Thinking Out Loud

March 31, 2014

How Evangelicals Miss Good Friday

good-friday

If, by someone coming here via a search engine, I can help even one church make their Good Friday service more meaningful, this will have been worth the effort.

I’ve always found it interesting that no matter how contemporary or how alternative some churches are, many of them often begin their communion service with the “words of institution” from I Corinthians 11. It’s like a little, tiny slice of liturgy in an unexpected place.

Today, I want to propose we add another little slice of formality, namely the construction of the Good Friday service, if indeed your church or community has one. If this were a song by Jamie Grace* the line would be, “We need to get our Anglican on.”

I wrote about this two years ago:

Evangelicals don’t know how to do Good Friday…

Good Friday is a big deal here. All the churches come together… Right there, I think the thing has become somewhat unmanageable.  Each church’s pastor has a role to play, one introduces the service, another prays, another takes the offering, yet another reads the scripture, one preaches the sermon and so on. It’s all rather random and uncoordinated. They really need a producer…

In Evangelicalism, nothing is really planned. I love extemporaneous prayers, as long as some thought went into them, but the tendency is to just “wing it.”  Like the pastor a few years ago who opened the Good Friday service by talking at length about what a beautiful spring day it was; “…And I think I saw a robin.”

Fail.

This is Good Friday, the day we remember Christ’s suffering, bleeding, dying.  Evangelicals don’t understand lament. We don’t know how to do it, we don’t know what to say.

My wife says we tend to ‘skip ahead” to Easter Sunday. We give away the plot and lose the plot all at the same time. We place the giant spoiler in the middle of the part of the story to which we haven’t yet arrived; diminishing the part where we are supposed to be contemplating the full impact of what Jesus did for us.  We rush to the resurrection like a bad writer who doesn’t take the time to develop his story, and then wonders why the impact of the ending is not as great.

I learned this year that in a number of traditions, once the season of Lent begins, you are not supposed to say or sing ‘Hallelujah.’ Then, on that day that recalls that triumphant day, the Hallelujahs can gush force with tremendous energy. But we Evangelicals spoil that by missing the moment of Good Friday entirely. Can’t have church making us feel sad, can we?

My concern now as then is that we are rushing toward Easter, rushing toward celebration, wanting to scream out at the top of our lungs, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”

But the disciples didn’t know from Sunday. Their memory, etched so clearly, was of the life draining out of Jesus’ broken and bloodied body. At worst, rejected Messiah’s were supposed to fade into obscurity, not die a criminal’s death at the hand of the Romans. One by one they disappeared…

We need to feel that.

We need to feel what it meant for him to (a) enter into the human condition, (b) always give preference to others, (c) experience physical death, and (d) have that death be the most excruciating ever devised.

Music plays a big part. In another essay here that referred more directly to Easter Sunday, I quoted:

“Every Christmas Christians whine and complain about secular and atheistic efforts designed to take Christ out of Christmas yet more and more Christian pastors have committed an even worse offense and have removed Jesus Christ and His victorious resurrection from the grave from their Easter sermons,” said Chris Rosebrough. “Far too many pastors have played the role of Judas and have betrayed Jesus. Rather than being paid 30 pieces of silver, these pastors have sold Jesus out for the fame and adulation that accompany having a ‘growing, relevant ‘man-centered’ church’.”

My own thoughts that day included a study of songs churches in the U.S. had used:

[I]t’s amazing to see the difference between the worship leaders who really focused on the death and resurrection of Christ, and those who simply did the songs that are currently popular, or the songs they were going to do anyway before Easter “got in the way.”

…there seems little room for critical evaluation here.

The one that really got me was the church that went ahead with a sermon series acknowledging that it had nothing to do with Easter.

 

So returning to Good Friday, here is my manifesto:

  1. We need to set a tone at the very beginning of the service; allow a ‘holy hush’ to come over the crowd.
  2. We should then incorporate other silences throughout the service.
  3. As far as possible, every word spoken should be planned. We need to borrow from our Episcopalian friends for this service.
  4. We need agreement from participants on what we will not do. No, “It’s good to see everyone;” no “It’s finally warming up outside;” no “We do this in anticipation of Sunday;” or the worst, “I hope you all found a place to park.”
  5. If your service is interdenominational or has many participants, do not introduce people at all, i.e. “And now Delores Jones from Central Methodist will favor us with a solo accompanied by her husband Derek.” Don’t waste words.
  6. We need to skip the final verses of some hymns or modern worship songs if they resolve with resurrection. We need to immerse ourselves in the moment.
  7. If your church uses a printed program, consider the idea of the congregation whose Good Friday bulletin cover was simply a folded piece of black construction paper. In other words, use other media to reinforce what is taking place at the front, and remove things hanging in the sanctuary that might be a distraction.
  8. No matter how big the crowd, and how tempting this makes it, don’t use Good Friday as a fundraiser for a church or community project.
  9. Preaching needs to be Christological. This would seem obvious, but sometimes it’s not. It’s not about us, except insofar as he suffered and died for us.
  10. That said, we also need to be Evangelical. What a wonderful day for someone to stand at the level ground of the cross and look into the eyes of a loving Savior who says, ‘I do this for you;’ and then have an opportunity to respond to the finished work on the cross.

Finally, if your church doesn’t do Good Friday, consider starting it. I worship between two small towns which both have an annual interdenominational morning service, but several years ago, my wife’s worship ministry did a Good Friday evening service and over a hundred people attended. She assembled worship songs, solos, video clips, readings and had a local pastor do a ten minute homily. It will forever be one of my favorite, most cross-focused Good Friday events, even though I was busied with the planning and running of it.

 

 


*see comments

November 10, 2013

These are a few of my favorite songs

This is a re-post of a series of links to articles at Christianity 201 that contain worship song videos. it’s been available at that website for years, but never posted here before. Enjoy. (If there’s a song you want to recommend, feel free to add a comment.)

November 6, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Link List - Out of Ur

I’ve checked this week and nobody in the Pentecostal community is organizing a Strange Ice Conference. So far.

The last link listed here this week is to an interview that Chrsitianity Today did with me about a month ago that I didn’t think would ever appear. Speaking of which, you can catch this week’s list at Out of Ur; the individual links will take you there now as well.

Wednesday Link List Sign
Yes, blogrolls are now uncool, but if you scroll down the right margin at Thinking Out Loud, for a limited time, there’s a list of a small selection of the places Paul Wilkinson hunts each week for buried treasure.

October 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Life is Like a Moving Sidewalk

Not many weird religious news stories this week; try to do something stupid over the next few days, okay?  This is a link list without links. To see them click over to Out of Ur. As for the above graphic, you need to listen to Phil Vischer Podcast

  • According to a CNN story, the head of Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. claims that Chris Tomlin is the most prolific songwriter in the United States right now.
  • Personally, I thought my alternative ending to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference would have been an interesting touch…
  • …but of course, truth is always stranger than fiction.  While I first read about Mark Driscoll crashing the party, I’d not heard James MacDonald’s name mentioned until this.
  • Two pieces on the subject of porn: Eric Simmons at Desiring God with I Hate Porn, and Tim Challies offering some preventative measures with The Porn-Free Family.
  • Did you see marathon swimmer Diana Nyad talking to Oprah? Is it possible to be an atheist and still be “in awe?”
  • Short Essay of the Week: What if modern technology permitted Biblical education to take place individually, and the place we gather weekly was for interaction, coaching, personal support and prayer? Be sure to read David Morrow’s The Flipped Church.
  • Medium Essay of the Week: Dancing as “keeping in step with the Spirit;” a metaphor for a life of faith, unless of course you believe that, “the praying knee can’t belong to a dancing leg.”
  • A Minnesota Pastor takes 20% of the revenue from a land deal and creates entrepreneurial opportunities for young people. Read the original CT article and this response (with video).
  • Most Provocative Title: From Catholic writer Tony Agnesi, are you Living Your Resumé or Your Eulogy?
  • Starting Over: For Jon Acuff, this particular blog represents Day Zero.
  • Academic Article of the Week: We all know what the gospel is, but if you’re studying alternative texts, what exactly is a gospel?
  • …and aggregate the Tweets of some well-known Christian academics, and you might find yourself reading Bible Gateway Bible Profs News.
  • Kid Min Corner: Unlike many children’s DVD series, Phil Vischer didn’t stop at the end of Acts. So what themes from Paul’s letters did he feel were worthy of inclusion in a kids video?
  • Youth Ministry Corner: Apparently some parents would rather just write a check to pay for missions trips, and the kids don’t want to do fundraising, either.
  • Know any Aspies? That’s a term for people with Asperger’s Syndrome; people for whom the church can feel like an alien place.
  • The blog Sliced Soup found this 18-month old guide to Hebrew pronunciation of YHWH, but as it turns out the video channel it’s from is a goldmine of instruction in Ancient Hebrew.
  • What should worship leaders do when the keyboardist who wants to join the team is a classically-trained pianist.
  • Pastors: If that illustration you’re using is actually debunked on Snopes.com, look out! Turns out Millennials like to fact-check sermons.
  • Video(s) of the Week: Two beautiful acapella song covers on YouTube by David Wesley — One Thing Remains and the more recently posted (last week) How Deep the Father’s Love.
  • People You Should Know: Another edition of the Young Influencers List.
  • Charlotte Church is now 27, but she knows the pressure put on young music stars to be hyper-sexualized.
  • Questions about the film’s ending has caused tension for the March, 2014 movie based on the life of Noah.
  • Music Flashback: From our Lost Songs collection, the worship of Calvary Chapel Downey, with the hauntingly beautiful song To be Like You.
  • Denominational stereotypes? Christianity Today answers the question, ‘Why are Google searches so much fun?’
  • Finally, if you’re going to steal stuff from a church, don’t try to flog it at a yard sale only a few streets away.

Link list curator Paul Wilkinson blogs at Christianity 201 and Thinking Out Loud, the latter of which still sports its original look and theme, an actual functioning blogroll that is updated regularly, and a merry-go-round that still operates. (Not that last thing…)

Main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

Main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

October 17, 2013

Ministry of Music

Filed under: Church, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 am
Not a lens trick, this is the circular seating at the Igloo Church in Iqaluit in Canada's north. It has nothing to do with this article, but click the picture to learn more.

Not entirely a lens trick, this is the circular seating at the Igloo Church in Iqaluit in Canada’s north. It has nothing to do with this article, but click the picture to learn more.

“And now Mrs. Smith will favor us with her ministry of music.”

You don’t hear that phrase often anymore, at least not at the churches most of us frequent. But in an earlier time and place there was “special music,” often abbreviated as “the special,” which usually preceded the message, or if the soloist was given two slots, one early in the service and one just before the preacher.

Mrs. Smith would choose a piece from the selection of “sacred music” available, perhaps a song form an album by Steve Green, or Evie, or Sandi Patti, or if the church was Pentecostal, Janet Paschal.  Or perhaps she would delve into a back catalogue of perennial solos from an earlier era.

Today’s worship musicians have a different role. They lead us into worship, they certainly have more profile, and they are involved in choosing a greater number of compositions. It’s a much greater responsibility, which means that in larger church environments, people doing this ministry are on paid staff.

But the worship is something we do ourselves. The worship leaders prompt us in directing our voices heavenward to God, or in proclamation of God’s deeds and attributes to each other. (To say “How great is our God” is horizontal; to say “How great are you, God” is vertical.) The songs minister to our spirits and we trust touch the heart of The Father, but we don’t receive ministry from them in the same sense that Mrs. Smith’s song would convey doctrine, or in the case of a really rich lyric, teach theology.

In a way, Mrs. Smith’s ‘ministry of music’ complemented the pastor’s ‘ministry of the word.’ For those of us who caught part of that era, the songs taught us Bible stories and Bible truths; gave a testimony of salvation, healing or deliverance; or described aspects of the Christian life.

Today’s worship songs extoll God’s virtues and character, but generally cover a smaller compass of available topics. If I got up on Sunday and struck a chord on the keyboard and began, “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore;” my words might sound either too poetic or too egocentric.

The depth of feeling and emotion today is far greater, but the catalog of available expression seems a lot more limited.

In an ideal worship service environment, there would be room for both; though not necessarily the same material that Mrs. Smith would use.

September 4, 2013

Wednesday Link List

peanuts

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a link list without any links!  To see the interactive page, click over to Out of Ur.

The interwebs were moving slower over the Labor Day weekend — and we stepped outside our rolling 30 day window — but hopefully what we lack in quantity this week we make up for in quality…

  • A pastor leading a Financial Peace University course realized that along with everybody he was teaching, he and his wife needed to create a budget.
  • “In the Church…”  is the definitive blog post for anybody who finds themselves planted squarely in The Church, but at the same time wanting to distance themselves.
  • In most jurisdictions, kids need to be vaccinated to attend school, but if they’re home schooled… Furthermore, if immunization is dismissed for fear of autism, is spreading measles a valid trade-off? (Also, a related opinion piece at Religion Dispatches.)
  • Yes, you can write a song. Here’s a primer on the form and structure of modern worship compositions.
  • Essay of the Week: Perhaps instead of looking at the five points of Calvinism as dry doctrine, we should think of TULIP as a narrative.
  • There’s always been a campus version of The Alpha Course, but now a Canadian group has completed Alpha Youth, scheduled for January release across North America.
  • So exactly what can be extrapolated “just because the bloggers of the Gospel Coalition happen to be in agreement with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and authoritarian Russian boss Vladimir Putin”?
  • Considering we usually think the ethnic churches have it all covered, it’s interesting to read an article concerned with the ‘white church’ looking for a Latino evangelism game plan.
  • Carlos Whitaker has five or six things he wishes worship leaders would stop saying, followed by 200 more reader suggestions.  (Somewhat related quotation.)
  • It’s small group start-up time again, making this the link you should most want to forward this week.
  • Flashback – One year ago: Psalm 42 in the Pirate translation.
  • Jamie The Very Worst Author talks about a book project that is apparently having trouble getting off the ground.
  • Niche blogging reaches new heights of narrowcasting (Oops! Mixed visual image) with the blog edition of Bearded Gospel Men. Possibly related piece at Christianity Today.
  • Interview of the Week: A Vancouver, Canada journalist talks to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove about intentional, New Monasticism communities.
  • A Mormon websites trumpets the new stat that a majority of Latter Day Saints now live outside Canada and the U.S, where the religion began.
  • The artist who gave us the 2011 song “Blessings” (and “Indescribable”), Laura Story has a new album on the way.
  • Here’s a blog archive ‘find’ from earlier this year at Adorate: You hear a lot about ‘sheep stealing,’ but not so much about ‘shepherd stealing,’ or ‘pastor prostitution.’
  • It’s a frequently covered topic, but if you’ve got time, this is one of the better articles on taking a social media fast.
  • At a blog for pastors’ wives, a book promo video for Speak Love also becomes a lesson in journalism for Pete Wilson’s son Gage Wilson. (The Zondervan book by Annie Downs sounds good, too.)
  • Just in case you’ve never heard the music of Johnnyswim, enjoy Heartbeats.
  • We leave you with this weekend Tweet from Church Curmudgeon: “Headed over to the seminary barbecue this afternoon. Otherwise known as casting a pig into a herd of D. Mins.”

Hope you enjoyed today’s selection. Our goal is to celebrate people you know and people blogging in relative obscurity. Suggestions accepted by 5:00 EST through the contact page.

Peanuts on Theology

August 22, 2013

New Worship Songs

Filed under: music, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 am

Sing unto the heavens with a brand new song
The one that we’ve been hearing’s been a hit too long
The lyrics sound confused as if they don’t belong
So sing unto the Lord and sing with feeling.

~Chuck Girard and the band LoveSong

10 Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, the islands and coastal regions and the inhabitants of them [sing a song such as has never been heard in the heathen world]!

Isaiah 42:10 (Amplified Bible)

Yesterday in the link list, I mentioned the Praise Charts Chart. (Charts, as in the chord charts musicians play from and charts, as in the ranking of demand or popularity.)

Many of July’s Top 40 are songs that are familiar to you, but we noticed a couple (meaning three) of songs from New Life Worship, Hillsong and B.J. Putnam respectively that were new to us. Many of the today’s songs are part of a growing trend toward longer recorded versions — the Jesus Culture songs fit this pattern — which local church worship leaders in non-Charismatic settings need to edit. The middle song here is nine minutes! (For those of you on dial-up, the 3rd video is static image.) Also, longer songs aren’t attractive to Christian radio programmers, so you’re less likely to hear them on WAY-FM or The Fish or K-LOVE. Enjoy!

June 16, 2013

We Don’t…

Not AllowedAs someone who has spent a lifetime in and around Christian music, whenever I visit a church I often make my way to the front after the service and converse with the worship team, especially when I know one or two of the musicians.

A few weeks ago I did just that, and we started talking about songs that have the possibility of two parts being sung at the same time. Then we talked about ‘call and response’ songs where the worship leader sings a line and then the congregation repeats it. Then we talked about songs that parts for men and women.

At that point someone on the team said, “We don’t do men’s and women’s parts here.”

Days later, I was sharing this story with someone who knew exactly where I had been and they made an interesting comment, “I wonder how many times in the course of a week someone at that church begins a sentence with ‘We don’t?’

So true. So sad. Some Christian institutions have policy after policy; operating guidelines carved in stone for no particular reason. My feeling is, if you don’t have worship songs that offer something where women’s voices and men’s voices can highlight their unique giftedness, then next week would be a good week to start.

I hope the place where you worship isn’t characterized by a spirit of ‘We don’t…’

June 12, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Texting While Driving - Reverend Fun

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation

Wednesday List Lynx -- two, actually

Wednesday List Lynx — two, actually

Time for another round of Christian blog and news links for the whole family. In the past we would often begin and end here with cartoons, but the whole question of fair use gets muddy sometimes, especially when humor meets illustration. I’ve studied the permissions statements of some of these and can’t reconcile what I read with what seems to be ubiquitous online. So we decided to run one, since it’s been awhile. Click the image to visit Reverend Run’s site.

I Once Was Lost Golf Ball Don’t forget to get your link suggestions in by 6:00 PM, Mondays, EST; and as always, for breaking links, you can follow me on Twitter. Look for @PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter i to a number 1).

February 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Bart Simpson - Love Wins

Link and the world links with you…  The cartoon? See item 4 below:

For Heaven's Sake - Feb 4 2013

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