How many songs do you do at your church?
I had a conversation with some guys recently who had a song list of 157 songs. That’s heaps! They were concerned that the congregation would get bored if they sang the same songs lots. At church we have probably a cycle of about thirty songs.
The benefit of having less is that you can be well practised in them. So the band at Nite church no longer need chord charts. We only use charts for new songs.
The benefit of lots of songs is that there are lots to choose from, but I see it more as a lot of excess songs that you shouldn’t play. What do you think? More or less?
TWIST was good. I was only there for three hours on Saturday though. I was setting up for a workshop so missed most of the main session so don’t listen to my opinions.
I did have a good time in the workshop. Jon Baldwin and I led a session on teaching new songs to the congregation. It was fun. Lots of people had good ideas to share and it was a really productive time.
Main points I think could be gleaned from the workshop would be:
- there are more than one way to teach a song and different songs require different ways of teaching them.
- Be enthusiastic and confident or you will never get your church to enjoy the song.
- Be directive with your band and the congregation (this can mean that you sound a bit like a teacher sometimes eg. ‘lets go over that bit again cos I don’t think you got it’, but it will pay off in the long run)
It was great hearing a bunch of music leaders having a go at this and I was encouraged by a lot of the delegates there.
I also had heaps of good chats with different people that I found encouraging. Overall although I could only be there for a short time, it was a good time nonetheless.
I’m off to TWIST this morning. Maybe I’ll see you there.
We are un-teaching ourselves grace
On the weekend we sung a new rewrite of an old hymn called ‘Before Jehovah’s awful throne’. It’s by Isaac Watts and the new version could be online sometime soon.
It got me thinking again about why we teach Hymns to a modern congregation. Don’t we have enough people writing praise choruses without going back to the old stuff? A freind of mine told me that he doesn’t understand why our church does hymns because surely people can’t relate to something that says ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ in it. It seems that singing hymns needs some kind of explanation. I reckon there are heaps of reasons why we should still sing hymns. Heres just one of them. (I haven’t written about this stuff for a while so I thought it would be apt. Sorry if you have heard me talk about this stuff lots. I will continue to do it.)
Modern Praise Choruses are filled with longing and promises: “I want to worship you” “I will sing of your love forever” “Here I am to worship” “Lord we want to bow before your throne” Some are quite explicit vows: “I make a vow that I will always honour Christ whether I live or die”.
As you look through the songs that we sing we are obsessed with promising things to God. We will love him more, we will worship him harder, we will be fired up everyday of our lives.
I wonder if with all this promising and longing, we are teaching ourselves that we need to work for our salvation. We need to prove something to God. I think that there is a place for making some sort of vow to God or for expressing a longing to serve him, but to quote Kevin Twit
, ‘a constant diet of promise songs leave you spiritually immature’.
Compare this to the Christian life seen in the hymns. I will take Rock of Ages as an example because it is so well known ‘could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone, you must save and you alone.’
Rather than only feeding us with songs of response the hymns bathe us in God’s grace. They show us God’s saving power and teach us to rely only on him. I think that many modern song writers do this too, but our individualistic western culture always drags us into thinking that we need to do something.
Keep singing hymns and keep trusting God.
I am excited to announce a new initiative that we are undertaking with CCECNiTECHURCH music this year. After previous recordings that our church has done (these can be downloaded at http://www.singjesuspraise.com/
) the Nite church music team (we know how to spell night we are just cutting edge cool) are going to put down some tracks with a little bit different purpose.
In the past there has been a tension in our recordings… who are they for? Our church? other churches? private listening pleasure? teaching a song? so in answer to these questions we’ve decided to break it all up and put out a little something for everyone.
Project Philippi is an initiative to help out other churches in the area of music. For now it is just a recording but we hope in the future to do more things to help out others, the way that the Philippians poured themselves out for the church in Jerusalem.
The Project Philippi recordings are going to be a small selection of some of our new songs that we have written along with chord charts, lead sheets and backing tracks for each song. We are hoping to print around 200 CDs and send them to music directors around the place as a free gift. Because they are free we will not be getting the most expensive sound out of the recordings. Their purpose will be more to give a new selection of songs to a church.
We are soon to begin work on this so you can be praying for us as we do this that we will be humble and driven by Jesus glory and magnifying his name around our country.
I’ll keep you posted from here about where we are up to with it. Eventually I would love it if you would send me a contact person from your church who could benefit from this initiative.
Totally nothing about singing in this post
I have been made aware of a christian organisation called STOP THE TRAFFIK based in the UK that are on about ending human trafficking in the world. apparantly there are more slaves today then there were when William Wilberforce was around. This horrifies me.
I’m excited by seeing Christians passionate about this stuff. It reminds me that God is a God who cares about justice and who loves the oppressed. As we are changed to be more and more like Jesus, do we care more and more about this stuff?
Creative Arts college and John Newton
Found some cool stuff on the web this morning. The first was an imagined interview between Brian Thomas and John Newton. It’s a bit geeky but kind of cool.
The second is some ideas about an Anglican Creative arts college in Sydney. My gut reaction is that it’s a good question to be asking but I reckon Graham Stanton is on the money when he says the secular colleges are already awesome. It’s exciting seeing an interest in the creative arts though!
This weekend our church spent our meetings with a focus on mission. We had ‘double-up’ at youth on Friday night, cafe del-freeo on Saturday night and Evangelistic night church meeting Sunay night. There was different kinds of music at all of these events and gave me opportunity to think a bit about the role of music in mission. With a view to posting something on it next week, give me some of your thoughts on:
Should we sing at mission events?
Is it ok to have non-Christian artists perform at mission events?
What should music look like in different mission contexts?
Should we have door to door carol teams?
The trouble with ‘and’
Colossians 3:16 in the NIV says:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
I find this very helpful as I think about church music. Our singing is in response to God and it springs from his word in our hearts. This means our singing should be biblical and it should be filled with thanksgiving and joy. But… the ESV translation of the same verse doesn’t contain an important word. Check it out:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
In the ESV there is no ‘and’ between teaching and admonishing and singing. In the NIV translation it depicts these two activities as being separate but both springing from the word. The ESV and the greek however depict singing as being something you do to teach and admonish one another.
This is HUGE!
When we sing to one another we are teaching each other. I asked the music team at our church how they saw this happening and they came up with two great responses.
1. We teach each other by singing truths to one another. We remind each other of great things that Christ has done and how awesome He is. This is the proclamationary (?) nature of church singing. Proclaiming God’s wonderous deeds.
2. We teach each other by responding appropriately to what we sing. If I am singing a celebratory song about Christ’s victory then my face will show others that I am celebrating and this will encourage them and remind them that yes, it is exciting that Jesus is Lord. If my expression shows sorrow in a song that talks about repentance then I am teaching and reminding the congregation to feel the weight of their sin.
Sinful humans do not naturally respond emotionally to God’s truths. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something that grows as we grow in maturity. It can be taught. The same could be said about thankfulness or repulsion at our own sin. These are emotions that grow.
Musos and singers at the front of church should be teaching the congregation how to respond to the truths we sing. Leaders can do this by highlighting lines in the song before the singing begins. Another way that all of the team can be involved is by themselves reading through the words that they play and responding visually to what they sing. Too many musos don’t sing in church because they just read chord charts. Learn the songs at home and sing your heart out while you play the guitar. This will be a great service to the congregation.
If you are not part of a music team at church then you can fulfill the same role by visually expressing what you sing so that those around you will be reminded of an appropriate response to God.
May the Spirit be constantly shaping our dark hearts so that we can love God more and hate our sin.
We love a good mystery
Humans love mystery. Particularly in worship we are generally drawn to the mysterious. There is a sense in our post modern society that if it is mysterious it has meaning or value. This is why there has always been a cultic fascination with mystery. This phenomenon is not just part of the new age spirituality movement or eastern mysticism but is often seen within those churches who claim allegiance with Christ. Christians love mysterious and ethereal experience.
The Catholic mass in many ways captures this fascination. We build cathedrals that evoke a feeling of mysterious awe towards God. We institute rites that only certain people may perform at certain times. Often rituals are in place to give us a sense of other-worldiness. In the modern comtemporary Christian music movement there is a move towards more ethereal instruments such as chimes and synth to create a sense of a God who is beyond us. Not all of this is negative. There is something profound about being in awe and wonder at a God who is bigger than our sensory world.
However there can be a problem when we prefer a good mystery to a revealed truth. Jesus is God in flesh. He is a tangible reality. He ate. He died. He walked around. He was not a spirit being who was beyond us but rather was God with us. No doubt this is a earth-shattering concept but salvation itself is tangible. One group who were around at the beginning of the early church were the gnostics. These guys thought that because God is spiritual and spiritual means other-worldy then to have a God who became a man was inconcievable. They believed that Jesus’ fleshliness was just an illusion and that really he was a spirit. They also believed that Jesus did not physically rise from the dead as a real dude, but rather he rose spiritually as a ethereal being. John argues against this line of thought in his letter 1 John. He is writing to a bunch of guys who were being persuaded by gnostics. This is what he says in chapter 1:
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
John’s confidence is in his senses and in what he has heard. For him Jesus and the gospel were a very physical reality.
There is a sense of mystery in the Bible. The mystery is, ‘How is God going to bring all things together and reconcile a defiled people to himself and remain Holy?’ But the mystery is revealed.
Rom 16:25, Eph 1:9, Eph 3:3-6, Col 1:26-27, Col 2:2, Col 4:3 all tell us that this mystery has been revealed. Because we worship the God of revelation, he reveals things to us. God is no longer a mystery in the hidden sense of the word.
So what does it mean in our context of meeting together? We should not chase the mysterious. God is a revealer. He has revealed himself in Jesus. I think that many churches tend to sing more songs about God as a distant deity and they celebrate this instead of singing about God’s revelation… Jesus. Count the times that the incarnation is sung of in your church. Are you as on about Jesus in your singing as God is? Do you prefer to be in the dark about God or do you want to sing about what you know of him?