Musical Style Not to Blame

I have read several articles lately relating to music in church worship services. Though I do agree with many aspects of each of the articles, I have sensed a leaning that I disagree with and feel compelled to address. Maybe I am reading into the articles, and they are not intending to leave this impression. However, my impression is that there is a trend that seems to discredit the value of what some define as contemporary worship. Specifically involving two issues: performance and the lack of congregational singing.

I agree with the premise of the articles I have read regarding these two issues. Music in worship services is not about performance and music should be done that encourages corporate participation. Music should not be performed by a few people on stage rather it should be a corporate experience where the only one being praised is God. However, in the articles I have read it seems that the cause of the demise of effective corporate worship has been identified as contemporary music. This is the idea I would like to address.

With regard to the issue of why people are supposedly not singing during the worship service, I agree with details mentioned in several articles – choose songs that glorify God, play songs in appropriate keys, songs should be easy to sing, etc. I disagree though with a notion that contemporary music is the culprit. In my opinion musical style is not to blame for people not singing in worship services. I have seen, led and participated in many kinds of worship services over the years including contemporary, blended, traditional and liturgical. In services of every musical style people are singing and people are not singing.

To me, the biggest determining factor in whether or not I sing in worship services is my heart not the song or the style; it is what is going on inside me not what is happening on the stage; it is an internal issue not a music style issue. It’s about the condition of a person’s heart. If I am passionate about what Christ is doing in me then I will lift a song of praise. Yes, there is a musical style I personally prefer that is more conducive for me to actively participate, but I sing in whatever service I attend. So If I don’t want to sing in church I need to check what is going on in my heart before I check what is happening on the stage.

With regard to the performance issue, I agree with a basic premise. Music in worship services is not a time to perform or for people to admire and praise the talent of the musicians and the ones leading out, or for those leading out to desire the praise. It is a time to sing to God, honor God and lift our voices and hearts in praise and adoration to God. But, to suggest that contemporary music is all about performance and traditional music is all about pure worship is simplistic and wrong. To say that the use of lights automatically signifies a performance mentality is a mistaken judgment.

It seems that any suggestion of performance qualities is being devalued. If you prepare and pursue excellence then you are performing and that is heretical. Maybe we should never practice or think through a service song order. Maybe we should simply invite anyone that wants to help lead to come up that morning, hand them an order of worship and let them help lead out. If preparation denotes performance then let’s not be prepared. It seems as if an opinion is forming that says if you pursue excellence, if you want to set a mood, if there is any emotion involved then it is performance. Performance and excellence are not synonymous. The use of lighting and other visual effects is not about performing it is about creating an environment- an environment conducive to worship. I often use visuals while preaching, some say I am trying to entertain. I’m not, I am trying to communicate in a way that speaks to people and helps the message stick.

I, as do many others, seek music and music leadership that is authentic, real, and unpretentious. Lights, visuals and other environmental applications do not mean worship has become fake, shallow and performance motivated. I have witnessed many traditional services that come off as fake and performance-driven. If a person does not like or want visual/creative aspects in worship, great. Those who see those elements as enhancing their worship experience should not be seen as consumer Christians who are focused more on themselves than they are with Christ.

Another sub issue surfaces within this discussion. It involves the use of hymns verses worship songs. One, the trend suggests hymns are more sacred than new worship songs. Why are hymns considered more sacred than new worship songs? A hymn is a musical style of writing. Every hymn was a new song at one point! Two, the thought is developing that original songs should not be used or should be used sparingly. Why is using original songs in worship discouraged? Every hymn was someone’s original song! I am not against singing hymns or making them a part of the music in a worship service. Many wonderful hymns exist and are a great means of expressing praise to God. But many new worship songs exist as well and are just as effective for praising God. Original songs reveal what God is doing currently in the lives of those leading out in worship. What could be more authentic and real than that?

My bottom line – The use of different styles is blessed because people are different. Services can look different. Music can be diverse. Diversity is beautiful. And – Music in worship services is an internal issue not an external one. The current condition of corporate worship is a reflection of the condition of the worshipper’s heart. If the music leadership’s heart is right and the congregant’s hearts are right, style should not and will not be an issue. Performance will not be the desire and participation will be abundant.

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Let Freedom Ring

liberty bellBy: Dr. Gil Lain, Lead Pastor

What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think of the 4th of July? My answer is “freedom.” July 4 marks the day when our founding fathers declared (on July 4, 1776) America free from England by virtue of the Declaration of Independence.

Fortunately, we have a number of symbols to remind us of our freedom. One of those symbols of freedom is the Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Bell, fashioned by a company called today the Whitechapel Foundry, arrived in Philadelphia in August of 1752. The first time it was ever rung, the bell cracked. After being recast two additional times, it eventually became useful for summoning lawmakers to legislative sessions and alerting citizens to public meetings.

While we’d all like to think that the Liberty Bell rang on July 4, 1776, after the Declaration of Independence was signed, it probably wasn’t, since no public announcement of the Declaration was given. However, the Declaration was read publicly on July 8, and there was at that time the ringing of bells. It’s possible that the Liberty Bell was sounded on that day, along with other bells.

I like what was cast in the lettering of the Liberty Bell — part of Leviticus 25:10 — “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Certainly, that’s a calling we as citizens of this great country should accept (and observe!).

I also need to say this — that the Liberty Bell, like the nation it represents, is a picture of both strength and fragility. The sturdy metal construction has withstood the test of time and the obvious crack reveals the vulnerability of even cast ore.

America is indeed strong. Yet, we are always subject to the pressures that come from both with, and without, this great land.

Thank God for our freedoms and the people who paid the price for us to experience them.

Time is Limited

Psalm 39:4-11

By: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

I was reminded about the brevity of life as I sat one evening watching a television cast from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The show was asking people to donate money for cancer research, to help in the fight against cancer. As the host spoke, they showed pictures of children with cancer. The show focused on one small child who had brain cancer. This child had three brain surgeries, multiple radiation treatments, and he was still a preschooler. The father of this child was interviewed. His words moved me.

This father talked about what his child has endured. He spoke of the strength and courage his child has shown throughout the entire ordeal. Then the dad spoke about the goodness of God and how God has sustained them through these tough days. He then shared the reality of the situation.

He said his child is dying. He shared that he knew his time with his child was limited. His days were numbered. The host later shared that the child died six months after the taping of that show. His father was right. His time was limited and the time he had with his child was priceless.

The reality of life for everyone is that it is brief. Each man’s life is but a breath. Psalm 102:11 says our days are like the evening shadow. James 4:14 says you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. For this reason it is important that you make good use of the time you have. Ephesians 5:15-16 encourages this idea as it says, “Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”

God has you on Earth for a few days, a few years. He has a purpose for you. You have a short time to impact this world and God wants you to make the most of it. Most of us pass up multiple opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life. Many of us spend too much time focusing on ourselves and not enough time meeting needs of others. Today’s passage is our reminder of the brevity of life. Not only is your life brief, but the lives of those without Christ are brief as well.

In your prayer time with God today, reflect on the brevity of your life. Examine if you are using your time wisely. Make whatever adjustment necessary to be a good steward of your time. Remember your time is limited.

Taste Test

Psalm 90

By: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

I have to confess: I love Coke. I try to be good and watch my intake. However, it is easy to be bad and have two, three, or even four Cokes a day. I would much rather drink Coke than water any day. Even the fancy high dollar bottled water is no match for Coke. If health were no issue I would probably drink Coke exclusively.

I have noticed something about Coke, though, It does not quench my thirst like water does. After playing ball, working out, or mowing the lawn in the hot summer afternoon, I get really thirsty. Since I love the taste of Coke, I grab a can and drink up. When I have finished the entire can I realize I am still thirsty. In fact I am thirstier after I drink than I was before I drank.

Coke tastes great, but it does not provide the nourishment that the body needs. Some experts believe it actually takes away needed nourishment. I have discovered that when I am really thirsty, water quenches my thirst quickly. I have learned to enjoy a nice big glass of iced water.

Verse 14 says God’s unfailing love satisfies us like nothing else can. Many seek after fame, wealth, power, or pleasure believing that these accomplishments will bring satisfaction. After years of pursuit of these dreams they realize they are even more dissatisfied than before. The lesson we must learn is only God’s love can satisfy the deepest longings of our soul. Those enticements look good but they are less filling.

Is your spirit singing for joy today? Can you join in the chorus and sing, “I am satisfied…”? Coke, in moderation, isn’t bad. Fame, power, wealth, and pleasure are not bad in themselves either as long as you keep them in proper perspective. Pursue God all your days. Make it your priority to enjoy a love relationship with your Father. When your spirit is thirsty for life and fulfillment, the taste of the Lord’s unfailing love!

 

It’s Friday But Sunday’s Comin’

By: Dr. Gil Lain, Lead Pastor

Good Friday commemorates the day Jesus willingly went to the cross to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins.

Isaiah 53:5 says about Jesus,

“He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.”

I am thankful (and will always be) for all Jesus did for me on this day long ago. He took my place. I was guilty, but He paid the price to set me free.

I would encourage you to read today one of the gospel accounts of what Jesus went through for you. (Matthew 27:27-61; Mark 15:16-47; Luke 23:26-56; John 19:17-42). As you read about Jesus’ crucifixion, picture each event in the story and try to imagine the suffering Jesus endured on your behalf. Then take some time to thank the Lord Jesus for what He did then and has done in you and for you.

After you’ve read the Scripture, pictured the story, and spent some time in prayer, I’d ask you to watch this three-and-a-half-minute video. The voice you hear on the video is that of the now deceased S.M. Lockridge, a preaching hero of mine from years past. I actually heard the sermon where he spoke these words, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming.”

I believe the Lord will speak to your heart in a powerful way, through both your time in Scripture and prayer as you watch this video.

May the Lord use you and bless you during this special weekend.

Faultless Forever

By: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

Jude 1:17-25

I am sure you have attended a banquet or event, or seen one on TV, where a special guest was featured. Typically at these sort of events, a person comes to the podium and introduces the esteemed guest. The “introducer” might say something like, “It is with great joy and pleasure that I present to you…!” Great applause follows.

One day, a similar scene will take place in Heaven. Jesus will be the “introducer” and you, as a believer, will be the esteemed guest. Verse 24 says Jesus will present you before His glorious presence with great joy. The word “present” means to “make you stand.” Jesus, allegorically speaking, will stand you before all Heaven and say, “It is with great joy and pleasure that I present to you… (your name)… faultless forever.” Faultless means to be spotless, un-blamable. It literally means that not a drop of iniquity remains on the soul.

Your presentation into eternity is just that – eternal. The phrase “before all ages, now and forevermore” is as complete a statement of eternity as can be expressed. It covers the past, present, and future. How can one stand before Christ faultless, blameless, spotless? Through Jesus Christ our Lord (v.25)! He erases your debt and washes you clean. Psalm 103:12 says your sins were removed as far as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:3 says no record of sin is kept. Upon salvation, your sin is forgiven, forgotten, and forever removed. Though your sin was like scarlet, it has been washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

The One who will introduce you is the One who made it possible for you to be there. Today, thank Jesus for His cleansing blood that washed you so clean that you will be presented in Heaven as “Faultless Forever!”

WASH UP

By: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

James 4:6-10

Let’s camp out in James 6:8, where it says, “wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts…” To explain what this phrase is saying, allow me to relate two stories.

When my youngest son was at home he was not a neat freak. The concept of cleaning his room did not compute. I remember one specific instance when I asked him to clean his room. He closed his door and went to work cleaning. In just a few moments he opened his door, proudly paraded into the living room, and announced he was done cleaning his room, sure enough it looked clean. There was nothing on the floor. As I opened the closet door I realized he had not cleaned his room, he had merely hidden everything in his closet.

When I was a youth minister, two of my senior guys came to church one summer Sunday morning in polyester three-piece suits. They had never worn suits to church. They usually came in short-sleeve shirts. They had even been known to wear shorts. After teasing them, I asked why the new dress code. They confessed. The day before, they had worked on their cars. They had grease all over them. Instead of washing up, they wore the suits to cover up the grease.

In today’s passage, wash your hands means to deal completely with your sin. Purify your hearts means to not hide your sin, instead, confess it. When you sin, never try to hide it from God. Likewise, do not harbor it in your heart. Confess it and get rid of it – all of it. Today, ask God to reveal if you have unconfessed sin in your life. If He says you do, “Wash up!”

Run The Race

By: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

Hebrews 12:1-3

Picture this: Four people lined up to race in a 100 meter dash. One person has a 10lb weight attached to each leg. Another has both legs tied together. A third is completely blindfolded. The fourth person has not restrictions With all other physical factors equal, who do you think wins the race? Obviously, the one free of hindrances wins.

In this passage, you are encouraged to run the race. To run effectively, watch out for three hindrances.

One, do not become burdened. Throw off those weighty things that hinder your ability to run. We all face pressures in life relating to finances., children, work, health, etc. Do not let the pressures of life weigh you down. Throw them off. Let God carry them, Cast your cares on God for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Two, do not become bound. We all have sins that we are particularly prone toward. Don’t let sin entangle you and trip you up. Make confession of sin a consistent habit (1 John 1:9).

Three, do not be blind. Fix your eyes on Jesus. In basketball, a person guarding the person with the ball should keep his eyes on his opponent’s torso. If he fixes his eyes on the ball or on the feet, he can be fooled. The torso is constant. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of your faith. Fix your eyes on Him. If you place your attention and focus on something else you will be fooled and be blinded by the evil one.

Your race is a marathon not a 100 meter dash. Are you burdened? Are you bound? Are you blind? If you are, talk to God about it today. Remove the hindrance. Run the race!

Discipleship

BY: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

Titus 2:1-4

Think about those persons who have impacted your walk with Christ and have invested in your spiritual maturity. What did these people do for you? What are some of the characteristics of their life?

Discipleship is a churchy word for impacting a person’s life. A commitment to discipleship is not just a personal commitment to grow in your own walk with Christ. It is also a commitment to invest in the lives of others and encourage others to grow in their walk with Christ.

Paul discipled Titus. Paul took the responsibility of helping Titus grow in the faith. Now he is challenging Titus to do the same. Three aspects of effective discipleship are given in this passage.

  1. Teach sound doctrine (v.11) – Teach the fundamental truths of God’s Word. Be sure your “student” is grounded in the Word.
  2. Teach some to train others (v.4-10 – When you invest your life in someone encourage the two in turn invest their life in one another.
  3. Teach by example (v.7) – Live what you teach. Have integrity. Seek to live an upright and godly life. (v. 12)

The question for today: Are you involved in the discipleship process? Are you intentionally investing your life into the life of another? It is great to deepen your own walk with Christ. However, it is even better to also help deepen their walk as well.

If you are discipling another, great. If you are not, ask God to make it clear to you when He thinks you are ready to disciple another. Then, trust God to lead you to the one He has prepared for you.

 

Preparation is the Key

BY: Darrell Anderson, Associate Pastor

II Timothy 4:1-5

Paul tells Timothy to be prepared in season and out of season (v2). What does Paul want Timothy to be prepared to do? He wants him to be able to correct, rebuke, encourage, instruct. He wants him to be able to spot and resist false doctrines and myths, and to recognize those who teach these ideas.

How is Timothy to be prepared? He is prepared by staying in the Word. He is prepared by staying in tune with God through prayer. Preparation is important because it is through preparation that one succeeds. When crises come, I do not have time to prepare. I must be prepared before the crises occur.

How is Timothy to be prepared? He is prepared by staying in the Word. He is prepared by staying in tune with God through prayer. Preparation is important because it is through preparation that one succeeds. When crisis comes, I do not have time to prepare. I must be prepared before the crises occur.

  • An athlete succeeds in the game because of his preparation and workout routine.
  • A musician performs well because he has done scales and practiced in private.
  • A student aces a test because he studies beforehand.

A Christian must prepare himself for living a victorious Christian life. Victory does not come by accident. Your spiritual preparation in private is directly related to your success in public. If you are experiencing defeat in your Christian life, take a look at your preparation time. Are you showing up for a game time out of shape? You will do much better in the tests of life if you have spent time studying the book that has all the answers.