In an effort to tie a nice bow around my evaluation of the influence of existentialism in both the praise and preaching of the church, I will present a few basic opinions. These opinions range from general to more specific and should not be taken to be mutually exclusive, exhaustive or inherently compatible to all applications.
Of primary importance the praise time must be restored to "praising God" time. This means that retrospective songs need to be analyzed and quite likely limited. They are in the Scripture. In fact they are some of the most wonderful Psalms. But first they often tell the story of Israel. Notice that, they tell the story of Israel. These songs are unique from the supplication and songs of distress that are commonly found from David. But often times our modern praise blends the two in spending lengthy amount of time telling our story and proclaiming God's glory. There is nothing wrong with these songs. We should simply work to limit them appropriately.
I think secondly the restoration of proper doctrine is essential. One can praise God without getting too technically deep so setting our hearts on God comes first. But slowly the heart will yearn to express more and without doctrinal integrity these songs can quickly become projections of "our god" and hence idols. Proper theology in praise time will actually help to keep the church in check but we've drifted so far into the personal realm of praise that we may have lost this truth.
I do believe our praise time needs to be more historical. In almost every aspect of human culture there is a respect for the historical. Now granted we don't need to respect everything that is historical but the things that truly reflect what we stand for and proclaim should be retained. Shouldn't the church which stands on the prevailing word of God be the most historically proud entity known to man? We don't need to be proud of everything the church has done historically. But when it has lined up with Scripture we should be quick to join together in unity. The modern praise time however is more interested in the socially relevant and unity today than for the building up of one church throughout history.
Now don't get me wrong. Some ancient music just needs to go. It would be such a distraction that proper praise to God would not be possible. For the words, truths, and similar vocal patterns could stand as an outstanding testimony. Take for example the song Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence which is a favorite in our church during Christmas time (yes straight out of the Baptist hymnal). This is a less than modern rendition of the 4th Century tune from the Liturgy of St. James. If your church sings this song spend some time to think about the fact that Christians throughout the ages have sung this song in praise to God. Then you'll realize that this song could never be about you but could only be meant for the praise of God. Modern tunes are much needed but that doesn't mean we should discard our history so easily.
Finally, I would argue for a praise time that is not interrupted. Too many things and people come between us and our praise to God. Just as we strive to remove distractions by having the sound system ready, the power point prepared and the lights just right, we should strive to remove the times between our praise that could deviate us from the flow of praise.
Of primacy would be the consistent application of genuine spirit led hermeneutics to the text. Many congregants are unable to follow the train of logic and revelation that lead pastors to the most important of applications and conclusions. Pastors need to be thorough in their study, transparent in presentation of the the way the truth links and then hammer home the purpose of the text. This dedication will provide pastors the assurance to teach the truths they find, find deeper truths and convince their Berean listeners that they have not practiced eisegesis.
Secondly, the choosing of texts needs to be more specific and less predictable. I am a fan of expository preaching. The Reformation was built upon it. But the Reformation was also built upon daily preaching. Pastors need to be aware of this and permit that sometimes things need to be shaken up. On the other side though, many pastors just jump from soapbox to soapbox. If you want to convince your congregation that you are simply grinding your axe this is the best way. I believe faithful mixtures of expository preaching and topical preaching can be reached. And I think the modern preachers have the resources available to them to do this better than ever before.
Third in order but possibly last in importance, I think pastors should return to the sources. First to the original languages and secondly to the testimony of application found throughout church history. We need to convince people that when they reject our faithful interpretation they reject the church. In the day of relativism it is easy for people to disregard their pastor and if need be go somewhere where they hear what they want. And what I'm suggesting won't stop that. But it will hopefully cause some to realize that they are rejecting you but they are rejection God Himself and His faithful witness throughout history. We can only hope God will be faithful to utilize this minor aspect that we could include.
Fourthly, we need to be unapologetic. The truth is the truth. We can do no better than to repeat and proclaim it. As pastors we must do this with fear and trembling which communicates itself through spiritual humility. A pastor doesn't demonstart humility when he admits he could be wrong about the text, he is simply admitting potential ignorance. We can not be lead astray into confusing the two. Spiritual humility is found when the congregation knows you submit yourself to the text first before ever calling them to submit. Spiritual humility is found when the congregation knows that Christ is Lord of the Sabbath and sermon being proclaimed to them.
I really have none. A conclusion for a post that was the conclusion to two other posts seems like overkill. But I'm committed. And now you have to settle for a second rate conclusion. :-)