13 of Ezra 3 we see the united sound going out from the builders of the temple. The younger were more enthusiastic and noisy. The older were more melancholic and sentimental. But the sound that went forth was a mighty united sound that made it impossible to distinguish the younger from the older. The volume of that sound was not measured in decibels, but by the love, unity and fellowship heard for miles around.
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