thESource: Several Christian music artists are releasing “worship” records alongside their “regular” records. Tell us, what’s the difference? Why the distinction?
Pastor: I wish I could tell you. But you’ll have to ask them.
Well OK, I guess I could give you a little of what I think the reason might be. This is what Russ Breimeier of ChristianityToday.com says about worship albums: “Like all of Christian music, worship is a diverse genre. Some albums are designed for use in congregational settings, others for seeker-friendly audiences or personal times of worship. Yet while these albums–and artists–approach things differently, they all ultimately serve the same purpose of glorifying our Creator.”
Do you agree? I suppose you’ll answer that one based on your definition of worship. Brainydictionary.com says worship is to honor, respect, to adore, to venerate, etc. Others define worship exclusively as ascribing to God supreme worth. All the above are true statements; nevertheless, they only describe half of what worship is as Lutherans define it. If worship were defined exclusively as ascribing honor to God, there would only be one “arrow” pointing upward in our worship. A Lutheran definition of worship also includes an “arrow” pointing down to us from God. That is, God bringing something to us. Lutheran worship, in a very basic sense, is an exchange of those arrows throughout the Divine Service an interaction initiated by God. Worship is not just our response to God, but God’s gift to us. Think about the worship service at your church and notice when it is God who is speaking to us and when it’s our turn to talk back … or sing.
And this brings me to the “worship albums.” Consider: Some music offered by contemporary Christian artists runs contrary to our Lutheran doctrine, yet offers the pastor, youth worker, or parent the wonderful opportunity to teach what we hold sacred as Lutheran Christians. Some music stays in the First Article arena–full of glory, exalting, etc., and never touches Calvary. A worship diet that consists of only First and Third Article music is literally leaving out the heart, the main part: The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! And of course, there are some songs and/or albums that hit all the main “staples” of the worship life (Invocation, Confession, Absolution, Hymn of Praise, etc.). Albeit most contemporary worship albums contain praise/first article type songs, they have their place in worship–daily worship or even the worship service setting.
In my opinion, there is no “worship album” (or hymnal for that matter) that can replace gathering in God’s house with fellow brothers and sisters around Word and Sacrament. Then, the worship service concludes with a blessing and out we go. Out to do what? Continue our worship! We go forth in peace, forgiven in Christ, living with trust and total reliance on the Savior for everything, and in everything praising and honoring His holy Name! How do you do that? As the Spirit guides and directs.
Now, what does a sanctified life look like? For me, based on my taste and love of music, my worship life is supplemented by various Christian artists who echo the anthem that runs through my heart as I’m running through the week–anxious to gather again in God’s house. Although the arrow is pointing down throughout the week with His constant provisions for daily life, preservation, Bible study and so forth, the arrow goes upward in prayer and thanksgiving and is often reflected in the words of a Christian artist or hymn writer.
Many contemporary Christian tunes, whether found on an album designated as “worship” or not, become (at least for me) outlets of the sanctified life–not the only outlet, but certainly a way in which I can continue to worship my Lord in my day-to-day life–singing praises to Him who called each of us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!
Soli Deo Gloria!–J.S. Bach