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

August 16, 2018

Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey When I was a kid, I thought I really really loved hymns.  At least I thought I did. We didn’t sing them much at my 80s-fabulous megachurch, but I learned a few in children’s choir, I learned them for piano lessons, and there were the occasional trips to visit my grandparents over a weekend, where I would put on my Sunday best, park my butt in the cushioned pew, and when the time came for… Read more

August 13, 2018

Apparently John Piper added some words to the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and some people aren’t happy about it. Christianity Today spoke to a few hymnology “experts” for their opinion, and since my phone has yet to ring, I’ll go ahead and talk about it here. Also, allow me to share this friendly message. Dear Christianity Today, Hymns have words, not “lyrics.” Your Friend, Jonathan The Essential John Piper Knowing a little about Piper is important to this discussion,… Read more

August 10, 2018

It looks like the beginning of the end at Willow Creek. They aren’t saying that, but I feel like that’s what’s happening. If so, good riddance. And you can take the megachurch movement you spawned with you. I’m sorry if I sound bitter. I’m not, really. More relieved than anything else. Saddened for the stories of abuse, gaslighting, and hero worship. Grieved by the commoditization of human hearts and souls, the theological void, and the liturgical collapse. But relieved that… Read more

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