You know those songs you sing in the first half of your church service? The ‘worship set?” Have you ever thought much about their purpose or function? For example, do we sing those songs as an opportunity to enter into large-group worship of God or are they just the preliminaries to the message? Does their value rest in each songs ability to introduce us to the God of the universe or in their thematic unity with that day’s message? What’s it like at your church? Do you know for certain?
I know that pastors and worship leaders in all different kinds of churches take great care in putting together a service where the music that is sung carries with it the same theme as the message. My question is: does anyone notice? What I mean is, when you hear the pastor preach point 2 c, does your mind remember the third verse of the second song you sang that morning and you have one of those “Aha!” moments? Or are those songs mostly forgotten by that time?
To be sure, I am only talking about the songs that come before the sermon. I suspect that there is a much greater connection between the sermon and the songs that follow it – especially if they are carefully selected to correspond to where the message ended up. It seems to me like there is a great opportunity here to support the sermon’s conclusion with a song that carries with it a message of response or commitment of some kind.
A recent article in Christianity Today pointed out that the vast majority of people who attend evangelical churches in North America could be identified as “nice religious people” where the truth and reality of their faith does not translate to transformed lives. People in most churches are just like the people who are not – except they’re kind of religious. It seems that many of these people have been fed a diet of horizontal religion over the years where their faith has been described in terms of how they can live life better – better marriages, better kids, better friendships, better jobs, better bank accounts.
What if we used those songs in the early part of the service to draw people into a deeper and deliberate vertical worship of God? If more people were confronted with the depth of God’s love, grace, and mercy on a regular (weekly) basis, would more of them be compelled to respond to this great God in submission and obedience? Would simply using the ‘worship set’ for worship help to transform the people in our churches? It’s probably not as simple as that but I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth a try.
What do you think? What are the services like at your church? How is the ‘worship set’ used in your church’s services? Let’s dialogue a little here. What can we do to encourage the transformation of “nice religious people” into courageous Christ-followers?