Category Archives: Music

A fundamental concern

I am open to change, I may not like everything that change brings, but I am willing to give it a chance.  I know that I have written on this subject before but here I go again.  It is about the new music in the church.  To me they all sound the same.  And I really don’t get the seemingly lack of theology.  I am old school.  If it is in the hymnal then it is what we should be singing.  But it just isn’t so.

I would fully suppose that the great hymns of the church were considered as out of the main stream when they were first introduced. I can imagine a congregation of devout and staid parishioners singing “It is well with my soul” for the first time and wondering if was a little out there.  Today’s music may well be tomorrow’s hymns.  Never-the-less, that does not quench the fire I have for “I stand amazed in the presence of the Nazarene” or “Victory in Jesus”.

There are two reasons for including a good old anthem of the church once and while.

First is the desire of the people to sing things familiar and now evoke great memories of revivals and spiritual victories. It is what the staid and true folk has heard are used to. To disregard or discount that desire is saying to them we simply do not have any concern about you.  Your preferences are not the current paths that the worship team has chosen. While these foundational songs of the past may not be easy to sing and some may not readily fit into the music being used in a contemporary setting, there is still a place for them.  Love calls for an effort to include some of these “Hymns” into the even the most energetic contemporary music genre.

The second reason is these pieces have passed the test of time. They’ve been used in the church for hundreds of years, surviving because there is something special about them. Disregarding that group of hymns means throwing out gold. Twenty years from now, the contemporary music will go through the slow and imperceptible winnowing process. Some songs I sang as contemporary music twenty years ago were not good enough to stimulate worship.  They no longer met the requirement of catching people’s hearts. Not all the Gaither music back then will ever be song in a hundred years if the Lord does not come back first.

Whoever plans the music for your church needs to plan for the very best.  That plan needs to include all the people.  It is a constant art for finding the right note for the right moment. Some may well be a hundred years old or the newest praiseworthy song from Hillsong. We must try for what helps all the people in the congregation to worship. It’s not an easy task, but it’s fundamental concern; for the life of the church, the whole church.

Let the Church sing

Everything that God does is to music.  I was blessed to have an amazing encounter with a professor in my college days.  T. C. Mitchel was much more than a dry lecturer that my fellow students would try to understand.  He made thing more than just an intellectual understanding of scripture.  He was a cut from the cloth of many great English preachers.  Rev Mitchel made clear that which was quite muddy at times.  To that end I found a recording of one of his best sermons.  It speaks about how the church has always been full of song and amazement. It is well worth the 17 minutes to listen and have your heart strings vibrate with the song of God.

It is called “The People of the Spring Sing

Good News

In a day of depressing headlines and uncertainty all around us, good news is always welcome. The entertainment industry would have you believe we should be watching out for zombies, phasers, tooth decay, and the dreaded two-year-old car. If there was ever a time that society and my soul needed good news it is now.

I am a product of the Hymnal and some of the greatest thoughts outside of the Bible were ingrained into my mind was from hymns. What better news could there be that came from the old hymn : “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives?” When Christians refer to the “Gospel” they are referring to the “good news” that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might become the children of God through faith alone in Christ alone. In short, “the Gospel” is the sum total of the saving truth as God has communicated it to lost humanity as it is revealed in the person of His Son and in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Truly Good News.

Rightly Dividing

I am human.  I have likes and dislikes.  I have preferences and predilections. I like historical understandings over hypothetical surmise. I would rather see real people in real situations over contrived and grandiose stories of dubious relevance.  I want the real over perception.

I have been accused to stirring up a little dust once and awhile.  But sometimes I become dissatisfied with all the plans and programs that live in the dusty edges of the church.  They become the more important.  The process of church growth seems to leave out the offer of God’s grace. The vital understanding of God is not in the forefront any more.  I thirst after the teachings and personal encounters with God and not another emotional pulling at my heart strings by one more repetition of five or six words.

The problem is that everyone of us want to “feel good.”  Bless the hearts of preachers and leaders of the church today.  They have a weighty calling and ever increasing pressure to “increase the flock.” At issue is the easiest way to get people to come the doors of a church and keep that attendance is cater to the “feel good” motive.  Ministers would rather empower with strength than to point out the foibles of a congregation.  No one wants their pet sin to be pointed out.  Much like the story of the Pastor in a rural farming town as he was shaking every hand as the congregation was going out the back door.  One unkempt farmer came up to the Pastor and said, “That was a great message Pastor, it was short and about someone else.”

It is all about programs and studies.  If we make the right graph in the monthly board meetings it will be enough to steer the church to success.  If we can categorize, pigeon hole, and delegate enough to keep the doors open, then that is good enough.  We don’t need spirit filled bible warriors.  We don’t need to study to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  We just need another subjective well-presented current psychobabble in three points with fill in papers in the bulletin.  Don’t ask me to think, just do what is expected and that should be good enough.

Youth and children’s programs are stressed because if kids can be kept happy and entertained, mom and pop are much more likely to stay put. Serious in depth deep dive bible study and sermons about bible doctrine are avoided! Let’s cut down on all that prayer time.  The Hymnal is just not relevant anymore. Crank up the canned and amplified music; made up of repeated lyrics set to the world’s latest music. Get toes to tapping and watch visitors come pouring in each Sunday. Then be sure to accentuate the emotional. Touch every psychological button possible with “feel good” sermons and viola! pretty soon a building program will be necessary. If declaring the whole counsel of God while at the same time trying to avoid the flesh is not enough to fill the pews, then let them remain empty! A few grains of wheat should be treasured above a ton of tares!

Church Music and the evolution of worship

First let me say I am a senior citizen. I was just thrust into Medicare and signed up for Social Security. I have not always been in the church. It started for me back when someone from the Nazarene Church came calling on a newlywed couple. Not long after we became a part of the church. It had a formula of service: Prayer, announcements, a song from the Hymnal, an offering, two more songs from the Hymnal, a special song from one of the parishioners, preaching and an invitation. Oh they mixed up once and a while by having the announcements after the offering but nothing really changed. The same ingredients just mixed a little differently. We had an organ on one side of the platform and a piano on the other. Opal played the piano. We had to be careful not to pick songs that she could not play. She was dedicated and was a blessing to all for her stewardship of time and talent. The organ was reserved for the preacher’s wife. Lofty tones of ethereal music that could thrill the soul.

The biggest change in music was in inclusion of songs from singer songwriters such as the Gaithers. We occasionally sang songs such as “The Longer I Serve Him”, “Because He Lives”, “Something Beautiful”, “He Touched Me” and “There’s Something About That Name”. They were predominantly songs of testimony. They were songs that would tell what God has done in people’s lives. They trilled the soul, sent penitent sinners to the altar, it was exciting.

Song books started to show up next to the hymnal in the pew. There seemed to be a craving for an experiential, testimonial, heart pulling type of music. In retrospect these songs were not that different from songs in the hymnal such as “Victory in Jesus”, “It Is Well With My Soul”, “Amazing Grace”, “Christ Arose”, and “He Loves Me”. But these new spiritual songs were written in modern styles and seemed to bolster the music ministry of the church.

Let us fast forward through Bible College, three different churches as a pastor, and now retirement and we now come to the new church experience. The evolution of church music has changed the church. And I am not so certain that it is a change that is good. I am afraid instead of the church changing the world the world has changed the church.

We live in an ever-present culture of consumerism and materialism. We often quote the latest commercial on television more often than scripture. This culture seems to have seduced the church to be driven by marketing rather than mission. And the music I hear is driven more by entertainment than the God centeredness of true worship.

It was A. W. Tozer who said, “The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.” It is so sad to think that contemporary music and worship has become worship dumbed down and has become a cross between “American Idol” and “Sesame Street”. Worship in song is to lift the veil of the Holy of Holies and peek into the throne room of God. It is not the vain repetition that Jesus warned us about by singing the same words over and over and over again.

I am distressed that the church today is trying so hard to be modern and contemporary in an effort to attract new members, they succumb to things that are nothing more than marketing ploy. Instead of worship in song we substitute a variety show for entertainment.

So here is my take on what music in my church should be:

1. Truthful: Rather than trying to get dumber than a fifth grader, offer truth that grows my understanding of God. As we glorify Him in our music, as we worship Him in our spiritual songs, don’t be afraid to convey some deep spiritual truth that may change my life. After all, He is truth, it shouldn’t be that hard. The reason most of the hymns of the old timers were so good was they were filled with theology and truth.

2. Written for adults: The Church is a blood washed throng. We are intelligent, cognizant, seekers of truth. The children in the church sing little songs once and while in the church and we think that cute. But we are no longer children; I need meat in my worship. Go ahead, give us songs with deep doctrine that excite our souls. Give us something we can hold onto on a daily basis. Give us something to hum under our breath in the times you would rather scream.

3. Timeless: Let’s sing songs that reach back into the archives of songs proven to have been used of God to edify His people. Why change something that has touched people’s lives for decades if not centuries. The newest and most popular is not always the best.

4. Quality: We need to play music well. There are those who have gifts and talents to play music and to sing. And if the best you have is giving the best they can give, I am fine with that. Remember enthusiasm is no substitute for practice.

5. Worshipful: When we sing, point us to God, not toward your talents. This is not Holy Karaoke. It is not being relevant to society; it is simply conforming to the world. We need serious worship. Worship that is pointed toward God and not to the platform or the overhead screen.

6. Piety: I hear the mantra of “come as you are, God doesn’t care what you wear, it is what is in your heart that matters.” If you showed up to your child’s wedding in jeans and a pair of sandals would you say, “My child doesn’t care what I wear?” The concept of Sunday best is being lost. I know full well that we live in a more relaxed culture, but dress as if worship is nothing more than one more day is not giving God his best. Whether conscious or unconscious what we wear is a characteristic our perceived worth of the occasion. Worship calls for the best, not what is comfortable.

My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men,
Once wandered on earth as the poorest of them;
But now He is pleading our pardon on high,
That we may be His when He comes by and by.

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, an alien by birth,
But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.
A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They’re building a palace for me over there;
Though exiled from home, yet still may I sing:
All glory to God, I’m a child of the King.

I’m a child of the King, A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King