A Reformation In How We Sing!

As you may be aware, congregational worship is something that has really impacted me over the last few years. I have written many articles on the subject, and it’s a topic that really needs attention. I recently read the Getty’s ‘Sing’ book (now also a conference which I highly recommend looking at) which described how we need a reformation in how we sing. That hit me hard…a ‘reformation in how we sing’…have we been doing it that wrong for so long? And as I looked around me, and over a few conversations, I realised we had. Some of us have gone to the contemporary, pop version of church singing  promoting songs which have no meaning in the words, but instead catchy tunes and bands/singers. Some of us have gone reclusive, only singing the hymns of our forefathers and not really engaging with anything that is new – even regarding instruments such as drums and guitars as ‘evil’ and have this weird fixation with the organ and that’s it.

The Church needs a reformation in how we sing. It’s plain and simple, we need to wake up and change. In this article I am going to go through some points on how we change our attitude towards music.

  1. There is a problem and we must acknowledge it. I have a feeling that we are blindly just continuing to do what we do, missing out on the true point of music worship and do not realise that we are missing out on blessing and growth.   We go to church, listen to our favourite songs that we hear on the radio or that we sing every week time and time again, and forget to fall in love with the words all over again. There is a problem: is our worship reverent? Is our worship helpful? Is our worship theological? Does our worship cover different emotions? Etc…These are just some questions we must ask ourselves and our church. Music is so important and I think many of us have got it wrong.
  2. The church has been severely affected by the worship wars that have happened inside her walls. The church has separated into ‘old style’ and ‘new style’ churches; in fact, the biggest divide today is most likely to be found in our style! The thing is, congregational worship isn’t about new or old songs/hymns. It’s about those which are God-honouring, thought-provoking, and those which spur us on to praise even in the storms. What does the Bible say on this? Sing to each other, to encourage one another, to help one another, to learn about God. To ‘sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ to one another. I’m not sure the church fully understands what this is about. Does the music you sing, engage your mind and heart? Does it help the person next to you, or does it just help you emotionally, singing simple things to cheer you up? As I said it’s not about new vs old, it’s not about drums or piano only, it’s about the words we sing.
  3. The church has to figure out the difference between congregational music and ‘home’ music. There’s nothing wrong in liking ‘Good Good Father’, but is it a song to be sung by a congregation? It’s one where we can praise on our own and listen to for sure, but do we learn much from it, or do we help others by singing it? Whilst ‘Bless the Lord oh my Soul’ is one which certainly helps us in a congregation.
  4. We must know the difference in just good music and bad music, and be discerning in our choice.  To be honest, many songs are also just dire – old and new – you listen to them and either the tune is just awful, or the words are just so fluffy that anyone could have written them.
  5. Church is not solely for the young! I never get the point of making music ‘contemporary’ for the sake of its audience. We shouldn’t ever market a church for a particular age group or culture; instead it’s for all, for the old and young. Let us remember to respect and follow our elders, insofar as they follow Christ. I’m not saying young people and young peoples’ ideas are stupid! I wrote an article on the fact that they should have a voice, but they should be very careful how they seek to influence the church.
  6. The church’s music worship should only be as high as the pulpit. We must note the link between music and what is taught. If the church is not taught the word, with a desire for rich theology and doctrine, then its singing will not have depth. Therefore, ministers and those leading worship (bands, worship leaders) have a great responsibility in feeding their congregations the word. Weak/superficial theology will produce weak/superficial worship.
  7. We need more hymn writers in the present! Charles Wesley’s hymns, set to popular tunes of the time, revolutionised Christian singing and hymnody. Look at why he wrote them – to teach, to praise – and when you see his adoration, its breathtaking! We need that today, more hymn writers, using contemporary tunes to convey praise, doctrine and love all in one piece of music.
  8. We need to re-engage with the Pslams.  These were the songs that Christ sang!  The Bible has its own hymn book!  Whether its reading it more in our services or singing hymns based off them, it is something we need to re-engage with, as the Pslams offer so much to the Christian!
  9. We need creativity. We need to have creativity in praise, in worship, in our styles of music. Whether it is hip-hop, rock, metal, folk, orchestral, let us use it all to praise God and worship. People may say, well that happens already, and yes it does to a point, but it has to be gospel-focused and it needs to be theologically-driven to be powerful.
  10. We need to sing in our families. I remember reading the Getty’s book ‘Sing’, where they stated that the Puritans would withdraw communion from the man, if he failed to lead his family in singing at home. Strong, and probably a tad over the top (as the Puritans often were!) but it shows us how important singing was. We should sing at home, with our children, so as they get older, they have strong hymns of faith that will stay with them their entire life.
  11. Finally, we need it to come from the local church. We need to encourage men and women in our churches to write music, to write worship that impacts the local church and people. Worship today is so commercialised, let us just scale it back slightly to the local church. In saying that, there is nothing wrong is popular Christian music! I love the Getty’s and Stuart Townend, they are amazing, but what I mean to say is that we should also encourage the local church to write!

 

I am sure many of you reading this know the hymns of old. If you don’t then look them up, start with the Psalms, check out Isaac Watts, who wrote mainly from them. Check out Charles Wesley, William Cowper, Charles Spurgeon. There are so many greats that we should learn from.

I am sure many of you reading this know the new hymns. If you don’t then do check out Kristyn and Keith Getty, Stuart Townend, Matt Boswell and Matt Redman. There are many others, but they are fantastic and should be sung in our churches in the present.

So, here are just a few points. I doubt I do it justice, but there are issues and we need to address them.   If we do, then we as a church will be blessed. The whole point is to bring a stronger theological focus in our worship that covers different themes and emotions and styles. It’s not a debate about instruments or style, but about our focus. A good starting point is the hymns of old, and many churches need to go back to them, whilst for them, discovering the new hymns of the age is also a MUST. Let us see a reformation, let us see this change, for the blessing, for the glory of our Lord and for the praise of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Bible Study: Looking at Titus 2

In this brief examination of the word, we will focus in on the early verses of Titus 2. We studied them in our Men’s group and we were all blessed in the study. I do thoroughly recommend if your church doesn’t, to start small bible study groups, which allow us to have fellowship with one another!

 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive

In this passage we learn about the roles of five groups, older men, older women, young men, younger women and slaves. However, we can all learn from all these different groups, after all age is subjective! For example, although I am young, there are those who are younger still, and I have a role to help them. But why does Paul separate people by age? Because life teaches us, and wisdom and experience come with age. It is why young people must listen to the older generation and respect them, and it is why the older people must live lives that show Christ as an example to the younger ones.

Most of the qualities Paul writes about aren’t necessarily ‘spiritual’, but it’s about living lives that reflect our faith, lives which go against the culture we may live in. It encourages us to be different, to go against what society teaches. It tells us to teach and help one another. For young men, for myself, self-control is key, and something that all young people probably have problems with, but we must aim for it.

What about Slaves? Well Paul is saying something radical here, don’t fight back, don’t be aggressive! Why say such a crazy thing when they are being repressed? It’s because by doing so, they show they are different, that their master may see Christ in them. By their actions, Christ is shown, and perhaps salvation may be there. It is the same for us in the modern day at work. By doing good, we show Christ wherever we are.

What we find from Titus is a theme of doing good, just turn back a page and you can see that Paul’s focus is on how we live our lives, this theme we found earlier in a previous study. What Paul is showing is that people watch us closely. He says that ‘those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.’ By living good lives, it proclaims the gospel; it shows the light inside of us.

We often get caught up with good works do not save. It’s a phrase, although correct, is a bit of a hindrance, a get out of jail free card; because in saving that, we justify our inaction, our sin, our lives which do not live up to what we preach. Yes, works do not save, but as can be seen in James, faith without works is dead. If you are not producing good fruit, if your life hasn’t changed, then you must really examine yourself closely. Paul pleads with Titus and with us to live good lives, so that people may see that God is amazing!

Another verse that strikes me is, ‘so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. Living good godly lives makes Jesus attractive! In some way it is a verse that kind of hits the people who say gimics don’t save, its only by this certain way blah blah blah….well apparently us just doing good, living good lives is a way to point people to the Lord Jesus! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying throw everything else away, good lives is it all, but it does show us, that by being good, by doing good, people can find Jesus. I love the word attractive, because I feel some churches, do everything to try and make Him not attractive!

So Titus is a great book, and we learn so much from it. In a way, it’s a practical book, it shows us how to live good godly lives that the world may see Jesus. Sometimes we can get bogged down in discussing doctrines, but it’s good to reflect on our lives and how we show Christ. May we all shine brightly for Jesus.

Forgetfulness – Part 1

‘Hiya Josh! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’re you doing?’ said a friendly voice, near at hand.

‘Hello!’ I returned enthusiastically, before turning to give the speaker my full attention to see who it was addressing me. Oh dear… It rang no bells; no names. Yikes, not again! I had not even a faintest idea of who it was. Of course, in the interest of politeness, I had to wing it; duly continuing a friendly conversation whilst trying to work out who on earth this person actually was. But by the end I was still none the wiser.

I’m sure we’ve all had something of this experience. Whilst amusing, it’s happened to me a scary amount of times… Forgetfulness seems to be intrinsic to human nature.

Are we forgetting something very important?

How about a spiritual spin on this though?

I was challenged recently by a passage I read…
I’m getting married this Summer and went through 1 Corinthians 7 (which is an excellent chapter on marriage, relationships and singleness), when something Paul wrote struck me pretty hard. The passage goes on for the first twenty-eight verses with Paul essentially replying to some key questions on these matters posed by the church at Corinth. In the twenty-ninth verse however, there is a sudden change — I’ll quote it with the preceding verse so you can get a flavour of the context:

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:28-31).

There’s a real sense of urgency in Paul’s writing here — as if Jesus’ return is imminent. This is the real issue here, not marriage or singleness, as important topics as they are. If Paul, writing over 1900 years ago had that sense of urgency, how much more should we! Our attitude should be one of constantly looking to the skies awaiting the glorious return of our risen Lord, who is ‘coming back to take you to be with me’ (John 14:3b). I love how many of the older hymns invariably include this longing for His coming; which we so easily seem to pass over because we do not walk so closely with Him. I believe that we are in danger of forgetting the return of our Lord Jesus. When He comes calling for us, will we know who it is talking to us? or will we be clueless and forgetful like I was…? How well do we know Him? Will we know His call, like sheep their shepherd? Will we be ready to leave all and go with Him? ‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

In our modern Evangelical/Reformed circles we seem to have largely forgotten the Return of the King. Despite almost twice as many chapters of the Bible describing the Second Coming as the first — it’s hardly preached on, it’s not really studied; it barely gets a mention — yet the Second Coming is surely one of the most important things we need to know about Jesus Christ!

Looking to Home

Where should our focus be?

In John 14:1-4, Jesus says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Isn’t this the most glorious thing! ‘My Father’s house’. HOME. The home of Christ and His flock. Sweet rest, at last.

Paul writes:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. […] Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

[…] For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Are we ready to leave at a moment’s notice, as the Israelites on the night of the Passover, staff in hand? Are we prepared to leave all and go with Him to our new home?

Or are our minds set on planning for earthly things? My fiancée and I are planning for a wedding and preparing for marriage; ultimately however, we are all planning and preparing to leave this world. This earnest eager urgent expectation is something I believe we are seriously missing today — where is the desire to go out and warn the dying world? I fear we are seriously lacking here. I love meeting new Christians, they have so much buzz and joy of the Lord about them, so much hunger for Him and a burning desire to see their friends saved. By contrast, us ‘old guard’, as it were, can be so dull and senseless at times. Lord Jesus, please help us! Heavenly Father, we are weak, hear us! Holy Spirit, work through us, revive us!

“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13).