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 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!

 

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.

March 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Prophecy Class

Yes, it’s true; Target does have people who visit Wal-Mart and link list creators do drop in on other link lists to see what’s making the rounds. If you find yourself craving more of this sort of thing by Saturday, two of my weekend favorites are the Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk and the Saturday Links at DashHouse. I only borrowed one from iMonk, but linked three stories from church planter Darryl Dash, so this week’s lengthy intro was mostly guilt-induced. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the Link List Overlords; then click the stories you want to read there.

The Wednesday Link List is a production of Paul Wilkinson with proofreading assistance from Mrs. W. who is actually the better writer in the family.

T on the Wall

February 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Snake Handling Church Disclaimer

Here’s this week’s collection, with the hope that you’ll be my Valinktine.  Click anything below and you’ll find yourself at PARSE, the link list’s exclusive official owners and operators! (Or just click now, it’s easier to read there.)

After winning the silver medal in linking at the 2008 Bloglympics, Paul Wilkinson settled into a quiet life of writing at Thinking Out Loud.

Burning Church

If you watch all four parts of the documentary about Burning Man linked above, you discover that all photographs taken at the event become part of a commons that photographers agree to share. It’s part of an overall philosophy that guides the event and why there’s no photo credit here.

February 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Things I Hate

They left the worship band’s spotlights on during the sermon this week, and my pastor saw his shadow, which meant six more points before the benediction. Here are some links as I try to forget… 

Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, which has exclusive rights to the mid-week link.

…if you’re new to this whole link list thing, I did a rare Weekend Link List about ten days ago with some reruns from 2011.

November 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Biblical Disaster

Our opening graphic, “Biblical Disaster,” is from an Auckland, New Zealand artist, Glenn Jones.  Click the link to see more.   Our closing graphic is proof that some book covers are simply funnier in Spanish.

Once again, we continue our symphony of shortcuts to articles and stories you may have missed. BTW, I do check comments both at my blog and Out of Ur; so let me know what you think of the mid-week madness. 

Click to read this week’s links at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today.

The rest of the week, Paul Wilkinson rants at Thinking Out Loud, and assumes a much more pious posture at Christianity 201.

Spanish - When Donkeys Talk - Tyler Blanski

August 7, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Darwin - Cats

Is it Wednesday already? Time for another list of links of interest to people like you from blogs and websites great and small. But wait! None of the links below actually work; you need to click through to the Wednesday Link List’s new home at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal.

  • How about a 19-second video to kick things off? (Apologies to those who clicked!)
  • Frank Viola offers a completely different take on the spiritual life of John Lennon.
  • What did the Pope really say in that in-flight news conference? One writer thinks it’s not exactly what was reported.
  • You thought there were fewer this year and you were right. Stats on why not as many churches are doing VBS.
  • Got the standard 2.3 kids? John Wesley would not approve. I suppose you could call this an article about being procreative.
  • A UK church organist, 68, was walking to a midnight Christmas Eve service as he had done for 40 years when two men, both 22, beat him to death in a motiveless attack. Now, his widow offers a message of forgiveness.
  • Essay of the Month for June (but you may not like it): The atheist daughter of a noted Christian apologist shares her story so far.
  • Related: An Atheism, Theism, Agnosticism, Gnosticism infographic.
  • Essay of the Week: Ten things church worship leaders want the rest of us to understand.
  • Related: What if we looked at our church’s corporate worship time as a spiritual discipline?
  • The year isn’t even over and already we have a winner for the worst reporting of a religious story in 2013.
  • I’ll let Michael Frost Tweet this intro: “The conservative journal Christianity Today makes the case for welcoming same-sex couples to church.”
  • A blog to know about: Jesus I Will Follow You is a tumblr that answers questions from young readers on tough subjects.
  • From my own blog this week: A blog summary on the Presbyterian Church USA’s “In Christ Alone” hymnbook controversy and a look at same sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada.
  • It’s easy to deal with what’s appropriate beachwear for women when you’re on a Christian radio show. It’s harder when it’s your own 13-year old daughter.
  • Rob Bell is offering two more of his 2-day conferences in September and October that are already renowned for their lunch break to go surfing.
  • Music to brighten your day: Shine Bright Baby’s song from their new album Dreamers; enjoy Beautiful Love.
  • A link that takes you to more links: An Arizona pastors offers a 6-part blog series on the sins pastors commit including letting their wives manage everything on the homefront.
  • Here’s a March post which is a link to ten articles at the blog “Canon Fodder” by the author of The Question of Canon on — wait for it — ten things you should know about the New Testament canon.
  • In searching through blogs I had bookmarked months earlier, I landed on this very succinct post which I offer for your prayer consideration.
  • Before you hit the FWD button next time, here’s four reasons that Christians need to stop forwarding hoax emails.
  • A historic Roman Catholic Church that is already a shrine to a saint whose legacy is devotion to animals plans to set aside a memorial space for Fido and Fluffy.
  • Your assignment: Write a modern worship chorus utilizing the titles of television soap operas. [Warning: Consumes 4.5 valuable minutes]
  • Finally, a reminder for the end of the week, end of the month, end of the summer, or anytime you need a reminder.

I have no idea where the first graphic — the premise of which I’m not sure I agree with — originated; but the comic books below are purported to be real.  For additional wit and wisdom, follow me (please!) on Twitter. And one last time, here’s the link to today’s Wednesday Link List without the Linkectomy.

the-pat-robertson-and-friends-coloring-book-9781891053955Christian Conservative Coloring Book

July 3, 2013

Wednesday Link List

lynx 3Today we kick off a new chapter; the link list moves to its new home at Leadership Journal’s Out of Ur website, a ministry of Christianity Today. I’ve been reading Out of Ur since long before I started blogging, so this is a real honor. Here’s a link direct to today’s Wednesday Link List. Please be sure to click through. (They didn’t take the List Lynx pictured at right however, at least not so far…) Also remember it’s just the Wednesday list that’s moving; we’ll be back here tomorrow with the content you’ve come to loathe love here at Thinking Out Loud!

UPDATE: In November, 2013, we updated the July WLL posts here to restore the links. (The first month never had them at all here in any form.) I might periodically go back and update older ones just so we have a record here of the original sources.

June 15, 2013

The Homogenization of Ideas

Many years ago, when my life was more about music than about books, I met a girl — name truly forgotten — who had written a children’s musical that she hoped I could help her get published. Despite the fact that I worked in the broadest sectors of the Christian music industry, my interest lay more in breaking new territory for contemporary Christian music, not in the choral music product market.

But then I listened to the tape she gave me.

Without any formal musical training, this girl had conceived an entire cantata for children — theme unfortunately forgotten also — that was truly awesome.

I made an exception and got to work on collecting contact names for choral publishing companies I was already in working relationship with, and some expressed interest in pursuing this talented young woman further.

Greetings from NashvilleProvided she was willing to relocate to Nashville.

This is the part of the story that amazed me, and one which I fought tooth and nail at the time. “What good does it do,” I asked, “If everyone in the industry is waking up in the same town, driving on the same freeways, shopping at the same malls, walking in the same parks, going to the same churches, and dare I say listening to the same music? Isn’t this going to lead to music that all sounds the same?”

Nobody listened. In the end she decided it was too big a move that was not guaranteed to offer sure returns. Your loss. My loss. Kids who would have learned and performed her musical; their loss. Don’t know what happened to her.

The other night we were listening to overseas radio stations online. Norway. The Netherlands. England (but not the BBC which is geo-blocked in Canada). The one thing we noticed was the decisive absence of the telltale Nashville influence. The American guitar-based country sound — that permeates rock and other genres here whether we admit or not — was replaced by the Euro music sound of keyboards. It was a nice change.

The more southern U.S. the sound — apologies, Third Day — the less I like it. In a shrinking world, we still get to hear too little of what is a staple musical diet for audiences in Europe. Geo-blocking of internet radio and YouTube music videos is not helping. I’d like to know how much of that blocking is European-driven, and how much of it originates with the American offices of multi-national record companies.

The Christian internet of which I am a part is no different. Justin Taylor or Kevin DeYoung writes something and Tim Challies and Zach Nielsen link to it, and then all the Challies wannabes link to it on their blogs. Sixty gazillion Christian blogs all carrying the one story of the day and the same blog referrer advertisement for the $1.99 eBook download of the day.

Yes, people exist on the fringes, and bloggers like this one who try “marching to the beat of a different drummer,” but ultimately, we witness the homogenization of creativity and the homogenization of thought on a daily basis; people striving to carve out an individual  identity, but essentially all waking up in the same town, driving on the same roads, eating in the same restaurants, and playing the same four chords. So to speak.

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