As a worship leader for the past 30 years, I have read countless articles titled, “The Future of Worship.” These have typically been written by a visionary “in the industry” that has his finger on the very pulse of the now and the future. Now, we are reading many articles on “The future of…” thanks to the COVID-19 virus. As I write this, I am spending time with our church staff looking at the reopening of our sanctuary “Regathering” at Parkway Baptist Church in St. Louis.
It is my belief that a better word to look at when it comes to the future of worship is another “F” word, “forever.” The natural question we should ask ourselves is, “How does forever affect our worship?” Let’s look at some passages:
• “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’” (Revelation 4:9-11).
• “‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:10-12).
These powerful, revelatory passages take us to something that is way larger than ourselves. These are passages that can take away concerns about musical style, instrumentation, old/new, traditional/contemporary, etc. There will be no CCLI, hymnals, or screens – but as we will be of one mind worshipping one God, it will be unified and powerful. You and I will stand shoulder to shoulder singing with persecuted Christians of the first century who chanted Hebrew chants as they did in synagogue, but with new revelation. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Reformers who struggled with whether they should sing at all. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who only sang Psalms. We will stand shoulder to shoulder regardless of race or nationality. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who sang over a decibel-blasting guitar and with the hymnal-loving believer.
All in worship, all together, all one.
There is a paradigmatic statement that theologians use, called the “Already/Not Yet.” This is where we live, in the now and with an eye to the future. This is where our worship needs to lie as Missouri Baptists: in the forever, as one day the forever will move for us from theory to reality.