Jesus made a journey from Jerusalem to the Galilee region.
He took an interesting route. Instead of making the easier trip through Jericho and up the Jordan Valley to Bet Shan, He went through the mountains of Samaria.
There was a good reason for this route. He had an important message to deliver to an unexpected recipient.
What message would the Son of God have to deliver to an unsuspecting and outcast woman? God is looking for worshipers.
In the middle of His conversation with this woman a question arose.
It was a question that is quite common today. It was a question regarding the correct form of worship.
“You worship in Jerusalem and we worship in Samaria. You are of the Mount Moriah worship and we are of the Mount Gerizim worship.” She commented.
Jesus shocked the woman when He said, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain [Mount Gerizim] nor in Jerusalem [Mount Moriah] worship the Father.” Then He revealed the new truth that would turn all worship upside down.
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 NKJV).
“The Father is seeking such to worship Him,” Jesus said, and He still is.
The question of the ages has been, “What kind of worship style is ‘worship in spirit and in truth?” Style of worship has been a controversy in every generation of the Church and even back further in history.
When Solomon became the king of Israel, following his father King David, Solomon went to Gibeon and the Tabernacle of Moses to worship. How strange! His father had erected a tent in Jerusalem housing the Ark of the Covenant; trained musicians and worshipers for leading the worship of God; so people could come to the tent and worship directly before the presence of Almighty God.
Yet, Solomon chose to return to the old tabernacle and to the old form worship even though there was no Ark of Covenant and no presence of God.
Why would Solomon do that?
During the Diaspora the Jewish people were scattered throughout Babylon. The lively worship introduced by King David, with the many instruments, was in decline.
One of the Psalms talks about setting their instruments aside because they just could not worship with that much passion.
Worship in the Temple at the time of Jesus Christ had so declined the Pharisees allowed no instrumental music with worship. It was considered pagan. Congregational worship was lost and only the spiritual leader was allowed to sing.
The question of worship style was debated throughout the Apostolic Church era and into the time of the Apostolic Fathers.
Some of the church fathers believed worship should only consist of “music of the heart” and the Psalms. Other church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria, Ambrose and Augustine, encouraged new congregational singing and even the use of instruments.
The question of right and wrong worship style continued through the Reformation.
John Huss and Martin Luther introduced new music for the saints to sing. John Calvin staunchly opposed “humanly composed” music for saintly worship. “Worship in spirit and in truth” from his perspective was the Psalms of David and they must be sung with no organ or instrumental accompaniment and in unison only, no harmony.
The Church of England and the Puritans strongly adopted John Calvin’s style of worship.
However, Isaac Watts and the brothers, John and Charles Wesley, introduced a new style of worship during the Great Awakening of England and the United States.
Fanny Crosby brought a new style worship during the Second Great Awakening and was joined by Ira Sankey, the musician and singer for the D.L. Moody revivals in the USA and Great Britain.
Indeed, every era of spiritual awakening has introduced its own style of music.
The Salvation Army used a marching style of music with band instruments. Four part harmony congregation singing, that became known as Southern Gospel music, led the great spiritual awakening of the holiness movement and the early Pentecostal movement. They would give rise the Gospel Quartet era of the 1940’s to the1960’s.
Singspiration songs written by Alfred B. Smith, John Peterson and others was the worship style of Youth For Christ and the Billy Graham Crusades; along with the amazing voice of George Beverly Shea and the choir and congregational leading of Cliff Borrows.
The Jesus People Movement and the Charismatic Renewal gave rise to yet another style of worship.
The simple worship chorus and Scripture songs that were easily played on the guitar led the way. Leaving the old hymnal behind, the use of the overhead projector aided this new form of music in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It also prepared the way for the data projector in the new millennium as choirs, pianos and organs, along with the song directors were replaced by worship bands and worship teams.
What era of worship music and what style of music is “worship in spirit and in truth?”
Every era of new music has been born of the Spirit to bring a new move of God to that generation. The more important questions to ask are:
1. Does this music carry a biblically correct message?
2. Does this worship music focus the attention of the worshiper upon God or self?
3. Does this worship encourage congregational participation and lead them to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise?”