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Congregational Worship in the New Testament

by Bob Kauflin at Christianity.com

There’s no better place to begin a history of congregational song than the early church. Of course, the New Testament doesn’t offer much information on the topic. What did worship sound like in the first century? How long did it last? Who were the composers? No one knows. Still, two things are certain — God has excellent reasons for withholding such specifics, and there is much we can learn from what He has shown us.

First, the singing of the early church was scriptural. The hymn that Jesus and the disciples sang before going out to the Mount of Olives was most likely from the Hallel section of the Psalter (Psalms 115-118), typically sung after the Passover meal. Paul encouraged believers in Corinth, Colosse, and Ephesus to sing psalms. The lyrical songs on the lips of Simeon, Anna, Mary, and others had clear Old Testament themes running through them. A new age had dawned in the coming of the Messiah, but a strong link to the eternal truths of the Jewish Scriptures remained.

The songs of the early church were also focused on Jesus Christ. In his excellent book, Worship in the Early Church, Ralph Martin says, “The Christ-centered nature of Christian worship is one of the most clearly attested facts of the New Testament literature.” Almost all the New Testament hymns refer directly or indirectly to who Christ was or what He did. We have the songs of Mary, Zachariah, and others at the birth of Christ. The book of Revelation includes songs extolling the Lamb who was slain. Paul’s letters contain several unidentified quotations that focus on the Lord Jesus and are regarded by many as early Christian hymns (Philippians 2:6-11Romans 11:36Colossians 1:15-20;1Tim 3:16). These songs, produced and inspired by the Holy Spirit, paved the way for theological and doctrinal stands the church would take centuries later.

Another characteristic of New Testament corporate song is the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-19 clearly implies that the singing of the early Christians was an overflow of the Spirit at work in their hearts. Corporate worship was never a lifeless, routine, or ritualistic event for the New Testament church. That may be one reason Paul says that we are those who “worship by the Spirit of God” (Philippians 3:3). It may also explain why the unbeliever who came into the Corinthian gathering declared, “Surely God is among you!” (1Corinthians 14:25) Certainly, that which set apart the gatherings of the early Christians was the presence of Him who promised, “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Finally, congregational song in the New Testament was … congregational. We repeatedly find singing take place among people who had relationships, a shared joy, and a corporate purpose. “The thought that the Church at worship is an accidental convergence in one place of a number of isolated individuals who practice, in hermetically sealed compartments, their own private devotional exercises, is foreign to the New Testament picture” (Ralph Martin). In the age of mp3s, iPods, and headphones, it’s important to remember that worship songs are intended to be sung with others who “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5).

Bob Kauflin traveled with the Christian group GLAD for eight years as a songwriter and arranger before becoming a pastor with Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1985. He is now the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace, overseeing its music projects and teaching on congregational worship. He blogs at Worshipmatters.com and hosts the biennial WorshipGod Conference. He and his wife, Julie, have six children and an ever-growing number of grandchildren.

Should Worship Be Fun?


Loving and Worshiping the Lamb of God



This past week churches throughout the world remembered and celebrated what is at the heart of the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Songs, sermons, and liturgies reflected the fact that Jesus laid down his life as the Lamb of God, the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of all those who would trust in him, and three days later was raised from the dead.

It’s worth noting that in the post-resurrection scenes of Revelation, Jesus is still referred to as the Lamb. In fact, of the 34 times Jesus is called the Lamb in the New Testament, 29 are in the book of Revelation. It’s a striking and unusual choice. When an elder tells the apostle John that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Rev. 5:5), John turns and sees a Lamb. In commenting on this passage, J.P. Love says:

Go to: http://worshipmatters.com/2016/03/31/loving-and-worshiping-the-lamb-of-god/

What Happens When We Sing in Worship?

Bob Kauflin

Singing has been a major part of my life, but I don’t assume you share my background. To appreciate this message you don’t even have to enjoy singing. But if that’s where you’re at, remember that God has a passion for singing. “Oh sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord all the earth … tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-3; cf. Psalm 47:6).

The Bible contains over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing. We’re commanded twice in the New Testament to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Why does God command us not only to praise him, but to sing praises to him?

We can begin by realizing that God himself sings (Zephaniah 3:17). Jesus sang hymns with his disciples. Ephesians 5 tells us that one of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit is singing. So we worship a triune God who sings, and he wants us to be like him.

How does music relate to words?

Some Christians think music supersedes the word, both in its significance and effect. Others think that music undermines the word. But God himself wants them together. He gave us music to serve to word. How music does this is the theme of this message.

Three Ways Singing Serves the Word

1) Singing can help us remember words.

Read on: http://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/what-happens-when-we-sing-in-worship-11627945.html

Should Worship in Church Be Fun?

by Bob Kauflin

More than once I’ve heard Christians insist that worship should be fun, or act like they had a responsibility to prove that Christians knew how to “party” in church. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that connection, so I started thinking about the place of “fun” in worship, if one even exists. I’m going to address this question by answering it as I posed it, and then considering two other ways it might be phrased.

Should worship be fun? If we take the exhaustive testimony of Scripture, the answer would have to be a resounding NO. “Fun” wouldn’t characterize any of the scenes in the Bible where people encounter God together, at least not the zany, slap-happy, crazy, mindless kind of fun. We’re told to worship God with reverence and awe, for he is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29). To have “fun” one of our primary motives as we gather. Among other things our goals include remembering, rehearsing, and reveling in the gospel, magnifying God’s glory in Christ, spurring one another on to love and good deeds, presenting our petitions before God, and being strengthened by his Word and the communion of the saints. Celebration will certainly be included in that, but there are also times when worshipping God will produce awe, tears of repentance, or a profound silence.

But let me rephrase the question. Can worship be fun? It depends on how we define “fun.”

If “fun” is defined as a lighthearted activity with no purpose or meaning, strictly meant to amuse, then the answer to the question, “Can worship be fun?” must surely be no. When we worship God together, we are not looking to be merely entertained or momentarily distracted from the cares of this world. We’re not seeking to promote a Christian alternative to Saturday Night Live (Sunday Morning Live?). Diversion is not the same as worship. Our joy and gladness are meant to be grounded in and informed by God’s character, nature, and acts.

But when I looked up “fun” on my desktop dictionary, the first meaning was “enjoyable.” If we’re asking, “Can worshipping God be enjoyable?” then surely the answer must be yes. That doesn’t mean Isaiah 6 has no relevance to our meeting together to engage with God. But Isaiah 6 isn’t the only chapter in Scripture that describes how we are to relate to God. There have been countless times that I’ve been leading or singing as part of the congregation and thought, “I love doing this!” Joy floods my soul, and I could legitimately say I’m having “fun!”

It may be similar to what the Israelites experienced in 2 Chronicles 30. They so enjoyed celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days that Hezekiah and the people spontaneously decided to keep the feast for another seven days (2 Chron. 30:22-23)! That must have been some celebration! On another occasion, Ezra and the priests told the people not to mourn or weep because that day was “holy to the Lord” and that the joy of the Lord was their strength (Neh. 8:9-10). Holiness and joy aren’t necessarily exclusive.

When my children were growing up, I wanted them to look forward to singing worship songs, and not see a relationship with God as something that was only serious, sober, and solemn. After all, singing to God is meant to be pleasant (Ps. 135:3Ps. 147:1). David danced before the Lord with all his might as he brought the ark back to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:12-15). The Psalmist was glad when they said to him, “Let us go up to the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1). So yes, when defined as enjoyment and not seen as the only aspect of our time together on Sunday morning, worshipping God can be very“fun.” People shouldn’t find our meetings dull or dour. Smiles and even laughter should abound as we consider how kind, merciful, and gracious God has been to us (Ps. 126:2)!

But let me rephrase the question one more time, to broaden the application.

“Should our fun be worship?” Well now the answer must surely be “yes.” We’re told in 1 Cor. 10:31 that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we’re to do it all for the glory of God. Rather than focusing on making our corporate worship fun, maybe we should spend more time making sure our “fun” is worship.

Here are some questions that can lead us in that direction.

  • Do I choose a fun activity because there’s nothing else to do, or because I believe it will in some way cause me to grow in my love for God?
  • When I play games, participate in sports, or pursue a hobby, does my attitude demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit?
  • When I go out with a group of friends, am I seeking just to have fun, or to glorify God through encouraging them, challenging sin, and serving them?
  • Do the activities I consider “fun” increase my affections for God or dilute them?
  • Do I view my free time as belonging to me or to God?

The fun this world offers is unsatisfying, deceptive, and temporary. Let’s not idolize it or imagine it’s God offers nothing better. As Christians, we can enjoy fun activities without believing they’re the root of our happiness. The joy we experience when in worshiping God together is greater than the world will ever know, because the root is knowing our sins have been paid for through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we worship a risen and reigning Savior.

Our joy is ultimately in God himself. We’d be fools to look for it anywhere else.

For more on this topic, download the following messages from the Sovereign Grace Ministries website:
Worshiping God as the Source of All Secondary Joys by Randy Alcorn
A Biblical Understanding of Leisure by Jeff Purswell

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Can We Sing Too Much About the Cross?

Article by Bob Kauflin

Can We Sing Too Much About the Cross?

Years ago I talked with a respected Christian leader about the need for our songs to refer more often and concretely to the cross of Christ. His response caught me off guard. “I think Matt Redman has written enough songs about the cross for all of us.”

Eventually I heard he had changed his mind. But he’s not the only person I’ve met who has struggled with how many “cross songs” are being written and sung today. In fact, you might agree with a prominent worship leader I recently saw quoted as saying, “We sing about the cross too much in church.”

Why would someone say that? There could be a number of reasons. You might think singing about the cross all the time is introspective and even depressing. You could offer that the cross is simply one of many biblical themes we can sing about when we gather. Some people have suggested that songs about the cross have the effect of minimizing the significance of the resurrection. You might be able to add to this list.

The Center of Our Praise

Continue reading: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/can-we-sing-too-much-about-the-cross