February 16, 2016

I’ve heard that tiny sliver of Psalm 22 thrown around my entire life, by pastors, church leadership, and lay people. I admit I’ve even used it myself. I think we use it for a couple of different reasons. First, it’s a powerful method of crowd manipulation. Nothing gets a crowd’s attention like announcing God’s presence. It’s the complete opposite of saying, “Elvis has left the building.” In all honesty, it always made me feel like a holy Ed McMahon, announcing the real greatness among us…. Read more

February 16, 2016

Idolatrous Introit Inevitably, any discussion of corporate worship eventually seems to descend into a competition of musical preference. Everyone wants to get their way all the time. And the church has bought it. Like I alluded to in my post on the problem of multiple worship “styles,” the almighty right to get our own way now governs much of what our congregations do. Of course, the issue has been clouded by our American culture, with our long-held consumerist, “customer is… Read more

February 10, 2016

  Of course, worship is not primarily about music, but I can’t ignore the musical comparison. We begin our Lenten journey today. In many of the places I’ve served since I left my Southern Baptist roots a decade ago, Lent has brought about a struggle. It’s not easy to maintain faithfulness to the church season and the lessons of Jesus’ desert fast with the American church’s insatiable appetite for feel good worship experiences. Never mind the fact that the Christ, the Word… Read more

February 9, 2016

I haven’t been to many good funerals lately. In a real sense, of course, that’s an awful thing to say. Funerals are necessary, but can they really be good? Well, I think so, in that they can be done well, or they can be a completely dead exercise. In our attempts to gloss over its reality, we fail to admit that death still carries a mighty sting, a sting that affects all of us – even the strongest, the ablest, the most… Read more

February 8, 2016

Congregational singing is a privilege; it’s also sacred duty, a discipline, part of the work of the people. As the so-called worship industry has tightened it’s choke-hold on church music over the past decades, there has been an explosion of new, commercially marketable music that has infiltrated and taken over. While we should always be looking for good new songs for our congregations to sing, we have to be increasingly careful, as well, since we’re now more apt to get our… Read more

February 7, 2016

A committee working on behalf of the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church has released a list, vetting the CCLI top 100 for theology and singability. Having married a United Methodist, and having served a United Methodist congregation for a number of years, this project was of interest to me. In the end, they have commended, some freely and some with reservation, approximately half the songs of the top 100 list. See their list and explanation here. From the… Read more

February 4, 2016

“If music is to fulfill its intended purpose in worship, it has to be understood as an important medium through which the various components of worship retell the Christian story. If singing fails to communicate the church’s metanarrative or to reinforce the church’s basic identity as the covenant people of God, then worship has fallen short of being a “divine office.” The real reason we worship is that we are a people shaped by the Christian story. If this is… Read more

February 1, 2016

This blog post by LifeWay Czar Thom S. Rainer caught my attention recently. He’s reporting on a poll he conducted to determine which instruments were the most and least preferred in worship. Of course, the results are skewed by Rainer’s predominantly middle-aged Baptist and baptisty non-denom readership, but I found it interesting that the organ was on both lists. When I was growing up in a Baptist church, pipe organs were already on their way out. In fact, the church I attended never… Read more

January 26, 2016

Not that long ago, hymn-singing was an inextricable part of corporate worship in essentially every Christian faith tradition. Fast forward a few decades to 2015, and vibrant hymn-singing is all but lost in most evangelical circles, and has a diminished presence in desperate mainline denominations. And make no mistake, our churches, people, and faith are all the poorer for it. There are many reasons to not neglect the long, ongoing tradition of hymnody in our churches. Here are just a… Read more

January 21, 2016

I can’t help but think I am not alone in my story, even if my journey has some unique twists. I grew up in the non-denominational tradition. For us, worship was the six songs we sang before the sermon, and the two after. We were encouraged to participate enthusiastically, to pour out our love for God in song. It was just assumed that, of course, we arrived every Sunday with a hopper full of it. I was a very earnest… Read more

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