Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts (Colossians 3:16).
Scripture tells and shows us that worship in all its forms is an essential part of discipleship and living Christianly (see also Joshua 1:7-8, Psalm 1, Proverbs 7:2-4 and Ephesians 5:19).
Pastors, worship pastors, congregations and educators generally agree that nothing stays with someone longer, shapes values and feelings more powerfully and changes culture like words paired with music.
Some of the greatest hymns and phrases of prayerful poetry have come from the pen of Charles Wesley; and both John and Charles Wesley were passionate about singing praises to God indoors and out, walking and stationary, in joy, in grief and always with a fervency that made others take note.
There are songs for all of Christendom, and songs for a particular church, for a particular event — sad or happy — that deserve a sung prayer.
But worship is both sung and lived. The hope and belief is that one connects with and fuels the other.
As we sing of our glorious triune God, of His perfect love – and walking and living in that love – of compassion, justice, mercy, in the context of the local church, we are revived. Those songs are given wings, feet, hands and that worship is lived out in the worshiping community and the surrounding world.
“When we participate in acts of worship in community, God is changing things in us. He’s teaching us; he’s forming love and desire inside of us,” said Josh Lavender, worship leader for Trinity Wesleyan Church. “But worship is not just us expressing worship but God impressing things on us and doing things inside of us; it’s teaching us the practices of God’s kingdom and how to live in the ways of Jesus.”
In response to God’s self-revelation in Scripture and the world around us, we will either worship God or we will worship idols.
We will worship in spirit and truth or we will worship anemically or even erroneously (perhaps a mixture of all of the above).
We will have sermons, songs, symbols and lives that reflect the whole of Scripture or just the parts we favor or like.
We will be formed by what we hear and speak and sing and preach and proclaim.
Currently, there are significant holes in the tapestry of sung prayer of the local church and the Church at large, and part of those holes are meant to be filled with the unique perspective God has gifted The Wesleyan Church. There are also areas that are over or underemphasized, creating an imbalanced theological perspective, and thus an imbalanced and incomplete formation of truth in many of the popular songs we sing.
By looking at distinctives in songwriting and theology and remediating and repurposing the classics, and creating new hymns and spiritual songs, the Wesleyan Worship Project promotes worship as a form of discipleship through the interaction that takes place with God and people in the process of writing, in the materials that are created to distribute to individual churches and in the truth affirmed, proclaimed and lived out because of that material.
Formation is the work of the Holy Spirit, yet we can be co-laborers with God in this process as we create new songs and also delve from history themes in Scripture that are absent or underrepresented in our services of worship to facilitate a deeper understanding and expression of Christ in our communities and in our world.
Andrea Hunter is an editorial advisor to Worship Leader magazine and contributed to the initial development of the Wesleyan Worship Project with Josh Lavender and Lester Ruth.