Thinking Out Loud

July 19, 2014

When We All Get To Heaven

Rapture art

If someone were to ask me if there are any paradigm shifts I’ve noticed in Christian perspectives on various issues, I would have to say that among my peers and those with whom I converse online, three things might quickly spring to mind:

  • A rethinking of the afterlife as ‘New Earth,’ rather than a ‘heaven’ that’s up there as opposed to down here. (For this, see the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.)
  • A reconsideration of the ‘rapture theology’ that has dominated Evangelicalism for the past several decades. (See End Time Delusions by Steve Wohlberg.)
  • A reassuming of our social justice responsibilities as opposed to placing the weight of our emphasis on doctrinal proclamation. (See Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma.)

However, the songs that we sing in our churches today — and by ‘our’ I mean those of us who have moved toward modern worship as opposed to gospel and classical hymns — do not reflect this change in thinking.

The hymns and gospel songs were consistent with things being preached in the pulpit and for many of us, these doctrines were ingrained through exposure to the music. Consider:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away

That’s rapture theology pure and simple. When We All Get to Heaven does talk about seeing Jesus and being in His presence, but implies that we are going to get to heaven, some place that’s out there.  Onward Christian Soldiers talks about taking the cross to the world, but our crusade doesn’t appear to include demonstrating compassion or there being servant leaders among the soldiers.

I’m not opposed to those songs entirely; they shaped who I am today. It’s just that in today’s vertical worship environment, we don’t have songs that tell our story and describe more of the thinking that is currently being taught in our churches.  Let me conclude with an illustration.

Last weekend we visited the anchor store in a large chain of musical instrument dealerships. I was telling the manager how my son, recently graduated in electrical engineering, has an interest in designing mixers, keyboards and especially synthesizers. I asked him if the store, when it hires people, is looking for product specialists or people who are good at sales.

He said basically that the product knowledge is a given. Nobody is going to apply who isn’t already a customer and very familiar with what’s in the store. So it’s the sales aptitude that they look for and develop in their staff.

Similarly, if I were asked to speak at a Christian songwriting conference, I wouldn’t talk about the basics of musical composition, I would, like the store manager, take that as a given. Instead, it’s a knowledge of the the lyrical foundation in the writing process that I would want to cultivate. I would want to encourage young Christian musicians to craft pieces that express where the church is today, the things that are central to us in 2014-15, and the things for which presently no songs exist.


We found today’s graphic image along with a very thorough article at this website

For an entirely unique view on this, here’s an old post I wrote about how a particular sect expresses their story in song.

July 18, 2014

Equal Time for Modern Worship

Filed under: music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:21 am

A few days ago I ran a string of videos that left some with the impression that, in terms of Christian music, I am stuck in 1977.  So here, unedited, are recent things that have been playing on my computer.

Here’s the new Steve Fee that Andy Stanley says you should download

With the present modern worship trends, vertical worship means we’ve lost songs of testimony, or songs like this one which make a declaration of faith

If you haven’t heard this Chris Tomlin song before, that’s because it’s a single; the album will be out later in the year.

This one goes back a few years, but my local Christian radio station played it yesterday and it was new to me. Songs which use scripture always have a lyrical power behind them that some other songs lack. Again, a declaration, “My heart is where my treasure lies.”

I think the idea to put this together came while I was discovering Worship Mob last night. They do a lot of covers, this one is original. Check out their video channel.

This one is current, but does echo a lot of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples stuff from a bygone era:

Okay, I want to end with something a little quieter. So for this we do go back a few decades:

July 13, 2014

In My Mind There Rings a Familiar Tune

Filed under: music — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:43 pm

While we’re breaking our one-year rule here — though it has been ten months — I don’t have a blog post today and this is really deserving of a greater audience! If you’re not on high-speed internet, don’t fret; this is audio-only:

Annotation on YouTube:

Christian parody of the iconic Beatles classic, Yellow Submarine.

Aaron Wilkinson, son of long-time friend and Christian blogger Paul Wilkinson came up with the concept of adapting Etlon M. Ross’s popular hymn “I Have A Song That Jesus Gave Me” (better known as, “In My Heart There Rings a Melody”) to the famous Beatles song that also became a classic cartoon featuring the Fab Four.

Enjoy and feel free to use in your congregations! They might really dig it.

Ever yours,
Flagrant Regard

Friend us on Facebook!
http://www.facebook.com/flagrant.regard

And if you haven’t already, check out FRs Reimagine video

July 10, 2014

Creating A Worship Song Set

Filed under: music, worship — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:10 am

Worship moment

Although our friend Laura has been leading worship for a relatively short time, she comes to this from a background in choral music in a more liturgical setting, so many of the modern worship songs and gospel hymns that are familiar to Evangelicals have been to new to her. With that perspective, her approach to leading in our home church is always marked by a careful choosing of songs, crafting original readings, and a most-evident continuity of theme.

She was asked recently to write about the song selection process — the always challenging and even mysterious part of worship leading to those who have never done it — and we got her permission to use this here at Thinking Out Loud. I really appreciated how she was able to cut to the core issues; the things that matter. I hope you’ll copy the link for this and send it to anyone who chooses the music for any sized event at your church.

Planning A Worship Set

by Laura Steen

In scripture, we are instructed to teach “using psalms, hymns and songs from the spirit, and to sing with gratitude in our hearts” (Colossians 3:16). How, then, do we plan a worship set that will set the spirit free, and make hearts thankful and ready to receive God’s word? How do we become organized, yet flow in the spirit? How do we work within the tension of careful preparation and spontaneity?

Prayer – the most important planning element. We enter into prayer as we think about the needs within the congregation and songs that may speak to those needs. We ask ourselves … is there a theme we need to work with, is there something in the message that needs to be reinforced through the music, do people just need to know God’s heart? It is amazing where answers come from … other people, scripture, books we are reading, or messages we have heard. We pray for preparation in our own hearts so that we can enter into worship and connect the hearts of God’s people with Him.

Song Selection – easier said than done. There are so many songs to choose from! Once prayer has given us a clear focus for the set, this process unfolds. We keep in mind several other items; are the words meaningful and scripturally based, are they right for the voices and instruments we have to work with, do they move us from praise to worship of our God?

Transitions – important smaller details. These create a natural flow through the worship set, often assisting in freeing the spirit. Scriptures, prayers, readings, heartfelt words or images are used to offer encouragement. Sometimes, a planned pause can speak volumes! Images, too, can speak a thousand words.

Practice – it isn’t about perfection, but rather to prepare the leader and team to work together and to create an arrangement that works for the songs. It isn’t just about technicalities, it’s a process that frees us to discover what works best for the song – voices, harmonies, instruments. Practice roots us in the purpose of our leadership and prepares us for the unexpected. We want people to feel freed to worship as the spirit moves them.<

And finally, Gratitude – we are grateful to be able to be used by God for the purpose of preparing hearts, freeing the spirit and encouraging others … and, while the planning takes time, there is so much joy in making music for God and his people!

 

June 24, 2014

Radio is No Longer About the Music

When I was in the 6th grade, I had pretty well solidified my career goal: To work in the television industry. Not in front of the camera, or even operating a camera, but in the control room or behind the scenes. Later on, this objective widened to include radio; an industry where you were both host and producer of what people heard. I’ve been told many times I have a great face for radio.

I realize that in 2014 radio is not the primary delivery method by which people are exposed to new music. There is always someone who has heard of a new music channel available for phone or laptop. But I miss those old days, and I especially miss listening to the announcers talk — what was called patter — between songs. I still go on YouTube and look up airchecks some of the original rock stations that were part of my growing up, WLS-Chicago, WNBC-New York, WOWO-Fort Wayne, WLW-Charlotte, CKLW-Detroit/Windsor, WKBW-Buffalo, WCFL-Chicago, WABC-New York, WXYZ-Detroit and some of the stations in Miami and greater Los Angeles I got to know later on.

radio-towerI love listening to the DJs talk. The cadence, the rhythm, the emphasis, the seemingly endless passion. “Be the sixth caller when you hear the secret sound and you win one-hundred dollars.” My goodness. A hundred bucks. Just for calling in. (Later, I would be such a lucky caller, and won a small sailboat, but that’s another story.)

Back then, the deejays talked about the songs. The singers. The album the song was from. The studio it was recorded in. The fact they were touring and doing shows in Dayton and Cincinnati and Lansing and Bowling Green, Kentucky. I got out the atlas to find those cities. There was a song about Bowling Green and I loved the name and wanted to go there. My friends said I was a walking encyclopedia when it came to music, and much of what I knew, I knew from listening to the guys — and it was always guys back then — on the radio. Some announcers picked all their own music, too — it was the days before everything was formatted in a highrise in Nashville — and it helped that they had a love for what they were playing.

What sparked all these memories was something that happened a few days ago as we were driving home and had the radio on in the car. I realized that the DJ wasn’t talking about the albums, the songs, the music at all. One singer just got married. Another was divorcing. Two of the guys in this band were gay. Two of the girls in that band were living with two actors who were starring in a current film. Another singer is suing his neighbor. Yet another is involved in a custody suit with his ex-partner for custody of their child.

I recognize that people want their radio announcers to seem close to the stars; they want to feel that the guy playing the music is just two or three degrees of separation away from the artists he or she is playing; or that they actually met backstage at a concert or at an in-studio appearance at the station. People want to think they have a sense of intimacy to their music heroes, and today opportunities exist whereby you can, in fact, send a note to a celebrity and get an actual, personal reply. Not often but it happens.

As we kept driving, I tried to find some common interest in all the marriages and breakups and shacking up, but failed to see how this was anymore relevant to the music than the relationship status of the guy who had just changed the oil on the car, or the woman who had rung in our groceries. Just as sure as water seeks its lowest level, radio had succumbed and now could only reflect the shallowness of the broader culture. Studios? Songwriters? You’d have to read the credits, but they are buried in one-point type in the booklet that comes with the CD, if you ever actually see a physical disc for that artist at all.

Decades ago Time Magazine did a piece when “rock ‘n roll” was emerging and observed that while outwardly this was music that highlighted drums and guitars, it was more than that; it was about the clothing and the hairstyles and the attitudes. Rock culture was born. Teens put pictures of their idols on their bedroom walls. I realize that is a fact of life where music is concerned, but it strikes me that today’s kids are missing out if they listen to radio at all, or whatever is the modern equivalent for the distribution of information about the songs and the artists. It’s all about who is having sex with who.

In my younger days, I would watch Entertainment Tonight. The show was all about the movie, TV, music and publishing industries. They showed how the stunts happen, how the songs get recorded, how the contestants get on the game shows. Today, ET has morphed into a celebrity gossip show and spawned a host of imitators. Talent has been replaced by looking good.

Some parents point their kids toward Christian radio as an alternative. It’s supposed to be safe. But even there, many times the DJ patter is borrowed from Facebook and gets preoccupied with the relationships between the band members, or the number of awards that singer has received, or the fact she gets her clothing from the same designer who does more famous people. How about, “This song is based on a phrase that occurs in Psalms;” or “This group takes there name from a verse in Jeremiah;” or “This song is about a woman who was a faith hero from back in the middle ages.” Maybe those songs don’t exist anymore, either.

I have no conclusion here. Tag me under #lament. I just wish things were different both for Christian radio and the broader market, because last time I checked, radio is still out there, cars still come equipped with them, and satellite providers still include a cross-section of radio stations in their basic packages.

 

 

June 8, 2014

My Kind of Worship Music (and How I Heard About It)

Filed under: music, worship — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

I don’t actually follow every news story that is making the rounds. I pick and choose. So the tectonic activity taking place among the staff and elders of Mars Hill Seattle (i.e. Mark Driscoll’s home base) is on my radar, though I’m not tracking it closely.

Nonetheless, Warren Throckmorton had an article on Friday about the church losing a popular worship director, Zach Bolen.  I clicked the video clip of his band Citzens, and have to say that as a keyboard player, this type of sound is like water to a thirsty man. (Or maybe I just borrowed a similar metaphor from the song.)  Too much of American Christian music is guitar-based, Nashville-rooted and all sounds the same. Well, IMHO anyway.

There’s a great endorsement from the UK Christian music magazine Crossrhythms (which figures because the sound is more aligned with European Christian music):

Clearly Citizens have a bright future ahead of them. As Breathecast commented, “Musically, Citizens have created a patented type of indie rock that flutters with the electronic beat of Switchfoot, yet shimmers with the emotional intensity of Hillsong United. Above all, Bolen sings with a sense of honest gravitas; it is as if leading worship is more than just a day job. Rather, he sings with a deep-seated passion that can only come from a man who knows grace.”

Enjoy!

June 5, 2014

I See a Blood Moon Rising

Filed under: books, Humor, music — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:08 am

Four Blood MoonsBlood Moon RisingWith the popularity of the books Four Blood Moons by John Hagee, and Blood Moons Rising by Mark Hitchcock, it occurred to me that it takes very little lyrical adaptation to make the old Creedence Clearwater Revival song Bad Moon Rising fit.

With apologies to the original writer, John Fogerty:

 

I see the blood moon rising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see those bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes a blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

Well don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.

Well don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

Don’t come around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

May 20, 2014

Saving Modern Worship

CCLI

Because there was so much interest in my short post on Sunday about modern worship, we actually got comments! That never happens here, despite a huge daily readership. This means that throughout Monday I was still engaging this topic, and it was then that it occurred to me that something that would have helped greatly this past weekend, and something I wish now I had included in my criteria for a broader, more inclusive song set, would have been to actually have a couple of songs that appear in the current CCLI top 25 list.

For churches that are concerned about copyrights, CCLI is the organization that makes it possible to see that mechanical royalties (not performance royalties) are paid to the appropriate songwriters and publishers for the manufacture of printed or projected lyrics. In so doing, they are party to great amounts of data about what churches in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, etc. actually want to sing.

By using these songs, worship leaders are:

  • using material that has been proven; songs that lead congregations into worship
  • choosing songs that might be reinforced throughout the week on Christian radio
  • selecting compositions known to visitors from other churches

Here is the current list for the U.S.

1 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman
2 How Great Is Our God
Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves
3 Mighty To Save
Ben Fielding, Reuben Morgan
4 Our God
Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman
5 Blessed Be Your Name
Beth Redman, Matt Redman
6 Revelation Song
Jennie Lee Riddle
7 Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
Chris Tomlin, John Newton, Louie Giglio
8 Here I Am To Worship
Tim Hughes
9 Everlasting God
Brenton Brown, Ken Riley
10 Forever Reign
Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan
11 In Christ Alone
Keith Getty, Stuart Townend
12 Jesus Messiah
Chris Tomlin, Daniel Carson, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves
13 One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)
Brian Johnson, Christa Black Gifford, Jeremy Riddle
14 Your Grace Is Enough
Matt Maher
15 How He Loves
John Mark McMillan
16 Open The Eyes Of My Heart
Paul Baloche
17 Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
Brenton Brown, Paul Baloche
18 Forever
Chris Tomlin
19 You Are My King (Amazing Love)
Billy J. Foote
20 The Stand
Joel Houston
21 Holy Is The Lord
Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio
22 Come Now Is The Time To Worship
Brian Doerksen
23 From The Inside Out
Joel Houston
24 Hosanna
Brooke Ligertwood
25 Shout To The Lord
Darlene Zschech

Here is the current list for Canada which is very similar:

 

1 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman
2 How Great Is Our God
Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves
3 Mighty To Save
Ben Fielding, Reuben Morgan
4 Here I Am To Worship
Tim Hughes
5 Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
Brenton Brown, Paul Baloche
6 Our God
Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman
7 Blessed Be Your Name
Beth Redman, Matt Redman
8 In Christ Alone
Keith Getty, Stuart Townend
9 Everlasting God
Brenton Brown, Ken Riley
10 Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
Chris Tomlin, John Newton, Louie Giglio
11 Revelation Song
Jennie Lee Riddle
12 Jesus Messiah
Chris Tomlin, Daniel Carson, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves
13 How Deep The Father’s Love For Us
Stuart Townend
14 Forever
Chris Tomlin
15 Your Grace Is Enough
Matt Maher
16 Hosanna
Brooke Ligertwood
17 You Are My King (Amazing Love)
Billy J. Foote
18 Open The Eyes Of My Heart
Paul Baloche
19 Come Now Is The Time To Worship
Brian Doerksen
20 One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)
Brian Johnson, Christa Black Gifford, Jeremy Riddle
21 Beautiful One
Tim Hughes
22 Forever Reign
Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan
23 Happy Day
Ben Cantelon, Tim Hughes
24 Shout To The Lord
Darlene Zschech
25 The Stand
Joel Houston

I’m not sure how recent this UK list is; it seems older. There are a couple of songs here that may be unfamiliar to American churches, although we are aware of them in Canada.

 

1 In Christ Alone
by Getty, Keith\Townend, Stuart
2 Shout To The Lord
by Zschech, Darlene
3 Here I Am To Worship
by Hughes, Tim
4 How Great Is Our God
by Cash, Ed\Reeves, Jesse\Tomlin, Chris
5 Be Still
by Evans, David J.
6 How Deep The Father’s Love For Us
by Townend, Stuart
7 King Of Kings Majesty
by Cooper, Jarrod
8 How Great Thou Art
by Hine, Stuart Wesley Keene
9 Psalm 23
by Townend, Stuart
10 The Servant King
by Kendrick, Graham
11 There Is A Redeemer
by Green, Melody
12 Blessed Be Your Name
by Redman, Beth\Redman, Matt
13 Come Now Is The Time To Worship
by Doerksen, Brian
14 Everlasting God
by Brown, Brenton\Riley, Ken
15 Faithful One
by Doerksen, Brian
16 I Will Offer Up My Life
by Redman, Matt
17 Knowing You
by Kendrick, Graham
18 Great Is Thy Faithfulness
by Chisholm, Thomas Obediah
19 Shine Jesus Shine
by Kendrick, Graham
20 Mighty To Save
by Fielding, Ben\Morgan, Reuben
21 Lord I Lift Your Name On High
by Founds, Rick
22 All Heaven Declares
by Richards, Noel\Richards, Tricia
23 Once Again
by Redman, Matt
24 Forever
by Tomlin, Chris
25 Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
by Baloche, Paul\Brown, Brenton

Despite the cartoon, please restrict comments to the issue of the familiarity and singability of worship songs; this was not a discussion of legal responsibility with respect to copyrights.

May 18, 2014

Modern Worship Movement Dead-Ended

Filed under: ministry, music, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm

worship_tshirt

As of today, I have seen the future of the modern worship movement, and even now, I am convinced that we are not being well-served.  Today I got to observe the height of performance-oriented worship formatting; songs that were completely unfamiliar pitched in keys that rendered them completely un-singable. I also saw the approach toward casual dress of platform/stage personnel at its worst. I also observed song lyrics that simply cannot be supported theologically. Throughout it all, I was expected to remain standing.

Oddly enough, part of the reason we decided to take our free Sunday at this church was because of its history and reputation for outstanding worship. I really don’t want to be a curmudgeon, but I honestly feel that worship leaders to need to rethink some basics before assembling a worship set.

  • At least one hymn (yes, mostly for demographic reasons, but also for theological ones)
  • At least one modern hymn (as in Townend, Kendrick, Gettys, Sovereign Grace)
  • At least one modern worship composition that proved itself in the ’80s, ’90s or early ’00s.
  • For another two songs, you can have your recent modern worship songs, but try to go with something of substance. (Doerksen or Baloche for at least one would be nice)

There’s a five song worship song list I could live with.

In the meantime, if I were in leadership at the church we attending this morning, I would be convening an emergency meeting early in the week.

Just because your church has achieved success numerically is no reason to assume you’re doing everything right.

April 18, 2014

I Screwed Up

Filed under: music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:56 pm

A title like that one is almost guaranteed to bring in readers because we love to read about others’ mistakes. So today I’ll be one of the others.

I totally messed up a piece in this morning’s Good Friday service. A major brain cramp. It was a medley of two songs, two verses each, and when I finished the first verse of the first one, my eyes went back to to the top of the page, but my hands went on to the second piece. So there I was at the keyboard, and I just kept going because I couldn’t stop. About a dozen painful bars of this, and my brain reset enough to go into the next section.

We’ve been practicing this piece since February.

When the service was over, I went into the prayer room which is just off the front of the sanctuary and just sat on the couch in the dark.  I would probably still be there now if my family hadn’t found me. (Slightly exaggerated, perhaps; I probably would have eventually got hungry.)

Still, I haven’t had one of these screw-up in a long time.

Right now, music is a four-letter word. I think it’s time to retire.  Do you ever feel like giving up when things crash?  What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done on a church platform? Please comment; I need somebody else to be one of the others now. 

#MusicalTrainWreck

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