Every week, worship leaders gather in a room filled with people to do something. What is it? Why do we gather? What is corporate worship supposed to look like? What is it supposed to accomplish? Biblically speaking, what should we do while gathered? Which elements should we include in our services? In what order? And what long term outcomes are we trying to accomplish through our times of corporate worship? In this month’s episode, I talk with Matt Merker about his new book called “Corporate Worship“. Enjoy and please share with a friend!
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Alex Enfiedjian 00:09 Hello, friend, and welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast, a monthly podcast for worship leaders and worship team members. My name is Alex Enfiedjian, and I am your host. And I’m thrilled to spend the next 45 minutes or so learning, growing, developing in our knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a good and godly worship leader. Now, if you’ve been listening to the podcast for any length of time, and you’ve benefited from it, if you’ve been helped by it, I’m gonna ask you for a small favor, would you just take one second, and send this podcast to a friend in ministry who you think should know about it, there’s a lot of people out there in the university who don’t know about this podcast. But if you’ve been helped by it, and you know someone who would be helped by it, do them a favor and do me a favor and send them a link and just let them know, Hey, I really think you should listen to this podcast, you can do that, that’d be awesome. Or you can leave me a review on iTunes, that also helps get the word out. Or you could do both. And if you do both, you’re very special. And I love you just kidding. All of you are very special. And I love you all. And I’m grateful to do this with you guys. So thanks for helping me out in those ways. Appreciate it. In today’s episode, I’m going to be talking with Matt mercker. about corporate worship, Matt just wrote a book called corporate worship put out by nine marks ministries, I read it, it’s amazing. It’s phenomenal. You know, we gather as worship leaders, you have a church, you gather that group of people into a room every week, unless you’re still streaming only online. But in normal seasons, you gather a group of people into a room and you do something called corporate worship or body life worship or gathered worship. What is this assembly for? What is the purpose of this assembly? And how should we go about structuring the service? And what elements should we include? And how do we get the body to minister to one another during those times? And what does that accomplish over the long haul when we do that each week, and so that’s what we’re talking about. In this month’s episode, I want to give a little caveat, Matt and I recorded this conversation at the height of the pandemic last year, when all the kids went back to school, and we’re streaming their classes through zoom. And so there are a few moments where the internet connection is bad. And a word or two gets dropped out due to internet issues. But I think you’ll be able to decipher what was being said. And I think overall, you will be blessed by this episode. I just want to also plug a couple other episodes that have similar topics. So if you like this one, I would encourage you to also check out recovering the Lost Art of congregational singing with Keith Getty, and using our church services to form people’s souls with Zach Hicks. And I’ve put links to both of those episodes in the show notes. Okay, that’s enough blabbing. Let’s get into this great conversation about corporate worship with Matt mercker. Hey, everybody, I am here with Matt mercker, songwriter, worship leader, theologian and now published author, Matt, thanks for being on the podcast today. Great to be here. Thank you. Yes. And congratulations on the new book. That’s amazing.
Matt Merker 02:58 Thanks, praise God. It’s a short book. Yeah, this took a long time to write. And I hope it is slightly useful to people.
Alex Enfiedjian 03:04 It’s very useful. I read it, you gave me an advanced copy. I loved it. I recommended it to everyone. I passed it off to one of my younger worship leaders and said, definitely read this book. So the book is all about congregational worship or corporate worship. And it’s interesting because you started out the first three chapters with the church, not about worship, not about songs, not about music, just like the church. So why did you take that approach to a book about worship?
Matt Merker 03:29 Yeah, that’s the whole purpose of the book is I don’t think enough evangelicals understand what a church is. I think we assumed church. I think we take it for granted. I think we haven’t done enough theological reflection on the reality that God has called us together to gather as his people as an assembled congregation. I have to put in there normally. Normally, that is what a church is. It is a group of covenanted believers, baptized believers who gather now we’re talking right now in this season of the Coronavirus. And so this is an abnormal time when some churches have been unable to gather or unable to gather in the same way or the same place that they’re accustomed to. But there’s a theological reality that God assembles us as His people, to represent him in this world, to do one another good to be the temple of His Holy Spirit. And so that reality about who we are as God’s covenant people, that helps us to understand what is going on during the quote unquote, worship service. We have to understand what a church is. So that’s why I started there.
Alex Enfiedjian 04:39 Yeah, that’s good. And in the book, you say who we are shapes our gatherings and then our gatherings shape who we are. What would you say is the biblical vision for corporate worship? Now you were in Mark Devers church for nine marks of a healthy church. It is a very healthy, vibrant congregation, obviously that informed a lot of what you believe corporate Worship should be, but like what is a biblical vision for corporate worship?
Matt Merker 05:04 It’s very simple. When you look at the Bible, when you look at first Corinthians 11 1213, and 14, the longest section in the New Testament on the Lord’s Day gathering, we gather to exalt God as his covenant people who is saved through Christ and to edify one another. So the Corinthians are arguing about spiritual gifts and who’s got the flashier gifts, Paul says, No, the point is to build one another up. Some of you have a hymn, some of you want to speak in tongues, some of you have an interpretation, he goes through that list of things. He says, Let all be done in decency in order let it all be done for the building up of the body. So the vision is Colossians 316. That we sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness, our hearts to God, that’s the vertical expression of praise to God for what he’s done. But this also involves, as Paul goes on to say, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom as the word of Christ dwells in you richly. And so as we are expressing our praise to God glorifying him for who he is, for what he’s done for us in Christ, we are also building one another up by His Word. And so I am very unoriginal in this, I just follow the Protestant reformers and the Westminster divines, who essentially said that when we gather we are to read the word, and pray the word and sing the word and preach the word and see the word as it is depicted in the pictures of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That’s, that’s the material that makes up a Christian gathering.
Alex Enfiedjian 06:40 The source material, sorry, you kind of like glitched out at the end there. But yeah, so the word is the source material, and everything should be word centric. But I mean, just kind of paint a picture of what does it feel like to be, you know, at Mark Devers search when everyone’s singing their guts out and you know, worshiping with passion, kind of describe that. And then also, when you say that, like corporate worship, the gathering of God’s people is for the mutual edification, obviously, the glorification of God, but the mutual edification of one another. It makes me think about like, Well, okay, I’m in a church with a sanctuary that sees 2200 people, like, how do those people mutually encourage one another, like, what do large churches do to have corporate meaningful exchanges? I know there’s two questions there, but stab at whatever you want to.
Matt Merker 07:26 Yeah, no, you’re asking all the right questions. That’s great. And Capitol Hill Baptist Church, where I was a member for a decade is a large church. It’s got a membership of around 950 people. And so when God gathers his people there on the Lord’s day morning, it feels what I think very similar to churches of all different cultures, and musical styles, and even theological distinctives, all true gospel preaching churches through the ages. I think it would feel very similar to a 19th century baptist church or Presbyterian Church, in that the primary focus is God speaking to us through His Word. There’s a art and gravity that comes from hearing His word read, substantial portions of Scripture would be read, and the and the people would listen, or they would read along corporately, or responsively. That’s one way of getting to your question of how we edify one another. If you’ve got 2200 people in a room, and they all read scripture together, or one side read scripture while the other listens, and then they respond or a leader reads and they respond. Then you are articulating God’s Word in surround sound and you’re hearing it in surround sound you’re hearing 50 or 500. Other people who believe in affirm this same word, reading it to you, it’s coming into your ears, and God’s Holy Spirit is at work in and through the word that he inspired, to do us good and to comfort us with God’s promises. So you would hear the word read at chpc. as so many churches around the world, you would hear substantial prayers and you would pray a long as you’re led in a prayer of praise or confession or Thanksgiving prayers that are focused, that are rich with biblical language and biblical themes. You would hear congregational singing, as we try to obey Colossians 316. So you would hear songs that are arranged so that the congregation finds them intuitive to follow and sing, they might be short, they might be long, they might be old, they might be new. They might be relatively hip, they might be relatively unhip. They might be from the African American Heritage hymnal they might be from the Baptist hymnal they might be from Isaac Watts, they might be a song that I’ve tried to write or whoever. But the consistent theme is that the congregation sings along and so as you’re singing, you’re also being sung to tribes that honor and obey what it says in Ephesians 519, addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, which again gets to your question. That’s how we edify one another when we think we’re singing an audience that is multifaceted. primary aim is is God. But we’re also singing to one another and in a sense, because we’re singing, either the words of Scripture or the ideas of Scripture, and paraphrase in English poetry. If you’re an English speaking church, then in a sense, God is singing to us and in and through us, if we’re singing the things that he has inspired in His Word. So God is the one who is at work bringing about his own glorification. And the edification of the body. Mm hmm.
Alex Enfiedjian 10:31 Yeah, so good. Now, what are some practical ways that worship leaders can increase participation among the body? Hey, we’ll get back to the episode in just a second. But I wanted to let you know about four brand new video courses that I’ve created just for you. These courses are designed specifically to help you improve important aspects of your ministry, I have a course on team building, how to build healthy, happy, high functioning, vibrant teams. There’s a course on set building how to build epic, engaging God centered moving passionate sets worship sets, I have an increasing congregational engagement course like how to see more participation from your church during times of worship. And then I have a worship leader Foundation’s course to teach you the biblical roles, goals and tool of a worship leader. And the prices are incredibly affordable, ranging from just $10 to $49. Or you can get the entire bundle for $79. That’s four courses for $79. If you enter the promo code, WM t, podcast, W, MT podcast at checkout, that’ll get you all four courses for just $79. And that’s something that your church should be paying for. Now, if you lead worship in a developing country or a third world country and your church or you cannot afford the courses, I have a full scholarship available for you, you can click on the scholarship link at the top of the courses page. So just fill out the form I will gladly gift you the courses for free. But if you’re buying the courses, they come with a full money back guarantee. So you can purchase with confidence knowing that if you don’t love it for any reason at all, you can get your money back, you guys can check all the courses out at worship ministry training, comm slash courses, worship ministry training, comm slash courses. And if you do by us, W mt podcast for 25% off, check it out. The links are in the show notes. And now let’s get back into the episode. What are some practical ways that worship leaders can increase participation among the body like in a service gathered worship? You gave some examples like one side of the room reads to the other side of the room or one side of the room sings to the other side of the room or we listen to someone leading us into corporate prayer and we all say amen. At the same time or there’s responsive readings. What are other ways that churches can engage the body to speak the truth to one another and build each other up? practice? Yeah,
Matt Merker 12:54 great question. Love the question. I encourage churches to when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Obviously, different churches in different denominations have slightly different nuances on how they understand and practice the Lord’s Supper. But it is meant to be a family meal. It is meant to be something that unites the congregation as we see in First Corinthians 11, Paul says you have to wait until you’re all there to be able to take it together. So I think even in the way and this gets into issues of prudence but in the way that the elements are perhaps handed out or, or the timing in which they’re taken, making sure to emphasize that this is something a fellowship meal that we’re all sharing together. So I phbc and at many other churches, everyone will take the bread or take the cup, but they’ll wait to consume it until they can all do so at the exact same time. Or they’re all singing a song together while they’re waiting or while they’re coming up or while the elements are being passed out. So do whatever you can to make the Lord separate, feel communal, if it really is communion with God and with one another. When it comes to congregational singing, I strongly encourage song leaders who’s arranging the songs with the whole congregation in mind songs are a teaching tool. So pick songs that have brilliant and vibrant truths about God set to poetry that is unforgettable that is meaningful, that stirs your heart. And that set to tunes and melodies that soar that a whole congregation can sing old and and young people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, different musical tastes. It may not be everyone’s favorite style. There’s there’s a whole conversation we could have about all that. But try to find a musical center so that the music unites the church, rather than divides it and teach people that the purpose of the song is not to have your own preferences met. It’s not to sing your music you can favorite music. six days a week in your headphones when we gather as God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Our singing is an expression of the Unity we have in Christ. And so you want to arrange the songs and To them in a way that promotes that just makes it easy for people to follow along.
Alex Enfiedjian 15:04 Yeah, that’s so good. So that’s really helpful. So the gathering is the time when we glorify God and edify one another, and right now because of Coronavirus. We are all separated from each other. And you say in your book that meeting isn’t something churches do a meeting is what the church is right now, a lot of churches aren’t meeting and they’re doing online church, and they’re trying to figure out how to mutually edify one another in an online format. And so my question, Matt is like, has the church cease to be the church if it is only able to gather online? And should we not view gathering online as a viable form of corporate worship? And how has this pandemic affected your theology of gathered worship? You can stab at any one of those questions that you want.
Matt Merker 15:47 Yeah, thanks. Those are great questions. I think gathering is of the essence of a church. I think a church is always more than a gather. It’s not less than a gathering. So the church gathers on the Lord’s Day, normally, and then it scatters. And then as members of that church, Paul says, We are members of Christ’s body and his body does have a regular expression. If you’re if you’re wanting to think through this, this whole concept of church membership, I think it can be helpful to look at places like Matthew 18, to talk about church discipline, being the responsibility of the gathered church, at least the final step of it, or Hebrews 13, when God tells the leaders of the church that they have to give a count to those under their care to God for how they’ve shepherded? Well, you have to know who those people are, there’s a defined set of relationships. You don’t have to call it church membership. But the notion that there is a particular group of people that have agreed together in some mechanism in some way, we are a church, if necessary, in order to obeyed those biblical commands, I would argue, so the members of that church don’t just meet on Sunday, they go on, and they have lives throughout the week, where they’re representing Christ and His kingdom more broadly. But they’re also representing their local church, whether you’re a mom, whether you’re a mechanic, whether you’re a lawyer, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing throughout the week. So I think in an unusual time of pandemic, if leavers cannot gather at all, I am willing to say, that is an unusual season in which I don’t know that you could start a new church. I mean, maybe you could have a sort of online covenanting service. But I don’t think you can take the Lord’s Supper online. Again, normally, the church is the new covenant people of God, who participate in the sign and seal of the New Covenant, I should say, sign and seals baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Now, taking that sort of weird scenario of starting a new church during pandemic off the table, what if a church has already been established? Five years ago, 50 years ago, of course, that church could can use the internet to edify one another, you can put sermons online, you can put out music and have people sing along to it, you can do lots of edifying things online, I would not recommend calling it a church service. I would not recommend calling it corporate worship. You could call it distributed worship, you can call it scattered individual worship, that we’re all kind of participating in at the same time synchronous worse, I mean, you can come up with all these silly terms, you know, so I would encourage churches to do edifying things, although I like the example of churches who have done online stuff, but they’ve made it feel less like a normal Sunday service, because they want the Sunday service to be its own thing. So let’s say we’re going to do a prayer meeting. We’ll sing a song, we’ll we’ll take prayer points. They may even have a devotional from Scripture. But this is not a normal church service. I think that’s helpful. That gets down to prudence that requires wisdom. There’s no sort of specific playbook for this in the Bible.
Alex Enfiedjian 19:00 Yeah. So I mean, that’s really interesting, because I’ve been thinking a lot about online church and a lot about like, can people be reached with the gospel through the internet? And if they are reached with the gospel, can they be discipled? through the internet through things like an email sequence? And through things like video courses, or a live discipleship class online? Like, yeah, are those things viable forms of building up the body of Christ? You know, the leaders are equipping the saints as they are scattered throughout their area. And can you assimilate new people into your church during this time, which we’re seeing happen as like people are on Facebook, and all the churches are now on Facebook. And so these people get saved by watching a live stream that they wouldn’t have, you know, gone into a building for and it’s like, I’m really wrestling with some of that stuff. And I don’t really have a question per se unless you feel like speaking into what I’m wrestling with.
Matt Merker 19:56 Well see, this is why ecclesiology the doctrine of the local Churches so helpful for these things. Because yes, you can do nearly all of those things over the internet, you can teach people, the Bible, you can disciple them, you can encourage them, you can pray with them. But I would suggest you can’t baptize them. And I think the covenant sign of baptism is given to God’s covenant people, the church. And so, I think, when you understand what baptism is, it is a pledge of belonging to Christ. It is a sign of union with Christ in His death and resurrection of being washed by him. It’s, it’s a sign of association with Christ. Well, who are the people that are associated with Christ who are authorized to bear his name? It’s the local church. And I would argue that the Lord’s Supper is the the domain of the local church as well. And so that’s where I would say, certainly, you know, someone gets saved. Praise God. Yes, use Facebook evangelistically. Yes, do all these things. But there’s got to be a way to gather the church with water and baptize folks, but you can have someone be a member of your join your church pending their baptism, there’s a membrane. Yeah. And I recognize there’s different theological traditions and understanding on this. This is how I put the scripture together theologically understand what baptism is. But I think that’s why again, it’s important for evangelicalism to reflect on the church, you have to understand how baptism and the Lord’s Supper relate to what it means to be associated with Christ’s people, the church, and then that helps you flesh out some of these questions that none of us have ever had to really wrestle within our lifetime.
Alex Enfiedjian 21:49 Right, right. Yeah, it’s such a unique period. And it’s, and I think God is doing a refining work in the church. And through this time, he’s teaching us new things. And it’s a beautiful season, I believe, even though it’s been difficult for many people, I’m really thankful for it, personally. So yeah, I’d love to talk a little bit about service flow, you have a lot of worship leaders listening, they plan services every week. And in the book, you give out your ideal service kind of flow, or what you think is a really helpful, healthy, wise model for service. One thing that you said in the book was modern worship services unintentionally divide the service into songs, and then the word creating a dichotomy of which part is actually worship. I love that. I’ve seen that in my own church, where when I first got here, the pastor’s would say, Are you ready to worship? And they just meant, are you ready to listen to some songs? And so anyway, so why don’t you share a better service structure? At least in your opinion? What’s the better model than songs up front sermon in the middle song at the end?
Matt Merker 22:52 Yeah, great question. I mean, every church has an order or a liturgy, if you want to call it that I in the book, I talked about literally cific order of service that scripture calls us to follow, although I think we see patterns and themes. And so I think, when you’re deciding what order to do things in, first off, you have to recognize that the order matters, because the relationship of those things and the kind of overall story that they’re telling will, over time, teach and disciple your people. So it matters, but it’s not ultimate, you know, what’s ultimate is that you’re preaching the word and that truth is being communicated. Through the songs through the prayers through the readings. If you get the order wrong, it’s an it’s not helpful. It’s not ideal. But the key matters, or more than line in which it’s arranged. But still, I think it’s really helpful to look at our answer theological ancestors and see what they understood. And you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. So a book like reformation worship, edited by Jonathan Gibson, and Mark earned gay is really helpful because it just gives you 14 or 16 liturgies from booth, sir, and Calvin, and Luther and the length and you can see there’s differences. And those are interesting, but there’s a lot of similarities. They often start with a call to worship. So that God’s speaking to us is what begins he summons the meeting, his word opens things up, that I think it’s hugely symbolic. I think that’s really powerful. God speaks to us and addresses us from his word before we respond to him or a lot of a lot of people use the phrase revelation and then response. I think it’s really helpful. I think you want to have the various pieces arranged in a way that has a flow or, or or a story. A very common one would be to first consider God and His character that can be done through a song of praise and be done through a scripture reading that could be done through using a creed as a form of teaching the word or the Lord’s Prayer. Some way of looking at Halloween, God’s name, often the place to go Laughter that is confession of our sin because then we turn and consider who we are. Again, that’s something you can do in prayer through scripture through song all the above. Oftentimes after confessing our sin, our hearts are then primed to be reminded of the good news of Jesus Christ, His person, his work, how he’s come to offer grace to sinners. So God has welcomed us, he’s spoken to us by His word, we have reckoned with who God is, as a whole, our holy creator and judge, we’ve confessed our sin to him. Now we’ve been reminded of the grace that’s in Christ, which prepares us now to to learn how to live and to be addressed by his words, think that this sermon, slash kind of the offering comes here as a way of Okay, now we are going to open ourselves to God’s word, I firmly believe in the third use of the law, that scripture doesn’t just, you know, tell us what God has done for us. But it now tells us how we live in light of that as God by His Spirit empowers us to obey Him and and to follow Christ as our Lord. And so when it’s appropriate, I think, to respond to the preached word with either a song or a prayer or both. That in a sense, sum up the theme of the sermon, remind us of God’s grace in Christ and commission us and send us out a benediction that can help with that. So again, there’s nothing new there. This is all very vanilla stuff. It’s not slick, it’s not innovative. It’s just seems to be wise, based on what lots of Christians smarter than us have come up with over the years. And I don’t feel the need to try to reinvent what they’ve done.
Alex Enfiedjian 26:28 Right? And I think, you know, you’re talking to people who, like they were handed this ministry and all they’ve ever known is like, I just pick four songs that I like, and then I get off the stage, you know, and you’re saying, No, we can do much better than that in terms of formative worship. As we gather each week, our service, and our liturgy form people through what we do and through how we talk about it. Now, some people aren’t in a place where they can actually change the order of their churches service there, they don’t have that authority. But I do think, personally, like my church does do for better or worse, we do like a call to worship, three or four songs up front, a greeting time, announcements, and then an offering song and a sermon and closing song. That’s our that’s our service, I do think you can still wisely talk about each element to help people understand what they’re doing. That’s what I try to do is like, I can’t tell my pastor, hey, we’re going to try this more broken up version of service flow, like no, we’re gonna, we’re gonna just talk about, hey, church, we’re going to, we’re going to, you know, worship through singing, or we’re going to worship as we give to the Lord’s work in the world. It’s an act. It’s an act of obedience. Or, as we pray before the sermon like, Lord, we submit our minds in our hearts to you as we listen to the Word of God preach, this is our act of worship, change us, Lord. Like I think if you if you know what you’re doing, and you talk about it, I think you can still accomplish a similar result, maybe not as effectively as the model that you lay out in your book.
Matt Merker 27:56 No, I think you’re exactly right. And I think what you want to be doing in those little remarks is taking the theme of the service, which will usually be the point of the text that’s being preached, and weave that in. So let’s say the theme is God’s grace. Well, then you talk about how this song helps us understand what God’s grace is, or how we’re undeserving of His grace, or how he freely gives us grace, or how his grace is a greater gift than we could have ever imagined. You know, now we’re going to pray to our gracious God, because God has been gracious with us, we’re now generous in our giving. Yeah. As we now turn to the word, we’re reminded that even hearing God’s word is an act of God’s grace to it so so that when people leave, and they they ask their kids, their nine year old, what was church about? The kid just says, oh, is about God’s grace, all the signs were about grace and the prayers were focused on grace. That’s just helpful for people. Yeah. So I agree with what you’re saying. I love the model that you just described, I think,
Alex Enfiedjian 28:53 yeah, yeah. And it has less to do with the model and more to do with being intentional with our language, you know? Yeah. So but I do agree that the model can help or hinder the clarity of the message. So
Matt Merker 29:06 here’s the thing too good. Sometimes a more contemporary minded churches, prayer and reading the Word, get left down a little bit, or they kind of serve more like hinges or transitions. They don’t feel like an event. ligand Duncan has said, and I think he’s quoting somebody else. I can’t remember who he quotes, but I’ve gotten it from from Ligon make the reading of Scripture, any event. Give it time. Let it be done with excellence that’s fitting for how important it is. Same thing with prayer. Prayer is not God. We think that now we’ve just we’ve sung the songs to you. And so you’re so great. You’re so awesome. And now as we get ready to hear the sermon, we thank you so much, amen. And I mean, no sacrilege by sort of summing that up, I assume those prayers are sincere, they’re true. But I think there’s an opportunity to spend more time in prayer, developing ideas and themes so that people can Truly experienced that as a meaningful time of coming before the Lord who hears our prayers?
Alex Enfiedjian 30:05 Yeah, it’s so good. As you wrap your book up, you move in some people’s minds finally to the singing, right? The Singing part and yeah, chapters on singing. I would love for you to just share your heart with us about the congregational singing experience, you say singing is part of each member’s ministry to the whole. And when you join a church, you join a choir. So talk to us about congregational singing
Matt Merker 30:31 is such a glorious gift. And your congregation, everyone has been given this job to do by Jesus. And so you want to equip them for that job. You don’t want to make the music challenging for them to sing by making it too complicated or making it so loud, that they can’t hear themselves. And that happens in traditional churches with organ an orchestra that how does a contemporary church with a rock band, so it’s not based on style, I really feel that with more classical sounding, or with more modern sounding instrumentation and style, you can have robust, congregational singing that is Christ exalting. And that’s what we want. So part of that just teaching people that this is a duty end of the line, this is a ministry God gives you there’s going to be someone in church that needs to be encouraged through the songs. And they won’t be encouraged in the way that God calls them to be encouraged if you don’t sing it. So in that sense, you’re singing not only for your own good because singing, it soothes and feeds our souls, you’re singing for the good of the whole. So you’re coming not as a consumer, not as a concert goer, you’re coming as a producer as part of the thing that’s making it happen. That’s why I say you’re joining the choir. I also like to think of congregational singing like a seminary, we’re all simultaneously the professors and the students because these doctrines are reverberating from our lips and our tongues. And we all know when you sing something, you remember it better. And so you may not remember many of the exact points or exact words of your pastor sermons every year, although those sermons boast that truth is getting deep into you. But you’re gonna remember a lot of the songs that you sing, and you’re gonna be able to repeat that back, you’re gonna be able to sing that with your kids, and you’re in the car at bedtime. And so singing is a way that we grow in loving God for who he is, and knowing truth about him.
Alex Enfiedjian 32:24 Yeah, it’s so good. And one of the things you say in the book, and we won’t get into all of them, because you give a whole bunch of ideas for how song leaders or worship leaders can help the congregation sing better. One of them is just being really picky with the kind of songs we sing you, you say we are like a museum curator, and we have a limited wall space in our museum. So we can’t just hang everything we like we have to be extra picky about what we hang on our wall, meaning we have to be picky about the songs that we sing. I would ask you this question. And I asked from personal experience because I recently had a team member leave our church because we sing songs from Hillsong and elevation. I’m very picky about the individual songs, I’m very picky about the lyrics and the melodies, and the doctrine in the songs. But she felt uncomfortable with the source of the songs, meaning controversial churches. Bethel is probably the most controversial church. And I guarantee you so many of the listeners listening to this sing songs from all three of those churches, because honestly, they’re the ones producing the most songs and in my mind, some of the best congregational songs with good lyrics, obviously, not as good as like a hymnal but, but it’s there’s some solid stuff coming from those churches and yours, especially in the Bethel. No offense to anybody, you know, out there. But like, especially that church is very controversial in their doctrine, probably more so than Hillsong. How would you guide us? What are your thoughts about that? Speak to me, tell me what what, what should I be thinking?
Matt Merker 33:52 Great question. It’s a question I hear a lot. And my answer is, it depends. And I think every church and every eldership has to examine this for themselves. I think we definitely want to be discerning. Scripture calls us to be discerning even about our associations. And as we’ve already said, on this conversation, songs teach, and people will look a song up and then they’ll go find other things by that ministry. So Bob kauflin has a great article on this singing songs from questionable sources. He says he kind of takes your approach that it does signal something if you only use one or two songs for a particular ministry, or production company. Yeah, I would say there’s so many good songs out there that I wouldn’t want any church or any song layer to feel like we must use songs from this particular source just because it’s what’s popular or what’s its what’s being played. That’s not a good you want to pick you simply want to pick the best stuff for people to sing. And you have to make that judgment call. Obviously, we sing stuff on All the time, that’s by people who were aberrant in some ways and their theology or his theology got funky over the years. But when it’s someone who’s dead when his ratio Spafford with it as well with my soul, your congregation is probably at less risk for looking up some of his writings after his theology got wonky, I think you should still sing it as well with my soul. There’s other examples in hymnals of songs by Unitarians, you know, I don’t think you want to use that stuff much, but like it’s wrong. This is where Romans 14 and understand the the conscience God has given us is really important persons will have different disagreements of conscience. We want to err on the side of peace and mutual building, Paul says, even if you feel, you know, I can use this song. And it doesn’t bother my conscience, I’m free in Christ, the words to this particular song are all true, there may be someone and that’s their kind of version of modern day meat sacrificed to idols. So I don’t think we want to force someone to do what violates their conscience, especially in the corporate gathering, because Jesus expects Christians to gather. So when they gather, we can’t force them to violate their conscience. Now we can educate their conscience, we can teach them from Scripture, we can try to persuade them because that’s the thing sometimes our consciousness can be wrong. Due to depravity due to human weakness, our conscience is often and normally a good guide, but we can see or our conscience we can be deceived. So you have to take all of that in extra consideration. That’s why I just encourage people to do it. prayerfully have these conversations patiently. If it’s a potent issue, don’t chat about it over email, call someone on the phone and talk to them about the song pick up the telephone. It’s one of your best pastoral tools don’t
Alex Enfiedjian 36:42 text call. That’s so good. Now, there’s so much more we could talk about when it comes to congregational worship. And I will ask you for a final word about it in just a second. But where can people get this book, I love the book, tell them where they can connect with you online, and where they can get the book and anything else you want to share before we wrap it up.
Matt Merker 37:01 Thanks, Alex, great talking to you love this podcast, love what you’re doing. I’m certain that in February of 2021, people can can purchase this book, wherever find literature is sold. your usual place for finding Christian books should hopefully have it is being published by crossway. Great publisher, they’ve done a great job helping me with this. It’s such an honor to publish with them. I love their team. I’m on Twitter, you can find me be great to connect with anyone listening to this and just get to know each other and try to encourage one another in Christ.
Alex Enfiedjian 37:32 Amen. Cool. So final words for the worship leaders listening about congregational worship, corporate worship, what do you want to leave them with?
Matt Merker 37:41 worship is a gift we offer to God that is true, but it’s also a gift that God gives us that we, in Christ, by His Spirit are invited to fellowship with God, the all holy, all delightful creator and Redeemer. And that is such a wonderful gift that we don’t deserve. And so, rather than seeing worship as something in which we’re always trying to get better, or we we want to find the next technique, or the next song are, of course we want to approach towards we want to give best, yes and Amen. But that’s not why God accepts us. That’s not what God loves us. He loves us. Because he loves us Deuteronomy seven, he loves us in Christ. He loves us first while we were his enemies, Romans five. That’s why we worship. So Delight yourself in the Lord and in His grace, and then go on and try to grow and learn and all these things. But But we can’t ever lose sight of that.
Alex Enfiedjian 38:51 Coming back to the heart of worship by just saying that today at our staff debose. That’s great. Awesome. Man. Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom and your book. And everybody go check it out. Thanks, Matt. Thanks a lot. Great to be with you. All right. That’s it for this episode. I hope you were helped by it. If you were please help us by forwarding it on to a friend or leave us a review on Apple podcasts that helps us a lot. Also, be sure to check out our new courses for you for worship leaders. You can get 25% off any of them by entering w mt podcast at checkout. They are all available right now at worship ministry training comm slash courses. Alright, that’s it for this month. I’ll see you next month for another helpful episode. God bless