Finding the Right Balance in Corporate Worship

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

past present future
As members of the human race we are prone to extremes and as followers of Christ, we are not exempt from this human pitfall. Jesus dealt with this issue on a daily basis during his encounters with the religious leaders of that day. In Matthew 23:23 the Pharisees were so focused on tithing that they were neglecting all the other parts of the law of Moses. In verse 24 Jesus gives this indictment against them: "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." Tithing had replaced justice, mercy and faithfulness. It wasn't wrong that they were tithing--that was a requirement. What was wrong was that it had become an extreme and they lost sight of everything else. Extremism leads to blindness. 

This is an important message for the Church today, especially in the area of worship. There are two extremes that we must constantly guard against so that worship remains biblical and balanced. When we succumb to extremes in worship it ceases to be something that exalts and glorifies God and instead honors and glorifies us. These two extremes are: #1-abandoning worship styles, methods and music from the past and #2-avoiding styles, methods and music of the present day. We need them both and avoiding one or the other is "swallowing a camel while straining out a gnat." While one church may lean more towards one side or the other they must fully embrace the other side in order to stay balanced and healthy and guard against spiritual blindness. Many reading this are going to assume that this is an article chastising the older, hymn-loving crowd, but it is actually the opposite. While I am speaking to both sides, I want to encourage the younger crowd that tends to run away from the hymns and music from their parents generation to avoid what I see as extremism in popular worship.

In Joshua chapter 4 we read the account of Israel's crossing of the Jordan river into the Promised Land. The Lord commands the leaders from each of the twelve tribes to place a stone at the place where they crossed over as a monument to what the Lord did for them that day. Verse 24 says, "He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” It was extremely important for Israel on this momentous day to develop a dual focus in their worship of God. This was a day of new beginnings, a new horizon full of promise. This is what they looked forward to for over 40 years and now that they were here, they must keep their eyes focused on what still lay ahead. But, it was also important that they keep their eyes on where they had just come from so that they always remembered that God was the one who brought them there. The two extremes that they had to take care to avoid were blazing ahead and forgetting what God had done for them in the past and staying at the banks of the Jordan and forever looking back and failing to move forward. The past kept them anchored and the future kept them growing.

In today's culture we need an anchor in our worship. We need the hymns and the songs from our past because they remind us of timeless truths and how God was faithful to those who came before us. We must, however, take care that we don't stay at the monuments of the past because we can become stagnant and fail to move forward into what God has for us today and in the future. We also need the songs of a new generation because they empower us to embrace God's vision for the future. It encourages us that there are new blessings to come that are even greater than before, but we must not lose sight of our past because we too quickly forget what God has brought us through. Both of these are important and keep us balanced. Balanced worship guards against spiritual blindness and opens our eyes to see what God sees. This is the kind of worship that shows the world that "the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that they might always fear the Lord their God."

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