Editor’s Note: One of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s five core objectives is to see at least 500 churches revitalized by the year 2024. Because renewed worship fuels revitalized churches, Scott Shepherd’s passion is to help the local church deepen its understanding and practice of worship. With this goal in mind, he has written a brief series of articles entitled “Keys to Worship Renewal” which will be printed in upcoming issues of the Baptist and Reflector.
By Scott Sheperd
Worship & Music Specialist, TBMB
Traditional or contemporary? Choir or worship team? Pipe organ or electric guitar? Sometimes we even use these discussions to cast blame on musical style for plateaued, declining, or dying churches.
If we begin our worship chats on the topic of style, however, we are starting in the wrong place.
Altering worship style is not a “magical pill” guaranteed to bring about worship renewal. Though style is important, and while some churches may need to consider stylistic changes, we should first address some more fundamental issues.
We can begin by answering two basic questions: What is worship? And how is it renewed? Then, over the next few months, we’ll explore some specific standards and practical examples to help us strengthen our corporate worship practices.
Let’s start in the beginning — literally. God created us to worship. Everyone worships. We aren’t offered the choice of whether or not to worship. We merely choose what (or whom) we worship.
To worship, in this most basic sense, is to find ultimate pleasure and delight in something or someone. Whatever gives us our greatest satisfaction — whatever we value, love, and are most devoted to — is what we worship. As Jesus explained, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
We were designed to find our ultimate satisfaction in God. He is the most complete and satisfying being. To seek absolute pleasure in anything else will always leave us unsatisfied. As Augustine expressed so poignantly, “Our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
Or, we can think of it another way. We are wired for worship, but our wires have been crossed.
In our sinful, fallen state, our “default mode” is to seek things or people for ultimate fulfillment: money, family members, drugs, or our professions, for example. We, like the Romans, have “worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
Mercifully, however, when we are saved, we are rewired for true worship. Christ gives us a new heart and transforms our natural, world-centered worship inclinations and empowers us to seek first the kingdom of God. Through Christ, our worship is renewed.
When Christ redeems us, we begin the sanctifying, progressive journey toward finding our complete satisfaction in Him. At times, however, we are still “prone to wander.” Though we have tasted God’s goodness, we — at times — are tempted to return to the idolatry and spiritual slavery from which we’ve come. For this reason, our worship must be continually renewed. It must be formed and re-formed, shaped and reshaped.
Worship practices are the means God uses to form and deepen our affections and devotion to Him. When we hear the Word of God proclaimed, our faith and trust in Him is strengthened.
When we lift our voices in fervent praise, our hearts are drawn nearer to the Father. When we bow in humble adoration or celebrate with hands upraised, God is forming within us a deeper, more steadfast faith.
Here’s a question for us all to ponder: Are our worship gatherings increasing our congregation’s love for, satisfaction in, and devotion to Christ? And, as a follow-up: How can we strengthen our worship services so they more successfully deepen our congregation’s love for Jesus?
Over the next few months, let’s explore some answers to these questions as we think through principles and practical ideas to help boost the effectiveness of our worship gatherings.