In the past few decades of the Chinese church's history, there was a long period of time when worship and praise ministry were almost nonexistent. Since China's reform and opening up, the church has grown and changed much. During a special period before 1980, there was no ministry in China. Now, there are many ministries, and worship & praise is considered one of the most important church ministries.
Recently, Brother Zhao Wei, who has been serving in a place in East China for more than 10 years, shared his understanding of worship and praise with the Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper.
Below is the message that Brother Zhao Wei shared.
Worship serves for the proclamation of the Word of God afterward
Sometimes we can be misled by false appearances. For example, in praise and worship, when people are all excited and in good shape, the worship team members feel rejuvenated. But if, in the middle of worship, it seems like people are indifferent or absentminded and unwilling to cooperate when you try to lead them to raise or clap their hands, whether it seems good or bad, these are the kinds of things that end up giving feedback to worshippers. Sometimes we wonder what we did not do well, and our lack of preparation led to people's lack of enthusiasm and unwillingness to cooperate.
But in reality, there are certain reasons why the congregation does not cooperate. For example, in many traditional churches, the members have never attended worship services like this before, have never clapped before during services, and are shy. On the other hand, some people would not clap even if they wanted to.
In fact, a few years ago, we were invited to attend a healing conference, which we declined. The reason for this is that we have always believed that worship is for the service of the Word. They may have invited us because they liked how we worshipped or the way we worshipped, but we couldn't approve of their intention. What we can do is lead worship according to the main theme of the Bible, not the other way around, using the atmosphere of worship to lead the main theme of the Bible.
I have found that there are actually some people who may be using some psychological things in their worship, things that have a hypnotic effect and stir something in our hearts. For example, when we go to worship, the person leading the worship sings emotionally, and the music follows. It goes, "Are you aggrieved?" "Are you sad?" Tears come out of many people's eyes. And then, with all this crying, the emotions get cathartic, and many people feel released. But this is really only psychologically and emotionally cathartic; in fact, it is not actually so, because nothing has changed in their lives at all. Some people start complaining again two days later, having built up much bitterness and toxicity within themselves.
Worship ministry needs to be accompanied by a pastor's sermon
In our ministry, we are usually assigned a church pastor. So after the worship session, there will be a sermon, which takes longer than the worship session. So, for example, if we have an hour or so in total, and the worship session is half an hour, then the sermon will take at least 40 minutes. Personally, I do not like the idea of having half an hour of worship and then a 10-minute sermon at the end. It's very hard to give a clear sermon in five to ten minutes. It's like a dragonfly lightly touching the water—it's not a deep contact at all.
Worship is just a way of opening or kick-starting the service, and there must be something more important to follow. It is like John the Baptist, who was a forerunner. You cannot be a pioneer and get the road started only to lose the way. It must be a good sermon, lasting at least 40 minutes to an hour. We are only worshippers, but there may be some people who are particularly moved or weak during the worship process. In such cases, the church needs to keep a record of such people, comfort them, and follow up with them. The work done after the service is actually more important.
The relationship between praise & worship and the church
The worship ministry serves the church, but we are not the church ourselves. All these years, God has not led us to become pastors or convert our worship ministry into churches. In other words, we need to be faithful to our vocation and never cross the line, never involve ourselves in pastoral ministry.
Let's say a brother or sister comes to us and wants to study worship with us. We will first tell him that he must communicate with his pastor and church and get a recommendation from them before he can study here within our scope of the study, which is worship. If he has any questions about the faith or about the Christian life, they will all have to be answered by his pastor at his own church, except for the ones that will be brought up in class in order to teach. We hope that anyone who comes to us to study will return to their original church afterward. Even if they remain part of the worship team, they must serve mainly in their home church. For example, tonight the worship team is attending a worship service at a crusade, but one's home church also has a meeting and requires worship services. In this case, there is a conflict between the two, and our solution is to give priority to the person's home church and forgo the worship team's service. If there are any vacancies on the worship team side, we can find a way to redeploy them, but the person's home church may not be able to do so because there are not many worship staffs available.
"External and internal evangelism"
There was a time when we worshipped without a songbook, were in tune, and had many songs in our hearts. This is called freestyle worship without a theme. For example, we had a worship service, and I asked the pastor what the theme of the service would be, and he said no. Then I asked for the theme and message of the sermon, and he said it had not been decided yet. We go for freestyle worship to meet the needs of the church in the absence of a theme. In fact, no matter what the pastor ends up saying, it will not be without the verse John 3:16, nor will it be without exhortation, comfort, rebuke, etc. So as we prepare for the worship service, we follow these guidelines.
However, if a gospel meeting is involved, such as a themed evangelical gathering, then we have to do a master score and a subscore in preparation. I remember we used to do a gospel gathering of musicians, and everyone who attended was a music professional. So they can tell how well we prepared just by listening.
If the meeting is themed, for example, there is a meeting called a "stimulation meeting," which John Sung, "Wesley of China", used to do historically, the "revival conference." Our worship team calls it "internal evangelism" because Christians need the gospel too. Even young people, many of whom do not know what the gospel is, just know that it is good.
So, we think that even though evangelism to the outside world is very important, evangelism to the inside world is also very important. For Christians who are in faith, there is also a need for a return of the heart, so that we can return to the kind of relationship we had with God at the beginning of our Christian journey.
- Translated by Nonye Nancy