Thinking Out Loud

December 3, 2014

Wednesday Link List

First King Sized Bed

Today we’re blending the new format detailed links that appeared on PARSE on Monday with the regular serving we offer here.

  • The Medium is Contradicting The Message - “I want to attend a conference one day about being small, authentic, and missional at a church that is small, authentic, and missional. I want to read a book about overcoming the success syndrome written by a pastor who, in the eyes of the world, looks like a failure. I want to hear from the pastor whose story didn’t have a happy ending, and yet who still clings to the fact that Jesus is enough.” The choices of locations, books and speakers are often subtracting from the message.
  • Fruitful and Multiplying - “In the Bible, one of the first things God says to humankind is to be fruitful and multiply. That command predates the Ten Commandments and just about every other commandment in the Bible. God wants us to have kids. But just how fruitful do we need to be? … I’ve been to thousands of church services and lots of Christian men’s events. I can’t ever recall the topic of vasectomies coming up.”
  • The Apostle Paul’s Cool Factor – We often look at the Acts 17 speech and think of Paul warming up the crowd like a late night talk show host’s opening monologue. “You see, in Paul’s world, the hottest commodity was honor or reputation. It wasn’t dying with the most toys that mattered—it was dying with the highest number of honors recognized by the most number of people, popularity through status and virtue.” On that score, Paul definitely bucked the trend.
  • Worship Leading for the Benefit of the Congregation – I know music-related articles are ubiquitous, but in many congregations, the worship time is more than half of the total service. This article by Carlos Whittaker was refreshing. “If you have a tendency to want to make out on the first date, keep it to your love life, not your song selection. Oceans is a great example. Our church introduced the bridge to that song mixed in with other choruses. We took it slowly. I know some friends that, although eventually catching on, that song was almost lost because they did it TOO MUCH TOO FAST …” Four overlooked steps in choosing songs.
  • When the Script Differs from the Scriptures – Not sure what it says about the forthcoming movie Exodus: God and Kings if the actor playing Moses finds him to be “likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.” Matt Perman writes, “That is quite something to say about one of the greatest figures in at least two major world religions…” A quick look at the movie’s namesake sets the record straight.
  • The Gift of Discouragement – These days every kid gets a trophy. We still joke in our house about our oldest’s announcement that his team ‘won the soccer tournament.’ They did not. Not by a long-shot. But sometimes raw honesty can be a gift to your child. “[M]y mom told me I stunk as a pitcher. After that, I quit pitching. In today’s parenting culture, my mother would be raked over the coals for not being encouraging enough or supporting me or helping me dream big.” But discouragement is not disheartening.
  • When It’s Time to Leave Your ChurchEvery story plays out differently, and local and denominational policies may mean having to work within a fixed process. Much seems to depend on the attitude with which the task is approached. “It was both a matter of integrity and practicality to immediately inform a handful of the most obvious leaders of our church of my plans to transition out. Soon after, I invited them to my home and asked them to guide my decisions by becoming my personal ‘transition team.’ From that first monthly meeting, every decision would be a “we” decision, which paid off later for the church.”
  • Thanksgiving is More Religious Than Christmas – Last week I spoke with a woman whose family—and extended family—exchanges gifts the first week in December, in order that the focus on Christmas Day itself will be all about Christ. I thought of her when I read this article, though as the new car advertisement says, ‘Your mileage may vary;’ we each experience the holidays differently in our family, economic and cultural contexts. See if you agree with 7 Reasons Thanksgiving is Way Better Than Christmas.
  • Talking Tech – The next billion people to join the internet won’t be doing so on a Mac, PC or tablet. “Any mission agency, any national church, any ministry, especially in the Majority World, which does not have mobile at the top of its agenda, is failing to understand God’s plan for effective communication.” Hyperbole perhaps, but worth considering.

Then there’s today’s PARSE offerings (send them some stats love and read at source!)

  • A Convert to Short-Term Missions – It was the church choosing who would go that changed Jamie Wright’s mind: “Most of us don’t go to churches who let anybody who feels like it get up and preach on Sunday morning. We don’t let the first guy to jump on stage with a tambourine lead us in worship. We don’t let every volunteer who walks through the door feeling “called” hold our babies on their lap, or – God forbid – count our money! We are constantly making decisions about who should do what within the framework of the church, but we balk at the idea of choosing our missionaries.”
  • Where’s The Faith? – How is it that Downton Abbey, a show set in an era when religious faith was so much more central, seems to skirt the topic? “As a practicing Catholic, perhaps [the program’s writer Julian] Fellowes is suggesting that faith and material riches are incompatible. If that is his point, he’s in good company. Jesus frequently talks in terms that should frighten the wealthy: the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16) or the story of the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12), to whom he said: ‘life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’(Luke 12:15).” “What remains unclear is whether [God’s] omission is a strange oversight or if he’s actually been written out.”
  • Seeker Sensitive Hindsight is 20/20 – At the outset: “I believe that the Seeker Movement was (and still is) a movement of God. It was not a movement without flaws and excesses, but it was a movement that woke us up to the fact that the primary mission of the Church is to make disciples, and that that mission begins with connecting Jesus to those not yet connected to him. …[T]he Seeker Movement put mission back into the center of the life of the church.” On reflection however, there were some byproducts of that emphasis that the writer regrets.
  • One Last Thanksgiving Debrief – Remember that time your high school small group leader asked, ‘What’s the opposite of love?’ and everybody said ‘hate’ and then he explained it’s really fear?  So what’s the opposite of “thanksgiving?” This answer is both surprising and satisfying: “While this may be human nature, nothing good comes of it.  Mark Twain said, ‘Comparison is the death of joy.’  For when we look and see someone else’s blessings, we suddenly have no appreciation of our own.”
  • Getting Back on the Horse – After being airlifted back to the United States and then surviving Ebola, Dr. Rick Sacra wants to get back in the game. The soonest he can go back to Monrovia is January and that’s his intention, especially since he is now immune to the disease. He makes this observation: “I think this is going to have just as big of an impact [as the civil war]. When the Ebola epidemic is over there’s going to be a rebuilding of institutions.”
  • Essay of the Week – First kiss at 24. Married at 36. “I wanted nothing to do with marriage and children of my own because of what I experienced growing up. I was terrified of being bound in a marriage like my parents’ abusive relationship. And since I wasn’t going to have a life partner, I figured that I wouldn’t have children either. I wasn’t about to raise a child on my own. I had to nurture my career first and foremost, because my career had to be number one in my life. I had to devote most of my energy to supporting myself, since I didn’t trust a man to support me. Rely on a man, and he might trap you. Better to be self reliant and safe.” The honest confessions of a late bloomer.
  • The Best Christmas Music in Town – If your church aims for artistic excellence, it’s possible some paid, professional musicians are brought in to augment the church choir and orchestra. But this challenges the notion that God has given the people of that church all of the necessary spiritual gifts they need. Perhaps a lot depends on what exactly you mean by artistic excellence.
  • Canada’s Best Kept Television Secret – Lorna Dueck is host and executive producer of Context, a weekly half-hour documentary format with a live studio audience. Her journalistic skills combine with a good sense of trending topics. On this recent episode, on the rise of “the nones” Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey meets up with two of the country’s best loved comedians for an interview and then she is joined by the two academic researchers at the heart of Regent University’s Reframe film project.   So… does God have a PR problem? (30 minute video)
  • A Great Script and An Incredible Story - This Kickstarter project is ambitious and involves people with solid experience in various aspects of the motion picture industry. How ambitious? They’re looking for $300,000 just to make the trailer. That would then pave the way for a distribution deal. The animated movie would release in Fall 2017 and show the origins of good and evil began before humanity existed.

Also…

Our graphic is from InterVarsity’s 2100 Productions (click image for more):

Recipe for a Praise and Worship Song from 2100 Productions

November 19, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Rowan and Rowena - The Bishop Bears

Stay here to read classic Wednesday links, or visit PARSE to view nine selected stories with more preview info.

The above image from the Ship of Fools archives seemed appropriate given that women can now officially be bishops in the Church of England.

 

With all the many challenges that gay couples face, I honestly didn’t think of this one:

Name Problem

 

October 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Calvin Pumpkin

Can you guess who that is in the pumpkin?  Details below.

Welcome to the World Series of Christian news and opinion stories. Two teams: People who are screaming to be heard, and people with stories they wish we didn’t know.

 We leave you with the many creative camera angles of The Phil Vischer Podcast. (Bonus points for naming the guests in the comment section.)

Phil Vischer Podcast YouTube

 

October 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Sunset - Mark BattersonThis is another photograph in a continuing series by people known to readers here; this sunset was taken Monday night by author and pastor Mark Batterson.

 

On Monday I raked leaves and collected links; you could call it my own little feast of ingathering.

Paul Wilkinson’s wisdom and Christian multi-level business opportunities — “just drop by our house tomorrow night, we have something wonderful we’d like to share with you” — can be gleaned the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and in the Twitterverse

From the archives:
The problem with out-of-office email notifications:


Lost in translation: The English is clear enough to lorry drivers – but the Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” …Read the whole 2008 BBC News story here.

September 11, 2014

Veteran Christian Artists Offer Scripture Music Collections

“Wait a minute;” I can hear someone saying, “Isn’t all Christian music supposed to be based on scripture?”

Well, as true as that should be, even today’s vertical worship music is rather subjective in its composition and most CCM simply offers a Christian perspective on life, love and living and even that is often veiled. The two projects we look at today are remarkably different.

Michael Card - CD series based on the Gospels

Michael Card‘s collection of four CDs based on the gospels reflects an entirely different genre lyrically. Released between February, 2011 and July, 2014, the four albums aren’t exactly the old “Scripture in Song” material, either; but rather offer something refreshingly unique. The series is called Biblical Imagination and each has a book which corresponds to it, suggesting that the songs come out of the depth of study necessary to complete the books. Both books and music are distributed by InterVarsity Press (IVP), so if your local Christian music outlet only deals with Provident, or Capitol, or EMI, they might not have access.

For those old enough to remember Michael’s song Known by the Scars, the style is really unchanged. (Card is also the author of Amy Grant’s El Shaddai.)

The album I was given as a sample, Mark: The Beginning of the Gospel includes a very classical performance by Fisk University Jubilee Singers before settling down into more familiar Michael Card territory. Scripture references are provided, though here the texts are used more as springboards for more poetic considerations and impressions from the life and teachings of Christ.

I’ll be reviewing the accompanying book here at a later date, but honestly speaking, owning one of the CDs only makes me want to own the entire set.  If my remarks here don’t accurately convey the nature of this recording, it’s only because the beauty and depth is rather hard to describe.


Brian Doerksen and The Shiyr PoetsThe Shiyr Poets (pronounced ‘sheer’) on the other hand takes a more word-for-word approach, but with a conversion to modern English from the Hebrew and with the addition of recurring choruses as keeping with the structure of modern music. In many ways, bringing these texts into our century captures the heart and anguish of the Psalmist in ways we might miss with a cursory reading of the text.

The band is the latest project from worship leader Brian Doerksen composer of Refiner’s Fire, Come Now Is The Time to Worship, You Shine, and Faithful One. The sound is consistent with past Doerksen albums, a gentle, more intimate sound. (Foreshadowing this project was the song Fortress 144 from a few years back; a song Brian said was written especially to be a song that men could embrace in a corporate worship setting.)

On Songs for the Journey, Volume One the goal is to begin working sequentially through the book of Psalms, hence this album covers the first ten, with two bonus tracks. Yes, this is an ambitious project! The group used crowd-funding to partially underwrite the launch of the first project and probably would need to do that again to create successive volumes, as this has not been produced for a major label.

You can listen to an audio sample from Psalm 3, at the band’s website by clicking here, or watch a video from a Christian television program here and here. The physical album is only available in Canada, but you can download it digitally anywhere from iTunes

Again, there’s a lot going on in the Psalms that we miss, and this project accurately captures both the tension and the wonder.

 

 

August 30, 2014

Methodology for Music Ministry

Yesterday we looked at some very superficial reasons which draw people into the larger music business with a hope that church musicians can understand their own music-personality type. Today we want to stay somewhat shallow in looking at the raw practicalities of drafting the music for Sunday morning.

treble clefFinding the recipe

If you look at a recipe, it’s always divided into two sections. First you have a list of ingredients, and then you have the instructions as to how you wish to use them. Worship planning is very similar. There’s a list of songs you want to use, but how do you blend and mix them? Perhaps there’s a song that is going to occur at the beginning and the end of the service. Possibly two songs might play off each other (i.e. How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God). Some might stand alone, while others might combine into medleys.

Ingredients are key

You want to choose your ingredients carefully. Just as in baking, some elements might conflict. Some choices might be too spicy. Others might be too bland. In a salad, you go for color and music is no different. A seasoned worship leader will have about 5,000 songs in their head at any one time. Unless you get to plan a worship night, you’re probably only going to do about five songs. You have 4,995 songs to leave out.

What people are hungry for

Your job is to give people the means by which they can respond to God for his greatness and goodness, his holiness and majesty, his love and compassion; just to name a few. The songs should resonate with young and old, and therein lies a challenge. With different strains of ingredients (classic hymns, 20th century gospel hymns, Maranatha! Music, Vineyard, modern worship leaders, modern hymns, soaking music, Hillsong, UK-based songs, etc.) you can appeal to different demographics, or you can choose to present a more musically-unified selection. If you want to see a younger demographic, you also have to skew your choices to people who perhaps aren’t there yet. That’s risky, but some churches do this.

Appetizer or main course?

Some Evangelicals see the worship time as preparing the hearts of people for the teaching of the word. Some Evangelicals see the praise time more liturgically as valid on its own. I personally lean more to the second position. Still you want to know what the sermon topic is so your two selections don’t conflict.

Toppings

A worship time will be rather uneventful if it is just straight singing. You want to intersperse related quotations, read one of the verses before or after singing it, include quotations, or even do a “story behind the song” type of introduction. Many leaders default to Psalms, but some congregants tune them out. But there are exceptions; last week in our church the readings were all from the same Psalm and the songs chosen around that.

A shared meal

One of the values of corporate worship is that there are things we can do together that we can’t do alone (i.e. just listening or singing along with an album or Christian radio station at home.) The music should somewhat exploit the congregational dynamics. There should be some lively songs (by whatever parameter you measure that in your style of church) and there should be some songs where the beauty of blended voices can be both heard and felt.

When people like the recipe, don’t take credit

It’s very humble to say, “God gave me these songs this week;” but better to deflect the credit to the creators of the songs, or best, God Himself. “This is a new song, written by a musician who God is really using to stir us to deeper worship.” Or, “This song really focuses on God’s knowledge and wisdom and helps us consider how the ways of the Lord are so much beyond anything we could understand.” With opening statements like that it takes the focus away from you; you’re seen rather as a hunter and gatherer of worship that’s already out there.

We’re part of a much larger banquet

Occasionally, I would remind our congregation of the vast number of churches that were joining us in worship across our city, across our denomination, and in our nation; and then I would remind them that in North America, we occupy a place at the end of the timezones, joining a worship service that has been taking place around the world that weekend. Just thinking about that now, I am reminded of its potential to reshape how we approach worship.

So those are the superficial factors. But there are also some very spiritual considerations. That would make a great third part to this weekend series, but Laura covered that for us so well six weeks ago, I’m going to invite you to simply click here.

August 29, 2014

Motivation for Music Ministry

So what attracts people to work in the music industry? I’ve listed a few things below that I think apply both within and outside the church context, and one, at the end of the list, that I believe is more common only within Christian experience. Worship leaders: Perhaps finding what attracts you to music in the first place will help you understand your personality type as a musician.

treble clefPerformance

Some people just want to play. They live to gig. If you’re a drummer and you can’t sing, you’re never going to be center stage, and people might not even know your name, but that’s okay, right? The idea is to simply make music, either in a live context or in a studio. The busier the schedule, the better.

Profile

For others, being center stage is really important. They are attracted by the idea of being a name you would know. They might already have their own web domain. Or an agent.

Product

The goal for some people is just to make an album. They aren’t looking for bookings and they aren’t looking for fame. They just want to have that physical CD in a plastic case that they can give to their friends, and show to their kids some day. (“That’s neat, Mom. Too bad we can’t play it on anything.”) Sales in retail stores would be an added bonus.

Publishing

The nice thing about this as a goal is you don’t have to give a single concert or even be able to carry a tune. But if you can compose meaningful songs and get others to perform them your music can travel to places you can’t. For people who are happy behind the scenes, this is an achievable goal, though usually the singer/songwriter usually has their own material. For people who do perform, the goal here is getting their songs covered by other groups or solo artists.

Production

Just as there are frequencies that only dogs can hear, there is a smell in recording studios that only some people detect.  To most of us, a 48-channel recording console looks intimidating, like the cockpit of a jet plane, but to them, the lights and dials are all in a day’s work. Their job demands that they live to serve the needs of others, but we know the names of many producers who have never recorded a single note themselves.

Profit

Although this can apply to any of the areas listed above, if we’re dealing with the area of motivation, then money can be a driving force. If you’re competent at publishing, performance, production, etc. and you need to pay the bills, you do what you’re good at.

Proclamation

This is the one I feel is more common to Christian musicians, though it’s not entirely unique since it applies to anyone who feels they have a message to communicate, whether it’s 60s hippies protesting the Vietnam War, or 80s rockers crusading for environmentalism. Today the message might still be anti-war, or racial equality, or perhaps gay rights. It is in this milieu that Christian artists raise their voices to express their faith or tell their story, though in the last dozen years, Christian music has been dominated by vertical worship — we could have had another P-word, Praise — which lessens the number of testimony or teaching songs being heard. We have, as Randy Stonehill put it many, many years ago, “the hottest news on the rack,” and so that motivates Christian musicians to make music which reflects their core faith beliefs. 

…Of course, playing because you want to have a message to share is a noble ideal, but many musicians also fall into one of the other categories as well. They want to make an album, or achieve popularity, or be able to make a living from their art. That’s okay, right? 

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the practical ingredients of worship, comparing it to a recipe that worship leaders bake each week!

 

August 27, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Wonderful the matchless

You know, that thing where you take a bucket of links and pour them over your head…

So there you have it! Not a single link about the social media story of the week, unless you count the sideways reference in that last item. To submit a link, send it by noon on Monday, except for next week, which is a holiday Monday.

 

August 24, 2014

The Lord’s Prayer Becomes a Chart Topper

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

This is the third and final in our look this weekend at some “Christian” songs that appeared in the days that even predate the Jesus Music era. There are some things that don’t need to be mentioned here because they are still part of our modern consciousness: Put Your Hand in the Hand by Ocean, and Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum being but two examples. But The Lord’s Prayer by Sister Janet Mead was a Top 40 Chart phenomenon that surprised everyone, probably including Janet Mead.   Here’s what Wikipedia says about this one:

  • The Lord’s Prayeris a rock setting of the Lord’s Prayer with music by Arnold Strals recorded in 1973 by the Australian nun Sister Janet Mead. Mead was known for pioneering the use of contemporary rock music in celebrating the Roman Catholic Mass and for her weekly radio programs.
  • This recording could be considered one of the links in the development of what would become known as contemporary Christian music.
  • After reaching number three on the charts in Australia, it went on to become an international smash, selling nearly three million copies worldwide and making the upper reaches of the pop charts in territories as diverse as Canada, Japan, Brazil, Germany, and the United States.
  • It made Sister Janet the first Roman Catholic nun to have a hit record in the United States since Jeanine Deckers, the Singing Nun, hit #1 with “Dominique” in late 1963.
  • It also became the only song to hit the Top 10, whose entire lyrical content originated from the words of the Bible. More specifically, it is the only Top 10 hit whose lyrics were attributed to Jesus Christ.
  • Mead was nominated for a Grammy for Best Inspirational Performance (although she lost to Elvis Presley’s How Great Thou Art)
  • [she] became the first Australian artist to sell one million U.S. copies of a record produced in Australia

In many ways the song was a study in contrasts with the almost acid-rock intro giving way to the choir-like clarity of her voice. Youth groups, both Catholic and non-Catholic, suddenly had a new friend on the charts.

I tried to find a YouTube version with more interesting visuals, but decided to stick with this one.  And no, I don’t feel the need to publish the lyrics!

August 20, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Christian Coke

Time for your midweek break and some news and opinion pieces you may have missed:

Paul Wilkinson is available to speak or sing on any dates you had previously booked with Mark Driscoll, Vicky Beeching or Gungor and may be contacted through his blogs, Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

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