All posts in "Worship wars"

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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Does your church have ‘segregated worship?’


That is, does church feature different kinds of music at different services? Do the children or young people have a separate worship gathering of their own apart from the main congregation? Tullian Tchvidian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church writes: …Many churches offer a traditional service for the tribe who prefer older music and a contemporary service for the tribe who prefer newer music. The truth is, however, that if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is old, you inadvertently communicate that God was more active in the past than he is in the present. On the other hand, if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is new, you inadvertently communicate that God is more active in the present than he was in the past… And this: The only way to musically communicate God’s timeless activity in the life of the church is to blend the best of the past with the best of the present. In other words, we must remember in our worship that while “contemporary only” people operate with their heads fixed frontwards, never looking over their shoulder at the stock from which they have come, and “traditional only” people operate with their heads on backwards, romanticizing about the past and always wanting to go back, the Church, in contrast from both extremes, is called upon to be a people with swiveling heads: learning from the past, living in the present, and looking to the future. That’s the only way to avoid in worship what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” Here’s the clincher: You see, when we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated. Coral Ridge combined their services for the first time in many years this past Sunday, so the church is practicing what the preacher is saying. What do you think?  Does he have a point?  Too strong? Is Tullian majoring on minors or is he spot on?


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Jazz as worship music


Good thoughts from David Baroni via CCLI blog: It takes a degree of trust to launch out with other musicians into the unknown waters of spontaneous composition. Our tendency, especially as Greek-mindset influenced westerners who rely on empiricism- that is, on what we perceive by our natural senses- is to lean too heavily on the sheet music. It seems safer that way, we like structure. But does our structure make room for God? He dwells not in temples (structures) made with human hands. He came in the unlikely womb of a young virgin… to the natural minded a woman of reproach. A King? Yes, but born in a stall surrounded by smelly animals and lower class shepherds. The Word was made flesh… the Eternal/Invisible clothed, indeed bound Himself with Time and the Physical so that we who were blind could finally, by faith, see the Father. The church is a wineskin for the Kingdom of God, not an inflexible piece of pottery that crumbles under the intoxicating pressure of the flowing wine of God’s grace and Presence. I am not advocating that we have no structure, no wineskin, only that the new wine of the Kingdom of God is poured into the accommodating wineskin that the church is meant to be. Full piece here.


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Worship wars – the prequel


In the first family, God was looking for true worshipers. Between Cain and Abel, he found only one.  “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering.  Cain became furious…” (Gen. 4:4-5). Driven by religious jealousy, Cain murdered his brother. Welcome to the Story of Worship. – Gerrit Gustafson, The Story of Worship, Worship Corner blog


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Testing music


Ed Stetzer of Lifeway has seven helpful tests to filter through song selections for worship, five of which are cultural rather than theological. The third (Association test) has this anecdote: I was…speaking to a group of pastors, some of whom were Jamaican. I was challenging them to consider that there is no such thing as Christian music, only Christian lyrics. I asked if God could use jazz; they said yes. I asked if God could use country/western, they said yes. I asked a few others; then I asked if God could use reggae. They were shocked and clearly expressed that it was not appropriate. Reggae music was about drugs and there would be no reason to sing about drugs in church. They had a point. I then asked if it would be OK to use reggae music in my church where we have no concept of the drug connection. They agreed. The music was not the problem, the association was. The key question for the association test is this, “What does the music bring to mind in the heart of the worshipper?”  Note:  not what does it inspire in my heart– but what does it inspire in the heart of the worshipper. The history of church music suggests that every generation has its own music.  Today, many older Christians reject the contemporary music of the younger believers, while the younger don’t understand or use the music of past generations… His conclusion: God can use ANY form of music. God has no musical style or preference. Therefore, with the exception of the message and purpose test, the only tests that we have provided are cultural. The question is asked, “What impact does this music have on the culture via association, memory, emotions, understanding, and music?” These are not easy questions–but they are essential. Read the entire post here.


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No compromise in the worship wars


Great post here by Ed Stetzer titled “Ending the Worship Wars without a Truce.” His thoughts about ending the “periennal war over worship” includes these 5 ideas: Rally around Truth, not a truce Acknowledge that preferences are personal Realize relevance and reverence are not at war with each other Embrace humilty Cultivate consensus, not compromise. Quotables include: The reason worship wars exist is because the church thinks it is fighting for something permanent when it is actually temporary. Musical styles and service preferences are like a jacket that can be taken on or off depending upon the temperature. and this: At the heart of many of our worship wars is, sad to say, idolatry. Our worship of things other than God drives the way we contend for ways to worship God. When reverence is equated with austerity, it can reveal an idolization of familiarity and comfort and control. When relevance is equated with a production carte blanche or “freedom of expression,” it can reveal an idolization of trendiness and self and showmanship. Both relevance and reverence can cloak idolatry of cultural forms and expressions. Well said.  Read the whole post here.


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