Preaching Articles

Life is complicated. You didn’t need me to tell you that in order to know it’s true. For all our efforts to simplify, purify, and distill, we often find ourselves adding more layers to a mess that is already sufficiently layered. Good intentions get muddled up in the execution. Idealism eventually hits the brick wall of reality and leaves us beat up and bruised—but give me the cuts and bruises, because a life without a few hope-filled convictions isn’t a life worth living.

One day, the sun is shining, and it seems as though that sunshine will never end. The very next day it's pouring down rain. One day, we are surrounded by friends and well-wishers; the next it’s an e-mail box overflowing with bitterness and pain—or even worse, a Facebook wall that’s been splattered with the dramatic, angry graffiti of passive aggressive status updates. The really great part is when you read it and wonder who that is about, only to realize that it’s about you! The most perplexing part is that often times the very things that we do to win favor with one group only alienates us from another. Complicated.

Then comes the big stuff: life and death. Babies are born, and it’s so good. Nine months of hope, wonder, and speculation come to fruition, and in our arms, we hold a son or daughter. As simple as the joy of holding your very own child for the first time is, the months and years that follow are anything but. Raising children is joyful and painful and frustrating. It’s complicated.

Even death isn’t simple. Most of us are not prepared for all the things, legal and otherwise, that death requires. Often times, there are emotions that we thought were buried, but in fact, they rise like zombies in the night of our sadness. Then there are the decisions – dozens of decisions must be made, all the while entertaining grief, a most unwelcome guest. Complicated.

Add to all this the dust layer of the daily grind, and it’s no wonder that we are truly a Prozac Nation. There are papers to write, dinners to fix, batteries to change, and jobs to find. There are ambitions to chase, marriages to enrich, and peers to compete with—even though they don’t know we are competing with them! Complicated.

It’s no wonder we are fractured. It’s no wonder we feel pulled. We literally dissolve.

This is why our gathered worship times are so important. That 30-minute worship set is often the most sane half-hour that the people in our church will experience in a whole week. It’s literally therapy. Better than a $200.00-per-hour therapy session. Here are three reasons why every pastor should support extended times of praise and worship:

One, it’s confessional. When we worship, we acknowledge that there is, in fact, a God in heaven. When we orient ourselves around this one, central truth—other good has room to grow.

Two, it’s communal. In a fractured world, there is power in what “we” can all sing.

Three, it’s formational. As fractured people, there is power in worshipping God—body, soul, and spirit. There is perhaps no other moment when “we” can be in such perfect harmony with ourselves.

This is why we sing. This is why we, the artists, must write. We are the poets for the brokenhearted. We are composers who, with the help of the Spirit, bring lyric, meter, and melody (order) to a complicated, fractured life. This is why pastors should love corporate worship.

Adam Russell is the lead pastor and one of the founders of Vineyard Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky. He and his wife Heather have three children (River, Seth and Magnolia) and also own a local health-food store and a couple acres of wine grapes. 

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Bill Williams

commented on Sep 24, 2012

Some good thoughts except that I would caution us not to limit "praise and worship" only to the singing part of the service. The entire service must be praise and worship--the singing, sermon, offerings, Scripture readings, prayers.

Joel Rutherford

commented on Sep 24, 2012

Adam, love it!

Myron Heckman

commented on Sep 24, 2012

Good brief analysis, Adam. I second Bill W's thought with this amendment: the whole service is worship, one necessary element of which is to praise. A Psalm or other declarative Scripture or a prayer read aloud in unison also fulfills the three blessings Adam lists at the end of his article. And one plea to the song leaders - if large chunks of the congregation aren't singing, then it loses much of the blessings Adam listed. It?s an indication of a need to find music that connects with the vast majority.

Norm Yukers

commented on Sep 24, 2012

I agree with the comments already stated. Adam thanks for a brief refreshing reminder of what we should expect from that xxminutes of singing praises and worshipping Him through uplifted voices.

Suresh Manoharan

commented on Sep 24, 2012

Dear Brother have put the horse before the cart, as it ought to be. We have been created to worship God-the most important truth which Mary of Bethany discovered (Luke 10:42) that worshiping Him is more important than even working for Him. In Eternity too, it is going to be Worship all the way!!! All the elements of Church service including collection of offertory ought to be in the spirit of Worship. That's a sure way to foretaste Heaven!!!

Larry L. Bartlett

commented on Sep 24, 2012

What you show by the picture that comes along with your article is not Biblical praise or worship. Myron suggest that music be found that connects with the vast majority. You best find music that connects with God. Jesus told the women at the well, "Ye worship ye know not what!" Pretty harsh words to someone so sincere! She was sincerely wrong. Just because the vast majority "likes" the music, doesn't make the music Scriptural in its construct and content. Just because one puts Christian on the label doesn't make drinking it right! If one who claims to be a Christian, than they best worship the Lord Jesus Christ every day personally or their corporate worship doesn't count for anything on Sunday!

Tim Nissly

commented on Sep 25, 2012

Yeah I agree with Bill. I think that preaching is as much "we" as "praise and worship." But "praise and worship" is more then the band and the worship pastor time isn't it? Plus, and I'll chalk it up to the artist side of you :-), but life really isn't that dramatic for everyone. I'm just saying. Good post otherwise and I do get where you're coming from. The gathering is a atheling of messed up people who have been saved by grace. Lots of reasons to spend an extended time worshipping our Redeemer! Blessings brother!

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