Why Serve? pt. 2

For the past 2 weeks we have been talking about Christian service and why as Believers we should be serving in our local church.

For some reason the idea of Christian service has flown out the window in our “cultured” view of church. The question, “What can I do to serve the church?” has suddenly turned into, “What is the church doing to serve me?”

In most churches, there are many people who just show up on Sunday morning.  They are busy during the week and truly have no interest in serving at the church.  Showing up on Sunday is enough time and energy for them. They feel as if they have done their part and checked church off the list of things to do.

Have you been there? Maybe, you didn’t think those exact thoughts but you were right there in the boat with them? Many of us have been.

Some of us even now sit in church recognizing skills that we have and how they could serve the church well. But, instead we act like the church is there to serve us on Sundays and stay out of our lives the rest of the week.

So… what has to change?

Like I mentioned in both of the previous blog posts, I believe that we first have to realize that God has blessed each of us with gifts and talents and that we are should be using them for His glory.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

We were given gifts not for our own benefit, but rather to serve Christ. God always make time for us, so why it is so hard for us to make to the serve Him and His people. Christ came to serve yet we sometimes say we don’t have the time use the gifts He gave us to serve Him. As Christians, we should strive to be more like Christ, and in doing so we must serve.

Mark 10:45 says,

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Catch this, our salvation isn’t the finish line… instead it is the sound of the starting pistol. 

Ephesians 2:8-10 says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We have been saved and created in Christ Jesus FOR good works. We have been created and redeemed by the work of Jesus so that we can use our gifts and work for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom! In fact James 2:26 puts it this way,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Let’s not allow ourselves to believe the lie that we have been saved to be served. Let’s serve and see what a difference it makes. Below are some more thoughts as to why we should be serving the local church.

(If you haven’t read the first two parts of this series be sure to go back and read those!)

  • The Commission is great and the Laborers are few.

We all know what the Great Commission says. What I find interesting is that Jesus didn’t just tell us to do it… instead Jesus commissioned us and then demonstrated the action Himself time and again in His personal ministry here on earth.

Until we relate everything we do to the gospel and our salvation we will be missing out on a big part of the reason why we’re even here on this planet. You’ll notice that we don’t get saved and immediately vanish up to Heaven.

We get saved for a task! Our salvation verifies our purpose!

If we are to carry out the Great Commission then we must by using our gifts in service to the Lord. We must serve! If 10% of the people in our churches do 90% of the work then we have reason to be concerned about the way we as Believers are living and what we are teaching both by words and actions. I personally believe those percentages to be true… and because of that I urge all of us to strive to be the 10%. If you aren’t serving… then you are the 90%. Shame on you.

If you don’t want to serve then do so anyways! Our serving isn’t for our own self-fulfillment. Serve for the benefit of the Body. The harvest is great and ready to be collected… but the laborers are few.

  • Children tend to emulate what they see, not what they hear.

“Do it for the children” used to be a fairly popular quote or thing to say. In all actuality it is a good saying! We know that kids are always watching and they emulate what they see. Most people have funny stories from their childhood of them doing or saying something that they weren’t taught to do or say… most of the time it isn’t a positive thing either!

How does that happen?

In my opinion that happens because the best teaching doesn’t come by being taught, instead it comes by being caught. You can tell a child what to do a thousand times until you are blue in the face… but sometimes they have to see someone doing it to truly comprehend. My Dad has always been someone who could “fix” things or solve problems… sometimes as a kid he would ask me to do a task and I truly could not understand what it was that he wanted me to do or how to do it, but I always loved when he would show me how. It was by example that I learned!

I don’t think it would be false of me to say that most parents who bring their kids to church in hopes of their children finding Jesus for themselves and one day serving the Lord. In my own area of ministry I have noticed an interesting trend… the parents who serve often have children who serve. The parents that don’t often have children that don’t. This goes along perfectly with what we just discussed.

How can we expect our children to do something that the aren’t being shown?

In fact, if our kids aren’t serving we should evaluate our own level of service… maybe they are just following our example.

What are our children learning about positive, heart-motivated ministry by watching us? Do you want children that want to serve the Lord?

Then show them what it looks like.

  • I will forge long-lasting and valuable friendships.

One of the major benefits of working for the Lord is the genuine friendships that are forged through serving alongside others. Those to whom we feel the closest in life are typically those with whom we work. One time I was taking a family ministry class and the professor said that he had a groundbreaking idea as to how to start a healthy men’s ministry and that it was as simple as giving them a task to do. At first I thought he was trying to be humorous until I recognized the truth in that statement. The close connection we have with our coworkers often surpasses even that which we share with our own neighbors. We unite around a task, a goal, or a purpose. Service often goes beyond barriers that cannot be crossed in conversation alone.

Romans 16 is a odd chapter that many skip over in Paul’s writings. In Romans 16 we see Paul address others who were serving in ministry alongside him or for the same purpose. He calls them each by name and provides encouragement and direction. Why is that even included for us to read today? I think part of the reason is so we can observe the interconnection and relationship strengthening that comes along with serving the Lord. Paul genuinely dresses and cares for those whom serve alongside him for the Lord.

Ministry partners are the best lifetime friends and great sources of encouragement.

Do you need better friends? Then find a ministry to get involved in within your church.

  • Our service shows our love for the Bride.

Love for Christ is accompanied by love for His Bride. Our church family is just that… it is our spiritual family.Imagine having the task of cooking dinner and your spouse and kids are waiting to eat. Could you ever look at them and say, “I don’t feel like cooking tonight so you are just going to have to go hungry”?

I doubt it. We serve those whom we love… even if sometimes it is an inconvenience. Love for the church means a heart that desires to give. The Bible speaks strongly about the church being our family, even more than our flesh and blood families. Sunday is not a chance to take a break from family—it’s a chance to serve our true family.

When you’re part of a body that loves and serves and gives, a beautiful bond forms. You see people serving in the background, and you praise God for them. You see the joy of service in others, and you want to follow suit. You see a need, and you long to meet it. Serving in our local church is not meant to meet our needs for self-fulfillment or self-worth; it’s about the joy found through self-denial.

Christ loved the Bride enough to die… what are you willing to sacrifice? 

Your time is a good place to start.

Mother Teresa said,

Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service. Try to give unconditionally whatever a person needs in the moment. The point is to do something, however small, and show you care through your actions by giving your time … We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts. Do not worry about why problems exist in the world – just respond to people’s needs … We feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be less without that drop.

Why Serve? pt. 1

Last week we began our series on service within the local congregation. We established a few over-arching reasons why we should be serving… the most important being that Jesus served while He was here on earth.


Our world defines success or “greatness” in terms of tangible things like possessions, position, and power. In other words… if you have power over others, you’ve arrived. The art of service has been lost and has been mistakenly attributed to weakness, insecurity, inability, or poverty. In our me-first culture, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.

Jesus, however, measured a man’s greatness in terms of service, not status. In Mark 10:43 He says,

Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.

Unlike the world we live in, God determines our greatness by how many people we serve, not how many people serve us. Oswald Chambers, one of my favorite theologians, once said this,

Have you ever realized that you can give things to God that are of value to Him? Or are you just sitting around daydreaming about the greatness of His redemption, while neglecting all the things you could be doing for Him? I’m not referring to works which could be regarded as divine and miraculous, but ordinary, simple human things – things which would be evidence to God that you are totally surrendered to Him.

The following list will provide some practical reasons for serving. In no particular exhaustive order, here are some reasons why we should be involving ourselves in ministry:

  • Glorifying God by serving in my local church ministry is the purpose of my salvation.

Ephesians 2:10 says,

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are quick to emphasize that salvation is not by works…. as we should be! In fact we can clarify that by backing up a couple verses to Ephesians 2:8-9 where it says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But sometimes in our emphasis of that fact we fail to communicate and fully grasp that we have been saved so that we may do good works! We haven’t been saved by our works… we have been saved so that we can work! We haven’t been saved so that we may sit on our hands and be served.

We as believers are quick to be “watchdogs” and hesitant to be servants. 

Since I have been young I have liked pirates and nautical things. Back in the day of pirates, and on most ships today, there is a dedicated officer position to be on “watch” or look out over the sea to discover and report potential problems to the Captain. But… the sole role of this person isn’t just to “watch” the sea. In fact, if they just watch the sea they are only doing half of their job and it can be perilous for everyone on board. The other part of this officer’s duty is to act upon what they have observed!

In the same way, we as Christians must act.

James 2:14- 26 is sobering when it says,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

We have faith so that we may serve.

God has placed us in our individual local churches in order that we might be edified, and so that we might be able to work for and serve Him. To remain sedentary is to neglect God’s very purpose for our salvation. By serving, we behave like Jesus and glorify Him.

  • I have been gifted and called to serve.

Several Bible passages help us to understand the concept of spiritual gifts. Romans 12:4-5 is one of those passages. It says,

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Throughout the Bible we learn about how God has given us each the privilege of a gift.  These gifts aren’t meant for collecting dust! A Christmas present might look all pretty and nice when dressed up with wrapping paper… but the true life of that gift begins after it has been unwrapped.

Our gifts are meant to serve God. Peter addresses this in 1 Peter 4:10-11 where it says,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter makes it clear that we have received our gifts from God for two purposes— to serve others and to bring praise to God. Serving isn’t about us receiving attention or glory; it is for directing all glory to Him.

Don’t allow your life as a Believer to remain in the “wrapped” stage. Like a child opens presents on Christmas, we too are to utilize, or unwrap, our gifts because of the coming of Christ Jesus.

  • Ministry service will demonstrate the reality of my faith.

Above, we saw in James that our faith isn’t just demonstrated by what we know or say… but rather it is demonstrated by what we do and how we act.

Romans 12:1-2 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Our faith should transform us and make us stick out! But… we know that a faith without works is dead (as we found in James), so I would say that our works should also make us stick out as a believer. People should know what we believe by what we do.

We have all seen someone who can talk the talk, but fails to walk the walk. The other day I was at an outdoor basketball court and a guy showed up wearing all the gear. You can probably imagine what he looked like before I even have to describe him to you. His socks matched his short and jersey combo. He had on the sweatbands and the newest NBA All-Star high-tops, but the one thing he didn’t have was the game to back up the look. I actually got embarrassed for him at one point. But… how similar is our faith to that guy’s game? Do we say all the right things? Look the right way? Go to the right places? The point I am trying to make is that we might fool some people from a distance, but once we are forced to step out on the court our actions, or lack thereof, will reveal us for what we really are.

Fake Christianity or dead faith may temporarily move people, but upon close inspection will do nothing to impact their behavior or their life.

The transforming power of Jesus Christ is on display in the lives of those who have traded selfishness for selflessness. Who have sought the towel instead of the position. Our actions and service will validate our faith in front of others.

To avoid writing a novel this week we will leave the conversation there and pick it up in next week’s blog. Let me encourage you to evaluate the level at which you are involved in serving the Lord at your local church.

Rick Warren says,

Faithful servants never retire. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.

Do You want the Position or the Towel?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

This past Sunday I had to make the dreaded and sad announcement that we have ministries within the church that are in desperate need of volunteers in order to remain operational. Due to that… I am dedicating the next 3 weeks of blogging to tackle the subject of service within the local congregation.

There is a saying that says in every church 10% of the people do 90% of the work. I believe that is the case most of the time.

I haven’t fooled myself for a second in thinking that we are the only church around with this issue. In fact, I believe that the church as a whole is in this boat together. We have many routes for Christian servanthood, but very few people willing to take those routes. The idea of serving others has been put off in our minds as something that other people are called to do.

Think about it… we have all heard an announcement asking for volunteers at some point in our lives. If you are like me you immediately put it off thinking that the announcement was meant for someone else, or that it was someone else’s responsibility to meet that need. What I have now come to realize is that those announcements are for ME. In fact, those announcements are for my benefit!

John 12:26 establishes that through my service I am in fact drawing near to Christ and I will be honored. That scripture says,

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Now obviously we aren’t serving to be honored… but rather to be obedient and to follow Jesus!

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It is sad that in our church today we have many “celebrities” or spotlight hogs wanting a position or attention, but very few servants. We have many aspiring leaders and many who want to “exercise authority” over others, but few who want to take the towel and basin and wash feet. Jesus came not to be served… but to serve!

In Philippians 2:3-8 Paul reminds us what is to be like Christ. That passage says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Personal responsibility is at the heart of the problem with service. If every individual within the church would determine to stop pointing to someone else and simply embrace the call to serve, then the church would more easily be all that God intended. Personal responsibility is quickly becoming a negative concept within our culture. We want to evaluate someone else… we want to pass the blame or change the topic.

I personally believe that the reason that servanthood is so difficult for a believer is that it begins with dying to self. Scripture emphasizes that “dying to self” is a believer’s responsibility.

Luke 9:23-24 says,

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

In John 13 we see Jesus exemplify the heart and action of a true servant. He provides for us a flesh and bone example of what we are called to do! Hours before His arrest and crucifixion Jesus humbles Himself in service to His disciples.

John 13:1-4 says,

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

To put this action in context we must understand that in those days they did not have paved roads or cars… instead they had dirt roads and mules. They also didn’t have fuel emissions to do with… instead they had other “vehicle” issues and emissions to worry about. The disciples would have wondered in with sweaty feet that had been in open sandals all day as they walked about. Dirty roads and open sandals make for nasty feet! Typically in a household a servant would have the responsibility of washing off a visitors feet as they entered the house… Jesus became that servant.

I find it funny that in a room full of followers of Christ nobody offered to wash the feet of the Son of God! But… we shun our responsibility just the same.

We file in and out of the Lord’s house expecting to be fed… but we bring nothing to the table.

Now don’t get me wrong! We have nothing of value to offer Christ; we do nothing to save ourselves. But, we are called to serve.

Mark 9:33-35 takes us to the real root issue. It says,

Then they came to Capernaum. After Jesus was inside the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

At the Last Supper, no disciple volunteered to wash feet. The room was filled with men of God that were more willing to fight for a throne or position and not willing to fight for a towel.

Luke 22:27 says,

For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

So… what do you want? A position or a towel?

If we, as believers in Christ, are serious about placing Christ at the head as the Lord of our lives, our commitment to Him will be readily demonstrated by an eagerness to obey His word. In His word we are told to serve.

Romans 12:11 says,

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Galatians 5:13 says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

We must stop basing our decisions to serve others on what we think, how we “feel,” or how convenient it is for us, and, instead start basing our decisions for serving on obedience to Scripture and following the example of Christ.

In fact, Our service is a demonstration of our devotion, love, and faith.

John 14:15 says,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

James 2:26 says,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

So… I’ll leave you with this thought.

Don’t sit the bench and allow others to “play the game” and be involved in service to the Lord. Lace up your shoes and get out there… it may be more rewarding than you think.

A wise man by the name of C.G. Jung once said,

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

Get out there and do it. Show the world what you believe.

Colossians 3:17,

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel Centered Worship

When many people think of worship their mind immediately goes to the singing or music portion of a church service before the preaching, some may think of hymnals while others think of electric guitars and lights. While these things can take part in our “worship” they are not in and of themselves all of our worship or all that we do or intend to do.

Bob Kauflin has said that,

Singing and preaching aren’t incompatible or opposed to each other in any way.  Both are meant to exalt the glory of Christ in our hearts, minds, and wills. Then the whole meeting is worship; the whole meeting should be filled with God’s Word. And the whole meeting should be characterized by the Spirit’s presence.

Therefore, worship shapes thinking. We need to allow the Word of God to call, inform, and shape how our churches worship and how we lead. The songs we sing stay with us and the structures convey messages about what we believe and how we worship and encounter God. The songs and ideas displayed in our services get stuck in our heads. They resonate in our hearts. They implant their messages deep within us and instruct us just as much as the sermons we hear.

In his book Christ-Centered Worship Bryan Chapell says that,

Structures tell stories.

We have seen this displayed throughout history through many types of structures Chapell explains,

Luther preached ‘the priesthood of believers,’ and his structures conveyed the same message. The placement of the pulpit silently explained that the preacher was not more holy than the people. He ministered among them because all were fulfilling holy callings as they served God in the occupations for which He had gifted them.

Chapell writes,

In every age, including our own, those who build churches have been forced to consider how their understanding of the gospel gets communicated by the structures in which it is presented.

So… we don’t create worship; we don’t manufacture services. Rather, we respond to a person. Effective worship is never a result of our efforts.

Below we will explore some avenues to Gospel Centered Worship. Let’s think together.

  • Liturgy

“Liturgy” refers to the structures of a church’s worship service. Many people might think of liturgy only in terms of the traditional structures found in Catholic or Anglican churches, but all churches that gather together to worship have a liturgy– even if it’s a very simple liturgy. In his book Chapell explains that,

The biblical word for all that’s included in our worship is ‘liturgy’ and it simply describes the public way a church honors God in its times of gathered praise, prayer, instruction, and commitment.

Therefore, whether we realize it or not, our worship patterns always communicate something. This gives us reason to examine what exactly is being communicated and we as worship leaders must be very intentional and very careful to communicate the Gospel correctly and clearly through our liturgies. We must remember when creating liturgies that,

Christian worship is always a response to truth, the truth as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Let me suggest that we seek to structure worship services in such a way that the Gospel is communicated through the very structure of our service and order. This isn’t a revolutionary idea, In fact, I would say that this has been the case throughout the history of the church. Chapell says,

Because they understood the importance of our worship, early church fathers designed an architecture for worship that is still reflected in churches today. As early as the second century, records indicate that the church divided its worship into major segments: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Upper Room… By moving from Proclamation to Communion in the order of worship, churches through the ages retell the story that those who truly hear God’s Word will share his love.

Chapell claims that our goal should not be to replicate historical liturgies but to,

Learn how the church has used worship to fulfill gospel purposes through the ages so that we can intelligently design worship services that will fulfill gospel purposes today.

Worship is a holistic practice. The promise of the new covenant is that Jesus is the true and better temple, the true and better mount to stand upon. The regulations of time and place have been fulfilled in Christ. The law has been fulfilled through the work of Christ. This means we are a continually worshipping people, in heart, soul, and mind. The way the church has adopted the use of the word worship is a difficult reality we are faced with. When our people say they enjoyed the worship, I understand they mean the singing, and Scripture reading, and time of confession. At the same time, when we walk with a robust view of what congregational worship is, everything falls rightly into its place. The singing of songs is not elevated to a level it is not meant for, and the Scripture readings are not demeaned as a necessary obligation. When we look at a liturgy from beginning to end as the people of God gathered to engage with Him and rehearse the Gospel, an unbroken chain is formed.

  • Balance

Every element of a worship gathering is an important tool in the hand of God. At the center of the church gathered is the one element absolutely necessary: the Word of God laid open in the midst of His people. The Gospel should not just “inform” our worship design, implementation, and leadership… it should consume it, and all that we do in worship, whether corporately or individually, should be focused and centered on the Word of God and the Gospel story.

Chapell conceives of the corporate worship service as,

Nothing more, nothing less, than a re-presentation of the gospel in the presence of God and His people for His glory and their good.

This definition has a strong vertical dimension of God’s story being re-presented in God’s presence for His own glory, but Chapell also believes the inward and outward elements should have bearing on the Sunday service. He argues that concern for God’s people to understand His glory and grace should lead us to design worship that ministers to the “necessities and capacities” of God’s people.

While church leaders have a responsibility to preserve the necessary elements of the Gospel story, these Gospel truths will not lead to worship or transformation into the image of Christ if people cannot understand them. Discerning the balance between the necessities and capacities of worshippers (the balance between sensitivity and compromise) is sometimes a difficult task, but one with which we must wrestle.

I personally advocate for a strong partnership between the vertical dimension of our worship (us and God) and a horizontal dimension (us together) in the worship service that reflects the Gospel story of God’s love to one another through sharing our praise, praying for one another, corporately confessing sin, encouraging one another in song, tithing, receiving instruction together, demonstrating concern for the lost, and communing together.

Our worship should not ignore the needs of the members of the body… yet at the same time worship choices cannot ignore the needs of those God has yet to gather into the body of Christ. A few weeks back we discussed whether our worship can be evangelistic. If you disagree with my stance on that topic then the rest of this paragraph isn’t for you… Christ-Centered Worship advocates a liturgical model that builds upon Scripture as well as church history, taking into account the upward, inward, and outward priorities of church. Done properly our worship can create and encounter, a union, and a message to be shared.

Our worship and theology should come together to engage in God’s mission. The relationship should be one of harmony and consistency. If God’s mission for us is to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light as it says in 1 Peter 2:9, and to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe everything he commanded us as it says in Matthew 28:19-20, we must be those worship leaders who worship the Lord personally and corporately, who study the Word of God and hide it in our hearts and who are constantly reminded of his mission, making every effort to proclaim His gospel. The Gospel should infect every aspect of our lives and then we might stand a chance of leading with Gospel centrality. Right theology leads us to rightful doxology, and both propel the mission of God within our churches and out into the world. As John Piper rightly says,

Worship is the fuel and goal of missions.

Our worship must be rightfully centered on the glory of God, because only then are the desires and needs of man informed and met. As we exalt Christ and glorify God, we are professing things that are true to those in our gatherings who are separated from God by sin. The aim of the mission of God is that all the peoples of the earth would glorify God. God’s mission in the world is accomplished when He is the praise of every tribe, and tongue, and nation.

  • The Journey

In practice Gospel centered worship can be difficult to do properly. In this journey what I have come to realize is that the Gospel shouldn’t just be a few key words in a song, but it should inhabit and inform my entire structure, design, and leading of corporate worship. I believe Kauflin says it best in his book “Worship Matters” when he says that,

Singing God’s Word can include more than reciting specific verses in song. If the Word of Christ is going to ‘dwell in [us] richly’ (Colossians 3:16), we need songs that explain, clarify, and expound on what God’s word says. We need songs that have substantive, theologically rich, biblically faithful lyrics. A consistent diet of shallow, subjective worship songs tends to produce shallow, subjective Christians.

The songs we sing matter.  When we stand before our church to lead in worship the songs we choose must be Biblically faithful. We must strive to make our songs and structure theologically forming and informing. They must be Gospel-centered. In the end it isn’t solely the melodies of the songs or the musicality within the transitions that are of utmost importance, but it is the lyrics we choose to worship with and the message we convey through our overall structure. The content by which we choose to both inform and shape our worship. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, we see the Gospel as the issue of “first importance”. 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 says,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.

As we lead worship, there is a great responsibility for us to place the Gospel at its rightful place in our church service – at the blazing center of everything.

Wherever in the church Biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God’s and we are doing His work in our way. The loss of God’s centrality in the life of today’s church is far too common. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.

Worship matters and it must be anchored entirely on God’s truth. Worship should be anchored on the entire truth about God, which He has revealed about himself within His Word. Our worship is a matter of infinite importance. If the truth of God and the Gospel is not at the center of our worship services then we are not truly worshiping the God of the bible but a “god” of our own imagination or creation. An incomplete foundation to our worship leads to an incomplete understanding of all that God is.

It is a matter of eternal consequence when people get worship wrong, as a result they do not worship God acceptably however well meaning they may be.

God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God’s kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.

We should work to know the Gospel… to memorize its foundations and contours. We should allow our thoughts, our prayers, our affections, and our songs to be informed by the glories of the gospel. Constance Cherry has said that,

Our understanding of Christian worship starts with our understanding of God.

The second greatest source of theological teaching in the local church comes from the songs that it sings. While theology is taught, more often it is often caught… through song. In the end, we do not want to create worship services that simply make Christians want to return to our worship services again; instead you want to create worship services that make Christians long to be with Christ and live out the Gospel.

John MacArthur says,

Worship is not an addendum to life, it is at life’s core. You see, the people who worship God acceptably enter into eternal life, but the people who do not worship God acceptably enter into eternal death. Worship, then, becomes the core. Time and eternity are determined by the nature of a person’s worship.

As we pursue this journey into Christ-Centered or Gospel-Shaped worship together I will leave us with this thought,

Worship is an invitation and not our invention.