Thinking Out Loud

April 28, 2018

Songs of Mission: Part Two

Guest post by Lorne Anderson 

This is a response to an article we posted yesterday.

Songs of mission? Certainly, you can’t be suggesting that we should be looking beyond our navels? Perish the thought!

If you are want you eat, as the saying goes, are you also what you sing? If so, what do modern worship choruses have to say about English-language Christianity? As music goes, so goes the church in many ways, so if our songs are not missionary, the church probably won’t be either.

I’m old enough to remember the Jesus movement of the early 1970s, when young people caught the vision of the need to spread the gospel, especially given the expected immanence of the return of Christ. That movement was in many ways driven by its music, which was a blend of evangelism and a call to personal holiness.

The late Larry Norman set the tone with “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” a lament that there would be some not prepared for Christ’s return – which was also a call to go out and tell your friends about Jesus. Others followed. The church as a whole may not have understood, but the youth did.

The songs sung in small group meetings may have been worshipful (“Father I Adore You”) but the need to reach the lost was never far from front of consciousness. Young Christians were excited to have discovered Truth; sharing it was an imperative. The spokes-musicians for what would eventually become an industry felt an urgency to share their faith. Worship music as a genre did not yet exist.

Today it seems worship music has become the dominant Christian musical expression, stifling all other forms of musical creativity. A lot of “worship” music isn’t truly about praising God but more expressing our feelings about praising God. Believe me, there is a big difference. We have become inner-directed to the point that we forget the reason for the church’s existence isn’t just to praise God, but to bring others into a relationship where they want to do the same.

But how do we inspire people to care about the spiritual well-being of others when our songs are all about ourselves? We’re so busy contemplating our navels, and how God loves us, right down to our belly button lint, that we’ve missed the point that we are supposed to be passing God’s love on to others. (“It only takes a spark…”

‘Jesus Music’ inspired my generation. We went out into the highways and byways looking for people who hadn’t heard the good news that is Jesus Christ. Our songwriters led the way, framing our zeal for evangelism in music.

We are supposed to praise God. But if that is all we do, if we lose that missionary vision, our praise in many ways become just resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.

It was easier when the mission field was so far away. In my area of a large Canadian city, there are now more mosques than churches – the mission field has come to us. That makes it everyone’s responsibility, not just those who feel an overseas call. That also makes it harder — we have to show love to our neighbor, on a daily basis, and put that love into action.

We no longer need to go to “Greenland’s icy mountains” to reach the lost. They have moved into your neighborhood, into my neighborhood. On the city bus I hear a myriad of tongues and see a variety of skins tones.

Where though are the songs about the spiritual needs of those people on the bus? Who is inspiring the church to leave the comfort of its walls and take the gospel to the nations that have arrived on our doorstep. Who is writing the soundtrack for missionary activity in the 21st century?

“We’ve a story to tell to the nations.” We’re just not singing it right now.


To learn more about Lorne, follow his blog, Random Thoughts from Lorne. We occasionally steal articles from each other but this one was initially written for readers here.

April 27, 2018

Songs of Mission: Part One

Wall maps like this one at Wolverine Baptist Church in Michigan adorned many a church bulletin board with push pins and string highlighting the church’s mission outreach around the world.

We’ve written before about the shift to vertical worship means there are no longer songs of testimony. But also missing are songs of mission, as well as other categories. I realize that it is no longer politically correct to talk about evangelistic crusades and that songs like Onward Christian Soldiers sound different to 2018 ears than it did when the 1865 lyrics were combined with music in 1871. But I thought we’d collect some stanzas from these classics today perhaps for a last look before they disappear into obscurity.

These are hymns, but you could include some 1980s fare like “Shine Jesus Shine” and “We Wanna See Jesus Lifted High” in this list.


We’ve a story to tell to the nations
That shall turn their hearts to the right
A story of truth and mercy
A story of peace and light

For the darkness shall turn to dawning
And the dawning to noon-day bright
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth
The kingdom of love and light


From Greenland’s icy mountains
From India’s coral strand
Where Afric’s sunny fountains
Roll down their golden sand;

From many an ancient river
From many a palmy plain
They call us to deliver
Their land from error’s chain


Far, far away in heathen darkness dwelling
Millions of souls forever may be lost
Who, who will go, salvation’s story telling
Looking to Jesus minding not the cost?

“All power is given unto Me
All power is given unto Me
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel
And lo, I am with you always.”


There’s a call ringing o’er the restless waves
Send the light! Send the light!
There’s are souls to rescue, there are souls to save
Send the light! Send the light!

Send the light, the blessed gospel light
Let it shine from shore to shore.
Send the light, the blessed gospel light
Let it shine forever more.


Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.


O, Zion haste! Thy mission high fulfilling
To tell to all the world that God is light
That He who made all nations is not willing
One soul should perish, lost in shades of night

Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace
Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.


Out in the highways and byways of life
Many are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing
Out of my life may Jesus shine
Make me a blessing, oh Savior, I pray
Make me a blessing to someone today.


A charge to keep have I
A God to glorify
A never-dying soul to save
And fit it for the sky


To the regions beyond, I must go, I must go
Where the story has never been told
To the millions that never have heard of his love
I must tell the sweet story of old

To the regions beyond, I must go, I must go
‘Til the world, all the world His salvation shall know


Hear the Lord of harvest sweetly calling,
“Who will go and work for me today?
Who will bring to Me the lost and dying?
Who will point them to the narrow way?”

Speak my Lord, speak my Lord
Speak and I’ll be quick to answer thee
Speak my Lord, speak my Lord
Speak and I will answer, “Lord send me.”


Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does His successive journey run
His kingdom spread from shore to shore
‘Til moons shall wax and wane no more


Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?

By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine
We are on the Lord’s side, Savior we are thine.


So what’s the point of all this? Just a trip down memory lane for some older readers?

No, the issue is that we don’t have anything today — with the exception of the Getty’s revival of Facing a Task Unfinished, which wasn’t entirely new lyrics — that is thematically equivalent. Our songs are all introspective. We don’t challenge each other.

This was the music of the church, until recently. This is the content that Christians sang on Sunday morning. This was the power of music being used to inspire us to think beyond our church walls, beyond our city, beyond our state, beyond our country and to consider our response to the Great Commission. 

We ought to lament this loss.

 

 

April 3, 2018

Cruising the Liturgical Worship Continuum

A few years ago, Evangelicals starting using words like Advent and Lent and Lectio Divina. While some purists probably thought this was the proverbial “Road to Rome,” some of us were thankful that the Episcopals, Anglicans and Catholics didn’t have a copyright on the liturgical calendar.

However, at the same time as this is taking place there is another distressing trend at the other end of the worship continuum. Increasingly, worship leaders seem blissfully unaware that there are songs which are especially suited for Easter Sunday and more disturbingly, Good Friday, or the mandate that these days issue to them.

I attended a number of Good Friday services this year and got to witness this firsthand. The lack of focus was rather appalling, however, as I said, the standard has been eroding for at least the past decade, to the point where younger worship leaders and worship planners have never had an Evangelical Good Friday service properly modeled for them.

I covered this in two previous articles:

One of the services I attended included Hosanna, which is a song for Palm Sunday and comes packed with the mood you’re not trying to create on Good Friday. Ironically, of all the services we attended or watched online, it was a capital “L” Liberal denomination’s church that got it right. We sat in a room with only 22 attendees and although there was no sermon, I give them 100% for liturgy and 100% for music in terms of capturing the intent of a Good Friday service.

This is a rant I will never stop. I’m sorry, but… well, here’s what I tweeted a week ago, possibly in anticipation of the weekend which was to follow.

It’s not just Good Friday, either. Thanksgiving has slowly fallen off the worship leaders’ radar. I’m not saying we need to sing We Gather Together or Come, Ye Thankful People Come endlessly; I’ll take a modern worship expression of the same theme. But the people choosing our songs apparently live in a total vacuum when it comes to awareness of the seasons in question. (And yes, I know Thanksgiving isn’t part of the liturgical calendar.)

November 6, 2012

Words on Worship

Faith Today, Canada’s national Evangelical magazine, has dedicated much of their November/December issue to, as they put it, Gospel Music. They don’t mean southern gospel. They don’t mean mass choirs. The very fact that they misname the genres they actually writing about scares me both as a writer and as a musician, but tucked away on page 41 is this great quotation by humorist Garrison Keillor:

“We should pity pastors and other worship leaders. Every Sunday morning they have to stand up in church and interrupt what people came there to do.”

Well, we rather liked that one, and thought we should see what else has been written on this topic, only to find that Matt Stone took care of this for us just a few weeks ago:

BEN PATTERSON

“Evangelism will end, and education, as will prophecy and social service. But worship is forever.”

SALLY MORGENTHALER

“Our worship must cost something, or else it is meaningless. True worship always involves sacrifice. Of course, Jesus is the only sacrifice for sin, once and for all. Yet the term ‘sacrifice’ is not just associated with redemption. The word literally means ‘the act of offering something meaningful and valuable.'”

F. SEIGLER

“It has been suggested that in worship man needs to intellectualize his emotions and emotionalize his intellect.”

CHARLES SWINDOLL

“We are often so caught up in our activities that we tend to worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.”

MATT REDMAN

“In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you’re pretending or putting on. It’s got to be an overflow of your heart….. Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God.”

JOHN WIMBER

“Our heart’s desire should be to worship God; we have been designed by God for this purpose. If we don’t worship God, we’ll worship something or someone else.”

THE WESTMINSTER CATECHISM

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

GRAHAM KENDRICK

“Worship in truth is worship that arises out of an actual encounter with God, a response to the experience of knowing God’s real presence and activity in our daily lives. This has nothing to do with sentiment, thinking religious thoughts or having aesthetic experiences in church buildings; any religion can give you that sort of thing.”


About the image: We post a lot of cool worship team pictures here, but I thought to illustrate this one, I’d include something that may be more reflective of what life is like at your local congregation. It was sourced at PhotoBucket, but I couldn’t pinpoint the exact origin.

October 12, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here in the frozen north, Thanksgiving has already come and gone, but that didn’t stop temperatures from reaching 30 degrees Celsius on the weekend (mid 80s Fahrenheit) for three straight days which made link-catching less appealing than suntanning.

  • For you worship-leader types, here’s one of the most comprehensive articles you’ll see on the “worship wars” discussed entirely in terms of church architecture.
  • Just nine more days to another Harold Camping end-of-life-as-we-know-it date.
  • If you don’t know what I mean when I say, “Stethoscope Video” then you haven’t seen it.  Take 2 1/2 minutes and enjoy.
  • It’s official: Mitt Romney tells Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress that he thinks that Baptists are a cult.  …Okay, not really, but maybe he should have.  Here’s the original story,  a response from Robert Mouw, and a sample of comments; all from CNN.
  • You’ll want to read the comments to find more links to get the full 411 on this story, but the blogger Tulip Girl has a blog post implying that another child death may be linked to the controversial book, To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.
  • No, what follows is not a typo: Is it possible to hate Jesus but love Christianity?  David Paul Dorr looks at that here and here [part two link to follow!]
  • Are you “crazy busy” all the time?  Pete Wilson hints you may need to invest in the concept of sabbath.
  • This isn’t new, but… here’s one of those church video clips from Igniter media that uses a Facebook theme; naturally, this one’s titled Follow.
  • Canadian Anglican Pastor Leonard Griffith is now 90 and just keeps on going.
  • More from James MacDonald on the decision to invite T. D. Jakes to a forthcoming seminar, aka The Elephant Room controversy.
  • Hey kids!  Wanna learn Biblical Hebrew in just three easy lessons?  Well, you can’t.  But maybe 40 moderately challenging lessons from Charles Grebe at Briercrest College and Seminary. Learn more about Charles at AnimatedHebrew.com starting with the Hebrew alphabet. Shalom!
  • The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) celebrated a 50-year anniversary earlier this month.
  • In a culture focused on the excitement of church planting, we never think about the sadness of church closings that are constantly taking place at the same time.
  • Natalie Grant adds “actor” to her list of accomplishments with a feature role in the movie Decision.
  • From Internet Monk writer Jeff Dunn

There is a story told of an old woman who claimed she and God talked on a regular basis. Her bishop was doubtful of her claims to hear from God. After all, he prayed on a regular basis, but the Lord never spoke back to him. So he decided to put this woman to the test in order to reveal her for either a misguided soul or a fraud. He went to her and said, “The next time you are talking with God, ask him to tell you what my most grievous sin was.” The woman agreed to do so.

A week later the bishop returned and asked, “Did you ask God to reveal to you my worst sin?”

“Yes,” said the woman. “I did ask him.”

“Well,” said the bishop, “what did he say?”

The woman said simply, “He says he forgets.”

March 25, 2011

Accidental Anglican

I realized yesterday morning that I’ve accidentally become an Anglican.

Well, sort of.

You see, as an Evangelical, we base everything on the sermon.  As the sermon goes, so goes the service.  As the sermon went, so went the service.  And you could say, as the sermon will go, so will go the service.  That’s why, for example, people don’t say, “I go to North Point;” they say, “I go to Andy Stanley’s Church;” as if he owns it or something.

We like good preaching.

We also like good worship, but that’s not really a biggie since its now been proven that the Top 100 Churches in America — as selected by Outreach Magazine — are all using the same MIDI loops of Majesty, I Will Follow, and (for less cutting edge congregations) Revelation Song.

So given the choice, we choose on the basis of a good sermon.

I have three choices this weekend.

The preaching will be great at all three.

So I’m making my choice based on some advance information on the worship.  As it turns out, I have in my computer the exact worship setlists from two of my three choices for the weekend services.  This the worship-nerd equivalent of insider-trading information.

In other words, I’m choosing based on the liturgy.  I’m prioritizing the liturgy. And as every good mainline Protestant knows, as the liturgy goes so goes the service.  As the liturgy went, so went the service.  And you could say, as the liturgy will go, so will go the service.

I can’t decide if I’m being discriminating, or if I’m being shallow.

??

October 30, 2010

For All The Saints

So it’s Saturday and you’re a worship leader surfing the net for some good worship songs for Sunday — nothing like the last minute  — and then you discover tomorrow is All Saints Day.   No, not All Saints Sunday, it’s actually the day!

You see if you’re in a denomination that does the liturgical calendar at all — and in many churches it will just be another worship set of Hillsong and Chris Tomlin songs — you should know that when All Saints Day (November 1st) falls on a Saturday or a Monday, the day itself moves to the Sunday in all its solemnity. Holy days of obligation, Batman!

Just don’t tell me later that your church based its worship song selection on Halloween.  American megachurches: this means you.

So for all the worship leaders, here’s all the verses to All Saints Day’s one and only standard hymn.   And I am counting on you to sing all eleven verses.   Standing.

For All The Saints Hymn

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

Text: William W. How, 1823-1897
Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958

Read more about All Saints Day here

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