Sunday, April 02, 2006

Worship Time

I do find it fascinating the approach to worship that says it happens between the opening prayer and the closing prayer (or benediction). Anything between those two things is considered a part of worship while anything outside those lines is not.

I had this conversation recently with one of our elders (who came in behalf of most of the other elders). The presenting issue was that I showed a video during "worship services" on Sunday night last week that had instrumental music in it. I had stepped over (or confused) the line of having instruments in worship, which is something that we do not permit. I don't want to hash out the issue as much as I want to talk about what is considered worship. During my conversation, I found out that the video would have been fine if we had had the closing prayer immediately before showing it.

This speaks volumes as to when we think worship happens and what definition we have of worship. It seems a little legalistic if you ask me. "Here is the line that gives us peace. Say this prayer, then its okay to do anything because it is not technically 'in' worship." Two scripture were given to me as a proof of this line drawing phenomenon: Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19. I do want to consider these briefly and in order.

The Colossians text reads, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." The admonition is definitely toward singing in our hearts, but it says nothing about instrumental music; thus, for most in our heritage, we cannot use instruments. When I look at the text however, the only command I see is that the word of Christ must dwell in our hearts as we teach, admonish, and sing. It doesn't really command no instruments.

Let's say we decide, for argument's sake, that we are not going to have instruments, something I am an advocate for by the way. We might say this is how we let the word of Christ dwell in our hearts. The context of this passage demands a broader understanding of worship than we typically give it, however. The context of this passage is one of regular, everyday life. We are being (see 3:12ff) compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, loving, and peaceful as God's people living in the world. The verse right after it (3:17) even says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Reading on we find must talk about household admonitions. Why do we use this text as just a comment on our times of worship on Sundays? It demands a broader application that many in our heritage seem to claim. Are all the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs I sing at any time only a capella? If this is where I want to go, it seems like I need to be consitent in applying it to my life by not singing with instruments ever. This is somewhere that I will not go, so that is why I don't use this text as an explicative of why we sing a capella.

The Ephesians text reads and typically applied in a manner much like the Colossians, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The only command is found in the previous verse (Eph 5:18b): "be filled with the spirit." All the ideas in our particular text hinge on our being filled with the we speak, as we sing and make psalms, and as we give thanks.

Again, I see no command to refrain from instrumental music. If I did, I would need to apply it to my whole life rather than a couple of hours of my week. All of my time should be geared toward being filled with the spirit. I see freedom to allow our hands to express themselves as an overflow of the heart in playing an instrument. Indeed, most times that I experience the moving of the spirit in my life happens to be as I am playing or listening to instrumental music.

In summary, I do not like the complete separation of worship from every other aspect of my life. I do not see this in the pages of scripture at all. My whole life (not just part of it) needs to be geared toward pleasing God. He demands my whole heart, 24-7. Let us encourage one another as long as it is called today toward love and good deeds (in all parts of our life). Amen!


Anonymous said...

If someone would want instrumentation in their music worship and try to keep everyone happy, why could you not say the "opening prayer" after the music portion, then have the sermon, say the "closing prayer" and then play music again?

Unknown said...

That is something that I believe would be okay with the elders of our church. This mentality is really what bothers me though. I don't like the line, even though it seems that the line promotes instruments in close proximity to worship, something with which I am completely comfortable.