The Power of Thematic Worship

By Ron Man
Pastor of Music and Worship, EXW Contributor
April 08, 2024

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Psalm 150:2 tells us to “praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” In our church we have found that the excellent greatness of God is most effectively represented in our worship by giving people time to linger and focus on one of His attributes. Too often songs are chosen for worship which have no organic unity or connecting thread; the result is a hodgepodge of favorite selections which may be well received, but miss the opportunity to build upon one another.

Thematic worship involves a singular focus to a service, with all of the songs, readings, anthems, and other elements chosen to reflect and develop that theme. The theme may be an attribute of God (e.g., His power, love, or grace) or another biblical theme (such as the Lamb of God, creation, etc.). Ideally the theme will be drawn from the focus of the pastor’s sermon, thereby preparing hearts along the same lines and hence multiplying its impact; in churches (such as ours) where the pastor’s style of sermon planning does not allow for that kind of advance warning, the first part of the service may develop a separate theme (and often the Holy Spirit will wonderfully dovetail it with the message, we have found).

Two of the greatest advantages of thematic worship:

1. It allows our people an extended time of concentrating, reflecting and meditating on a particular aspect of God’s truth. When we hear and read spiritual truth and allow it to enter our minds, it takes time to work it way down into our hearts; thematic worship allows time for this to happen. As a result, believers can come to the point, not only of being reminded about a particular truth about God, but also of rejoicing in it and making a worship response to truth which we hardly ever get around to in any other context.

2. Thematic worship also gives to blended worship coherence and unity, a higher organizing principle which enables people to focus on the truth they are singing about rather than what style of song they happen to be singing at that particular moment. People can get so caught up into the holiness of God (for instance), that it becomes irrelevant whether the vehicle of the moment happens to be a hymn or chorus—what becomes important is that God is holy.

By explicitly focusing on God and His truth, thematic worship can help our people to become preoccupied with Him rather than with forms or structures— and shouldn’t that be our goal?

Ron Man
Pastor of Music and Worship, EXW Contributor
Read more from Ron Man

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