Singing Honestly

worship singingIn a round about way, I suppose this could be a follow up on this post here where I asked if professional quality bands were necessary for good worship. Needless to say, the focus was on how we sing, not so much what we sing.

But that naturally leads to question about what we sing. How much do lyrics matter? Well, I’m kind of musing here though I suspect it might come across as nitpicking music. But I noticed some contrasts that really made me take note about what we sing.

As I was driving into work the other day, radio off doing my usual morning drive – thinking, praying, singing, I started to sing this old Hillsong tune that we played quite often back in my Charismatic worship team days

Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul

I live for you alone

Every breath that I take, every morning I’m awake

Lord, have your way in me

I stopped singing. My first thought was ‘how dishonest’. While I do desire to honor the Lord in all I do, the reality is that I fall short often. I don’t always give my heart and soul nor do I live for God alone. I squeeze in me, more or less. Of course, my goal is to love the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. But really, I don’t fully or consistently. Continue reading

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Good Music or Good Worship?

praise bandHere’s a question I’ve been asking lately in relation to corporate worship – does the music have to be good to worship? And by good, I been good musicianship quality.

I use to be much more involved in music than I am now (though I did join the ensemble singers recently at my church.) Several years ago,  I served on the worship team for 4 years back in my Charismatic days (keyboards/vocals). One thing that was emphasized, which I still hear quite frequently is to bring excellence in worship, i.e. make sure the music sounds good. And by good, that means professional quality.

The past several years has experienced a diverted direction though I tend to reflect on things related to corporate worship (namely from a practical theology perspective). So in reflecting on the question does the music need to be good, I wonder if that does not overshadow the purpose of corporate worship. In other words, does it detract from the primary purpose.

T. David Gordon,  thinks so. I came across his article a while back from the Aquila report, The Problem with Praise Bands. Now I’ll preface my thoughts on this article with the issue of preference. It does seem to me that we need to distinguish musical preference from its purpose in corporate worship. I find far too often music gets criticized because of issues of preference rather than function. As I wrote about in A Critique of Worship Music Criticism, we need to be careful about being too critical of music just because its one style or the other. Continue reading

Championship Christianity

lebron-holding-up-trophyTony Stone posted this article on Reformed African-American Network lamenting Christians’ lack of discernment over rapper Kendrick Lamar’s verse in the Big Sean’s song, Control. Now I confess that I don’t follow hip-hop much and was unaware of the controversy. But apparently, the song is being construed as an exhortation for rappers to improve their game.

I’m important like the pope/I’m a muslim on pork/I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both

Stone observes that Christians are joining in the promotion of the song without much discernment and consequently, advocating for an attitude of boastfulness

Kendrick was simply being boastful. I know, we all want to herald “good art” and acknowledge God’s common grace in skillfulness present all throughout the world, but “good art” is never a cause to be muted on our grief over sinful boasting. Do we mourn over our own sinful boasting? And should we not mourn over sinful boasting in all the world?

Christians are joining the chorus of the world and saying, ‘Wow, rappers are being challenged to get better in their craft because of Kendrick’s verse!’ as if the advance of culture is spearheaded by bragging and boasting. Babel is a tower built on human boastfulness. New Jerusalem is a city built on the suffering of Jesus Christ. Boasting about the greatness of your skills does not represent progress in culture. This world is inevitably moving towards God’s glory, and His kingdom will come and will be done.

Kendrick Lamar’s verse is out of touch with reality.

Sadly, he is right both about the attitude and the lack of discernment regarding it, thinking that having a boastful attitude is a sign of being victorious.

But I am not surprised… Continue reading

The Latter Will Be Greater?

I was stuck on this song today. Ironically it has been within a week that my prayer theme has been ‘impossible’, meaning praying in all the areas of God doing the impossible. So the line of this song keeps ringing through my ears – “all things are possible”

I like Israel Houghton. I think he has an infectious heart of worship. Ever since his New Seasons release in 2001, he has had a growing presence in the gospel market.  Though I do not listen to much of this genre, I find that New Seasons is an album I come back to from time to time.

As I listened to the words of this song, I was both encouraged and skeptical. I plan on doing a longer piece on Israel and his music, what I like and lament. But suffice it say for now that I listen with a great deal of ambivalence.  Specific to this song, in relation to some long desired restoration I have hoped for, I am encouraged knowing that God can do the impossible.

You will be blessed, more than you can ask

Despite what has been done, the best is yet to come

And your latter will be greater

Your latter will be greater than the past

Take a listen to the whole presentation and you might pick up on why I’m skeptical. And by skeptical, I mean can we expect that our tomorrows will be better than the past? Continue reading

Creating a Worship Experience or Affection for Christ?

I came across this quote from one of my older Parchment and Pen posts. The quote was from Jared Moore, SBC Voices, where he wrote on corporate worship experiences. I thought it was worth reproducing here.

You do not want to create worship services that make Christians want to return to your worship services again; instead you want to create worship services that make Christians long to be with Christ.  If your hearers, regardless the age, are not responding to the gospel, but are rather responding to the atmosphere you are creating; then you are making it twice as hard for them to come to Christ.  I beg you, stop trying to create an emotional attachment to an experience invented by crafted services that are meant to induce emotion.  What you are doing is creating a feeling, a “high” in the individual which he or she will try to duplicate throughout the rest of his or her days unless he or she is corrected by the Scriptures.  Thus, you make it twice as hard for them to respond to the gospel for the rest of their lives, because they think that in order to respond to the gospel, they must “feel” a certain way.  They also equate the value of all worship services based on how they feel instead of on whether or not Christ is exalted.  Thus, if there is anything negative in their lives, or any negativity taking place in the church, then they will not be able to create the original feeling that they felt in the past regardless if God is pleased with His worship service or not.  You may be growing crowds, but nostalgia cannot and does not last.  You are dooming all of these individuals for failure eventually.  Bad things eventually happen… and appropriated theology, not feelings, will sustain them through these terrible times.  You are not growing disciples, because services that are designed to induce feelings communicate that the gospel alone has no power to induce such feelings toward God.

Here is a test to see if you are creating nostalgia or gospel-centered saints.  When people respond, ask them why.  Ask them why they responded.  If they point to their feelings instead of to repentance, you need to thoroughly examine them to see if they are responding to the gospel or to the atmosphere.  If they respond because they “felt the need to,” you must question them, making sure they are responding to the gospel.  The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ reconciling sinners to His Father via faith alone, not some arbitrary feeling or emotion.  An atmosphere response is not a gospel-response! What and Who they respond to are essential!  If you are really concerned with God’s glory and the salvation of sinners, then do not try to manipulate! Continue reading