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The Essentials to a Well-Balanced Life of Worship

The Essentials to a Well-Balanced Life of Worship

Chuck Fromm

Several years ago I was introduced to the meaning of Maranatha by  the late David Hubbard, then president of Fuller Seminary. David marveled  at the fact that a contemporary Christian music company – a company  founded by Pastor Chuck Smith that I had the privilege of running in the  early days of the Jesus Movement – would be named Maranatha! and he  went on to explain the significance of the term in early Christian worship.  For the first believers, he told me, Maranatha was a shout of confident  hope.  

So, long before the reemergence of that ancient language in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ, Aramaic had been showing up on  overhead screens and in hymnals around the world!  

An Old Testament scholar and an avid clarinetist, Dr. Hubbard went  on to explain to me that there are four other distinct words of worship  found in Scripture. In the Old Testament we find Hallelujah, Hosanna and  Amen. The New Testament introduces Abba and Maranatha. 

Needless to say, this was invaluable information in my line of work.  At that time, I spent the better part of a decade helping to develop what  has since become known as “Praise and Worship,” which Maranatha!  Music pioneered with the help of some gifted and anointed artists and  executives. It was nothing short of a revelation to realize that the Bible  itself provided the form and structure by which worship music received  its shape and substance. 

Using the insight Dr. Hubbard provided, we at Maranatha! Music were  able to “exegete” four of his words of worship in musical form and those  albums have since become classic examples of contemporary worship at  a key stage of its development. 

A few of those songs even went on to become “hits.” “I Will Be With  You,” for example, was written by Billy Batstone and sung by Denny Correll and became a staple on Christian radio, which was very unusual  for a worship song at that time. The Five Words series was birthed at  Maranatha! with the help of Dr. Ronald Allen, Professor of Hebrew  Scripture at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, who would prove  indispensable in articulating the theological underpinnings behind the  music we were recording.  

That these five simple words provide invaluable insight into God’s  own prerequisites for worship can be clearly seen in the Lord’s Prayer,  where Jesus models them all, even as He teaches us how to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” is a reflection of both  Hallelujah and Abba; “Thy Kingdom Come” speaks of Maranatha, while  “Deliver us from evil,” evokes Hosanna. Finally, in His conclusion, Jesus offers “Forever and ever, Amen,” as a reminder of our eternal agreement with the work and will of the Father. 

As I have pondered the implications of the Five Words of Worship in  the years that followed our groundbreaking project, it occurred to me that  this simple lexicon offers a rich theology of worship for every believer.  For the first time we had an effective, Biblically sound criteria to evaluate  music; a way for worship leaders to achieve a critical balance in their work  of creating songs and song sets that could speak to the particular needs  of the congregation to which they minister. Was the Spirit moving toward  encouraging intimacy and respect towards the Father? Then an Abba  song was called for. Was there a heartfelt desire to celebrate our salvation  and deliverance? What better way than with a resounding Hosanna song?  Did the congregation need to boast about the Lord? It was time to for a  Hallelujah song.  

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Songs have threads  that connect them to these primary worship categories. But, rather than  just reiterating archaic terms that have no modern meaning, we need  to unearth these treasures in a way that’s meaningful to our chapter in  the ongoing story of God’s people. We need to encourage musicians,  songwriters and worship leaders to delve deeply into this rich heritage,  equipping them to bring the voice of today’s church into harmony with the chorus of the faithful throughout the ages.  

In the process we can begin to access the glorious tradition of hymnology and liturgical arts that fill the storehouse of Christian music and link us to the great cloud of witnesses watching and listening as we bring our gifts to the altar. Yet, the Five Words of Worship are about more than tradition. They are vital expressions of our living faith and it is incumbent on us to make them relevant again to our time, our place and our calling.  

It’s all about teaching and inspiring, that’s what this little handbook is all about. It’s a first step to understanding how worship brings us into  the presence of God by acknowledging, honoring and celebrating His  attributes. The Puritans had a term for it: A complete diet of prayer. Think  of these five words as the essentials to a well-balanced life of worship. 

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The 5 Words of Worship Articles: 

  1.  Hallelujah

  2.  Abba

  3.  Maranatha

  4.  Hosanna

  5. Amen

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