Rooted in the Past
ROOTED IN THE PAST
When we decide what form our Sunday meeting will take, we aren't starting in a historical vacuum. Projection, lighting systems, and sound amplification don't mean that everything from previous centuries is irrelevant or unhelpful. Although technology changes many things, it doesn't change the gospel we proclaim or our need to be humble.
How can we become more rooted in what God has done in the past?
We can start by opening our eyes. I didn't grow up singing classic hymns. To remedy that problem, I spent one summer singing my way through a hymnal in my devotions. I was shocked. Such truth, such profound theology, such poetic beauty, such passion! Where had these songs been? Sitting on the pages of hymnals everywhere. But in my arrogance I'd never opened one to learn them.
As grateful as I am to God for the outpouring of modern worship songs, I think the riches of hymnody far outweigh what we've produced in the last thirty years. They cover a broader range of topics, are more dense and theologically precise, and are often brilliantly crafted. And that's not a surprise. The hymns we sing today have been tested for centuries, casing the best ones to rise to the top.
There's richness for us as well in liturgical forms from the past. Christians through the ages have sought to articulate what's most important for Christians to hear and say when they meet. A repeated liturgy that's biblically based can help people rehearse and remember the story of redemption each time the church gathers. That's the reasoning behind a corporate confession of sin followed by an assurance of forgiveness through Christ's atoning death.
Throughout history, liturgies have helped regulate the theological diet of a congregation and protect them from the winds of errant doctrine that sweep through every generation. Good liturgies can also keep a church from conforming to the culture or compromising its faith. Following a church calendar enables a church to sound all the right notes in the symphony of redemption each year.
That doesn't mean we have to incorporate everything from different liturgical traditions. But we shouldn't completely ignore them either.
For some, the whole idea of repeated liturgies is frightening. But as I've said before, we all have a liturgy. It may be the liturgy of "never doing anything twice." If so, we may discover that rather than helping people hear the gospel, we're hindering them.
We share a common heritage with saints who've gone before us. Actually, it's stronger than that. When the church gathers, we aren't alone. We join with "the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23), made up of those whom Christ has redeemed from every age. Reusing hymns and liturgical forms that go back hundreds of years is one way of affirming that we follow in a long line of worshipers who have sought to bring glory to God.
--Bob Kauflin, WORSHIP MATTERS: LEADING OTHERS TO ENCOUNTER THE GREATNESS OF GOD. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008, pp. 189-190. ISBN-13: 978-1-58134-824-8. Highly recommended--this is a fantastic volume. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to unpacking Kauflin's thoughtful definition of a faithful worship leader. Here it is:
A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skillfully combining God's Word with music,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to proclaim the gospel,
to cherish God's presence,
and to live for God's glory. (p. 55)
Have a great week,
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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