Forgetting Worship


Andrew ShaferAndrew Shafer joins the Cross Church School of Ministry from Neosho, Missouri. He is participating in the Worship Ministry track.

As a new worship leader I don’t have to look very far to see unsettled people in the church congregation. Whether it’s a student or a seasoned deacon, I frequently see unpleased faces from the stage. It puzzles me why worshiping through song is so difficult to involve people in.

I think back to the days when Martin Luther changed the history of the church by placing congregational singing in worship services. I think he must have hoped this would serve as a catalyst for people to become more involved in their local church. I wonder if Luther ever foresaw any conflicts about congregational worship taking place?

Today we take the music in our church services seriously. We can get into roaring fits about whether we should sing hymns or modern praise charts, but when it comes to breaking down the meaning behind the songs and reminding ourselves of the very definition of the words we so freely sing, we are left silent. Hardly anyone stands to defend his or her opinion because I believe as a church we have forgotten the meaning of what we sing.

Let’s take the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” for example. This old Irish hymn dates back to the eighth century. It wasn’t until 1905 that Irish Scholar Mary Bryne translated it to English. The original form was written in 16 couplets, and the final three couplets are as follows:

“With the King of all, with him

After victory won by piety

May I be in the kingdom of heaven

O brightness of the son.

Beloved Father,

Hear, hear my lamentations;

Timely is the cry of woe

Of this miserable wretch.

O heart of my heart,

Whate’er befall me,

O ruler of all,

Be thou my vision”

            In 1912 Eleanor Hull arranged this verse to look like what we sing today.

“High King of Heaven, my victory won,

May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

These are powerful words that we should not take lightly. What a conquering statement! The cry of the author’s heart is still very clear even some 13 hundred years later.

Even if we looked at something as new as the song “Here As In Heaven” written by the worship leaders of Elevation Church, it’s easy to see God’s anointing on these writers as well. The bridge and chorus of this song say this:

“Overflow in this place

Fill our hearts with your love

Your love surrounds us

You’re the reason we came

To encounter your love

Your love surrounds us

Spirit of God fall fresh on us

We need your presence

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

Here as in heaven”

Still in these phrases, it is clear to hear desire the authors have to see the outpouring of God’s spirit.

My opinion is not for one side or the other, my point is this: We worship the creator of the cosmos. That in and of itself is enough reason for every single one of us to fall flat on our faces in worship and thanksgiving. We have become calloused and scabbed to the terrifying and amazing love of our Heavenly Father! Psalm 147:1 says this, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

God is worthy of our praise. He is the name above all! The beginning and end, and the end to all! He handpicked each one of us; he called us by name to salvation. He brought us out of our darkness that we had settled into, and made us something holy. Only a God such as He could do such a miracle! He is worthy of our praise!



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