Teaching and worship. We tend to separate the two in our worship services. Part of our service is worship and part is teaching, but that separation doesn't really exist. It is all teaching and it is all worship.
So how do we intentionally incorporate teaching into the musical part of our services? I give you four paths to teaching nirvana. (whoops, wrong religion)
1. The Pre-sermon Proposition
Consider the music part of your service as a prelude to the sermon. The musical portion of your service can serve to prepare your congregation for the sermon and give them needed context.
Example: Jesus is Better Sermon Series
This sermon series went through several Old Testament characters and explored how they pointed towards and compared to Jesus. It included sermons such as “Jesus is the Better Adam” and “Jesus is the Better Jonah”. During the musical set we would use scriptures from each character story within the set. When we studied David, our call to worship was from the Psalms which David wrote, and then after a few songs, we read a condensed version of David's story from the scriptures. By the time the sermon began, the congregation already had understanding of David's story.
2. The Sesame Street Stratagem
If Sesame Street taught us one thing, it is that video can be more than entertainment, it can be educational. Instead of just using videos as sermon bumpers or for laughs, consider using videos to teach.
Example: Minor Prophets sermon series
The Minor Prophets can be very difficult books, and historical and theological context are essential to understanding the prophets. Each week we showed a short 2-3 minute video (a narrated prezi) describing the context in which the prophet wrote his book. This short video before each sermon completely changed our ability to understand why the prophets wrote what they did.
3. The Scripture Superimposition
Many modern worship songs are taken from scripture, and reading those scriptures before or after the song can help to teach the song, teach the scripture, and make the song more impactful. Win, win, win.
Example: 10,000 Reasons
The worship song "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman uses ideas and phrase from Psalm 103. Try reading Psalm 103 before singing the song and as you sing, notice the pieces taken from the scripture.
4. The Musical Memorization
By far the most prominent place to teach in worship is through the songs themselves. Your congregation won't be able to recite anything from your service word for word except for the songs. If teaching is imparting knowledge then songs are the most effect teaching element of your entire service (don’t tell the pastor). This of course means you need to make sure your songs are teaching the right things. Choose songs with good theology. Not every song in your service needs to be a dissertation on substitutionary atonement, but the congregation should learn more from your worship songs than “God is kinda cool”.
The primary goal of your worship may be more praise than preaching. And that isn’t a bad thing. But if worship is declaring the glory of God, then we must know why he is glorious before we can truly worship.