Friday, November 30, 2012

Church Music Principles

Here's a list of 50 principles for those who are responsible for music in evangelical churches. Comments are welcome. (I don't pretend that each of them is heaven-sent. Some are merely based on my observations.)
  1. Worship music is for worship, not entertainment.
  2. The best corporate worship music is theologically very simple or very deep, or both.
  3. Songs for corporate worship should be singable and memorable.
  4. If the congregation is supposed to be singing, but many of them aren't, something is wrong.
  5. Believers need to be taught from scripture both how and why to worship, including the right use of music.
  6. What's best involves a cultural choice. What's best in London may not be best in Lima. What's best in one neighborhood of a city may not be best in another.
  7. Music for children can and should teach truth. (The children will remember some of those songs decades later.)
  8. The best hymns are worth learning. Someone has called them the distilled prayers of the saints.
  9. On average, old songs are better than new songs, because most of the bad old songs have been forgotten.
  10. The aim of the church singer or instrumentalist must be for people to think of the Lord, not the musician.
  11. In a church with some cultural diversity, if one group likes every song, the music may not be diverse enough.
  12. Music and words have moods. Upbeat, reflective and sad music can all be appropriate in worship.
  13. If all of a church's music is high-energy and celebratory, the church may end up shallow.
  14. If a church doesn't know how to celebrate with music, the church is probably sick.
  15. Songs about all we'll do for the Lord aren't as helpful as songs about all he has done, is doing and will do. Songs that focus primarily on our feelings about God aren't as nourishing as songs that focus on God's feelings and actions.
  16. Music for close of worship should usually aim to send the obedient believers out with joy, peace, courage, or some combination of those.
  17. Church musicians should aim for excellence.
  18. Technical excellence in music is no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit.
  19. Church musicians need training in humility. The aim is humility in thought, in word, in actions, in appearance.
  20. Church leaders should discourage applause for musicians. Praise belongs to God, not to men--and not to children. It's fine to applaud the Lord, but applauding worship musicians can give them and the congregation the idea that the music is a performance for people instead of a part of the worship of God.
  21. Congregational singing sounds much better in a room with lots of hard surfaces, especially if it's a small congregation. (Such a room may be more difficult to preach in.)
  22. Words and music should match in mood.
  23. Louder isn't always better. Amplifiers are frequently over-used.
  24. If a music pastor is determined that he'll not permit music from one culture, he's not really the pastor of the church members who are of that culture. He should not be surprised nor angry when those people leave for another church where they are shepherded. 
  25. Cultures have much to learn from each other's music.
  26. Organs, guitars, bongo drums, one musical instrument is inherently best for accompanying church music.
  27. A musician who's technically excellent, but who is ungodly in attitudes or lifestyle, should not be permitted to continue as a church musician.
  28. Repeating a chorus over and over may lead to feelings of godliness, but it's not likely to lead to real godliness.It leads to turning off analytical thinking.
  29. Songs are a powerful way to teach theology.
  30. A song by a soloist or by a choir can often become more meaningful if the congregation is invited to sing the ending.
  31. It's often hard for a congregation to worship with a song the first or second time they hear it.
  32. If a music leader sees that almost nobody is singing, it usually means it's either the wrong song or is still too new.
  33. There's a place for new songs.
  34. Young people gain stability by learning the best old songs. 
  35. Old people gain flexibility by learning the best new songs.
  36. Neither old styles nor new styles are inherently better.
  37. Musicians should dress modestly and humbly. Neither sequins nor lots of exposed flesh are usually conducive to worship.
  38. It's good to use music by members of the congregation.
  39. Christians should be encouraged to sing all week.
  40. An excellent tune is no excuse for bad theology.
  41. Singing the scripture is a great way to memorize the scripture.
  42. Instruments in worship are optional.
  43. Congregations should be taught to worship with the head and the heart and the body. (The Psalms give examples of all of those.)
  44. We should thank God for those who are gifted in music for worship.
  45. Even if everyone around you loves the song, it's not spiritually healthy to sing words you don't believe are true. 
  46. Changes in church music should flow from love for the Lord and love for his church, not from a desire to be sophisticated or contemporary or popular or traditional.
  47. We must measure our worship music by the Bible, not by our culture.
  48. If we are intentionally trying to sound just like the non-Christian world around us, we don't understand the treasure we have in Christ.
  49. If we're proud of how utterly different our music style is from the non-Christian world around us, we may not understand our Lord's love for the people of that culture.
  50. There's no place for celebrity culture in worship music.
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yellow Leaves

Some leaves as yellow as Frost's wood
Were strewn across my lawn.
I loved to see them lying there,
This autumn's wealth of gold,
But then, suburbanite I am,
I ground them into shreds
So I could see the boring lawn.
I needed exercise,
And they were ready to be ground,
But now their glory's shredded, too,
As if it never was,
Until some more leaves goldly fall.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, 
summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
(Genesis 8:22 ESV)

My wife says, "The leaves weren't ready to be ground. They were just lying happy where God put them. Every year he puts them there."
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crime Came Close

Crime came close last night.
I don't know who.
I don't know what,
But crime came close.

Lots of cops,
Some crime-scene tape,
An ambulance--
Yes, crime came close.

Crime's always close
In sinful hearts,
And yet I'm shocked
When crime comes close.  

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
(Mark 7:21-22 ESV)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Heard the Heavens Talking

I heard the heavens talking,
Singing of the glory--
Celebrate the story--
Of One who planned and made them.

The stars were all proclaiming
Depths of the creation
Throughout every nation
Did anybody hear them?

The LORD has shown it plainly:
Nothing comes from nothing,
Yet there's lots of something.
All plainly came from someone.

The stars all keep on singing--
Joyously affirming,
Solemnly confirming
The God Who planned and made them.

For his invisible attributes, 
namely, his eternal power and divine nature, 
have been clearly perceived, 
ever since the creation of the world, 
in the things that have been made. 
So they are without excuse.
(Romans 1:20 ESV)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not a Hero


May I not become a hero
Lodged in concrete under lofty obelisk
Proclaiming all my glory.
Open 10-6 Daily
No pets.
Restrooms are behind the gift shop.

May I not be noted for raw power
Wielded in some selfish war,
Nor for my mighty wealth
Expanding faster than a blown balloon.

May I be known--if known at all--
For following the Lord.

Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ.
(Romans 16:10a, ESV)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Jesus' Kingdom

Jesus' kingdom, when He comes,
Will extend from shore to shore.
All will see the Holy One,
And He'll reign forevermore.

How we long to see that Day--
Jesus ruling on His throne--
Yet his kingdom's here today
In the lives of all His own.

Now at one point the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, so he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
--Luke 17:20-21 NET Bible