A Vertical Destination - The Setlist Checklist Series (Part 1)
In high school, I ran cross country.
Each week brought another meet in a new city. A 3.1-mile course across unfamiliar terrain. After unloading from the bus we always began the same way - we walked the course. We needed to get to know our route and answer one very important question.
Where is the finish line?
Through the course of a set list you can travel along so many wonderful paths. There are some many attributes of God to explore. So many ways to respond. So many stops along the way where we can linger and marvel at our Creator God.
In the coming weeks, we'll look at each of these paths. But there is one all-important thing you need before you plan your route. You need a destination.
The destination, the goal, the conclusion of our time of singing is clear and simple. It's Vertical Worship. This is no longer the time to sing about God but the time to sing to God. This is no longer a time to sing about ourselves. Words like I, me, my, and we are scarce.
So what happens when we reach a Vertical Destination?
1. We Recognize That God Is Among Us
Throughout the Old and New Testament we’re instructed to sing songs to one another about God. These are songs of Testimony. These are songs of remembrance. These are songs meant to instruct and encourage. In essence, these songs are horizontal.
But we must move beyond singing horizontal songs about God to singing vertical songs to God. Why? Because God is among us.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that God Himself is there among your church each time you gather? Do you believe He hears and receives your singing? Then sing TO Him as if He were right there in the room. Because He is.
2. We Take Our Eyes Off Ourselves
We all have that one friend who just loves to talk about themselves. We meet up for coffee and brace ourselves for an hour of them talking about them. We're slightly annoyed but the truth is we're all a little like this. Everyone's favorite subject is themselves.
It's very easy for our worship services to take on a "me-centered" tone. Recent years have brought an avalanche of worship songs about ourselves. Songs declaring what we think and what we feel. We shout aloud our commitment to God. We whisper our solemn devotion. These songs are important and have their place but they can quickly overtake a set list and decapitate our worship before it ever comes to a head.
Setting our sights on a Vertical Destination means inviting our church to take their eyes off of themselves and focus solely on God.
Psalm 33:4 says "Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together." When we reach a Vertical Destination God is magnified and we are minimized.
There's a great danger in seeing ourselves as big and God as small. Placing ourselves as the hero of the story and fearing the thoughts and words of others instead of seeing Christ as the hero and receiving the truth He has spoken of us.
A Vertical Destination puts us in our appropriate place. As subjects of our King. Submitted to the Sovereign. Surrendered to our Savior. This is a place of unparalleled freedom, hope, and peace.
3. We Give Pure Ascription
"Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His Name."
Ascribe isn't a word we use very often. To ascribe something to someone means to attribute something to them. Or to regard a quality as belonging to them.
For example, when we ascribe glory to the Lord we say things like 'Lord, you are glorious! You are clothed in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen you or could ever see you. Your glory shines so brightly it fills Heaven with light."
Or when we ascribe strength to the Lord strength we say "You Lord are the mighty one! Strong enough to defeat any enemy. Strong enough to protect against any attack. Strong enough to hold the whole universe together. You are the creator of all things and You are so much more powerful than anything else."
And pure ascription takes ourselves out of the picture completely.
Did you know that God was worthy of praise before you came along? That He is worthy of glory and honor apart from what He's done for you?
There is a time to worship God because He was the sacrifice for your sin. Because He redeemed you out of slavery. Because He defeated your enemies and won your victory.
There's also a time to worship Him simply for Who He is. The Great I Am.
They understand this in Heaven.
4. We Sound Like Heaven
Revelation 4 and 5 give a brief look into the Throne Room of Heaven. We discover the songs of eternity. This glimpse is a rare and beautiful gift. If these are the songs that are worthy of the courts of our King - the songs we know for sure delight the ears of our God - then these are the songs I want to sing.
We start with the four living creatures, who day and night, never cease to sing their song.
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
The song of the living creatures is like a cue for the twenty-four elders. They fall down in worship.
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."
Suddenly from all around the throne room the voices of thousands upon thousands of angels join the chorus.
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"
And finally every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them sings:
"To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"
This is Pure Ascription. Heaven is our ultimate Vertical Destination.
Planning A Worship Service
How do you reach a Vertical Destination in your worship set? There are so many different orders of service it's impossible to instruct you specifically but here are some guidelines.
This moment of Pure Ascription could be a song, a Scripture reading, or a prayer.
It doesn't necessarily have to be the last song in your set list but it is the climax. The goal you are working toward.
Begin your planning with this Vertical Destination in mind and work your way toward it.
Here are some songs to get you started. It's very rare for a full song to be purely ascriptive - nothing about ourselves - but these come close. Leading only the chorus of a song is also very effective.