Thinking Out Loud

March 25, 2016

I Have Placed My Hope in a Crucified Man

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am
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November 28, 2015

A Lesson in Songwriting

Filed under: music, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:24 am
Graham Kendrick

Graham Kendrick

And a Lesson in Humility

A guy I don’t actually follow* got my attention on Twitter yesterday and I knew I had to share this today…

Graham Kendrick songwriting

Learn more about Graham Kendrick at this link.

*click anywhere on the quotation to link to Tim Lucas

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.

March 13, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Romans 8

Let there be links.

In a week that is overshadowed by developments at The Vatican it’s hard to find other religious news stories, but we tried.

  • Two Afghan children that Shane Claiborne met a few weeks ago were killed by NATO troops.
  • N.T. Wright comes at an old issue in a new way, and offers his reasons why women should be in pastoral ministry
  • An Australian TV outlet does a 14-minute exposé of Hillsong Church with a particular axe to grind concerning the church’s tax free status.
  • Is the way forward in church planting that the pastors will have other jobs; be bi-vocational?  Well, yes and no.
  • Francis Chan talks to Canadian interviewer Moira Brown about leaving his church and starting up again in Northern California. (This is a part two of two-part interview; 15 minutes each.)
  • Want more transparency in the church? How about this Belgian church constructed in 2011 out of transparent steel?
  • And a church that treated its former pastors like trash held a service of apology and reconciliation.
  • If you tell people you don’t smoke because your body is “a temple,” then you need to know that in 2013, sitting is the new smoking.
  • A new digital edition of “the quad” the four books of Mormon scriptures includes some editorial changes reflecting “shifting official view on issues like polygamy, the Church’s history of racism, and the historicity of LDS scripture.”
  • It’s not too late to send a gift: Benny Hinn and former wife Suzanne were scheduled to be remarried last week. And since that link was older — but detailed — the answer is yes, it happened.
  • Mark Burnett tells Inside TV that “weird things” happened as they filmed The Bible miniseries. You’ll like the snake handler’s report.
  • Have trouble starting a spiritual conversation? Start by asking questions
  • “Teenage girls aging out of foster care and/or orphanages are known as the highest ‘at risk’ group in our nation. It’s estimated that a teenage girl on the streets will be approached within 48 hours by a pimp…” Read the stats and one city’s game plan.
  • Christian rapper Lecrae is performing along side his mainstream music counterparts at SXSW, the South by Southwest festival… 
  • …And Canadian Christian rapper Manafest is writing a book.
  • Found a great devotional site this week… Here’s a piece about following Jesus versus walking ahead of Him
  • …And the updated list of the Top 200 Calvinist Christian blogs is now online; or at least one person’s version of it.
  • The offbeat  ‘gay worship band’ story got way too much coverage last week which is why I would never link to it.
  • Here’s how Religion News Service was handicapping the race to be Pope on the weekend. Even though this final four may be old news by the time you read this, I left it here for comparison (if RNS keeps it online). 
  • A greater concern for the cardinals during a conclave week is if it goes into overtime and finds them running out of clean laundry.
  • Graham Kendrick has greatly reconstructed an old hymn into something new; check out Oh The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.
  • People from five religious ‘tribes’ will try to convert Catalina an atheist — who looks slightly like Tina Fey — on the latest contest from The Drew Marshall Show titled Soul Survivor.

 

August 23, 2010

Stuart Townend – British Worship Leader & Songwriter

He co-wrote In Christ Alone with Keith and Kristen Getty.

Beyond that, Stuart Townend is perhaps better known in Canada where, despite its 5/4 time signature, How Deep The Father’s Love For Us is currently the 15th most used worship selection according to Christian Copyright Licensing (CCLI).   All the more so in England, where Christ Alone ranks first, and How Deep ranks third.

For my mostly U.S. blog readership, if you have some familiarity with the worship scene in the U.K., you could fairly draw a comparisons between Stuart and Graham Kendrick, though many Americans would still be at a loss since, other than Shine Jesus Shine, very little of Graham’s music has made it stateside, either.

Which is really too bad.  This is worship with a richness and depth that commands your heart’s attention and doesn’t let you walk away without knowing what type of music you’ve experienced.

What we have instead in North America is a worship agenda very much driven by Christian music execs in Nashville, and wannabe bands who think they have to fit a certain mold in order to achieve success.  (Yeah, worship and success in the same sentence; go figure.)  We need to distance ourselves from that sometimes, even if takes several thousand miles of ocean to do the distancing.

Churches in the U.K. don’t bow the knee to Nashville so much.   So we find a number of writers in Great Britain producing something just a little mellower that thereby satisfies the needs of more seasoned church members who want something new and fresh (see Isaiah 42:10) but still like a good melodic tune with a form that doesn’t contain too many melodic exceptions.   (That’s my term for various bridges, codas, irregular rhythms, or other variations on the musical form.  My belief is that the people can deal with only one exception per song.) (More on the contrast between UK and US worship in this post.)

What I’m trying to say here is, American Christians, you need someone like Stuart Townend.   Someone who can blow in like a breath of fresh air into the present worship scene as a reminder that things don’t always have to look a certain way in order to provide worship connection to our creator God.

And now you have that opportunity.

Under pressure from people like me — they call it whining actually — Kingsway Music U.S. has not only released Stuart’s full length album, There Is a Hope, but has included the full DVD recording as a bonus.  (There’s even more to the story, they’ve also opened up a full North American branch of Kingsway Music to broaden the music pipeline between the U.K. and North America.)

For my Canadian readers, if you enjoy the music of Robin Mark or you enjoyed the Today DVD by Brian Doerksen, you will want to add this CD/DVD to your worship collection.

What you’ll find is a live recording of 14 of Stuart Townend’s songs from a concert in Ireland; though strangely, it’s more like a collection of individual video cuts as there is no spoken patter anywhere.   The emphasis is on the songs themselves, and the atmosphere is worshipful to the point there is often no applause as a song concludes.

But this isn’t just a laid-back worship collection you buy for your grandmother.   The band contains some tight performances by players who handle a variety of instruments including valve trombone, flugel horn, Uillean pipes, violin, and the usual rhythm instruments and backup singers.   (Steve Hindalong’s name appears in the credits, though I didn’t spy him on the video.)   There are also guest vocal appearances by Kelly Minter and Aaron Keyes.

I first heard of this album, and started pressing for a release of the DVD here, through this song, Behold the Lamb (Communion Song).     (Again, for my Canadian readers, very reminiscent of Robin Mark’s The Wonder of Your Cross.)   You can never have enough cross-centered worship songs.   I’ve also embedded the opening song from the DVD, Across the Lands at my devotional blog, Christianity 201.

I can’t recommend this enough.  Find a Christian bookstore and purchase a physical copy (not a download) of the whole album, so that you get the whole DVD as well.  Then turn off the mobile phone and the computer, take the other phone off the hook, and enjoy an hour of worship in your own home like no other you’ve had before.

June 24, 2010

Worship in the United States vs. Worship in the United Kingdom

Two countries.   Much shared history.   A common language.   Similar politics.

But when it comes to church or when it comes to our expression of Christianity, are we in North America more alike our British cousins or are we more unalike?

Living in Canada gives a few of us a unique window on both our neighbours to the south and our friends several thousand miles to the east.   To many of us here, Adrian Plass, Selwyn Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend, etc. are names we have at least heard, if we haven’t also read their books or sung their songs.

What amazes me though is how little my contacts in the U.S. know of Christianity in England.    Where this turns up most is in a cursory examination of worship music in both countries.

Because we’re still a few weeks away from getting the biannual numbers from CCLI — the next six month report comes out in August — we’ll have to settle for a look at the February 2010 stats.

Here’s a look at the Top 25 worship songs in use in the U.K.

Without getting too deep into statistics — we’ll leave that to the sportscasters — you see on this list a couple of Graham Kendrick classics along with the beautiful “I Will Offer Up My Life” by Matt Redman and a number of pieces that follow the ‘hymn style’ of verse/chorus, such as “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” “Be the Centre,” and the classic “All Heaven Declares.”   The American #1 most-used chorus, “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong doesn’t even appear on the list.

Here’s the U.S.A. list for the same period:

For some of my American readers, this list seems rather dated, or perhaps even rather tame.  Your church has already moved on to newer songs.   I personally think that the U.S. church has adopted a rather “disposable” attitude toward its worship music in the last five years or so.   Anything before 2006 is considered a “golden oldie.”

That’s rather sad in a way.    The British churches contributing to their list seem to hang on to a good song a little longer.

I also feel bad for American churches who aren’t using “Once Again” by Matt Redman, but also wish that the British list contained at least one song by Paul Baloche.

I think every church service should contain at least a couple of songs from these lists.   This is the worship music that connects us; these songs are being sung across denominational lines.   Too much new and unfamiliar music weakens the worship time.   I also hope your church does at least five or six different worship songs each week.   There’s a trend right now to only doing a couple, but I think it leaves both seasoned worshipers and seekers a little shortchanged.

If you missed it, last week I had another couple of posts on worship music in light of a recent book, and you can read those here (June 11th) and here (June 17th).  (If you think I’ve gone conservative, rest assured that the author of that book wouldn’t have even posted these lists!)

I think it is incumbent on worship leaders to stay aware of what’s happening in worship on a worldwide scale, and know about other material that is available to them.   If you click on the links, you’ll end up at the site which also allows you too look at lists in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

Brooke Fraser has a total of four songs on the N.Z. list, including #2 and #3, but the Africa list has more familiar songs that you might expect.

If I could only sing 25 songs in the next year, I’d be content to make the Africa list my songbook.

Today’s forum:  What do you think of the song selection at your place of worship?

January 4, 2009

A Worship Song Moving Forward from Advent: The Servant King

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Jesus, music, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 pm

graham-kendrickOne of the main advantages to leading and participating in worship in Canada has been the greater access to the worship music of the U.K.’s Graham Kendrick.   Though not as well known in the U.S. — except perhaps for the song, “Shine, Jesus Shine;”  Kendrick’s hymns modern worship pieces are rich in theology and allusions to Biblical passages.   Though his style became less stylish during the 7-11 phase of worship music — the songs that have seven words and you repeat them eleven times* — as a new generation yearns for something deeper, modern worship written in a “hymn style” with multiple verses and lyrical depth is being reconsidered.  (Consider the popularity of  another songwriter’s piece, “In Christ Alone,” for example.)

Two of Kendrick’s compositions, “Meekness and Majesty,” and “The Servant King” are most appropriate to this time of year.  “The Servant King” begins with incarnation and moves, as so many of Kendrick’s best pieces do, towards the cross.  They work well with piano or guitar, though your guitar playing has to be beyond the basic chords (i.e. better than mine!)

Here’s the lyrics for “The Servant King”

Verse 1
From heav’n You came helpless babe
Enter’d our world Your glory veil’d
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live


Chorus
This is our God, the Servant King –
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King

Verse 2
There in the garden of tears
My heavy load He chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
Yet “Not my will, but Yours”, He said

Verse 3
Come see His hands and His feet –
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

Verse 4
So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving

YouTube audio-only for “The Servant King”


Here’s the lyrics for “Meekness and Majesty”

Verse 1
Meekness and majesty,
manhood and deity
in perfect harmony – the Man who is God
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity
Kneels in humility and washes our feet

Chorus

O what a mystery – meekness and majesty
Bow down and worship for this is your God

Verse 2
Father’s pure radiance, perfect in innocence
Yet learns obedience to death on a cross
Suffering to give us life,
Conquering through sacrifice,
And as they crucify prays, “Father, forgive.”

Verse 3
Wisdom unsearchable; God the invisible,
Love indestructible in frailty appears
Lord of infinity stooping so tenderly
Lifts our humanity to the heights of His throne

YouTube audio-only of this song.

*category invented by Garrison Keillor (hey…they share the same initials!)

November 7, 2008

A Complete History of Modern Worship Music

The History of Modern Worship Choruses

Rummage through old piano benches in church basements and you’re almost certain to locate a classic chorus sheet consisting of short stanzas written in the first half of the last century. By today’s standards, the material does not hold up well, but it serves as a reminder that what we call ‘choruses’ are nothing new.

Not that this should come as any surprise. Twice in the new testament, Paul uses the terms “Psalms, Hymns and Spritual Songs.” While one commentator has suggested that these are just different words for the same things, most others agree that the variance in meaning suggests a graduated difference in both style and substance.

To be sure, some of the choruses from times past endure in Children’s ministry, while others are preserved as camp songs or ‘retro’ youth ministry favorites. But whether it’s “Constantly Abiding,” “I Love Him Better Every Day,” or “I’ve Got Peace Like a River;” there is a fairly distinct line at which some of these traditional songs end, and our modern worship begins.

For this writer, a turning point was when Paul B. Smith, pastor of Toronto’s People’s Church returned from a missions trip in the 1970s and taught a simple chorus with just one word, “Allelujah” repeated eight times. (One publisher actually produced an overhead projector master for the lyrics.) Out of the preceding 100 years of church music at least, non-Charismatic people were for the first time “losing themselves” in worship.

music_for_worship1Allelujah or Hallelujah is a somewhat trans-lingual word, and another universal symbol of surrender to God is upraised hands. So it’s not surprising that at the same time as people sang this song with lifted hands, the charismatic movement was taking place, and with it, songs that had been heretofore reserved for Pentecostal or Assemblies of God churches suddenly found their way into Evangelical churches.

At the same time, the so-called “Jesus Movement” was beginning in Southern California. It’s at this point, we see one of the main forces of modern worship, Maranatha! Music beginning as a music ministry of Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. However, when I visited in 1979, a full seven years after the Time magazine cover of “Jesus People” being baptized in Pirate’s Cove; the morning services at Calvary consisted exclusively of selections from the Inspiring Hymns book my own church had purchased in the late 1950’s.

But on concert nights, Calvary began each Christian rock concert with a time of worship. In fact, some argue that the Maranatha! Praise series taught the rest of the U.S. to worship.

That assumption is only partially correct however, for while the Jesus People were swaying to the guitars on the west coast, a New Zealand couple, David and Dale Garratt were compiling and recording many of the new “scripture choruses” as part of their ministry, Scripture in Song.

By the late 1970’s a small group had broken away from Calvary Chapel to form a network of churches called The Vineyard. The first two churches were led by Kenn Gulliksen and John Wimber. Vineyard’s music was simple, reflective and sometimes chant-like in its repetitions of key lines, while Maranatha! Music’s owed a greater debt to the country rock sound of bands like The Eagles.

Vineyard’s simple approach to songwriting would later stand in sharp contrast to Hosanna/Integrity Music’s live worship albums which incorporated a slicker, tighter sound including a full brass section, jazz chords and frequent key changes which suggested a more sophisticated level of musicianship was necessary.

Integrity Music albums were said to be based largely on some worship tapes that had circulated from Christ For the Nations. These recordings of live, seamless worship somewhat resembled live concert recordings.

In subsequent years, Integrity Music also introduced listeners to a greater focus on who the worship leader was. First the pictures appeared on the back covers, then the front, and eventually it was hard to tell the difference between their worship albums, and the contemporary Christian music (CCM) performance “artist” albums. Although this was toned down in some later releases, to this day, Integrity customers want to know who is leading, and Integrity introduced us to the ministry of Marty Nystrom, Paul Baloche, Ron Kenoly, and Don Moen, just to name a few.

Across the pond in the U.K. churches were embracing the music of one worship leader, Graham Kendrick. Although many Canadians know Kendrick (author of “Shine, Jesus Shine,” “Meekness and Majesty”, “The Servant King”) the one American. release on Integrity was not immediately followed up in the states., which was their loss, since Kendrick’s British. catalogue consisted of literally dozens of recordings.

No discussion of modern worship music is complete without mention of Kendrick’s influence, because he paved the way for other U.K. worship ministries. The entire Worship Together family of albums and artists; the music of Delirious, Passion, Matt Redman and many others all originates in the wake of Kendrick’s influence.

Integrity Music also introduced us to the music of the worship team from Hill’s Christian Assembly in Australia. Today, Hillsongs is a category in itself, with its trademark use of rhythm section, backup singers and huge choir (and often more than one choir.)  It restores a connection between modern worship and the black gospel choir or mass choir; which owes its roots to the ‘spirituals’ sung in the deep south of the U.S.

Just as Hillsongs is roooted in a local church, often a congregation will popularize a single chorus. Jack Hayford’s “Majesty” came during his pastorate at the Church On The Way in California.

This brings us to today’s megatrend of “double albums” on CD. The vinyl and cassette customer never fully embraced the concept of “samplers” but the Compact Disc medium seemed perfect for it. Today, if it’s a double worship CD, it sells, no matter who originates it. The best example is the series of recordings released through The WoW! Partnership, which includes Maranatha, Vineyard, Integrity, and Worship Together as the primary participating record companies.

But no discussion of our modern worship is complete without mention of the great influence of youth ministry. From local junior high, senior high and college & career groups; to camp minstries and major summer festivals; many of our current choruses began as youth ministry material. Many churches today “use” their youth groups to both test out and introduce new worship compositions to the larger congregation.

In recent years, this trend has gone full circle, as our popular choruses become the substance of children’s music ministry. In some churches, the content of the children’s worship includes exactly the same titles the adults are singing in a nearby auditorium.

What will be the next major wave in worship? We will know soon enough because of a service called Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. CCLI monitors the material being used in tens of thousands of churches, and its website chronicles the most-used choruses in a “Top 100” styled chart format, with specific charts for Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

The idea of a chart for music intended to be lifted up as worship often grates on the spiritual conscience, but it does help worship leaders’ awareness of what material is being used in other places. While each church has their local favorites, and some churches produce original music, it’s not unwise to focus on the CCLI list, especially in today’s climate where people migrate more freely from church to church.

worshipRecently, we’ve also noticed a shift in how we sing. Hymnbooks gave way to overhead projectors which in turn gave way to video text projection. Today, those texts often have picture backgrounds consisting of still photos, animations, or even full film treatment. In one service we visited (dubbed “Ancient/Future” because of elements from many generations) we counted seven different video projectors in use.

The upside is that the video projector is often used by the pastor to emphasize the sequential points of the sermon, or to include a video clip. The inclusion of these began with short scenes from popular movies, but more recently an entire industry has grown up around manufacturing video clips for use around different themes and preaching subjects.

The downside is that we’ve lost an important element of worship which was prevalent when we had hymnbooks: Four-part harmony. However, in its place, we have more songs emerging which use different parts sung at once, having their roots in the antiphonal music and canons of the past. The growth of the Taizé movement is another example of the growing desire for worship which is more musically complex. Rhythmically, “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” allows a congregation to effortlessly sing in 5/4 time.

What of the hymns? Many still endure, but of course some argue that many of the so-called choruses of the last twenty years are hymns. Certainly everything from “Meekness and Majesty” to the more recent “In Christ Alone” follow the hymn style, while “Wonderful Cross” simply attaches a new chorus to an existing hymn, “When I Survey.” In other churches, rediscovery of some of the “lost” stanzas to popular hymns is unfolding as is a resurgence of more liturgical elements (prayers, readings, etc.) in evangelical churches.   Others have suggested that the hymns, as a form, aren’t really disappearing at all, only the mid-twentieth century ones (circa 1920 – 1960) are fading from use.

The late Robert Webber probably wrote more about worship than anyone and popularized the term “Blended Worship.” Mixing “something old, something new” not only provides musical and theological balance, but is a wise move for worship leaders trying to achieve peace in a congregation with a broad demographic.

Music is always changing, though; and while many of our children and youth are learning theology through music as we did when we were younger; there is no doubt that the songs will sound antiquated over time. The Bible encourages the writing of new songs of praise (see Is. 42:10) and hopefully our generation will be able to allow the next generation to create, hear and sing their own compositions which express of the ways of God, the truths of God, and the Word of God.

(c) 2008 Paul Wilkinson; Originally blogged here on April 2nd, 2008; a reprint and update of an earlier article published in 2004; this also appeared on a previous blog.  This article is always subject to minor revisions; last update 01/25/10.

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