Sing Unto the Lord


When to fire your music team
March 31, 2008, 9:35 am
Filed under: Thinking Music

I had a friend talk to me on the weekend and he said that in his experience the area of church life that has given the most grief is the music team. The music team can be full of arrogance, pride, selfishness, bitterness, angst and divisiveness. Often when music is pushed to do well it means that musos get cut who aren’t good enough and that causes pastoral issues, or musos get put on who are great but full of themselves and that creates a music team full of glory-seekers.

In his mind, it’s not essential in the Bible to have a music team so lets just get rid of it. I actually agree with him.

Sort of.

I think that a music team can lead your people to sin more than to be joyful in Christ. They can cause fractiousness and gossip and resentment quicker than it takes a celebrity to get of jail. There is no where in the New Testament that says such a team needs to exist. In fact you could argue that the music team that is there in the old testament is, like the rest of the priesthood, now found within each member of Christ’s body and fulfilled in Jesus himself. We don’t need a special group to run our singing. It doesn’t need to be world class. It isn’t a sin to have bad music. Perhaps you need to drop your music team.

But…

A more ideal situation would be to have a music team that loves Jesus and his people more than themselves. I personally would cut someone who was obviously self seeking before I cut someone who couldn’t sing. Nothing kills music teams more than fights. Music teams fight because we are involved in art. Artists generally have the tendency to put their ego and sense of self on the line with their art. It is a very ‘self revealing’ role. However this approach is not acceptable in a church context. Your ‘art’ is not yours to give. You are serving your church. As you sing together, a song becomes a joint offering of worship from the whole congregation. So often we are taught as church musicians that we are bringing our talents to be our worship to God. That’s individualist crap.

You are using the gifts that God has graciously given you to serve his people in joining together and firing each other up to live lives of magnification and worship. That means that if it doesn’t serve the church for you to play a certain way… don’t do it. If it doesn’t serve church for you to play at all, then listen to your team leader for advice and maybe you should serve elsewhere. Church music is about church. Not about individuals wanting to do ‘their bit for God’.

This is why I like the idea of Bands rather than a team. People already understand some of this thinking when they are in a band. They get that they aren’t individuals. They work together. They arrange together to get the best result as a band. As soon as one member is keen to express themselves contrary to the way the band is heading, they come into trouble.

The model of a Music team as opposed to a few bands encourages people to do their own thing. They are on the roster with different people all the time and so a ‘every man for themselves’ philosophy can take root. Our church has just moved to having bands right across morning and evening congregations. The results have been amazing. People are working together in a way they never have before. I’m excited also by my friend’s experience.

Like I said before he had felt like it wasn’t worth having music in church because it caused too many problems, but now he said that at the church he is at the music works on a band structure. There are three smaller bands instead of one massive crew. He said that the music has been sweet and conflict has been absent. I’d encourage you to start thinking about the structure of your team and how you can be working to debunk individualism within music ministry. It can be a fantastic tool in gathering together. It would be a shame to have to get rid of it because of sin.

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RVCA and Beautiful Losers (massive art linkage)
March 24, 2008, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Everything else

I don’t know if you know much about RVCA but they are a clothing company designed to take the skills of well known and unknown artists – usually from the alternative/skateboarding/street scene and use their prints to make cool clothes. It kind of is a bit like threadless.com but a bit more organized and with more recognized artists.

They are bringing out an exhibition/film called Beautiful Losers about the rise of this new generation of art and where it has come from. Looks really good. Go check it.

And if you are keen on the art and design scene go check the Semi Permanent festival in Sydney 4-5 April.

(art by Andrew Pommier)



Good Friday song list
March 20, 2008, 9:16 am
Filed under: Doing music

Our church is getting all the congregations together on Friday for one big event. I’m not sure what your church is up to but I thought you would be interested to know what we are singing.

Count The Mercies (ccecmusic)

Nothing But the Blood (Redman)

How Deep the Father’s love (Townend)

At the Foot of the Cross (as an item) (not sure of writer – as performed by the Northern Conspiracy)

Amazing Grace (Newton)



Britney Spears and the shock of reality
March 19, 2008, 9:03 am
Filed under: Everything else

Every now and then I pop into the news agency and grab some mags. Yesterday I picked up Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone is good because not only does it give cd and movie reviews it also has some good articles on pop culture and politics.

I bought this months issue purely for the cover article. It was titled ‘The Tragedy of Britney Spears’. I thought it was a pretty good article with some profound insights. It paints the story of Britney growing up and the pressure that was put on her to fulfill a role as a nineties innocent lolita when in reality she was trying to grow up. It describes the way that she found her release from the pressure in numerous men starting with Justin Timberlake (who it seems was the best man she has been with) and then going through her various partners since then. It shows the way that she has rebelled against what was thrust upon her and has indulged in excess through drugs and materialism. She no longer cares much about what anyone thinks of her on a surface level and yet it is people’s opinions of her that sustain her. Last year 20% of all money made by the papparazzi the world over was made on Britney. Everything she does is news. The writer finishes the whole article with a brilliant paragraph…

A world without Britney, where she is set aside in rehab or a psychiatric center, is hard to contemplate: She’s the canary in the coal mine of our culture, the most vivid representation of the excess of the past decade. She didn’t think there was a tomorrow worth saving for, and neither did we. After blaming everyone else for her problems, Britney’s finally starting to realize the degree to which she’s messed up, but her sense of entitlement keeps her from admitting it to herself, or to anyone who is trying to help her. We want her to survive and thrive, to evolve into someone who can make us proud again. Or maybe, we just don’t want the show to end.

I agree. Britney is the tangible metaphor for what is happening in our society. My generation cares little about the future or consequences. They care only for the now. I think this goes hand in hand with a move into a post-christian world. There is no sense of eternity around us, only marketing that aims at getting my generation further and further into credit debt.

We need to preach a different gospel. We need to help people see the blinkers that have been put on them by the culture we live in. They need to recognise their fragility and their standing before an eternal, holy God. Jesus holds promise for Generation Y. In Jesus we find the comfort that so many of us are searching for in stuff. We can see that in him we have life with meaning and life without end. We see our lives as part of his salvation history and we see his glory as the purpose of all things. Keep preaching to our culture. We need Jesus.



You and You alone – (review)
March 18, 2008, 11:50 am
Filed under: Doing music, General Music

Sovereign Grace have put out some great music in the past. They consistently hit the mark with God honouring lyrics and affecting melodies. Recently as their movement has grown so has the songwriting talent. It’s hard now for all songwriters to collaborate on one project. Thus they have introduced the overflow series. Music recorded by individuals from different Sovereign Grace churches.

Recently Pat and Joel Sczebel from CrossWay Community Church in British Columbia (Canada!!) have put out their offering – You and You alone.

I sent an email to Pat asking if he would let me review his album for Sing Unto the Lord and he was into it. So I’ll go through it track by track and then give an overall impression for how we in Australia can use some of this stuff and how we can be encouraged from it.

First up… one thing to say. Great cover art. Grabbed me instantly.

1. Trust in You (Joel)

This song rocks. It drives the whole way. I have heard so many songs written for a youth context that just don’t hit it. Hillsong United are one of the only groups I know of that can do songs youth love without coming across as contrived or cheesy. ‘Trust in You’ is another song that fulfills that need. The lyrics remind us of God’s sovereignty over all rulers and powers. One great line ‘in joy and suffering, always I’ll keep singing, you are good, Jesus you are good!’ After hearing one song from the album, this ones my favorite.

2. Over all (Pat and Joel)

This is another song about God’s sovereignty and the hope and security we can have because we put our trust in this King. Key line: ‘Over all afflictions and every storm of life, in the midst of suffering Almighty, you reign.’ It’s a good song. It would work great with our morning congregations. It still is upbeat and kicks along. It didn’t grab me the same way as the first but I think that could be because of a slightly different style and possible audience. Still a great congregational song.

3. Yesterday, Today and Forever (Pat)

This song reminded me of a blend between an Oasis song and something written recently by Bon Jovi. It was pretty cool. Another song about how Jesus is faithful and trusting him will bring us hope. So far the themes are kind of overlapping but they seem to be heading somewhere. The first two songs highlighted God’s sovereignty and power this third song does the same but reminds us of God’s faithfulness in saving us through Jesus.

4. The Greatest of All (Pat)

Dropped back a bit for this song. This had a great swing to it. It also had some mad organs in the mix. It’s a sweet ballad. The lyrics are all about redemption. It fits well with the gospel/country feel. I love this song. The chorus says:

‘Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb

Redeemed through your infinite mercy

Your child and forever I am.’

5. In You (Joel)

This song was a pop rock gem. It had a catchy chorus. It’s all about the different mercies that can be found in Jesus. The line ‘In you I’ll rest’ kept playing through my head hours after hearing the song.

For now I’ll take a bit of a break and review the rest of the album on Friday. In the meantime perhaps you want to download it from the sovereign grace website.



John Owen loves to sing
March 18, 2008, 10:45 am
Filed under: Thinking Music

I’ve been reading a bit of John Owen lately. I found him heaps hard to start with but his sermons are easier. You can download them from ccel.org. I printed off the first hundred pages and bound it at the church office. Sweet action.

Yesterday I read a sermon on Psalm 45. A few parts were just gold! There was also a lot of references to music and singing. He speaks of David’s gifting in music as being a tool for God to use to bless his people. He also mentions that in his mind…

singing is a means appointed of God whereby men should express their joy in a way of
thankfulness
.’

He then goes on to point out the error in a heart not filled with joy in response to Christ’s offer of salvation. This bit was particularly compelling:

Let us inquire whether we have found, or do find, this joy in our own hearts. Is the remembrance of the closing of our hearts with Christ a song of loves unto us? Truly, if our loves be earnest and intent upon other things, we find joy and refreshment in them; but are we not dead and cold to the thoughts of this great and excellent advantage, of being espoused to Christ, as all believers are? If so, it is but a sad evidence we are truly so espoused.

Alas! if a poor beggar, a deformed creature, should be taken into the espousals of a great prince, would she not be sensible of it? We are poor, deformed, woeful, sinful, polluted creatures; and for us to be taken into this relation with Jesus Christ! — where are our hearts? Why do not we rejoice in the Lord with joy unspeakable, and full of glory? Is it not because Christ hath not our whole hearts? because we are  not so entirely with him and for him in our affections as becomes this relation? because the world
hath too much hold upon us? Shall God rejoice, and Christ rejoice, — shall it be a song of loves to God and Christ that we are brought into this relation, and these dull hearts of ours be no farther affected with it? We ought to be ashamed to think how little we are concerned in this so great a privilege…’

Wow. There is a call to watch the affections of your heart. Pray that we might realise the weight of our sin and the wonder of our salvation!

There are a lot of Johns who love to sing. So far I’ve mentioned John Stott and John Owen. Maybe I’ll turn this into a blogging series.



My sweet friends
March 17, 2008, 10:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have some good friends. I’m blessed to serve with the guys and girls that I do in Nitechurch. Some of my sweet friends have recently been making me excited by the way they have begun leading different areas of ministry. I thought I’d let you know something about what’s been going on so you can be praying for them as they think through new ways to do stuff and ways to help people honour Jesus.

Youth Music

My man Max has been looking after Youth music for almost two terms now. He is humble and thoughtful as he thinks through the best way to lead young guys to have hearts stirred by Jesus. Max and his team have had a rough trot this term as our youth group has changed venue like seventy times. He can still pull out the goods though and I know lots of people are thankful to God for him and his work. Pray for him as he starts thinking through music at Phat camp.

Kids Music

Just this year my sweet friends Todd and Sarah have stepped up to lead the Kids music on Sunday mornings. Every week they are leading 180+ kids in singing together. For them music is critical as it teaches kids scripture memory and key biblical concepts like God’s Kingship and his love for us. At the moment it’s just them and the 180 kids so soon I’m sure they will tire out. Pray that they can find a team of enthusiastic people to help them in this ministry. Todd is keen to start writing some kids music so pray for him that he will be faithful to the word as he does it.

Nitechurch Logistics

Jay is a friend of mine who has recently stepped up to oversee the behind the scenes stuff of what takes place every Sunday night. He organises chairs, runsheets, supper, ushers, set up, pack up and lights. Jay is very busy. It has been such a cool thing having someone in this role who thinks intentionally about the flow of our gathering. He has a heart to see people engaged in God’s word and in singing together. Pray for him as he builds a team of servants. He needs people to step up and help him but often people aren’t interested in being behind the scenes.

Nitechurch music resources

Josh has recently become a busy man. He has started at a music college in Sydney which means heaps of travel time. But he also has volunteered to oversee resource management in our Nitechurch music team. That means he is compiling a library of different tutoring resources like DVDs, books and magazines to help our team ‘play skilfully to the Lord’ (Ps 33:3). Josh also will be linking our team in with some local tutors to get lessons and improve their skill base. I’m thankful to God for providing our team with Josh. Pray that his role will be useful to us and that we will make the most of it.

There are heaps of other people who have been encouraging me in their service: Grant our art dude, Jackson our head of ministry, Simon our guys ministry dude, Jason Emily and Craig our membership people, Rahia heading up girl’s ministry… the list could go on.

I love being part of a church where people are so keen to serve that they will create new roles to serve in. It’s awesome seeing all these new areas of our church flourish and seeing people take on the same attitude as Christ Jesus in service and humility. This year has started as an awesome year for Nitechurch. Pray that it would continue and that we would keep preaching Christ to the Central Coast.