Worship is War

rthymns-of-graceThe “worship wars” are never behind us. They are always with us. Just because your church has settled upon what style of music it is going to use come Sunday does not mean that worship has ceased to be a war for you or your church.

A few weeks ago I finished Rhythms of Grace, a book by Mike Cosper. It is an excellent book that would benefit every pastor (especially those who are primarily responsible for the worship order on Sundays). It speaks to the power of the worship service shaped by the biblical story of the gospel. Here is what he has to say about the “worship wars” in particular.

Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a “worship war” failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one god, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen, and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us. We’re taught to find a sense of hope in a political party, trusting in our duly elected saviors to make the world right once and for all. We’re taught to find our identity in our friend counts on Twitter and Facebook. We’re taught that a victory at work or good news from a doctor or a bathroom scale will satisfy us. We look longingly into the eyes of other human beings and believe that they can affirm us enough and love us well enough to end our sense of loneliness.

We believe these things because we’ve been taught them again and again. Like the ascending pilgrims of Psalm 121, we’re surround[ed] by clamorous mountains advertising happiness, sex, and power, all available for consumption. Our entertainment in television, film, and literature paints the good life this way, and it grips our heartstrings, calling us away to worship at the feet of these idols.

Worship isn’t merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to the lies that echo in the mountains around us. The church gathers like exiles and pilgrims, collected out of a world that isn’t our home, and looks hopefully toward a future. Our songs and prayers are a foretaste of that future, and even as we practice them, they shape us for our future home. (pg. 103-104)

Just before this Cosper quotes Jean-Jaques von Allmen:

Christian worship is the strongest denial that can be hurled in the face of the world’s claim to provide men with an effective and sufficient justification for their life. There is no more emphatic protest against the pride and the despair of the world than that implied in Church worship.

These are powerful words. Gathering for church with the body of Christ is a private protest against sin, satan, and all the false hopes and dreams this world offers and which vie for our affection. It is a public rebellion against the false gods of our culture that tempt us to believe satisfaction, joy, and deliverance can be found in anything other than God through Christ. Worship is war.

The following are my favorite books on worship. What are yours and why?

  1. Worship by the Book ed. by D. A. Carson
  2. Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation by Allen P. Ross
  3. Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship ed. by Ryken, Thomas, & Duncan
  4. Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell
  5. Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel by Mike Cosper
  6. Worship Matters: Leading others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin

Watchsong Music

I am always on the lookout for great songs that artistically capture the Christian faith with verve and passion for the local church. Under the leadership of Paul Keew, Watchsong media is doing just that. Paul is a gifted musician and artist who is, along with others, working to create modern hymns and songs of praise. As an added bonus I have the privilege of knowing one the contributors to a few of these songs (James, my brother). Your Gospel in Us is one of the songs that I have been enjoying recently (which my brother helped write). I hope you will take advantage of the gifts that God has given to Paul and those he works with!

Lyrics to Your Gospel In Us

You are robed in perfection,
Regal in splendor,
Righteous in all Your ways.
You are Light uncreated;
All Your creation
Owes You unending praise.
Yet You made a man,
Foreseeing his ruin in sin.

We were wretched and hopeless,
Lost in rebellion,
Willful in all our ways.
We deserved condemnation,
Your holy justice
Crushing us by its weight.
Yet You sent Your Son,
Absorbing Your anger for us!

Here we stand by Your grace,
And we lift our voices in praise
To our God, three in one,
God the Father, Spirit, and Son,
Displaying Your gospel in all of Your works,
Display Your gospel in us!
Your gospel in us!

With a loud cry of anguish,
Jesus, the stricken,
Finished atonement’s work!
But the grave could not hold Him!
Jesus, the living,
Rose from His tomb of earth!
And in Jesus’ name
Believers are risen with Him!
Now alive in Your mercy,
We stand forgiven,
Never to fall from grace!
We are heirs of the Father,
Walking in love and faith.
We are jars of clay
Proclaiming Your glorious name!

Soli Deo Gloria!