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By In Family and Children, Music

Musical Segregation: Questions from a Concerned Pastor

I am not a trained sociologist, though I play one at home as a father. I am constantly analyzing trends and the origination of certain behaviors and offering solutions. Thankfully, as a Christian father, sociology can be summarized simply by the study of sinful patterns; patterns that can be easily studied and analyzed.

As a pastor, I also have the opportunity to study trends and patterns in the local church. Church life is messy, and with it comes messy patterns and behaviors that only Jesus can undo. But I am not only a student of my congregation, I also enjoy studying modern church trends. In such cases, my studies will lack the gravitas found in well-funded research teams. Still, I am comforted by the fact that every sociologist is biased. He may have correct numbers, but what he does with the numbers is based on his presuppositions. How he phrases the questions determines what responses he will receive.

I set this background to emphasize that my conclusions are not flawless but grounded in my personal, ecclesiastical, and societal concerns. With this in mind, let me make the following assertion: “Churches that segregate musically are bound to segregate corporately.” I have seen it happen again and again, but beyond the anecdotal evidence, the rationale of modern trends seem to affirm that proposition. Let me flesh out my concerns with a few questions and affirmations:

First, why do we assume that children and teens need a different kind of music than adults? Why do we think that “praise and worship” provide something for young folks and not for older saints? We attempt to accommodate the tastes of Christians in different stages of life, but what are we actually accomplishing? Are we merely perpetuating society’s self-centeredness? Is ecclesiastical music shaped to fit particular tastes and styles?

Second, I have noticed that every church that has a modern flavor differs from other churches that offer modern musical flavors. So to say, “I like contemporary music,” leads to another question: “What kind?” Is Amy Grant “old” contemporary? Is Michael W. Smith “old” contemporary? Is Hillsong music “new” contemporary? We must keep in mind that we are dealing with a span of 20-30 years here.

Third, we have abandoned Psalm-shaped music. I am not advocating exclusive psalmody, but I am saying that when we abandon the regular singing of psalms, we lose gospel creativity to compose biblical hymns. Historically, psalm-centered churches produced psalm-like hymns.

Fourth, as our children continue to grow in evangelical churches where music is dispersed according to age and style, how will they and their aging parents ever come to a proper understanding of the role of music in the Church? Will they ever be able to sit together to sing? Will the college bound son ever wish to come to dad’s church during summer breaks and genuinely enjoy singing praises to God? Or will he merely tolerate it, as a kind gesture to his Fanny Crosby-loving parents?

Fifth, have we considered the consequences of dividing our services into contemporary and traditional? Are we making it easier for older saints to bless younger saints, or are we making it harder? How are we stressing unity when our churches naturally divide over musical styles? Can we fulfill Paul’s exhortations to eat and drink together?a

Sixth, is contemporary music as a category truly contemporary? “Shine, Jesus, Shine” appears archaic to modern worship services. While new musical compositions can be admirable things, many churches only use music composed by their musical team. What happens for visitors who are long-time Christians? What happens when people from diverse contemporary churches visit a church that writes their own contemporary melodies? Are the contemporary going to feel divorced from their fellow contemporary music lovers?

Seventh, does the predominant hunger for the new ever get old? In other words, what happens when millennials raise their own children who think their parents’ music is as old as an MP3 player? What happens when the world turns against the modern?

Eighth, are we teaching through our music that music divides rather than unites? Are we teaching our children that what we sing is what we like and we like only what we sing?

Ninth, will our children leave us when they find us to be evangelically irrelevant to them? Are we setting the stage for their departure by granting their generation musical style privilege?

Finally, what role does the Bible play in our church music? Does tradition provide any help in our consideration of what we should sing? Can we merely discard 1,900 years of church music for the new? Are we a better generation than our faithful forefathers who gave their lives for the gospel? Do we follow in the train of the latest trend, or the Davidic train that offered us divinely-inspired music? Does our inspiration in modern composition stem from cultural romantic tales or the gospel romance of Ruth and Boaz? Is our church music bringing our families closer together, or is it separating us? Can your 18-year-old say, “Dad, let’s sing together?” If not, is that a good thing?

We all claim our music is praise-worthy, but can our music be God-worthy if God’s people are not singing a new song together?

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  1. I am fully aware of functional/practical building issues, but here I am referring to churches that can easily accommodate everyone in one service  (back)

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By In Theology, Worship

10 Questions Preachers Should Ask Before Sunday Morning

I have been a pastor for almost a decade. I spend between 12-15 hours each week thinking, researching, and writing before I deliver the first words in my Sunday sermon.a The process of writing my sermon goes through a lengthy journey each week. I contemplate several questions from Monday to Friday which force me to edit and re-edit my manuscript. There is no perfect sermon, but a sermon that goes through revisions and asks import questions has a much better chance of communicating with clarity than the self-assured preacher who engages the sermonic task with nothing more than academic lenses.

I have compiled a list of ten questions I ask myself each week at some point or another.

Question #1: Is this language clear? When you write a manuscript ( as I do) you have an opportunity to carefully consider the language you use. I make a habit of reading my sermon out loud which leads me to realize that certain phrases do not convey the idea clearly. A well-written sermon does not necessarily mean a well-delivered sermon. Reading my sermons out loud causes me to re-write and look for other ways to explain a concept or application more clearly.

Question #2: Is there a need to use high theological language in this sermon? Seminary graduates are often tempted to use the best of their training in the wrong environment. People are not listening to you to hear your theological acumen. I am well aware that some in the congregation would be entirely comfortable with words like perichoresis and Arianism. I am not opposed to using high theological discourse. Words like atonement, justification, sanctification are biblical and need to be defined. But extra-biblical terms and ideologies should be employed sparingly. Much of this can be dealt in a Sunday School class or other environments. High theological language needs to be used with great care, and I think it needs to be avoided as much as possible in the Sunday sermon.

Question #3: Can I make this sermon even shorter? As I read my sermons each week, I find that I can cut a paragraph or two easily, or depending on how long you preach, perhaps an entire page. This is an important lesson for new preachers: not everything needs to be said. Shorter sermons–which I strongly advocateb–force you to say what’s important and keep some of your research in the footnotes where it belongs. Preachers need to learn what to prioritize in a sermon so as not to unload unnecessary information on their parishioners. (more…)

  1. Thankful for great interactions before this article was published. It helped sharpen my points  (back)
  2. By this I mean sermons no longer than 30 minutes  (back)

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By In Family and Children, Music

Why Don’t Men Sing in Church?

Why are men not singing in Church? Various articles have attempted to answer that question recently. But before we can try to offer a rationale for such a spectacular question, we need to observe that some are entirely comfortable allowing this trend to continue. After all, music plays a minimal role in their worship expressions. Others find the issue of congregational singing irrelevant due to the trained praise bands that lead worship each Sunday. “Let the professionals lead.”

Certain environments encourage people to hear and feel the music rather than sing it. And some groups have placed such high priority on the preached word that the very idea of a singing congregation seems secondary, if not tertiary in the priority list.

But on to better things.

Fortunately, there are a vast amount of churches and leaders that still treasure congregational singing and long for a time when men return to the old-fashioned task of singing God’s melodies. The cruel reality is that we are far from the mark. In my many visits to evangelical churches over the years, the few men who opened their mouths, timidly read the words like a child attempting to spell out his phonics assignment.

Timid singers make for timid Christians. (more…)

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By In Worship

The Weapons of Our Warfare: Children in Worship

Romanino Girolamo (Italian artist, c 1484-ca 1559). Presentation of Jesus in the Temple - 1529.The enemies of Jesus don’t like it when children get involved, because God has designed them as a weapon and as a reminder of God’s strength. If children are increasing, and if they are present amongst the worshipers, then they spell the coming doom of God’s enemies. They display the faith of his people, both in being faithful hearts themselves, and in showing off the trust their parents have in God. They are a tangible threat to godlessness. This is attested in multiple instances in scripture.

Let’s look together at a short Psalm (Ps 8) that helps us to see down into the inner workings of the war to build God’s kingdom – we will find out that one of the largest gears in the mechanism, one of the most powerful and necessary components in the wheels of the church, is the presence of children in God’s service of worship.

I expect this Psalm to be a good tool for talking to your children about their special job in the church service – and that job is: “to silence the enemy and the avenger.”

Before we can get a hold of this Psalm, we need a moment’s look at how God instructed rulership and kingdom expansion to come about in the first place – so turn to page one of the Bible and look down at verse 28.

God’s first command for his King, Adam, on how to rule was through a process of childbearing, and working with your children to bring the world under God’s reign.

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” (Gen 1.28).

See this list of five:

  1. be fruitful
  2. multiply
  3. fill the earth/land
  4. subdue
  5. rule

 

PSALM 8 – The Weapons of Our Warfare

Psalm 8 is a worship song which is all about this very passage. Psalm 8 is about Genesis 1.27-28. Psalm 8 is about creation (“the work of your fingers,” v.3). It specifically mentions the principalities made on day 4, the moon and the stars, which Genesis 1 says are made over the earth to “rule over the day and night.” This is no coincidence: they are symbols of dominion, and the theme is all about dominion and ruling over the earth in this Psalm. Verse 6 says, “You have given [man] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” And then it lists land, sky, and sea creatures. Just like Gen 1.28 does! This is a Psalm about taking God’s majesty and the glory of his name and his rule outward to the whole earth!

But remember, in Genesis 1.28, in order to rule, you have to be fruitful and multiply. In order to take dominion, the church has to have babies. And Psalm 8 dives right into baby-having as the first related action to the bringing of the kingdom of God’s majestic name:

“O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.”

God gets the war for his glory underway this way – when the doctor spanks the newborn covenant member, that first gasp for air and the subsequent screaming – that is holy music. It shuts the devil up.

He can hear the majesty of God’s covenant name displayed over another life, and he is dumbfounded.

And we, like David, who sang to shut the mouth of the demons of the king of Israel, we sing. We sing David’s words to shut the mouths of the demons. We sing David’s words in Psalm 8 about the dominion of Genesis 1. And when we sing in church to make his name glorious with Psalm 8, then we confess in music that our babies are made as the work horses of the front line.

Tell your kids they have a job. That God has chosen them for glorious array in battle. That he has spectacles to make of enemies, and mouths of devouring adversaries that need to be shut. Tell them that they are needed in the Lord’s service of worship, and that no one else can take their place, and tell them that this we know for the Bible tells us so.

And if your toddlers are too young to follow the words of the Psalms in church, then have them make a joyful noise and hum. And if your babies are too young to hum along to the tune, just bring them to show them off. Show off your faith, and show off God’s promise. And don’t worry, they’ll make plenty of noise. You won’t have to manufacture that part.

Oh church! Oh holy dominion takers – open your ears for battle, listen as the kingdom comes at the noise of covenantal invaders, born to take up seating space in the sanctuary with car seats and diaper bags. Born to take up space in the worship of the King, edging out darkness with the chosen praise, ordained for your Sunday morning brush with the power of God saving the world.

And if you are unable to have children, or more children. If you are older, or widowed. If you are caught lonely and wondering what to do – then pray that the Lord would bring the kingdom, and that he would send a blessing of childbearing to your church. Help the parents of children to feel comfortable with the hard process of teaching babies to get a little more mature each Sunday. Help them not to fear the noise their children make.

Oh church, the noise of children in the sanctuary has at times been treated as a little lower than the angels. But let’s make it our job instead to crown it with glory and honor, as we hear the kingdom come.

—-

Luke Welch has a master’s degree from Covenant Seminary and preaches regularly in a conservative Anglican church in Maryland. He blogs about Bible structure at SUBTEXT. Follow him on Twitter: @lukeawelch<>реклама в интернетераскрутка а дешево

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By In Worship

Fellowship of Suffering

In a recent article on the Christian Post, Dr. Cornelius Plantinga of Calvin Institute of Christian Worship voices a sobering critique of contemporary evangelical and reformed worship, observing that discussion of sin is disturbingly rare. Plantinga says this is seen chiefly in the obsolescence of rites of confession, and in the songs of the churches, where the “biblical tradition of lament, which is all through the prophets and the Psalms is gone, just not there.”

Plantinga hits upon a crucial point: the psalms (whether spoken or sung) have been absent from church liturgies for decades. Therefore, it’s no surprise that weighty biblical issues like sin, judgment, confession, and lament have become passé. Abandonment of the psalter results in an impoverished liturgical vocabulary, invites trite sentimentalism, and substitutes stilted emotive ecstasy for the broad biblical palette of spiritual affections. Confession and lamentation become foreign once the psalms are lost.

However, the presence of confession and lamentation requires not only appropriate liturgical forms, but a people who are willing to acknowledge the realities of sin, suffering, and injustice in their lives and in society. Communities are shaped by liturgy, but liturgies also take shape according to a communal ethos.

Increasingly, churches are generationally, racially, and economically segregated. Whether by design or not, this has occurred in large part because churches have attempted to be relevant to a fault, deploying marketing campaigns to create an enticing “brand,” borrowing sales techniques to bolster growth, and eschewing tradition in favor of trends. Such a strategy leads to demographically-homogenous congregations. By courting the culturally savvy and elite, churches truncate the body of Christ and cut themselves off from those who have a historic memory and experience of oppression, struggle, and suffering (e.g., the elderly, poor, racial minorities, disabled)–people who would be much more familiar with the vocabulary of lamentation and confession (even imprecation) than the typical hipster evangelical.

To be sure, evangelical churches are populated with plenty of suffering people. And as Plantinga notes, “Ceasingly cheerful worship does not fit with the lives of people who come to worship.” Notwithstanding, the chirpy aura of many modern churches discourages corporate recognition of sin and voicing of lament. Would such a lopsidedly optimistic atmosphere be as plausible and as entrenched if the church better reflected her identity as the new humanity in Christ, and embraced all classes, colors, and ages in her worship and fellowship? Perhaps, then, the pathway to biblically faithful worship needs to include not only recovery of the psalms, but reconciliation of division within the church.<>online mobiреклама а в гугл

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By In Worship

A Biblically Sound Worship Ministry

A Biblically Sound Worship Ministry

  1. Will be overseen and preferably led by the qualified, male elders in the church. Three important words: qualified, male, and overseen. These elders should regularly study God’s Word and read articles and books so they can help lead a faithful music ministry.
  2. Will make it a priority to hire a full or part-time music pastor, who could shepherd the church through music and song. This man will be trained theologically, pastorally, and musically. My point is that if a church has the ability to hire more than one pastoral staff member this position should be at the top of the list.
  3. Will seek to be faithful to God’s Word in content and form. One key to this is numbers 1 & 2.
  4. Will sing God’s Word, especially the Psalms. And will constantly be searching for more of God’s Word set to music.  We are grateful for hymns. But hymns are not God’s Word.
  5. Will study at the feet of God’s people from the past, seeking to use tradition wisely.
  6. Will not be afraid of contemporary songs or forms, but will use them wisely to convey God’s Word.
  7. Will highlight the voice of the congregation. This means most songs, after they are learned, will be accessible to most of God’s people. It means there should be regular singing without the aid of instruments.  It means instruments should support the people’s voices not overwhelm them.
  8. Will sing songs that have a variety of tempos, moods, lengths, and themes.
  9. Will express this variety using the God-given resources in the congregation.
  10. Will be grateful for all they have, but will seek to use all they have to push on to greater Biblical maturity.

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By In Worship

Music Divides — If We Sing the Right Kind

What is it about music that makes it so intensely personal for us? Why is it that if I write a blog post discussing music in worship there will necessarily be people who are offended? Somehow, we see music as extremely personal and taste-based, so any attempt to question such a paradigm is taken as an attack on an individual’s taste. What if, however, we are wrong? Not only are we wrong to be offended by these questions and discussions, but we are also wrong to categorize music as a personal taste.

Many churches face questions of music. What type of music should we sing? Contemporary? Traditional hymns? Psalms? With or without instruments? Pianos and pipe organs or guitars and drums?

Many–although maybe not Kuyperian readers–will argue that contemporary music with praise bands is the better choice. It is inclusive of the young people who desire it. But is it? There are several problems with this line of argumentation.

First, while contemporary music may be inclusive of young people, something I’m not yet willing to grant, it is exclusive of everyone else. Why is it that contemporary music gets a free pass for the inclusivity argument, when it is excluding just as many people–if not more–as traditional music may? Why can’t traditional hymns and psalms be argued as the better choice because they are inclusive for everyone else?

Second, isn’t there a problem with the inclusivity argument from the beginning? Contemporary music is inclusive of the young–if it is–but only so long as it is actually contemporaneous to the young. Traditional hymns and psalms are timeless. They will always be inclusive for their particular class of listeners. Contemporary music will be inclusive for one generation and will follow that generation, until the newer, more contemporary music alienates them in favor of a new group of listeners.

Finally, it is worth questioning whether it is actually inclusive of the young. Most of the proponents of contemporary music are actually middle-aged adults who think young people like it. The young in America today, however, are starved for tradition and gravitas. They want high liturgy, good–in the objective sense–music, and rituals. If they wanted contemporary music, they wouldn’t come to church for it, they’d turn on the radio, attend a concert, or visit a club. The Roman Catholic Church may be worth taking a cue from on this point. The last three popes, each of whom are older popes, have been wildly popular with the young. It isn’t the cool and hip the young want from church, it is the transcendant, liturgical, and sacramental. The cool and the hip is what the middle-aged want.

Let’s try inclusivity. But let’s try it the right way. Let’s try it by singing music that is timeless and cross-cultural, dividing asunder the boundaries of age, race, socio-economic status, and gender.

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