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.

Denominations and Divisions: A Rethink

This post has been an interesting one to write. I started it months ago, raging and being angry at the divisions that have appeared in the church. There are hundreds of different denominations, and this annoyed me. Yet I believe God has shown me something else recently.

Jesus had to deal with sectarianism with his disciples:

“‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us…’” (Mark 9:38-40).

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25). 

Now, division in the church has been a problem. There are too many times that the church has divided over something ridiculous. We can be too busy, debating the finer points of Calvinism, what colour the church-door should be, whether we should have pews or not; lost in ‘meaningless talk’ (2 Timothy 2:16). To be honest, Brothers and sisters, we should focus on what we have in common: Christ is everything. The Gospel is everything. Hymnbooks or projectors, Baptist or Presbyterian, AV or NIV are all irrelevant.

Nonetheless, we will disagree; we are, after all, human, but there is a blessing in these denominations. We have found comfort in those who believe the same we do — in how we sing a song, or how the service should be structured. It does help us to focus our lives on Christ more when these divisions are removed. Denominations aren’t necessarily bad! We just shouldn’t take pride in the one we belong to, and should always be willing to talk to other churches, and to share and pool resources together too for evangelism, children’s work, financial needs, etc.

We will always think differently on secondary issues, but they should never get in the way of communion with one another and NEVER should one church think it is better than the rest. That is just pride. As believers, let us build bridges; let us be that spark that cuts through these divisions. If we disagree on a secondary issue then let us deal with it in love and humility. But let us focus on Jesus and the cross more than ever!

Richard Motte once declared that, ‘There is not a single Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven.’ Pausing before his no-doubt stunned listeners to add, ‘For in heaven God knows no such distinctions.’ We will be one singing glory to God always. Let that start now, on earth, not later, not tomorrow, but now. Let us be bold in prayer and ask God for strength that this may be achieved.

So, I don’t care about your church background, if you know Jesus died for your sins and that He rose again on the third day, if you believe that grace covers all your sins, then I will call you brother or sister and let us celebrate together what He has done for us all!

Unity, brothers and sisters, unity. Dear God, I pray that for those who read this have a flame set in their hearts for unity. May Your will be done and may we see the church following You, may we see a church actually living for You and not for itself. May You lead all Your people, regardless of background to Your kingdom, and may You use us to bring men and women into Your kingdom. Amen.