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Serving by singing

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Serving by singing

“The sight and sound of God’s people singing is a powerful, stirring exhortation for struggling hearts to believe the truths they hear sung around them.”
— http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-if-i-don-t-want-to-sing

I was incredibly encouraged by many things at the recent Doxology and Theology conference.  Over the next few weeks I'll try and blog some highlights and reflections, and you can watch some quick summaries here on my Facebook page.

But probably more than anything, I was deeply encouraged and moved through the message about Christ dwelling richly among us as we sang together (Col 3:16).  Those leading us from the front did an amazing job - because it wasn't so much their contributions that impacted me...but hearts and voices of the people around me.  

We can often be so focused on our own personal experience and engagement with God as we sing that we can loose sight of the gift our singing is meant to be for those around us.  For those of us who 'lead' the church in singing - we need to prayerfully and skilfully facilitate, exhort and spur our churches on to serve one another like this.  But having said that, every one of us needs to remember that we're on the 'music ministry team'! 

This blog from Matt Damico puts it so well, that I'll let him do the rest of the talking!  Read more...

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Melania Trump, rickrolling and worship song writing...

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Melania Trump, rickrolling and worship song writing...

This week saw twitter go into overload in response to Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican convention.  It seemed like her speech writers had lifted significant chunks of her speech from a 2008 speech given by Michelle Obama…and then left a knowing ‘nod and wink’ in the form of what may be the highest profile rickroll ever!

The weight of our words

Here was one tweet that caught my attention.

 

Its a significant point - the words our Pastors preach must be able to stand up to that kind of scrutiny.  But lets raise the stakes even higher…imagine if your words are going to be not just scrutinised, but memorised and even adopted by other people as their own expressions?

If you’re aiming to write congregational worship songs, then that’s what you’re aiming for - that people would take words that you’ve penned, and embody them and use them as their own expressions of worship, prayer and praise to God…that’s a huge responsibility!

This was brought home to me recently in a profound and humbling way.  I’ve just started a new role at EV Church, and we’re still very much in that phase of getting to know people, and discovering all the mutual friends and random connections.  As I spoke with one lady, she shared that “I only just realised you wrote that song "You Loved Me"…I’ve sung that to my daughter every night for the last four years!”  That floored me!  I never would have considered that as I was writing that song years ago - that it would be a significant piece in forming this little girls understanding of God’s love for her.

When you’re song writing, do you consider that these are words that might be sung to an infant at bedtime, or held onto in the hospital ward…or become the last words of men facing the firing squad.

We can’t know where God might someday take the song we’re writing at the moment.  But there are definitely things we can do now to strengthen our songs - however God might choose to use them.

Fill our words with The Word

Col 3:16 shows us that songs are a gift from God to "let the message of Christ dwell richly among us”.  So lets aim to saturate our songs with the message of Christ!  And not just settle for stand alone ‘soundbites’ of scripture (I call these ‘muesli songs’ - they are full of little chunks of goodness…but they don’t make any coherent sense!)  Aim to write songs that help people know and understand and embody sections of scripture.  As I prepare for a conference based around 2 Peter 3, Michael Morrow’s “We Belong to the Day” comes straight to mind as a great example of this.

Keep writing

My personal observation (and my own temptation!) is that many songs seem to be ‘finished’ far too soon.  Sometimes we can idolise the creative process - “That’s just the way it came to me”.  Sometimes they might be rushed out to make a deadline - a preaching series or recording project.  Or maybe we’re just eager to share them!  But I think another serious issue is that we often lack the knowledge, experience, tools and skills to helpfully engage in re-writing.  If you’re serious about songwriting for congregational worship, then we must keep growing in our knowledge of God’s Word and how to handle it with integrity.  (Maybe start with How to read the bible for all its worth)  But we also must continue to invest in and grow in our songwriting skills -  how we can better use words, rhythms, rhymes and metaphors to carry and communicate these profound truths.  And to that end, I can’t recommend Pat Pattison’s material highly enough - get a hold of “Writing Better Lyrics”.  But why not take the time out to work through his free Coursera course.  Or, even better, do it as a group or team, so you have shared skills and vocabulary to encourage and critique one another.  Which leads to the next point...

Involve others

If you just want a song to sing for yourself, then don’t worry about this!  But if you’ve got any desire that it might be a song sung by someone else…then it effectively ceases to be ‘your’ song - it becomes their song too.  So why not start with that assumption, and get other people involved in the writing stage as well - seek out co-writers and collaborators who can help in the processes of writing and rewriting.  Run draft songs past your pastor to get feedback on the theology.  Carefully consider and respond to other peoples criticisms…they often have good points to make, and they could strengthen the song.  It can be hard and humbling work…but its definitely worth it!

Finally, if they are words that are worth sticking…then we need to work at writing phrases and melodies that will stick…but that’s a conversation for another day!

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Doxology and Theology - Friday workshop notes

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Doxology and Theology - Friday workshop notes

The first breakout I sat in on was with Aaron Ivey from Austin Stone Community Church, on Shepherding Worship Leaders.  Here’s some key points and reflections…

If we are given the privilege and responsibility of leadership, one of those responsibilities is to shepherd and pastor those we are leading on our teams.  So we need to be…

  • Equipping and building those in our teams up to maturity - even with the small windows of opportunity we have with them (Eph 4:11-16)

  • Guard and protect them - especially from false teaching (Acts 20:28-30)

  • Humbly and gladly seeking to serve and share our lives with them (1 Peter 5:1-7)

  • Remember that we serve under the true and perfect Good Shepherd (1 Peter 2:25)


Three things (among many) that have the potential to derail this focus - borrowed from Henri Nouwen

  • A desire to be relevant.  Our teams need us to be in stark contrast to the culture that is so often crushing them.

  • A desire to be spectacular.  Reality check…Jesus is the one who is spectacular - lets not attempt to steal His glory!

  • A desire to be powerful.  Remember Jesus’ model of leadership - laying down power for the sake of His sheep.  Are we constantly laying down power for our team’s sake?


And a bunch of other random thoughts…

  • We need to intentionally make time to be with people - not just to get a job done, but to get to know each other better.

  • Related to the above - creative people thrive in community.  Are we intentionally making opportunities for and encouraging community?

  • Teams are built on foundations…what are ours?

  • We need to be vulnerable question askers.  How can I serve you better?  How have I failed you?  What are you dreaming about?

  • We need to create cultures of feedback.

  • We need to be leaders worth following.

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Doxology and Theology - Friday Morning Highlights

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Doxology and Theology - Friday Morning Highlights

I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be here in beautiful (and freezing!) Kentucky at the Southern Baptist Seminary for the Doxology and Theology Conference.  Here's a Friday morning summary... 

Session 1 - Mike Cosper (if you haven't checked out his book Rhythms of Grace...you really should!) pointed out that the current cultural milieu (the 'water that we swim in') of immanence and "disenchantment" is in so many ways contrary to the transcendent and "enchanted" reality of God's Kingdom.  It seems that transcendence is off somewhere above the ceiling, and history and depth and rootedness is under the floor, so we find ourselves stuck in a room of immanence - where what matters is the now, the observable, the programs and solutions and metrics.  These are the values and ideals and realities that not only shape the cultures around us, but that also impact the way we engage with God and with each other.  But in the same way that stories and habits have shaped present this culture, we need to be telling stories and learning habits that show us the Kingdom of God, where things are more than they seem - where two copper coins are more than great riches, where to gain your life you need to lose it, where defeat is really victory.

Session 2 was three mini(ish) talks...

Mike Bleecker reminded us of the amazing gift and privilege of having God's Word, and encouraged us to fill and surround everything we do with the Word of God - both figuratively and literally - his lyric slides often have related verses at the bottom or between verses.

Keith Getty shared 3 goals for their hymn writing

  • That God's people would learn their lived faith (not just doctrine) through what they sing
  • That they would inspire the holy act of congregational singing to be just that - congregational singing!  That they would write songs that would blow you away, not just have 'singable melodies'.
  • That they would be hymns that we might carry with us throughout our lives

Third up was Harold Best.  I'd like to share with you what Harold shared...but there's no way I could do him justice!  I'll post it up when it comes available, and then you'll see what I mean.

More coming soon...#

Read the highlights from Thursday night...

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Some thoughts from Dox&Theo Thurs night

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Some thoughts from Dox&Theo Thurs night

So right now I'm in Kentucky at the Doxology and Theology conference.  I'm going to try and keep giving quick updates as we go - but you can always stream in as well at

Last night we heard from Don Carson on John 4, and Paul Tripp from Col 3.  I'll need to go back over my notes from Don's talk, but here's a few quick thoughts and challenges from Paul...

The danger of idolatry is never more present than in moments of the supposed worship of God

  • We're all hardwired to seek, but it is also that we have life in its fulness already in God (Col 3:3-4)
  • Therefore it is an act of Gospel amnesia for a believer to seek life - identity, affirmation, validation - anywhere else
  • Our leadership of corporate worship will either affirm the fullness of life we have in Christ, or reveal we are  gospel amnesiacs.  What does my heart seek in the midst of serving in worship ministry?

Some 'things above' that we are to seek.

  • Gods glory - there is NO glory for us in this.  To take glory is to be a glory thief.
  • Grace - we need the rescuing grace of Christ as much today as ever.
  • Redemption - everything we do is as ambassadors of the redeemer
  • Kingdom - we are building a kingdom...but who's?!

 

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Tax and worship #2

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Tax and worship #2

It has always been one of the great ironies of international development that some of the poorest countries on earth have the greatest riches. Many African, Asian and South American nations have vast reserves of natural resources. So why don’t they get more of the profits from exploiting them? ... the key problem is tax avoidance by international companies.
— (Savior Mwambwa of the Centre for Trade Policy and Development in Zambia in an interview with the BBC 9 March 2012)

A few weeks ago Fiona and I were involved with the Micah Challenge Voices for Justice conference in Canberra.  I started blogging about some of the issues we were confronted with there…sorry for those who have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment! 

In the last blog (read it here) I brought up the concept of tax avoidance or dodging, and the impact that these business practices are having on developing countries.  As I was reading into it more, one of the case studies really hit home for me.  

Last year, I had the privilege to travel to Zambia with World Vision to see the amazing impact they are having in helping local communities. One of the things pressed home for me during this trip was how systemic some of the underlying issues were.  We had the opportunity to meet with some of the local government officials in the Kaoma / Luampa region.  These people had such a heart to see their communities supported and developed, but were really limited in their capacity to implement changes because they just didn’t have the money to do things.  They were so appreciative of World Vision and the other NGO’s, who’s support and finances made some of these things possible - for example, the regions best medial services were provided by the local mission hospital.  But they still dreamed of so much more that could be done.


One of the big issues (among many) in Zambia is that a majority of local trade happens in the 'informal economy’.  One thing that really struck me was that even with over 50% unemployment, in our two weeks there I would have seen no more than 5 beggers.  The people have amazing initiative…on every road were makeshift stalls selling anything you could want…from food and clothes to sunglasses and phone chargers, to tyres and building supplies!  One enduring image was the man who was selling shoes amongst the peak hour traffic…running alongside a car as the driver tried one on!    But an issue with this informal economy it that it generates no tax income for public services like education and health.

But the problem isn’t just a domestic issue - Zambia has a wealth of natural resources, and plenty of foreign ‘investment’.  However, due to tax avoidance practices, much of this resource wealth benefits the foreign investors more than the Zambians themselves.

In February 2012, the Government of Zambia announced an audit of mining companies operating in that country, believing it was owed up to a $1 billion in unpaid taxes. According to Christian Aid more than half of the copper exported from Zambia in 2008 was supposedly sent to the tax haven of Switzerland, but Swiss import data shows no Zambian copper passed through that country.

Read the complete article here...

You might think this sounds pretty extreme?  It is...but it is also 'normal business practice' and is played out in similar ways all across the world.  In the words of Eric Schmidt (Google CEO - 'Don't be Evil') "It's called capitalism.  We are proudly capitalistic.  I'm not confused by this."  So is he right...is there nothing evil about this?  What has this got to do with God and worship?  And what difference can you make in an issue so widespread and deeply entrenched in our culture?We'll explore these issues in the next post...

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Tax and worship

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Tax and worship

I don’t know if you think much about tax?  I generally avoid thinking about it until its that time of the year again.  But its really important - tax is good!  Public health care, roads and transport, education, emergency services…even the ABC and Peppa Pig are things we enjoy because of public funding through tax.  

Over the last couple of days at Voices for Justice, we’ve been learning a lot about tax dodging - basically, the way that corporations and individuals take advantage of ‘creative accounting’ and tax havens to minimise the amount of corporate tax they pay,  For example, you may have heard about the example of Google in Australia - that while they made an estimated $1,000,000,000 profit in the Australia market in 2011, they paid only $74,176 in tax (no…that’s not a typo…there’s no missing zeros!)  That a lot of money not being returned into the infrastructure and services of the Australian community.  Read about it here.  And they’re not alone…this is common business practice - at least 61 of the ASX Top 100 companies have subsidiaries companies in tax haven countries.

However, the effect it has to us pales in comparison with the impact these business practices have on developing nations...


How does that make you feel?  Is this something we should care about? What has it got to do with worship? I’ll share some more thoughts tomorrow…

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Voices for Justice

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Voices for Justice

I'm really looking forward to leading the singing at Voices for Justice over the weekend - not only the opportunity to sing and serve, but it will be a unique opportunity to learn, grow, be challenged, repent and speak up for the values of God's Kingdom and the people he loves.  I'll keep the blogs and tweets coming, so keep checking back if you want to share the journey with me.  

But you can also get involved from where ever you are right now...post a 'shine the light' selfie and shoot it to your local MP this weekend...we'll be talking about the impacts of tax dodging and corruption with them next week, so let your voice be heard as well.  Read more about it at www.shinethelight.com.au

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The art and craft of songwriting...and worship songs...

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The art and craft of songwriting...and worship songs...

I'm currently sitting at a local cafe digging into 1 John and Psalm 63...in the 'fertilising' stage of writing some new songs.  But I've been happily distracted by this brilliant post from @shaungroves that raises some really important questions and critiques (I'd suggest anyway...he's trying to be a bit more diplomatic!) about a lot of contemporary worship songwriting.  A bunch of us from @Kirkplacechurch spent 6 weeks with @ptpattison studying songwrinting with this free online Coursera course (HIGHLY recommended if you'd like to be stretched in your songwriting skills) - and I was left with these same questions...and more!  Have a read and let us know what you think?

"I have a theory. I think worship writers have parted with standard songwriting practices because they’re creating with the live experience in mind. So their priorities are much different from those of a traditional songwriter.

Participation, for instance, is a top priority for the worship music experience. To ensure our participation on Sunday morning, lyrics and melodies and song forms are simplified to the point that standard practices are broken.

Because when we participate we want to feel something too, writers and producers give us a lot of long-building crescendos, emotive guitar swells, drum breaks, and other production techniques that stir our emotions during the live experience. And they don’t put as much effort into crafting lyrics, which tend to be thought of (right or wrong) as tools best suited for eliciting thought rather than emotion.

We don’t want a great song. We want a great experience. And that’s what worship writers are giving us.

This is either resulting in good hockey or bad painting. I don’t pretend to know which. What do you think?"

Read the whole article here...

BTW - its given me a new appreciation for great worship songwriting...like this song from @dustinkensrue and @StuartTownend.


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Additional notes and quotes from preaching Psalm 149

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Additional notes and quotes from preaching Psalm 149

It was a real privilege to explore, learn from and then preach from Psalm 149 on the weekend at Kirkplace.  We learned that God's people are to revel in Him as we gather together, with new songs and with all that we are and all that we have - breaking out in singing, music...and even dancing!  We've got every reason to celebrate...God is our Maker and our King, he takes pleasure in us and is even now "adorning us" like a bride ready for her wedding day.

We need to let these realities shape our gatherings - even more so than our cultural upbringings and comfort zones - and ensure we have an accurate knowledge of our God...who is infinitely delightful and praiseworthy!

And we need to remember that who we delight in, we also defend.  If we honour God with our lips...our lives must follow.  The two are intrinsically linked - as we gather together and celebrate Christ, we also equip ourselves with the weapons of warfare for a life of 24/7 worship.

You can listen to the talk here.

But, as usual, there was a whole bunch of really helpful and encouraging stuff that time just didn't allow us to get to.  So if you're keen to dig a little further, here's some thoughts and links...

(BTW - most of these quotes below are just snippets from longer passages...all which are gold, so I encourage you to follow the links!) 

More passages to look at...

Firstly, I want to reenforce again that the Psalms, in their breadth and variety, show us that we can honour God as much through cries for help as we do shouts of praise.  When we were exploring reasons that we might feel sometimes inhibited to revel in God with abandon, I probably didn't affirm enough that sometimes you don't feel like celebrating.  Sometimes we might just feel like crying out, complaining...or even shouting at God!  And I think the Psalms show us that its OK...have a look at Psalms 6, 10, 22, 28, 38, 60, 64, 74 amongst others.

When Psalm 149 talks about singing, dancing and playing tambourines, it recalls (no doubt intentionally) the celebrations as God rescues his people from Egypt.  Check out the spontaneous praise and dance party that erupts in Exodus 15.

Other issues...

When we discussed the issues that can discourage a culture of revelling in God as we gather together, one of the points I didn't get time to address was the impact of pride.  Pride - or "self-worship" - rears its head in a bunch of different ways.  And while I think we're all conscious of 'show pony' pride, are we as aware of the impact of pride in our lives if we're constantly thinking about not standing out or looking foolish or fitting in?  Its at the opposite end of the personality spectrum...but can be just as much a pre-occupation with other peoples attention...and yet I think we more readily excuse it because it 'looks more humble.  Is this an issue for you?  It definitely is for me!  Here's some other verses if you need to think about this more...  Matt 6, 2 Sam 6, Phil 2-3

We also had to move fairly quickly over the particular role of the nation of Israel in God's plans. Knowing this role is essential to understanding how we can apply these "politically charged" Psalms to us today.  If you'd like to get your head around this more, can I suggest that a great starting point would be these books by Graeme Goldsworthy.

When we spoke about our role in defending God's honour, we spoke mainly about warring against sin in our personal lives.  But the Psalms have a constant thread of seeking justice in the community, and I think this needs to be something we're active in as well...speaking out and working against oppression and exploitation in our society.

There's also a profound truth we need to get our heads around...we glorify God by enjoying Him!  If we get this balance wrong, we can start leaning towards being "blessing consumers" on one side...or on the flipside, trying to earn our way to God's blessing.  John Piper does a great job of exploring this wonderful truth - I'd suggest starting with The Pleasures of God or Desiring God (You can download a free PDF of this one!) if you want to explore this further.

Articles, quotes and blogs...

We spoke about how praise and delight almost requires to be shared...and in doing so is magnified.  This is a great passage from CS Lewis as he discovered this overflowing nature of praise...and how our enjoyment glorifies God. 

"I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."

http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/God_Invites_Us_to_Enjoy_Him


I've found a couple of really helpful blog posts by David Mathis on Desiring God website...

We spoke about how we need to be singing and writing new songs, because God's blessing and mercy to us is constant.

"New songs of praise are appropriate for new rescues and fresh manifestations of grace. As long as God is gracious toward us, as long as he keeps showing us his power, and wowing us with his works, it is fitting that we not just sing old songs inspired by his past grace, but also that we sing new songs about his ever-streaming, never-ceasing grace."

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/sing-a-new-song

This one explores self-forgetfulness in our corporate worship - really relevant as we discussed things that impede our revelling.

"Corporate worship is a means of grace not when we’re caught up with what we’re doing, but when we experience the secret of worship — the joy of self-forgetfulness — as we become preoccupied together with Jesus and his manifold perfections."

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/kindle-the-fire-in-corporate-worship

And this great blog post just went up yesterday about 5 benefits of corporate worship.

"Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role in rekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life."

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/five-benefits-of-corporate-worship


Finally, if you've made it this far...then you might be up for some extended quotes from Jonathan Edwards.  If you haven't read any Edwards before, its like climbing a mountain...really hard work, but stick with it - the view at the top is amazing!  The first quote is reflecting on Christ's love for his Bride - the church.  And the second looks towards the day when our praises will be perfected...unhindered by our current foibles and failures...

1. We ought to consider how much Christ has done to obtain that joy, wherein he rejoices over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.   The creation of the world seems to have been especially for this end, that the eternal Son of God might obtain a spouse towards whom he might fully exercise the infinite benevolence of his nature, and to whom he might, as it were, open and pour forth all that immense fountain of condescension, love, and grace that was in his heart, and that in this way God might be glorified. Doubtless the work of creation is subordinate to the work of redemption: the creation of the new heavens and new earth, is represented as so much more excellent than the old, that, in comparison, it is not worthy to be mentioned, or come into mind.   Christ has done greater things than to create the world, in order to obtain his bride and the joy of his espousals with her: for he became man for this end; which was a greater thing than his creating the world. For the Creator to make the creature was a great thing; but for him to become a creature was a greater thing. And he did a much greater thing still to obtain this joy; in that for this he laid down his life, and suffered even the death of the cross: for this he poured out his soul unto death; and he that is the Lord of the universe, God over all, blessed for evermore, offered up himself a sacrifice, in both body and soul, in the flames of divine wrath. Christ obtains his elect spouse by conquest: for she was captive in the hands of dreadful enemies; and her Redeemer came into the world to conquer these enemies, and rescue her out of their hands, that she might be his bride. And he came and encountered these enemies in the greatest battle that ever was beheld by men or angels: he fought with principalities and powers; he fought alone with the powers of darkness, and all the armies of hell; yea, he conflicted with the infinitely more dreadful wrath of God, and overcame in this great battle; and thus he obtained his spouse. Let us consider at how great a price Christ purchased this spouse: he did not redeem her with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood; yea, he gave himself for her. When he offered up himself to God in those extreme labors and sufferings, this was the joy that was set before him, that made him cheerfully to endure the cross, and despise the pain and shame in comparison of this joy; even that rejoicing over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride that the Father has promised him, and that he expected when he should present her to himself in perfect beauty and blessedness.

Jonathan Edwards [1743], Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758 (WJE Online Vol. 25) 

"V. In the way of CONSOLATION to the godly! It may be matter of great comfort to you, that you are to spend your eternity with the saints in heaven, where it is so much their work to praise God. The saints are sensible what cause they have to praise God, and oftentimes are ready to say, they long to praise him more, and that they never can praise him enough. This may be a consolation to you, that you shall have a whole eternity in which to praise him. They earnestly desire to praise God better. This, therefore, may be your consolation, that in heaven your heart shall be enlarged, you shall be enabled to praise him in an immensely more perfect and exalted manner than you can do in this world. You shall not be troubled with such a dead, dull heart, with so much coldness, so many clogs and burdens from corruption, and from an earthly mind; with a wandering, unsteady heart; with so much darkness and so much hypocrisy. You shall be one of that vast assembly that praise God so fervently, that their voice is "as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of might thunderings...

...You long to have others praise God, to have every one praise him. There, there will be enough to help you, and join you in praising him, and those that are capable of doing it ten thousand times better than saints on earth. Thousands and thousands of angels and glorified saints will be around you, all united to you in the dearest love, all disposed to praise God, not only for themselves, but for his mercy to you."

Jonathan Edwards [1743], Sermons, Series II, 1734 (WJE Online Vol. 49) , Ed. Jonathan Edwards Center 

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But what if I just don't like singing...?

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But what if I just don't like singing...?

I really enjoyed a workshop I ran at Figtree Anglican Church last weekend - we had some great discussions on a bunch of issues (I think the audio might get posted online soon...I'll add a link if and when that happens).  But in the midst of all this discussion about how we - as singers, musicians and sound engineers - can equip and encourage our churches to worship God in singing together, someone raised the question "But what if I just don't like singing....?"

From memory, my response was pretty brief (as I'm constantly running out of time in these workshops), but a recent post by prominent author / blogger Donald Miller has sparked a lot of discussion on this very issue that I think we can learn a lot from - both as 'worshippers' and those who 'lead worshippers' in a church context.

Below are the links to a few posts.  Firstly, Millers original post and a follow up he posted responding to various comments he received.  After that are two different responses - both which in general disagree with Miller's position but helpfully look at ways we, as the church and as individuals, can learn from his critique.

If this is a question you've wondered about - either for yourself or for those you seek to lead on a Sunday - these blogs might be a helpful starting point for more thinking and discussion.

(11 Feb - I've just added a really helpful post from Bob Kauflin pointing to the biblical reasons why we should sing)


I’ve a confession. I don’t connect with God by singing to Him. Not at all.

I know I’m nearly alone in this but it’s true. I was finally able to admit this recently when I attended a church service that had, perhaps, the most talented worship team I’ve ever heard. I loved the music. But I loved it more for the music than the worship. As far as connecting with God goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.
— http://storylineblog.com/2014/02/03/i-dont-worship-god-by-singing-i-connect-with-him-elsewhere/

So yes, I think Miller needs to be challenged and corrected. But I also think his comments reveal the tragic lack of spiritual formation in many of our churches today. They remind us that many Christians have no meaningful vision for why the church gathers; for why we sing, preach, and pray.
— http://www.mikedcosper.com/home/donald-miller-and-the-culture-of-contemporary-worship

Contrary to popular sentimentalism, we are not singing for “an audience of one.” While we do sing to worship our Savior, we also sing to rehearse the truth of the Gospel together and be sanctified by it. We sing to remind ourselves of the great and glorious prize at the end of this race and encourage each another to keep running.

To say that I will not gather to sing with the local church because I don’t connect with God that way is immature consumerism at its finest.

We need each other. I need you. You need me. We are living stones who gather to build one another up in love. If I choose not to show because it’s not how I feel like I best connect with God, not only do I miss out, but the people I have been called to build up in love miss out. A significant piece is missing.

Furthermore, when I come to church and refuse to sing, not only do I miss out on personally rehearsing the truth, but the people around me miss out on my voice encouraging them to keep their eyes on what is excellent, true, right, honorable, and good.
— http://www.worshipcohort.org/church-needs-donald-miller-got-wrong/

The singing in your church may be dreadful. Your voice might sound like a cross between a beached whale and an alley cat in heat. Singing might make you feel uncomfortable. Those who lead the singing in your church might do it poorly. And if there’s anything we can do to change the situation, we should.

But our confidence and comfort in singing comes from this: Jesus, our great high priest, makes all our offerings acceptable to God through his perfect life of obedience and his perfect sacrifice of atonement. The Father loves our singing not only because it’s sincere, but because when offered through faith, it sounds just like his beloved Son.

And besides. One day we’ll all have better voices and our songs will far surpass anything we’ve sung here. It’s then we’ll realize that eternity won’t be long enough to contain the songs worthy of the Lamb who was slain.
— http://www.worshipmatters.com/2014/02/10/i-worship-god-by-singing-you-should-too/

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Books, blogs and more...

Every time I run a workshop, I end up quoting or directing people to some talks, blogs, articles and books that I've found really helpful recently as I've explored some of the issues around music and worship.  So I thought I'd list some of them down here...

There's been a few talks from the Sovereign Grace Worship God conference that I attended last year that I've been really dwelling on and learning from - particularly thinking about how we serve, and the role music and singing plays in preparing and equipping people to respond in worship in all of life...and particularly in the hard times.  I've linked the blog summary of the event on Bob Kauflin's Worshipmatters blog (as always, there's heaps of other great articles there, so its worth looking around) and the two particular talks that have impacted me.

While we're talking about Bob, this talk he gave at the TWIST conference in Sydney a few years ago is GOLD.  Pastoring through song.

Another blog I've found really helpful is from Zac Hicks - Zac is the Worship Pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and a very regular - and always insightful - blogger!  In particular, I found this post about the danger of letting our bands do the 'worshipping' for us really challenging - A Reason to Be Suspicious of Worship Bands

While in the States, I picked up this book. Its worth a read just for the first few chapters, which traces out the story of God gathering a community of loving worshippers - from before time began and to all eternity.  It is beautifully written, concise, and is a great place to start if you're exploring the big picture of worship, as Cosper draws from a bunch of other helpful books and articles that you could move on to.

This is a book I'm currently in the middle of...and need to go back to the start and work though slowly again - there's so much rich content packed in on each page!  Peterson's book Engaging with God is a thorough exploration of the 'big picture' of worship.  Encountering God together - as you've probably worked out - narrows the focus down to our worship gatherings.  In particular, the chapter on edification had a few lightbulb moments for me.  I'll post again about it once I'm through...

The other book I'm in the middle of (yep...I'm one of those 'pile of books all half read' readers) is Delighting in the Trinity.  Like me, you may have been tempted to place the triune nature and character of our God into the theological 'too hard' basket...impossible to understand, even harder to explain, and maybe not a critical factor in my faith.  If that's you, you need to read this book!  Reeves not only shows the importance of understanding and relating to our God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but writes with a infectious joy in these truths!  Again, I'll post again once I'm through it!

Anyway, I hope that you might find some of these helpful.  And please, keep the conversation going...I'd love to know what you've got lots out of recently?

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