Worship or Sermon Set-up?

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?

6 thoughts on “Worship or Sermon Set-up?

  1. Jon

    My experience is that when worship happens more completely and the participants lose their focus on themselves as they focus on the Lord, we tend to see more tears, more confessions and more broken hearts for the lost. I’ve rarely seen that in any churches, but I have seen it often enough to wonder why no one seems to expect that out of worship.

  2. Billy Cannon

    I think John Piper put it best when he was talking about true worship:

    The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands, and obedient live

  3. secondchair Post author

    I find that I experience worship the greatest when the words to the songs are scripture based. I have found that I cry a lot more during worship than I did a few years ago. Probably has something to do with the impact of the lyrics on my heart.

  4. secondchair Post author

    Recently talked with a next generation leader about common approach of discipleship by sermon. Important as the sermon is it still is only part of it. When community is gathered worship is vital. It’s often been said that worship is the only activity we do on earth that we will also do in heaven.

  5. Sally

    I notice when a theme is brought out. But I think it’s better to have great songs than sing mediocre songs just because they go with the theme.
    I think that the lyrics to the songs are very pivotal in transforming people because they are combined with music and the people are actually participating in it, instead of just listening. When God’s word is set to song, the Holy Spirit does the work of convicting, convincing, encouraging.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly that the songs sung after the sermon have great impact if reinforcing the sermon in some way. I love having a set of songs after the sermon.
    The Sovereign Grace songs have been great for bringing some “meat” back into the 7-11 songs we were stuck with for many years.
    Your last question is the tough one. Nice religious people are the hardest to reach because they don’t see their need of Christ or depth of their sin…and pride is a big problem.
    That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, when we lift Christ up, all people will be drawn to Him.

  6. Kristi

    It bothers me when worship is treated like the appetizer to get us ready for the “real meat,” which is the sermon. He is the God of the Universe and He deserves our worship… and when we come into His presence we are revealed, and cleansed and filled. A great worship leader helps us in this, but many are just leading us in singing songs.

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