October 30, 2018

When my old, usually reliable car is giving me trouble, there’s only one person I will trust with it. His name is Juan Marquez, and he’s the septuagenarian owner of Gulf Freeway Auto Service. His place is not easy to find among the rows of nondescript light industrial sheet metal buildings in South Houston, Texas, but as long as he’s in business, I will find Juan. He’s a hardworking, self-employed family man who is as honest, fair, and reliable as… Read more

October 29, 2018

As a professional Christian, I don’t get many Sundays off. In fact, I tend to take fewer off than I am allowed, since I enjoy my work immensely and am not traveling much these days. But a couple weeks ago I was in Boston on a Sunday morning, and following the recommendation of a few friends, found my way to The Church of the Advent, an Episcopal parish serving Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood since 1844. Google maps directed me from… Read more

October 25, 2018

You might notice I said “‘hymns’ are better than contemporary worship songs.” Not “old hymns.” Or “classic hymns.” Just “hymns.” There are a couple reasons for this. First, there are good hymns still being written, though they are overshadowed in popularity by the dreck put forth by the so-called “worship industry.” So some hymns aren’t old, and there are brand new hymns being written as I write this. Second, most of the time when people talk about “old” or “classic”… Read more

September 25, 2018

I want to make one thing clear before I plant my tongue partially in cheek: I love the Bible. Bible studies can be a wonderful thing. But most often they aren’t. And when Bible studies are bad, they are really freaking bad. So many of them are silly and trite, superimposing myopic, self-referential concerns onto the sacred text. Deep, persistent grappling with the biblical text is a mighty tough road, and most Christians don’t have the guts to undertake it…. Read more

September 23, 2018

In the early 90s, the private music studio of Reva Cooper Unsicker made occasional appearances on public access TV in Peoria, Illinois. Reva was apparently world famous in her hometown, being the highly esteemed organist at First United Methodist Church and a private music teacher for some six decades before her death in 1995. She also liked to play the piano really, really fast. Nobody was ever supposed to see this, of course, but in gracious mercy God and the… Read more

September 6, 2018

I need to be honest with everyone. There are a lot of contemporary worship songs I really, really dislike. I know. Shocking, isn’t it? This week, a Facebook friend posted a brilliant fundraising idea for churches: a hymn-banning auction. It’s a pretty simple concept: the highest bidder gets to ban a hymn of their choice for an entire year. Pretty soon, my thoughts turned to which contemporary worship song I would get rid of if I could. Now, I wish… Read more

August 31, 2018

“For the most part institutions are lost, not because they are stormed by hostile outsiders, but because their custodians, overcome by apathy, indifference, and intellectual fecklessness, simply give them away. Will we give away the Church and its gospel power by dumbing it down or by failing to reach out?… Truly, all of us who serve the Church want to be faithful and not to be dumbing down the Church. The question is whether we know when or if we… Read more

August 27, 2018

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my grandparents gave me a birthday present that completely changed my life. It was a 5 inch black-and-white TV. As I’ve told you before, I was raised in a repressed, somewhat fundamentalist, homeschooling  Southern Baptist household, in which I wasn’t allowed to watch movies filmed after 1968, or watch TV shows other than major-league baseball or Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser. As generally happens when you completely deny your children… Read more

August 21, 2018

Warning: For those of you who complain when one of my posts has nothing to do with bad church music, liturgy, or worship, you’re probably not going to like this one. Except it does have something to do with worship, because it concerns the church’s ethics and mission. Until this afternoon, the stupidest post I’ve ever read on Patheos was concerning stumbling brothers and yoga pants. But earlier this afternoon I read one that has managed to top the list…. Read more

August 16, 2018

Here is a real, completely true question I got from a reader. Remember, I am not making this up. Dear Ponder Anew, Man, I’ve got this problem, and I’m too embarrassed to even tell my mom and dad about it. I’m 21, a college senior, and I’ll graduate next Spring with a Sacred Music degree. So, I’m planning to do, you know, real church music and stuff. Okay, so there’s this girl I really like, and I told her I’d… Read more

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