There are two interesting, but conflicting conversations happening among church leaders right now. Especially, but not exclusively, on social media.
On the one hand, people are decrying the supposed shallowness of today's worship songs.
On the other hand, there's a push to keep sermons under 20 minutes long.
It's not always the same people holding both of those opinions, but I have noticed a surprising amount of overlap.
Does anyone else see the irony here?
At the same time that many are encouraging shorter sermons, we're also wanting deep theology from three-minute songs.
Pastors, if the theology being presented in our churches isn't deep enough, it's not the worship leader's responsibility to make it deeper. That's our job, our calling and our mandate.
A mandate that can't always be done in 20 minutes or less.
Sometimes You Have To Go Long
I’ve heard all the maxims about sermon length. "If you can't say it in 20 minutes, you don't know what you're talking about," "their hearts can't absorb what they're butts can't stand," and "keep it simple, stupid" are just three of the chestnuts that people keep throwing around.
But they all have one thing in common. They're not in the Bible. And for good reason.
Sometimes, if you want to go deep you have to go long.
At least I have to.
Songs Aren't Sermons
Now, about the songs.
If your church is relying on the choir or worship team for your theology, you're looking in the wrong place. Sure, a great song can teach or reinforce good theology, and songs with bad theology should be abandoned, but teaching theology is not the primary mandate of the worship leader.
The primary mandate of the worship leader is to ... wait for it ... lead us in worship. To draw our attention towards Christ. To prepare us to hear from God's Word or to help us respond to it.
That can be done with old or new songs. Off a video screen or from a hymn book. Led by a choir, a worship team, an organ, or no instruments at all.
The songs of the church are meant to supplement and support the message from God’s Word, not replace it. And certainly not to contradict or supersede it.
Certainly it's better if the songs are theologically valid, tonally appropriate and easy to sing. And they need to point us to Jesus, not to the worship leader's musical prowess. But that goes for sermons, too. Great preaching needs to point us to deeper theological truths and appropriate action, not to the preacher's oratorical flair.
Let's face it, there are as many shallow sermons and egotistical preachers as there are shallow songs and egotistical musicians.
The answer isn't to complain about the bad, but to get better at whatever role we're called to fulfill.
Long Or Short, We Need To Preach Better
I've heard and preached great sermons that were long and great ones that were short. And I've heard and preached lousy ones of both lengths, too.
If you're blessed with the ability to pack a meaningful, biblical message into a 20 minute package on a regular basis, go for it. But don't expect the rest of us to be able to pull it off consistently. Sometimes it just takes longer.
Pastors, especially preaching pastors, need to take whatever time is needed to say what needs to be said in a way the listeners can benefit from.
And we need to stop expecting our worship leaders to make up where we're deficient. It puts too much pressure on them and not enough responsibility on us.
But when we work together, pointing the church towards Jesus, suddenly it doesn't matter if the sermon is long or short, or if the songs are new or old.
If the church is being equipped and Jesus is being glorified, the rest is filler.
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