Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Medium Worship is the Message

Our home group has been going through the book of Colossians for the past couple of months, and there are some incredible themes throughout this short letter from Paul.

Last night, we were looking at the passage about putting off the "old" things, and clothing ourselves in the "new" (Colossians 3:5-17).

What stood out to me, as we worked through the passage, was how much it applies to worship, and particularly the number of times that Paul repeats the word "thankful" in describing what it means to "clothe ourselves" with the new.

It was also fascinating for me, as a worship leader, to see how much emphasis Paul also puts on the role that singing plays in disciple-making and spiritual growth.

We often separate the function of "teaching" from "singing". Worship is understood (or at least practiced) as the congregation's community-based expression of thankfulness, adoration, and love towards God. Teaching is also a part of worship, although not all the community participates in the same way.
("Listening" is as much participating as "speaking", after all. Just sayin'.)
But in one little verse (3:16), Paul unpacks an intriguing idea of how "teaching and admonishing" can occur in the gathered Body (church gathering, home group, etc.):
"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
  • as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through
    • psalms,
    • hymns,
    • and songs from the Spirit,
  • singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."
We all understand that worship is more than just singing; all of life is (or can be) acts of worship. We get that. It makes sense, and it avoids our tendency to compartmentalize our faith into neat little boxes.

But as we read Colossians 3:16, we find a very unique and profoundly important place for singing songs: as worship, as admonishing, as teaching, and as part of discipleship. Not just as a prelude for the teaching. According to Paul, the singing IS the teaching. Songs from the Psalms, songs (hymns) that we write, and also songs from the Spirit.

And to re-emphasize the heart-attitude of thankfulness in this passage one last time, Paul ends with a verse that many of us are very familiar with:
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)
This is how disciple-making takes place. Not the only way, of course, but a way that we need to take maximum advantage of. Repeat as necessary. As often as it takes.


  1. Brilliant! "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
    as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through
    and songs from the Spirit,
    singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."

    The "song of the Lord" and "singing a new song" were and to some extent are a real focus in my approach to worship. How to actualize it in today's context isn't easy. I was on staff at a small Baptist church for a couple years where "singing in the Spirit" or spontaneous singing was really the way I fell into the place of leadership. Unfortunately, it was not understood or appreciated equally by the members of the congregation and it caused discomfort, and eventually opposition. I do still feel strongly that it is an important aspect of worship and one that I'd enjoy delving into, but I've defaulted more to just kinda doing what's "expected".

    My heart (back when I felt freedom to express the song of the Lord) was that this was something for everyone regardless of musical ability. BUT many took it as something that I (and a few others) were capable of because of our musicality. Still a very real power and spiritual insights are available to us as we do what Paul is talking about in this passage.

  2. Thanks Rob. As a pastor I often wished we could just keep singing as I stepped to the pulpit to preach. God was speaking to people through their own voices. Why would I want to mess with that?
    Too many see the musical worship as a prelude to to the 'message'. My wonderful worship leading wife works as hard at 'message prep' with her songs as a preacher will with a sermon.