Music As a Form of Worship

The phrase ‘Let us start worship’ or ‘Let us begin worship’ is one that never seats easy with me. The term ‘Worship Leader’ for me doesn’t seem to be a biblical principal. In this post, I am to pick apart these terms and phrases and suggest what I believe we should be actually doing instead.

Is Worship something we turn on?

I do hope that no church flicks a switch and suddenly they are in ‘worship’ mode, I would be extremely concerned if it did! In my interpretation, worship is something that we are, we are made to worship. It is also not just solely music and singing, as we can sometimes think; in fact music is just a small part of what worship is all about.

So can we just turn it on with a flick of a switch? No! We don’t start worship, and we don’t just begin in worship, we should be worshipping God in all our thoughts and deeds, in our actions and in our words.

There is no start, and there is no end. To be frank, no one can lead you in worship. No man can lead you in worship to God, only the Spirit can give you the words to say, give you desire to praise such an awesome God we serve. You don’t just go to church where someone there helps your heart focus on God, that’s all through the Spirit, through your own heart and through you as an individual before the Lord. We worship collectively as individuals.

Music isn’t all worship

Let’s be straight here as well. Music is only a tiny fraction of what worship actually is. The Bible says:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Worship is everything we do, it is a way we can communicate with God, it is a way we can give Him praises, and it is a way in which we can actually remember truths and passages from the Bible. If you look at hymns for example, their purpose is often to help people remember key truths about the Bible and about God. Are we losing that today?

Nonetheless, music isn’t worship. Music is a tool God has given us, to help us and to give it back to Him. Martin Luther said, ‘Next to the word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ However, I think, we, the church, can get too focused on just one facet of what worship is. We will rehearse, practice and make a fantastic performance on stage, but what is our prayer life like? Do we spend time with God? Do we read our Bibles? Do we show a Christian life by our actions always? Sometimes we focus on one facet that we forget all the others which are just as, if not even more, important. We may get excited over a song, but we have to ask the question — do we get excited because we love the tune, love the music, but not what worship is all about?

I’m not against ‘Worship Leaders’ but..

I understand the need for someone to help keep everyone in tune, in focus and in musical cohesion, but let’s be straight here, no person actually leads worship. If anything the Spirit helps us in our singing praise, but again no person should be in a position like this, it is though as if it was just a title given to someone to sound spiritual.

Again, I am not against someone at the front helping the congregation sing and what not, but it’s the term that I have problems with, can it not be just an ego situation?

So is Music bad?

Certainly not! Music is a great gift! (Psalm 71:23; 105:2; 150: 1-5, Colossians 3:16; Revelation 14: 3-4) and one we should cherish and love to do, it allows us to be creative and it allows us to express ourselves when words fail us. Nonetheless, we must remember that it is all about Him, the mighty God, the One we are told to hold in reverent fear as well as love and adore. When we sing to our Father we do need to be serious and mean what we say. If we sing ‘I surrender all’, for example, then we should surrender all to Jesus, rather than merely singing for the sake of it (or because it’s catchy and modern) then going home and forgetting all about it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites and, to be frank, we can be very hypocritical in our music.

Music shouldn’t also be about using the latest snazziest catchphrases. For example, in recent times ‘oceans’, ‘waves’ and ‘storms’ having been doing the rounds. Before that it was ‘dry bones’ and I can keep going on. When we write music as worship, it should all be from the heart, about what God is telling us, and what we have been through, not what is trendy. Let’s be frank, modern songs/hymns have produced some amazing and great songs that really come from the heart, but there are also a number which just sound like they have been regurgitated time and time again, the same phrases, the same things being said. When we describe God, surely there are more ways of saying ‘You are awesome’ or ‘You are great.’ Don’t get me wrong, these are amazing truths, but sometimes it feels to me that less time has been put into the lyrics and more time into the production quality. Lyrics are important! Sometimes I can’t resist rewriting certain songs for my own personal use, and I’ll probably go on a massive rewriting spree now with many others because sometimes the tune is great but the words are so weak.

When we worship, via music, via songs, we must ensure it comes from the heart and that we mean it. We must also be prepared to learn, to be prepared to be challenged. We must acknowledge all aspects of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Now I love music, I love music in churches, but I just wanted to write this. I think sometimes we get the wrong concept of what worship is. We don’t start or begin worship, when we sing we actually join in with the choruses in heaven, but our whole life is worship, of one form or another. Live a life that worships God, love Him with all your strength and yes praise Him in music, but always remember Who you are worshipping.

Remembering, Commemorating and Romanticising the Reformation.

Five hundred years ago a big event happened in Europe that changed the course of history forever. Five hundred years ago this month, a monk nailed 95 theses to a door, a move which would shake the foundations of the European world and indeed the global world forevermore. Five hundred years ago, was the beginning of the Reformation.

You will undoubtedly see many a post this month, and probably have seen this year about how important the Reformation was in history. But in this post I would like to offer a warning about romanticising the past, as well as the exciting opportunities and lessons it can give us.

Before we really get going, I feel a brief word about the Reformation is necessary. It was a movement in the late medieval/early modern period of history, mostly in the 16th century, although reverberations continued well into the next. It saw the likes of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and other ‘Reformers’ lead the split from the Catholic Church. Luther famously nailed his 95 theses on a church door, each point showing the wrongdoings of the Catholic Church. It was a time which would see the establishment of the Church of England, the dissolution of the monasteries, as well as bibles being written in common languages, and where God was shown to be a personal God, not a distant one, shrouded in mystery, approachable only through a priest or a ‘Saint’.

The ‘darker side’ of the Reformation

There are many paintings, many lectures, and many stories about the lives of the Reformation brethren. All these include their heroic deeds, the amazing and humble lives they led, and how positive the Reformation was. I’ve read articles on how we should tell our children about them, most fascinating I must say, but there is a danger in this. We romanticise the past, maybe this is because of the Victorian approach to history (Hobsbawm’s Invention of tradition comes to mind) but it should stop. Below are a few reasons why it was not so black and white:

    1. The saints involved were far from perfect, and should not be placed on any sort of pedestal, as some have been. This is painfully ironic as one of the issues the Reformers fought against was the idolisation of past saints; men like Luther and Calvin would probably turn in their graves at the sort of attention afforded to them today.
    2. The Reformation was a torrid time. It brought war, death, disorder to the lives of so many. It was a time of instability. It arguably saw the worst war in European history.
    3. Protestants fought Protestants. It wasn’t as straight forward as Catholic versus Protestant.
    4. The Catholics aren’t the ‘bad guys’. Both sides did terrible things! Both sides also had good godly Christians, who sought to do what was right before the Lord.
    5. Propaganda was one of the most-effective tools at the disposal of different figures and governments. There was a ton of it!
    6. The Reformation saw a rise of witch trials. Mainly this was on nation borders as people divided themselves more and more. This shows us just how divided people were at the time.
  • The Reformation, to a large extent, created the nation states that we know today. Borders were drawn up, and people more divided than ever before.

 

So what did the Reformation give us?

These are just a few things that show a darker side to the reformation. Nonetheless, despite all of this, the effects of the Reformation were, and still are, amazing; it paved the way for free thought and free press. Sometimes we talk about the spiritual awakening brought by the Reformation, and of course that was tremendous. But when we talk to our non-Christian friends and they talk about history, what do we say to them? God brought light to Europe? He sent his Spirit? Arguments that will never hold up in the present day, because people do not believe in God. We know what God has done, but in an age of evidence and argument, we need to show what God has done; cold hard facts.

So what did come out of the Reformation? Free thought and press would alone give vent to many scientific discoveries and political discussions.   New theories, new theological ideas all came from the Reformation, finally ‘religion’ could no longer control people as it had. It gave a voice to the common person; it allowed them to engage in national debates.

The Reformation would lead to us being able to read, to write, to engage with discussions around us. Now some people take this as people before didn’t know what was going on in their country and what not, and that is wrong. But the Reformation allowed a stronger sense of identity, and protest. It allowed people to read, it would allow people like you and me to actually have an education.

The Reformation quickened superstition’s death. Although witch trials did increase, it did allow eventually for superstition to decrease. And whilst superstition is still around today, ‘touch wood’ and all that; it is nothing like what it was like in the medieval period.

The Reformation induced free trade, and gave way to a bigger and more powerful middle-class. Now, you could be a Marxist or a socialist reading this and think this was more a negative, and to be honest, I do see your point. But what we see is people that were once disregarded in society, elevated to positions such as Parliament, and perhaps giving us greater social mobility, even if it was still very limited. It saw the begins of a capitalist system, which has indeed given us benefits, and even if you are a Marxist reading this, then it is one step closer to communism/socialism!

The Reformation showed us that people can stand up to authority and win. It shows us that we can stand up as the smaller guy and win; it shows us that if there is something you believe in, fight for it, and don’t give up. It gave us people, even if you don’t have a faith, to look at and admire for their bravery. If you are a Christian, then it shows us that anything is possible with God, if he is with us, what can stand against? For the Christian, it put the ‘church’ back in its place, and emphasised a personal relationship with God through Christ, instead of some weird distant god through priests, bishops, indulgences and purgatory. Instead of a wealthy domineering powerbase, the Reformation turned back to the original meaning of ‘church’ in the Bible: ‘congregation’ or ‘assembly of believers’.

And where did all this come from? The Bible, that great book, finally translated into the common languages of the European peoples. The greatest thing the Reformation gave anyone was the Bible finally in their own language.

In fact, the entirety of today’s society is built on the back of the Reformation, on the back of the Bible. Yes, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t a picturesque time by any stretch of the imagination, but it gave us things we value so much. The society we live in now comes from the Reformation, and that we can be thankful for that. The fact is, no period in time is lovely, it is all gritty and scary, and that is something Christians need to remember. When we teach our children about it, we have to ensure a balanced approach. Romanticising the past is dangerous, it can lead to misconceptions, and can lead us to living in the past, or our own idealised fantasy world. It can lead us to forgetting the awful things that were done. At the same time, it is an event to celebrate, but always do it in balance.

Five Hundred Years of the Reformation: Recommended Reading Material

October is upon us and this month we are celebrating 500 years of the Reformation, but beyond some random hot-headed monk banging a bit of paper on a church-door and a few fights, what else happened?

It is my aim in this post to list a number of short books on the Reformation and Reformation characters, which everyone should read to give us all a bigger and better picture of what actually happened all those years ago.

What’s the big deal about the Reformation — is it just another word for the Renaissance?

The Reformation had very little to do with the Renaissance, if anything the Reformation was a grassroots movement against the Renaissance, a cultural and philosophical movement characterised by the revival of Græco-Roman ideas and art. The achievement central to the Reformation was the translation of the Bible into the native languages of European peoples, unlocking the eternal word of God for the masses. In my opinion, the Renaissance was mostly intellectual hot-air and risqué art leaving little to the imagination; for a few oily-haired loafers.

‘The Unquenchable Flame’ by Dr. Michael Reeves

I think Dr. Reeves’ work is the best short overview of the Reformation that money can buy. In a lucid and fluent writing style he describes the decline of the Church into immorality and debauchery, and then the spark of flame that set it all off. The book is a gripping read that is completely ‘unputdownable’! The Reformation was a clear work of God from start to finish; He used everyone from prince to pauper, gallant knights to little old monks shuffling around.

So who was this Luther bloke — wasn’t he a civil-rights campaigner?

The 20th century American civil-rights campaigner Martin Luther King actually named himself after the original Martin Luther, the German monk generally accredited with kick-starting the Reformation (although a change had been in the wind for a good few hundred years). However, in many ways, the two men were not dissimilar…

‘The Triumph of Truth: A Life of Martin Luther’ by J.H. Merle D’Aubigné

Martin Luther was a German monk turned Reformer. A promising future as a lawyer was cut short by a thunderstorm and the young German signed his life away to a monastery, and, in his own words, ‘If ever a monk could get to heaven by his monkery, it was I.’ Then the Lord drew Luther’s attention to His word, and therein Luther found the truth. His is a fantastic story interwoven with disguise, deception and betrayal. The Reformation started by Luther banging his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door, and this is quite simply a banging book! I’ve heard it said that more biographies have been written of Martin Luther than any other man, which makes choosing one difficult. But in my opinion, D’Aubigné (haven’t a clue how to properly say his name by the way – I think it could be ‘door-bin-ay’, but I don’t think its ‘dow-big-knee’ as some say) is one of the best, most honest historians covering the Reformation with a number of titles.

I’m a Scot — where does Scotland come into all this?

Scotland! Well, the Reformation shook Europe to the core, and this seismic revolution reverberated around the world; it didn’t take long to reach the glens of Scotland too.
The Reformers were an eclectic bunch, from all walks of life, there were the reflective thinkers, timid by nature who craved the quiet, bookish boffins like John Calvin, Philip Melanchthon and William Tyndale, and then there were the fiery lions like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and William Farel who all loved a good scrap. But, loud or quiet, they were all thrust into defending and suffering for the gospel. And there was another lion by the name of John Knox who was quite a character, and perhaps did more for the gospel in wee bonnie Scotland than any other man…

‘John Knox: Fearless Faith’ by Steven J. Lawson

This short sharp captivating biography captures the essence of John Knox, as he journeys from bodyguard to galley slave, to displaced exile, doing whatever it takes in order to preach the gospel in his beloved Scotland. Honestly, it is a simply fantastic read and breathtaking introduction to the fiery Scotsman and the Gospel he fought for!

Yeah but what I really wanna know is how the Bible got translated into English?

All in good time, my lad, and it certainly did take time! Several people had a crack at it until Wycliffe got most of it done before he popped his clogs back in the 14th century. Then England had to wait another one-hundred-and-fifty years before a chap by the name of William Tyndale came along. What did he do? Read this book and find out!

‘God’s Outlaw’ by Brian H. Edwards

The life of William Tyndale makes for fantastic reading. Brian Edwards really encapsulates the soul of the man and the King he served. Hunted and on the run in Europe, with the agents of the government after this elusive pimpernel; Tyndale battled tooth and nail to get the Bible translated and printed in English until eventually they nabbed him. From then on, it was only time until he was burnt at the stake; with one last cry, his dying prayer was, ‘Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!’

What happened?

That great womanising buffoon Henry VIII declared that a Bible in English be placed in every church building in the land. Boom!

It’s my belief that William Tyndale did more for the English language and the English Bible than any other Englishman in history. Bold claim? Read the book and see if you agree with me.

So, what is the best way to understand the Reformers?

Read the book that they all fought for, and many of them died for!

What book’s that?

The Bible, you numpty!

It is the greatest book ever written. It has God’s everlasting message of hope and salvation. The greatest thing to come from the Reformation was the word of God in the languages of the people of Europe. When you read it look out for the ‘Five Solas’ of the Reformation (although one’s a ‘Solus’ and another’s a ‘Soli’…). These were the five great truths championed by the Reformers.

Solus Christus – Christ Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone
Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone
Sola Fide – By Faith Alone
Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone

What should I do now?

Go and read, be educated and uplifted! And pray! We so need another Reformation. A Gospel Reformation, following those Five Solas. We need the name of Jesus Christ to fly like a banner across the sky for all the world to see once again!

Competition time! We would like to offer one reader of the Eat Write Sleep blog the chance to win any two of the books from this article of their choice. All you have to do is post a comment below (or on our Facebook page) with which two books you would like and why. The winner will be decided by lot (the Biblical method!), the books sent by post, and the competition will run until Saturday the 28th of October.