I work with many multi-generational churches that are striving to achieve unified worship. To achieve true unity in worship, there must be much love and self-sacrifice. This article, written by my friend, Paul Clark, Jr., former Director of Worship & Music Ministries for Tennessee Baptist Convention, sheds more light on the issue.
Pastor Justin Wainscott of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee is a serious student of Christian worship, a fine pastoral leader for the historic Jackson congregation, and a close personal friend. Justin is an example among, and for young evangelical pastors. I know him to be a hymn writer, a liturgist, a deep theological thinker, whose approach in ministry strikes a harmonious balance between historical sensitivity and appreciation for contextual application.
At a congregational gathering and teaching time last weekend Pastor Justin prayed these words in his prayer that began the evening, asking that the Spirit would speak into the worship life of this faith community. “Lord, may we practice deference above preference as we worship You together.” That may not be word for word, but the phrase, “deference over preference” stuck with me like glue. In multiple private conversations regarding worship issues I had heard Justin make this statement previously. We had been talking about the need for that spirit to take hold in worshiping congregations. In this setting where he called upon the Lord to grant this spirit among the people that he pastors I found it to be profoundly appropriate. In prayer form I was reminded that such a spirit would only be possible through a movement of the Holy Spirit among His people. Lord, may it be so.
Romans 12 is a rich revelation of God’s intention for our worship. From the Apostle Paul’s opening plea that indicates the core act of spiritual worship, which is to offer our bodies (whole selves) as living sacrifices, to the many verses dealing with how we treat one another, the chapter instructs in actions so needed in today’s context. I highly recommend music ministry leaders and pastors to find moments to preach, teach, and devote upon this passage. Genuine application in our gathered worship of the activities instructed in this chapter of scripture could be transforming. I think it appropriate to join Pastor Wainscott in praying the prayer for deference over preference as a direct means of combating obsessive stylistic issues that so often dominate the attention of today’s church goers. My experience has been that even when these stylistic considerations seem to have been “settled” they often lurk just under the surface, ready to erupt yet again at any opportune moment.
Imagine if worshipers consistently practiced just this one verse of Romans 12:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (vs. 10)
Many times changes made in church worship practices are done with thoughts of attracting those outside the congregation. In areas of the country where churches abound, in some cases with one on nearly every street corner, sadly these kinds of changes are often made with thoughts of building “our kingdom” more than “the Kingdom.” A competitive spirit can set in and congregations and their leaders may begin to strategize to win or just survive. Little else could be so counterproductive to the Kingdom, capital “K.” Imagine with me what it might look like if evangelical congregations engaged in consistent activity of trying to “outdo one another in showing honor.” Within a congregation comprised of persons of various ages, there would be high concern to be certain that worship practices served the need of others. Within the congregation, age groups would strive to serve others; teens serving senior saints, seniors serving children, boomers busters, millenials
gen Xers,” and so forth. All would be exercising a concern for those outside the immediate congregation. We would not only be practicing benevolence to the poor, but we would be seeking to show them honor. Imagine a prevalent spirit within your faith community where worshipers do not think of themselves individually or collectively more highly than they ought, but instead think with sober judgement, each according to the faith that God has assigned. (vs. 3)
In such a setting I see a truly attractional church! Not because of the “cool factor,” or the capital “T” Traditional factor, but because of the Jesus factor. This kind of a congregation, where worshipers exercise deference over preference, is one that I sure want to be a part of, and best of all, one that displays Christlikeness, recalling that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. (Matthew 20:28)
Be sure to check out Paul’s blog for more great posts.
If you are interested in learning more about Unified Worship, take a look at these posts.