Worship: Essential Elements and Idols to Avoid

Gospel-Centered Worship


In an age of Billboard charts and celebrity pastors, worship has taken a form of its own, though that does not always mean it reflects the intent for which God designed it. At our core, we are all worshipers. We are drawn to praise the objects of our love, which means that worship leaders play a crucial role in directing people to the One who is worthy of their worship. Sharing from their collective backgrounds in pastoral ministry, Paul Tripp, Mike Cosper, and Matt Boswell discuss the building blocks for truly gospel-centered worship and provide practical advice for leaders to guard their hearts against idolatry in service to Christ.

Paul Tripp is a pastor, author, international conference speaker, and the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization. He is the author of numerous books, including, Dangerous Calling. Mike Cosper is the Pastor of Worship and Arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to The Gospel Coalition. Matt Boswell is the Pastor of Ministries and Worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas and founder of Doxology & Theology.


As Paul mentioned, worship is not first an activity, but an identity. It is who we are as men and women made in the image of God. How does this fit in with your view of worship? Are there ways in which your perspective may be too narrow? If so, how?
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Mike said, "Worship is essentially a conversation between the people of God and the Word of God." When God's Word speaks, it demands certain responses from the body of Christ (confession, adoration, assurance, etc). How does this description help you approach your worship preparation? In what ways do you connect the Word with the worship experience?
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Worship should remind us of our need, as well as cause us to see the glory of God. How do you approach these two ends? In what ways does your preparation remind the congregation of its need for Christ? How do you strive to give them a greater experience of the glory of God?
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Ultimately, gospel-centered worship should underscore Christ as the one who leads us to God rather than a particular worship leader. How do you work to accomplish this in your own leadership? What are some of the ways you point to Christ as the mediator in worship? Can you identify any ways you might be able to improve? If so, what are they?
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Matt talked about how he tries to make his weekly worship as much as possible an exposition of the text being preached. He does this to show that the Word of God governs every aspect of the Sunday gathering. How did you react to his description? To what degree have you attempted to incorporate Scripture into worship? What steps could you take to grow in this regard? Who will you reach out to for help in the process?
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Gospel-centered worship reminds us of the story we have experienced in Christ. Created perfect in the image of God, we have betrayed His design and sinned against our Creator. Despite our rebellion, He has sent His Son to redeem us from our sin and promises renewal when He returns one day soon. It reminds us of our needs and meets us in the midst of them. As you consider your own approach, look for fresh ways to communicate the gospel to your people. May your model lead them to a deeper love for Jesus Christ.

 
Idols of the Heart


Our ministries are never simply the combined result of knowledge, experience, and skill. The content of our hearts has a profound effect on the ways in which they are shaped. Having touched on the essential elements of gospel-centered worship, pastors Paul Tripp, Mike Cosper, and Matt Boswell shift their focus to consider some of the prominent idols facing worship leaders today.


Matt noted how the modern rise of contemporary worship has made it nearly impossible for worship leaders not to have visions of celebrity and grandeur. How have you seen these kinds of desires surface in your own ministry? In what ways do they threaten faithful service to others? Having identified some areas of temptation, how do you strive to die to self in obedience to Christ?
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In addition to hopes of fame, Paul touched on the temptation of drawing too much of our identity from the responses of those we serve. Can you recall a time where you experienced an overly positive or negative sense of identity from the response of others? Why is this a dangerous habit? In what ways might it blind you from faithfully pursuing God's call on your life?
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On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the pursuit of perfection. Having been made aware of our potential blind spots, we can respond with an overemphasis on getting everything right. How have you experienced this tendency in your own leadership? What effects did it have on you? How about the people you were serving?
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As sinners, our tension is sourced in our desire to find in the world what we have already received in Christ. Every worship leader is in the process of sanctification and God desires people who know their need for the gospel. As you consider your own life, what are some ways you look to the world for what you have received in Christ? Are you able to see God sanctifying you in these areas? How do they demonstrate your continual need for the gospel?
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Paul said that the goal of gospel-centered worship is "leading people from where they have come into the room to where they need to be." In other words, it should lead them to Christ. When you develop a worship service, how do you work to accomplish this goal? What elements are essential?
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In light of this discussion, are there any adjustments you need to change in your leadership? If so, what are they? How will you begin to make these changes going forward?
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Matt said, "We are miraculous Pharisees." We are skilled at displaying outward righteousness, even when our inner hearts lack the content. You are in need of the gospel of Christ just as much as those God has called you to shepherd. Embrace your weaknesses and allow His power to be made perfect in the midst of them.


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