With this post I embark on a voyage that could be my last on this particular ship. I’m going to write about worship.
It’s not that I’m vowing never to speak or write about it again, but, in this series, I’m going to try to articulate more clearly and with more authority a few things I have been thinking and saying for more than 30 years. After that, I plan to fall silent on this topic until another ship moves through the water toward a new continent or vista, probably mentioning worship only in passing.
It is my habit to write well in advance of making it public. In this case, I will have structured and written most of the material before any of it is posted. But I’m obsessive enough to spend a lot of time proofing, re-reading, refining each installment, so I will see all the material several times before publishing. If only I were as obsessive these days about worship itself. . . .
Preface, Part A: historical and personal aspects
Worship has for many years been a special area of calling for me. Its significance is reflected in my print and audio libraries (e.g., 4800+ “contemporary” titles and several dozen hymnals), 300+ musical arrangements and compositions, conversations, and writings. While in my 20s and 30s, I often corresponded copiously with others about worship. I led congregations, impassioned teenagers, and a vocal performance group. I made it a point to attend several large-scale worship conferences and concerts. Pre-dating the ubiquity of the terms “worship team” and “praise team,” I started a group called “Worship Team” for the express purpose of considering, studying, and doing worship in a smallish group—toward the end that what was experienced might bleed over into the full congregation’s life. Roughly during that same period, I edited and published a bi-monthly newsletter “digest” called Principally Proskuneo, offering worship material to more than 200 households by the end of the newsletter’s five-year run. In addition to others’ material, PP contained articles of my own on such topics as these:
|Coming into God’s presence||Visual symbols||Meditation|
|Free offering of worship||John 4, Isaiah 6||Characterizations of God|
|Change||Trials and melancholy||Prayer|
|Searching and seeking||Worship as worth-ship||Acts and actions|
|Attention on Jesus in the Lord’s Supper||Personal effort and the will to worship||Another look at Nadab and Abihu|
|Worship and service||Lamentation and confession||Contemporary styles|
During the subsequent decade, I worked for three or four years on a self-published book (The Christian Assembly: Concepts, Trends, and Leadership with Purpose) in which worship figured prominently. I have no way of knowing how many copies were downloaded, but I know I only sold one copy and only printed it in final form two or three times. Its value, I gather, was severely limited by a general lack of demand, not to mention my lack of marketing prowess.
Boiling all that down: I have read; I have pondered and studied; I have written; I have led; I have yearned . . . and I have periodically been fulfilled in pursuit of the Almighty. But it has not been enough, nor am I content with the amount of lasting change (inward or outward, in me or in those I have led) that has resulted.
Next: worship leadership as a formative influence; prioritization of worship