Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Co-authors Gray, Page Discuss Worship Challenges Churches Face - The Alabama Baptist

September 4, 2014
By Neisha Fuson

Picture your church this Sunday morning. You walk in, sit down and see the minister of music walk out lugging a large golden calf much like the one the children of Israel constructed. He places the calf at the center of the stage and the rest of the choir and worship team begin to worship the calf, leading you to do the same. 
 
It may seem like an exaggerated and outlandish idea but according to L. Lavon Gray, associate dean for Liberty University’s School of Music and co-author of “Hungry for Worship,” Christians have reached that point in the Church today.
Co-authors Gray, Page discuss worship challenges churches face
“While we have not collected gold from our people and not constructed an actual golden calf, I do believe we have sanctimoniously lifted music and placed it in the center of our platforms every Sunday morning,” said Gray, who also serves as minister of music for First Baptist Church, Jackson, Miss. 

Keeping Focused

“We’ve begun to worship music and the methodology of music rather than using it for what it’s intended to do (as worship) and ... then putting our focus on God and Him at the center,” Gray said.

Gray and co-author Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, met with more than 70 church leaders and others at the national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) headquarters in Birmingham on Aug. 14 to discuss aspects of the 10 main worship challenges churches face today.

The duo added bits of humor to the theological truths and practical experiences they used to write the book, recently released by New Hope Publishers, the publishing arm of WMU. 
Page outlined chapter three of “Hungry for Worship,” which referenced an “‘American Idol’ experience” in many churches. 

“The lights are on. The cameras are rolling. The judges are in place,” Page said, noting that any time a leader in the church goes on stage to lead music, preach or teach a Sunday School lesson, all eyes are on him or her and the people in the pew immediately become a critical audience.

But Page was not pointing fingers. He admitted that he himself has been a judge of worship or preaching at times. 

“How many times have I left a service and said, ‘That was great preaching’ or ‘Wow, the worship was so good’?

“How many times do you leave and say, ‘I worshipped today’ and ‘Don’t we have a great God?’ That’s what we are supposed to hear ... and experience is the greatness of God,” Page said.
He added that if worship is authentic it will always lead to missions and evangelism. 
Gray noted that worship also is a dialogue — it’s “always a response to the revelation of God.” 

“Worship is not a purpose of the Church, it is a lifeline. If we don’t have worship we have no power to do anything else,” Gray said.

And music is not the end goal, he added. “It’s a functional art. It is music with a higher purpose. We use it as a tool to share the gospel. If it ever becomes an end in and of itself, we’ve lost our focus.” 

Some of the other chapters in the book address consumerism, segregated worship, navigating a post worship-war culture, worship in a multiethnic congregation and technology in worship.

Gray encouraged participants to remember, “if you worship music, your life is never going to be changed. It’s not going to be the latest greatest song that sustains you, it’s going to be the power of Christ that sustains you.” And Gray said if you are wondering if you worship music more than God, ask yourself this question: “If music was taken away this Sunday, how strong would my worship commitment be?”

- See more at: http://www.thealabamabaptist.org/print-edition-article-detail.php?id_art=32462#sthash.4wDzuKLN.dpuf

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