November 14, 2017

By Ryan McLouth

Do the actions and songs of your worship service provide opportunities for both revelation and response? As worship musicians and leaders, it is our job to ensure that worshipers have the opportunity to participate in both.

As most of us know, revelations are instances in which God reveals something to us or provides some clarity. Revelations can pertain to something fundamental and objective such as God’s existence or can take shape as clarity about how we lead our lives. Responses are the choices we make in reaction to the revelations that we receive. An effective worship service should provide the opportunity for congregation members to take part in this constant dialogue of revelation and response with God.

When we consider what revelation looks like in church, we generally think of any action attached to the word of God. Scripture readings and the sermon are some of the first actions that come to mind, but revelations can manifest in other ways as well. Silence, corporate prayer, visual images and even song can all create a conduit for God to be revealed to us in worship.

As a general rule of thumb, songs or hymns that are narrated in third-person and make objective statements about God or our faith tend to be revelatory. Hymns like “Nothing but the Blood” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” would be examples of songs that make mostly revelatory statements. From the contemporary camp, “Cornerstone” and “This I Believe (The Creed)” are great examples. Though the latter is narrated in first-person, the statements are still objective and provide a declaration about God and the Christian faith.

Outside of song, many corporate actions in church could be considered response. Tithe, giving thanks and confession of sin are all responses to revelations that God sends to us. Response songs tend to be those that are worded in first-person and phrased subjectively. These songs make statements about our feelings, opinions, and reactions to God. Hymns that feature response-like text would be “Come Thou Fount” and “How Great Thou Art.” Many contemporary songs tend toward response, including “The Heart of Worship” and “Great Are You Lord.”

In many traditions, revelation tends to be sung near the beginning of the service to enable the congregation to receive God’s message before responding. Response-type songs tend to happen in the latter portion of a service—especially after scripture readings and the sermon. The thought here, of course, is that you can’t appropriately respond without being revealed a truth or some truths. Your worship service can follow an order that best suits the congregation and style, but it is important to keep the concept of revelation and response in mind so that we can enable worshipers to engage in dialogue with God consistently.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and how revelation and response fit into your weekly worship service. Feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions or would like to talk. I can be reached at rmclouth@centralmethodist.edu or (660) 651-9964. Until next time keep playing and singing!