This Christmas the American Atheists have posted a large billboard in Times Square New York. It has two pictures: one of Santa Claus and the other of Jesus on the cross. The captions under the pictures are “Keep the Merry” and “Dump the Myth”. Apart from having the captions under the wrong pictures, the sentiment is one I agree with. (more…)
Now there are all sorts of reasons why Christianity is a singing faith; for the practice of making melody to the Lord, and of hymn singing in particular, has many purposes. My intention in this article is to focus specifically on congregational singing and to open up its three principal purposes. (more…)
We’re publishing a major article on singing in church by Rob Smith in the September Briefing, but if you’re in Sydney and want to hear some singing by Rob Smith before that, try this …
In the middle of the classic Christmas hymn ‘Away in a Manger’, there is this one line that doesn’t quite ring true. The second stanza tells us, “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes / But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”. Did baby Jesus really not cry? The hymn author was likely thinking that Jesus did not cry because he was perfect and divine. But does a crying baby Jesus detract from his divinity? I think not, but a non-crying baby Jesus detracts from his humanity. (more…)
Recently, we’ve been preaching on Guidance, and to reinforce the theme, I selected “Guide me, O my great Redeemer” as our hymn of the month. (more…)
So was it important that the excellent things that Bob Kauflin was saying at the TWIST pastor’s conference were being said by a ‘Reformed charismatic’? (more…)
From all that he said, from what others have told me, and from my brief personal conversation with him, Bob Kauflin seems like a thoughtful, humble, godly man, who loves Jesus and the gospel, and is conservative and Calvinist in his theological convictions. My second reaction to the TWIST pastor’s conference was simply one of appreciation: the material that Bob Kauflin presented was insightful, well-delivered, and stimulating. (more…)
If you had told me 10 years ago when I was on the Board of Emu Music that in 2011 we’d be putting on a TWIST music conference for pastors and inviting the ‘Director of Worship Development’ from a major charismatic US church to be the keynote speaker… well I’d have been a little surprised, to say the least. (more…)
Sandy, I am delighted of course that you are with me on so many things. And I hope you will also be pleased to know that I am with you completely on the goodness and value of singing. (In fact, the only thing I wouldn’t be with you on is the need for that ‘but’ at the beginning of your second paragraph. But let’s not quibble.)
As for why we don’t sing more or better, and in particular why your men aren’t singing, I think the Bible also points us to the answer.
Okay, Tony, I’m with you on not calling our singing the ‘worship time’. I’m with you on not even calling our church gathering the ‘worship service’. I’m with you on wanting to avoid mere emotionalism. In fact, I also know you believe the emotions (or better, the affections) matter.
But I believe singing is important.
I believe the Bible says it’s important.
Song words used to be fixed in our hymnbooks or on overhead transparencies. If you wanted to modernize “Thou o’er death hast won” or paraphrase how God is “ineffably sublime”, you had to petition your denomination for a whole new publication. Today, everyone can publish whatever and whenever they like. We cut and paste lyrics into pew bulletins and, increasingly, into the latest data projection package.
With this shift into self-publishing, we seem to have decided that all lyrics are public domain. At least, where I come from, if you don’t like the theology of something, you simply change the offending word or phrase as easily as you might change its font or colour. We want to be a little bit Hillsong, but baulk at singing to “the darling of heaven”. We adore the popular triumphalism of ‘In Christ Alone’, but are hesitant to commend its theology that on the cross “Glory died”. We subtly cross the line from being a publisher to being a co-writer with the professionals.
Grimmo’s post on changes to the words of Wesley’s famous hymn put me in mind of another equally significant change to an equally famous hymn.
In the first verse of ‘Rock of Ages’, we are used to singing:
Be of sin the double cure: cleanse me from its guilt and power.
But this is not what Augustus Toplady wrote.