In this Elements of Worship series, we’ve covered the preparation for worship as well as the call to worship. Now we move to adoration – traditionally a song declaring God’s praises.
The "hymn of adoration" in the liturgical tradition became, in the charismatic tradition (yes it’s a tradition) the "praise and worship time." I’m recently a little uncomfortable calling the time of singing the "worship" because I’ve come to see the whole service as the church’s worship, its liturgy.
(By the way, every church is liturgical – everyone has a basic pattern of worship. So really the question is how faithful is our liturgy to Scripture? And how well does our liturgy form us as Christians?)
It is of course entirely appropriate to sing God’s praises, but let’s call it a time of sung worship (a phrase I first heard Sue RInaldi use), or as in the liturgy, the hymn(s) of adoration. It’s a time, after we’ve prepared our hearts and been called to worship, that we first start to respond to God’s call. It’s essentially the first active response of worship on our part, as the congregation.
So the song(s) we select ought to be about God, songs that declare God’s praises. They should say more than just "I really like God." They ought to say why we love and adore God – they ought to possess some objectivity, some stuff about God that makes Him worthy of worship.
Sometimes people balk at this singing of God’s attributes, like in the old hymns, and only want songs that express "how I feel about God" or "what God means to me". I can certainly understand a desire to bring God’s presence close to our situations, but if we only adore God because of what he does for us, we’re keeping ourselves firmly in the center of worship. It’s as if God really isn’t worthy to be worshiped unless he comes through for me in the way I’d like him to. But worship that only talks about how I feel currently doesn’t form me into Christ. I remain fully in charge, always and only expressing what is already within me. But God is worthy of worship, and we ought to declare it in our times of adoration, whether or not God has done everything we would have liked him to do. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that although he washes our feet and serves us, he is our King.
So the song(s) of adoration should keep our attention fixed on God. The time of adoration is an anticipation of the eternal praise we will offer to God together with the whole creation in the new creation, when "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom 8:19). Adoration anticipates and prophesies the time when God will renew all things and bring us fully into his salvation, so it should definitely be done with some gusto! This is one area the charismatic tradition has much to teach us.
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