Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus

A new song

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Well, my wife and I are officially 3 months into our new worship ministry endeavor, and for us, it’s been a great time of growth and stretching. Despite some early ministry challenges, we have gotten a lot of positive feedback from our new church about how they have seen corporate worship positively change. Our main prayer in this ministry is that worship brings people closer to God so that they will become more like Jesus and God will increase in their lives and the lives of those around them.

And while we have implemented some of our own ideas and ideas that we have borrowed from other churches, we continually must remind ourselves that we are just planting the seeds of ministry and watering. God is the one who brings the growth.

One of the challenges we have faced is one that I think all churches face, so I don’t think I’m speaking too far out of turn here. Everyone wants to comment on music style. Some people want all contemporary, some people want a K-LOVE station (music that is not all worship-based), some people think you’re introducing too many new songs to learn, and some people just want to break out the hymnals, turn to number 110 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God verses 1, 2 and 4 (why does verse 3 always get skipped?).

This debate will only end when Jesus returns, and hopefully by then, we will have forgotten all of our vain, earthly attempts to praise God (even from the artists that we like), and we will learn all new music from the Savior himself.

In fact, I think a point that we don’t often consider is that it is unbiblical not to embrace new songs and new styles of Biblical worship. Over and over, the Bible tells us not just to sing to the Lord, but to sing a new song (Ps 33:3Ps 96:1Ps 98:1, Ps 144:9, Is 42:10). The Bible also says that the Lord gives us new songs to sing (Ps 40:3) and that new songs are being sung to Jesus in Heaven (Rev 5:9).

Beyond whether or not we appreciate a new style of music or a new song, I think that the real intent of these passages is to say that if we are truly pursuing Jesus Christ, we can’t rely on our past works, deeds and worship to get by. When you get set in your ways with the same old songs and the same old attitudes toward worship, worshipping Christ becomes an unworthy, apathetic ritual. You might as well program a robot to go do the same thing in your place.

Or, if we discount methods of worship that don’t correspond to the types of music that I like or the artists that I listen to, then what we’re really worshipping is ourselves. I often laugh at a story that my wife once told of a pastor of a church that she went to that discounted modern worship music by saying they will only play Bach and Beethoven in Heaven. Well, I hate to tell him that we will be lining the birdcages in Heaven with Bach and Beethoven, and it’s not because of the style and quality of the music, but it’s because we are so limited in our thinking in our current state of mind that we can’t comprehend how we will worship God in Heaven.

While I don’t advocate change for the sake of change, the status quo is also the enemy of the church. Satan loves it when we are lazy and complacent and doing the same old same old, because it makes his job easier. Our pursuit of new ways to express our adoration of the works and character of Christ should also be evidence that we are running towards Christ at a speed which the enemy cannot catch us.

And even then, singing a new song doesn’t mean to chuck the hymnal into the trash can. Look at this new expression of number 467 How Great Thou Art:

How can you sing a new song today?

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