All posts in "Issues"

Is there an objective standard to evaluate music?


…or is beauty in the ‘ear’ of the beholder? T. David Gordon, author of “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns” answers thusly: Yes, and there are objective criteria for what makes some music better than other music. Sacred music has special demands beyond aesthetic demands. Some musicologists argue that hymnody is actually a subcategory of folk music—distinguished from classical music because classical music is performance music, beyond the capacity of the average person to produce. But folk music, by name, suggests music produced by the people. It’s the way a people join their heritage, and it’s participatory in its very nature. Therefore, I don’t think hymns should strive to compete with Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem or the solos in Handel’s Messiah, because a congregation wouldn’t be able to sing them. A hymn shouldn’t be beyond the capacities of a good, intelligent church to sing. Agree?  No?  Post your comment below.


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Pop-shaped worship


Unless an individual chooses to listen to different kinds of music, the only thing that individual will hear (most of the time) is pop. Sure, one’s sensibilities can be shaped deliberately, and many of us have developed tastes that we once did not have. (I spent years cultivating a taste for Brahms, whom I now love, and I spent about two years cultivating my appreciation for jazz.) If I did not believe that sensibilities could be cultivated, I wouldn’t have written the book; it is, in some senses, a plea to shape them differently from the way commercial pop culture shapes them. But for people who do not take ownership of the cultivation of their sensibilities, other cultural gatekeepers will shape them for them—and in this case, they will shape them to prefer pop. Professor T. David Gordon, author of “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns”, interviewed by Christianity Today Is this something to be fought or ‘ridden out’?  What do you think?


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Is Christian worship for non-believers?


Yes, it can be, says Tim Keller, citing Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 as evidence: 1. Nonbelievers are expected to be present in Christian worship. In Acts 2 it happens by word-of-mouth excitement. In 1 Corinthians 14 it is probably the result of personal invitation by Christian friends. But Paul in14:23 expects both unbelievers and the unlearned (literally a seeker—“someone who does not understand”)to be present in worship. 2. Nonbelievers must find the praise of Christians to be comprehensible. In Acts 2 it happens by miraculousdivine intervention. In 1 Corinthians 14 it happens by human design and effort. But it cannot be missed thatPaul directly tells a local congregation to adapt its worship because of the presence of unbelievers. It is afalse dichotomy to insist that if we are seeking to please God we must not ask what the unchurched feel orthink about our worship. 3. Nonbelievers can fall under conviction and be converted through comprehensible worship. In 1 Corinthians14 it happens during the service, but in Acts 2 it is supplemented by after meetings and follow-up evangelism.God wants the world to overhear us worshiping him. God directs his people not simply to worship,but to sing his praises before the nations. We are not simply to communicate the gospel to them, but celebratethe gospel before them. Tim Keller, Evangelistic Worship, RedeemerCitytoCity.org Click to download:  Evangelistic_Worship TKeller


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No shortcuts to worship planning


When the Bible calls us to sing God’s praises, we are not given the tunes or the rhythm. We are not told how repetitive the lyrics are to be or how emotionally intense the singing should be. When we are commanded to do corporate prayer, we are not told whether those prayers should be written, spoken in unison, or extemporaneous. So to give any concrete form to our worship, we must fill in the blanks that the Bible leaves open. When we do so, we will have to draw on tradition, the needs, capacities, and cultural sensibilities of our people, and our own personal preferences. Though we cannot avoid drawing on our own preferences,they should never be the driving force (cf. Rom. 15:1–3).   But if we fail to do the hard work of consulting both tradition and culture, we will—wittingly or unwittingly—choose music just to please ourselves. Tim Keller, Evangelistic Worship, via RedeemerCitytoCity.org  


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Do we realize that the forms of worship are shaping people?


It seems to me that one of the ways that consumerism has really afflicted the church, is in the urgency and pressure that churches are under to deliver an “experience” at every single service that will keep the attendee coming back. The result is that we grossly overestimate what is possible in a 75-minute format, and we tragically underestimate what it is we’re doing in a 20-year format. It strikes me that most of Jesus’ illustrations for spiritual growth are botanical illustrations—seeds, branches, vines—and that, by implication, Jesus is stressing that our long-term spiritual health may not be so much about mountaintop experiences as about faithful practices and obedience. So all that is to say that when it comes to the corporate worship, it seems there is an enormous amount of literature and teaching on how to improve or maximize the experience of worship, but a relatively small amount of resources that really address what kind of people we are forming with our worship, over the course of their lifetimes. Isaac Wardell of BiFrost Arts via The Resurgence Agree?  Disagree? Comments are welcome.


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3 views on giving to street panhandlers


CT has differing views from: A ‘generous monk’ who says to ‘give freely’ An urban missions director who says to give ‘only as a last resort‘ A leading evangelical social activist who advocates ‘don’t‘ I’m reminded of the words of Dr. George Sweeting, chancellor of Moody Bible Institute, who once told me that  a Holy Spirit-guided follower of Christ  that you should rarely stifle a generous impulse. What do you think?


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Artists as church extras and secular priests


If you are interested in the Gospel, the arts and the North American church, you must read Makoto Fujimura’s “A Letter to the North American Church” which in part says: You began to believe in the late 18th century that we needed rational categories, to try to protect “faith” from “reason.” Reason began to win the battle in this false dichotomy. As a consequence, you began to suspect the mystery of our being and the miraculous presence of God behind the visible. What you call “Secularism” is your own offspring,  given articulation by the division and fragmentation within the church. As a result of this dichotomy, you began to exile artists whose existence, up to that point, helped to fuse the invisible reality with concrete reality. An artist knows that what you can see and observe is only the beginning of our journey to discover the world. But you wanted proof, instead of mystery; justification instead of beauty. Therefore you pushed artists to the margins of worship, while the secular world you helped to create championed us, and gave us, ironically, a priestly role. Instead of having quality artists at the core of your worship, we were forced to operate as extras; as in “if-we-can-afford-it-good-but-otherwise-please-volunteer”, Extras. Meanwhile, in the institutions called museums, concert halls and academia, we are asked to be gods. You gave away artistic expression to the secular culture. And yet do you not know that Our Father in Heaven owns all of the earth? You might have given back the power of creativity to Egypt, and acquiesced to Babylon, but the true and living God still owns all the powerful institutions, and the hearts of critics and curators. Artists still have an instinct for worship, but they must do so now in sterile, minimalist boxes called galleries to the “unknown gods” of our time. Rather than giving devotion, they had to become a celebrity merchant, selling their goods; instead of giving of themselves to the Giver of gifts, they have become purveyors of a commodity. Artists have insight into the invisible qualities of the Reality; but you have forced them to serve only the visible, utilitarian and the pragmatic. Wow.  Strong stuff but worth careful thought.


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Songwriting, Music Licensing and the Gospel


Good post by Tim Smith @ Mars Hill Seattle which in part says: Do you really want to put your music out in a way that gives the church no legal way to record a demo for its band or even a rough recording to help the congregation learn your song? Do you really need someone to pay you off every time they display the lyrics of your song or play it at something besides an official worship service? Worth careful consideration of all church music leaders, especially as an introduction to Creative Commons Licensing.


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Whatever happened to congregational singing?


When I walk into a church, many times the first thing I hear is someone’s voice coming through the speakers from a microphone and not a host of voices singing. More and more it seems like people show up to church and expect a worship experience delivered to them, rather than people showing up excited to sing together. – Issac Wardell, Creative Director of Bifrost Arts and Director of Worship at Trinity Presbyterian in Charlottesville, Virginia. To remedy this, Bifrost Arts is holding a conference in St. Louis that may well be worth your time (discounts available for small church staff & students). Check out the artful video below or here.


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