Posts Tagged ‘hymns’

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

 

Though it has always been imperative to bring in the new, it is likewise unnecessary to throw out traditional music in order to reach out to this new age. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine revealed the impact that the music of the 4th and 5th Century Church had on his life. “How I wept during Your hymns and psalms!” he recalled. “I was deeply moved by the music of the sweet chants of Your church. The sounds flowed into my ears and the truth was distilled into my heart. This caused the feeling of devotion to overflow. Tears ran, and it was good for me to have that experience.” There is no lack of power in the music that we have been given from the past centuries. These great hymns are neither devoid of emotion nor incapable of moving the heart.

Notice that in Augustine’s day “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” as referred to by the Apostle Paul in the Scriptures were still actively being employed to bless the body of Christ. (Eph 5:19,Col3:16) But today, for the first time in Christian history, it appears that the church desires to throw the hymn part of the Paul’s admonition out. Indeed, it is a unique set of circumstances that is occurring in this age. Generally in Christian hymn history we have seen new works added to the large existing body of music with each age and growth has resulted. The old has generally been retained as the new has been added with the result of building a larger litany of music for each successive generation to enjoy. When we look into our hymnbooks we witness the result of the furtherance of praise in history as each generation has added to the volumes of worship songs that the church has been blessed by over the centuries.

But this is not what the church is being led to believe by those who offer their enticements of profits. As Paul stated to the elders inEphesus: “’For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.’” (Acts 20:29-30 MKJV)

The consequences of the Church Growth Movement’s emphatic advice to conform to the world around us have been dramatic. There are churches today that are maintaining historical Christian roots. Yet there hasn’t been a time in American history as there is today where there has been such a widespread drive in so many churches to eliminate an entire body of historical hymnology in order to replace it with something completely new. And in many venues this new popular music is viewed as being vastly superior to the old as well.

But it’s time for the leaders of the church to take a deep breath and contemplate what they are doing. In the name of the contemporary they seek to turn their backs on a rich cultural heritage that has blessed generations of Christians and still will do today if given a chance.

Take for example the hymn Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. Louisa Stead wrote the words to this moving praise hymn. Even as a teenager, she felt called to become a missionary. Louisa went to America around age 21, and lived for a while in Cincinnati, Ohio. While attending a camp meeting in Urbana, Ohio, she felt the missionary calling even more strongly, but was unable to go to China as she wanted due to her frail health.

In 1875 she married her beloved husband, Mr. Stead. But marital bliss faded away as tragedy struck her family. Louisa and her husband were enjoying a relaxing day with their four-year-old daughter on a Long Island beach when they heard the cry of a desperate child. A boy was drowning. Louisa’s husband attempted to rescue the child, but was pulled under the water in the attempt. Both boy and Mr. Stead died as Louisa and her daughter watched.

Other than the Lord Himself, Louisa had no means of support. She along with her daughter fell into dire poverty as a result. One morning, when she had neither funds nor food for the day, she opened the front door and found that someone had left food and money on her doorsteps. It was that day that she wrote this hymn.

God rewarded Louisa’s faithful trust in Him. Around 1880, she went to South Africa, and served as a missionary there for some 15 years where she was remarried, to Robert Wodehouse of that country. In 1895 she returned to Americato recover her health, but once again went into missions in Rhodesiain 1901. Her daughter Lily married D. A. Carson and became a missionary like her mother. Indeed, the trust that Louisa put in the Lord was well spent.

Who in their right mind would think to purge Christianity of a hymn that has such a marvelous story behind it? Who would seek to deny contemporary Christians the opportunity of partaking in the affirmation of faith that came out of this desperate hour of one of our own? Yet there are those in our midst who are calling on us to do exactly that.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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The Soul of the Church

 

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col2:8 MKJV)

The one who seeks after profits does not generally care about the intrinsic value of church life or worship and praise music. It does not matter to him that the importance of the church is body ministry and that church music is all about reaching into the deep parts of the human spirit. To him it is all about commercialism – the marketing of music and generating cash. It’s out with the piano and in with guitar-driven music to catch the attention of the younger generation. And you always have to keep that new material coming in order to keep up with the times. There’s no room for the old here. There is no time for nostalgia. You have to dump the organ and choir and get yourself a band if you are going to keep the pace. Get rid of the slow and reflective to turn to the high-energy stuff that gets people going. Reach out to the senses rather than the soul. Forget about ministering to the body of Christ when you are reaching to the world. Let the fights begin and let the old folks go along with their archaic music. For the ultimate target are the hymns that are not relevant anymore. They are not marketable.

But the pursuit of abandoning the heritage of the church for the sake of success is a formula for spiritual disaster. According to Ron Rhodes in The Culting of America, “Baby Boomers are seeking a religion or church that specifically meets human felt needs. Time notes that while increasing numbers of baby boomers are turning religious again, ‘many are traveling from church or faith to faith, sampling creeds, shopping for a custom-made God’

“Many Christian churches are seeking to lure these boomers into their congregations. Unfortunately, in the process, a number of them end up compromising Christian doctrine.” Time reports that “a growing choir of critics contends that in doing whatever it takes to lure those fickle customers, churches are at risk of losing their heritage – and their souls.”

In reality, many in the church are in the business of sacrificing everything for nothing. Music did not begin in the ‘60s and there is a whole lot in the hymnology that has been passed onto us that is vitally relevant today. And these hymns do not lack for passion. For example there are few praise songs today that can rival the passion and intimacy of the ancient Irish tune, Be Thou My Vision. And what worship song today exceeds the moving melody and text contained in Amazing Grace? Praise hymns such as these divulge deep spiritual truth. This is biblical truth that transcends generations. Hence, we do not need to shed the past in order to minister to the present age. It is not necessary to forsake our heritage in order to grow.

The claims of some roaming throughout the church today are just plain wrong in that regard. Therefore the Apostle Paul exhorted “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ.” (Eph 4:14-15 MKJV)

It’s time to grow up and realize who we are as the church. We are not children. The church is 2000 years old with a rich heritage. And we are commanded in the Bible as mature Christians to grow up in “all things” not just new things. “All things” would include those things that God passed down to us from past generations that give us maturity and stability. So the contention that the old doesn’t minister is hogwash plain and simple.

Sure the church is faced with the awesome task of reaching out to John Dewey’s dumbed down generation that cares more about their big screens than fine arts. This obviously is something that needs to be considered. But does that mean that we are supposed to leave the masses where Dewey put them? Are we called to limit ourselves to the common praise song themes such as “I want to see Your face,” “I long to be in your presence,” “You are worthy,” “Be exalted,” “I worship You,” “I praise You,” “Worthy is the Lord,” “You are holy,” “Hallelujah,” “I want You,” “I need You,” or “I love You?” Though it is imperative to love God, isn’t there more to love than merely saying it over an over again? Isn’t there more to praise than ecstatic shouts or syrupy sentiment? Isn’t there more to Scripture and life as Christians than what we are hearing in so much of contemporary praise today? As the church, don’t we have the responsibility to educate rather than merely relate? Is it not imperative that as well as meeting this generation “where they are at” we should create a worship environment at church where they can discover “where Christianity is at?” Shouldn’t we seek out praise music that conveys biblical truth rather than sappy human emotional desires? Should we not impart our heritage to the babes so that they can mature? Isn’t it time to sever ourselves from Dewey’s ongoing circle that tumbles down the slope of ignorance?

Christianity is all about separation. It is about a difference between the church and the unbelieving world around it. When we look at the church and its people, there ought to be a difference. When the world around is shedding itself of Christian heritage, the church ought to be standing for it.

As explained earlier, the ministry of Jesus divides people into two camps – the believer and unbeliever. Yet this same proposition has the effect of binding Christians together as one. The same doctrine that separates us from the world unites us together under the wings of our common belief in God. Therefore the Psalms proclaim: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.” (Ps 133:1-2 MKJV)

However, when the church is divided from its rich heritage it tears the body of Christ in half. It sows division between young church attendees and the saints of old. It severs congregations into pieces and creates wars as church leadership discards traditions that many saints hold with high regard. These are the results that come out of the passion for growth at all cost. “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom 16: 17-18 MKJV)

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
Click to Purchase

The Heart of Music

To many pastors and church attendees today style seems to matter the most. As a result, musical tastes seem to be at the bottom of every discussion about worship forms these days and no one seems to agree on what it should be. “The Bible says,” wrote Frank Pooler, “’Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ (Matt12:34) If the heart is God-centered & God focused, it matters little what the ‘songs’ are. You enter into the Spirit of the music, not the music itself. Therefore, the musicians and the congregation must be taught to express that Spirit; not their own and not that of the music as a style.”

“Art is a demanding taskmaster and on occasion has been known to replace God as the object of worship,” Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror assured in Worship: Rediscovering the Missin Jewel. “. . . The lesson that seems to require constant discovery is the fact that worship is not primarily a state of the art but rather a state of the heart. . . When the heart is set upon God, true worship will not depend upon outward stimulus, it will be in constant progress. . . This means that all life becomes a worship service.” (Duet 6:6; Ps 73:26; Prov4:23; Rom10:10; Heb 10:22)

The Bible does not declare that we should love God with our music. But rather we are commanded to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. (Duet 6:5) Out of this love dynamic tremendous art expression will flow from the worshipper. For example, consider Bach’s trio sonatas for organ whose artistic excellence has been marveled throughout the centuries. Bach created these trios to depict the trinity as three separate melodies played in the left hand, the right and on the pedals retained their own identity while molding together as one beautiful harmony. “You see,” Allen and Borror contended in that regard, “this great art did not lead Bach to true worship, but true worship gave rise to this tremendous artistic expression. The order is not reversed today.”

Now this does not mean that art is not important. “Heart worship does not defy art worship,” Allen and Borror continued, “for heart worship will give rise to new levels of art which will have tremendous significance. . . Art with the proper attitude can be a great expression; but it must begin with a heart in fellowship with God.”

The fact that people fail to worship in church is not the result of the music on the platform. Rather it is the result of misguided worship values. Hence the writers continue, “The real factor in worship is a heart desire for God; the reason it fails to occur in the pew is because it fails to occur in the daily routine of living.”

“God uses art to reflect his beauty and creativity;” the writers conclude, “so ought His redeemed children to worship Him.”

Therefore, what most people on the inside and outside don’t seem to get is that worship is not about the musical form but the object of worship. In the case of Christianity it is God who is being worshipped and He accepts all biblical worship expressed by His followers regardless of the particular style. All biblically based music expressed unto Him honors Him.

Worship is all about the heart. So if the artist is truly expressing himself from a pure heart that exalts God in a true and biblical way, contrary to what many believe today, it shouldn’t matter what style is being used. It is praiseworthy to sing in a popular commercial style to the beat of drums just as it is a blessing to God to sing a time honored hymn to the sound of an organ. If it is worship of the true and living God, then it’s worship indeed and God receives it all.

With that in mind, it would be beneficial for all of us to understand several things with regard to the use of popular music in the church. The great reformer Martin Luther used melodies that were sung in pubs as the musical base for many of the hymns in the emerging Lutheran Church. Hence it is the motivation behind the singing that counts. If the intent is to water down musical and lyrical content for the sake of entertainment, then the critic has made a valid point. However, if the goal is biblical worship then I have to ask: “What is so unreal or dishonest about playing commercial music that Middle America enjoys? What if honest is exactly what you are doing?” And I cannot think of anything more honest than opening one’s heart to God. This fact ought to stand out as a lesson to those who believe that hymn singing is the only way to worship God just as it should for the contemporary artist who believes new music is the only way to go. It is all about the heart, not the art.

The important thing is honesty and passion within the context of uncompromised truth and biblical literacy. We want to be sure to have something articulate to say in order to lead people to the truths of the Scriptures. We also need to provide music that is well written and original. If that happens to be within the context of popular music, then so be it. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!” (Ps 95:1a MKJV) Let’s be first true to our Christian faith to sing to the Lord with heart.

Worship and praise music does tend to be middle of the road. Also there are times when there is scant musicianship displayed during contemporary song leading. However, the main point is to encourage people to sing with sincerity. Hence, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with middle of the road or simple music. There are three main reasons why:

First of all, middle of the road music tends to be that which is most acceptable to so many congregations who are not used to contemporary styles in church. It is the artist’s responsibility to present himself in a manner that encourages the congregation that he is leading to joyously sing to the Lord. Tearing congregations in half over musical extremes is just not worth it. And usually those who impose their personal delights on others though they are offended by it are the ones who have agendas rather than a heart to minister.

For example a particular praise band, when playing before a mixed congregation of various ages and musical tastes, declared that they didn’t care what anybody thought. They even took pride in the fact that they were not liked by many in the congregation because they believed they were the only ones who really knew how to worship. And true worship to them could only be that which conveyed their musical tastes. To do middle of the road music that would please everyone would have been deplorable to these antagonists. They would rather serve their own desires than meet the needs of the flock, and the church was divided in half as a result. Yet heart worship is about bringing people together rather than tearing them apart.

Secondly, when we discuss contemporary music in the church many times we are talking about large churches, churches packed with excellent musicians. No doubt many of these folks could play a wide variety of musical styles that could impress their critics, but that may not be what they are doing with their music. They are not trying to dazzle their audience.

Instead many sincere musicians in the Modern Church concentrate on the spiritual results of their music ministries rather than flaunting their musicianship before the crowd. They are in the business of resting daily in that special intimate place of blessing that those who choose to praise the Lord inherit. This is a spiritual venue where everyone involved is submitted to the Lord with hearts only set to minister. It is a dwelling place wrapped in tender prayer where the mind of God and man meet. It bathes in worship that ushers from the heart of believers proclaiming who He is and what He does. The goal of heart worship is not to impress men but to honor God.

Thirdly, in the church today worship and praise music is geared towards what people can read from a screen and sing. We are leading people in song – people who cannot read music. There are fewer trained singers in congregations these days, so the melodies have become simpler and more mid-range. In addition these days you need to lower a hymn about a step from the hymnal key when leading a congregation in song.

In their expressions of simplicity many worship and praise leaders are attempting to minister to non-musicians who possess limited musical abilities and simple tastes. [1] Hence, in order to reach their congregations with this new music they are meeting the younger members of their churches exactly where they are. From a practical standpoint John Dewey has left our youthful parishioners more musically uneducated than past generations and we need to ease them into church traditions and the finer points of music such as hymn singing. And it is this ultimate aim of musical maturity, excellence and refinement that heart worshippers in the church must set as their goal.


[1] There’s also nothing out of kilter with easing young musicians into the complexities of finer music in a step-by-step way. Many times in the realm of contemporary music in the Church we are looking at high school and college age kids both developing in their musical abilities and skills in leading people in praise. In the learning process emphasizing things like simplicity can be important. When a band is put together it is best to reduce everything to the bass, drums and piano/rhythm guitar and make the musicians simplify their stuff in order to create a solid bottom for everything else that will be laid over this foundation. Once the musicians get the hang of it, then they can be cut loose to really play. And as they develop in their musical skills more intricate music can be thrown at them as well. And they will be able to play it.

 

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Beyond the Box

And so, many of the church growth models that continue to spread around the church do far more harm than good. As the Church Growth crowd advances a host of “new” and “enlightening” methodologies to encourage churches to grow through relating to the culture, much of what the church has been identified with throughout the centuries has been lost in the process. As a result, the proponents of growth encourage pastors to throw out their long-held traditions in favor of promoting the latest of everything from the society around them that is considered to be cutting edge or hip. Dresses and ties are exchanged for Levis, shorts and flip-flops. Hymns are displaced by praise choruses.

Bill Easum and Dave Travis’ book Beyond the Box explains the intent here. These Church Growth sponsors admonished the
body of Christ not to stop at simply climbing out of the box of their traditional thinking. The call was to go much farther than that by promoting the utopian church as that which travels where no one has gone before. Don’t just get out of your box. “Go beyond the box,” the church growth advocate cries.

As one pastor who had taken this book verbatim to apply it with fervor in the church he ministered to explained, “We need to go for it!” To him that meant turning the whole church upside down – replacing all the of old with everything new. In these people’s eyes everything goes as long as the church grows.

In a certain Palm Sunday service the planning committee of a church that had come under the influence of new “Beyond the Box” church growth philosophies attempted to meld with society in an interesting manner. At the end of the service they had planned to have someone call out to our Lord, “Hey Jesus, where is the party going to now.” This trite statement made for the sake of “relating to the culture” not only cheapened the work of Christ who died the next Friday in history but also ushered out of a complete  misunderstanding of worship. These people consistently depicted celebrative praise as being likened to a drunken brawl and the band was known to play secular party music during Sunday morning services. Accordingly the Sunday service that was elevated by
the church staff as being “the greatest of all” was when the band played Cool and the Gang’s “Celebrate Good Times” while the congregation “partied” and jived to the beat. “We Are Family” was the next on the list. In the act of dumbing down their church services for the sake of the masses they fell further down the slippery slope.

The focus of much of our church activity today has been diverted to surface-level activities for the sake of growth rather than the dependence on old time religion that focuses on evangelism. Yet Charles Spurgeon in his book Soul Winner prescribed church growth in a much different tone than we are currently hearing. He was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington during the mid-19th century while leading a significant evangelical revival. This great English pastor talked about church growth in terms of preaching the truth with power and conviction. He hailed evangelism as the fruit of chaste Christian living. Many were saved as these simple principles were applied in his church.

A host of leaders in our modern Church Growth Movement see it another way. They seek to attract people from a more superficial worldly perspective. In so doing, they find themselves appealing to church hoppers who are only looking for the latest and greatest place to attend. Take for example John Wimber’s efforts to promote of church growth through signs and wonders. In reality this
model of “power evangelism” revolving around “doing the stuff” appeared to be a methodology of building up the early Vineyard denomination by feeding off established churches. As in the example of southern British Columbia, Wimber would convince churches to hold signs and wonders seminars only to set up his own Vineyard church in the vicinity near after. As a result, parishioners from these host churches would move over into this new Vineyard congregation. According to James R. Coggins and Paul G. Heibert in Wonders in the Word, “The interdenominational seminars had seemed a ploy to start a new denomination”.

This is more of a manipulative sheep-steeling strategy than anything else. It concentrates on the external while emphasizing marketing rather than the dynamics of evangelism and ministering to the body. Therefore few are actually saved in a feel-good church environment that is run more by carnality than reliance on the truth.

And so a group of pastors, who thought of nothing other than church growth spent every moment of their day in that pursuit. They read every self-help church growth book that came on the market, hired a Church Growth consultant and even came up with church growth theories of their own. During a particular meeting one attendee encouraged them to become involved with
evangelism as prescribed in the Bible. The pastors responded with nothing but blank stares as these words ushered from the advisor’s mouth. They had never thought of that. Neither did they take the hint. They just continued on with the contrivances that they had learned from their mentors. And the church never grew.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
Click to Purchase

Music that Declares the Gospel

In calling the church to market religion by relating to the world, the Church Growth specialist of today is in fact calling the Body of Christ away from the very belief system that creates true and lasting growth. As a result, the proclamation of the truths of scripture has become a rare commodity in a multitude of Christian circles even as the Church Growth “conform to society” agenda has been embraced with enthusiasm in church after church. The church’s light has been snuffed out. Hence in contemporary worship and praise music you have a difficult time finding the announcement of truth, expression of sincerity and declaration of true devotion that underlies so many hymns.

Take for example the great hymn It Is Well With My Soul. There is not a hymn to be found that better expresses the provision of God in times of overwhelming distress. It came from a period of personal despair that few of us could even imagine. In 1871 Horatio G. Spafford, a forty-three year old businessman, suffered complete financial disaster in the Great Chicago fire. Right before the fire he and his wife lost their son. Yet this was only the beginning of Horatio’s problems.

Filled with grief the family decided to go away on vacation in England to visit with their friend, Dwight Moody, as he conducted evangelistic campaigns. Horatio sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the SS Ville du Havre. In the mean time, he would follow in just a few days.

On its way to England, the ship that carried his family was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank within twelve minutes. Two
hundred and twenty-six lives were lost in the tragedy, including Horatio’s four daughters. When the survivors were brought to shore at Cardif, Wales, Horatio was met only by his wife who declared, “Saved alone.”

Horatio set sail on the next ship to leave port. He then asked the captain to notify him when they had reached the point where the Ville du Havre had gone down. When the ship finally arrived at the place where the tragedy occurred Horatio stood out on the deck looking at that mighty ocean that claimed the life of his daughters. He returned to his cabin that night a man of greater faith than ever before as he penned those memorable lyrics: “When sorrows like sea billows roll. . .it is well, it is well with my soul.”

When you look at the praise liturgy that is coming out of our modern worship and praise song writers you tend to see more pop culture than depth such as this. The lyrical content therefore tends to be the same from song-to-song while focusing on a few common popular themes. A lot of this has to do with the lack of scholarship and depth. But it also flows out from musicians who have been convinced of the Church Growth Movement’s contention that the church has to relate to its culture at all costs if it wants to survive. And this translates into mediocrity as the message of the Gospel is dumbed down for the sake of the masses.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net