(i)ncarnational Worship

The attached documents explain the philosophical underpinnings of this site (Incarnation chpt 1; The incarnation of worship chpt 2). At the end of chapter 2, I present a list of the foundations of worship leadership preparation. Although, I believe the worship leader will want to grow in each of these areas to move toward maturity as a worship leader (no music items are mentioned because this document was written for worship leaders of all types, including lead pastor), the one item that should appear  to missing is the following: prayer. Even if one has all of the knowledge-based/wisdom-based tools, these tools will prove ineffective without the power of God. Often God has been gracious to me and allowed for impactful worship without the necessary prayer preparation, but I am increasingly convinced that I fail to see what could happen in worship because of my laziness in prayer. May we seal our commitment to acquiring these tools with fervent prayer. Please know that if you are not in the Worship Leadership or Planning and Leading Worship FAll 2012 classes at NOBTS, you are still invited to comment on these documents or ask for further explanation.

54 responses to this post.

  1. Short lecture with PP related to documents in blog: https://docs.google.com/a/nobts.edu/file/d/0B7vhUEfVyEiqdnRDOExObU1tTGM/edit. If you can’t hear audio in the google docs file above, try the following link: http://www.slideshare.net/gwoodward1/defining-incarnation-13995781.

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  2. Disembodied worship? You be the judge: http://voicethread.com/share/3305171/

    Examples of chant illustrating the same point made in the video (see video first): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKtyZwtrTCQ&playnext=1&list=PLD1473A999AD702D2&feature=results_main

    Disembodied worship? You be the judge but let’s not be judgemental:
    http://voicethread.com/share/3305154/

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  3. Posted by Warren on August 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    the 5 tools at the end of chapter 2 are fantastic and I hope you take time to exploit them in further chapters

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    • Two or three folks have expressed interest in seeing the 5 tools unpacked (biblical, theological, historical, cultural-considerations, aesthetic-considerations). For my MA Worship students, I should empasize that from a big-picture standpoint, these issues will be dealt with over several courses (e.g., history of worship clearly covers history in depth). In the more generic worship leadership class (I dont’ mean generic in a negative sense here) you will explore some rich items related to biblical worship from Dr. Phelps. I see the Planning and Leading Worship class as a synthesis of these foundations, focusing more on teh practical (i.e., what am I going to do this Sunday?). However, we should constantly keep these 5 tools in mind as we are making the week-to-week practical decisions. But, I wanted to give you a warning Planning and Leading Worship will not go as deep on the bibiclal and theology side of things as theology of worship with Dr. Sharp will.

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  4. Posted by Jeremy Williams on August 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    This was the sentence that stuck out most to me in all of the reading.

    Christ-centered, biblically-informed worship being the only essential that must remain consistent across cultural domains.

    As long as worship in grounded in this solid foundation, then what form it takes is of little importance. Structured, semi-structured, or free should not matter. What matters is who is glorified through the worship and what is in the heart of the worshiper as they worship.

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    • Posted by Brian Marbury on August 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      I really like that statement as well. I’ve recently had discussions with students that attend church’s of other denominations and we’ve discussed that the point is to love Jesus and worship Him alone. If the student’s parents attend a different church, you can still worship Jesus in that setting. (theological discussions are always ongoing) But the main idea is to love Jesus and worship Him.

      One of my former students just arrived back home from a one year mission journey that took her to twelve different countries and it was a joy to hear her testimony of experiencing the different cultures and worship in other countries. Other cultures definitely have a different style of worship than our church does, but Jesus was worshipped and that’s what matters.

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    • Posted by Cindy Mangum on August 28, 2012 at 2:16 am

      Well said, Jeremy. We all have a tendency to be protective of our ‘style’ of worship perhaps optimistically thinking that since I/we are able to worship best in ‘our’ style that it must surely be so for everyone! Not true, of course. What matters, as you so succinctly put it, is the object of our worship and the heart with which we worship.

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  5. Posted by Marty Hurt on August 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I was struck with the line, “Remember if we have worship that is only cultural, then it will be relevant without revelation. And if our worship is of a disembodied spiritual nature, then it might be doctrinally sound but without valid diagnosis and prescription for a dying culture.” While we worship God “in Spirit and in Truth,” we worship Him within the culture in which we live. What a day when all nations, tribes and tongues unify before the throne in the greatest moment of worship of all time!

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    • Posted by Bobby Smith on August 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Great thoughts here Marty… this line had quite an impact on me as well. It is quickly apparent how worship devoid of revelation becomes cancerous as we see no fruit developing from within it. It becomes a contest of culture that chokes the Spirit. This is contrasted by the other extreme in services that so focus on doctrine that any applicable and relevant content is substituted for pious and heady spirituality.

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    • Posted by Stephen McAliley on August 26, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      Marty I wrestled with that line too. I have been apart of a church that at times appears so focused on indentifying with the culture that there is no room for revelation, I was also apart of a church that seemed so caught up in the spirtual nature that they lost sight of impacting or relating to the culture. Are seeker friendly churches who tend to focus heavily on culture in their worship and put a priority on entertainment totaly deviod of revelation? Or churches so steeped in tradition and ” a disembodied spirtual nature” able to be relvent enough to reach the lost? I am of course speaking about what we do on weekends in our churches and wonder if we focus too much on elements that actually distract from worship instead of enhance worship.

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  6. Posted by Josh on August 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Really great thoughts! I have often thought about doing a thesis on cultural idols and how they change the trajectory of worship for that culture. As a for-instance, here in America, I believe that our greatest idol is consumerism. At its deepest level, I think that this is really a control issue. Instead of buying THE toothpaste at the store, we are confronted with a wall or toothpastes and spend our time looking at the aesthetics, the features, the cost, and we eventually make the decision that is right for us. This is not inherently a bad thing. In the same way, however, we are so deeply ingrained with this consumeristic mentality that we bring this to the church and even into worship. I am the consumer, and I will pick and choose the different elements that I prefer, the lighting that I like, the preaching style that best suits me, the music that I grew up with, and the style of dress that makes me feel the most comfortable…and I will shop around until I find the church that best “meets my needs.” Sound familiar? The only problem with this is that the Bible presents a vastly different picture of worship. Romans 12:1-2 paints the picture of our offering ourselves as the sacrifice (or the product, to further the analogy), and it is actually GOD who is the consumer (i.e. the one that is making the decisions and the one whom we are endeavoring to please), NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Somewhere along the line, God became the PRODUCT and we became the consumers. As Jon Duncan calls it, “Burger King Theology” (i.e. “Have it your way”).

    As stated in the preface of this blog, “Cultural practices that clearly conflict with biblical teaching must be purged.” Indeed, I would argue that this is the greatest cultural trap of our day in our culture. We must ask ourselves, “What is the object of our worship?” Indeed, in this paradigm, we become the object of our own worship, and it becomes more about my experience in church than the one I am worshiping. This is why the Biblical and Theological foundations mentioned in ch.2 are ever so important. Instead of asking the question “How can we make our worship more relevant?”, or “How can we best meet the needs of this culture?”, more and more worship leaders should be asking the question “How can we be more Biblical in our worship?”

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    • Posted by Cindy Mangum on August 28, 2012 at 1:25 am

      Josh,
      I really appreciate and applaud your thoughts regarding the ‘consumerism’ aspect of our worship today. It continues to boggle my mind that we can be so open and accepting, so ‘culturally savvy’ in regards to other cultures and the way they worship but can be so condeming and close-minding in regards to the manner of worship by our Christian brothers and sisters – those whose manner of worship, in reality, only vary in the type of songs they sing or the choice of instruments by which they lead in worship. I agree that our focus should be on the object of our worship and how we can be more Biblical, more authentic, in our own worship. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  7. I have to agree with Warren, I’m very much looking forward to diving deeper into the five tools mentioned at the end of chapter two. Good stuff!

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  8. I am happy to see you mention the picture of OT worship practices as exemplary. During my own personal times of reading/meditation/reflection (as it pertains to the practice of worship in our lives), I have just recently begun to look more closely at the worship activities of the OT believers. Upon reading this blog, I was reminded of a book I finished just a few weeks back, How to Worship a King by Zach Neese. He suggests that Old Testament tabernacle worship is a “model or shadow of heavenly worship.” With that being understood, it reminded me of the responsibility that we have as leaders of corporate worship (through whatever artistic medium…be it preaching, music, etc.) to help connect believers to our great God. May we never be lackadaisical toward our calling. What an honor it is to serve the body of Christ.

    I agree with Warren. I am anticipating the explanation and application of these 5 tools as we move along through the course.

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  9. Josh, I REALLY liked your analogy of us becoming the consumer and God becoming the product. VERY well spoken. I have always loved Romans 12:1-2 but never been able to make it sound so practical in the explanation regarding our worship! Don’t mind me if I spread that analogy to others!

    I think I took away from these two chapters that our relationship with Christ must be strong. We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t lead where you haven’t been or where you aren’t willing to go”…and I think that is what I’m hearing in this. As worship leaders we must understand the value of the incarnation of God in order to see the incarnation of worship.

    “it’s about experiencing the Creator in fresh personal
    ways and giving God the glory for initiating and sustaining a relationship with us.” (page 1, chapter 1)

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  10. The good news about following the five tools for incarnational worship is that they are not limiting, but liberating. I believe this is exactly as God intends for His people. Just as Dr Woodward explained:

    “Is God–was God surprised when His call to worship in Spirit and in Truth began to take on many different cultural forms…Thus, an intended consequence may arise as each culturally embedded Christian generation discovers the germative nature of Christ’s instructive words: freedom engendered by a command within broad parameters.” (Chapter 1, Pg 4-5)

    Those parameters of “Sprit and Truth” or Biblical and Theological foundation can and must be adapted to culture to be effective. As mentioned earlier, The danger is not a “Have it your way” worship mentality from attendees, but a “Our way is the right way” mentality from worship leaders. Dr. Woodward continued:

    “failing to recognize the value of the cultural wrappings of any particular Christian worship community or tradition leads one into a common deceptive trap of the enemy: the consideration of one’s own cultural manifestation of worship as being superior.” (Chapter 2, Page 3)

    At some point we must humble ourselves and respond to the needs of our community of faith, despite our assumptions that “our way” is superior.

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  11. Posted by Russell Ward on August 25, 2012 at 2:35 am

    Many good thoughts here. I especially liked the references to mathematics and science… the abstract vs. the concrete. These were interesting insights into the nature and dynamics of worship. The various elements that come together to form effective worship are multifaceted for sure. I would definitley like to see more about the 5 tools.

    I thought this was on point: “Remember if we have worship that is only cultural, then it will be relevant without revelation. And if our worship is of a disembodied spiritual nature, then it might be doctrinally sound but without valid diagnosis and prescription for a dying culture:”

    Spiritual connectedness grounded in a sense of community and personhood is key. The majesty of God unpacked in the ordinary, everyday stuff…this is elemental to authentic worship.

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  12. Posted by Daniel D. Barton Sr. on August 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    As a fairly new pastor in a small church, I have begun with a church that was founded over 50 years but is now smaller than it was when it began. As I have look back over the history of this church through its successes and failures, i have found a consistent lack in their worship. There has been thirteen pastors, numerous splits, hostile takeover attempts, molestation, staff adultery, to name a few. It all began because of the lack to commit to true worship. I hope that through this class teachings, prayers, and the initiation of building the true values of worship within the church will help provide an environment for God to be glorified through His Son Jesus Christ.

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    • Posted by Lesli Pitts on August 28, 2012 at 3:14 am

      Daniel, thanks for sharing. It’s interesting and reminds me of how important worship really is. Sometimes I may think it just happens at certain times, like Sunday mornings, but it’s all the time. Like Dr. Woodward said, it can happen walking around the campus. I wonder what impact it would have on our churches if we connected the dots for between the failures and lack of worship. Being able to study the 5 tools will be very beneficial.

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  13. I appreciated the concept of incarnational worship. We, the church, are to be the bridge that links this world and the spiritual world. When we try to separate the two is when we get into problems. Christ walked this earth “in the Spirit.” Or worship should be this “compound” rather than a mixture of culture and Sprit that you mentioned. I believe that is the heart of what Jesus meant when He said that true worshippers will worship in “Spirit and in truth” to the woman at the well.

    The following was a nice summary:
    “Remember if we have worship that is only cultural, then it will be relevant without revelation. And if our worship is of a disembodied spiritual nature, then it might be doctrinally sound but without valid diagnosis and prescription for a dying culture.

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  14. Posted by william allen on August 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    The five tools provide a model to insure that what we are doing is truly meaningful. Often worship services seem to elevate one or two areas and yet ignore others. I am appreciative of an inclusive set of tools with which to formulate meaningful worship experiences.

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  15. Posted by Bobby Smith on August 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I’d love to speak of the rating system in which we all sub-conciously or otherwise consciously bring into our worship of God. Throughout both chapters in this reading we are confronted with fundamental truths in human nature… 1.) our ability to be moved emotionally/aesthetically by something “other” also revealing our need for God as referenced in the Pascal quote [chapter 1], and 2.) our ability to ultimately compare/contrast how certain elements affect us more or less, thus rating certain services, styles, and systems higher than others.

    This speaks to Josh’s summation of consumerist worship. The idea that one style or mode of worship supersedes others is incongruent with Scripture, yet impossible to escape from. Of course, that would be one reason we, as worship leaders/pastors/etc., are in a course like this… to strip away the walls of arrogance and superiority, realize the vast landscape of worship before us, and ultimately, see it leading us all closer and closer to Christ. I don’t, however, assume that every differing worship style is necessarily leading us closer to Christ, which is another excellent reason for the closing statements of Chapter two… “Christ-centered and BIBLICALLY-INFORMED worship being the only essential that must remain consistent across cultural domains.”

    Good stuff. Excited to see some good discussion growing out of this group!

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    • Posted by Nathan McQuary on August 28, 2012 at 4:56 am

      Your comments on our preoccupation with the emotionalism of worship reminds me of a quote from Rich Mullins. It’s been said that when approached after a show by someone who would tell him how much the Holy Spirit had moved them emotionally through a song, Mullins would often reply “Actually, that was just the bass and the kick drum.” I don’t think he was saying that it’s impossible for the Holy Spirit to work through song, but warning against getting caught up in experiencing a feeling and calling that “worship.”

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  16. Posted by Russell Ward on August 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Many good thoughts here. Interesting comments on consumerist worship. This is an unfortunate misdirection for the church. Os Guiness confronts this issue in his book “Fit Bodies and Fat Minds” The “Starbucks/Church/bookstore/cool hangout” mentality is seeping into our worship. We desire cutting edge and super cool niches, but these tools are suppose to facilitate our worship not become the objects OF our praise. I believe that we can safely say that God does not favor a particular style of worship. If he did favor a particular style, he really did not give us any clues as to which one he leans toward. Christocentric worship is the target. I believe the postmodern,ADHD- consumerist mentality is scattering us. This scattering entails the trivializing of the Holy and the marginalizing of the evangelistic charismata that drives us in our Matthew 28 mandate. We need to stay focused on Christ and Truth. Truth will make our worship efficacious. Lex Credendi Lex Orandi. Truth will center our efforts. Experiencing the presence of God through authentic worship will unpack that truth in our lives.

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  17. Posted by Chris on August 26, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Worship seems difficult to define. Who is worshipping? What is being worshipped? And what constitutes worship? Who is defining worship and what makes them right? I have a hard time wrapping my head around it all. I must ask the question raised in Ch. 1, “Has anyone gotten it right?” The incarnation of worship sounds like exactly what we’re suppose to do: “a unique circumstance where a quality of concept emerges into physical form”… It’s what we strive for right? I must say, I like the chemistry example of worship being a compound where the elements do not lose their identity. Because, yes, we must somehow physically express our adoration and reverence for God somehow. And the expression and concepts we choose… is worship. No element of that worship should lose its identity, but be apart of the worship experience.

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  18. These two great chapters helped me think more deeply about worship, and what it means to have incarnational worship. In the first chapter I felt that you conveyed worship as a whole life experience. It seems at the foundation of all worship, is the fact that we are all worshiping every minute of the day. You raised a great question of “Are some worship experiences more valid than others?” I think many Christians and congergations can get caught up in this debate. They hop around from church to church or event to event looking for the “best” or “most worshipful” experiences. I’m not against being a part of corporate services that glorify the Lord, but I’m afraid sometimes we can worship…”worship” instead of Jesus. The part that is missing is as you said “the object of our worship”. This object of our worship can easily move from Jesus to me if we are not founded in Scripture.
    So can incarnational worship happen in every cultural context? I think the answer is yes! It may look very different, but the heart of the matter is as was said in chapter 2: “Christ centered, biblically-informed worship being the only essential that must remain consistent across cultural domains” Worship leaders must have this at the heart of their leadership. We must be ready to Pastorally teach our people this simple yet complex truth. I believe corporate worship will take on different forms to achieve this true worship, but as Jesus said to the woman at the well. True worshippers would worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, and may this be true of us as well.

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  19. Posted by Cory Stanley on August 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I always teach my students that worship is both giving worth to Christ and yet being obedient to His teachings in the bible. Not to be cliche, but I think that our life (in and out of church) should be a worship service. Being a consumer of God and God being the product is exactly the concept needing to be spread both biblically and culturally (thanks Josh). Being a consumer of God doesn’t start or stop at church. Being a consumer of God crosses cultural divides and makes biblical teachings and concepts culturally relevant. All things are possible through Christ. This being said, I think that if we follow God’s teaching and let the Holy Spirit move in work through us; then we will be able to balance the purest form of worship while being culturally relevant. Worship happens when “worth” is focused on God and God’s word. Being obedient (consumer) to God is our spiritual act of worship.This is an ever continuing fight for balance because of the sin that infiltrates our hearts and lives.

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  20. Posted by Stephen Jennings on August 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I agree that being too culturally-relevant runs the risk of “being relevant without revelation,” but we have to incorporate what we know of culture into our methodology of worship, or people are not engaged, no matter how popping your band is or how cool your pastor is. If I were to go to Africa and lead a service, my “style” probably wouldn’t work. So, to fulfill the edict of the service – the edification of the body – we must be able to relate. The bottom line is that we cannot sacrifice biblical truth for cultural relevance. When we do that we cease worshiping and become strictly entertainers.

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  21. Posted by Rob Oglesby on August 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Several points jumped off the page in these two chapters concerning worship. The first point with a “pop” was the definition of worship itself in which Woodward said, “It’s about experiencing the Creator in fresh personal ways and giving God the glory for initiating and sustaining a relationship with us.” Worship is truly experiencing the Creator and because we can take no credit for what he has done, we must give Him the glory.

    Worship can also be expressed in many different styles. I agree where Woodward states, “God endowed us with the gift of creativity for the purpose of honoring Him.” Here we can see Psalm 37:4 come alive, “Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” We all worship in different ways, yet if we are faithfully honoring God then He will be pleased. We can not merely believe that “our” way is the only way or right way to worship. In chapter 1 Woodward says, “We cannot, we must not suggest that Western hymns or other Western worship practices are inherently more spiritual than other cultural manifestations of worship just because they are Western.”

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  22. Posted by Stephen McAliley on August 27, 2012 at 12:06 am

    In the begining of paragraph of chapter one the is the sentence, “Thus, two principles emerge for our initial discussion of worship: On the one hand a willingness to recognize any human activity that glorifies Christ as the worship and on the other hand a desire to place such activities into categories tht match the transformed nature of such experiences.” While I do believe it is possible to worship God in all things, is not the purpose of worship to go beyond the mundane, and if so can we alway make mundane activities worship?I believe we spend far too much time in focusing on methodolgy instead of glorifying Christ and bringing about that praise and worhship of God that leads to a deeper relationship with Christ. Worship in the artistic realm is easiest to graps and participate in, however worship is deeper than the artistic form that it orignates from. Many churches live and die by the “artistic” nature of the worship and lose sight of the ultimate purpose of worship.

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    • First of all, I applaud Stephen for asking some hard questions. I do not want everyone to feel like they should necessarily agrree with everything that I wrote. In fact, I am still wrestling with some of the ideas related to balance in chapter 2. But in response to Stephen’s questions. Stephen, make sure you follow logic all the way through in chapter 1. Many authors begin defining worship with personal worship, which is essentially what I am doing at beginning of chapter 1–not only recongizing legitimacy of personal worship experiences but recognziing that God wishes to redeem every aspect of our lives. We must be careful in saying to the person in our church who has a mundane daily job, that his or job cannot become worship to God, if every thought, every interaction became His (of course we don’t do this well even within the walls of the church). Also, regarding artistic lables, note that I was merely referncing the manner in which we tend to describe such activities, not the true nature of worship, which I clealry linked to relationship with Christ in chapter 1–so we may actually be in agreement here. Now, we may have a true difference of opinion when I turn toward corporate worship in chapter 1, because I do believe that corporate worship is most commonely and effectively experiences through artistic mediums. We can tell ourselves within the bubble of a particular culture that our worship is only pure, without the trappings of cultural garb–cultural garb will almost always be artistic in the nature in a corporate setting–but in reality our worship will have cultural trappings. To not recognize these cultural trappings is to run the risk of exalting one’s culture above others, defending it as more pure. There is a theology that says that we should play down any attempt to give artistic expression of the Word in worship, but even Calvin eventually came to realize that you needed a good song writer to set the psalter. Now, perhaps these realities I am describing are related to our fallen nature? That is, we need the artistic expressions because of our weak human condition and perhaps we should aspire to not have to have the cultural wrappings–you might be able to convince me that this would be an ideal model toward moving to maturity, but I don’t think this would be where most of our congregation is Sunday to Sunday. I will admit that I am not there. I am still, for example, effected by the way a sermon is delivered, which is artful or not artful. It is harder for me to respond to a sermon delivered in monotone. Look forward to discussing this with you further, Stephen.

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  23. Posted by Tommy Upton on August 27, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Pretty deep stuff, Dr. Woodward! And here I thought you were “just” a conductor… 🙂 Jokes aside, I think the greatest point to me was the fact that we are spending a lot of time debating the how’s of worship and not worship itself. That is, we (the Church) are spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the way to worship – is it contemporary or traditional? Is it band-driven or acoustic? Do we have a choir or a praise band?

    Instead, we must step back and remember the focus of our worship. Cultural relevance, in my opinion, makes the worship more about us instead of God. Worship is timeless. We would do well to move more of the focus off of our “style” an onto the Creator.

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  24. Posted by Thoughtful G on August 27, 2012 at 2:22 am

    These articles are a good start to what I hope will be a great class. The idea of contextualization within worship is something that has been very important to me for quite a while. Working in missions for the past 14 years, I have had a chance to experience many different forms of worship. It is important that we remember we are not trying to change the function of worship, only the form. I remember listening to the radio in the US 4-5 years ago and the Christian leader was playing a traditional hymn that had been translated and sung by some people in another part of the world. The Christian leader was talking about how great it was that you could go into a church almost anywhere in the world and recognize the songs and worship. He mentioned that while you may not know the words in “their” language you could sing along in your own language. Truthfully, I was very disturbed by this idea. I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to help people understand the gospel and worship in culturally relevant ways, and this was an affront to that.

    I agree with Dr. Woodward in that “Excusing every cultural word and action as contextually valid is a dangerous extreme.” I spent a lot of time attending various religious events in my host culture, even though I didn’t worship their gods, it was important for me to understand what worship meant for the people, and what elements could be used in the worship of the one true God. There had been people working in this culture before, but had taken the approach that everything about the culture was bad, and everything about the Western style of church was good and holy. Needless to say while there had been some marginalized people who did accept Christ and did form a local church based on the western model, their numbers amounted to less the 1.5% of the population. I have also seen the other extreme. We had a some dear friends who spent so much time trying to make everything culturally just right that they often failed to actually finish something or to get to the point of the message.

    The mantra when we look at evaluating cultural elements is “Reject, Redeem, Replace.” Dr. Woodward mentioned that we must look at the original elements that inspired a form of worship and remember that it is “Christ-centered, biblically-informed worship being the only essential that must remain consistent across cultural domains.” Too often in the western church we have equated our form of worship, liturgy and bible teaching with a sacred mandate. What is important in my opinion for worship is that it is something that the individuals feel lead them into the presence of God. It is not only the music of the people, but the style of the building, the order of things, the dress of the people, the dance (or lack thereof), even how and where people sit, stand or kneel while worshiping that can have an impact of leading people to worship God. It seems to me that often from this list many folks skim over points one and two, base much of their practice on three, and forget about four and five, unless they are trying to be a “seeker” friendly church then they might place a little bit of emphasis on four and five.

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  25. Posted by Justin on August 27, 2012 at 3:55 am

    I really enjoyed reading the poll on Twitter. It was definitely a challenge to answer with only two answers to select. Pure Spiritual Worship or Culturally Relevant Worship? As much as we would love to claim that we determine who we choose to be, our cultural background determines much of who we actually are. We would all love to say that we fall more into the category of pure spiritual worship but I honestly cannot say that I can make that claim because I can’t. Look at our style of worship. Look at the way we conduct our services. Look at the songs we sing and how we sing them. Look at who sits in the pews and how we dress. This all reflects our cultural background. It is what we know and what we are comfortable with. Every Sunday we see the same thing over and over in our services. We may sing different songs and have a different sermons but it all looks very similar. I believe it is possible to observe both perspectives simultaneously but we have so much influence from our culture that, I believe, that it is next to impossible to take our cultural influence out of the picture. I feel that pure spiritual worship should be something that is and should be sought after. We should consistently be striving to enhance our intimacy with our triune God.

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    • Good thoughts Justin–part of the point of the poll is for you you to wrestle with side you lean toward–the answer should probably be a struggle–

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  26. Posted by Tim Johnson on August 27, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I love Dr. Woodward’s approach to worship and his definition of the incarnation of worship. He suggests that incarnational worship would be worship that moves from the mere concept of worship into the contextualization of that concept into one’s daily life. As Woodward suggests, you would think we would have it down by now here in the 21st century after having the Word of God in our hands and in our own language for so long… But we get it wrong time and time again as believers because there is often such disconnect between the concept of worship, or spiritual reality, and the contextualizing of that spiritual truth. Incarnational worship is to move beyond what we have learned or been taught (conceptual) into what can be contextualized in our every day lives. Looking forward to this class and the discussions!

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  27. Dr. Woodward, thank you for this great articles. I had to read through them a couple of times in order to process the information. What really stood out to me in the articles was when the extremes were shared. I feel that today we see so many extremes in worship, especially in our “flavor” of evangelicalism. You have some churches who are extremely traditional and others who are extremeley contemporary.

    Perhaps if styles of worship were not focused on, but instead the incarnational worship was emphasized there would be more of an impact on lives.

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  28. Posted by Nate Travis on August 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I appreciated your sentiment on being cautious on grading worship across cultures and generations as superior or inferior to each other. While worship does involve culture and art, the offering of heart in glory to God, the Creator, must be at the core. This cannot statistically gathered or measured across time and culture. It is for the object of the worship to measure.

    I see this is where the Church fails today, sometimes without intent. Humanity so often supposes a value system with parameters that God does not use. This is seen in the result of the aforementioned consumerism found within worship today. If the object of our worship is God, than we must worship Him as He should be worshipped. Churches today seemed to be in cultural competition to see who is most artistic or most talented, and the value system used to determine superiority is one of human reasoning.

    I appreciated your example of returning to the Jewish culture of worship. Coincidently that most modern churches who strive for cultural and artistic excellence would shudder at this statement. I liked it. I prefer the modern worship of today and it fills my iPod. However, it is not present at my church. I have learned to appreciate the people who lead the worship at our small, modest church and know their offering to God is the first-fruits of their labor. They truly worship the God whom the know in a relationship. Culturally and artistically it could gain great strides, but in love for their Savior, it is great.

    Reply

  29. Posted by Brian Marbury on August 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    The articles were very rich in thought, giving lots to ponder. It is a refreshing reminder to consider, or reconsider, the five “tools for the worship sculptor.” Personally, of the five, I am most excited about spending more time studying the Scripture and strengthening my Biblical foundation on worship.

    Reply

  30. Posted by David Anderson on August 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    The chapters we had to read definately contained a lot of information and alot of ideas to ponder and process. Chapter two was really interesting to me. I liked how the idea was presented about the incarnation of Worship. I think it is important for us to conciously realize that worship has been a changing process throughout history and the way we do it is definately not superior to any other time or culture. I have had the experience of going to Africa may times and I dont doubt there worship at all but it is still easy for us to get back into the swing of things at home and lose track of that thought and focus on how we want worship to look.

    Reply

  31. Posted by Keri Prestridge on August 28, 2012 at 1:33 am

    My favorite take away from the chapters is that worship can happen anywhere and everywhere if our hearts are prepared and looking vertically. I love that I can testify that worship can be experienced while driving in the car, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, etc. God is not stiffled by our day-to-day tasks, but we miss the experience if our heart is not prepared and waiting to hear from the Lord.

    I think that teaching and communicating this truth to our congregations is imperative if we expect genuine worship to overflow into the daily lives of God’s people. It starts with living in the vertical relationship with the Father.

    Reply

  32. Posted by Cindy Mangum on August 28, 2012 at 2:04 am

    “Did anybody get it right?” I wholly agree with Dr. Woodward’s two points in the first chapter of the incarnation of worship – “Worship, in it’s purest sense, goes beyond human activity descriptors.” In our humanness, I believe that we will never perfect our worship of God until we are in His presence. That said, it should always be our goal to ‘perfect’ our worship for His glory, for His pleasure, and for His kingdom. Having been made in the image of God, I imagine that He created in us our need for artistry in our worship. I can only begin to imagine how glorious true, pure, Christ-filled worship will be when we are actually in the presence of the object of our worship! I agree with the statement by Dr. Woodward that stated “Christ-centered, biblically-informed worship” as being the only essential that must remain consistent across cultural domains. Through your posts, I already eagerly anticipate the expansion of my knowledge and views as it pertains to worship leadership. Coming into my studies with no prior Bible-college training, I look forward to “sculpting my worship ministry” through this class and your input.

    Reply

  33. Posted by Mark Taylor on August 28, 2012 at 4:37 am

    I am very intrigued with learning that worship is more than just an other worldy event. Although I enjoy that facet of it. I am very familiar with seeing the connections with artistry and worship but have not considered that worship can be reflected in so many other ways. as I was reading I did begin to think that the lessons were going towards encouraging a post modern type of belief that would make worship a relative thing. I’m still not convinced that it is not a relative type of experince. But I am looking forward to learning more.

    Reply

    • Mark tell me more regarding what you mean when you refer to worship being relative.

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark Taylor on September 9, 2012 at 1:52 am

        I was thinking in a sense of whats considered as worship to me, might not be considered worship to you. for instance, If I go outside every morning before I go to work and look at the moon and stars and thank God for waking me up, and taking care of me and my family throughout the night. I might consider that star gazing and moment of prayer as worship, where you might not. You may consider a choir rehearsal that focuses on learning a singing technique moreso than an actual song worship where I probably would not. Another example of why I think that worship might be relative or dependent upon a personal perception is lets say that your church has to have a business meeting over a topic that may have proponents on both sides of a heated topic. some might say that the discussions that are held in that meeting is a form of worship because of the purpose of the meeting, and others (including myself) might say that they couldn’t see how an act like that could be considered worship. The more I learn in this class, I’m beginning to think that even that could be a form of worship, if the purpose was to bring God glory. But in that case does the purpose have to be in the corporate heart or just the heart of the one that consciously does it as worship? With that, Do we have to be aware of Worship in order to be engaged in it?

  34. Posted by Nathan McQuary on August 28, 2012 at 4:48 am

    I really appreciated your thoughts in these chapters, Dr. Woodward. I particularly appreciated the way both articles challenged some of my ideas about worship. I’ve also really enjoyed reading all of the comments from my classmates. So many great thoughts! When looking at the Tools for Worship, I think it’s apparent that we get the Cultural and Aesthetic mechanisms down, but are much weaker in the other areas. Personally, I’d have to admit that I’m weakest in my historical understanding of worship. I’ve also really enjs! I look forward to learning and stretching my understanding of worship even more as we proceed.

    Reply

  35. Posted by Tyler Hennessee on September 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.)

    I believe in the same way Paul was aware of his surroundings and culture, we must do the same as worship leaders. Our goal should not be how to be the most culturally relevant, but if we are not reaching the lost, we are totally missing the mark. To me the key lied in chapter 2, where it talked about sincerity. If we our genuine in our relationship with the Lord and constantly aim to bring glory to God, it is visible. I know it is easier said then done with all of the cultural pressures, but that is where discernment through the Holy Spirit guides us. I loved both of these chapters and they really stirred some great thoughts!

    Reply

    • Posted by Angela Reed on September 24, 2012 at 3:13 am

      I agree, Tyler. I appreciate the comments about the culture. I think mostly because it is an issue in our church right now. Our church wants its identity to be so seeker friendly that it is losing its true identity into the culture. We should be relevant. We should “become like the Jew,” but our identity is in Christ. All of this should be for the sake of the gospel. If we aren’t sharing the gospel, then we’re just a country club with a steeple on our club house.

      Reply

  36. Posted by Andrew Bosco on September 8, 2012 at 4:59 am

    The whole “It” thing (my personal response to Him) makes sense to me, and as a result I tend to worship physically with no regard to those around me. Worship is our essence connecting with our Creator’s essense. As we physically age, get use to certain worship styles (i.e. music, lyrics), repeat Bible studies, etc, we feel the need for something fresh to become alive again and connect with Him. A form of worship mentioned in the blog was washing dishes. Admittedly I don’t connect with that experience. For me, worship is based on where my focus is, on God. Hence, as I now write this reply, when I think of reading the Bible, is that worship. I would have to say yes, if my focus is on Him. Obvisiously, when in church during the so-called praise and worship time, it’s easy to call that time worship because our focus is on Him. Therefore, some activities, like watching a sunset, walking on the beach, cascading over mountains (all His creation), I can see how those activities would be considered worship. Yet, washing dishes, my car, doing laundry, is hard for me to think along those same lines.

    Another point in the blog I liked was viewing non-Western styles also as worship. Although I may not understand the foreign language, or the beat of the drums, one can not but help to think of God, and then focus on Him. Your statement “relative vs revelation” is a good points. We can’t be one or the other, we need both, to be in the Spirit, connecting locally, and on point theologically in terms with our focus. And I agree no one culture has the corner on this issue. Domestically and internationally, I like to participate in worship services whether on vactionn or mision trips. We need to be careful not to go to the extreme in our worship, and see how Jesus worshipped in His day. The Incarnate of worship lived that example for us.

    Reply

  37. Posted by Angela Reed on September 24, 2012 at 3:08 am

    I’d like to make a comment about a quote in your paper that struck a cord with me:

    “Remember if we have worship that is only cultural, then it will be relevant without revelation. And if our worship is of a disembodied spiritual nature, then it might be doctrinally sound but without valid diagnosis and prescription for a dying culture.”

    As I read through the Six Views on Exploring the Worship Spectrum, I noticed that each worship style is affected by its culture. That is not necessarily a bad thing. We must be relevant, but I appreciate what you say here. In the argument against the emerging worship style, many of the contributors pointed out that our churches should not look like the culture it is in. We are not to be so relevant that we are no different than what is outside the doors. People won’t find purpose in that. However, we have the solution for the dying culture–the love and intimate relationship of Jesus Christ. We must be mindful of these things in our worship.

    Reply

  38. This blog has been very helpful in preparing for a more theologically, biblical approach to worship. The fact that we can began to break down how worship exists within the framework of both the Old and New Testament is key, especially in the church today when it is most crucial that we find a way to merge the biblical picture of our object of worship with what we do on a Sunday, weekday morning in quiet times and as a lifestyle in general. The incarnational sentiment is key to a full understanding of who we are. Thanks for sharing such heartfelt detailed material. The first chapter especially hit home for me, because as a staff/Ministry leader we often forget about the importance of all the aspects of worship that we can become participants within.

    Jason T.

    Reply

  39. Posted by Craig Marsh on December 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I think the first and foremost question posed in the paper is “What is the object of our worship?” I think if the object of our worship is Christ, then worship will be true. The forms and things we follow should ultimately hinge on Christ. And if he is truly the object of our worship then we will want to worship Him in the way that is pleasing and honoring to Him; we’ll be willing to seek out what he mean to really worship Him in spirit and in truth. I think too many times in an effort to be relevant or reverent we lose sight of our focus: Christ. We start to look at culture or trends and our vision of Christ gets blurred as our focus turns to other things. But if we focus on Him and put all our energy and effort to lifting Him up, everything else will just work out.

    Reply

  40. Posted by jean baptiste duvisien on September 5, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    In my opinion about the object of our worship? to me the answer I will give to this question reveals whether or not our worships contains the first and most essential ingredient to the kind of worship God is looking for. Our worship is right only when we worship God as He is described in the Bible. Remember God is eternal, God is all Knowing, God is all powerful, God is everywhere present, God is sovereign, God is unchanging and God is good.

    Reply

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