Worship in the Twenty-First Century

Featuring John Telman Posted on July 2, 2009

It's inevitable.  Change will take place.  When I was a child, the only drum that was found in any church was a bass drum in the Salvation Army band.  The instruments in churches were an organ and/or a piano.  Along with hymns, congregations were singing tunes written by Ira Stanphill, Ralph Carmichael, and Bill Gaither.

Back then, few could have imagined the changes that have taken place.  Now, the smallest church has a full band.  From Keith Green, Rich Mullins, Andrea Crouch to Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin, and Lincoln Brewster, the church has been blessed with many incredible writers of worship songs.  And all this within a span of only 40 years.

Some may look at the changes as negative and others may look at the changes as necessary improvements.  The church has been fragmented by the likes and dislikes we all have in music.  Some churches have even resorted to dividing services between those who subscribe to hymns of yesteryear only and those who opt for strictly contemporary styles.

Yet, the style of music is not what worship is about at all.  Focusing on God is.  If we succumb to focusing overtly on the band, the writer of a tune, or the tunes themselves, we may be hurting ourselves.

Is worship for us?  Is it just a concert?  Well, actually, a worship service IS a type of concert, just not for us.  We all perform for the King of Kings.  Please bear in mind, I did not say "sing for the King of Kings".  I said "perform".  A person may worship without singing.  The important thing is finding a way to connect in integrity with the congregational expression.  If we completely shut down, it is not only sad but it's an insult to a God who is worthy of worship.

Over the next forty years, change will take place again.  Who knows?  The coming generations may return to some past style, or take on forms of expression that are beyond our imagination today.  So, the danger for those attached to the current genres will be close-mindedness to what may be ahead.  The safe approach is to focus on the eternal truth of the person of God and hold loosely to rigid methodology.

Remember, one day we will bow in worship before the very throne of God.  Style will not mean a thing to us.  Do we have any inkling of what it will sound like?  No.  But two things will be as vital in our worship expressed then as they have always been.  1)  The direction of the song will be God-ward, and 2)  There will be truth in the content of the song. 

"Great and marvelous are your works O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are your ways, King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?  For you alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:4)