Worship Night: Why, How, and When Again March 14, 2018
A few weeks back we invited the Westover Church family to the theater for an evening of worship. It was such a beautiful night for all of us, and it left us wanting more. Here are a few thoughts about what led up to it, how we planned it, and what’s next.
1) What did/do you hope to accomplish?
Westover Worship hopes to affect the redeemed unto beholding the beauty of Christ - the glory of God according to his Word; to stir a sensitivity within the hearts of Westover, in order to facilitate a community response anytime we gather.
This is what it means when you hear us say “We want Westover to be a singing church.” We want more than vocalizing. Indeed, we want a praying church, a reading church, a singing church, a worshipping, serving, giving, bearing, going, teaching, loving, sacrificing church; we want to develop mature followers of Christ, those who look like Christ.
2) How does the Worship Night accomplish that?
The Worship Night provides a different angle of what the Church gathers to do each Sunday: Worship Christ. We gather to worship every week with the church family, which is a gift of God (1 Cor. 12:7, 12-13, 18, 27-28).
However, Sundays can feel less like receiving a divine gift and more like a pain. We must battle against this feeling, for the church is the Bride of Christ, and very special to God. Whenever we gather the result should be the same, while the program of our gathering can vary. Variance may help heighten our awareness.
It’s like a father who loves baseball. He wants his son to love baseball. Every week they watch games on TV… All. Nine. Innings. The father is fixated on the mechanics of the game; the son grows restless watching from the couch. So badly does the father want his son to love it, he buys him a glove, a ball and bat, his favorite team’s jersey. Then, he takes his son to a game.
The father has taken a different approach to heighten his son’s awareness, but nothing about the game has changed. The glove and jersey aren’t intended to coerce him love baseball, but invites him to love, stirs his heart unto paying attention to the game. The son watches with his father with a new affection.
We want each time Westover gathers to produce the same result, even Sundays when things generally stay the same!
3) How did you choose the songs?
The goal of the night was that everyone sings. One rule we made was “no new songs.” The chosen songs supported the theme and dynamics of the evening, and were familiar enough that most could sing without lyrics.
The theme of the evening was Union with Christ, with the larger context being the beginning of Lent, the season in the church calendar when we identify with Christ on his way to the cross. We suffer alongside Christ - maybe by fasting - as He makes his way to suffer for us. Amazingly, the Son of God identifies with us! We are found in Him (Col. 3:3), and go with Him, as we would be in a car.
The dynamics of the evening, the order, the flow, or the Liturgy, was typical of Westover’s gatherings: God is Great and Holy, Christ is God, Christ’s gracious sacrifice on the cross was needed for our sins, Thank you for doing that God, You’re Great!
4) I noticed it was louder.
Yep. It was louder. :)
5) Why was there a sermon?
This is a simple question, but it is deep. There are a few verses that come to mind.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
This context of this passage is Paul teaching Timothy that he (and we) are to be different from the world (2:21); fleeing sin and chasing God (2:22-26); we are to be mind-and-soul strong when our culture is working against us (3:1-7); strong in Christ in ministry and when we’re persecuted (3:12-15; 4:1-5). “HOW PAUL!?! How can I do this?” Paul replies “With the scripture! It is God’s very breath! Breath it in and the Spirit will make you able.”
All Scripture is profitable for developing mature followers of Christ, which is Westover’s purpose. Our songs are based on scripture, and we often point out the scripture. We want to pray the Scripture. We want to hear the scripture.
6) But I came to worship, and reading scripture is not what I thought we were going to do.
I totally understand this, and I don’t want to mislead anyone. Corporate worship includes reading, preaching, praying, singing, Communion, baptism, etc. We do this according to the Scriptures, a pattern set by Paul (1 Cor. 15:12), whose scriptures were the OT and eyewitness accounts. We can also look at how others in scripture worshipped, like the Psalmists.
Check this out. Read these verses from Psalms. Notice the psalmist response and what he’s responding to.
“[The blessed man’s] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Ps. 1:2
“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Ps. 119:18
“Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” Ps. 119:24
“I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” Ps. 119:48
“Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.” Ps. 119:74
Hands-up, rejoicing, delighting, wondrous, love...all describe his view of the Law, or God’s Word. Furthermore, the psalmist is worshipping God for it! Notice, he’s not worshipping the Law. He sees this beautiful Word and pours out to worship God with his whole heart. I want that! I want that response to God’s revelation: Worship! We want that for Westover.
Paul compares the “sons of Israel” with Christians reading the old covenant and describes the hearts of the former as veiled, while the hearts of the latter “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of Glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:12-18). Wow! Transformation and beholding glory from reading the Bible.
7) What’s next?
We will do this again, and things like this. I believe we’ll do another one this year, and probably 3-4 in 2019. We loved the format, and will do it again. It would be fun to do a live recording of original arrangements or original songs during one of these. We hope to do different formats; maybe include Baptisms, reading through large sections of Scripture, taking communion together.