From Jonathan Aigner at “Ponder Anew”: Dear Church: Use music to tell your story, not to get butts in the seats.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, the renowned Reformed philosopher and theologian, has now tackled the subject of liturgy and worship. In The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Philosophy, Wolterstorff carefully analyzes and probes a subject which confuses many people. Consider the popular and prevalent phrase, “praise and worship.” Many people (and churches) use this to describe a time of enthusiastic singing, which is followed by a sermon, or a teaching time. Is listening to the sermon an act of worship? Is the pastor delivering the sermon engaging in worship? Wait, haven’t we been told that “all of life is worship”? Can’t I worship God by washing my car on a Sunday (or any day)? When we toss the word “worship” around so carelessly, no wonder the world at large (and too many self-professed Christians) don’t take “worship” seriously anymore.
For those with the intellectual stamina to carefully follow Wolterstorff’s train of thought, The God We Worship will help to clarify the fuzziness which pervades the contemporary church. Here’s the end of Ch. 2:9 Continue reading
Here’s a great piece by Jonathan, at Ponder Anew. Jonathan exposes some assumptions and problems with “contemporary worship,” but I especially love his conclusion. The way to grow churches is not through flashy concert-performances, but by living out missional lives in our communities. The whole article is worth reading, but here’s Jonathan’s conclusion:
“So what happens, then, if we don’t craft our worship services to attract unbelievers?
We’ll have to get serious again about Sunday. All of us. And then as the clock strikes noon, we’ll have to go.
Go out and feed the hungry.
Go out and clothe the naked.
Go out and associate with people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us, don’t act like us, don’t vote like us, and don’t usually like us.
Go out and fight for justice.
Go out and end oppression.
Go out and proclaim anew the old, old story.
Go out and reach out to those who are running from God and God’s church.
Go out and stop deflecting tough questions with our usual, tired cliches.
And do all of this in the name of the one who sent us.
And then open the doors wide again on Sunday morning.”
Why Worship Leaders Should Have a Philosophy of Preaching – from Zac Hicks
Greg Wilbur, chief musician at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church and Dean of New College, Franklin, has released another wonderful recording of ancient-future music! Well worth purchasing!
In A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church, Calvin Stapert shows how important congregational singing was to the early church as a visible and audible expression of Christian unity:
Building on Paul’s exhortation in Romans 15:5-6, Stapert asks: “Does ‘with one voice’ refer directly to singing? Probably not–at least not exclusively. But no one can doubt that it articulates a principle that the church took very seriously for her singing. The importance of singing ‘with one voice’ was a constant refrain among the early Christian writers. Listen to some of its recurrences during the first few centuries of the Christian era. Clement of Rome (ca. 96):
In the same way [as the angels] ought we ourselves, gathered together in a conscious unity, to cry to Him as it were with a single voice …
Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca. 215):
The union of many in one, issuing in the production of divine harmony out of a medley of sounds and division, becomes one symphony following one choir-leader and teacher, the Word, reaching and resting in the same truth, and crying Abba, Father.
Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-ca. 340):
And so more sweetly pleasing to God than any musical instrument would be the symphony of the people of God, by which, in every church of God, with kindred spirit and single disposition, with one mind and unanimity of faith and piety, we raise melody in unison in our psalmody.
Ambrose (ca. 339-397):
[A Psalm is] a pledge of peace and harmony, which produces one song from various and sundry voices in the manner of a cithara … A psalm joins those with differences, unites those at odds and reconciles those who have been offended, for who will not concede to him with whom one sings to God in one voice? It is after all a great bond of unity for the full number of people to join in one chorus. The strings of the cithara differ, but create one harmony (symphonia).”
Stapert comments: “Unity was an important matter to the early Christians, and, as these quotations show, almost from the beginning music was an expression of, a metaphor for, and a means toward unity” (25-26).
Doxology and Theology is an effort to raise the theological standards of contemporary worship. In their own words: “We exist to promote gospel-centered worship by connecting and equipping worship leaders. This is a community promoted by worship leaders/pastors for worship leaders/pastors.” Though I might be more old-school than these guys, I appreciate what they’re doing. We can learn from each other.
Zac Hicks writes about the “Hymns Movement.” This is very encouraging, but we’ll know we’re really getting somewhere when we have a “Psalms Movement.” The Psalms are, after all, our only God-inspired song-book. For an example of what this might look like, check out Brother Down‘s re-working of two Genevan Psalms (the links to the songs are at the end of the post).