Over 80 Christian speakers and artists gathered with thousands of attendees at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual Sing! 2022 Getty Music Worship Conference.
Over 7,000 attended the annual conference, both in-person and virtually, from last Sunday to Wednesday. Hosted by hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty, the event featured sermons from well-known speakers and performances from various Christian artists.
The four-day festivity had the stated aim of guiding participants in “rediscovering how the patterns of a [Christian’s worship] can cultivate [their] devotion to Christ.”
Placing God at the center of worship
On the second day of the event, a Texas megachurch director of music and liturgy offered tips for cultivating singing and worship for multi-cultural churches in ways that reflect the "diversity of God's people."
Eric McAllister of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin emphasized that developing and growing worship in multi-ethnic church cultures requires specific actions.
The pastor is the creative director for Sunday Morning Songs, which he described as “a cohort of songwriters and musicians [who] aim to help local churches sing the timeless truths of Scripture in fresh, faithful ways that embrace and transcend our cultural context.”
He stressed the need for church leaders to ensure they place God, not man, at the center of their worship.
“Our primary aim when we gather and the primary aim of our lives as believers is to give praise and glory to God and to edify and pursue the unity of His people,” said McAllister.
McAllister noted that God should not only be central to every gathering of worship, but every person who engages in singing within churches should have motives driving their worship that stem from a “supreme” love for God.
“[God] is the very center of our gatherings because He is the one who initiates our gatherings — who has called us to Himself. Though we were straying like sheep, He's called us back to Himself through Christ Jesus, the shepherd of our souls,” he said.
McAllister warned, if congregants and leaders aren’t careful, worship can become a “habit” and not an act of affection towards God.
“The aim of our services and the songs that we sing should be first and foremost to sing and retell the story of our God to give praise to Him and to call attention to His works, His Words and His ways,” McAllister stated.
“Regardless of how you sing, it is all in vain if we're not a people who abide in God and allow His words originally to abide in us. The aim of our gatherings is vertical; of course, we address God, and He addresses us through His Word. But, the aim of our gatherings is also horizontal. We are also concerned with others in the Church and in our gatherings.”
McAllister said the ability to make God the focus of worship doesn’t happen naturally.
“I would stir you up by way of reminder to avoid a certain familiarity with the wonder of our God. Cultivate in your own heart an affection and wonder toward God by studying his Word deeply, praying and seeking His help, seeking His grace that He has promised to provide by seeking Him,” McAllister said.
Loving all church members is a crucial step towards achieving effective worship in the same way that appreciating new diversity in the Church is fundamental to increasing diversity in worship within churches, according to McAllister.
“We are called to embody a love that recognizes every member as brothers and sisters, as new creatures, as beloved, redeemed, adopted, glory-bound fellow servants of the risen Christ,” McAllister preached.
“We recognize and give thanks for and consider one another showing tender affection in light of a host of differences that may be represented in our local bodies. But we're called to recognize one another chiefly according to our new identities in Christ Jesus.”
The service order and the various elements that comprise the service should be a way to glorify God and serve fellow congregants, McAllister stressed. Worship singing should also be for edifying and uplifting one another in good and challenging times, he said.
“Do we consider what it looks like to really get in the trenches of life with God's people? What it looks like to be present with them in the most difficult and uncomfortable times?” McAllister asked.
Uplifting one another through song, word and deed should be a common practice in all churches today, McAllister added.
“As we apply this principle to our service planning, just as the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around, our liturgy … are made for the spiritual formation and upbuilding and ultimate good of God's people as we turn our eyes to Christ the Savior and invite others to do the same, and seek to glorify Him in our time together.”
Practicing authentic worship
During his speech last Monday, pastor and theologian John Piper shared that the only way to sing “authentic” worship is by practicing “united diversity” in which each member participates.
The 76-year-old chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis preached a sermon titled “Treasuring Christ Together: The Power of Gathered Worship,” urging members of the audience to evaluate their current approach to worship.
Piper emphasized the importance of every church member approaching worship with the mindset that if one person “neglects, forgets or minimizes" their individual and "essential" part in singing to the Lord, then the "whole Bride of Christ will suffer."
"Don't ever forget that. Don't ever minimize that. Don't ever neglect that. Don't ever think that there can be God-centered worship without that," Piper said in his Sept. 5 speech.
Piper said Christians need to understand "the relationship between the individual soul and the ultimate purpose of God" to comprehend the essential components of effective worship.
The Don't Waste Your Life author noted that one of "the clearest statements" about how God created everything can be found in Isaiah 43:6-7.
"Every son [and] every daughter [are] created to display the glory of God," Piper said.
"God created the world. He sustains the world. He governs the world. He does everything in the world to display His glory; that is His greatness, His beauty, His worth. Those are my three efforts to get at the meaning of the word 'glory,'" he continued.
Piper said it's equally important that each member come together in unity to sing as a whole and diverse Bride of Christ.
“The totality of Christ-exalting affection that comes into being in corporate worship is not merely the sum of the parts. It's more; a new reality has come into being in the Bride worshiping together,” the pastor said.
“The great mystery comes into being. … The interpenetration of Christ-exalting joy is something new. [It’s] something greater, something more God-glorifying than the assembly of individual flames of affection.”
Worship also must be done with the correct posture, discipline and attitude, he stressed.
“[Singing worship must be done] with your heart [or] from your heart, … to the Lord [and by] always addressing one another. … That's corporate worship,” Piper said.
Piper referenced Ephesians 5:18-19: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord."
The pastor said that the quality of the singing voice shouldn’t matter because “true worship” for Christians should be about bringing Heaven to earth through their love for God and based on a love for one another.
“The unified harmony of diverse voices is more beautiful than the greatest sound of voices in unison. Not the individual soul aflame with love to God, but rather, the Body of Christ [or] the Bride of Christ united in corporate worship is the end of creation,” Piper said.
“It is a glorious thing not to minimize unison. It is a glorious thing. When say, 50,000 people blast with unison, like an army going to war and singing their ballad of hope land, that's a glorious thing.”
God has made the Church diverse for a reason, Piper noted.
“There’s such diversity that God is doing in the gathering of the Bride of Christ. In united diversity of the worshiping Bride, something more beautiful is created than if she were all of one kind on any number of scales,” he concluded.
“Creation was made to exalt the worthiness of love. … The glory of Christ in honor of the Lamb shines more brightly because He's the kind of Redeemer leader who can hold together the allegiance of unbelievably, believably diverse people and hold us together in song and in many other ways.”
Other speakers at the Sing! Conference included John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Tim Challies, Foley Beach and more.