Posted tagged ‘Getty Music’

Labor Day Prayer Song

September 6, 2015

Though the roots of Labor Day are found in the organized labor movement, the holiday has come to serve a broader concept.  Labor Day is a time of celebrating the privilege we have to work.  I have found this prayer hymn to serve effectively in gathered worship and personally as a daily hymn to pray for the working day. As worshipers whose whole life is to be a “living sacrifice” as our spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1) it is important to fix our perspective of gratitude on life as a gift from God given to us that we might offer it back to Him.

TIME AND WORSHIP

February 17, 2015

Now-is-the-Time-to-Worship-300 Time is a big deal. Try as we might to control it, we have no power over the pace of passing time. We cannot save it, or pause it. We cannot speed it up, or skip over it. We are just in it. Some of us talk about managing our time, but that is a misnomer. We cannot manage the time, but only our activity in it. That’s just the way it is. In a culture where “time is money,” year-round schools and downsized offices have added pressure to our jam-packed calendars and workdays. Add to that an insane obsession with sports for kids at younger and younger ages, and it is little wonder that worship service attendance in so many churches has declined. Rather than addressing the myriad of conflicts in lifestyles, and especially those directly related to conflicts with Sunday worship, I want to move to consideration of a more fundamental understanding of time as it relates to Christian worship, and pray you might join me in seeing the Christian spirituality of observing time in a distinct manner.

First, I must confess. I struggle with managing my activities within the time the Lord has given me. I serve among pastors and worship ministry leaders most of whom likewise seem to struggle with time. They, as I, face most of the same pressures as the people in the churches we serve. We have families with needs. We feel pressure to perform, while we also serve on downsized staffs, but with higher expectations. We even have an exacerbated struggle since many of those we would call upon for help are some of those who themselves struggle to continue faithful involvement due to the same pressures. Obviously, skipping worship attendance is not an option for the worship ministry leaders. In addition the pressure of declining attendance compounds the pressure. Rather than coming up with yet another set of service times, more varieties of worship music styles, or other entrepreneurial concoctions, could we use a moment to consider our spiritual condition, and the heart of the matter of time? Could I take us back to some elementary thinking?

The Bible makes distinction between two kinds of time. Kairos has to do with episodes or periods when God moves in a particular action that one author characterizes as “a new dimension in reality.”[1] As we look back upon the actions of God through history we see a picture that forms what we know as the Gospel.  Chronos, on the other hand, is where we get our term “chronology,” and refers simply to the time on the calendar or clock. You might say the latter gives the palate on which the former is painted. The Incarnational truth is that God has stepped into time in the person of Jesus. What we see in scripture prior to His birth points to Him. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension form the center of the Gospel. Worship engages us in embracing time through anamnesis or remembering, and prolepsis or looking to the not yet. As we live the time (chromos) that God gives us there are events (kairos) when God acts in ways that transform us. Both kinds of time are critical to worship.

We can be ever confident that God is always “on time” in His actions.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

Given an unrelenting confidence in God’s power to act when He wills, and as He deems best, we surely must see our part as response to His invitation to come and worship. And speaking of time, the Lord’s Day remains foundational to our practice of Body (the Church) worship. Faithfulness in this regard means a designated time on this special (Resurrection) day of the week. By doing so, we set a pattern within our spiritual system, personally and corporately, whereby we practice those disciplines of Christian worship: gathered fellowship, prayer, singing, hearing, responding, being sent. Hebrews teaches us that faithful gathering is important to our well being, and even speaks to a bit of the how and why.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We worship, offering moments given us to reflect on time past, to enrich time present, and anticipate the forever feast to come. The gathering sets the trajectory for our daily worship, so that worship is a continuum, never ceasing.

Yet a time is coming and now has come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth for they are the worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:23NIV)

The Christian Calendar gives an even broader opportunity to pattern our worshiping lives centered in Jesus. Mentor, friend, and author, Dr Constance Cherry presents some of the benefits in observing the Christian Year:

  • The Christian Year reveals the larger narrative (story of God).
  • The Christian year presents the systematic truth of Christ (a systematic theology is unveiled).
  • The Christian year is innately Christocentric (the work of Jesus Christ is explained and celebrated).
  • The Christian year views time as sacred (all of time is holy, dispelling the dichotomy of secular vs. sacred time).[2]

This week begins the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. Christians around the world will begin the 40 day (Sundays are excluded) path to Pascha (Easter) Sunday. I would encourage you to join this journey that encompasses personal and corporate worship. This is a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and remembrance of the covenant that binds and bonds us. Even as we see Christians being beheaded for their faith while calling out the Name of our Lord, let us pray for courage and renewal.

Below you will find a great new hymn for this season that I highly recommend:

[1] James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Abingdon Press, 1990) 54.

[2] Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and biblically Faithful Services (Baker Academic, 2010) 211.

WILL YOUR WORSHIP MUSIC LAST A LIFETIME?

November 17, 2014

HPIM1336.JPG Through more than forty years of ministry I have had occasion to share music in assisted living residences where some tenants had lost much of their mental acuity. In my early years I was uncertain as to the value of singing in such environments, but over time grew to realize that not only did music sometimes brighten an otherwise obscure existence for some, but that at times it would be a hymn or a tune that held the final connections to the real world for some participants. I remember a resident who could not recite her own name, but who joined me in singing five verses of Amazing Grace and never missed a word or note. For me it was a heartwarming reminder that the Lord has final victory, and this dear saint would someday soon join the song of paradise, and was well prepared. What a rich joy has been mine to have been singing from days of childhood, singing Jesus Loves Me This I Know to teen years singing a contemporized version of For the Beauty of the Earth to anxious parental moments clinging to the prayer, I Need Thee Every Hour, to the Sunday after September 11, 2001, joining with congregation to declare the Psalm 90 paraphrase O God Our Help in Ages Past, to the more recent joy of joining brothers and sisters victoriously singing In Christ Alone.

Think about the songs you currently sing in congregational worship. Do you anticipate singing those songs throughout your life? Do you, or will you teach them to your children and your children’s children? When we send children to worship in another location and in another way, a la “kid’s style,” are we abdicating our responsibility to demonstrate worship singing, and teaching them songs that are meaningful to us? In our rush to sing the latest tune from the radio, are we forfeiting passing along the songs of our lives? I understand the arguments for some of these methods of ministering with children, and the removal of “distraction” from parents and other adults. (Personal note: I sit with grandchildren when I can….I get it!) I know that mumbling along with words they do not understand or coloring while sounds fall around their ears may seem meritless to our over-utilitarian mindsets. Could we not admit, though that many of us have certainly sung hymns we did not fully comprehend at the time, but that we grew into understanding as faith took root and matured. In my experience the taking root has itself often served as evidence of the Spirit’s work in transforming and renewing of mind and soul. I have noticed that pastors who quote song lyrics as poetry, most frequently reference the texts of hymns they have known from childhood, or have learned along the way.

It was a great honor and privilege last week to be a part of hosting a Leadership Luncheon for worship leaders and pastors featuring our friend and modern hymn writer, Keith Getty. Keith offered a refreshing and convicting reminder of the high value of the role that singing plays in our lives, in the Church universal, and in the local church body. He did not mince words in the challenge he laid before those who choose and lead songs in worship. I will not attempt to rehearse his talk or the interaction that followed other than perhaps a very general outline. If you are a pastor or worship music leader I highly recommend you seek out an opportunity to encounter the material, or even attend a Leadership event offered through Getty Music should you have such an opportunity. Three primary areas that Keith spoke about included: 1. God’s people learn their faith in large part through song. 2. The holy act of congregational singing is just that, holy. 3. Songs need to stick with people.

Reflecting on some of the music and singing that I hear in churches, conferences, and events, I confess a real ache for leaders to give more substantive lyrics couched in singable and memorable melodies for congregations to sing in ways that advance acts of worship and encourage communion with the holy, living God, not only for the given moment, but songs that, in fact, stick with us through our lives. If worship in our churches is characterized by throw-away music and cycles through songlists every five to eight years, what will our children sing in years to come? Could our impatience to develop a richer palate of material possibly even have played into the exodus of so many young adults who have left the church once they left their youth group? Will words flashed on screens in eight-unit increments stand the test of time to reside in our minds and ignite our passion into our most senior years, even our last days?

I am grateful for writers who are crafting new hymns and worship songs of sufficient maturity in theology, music, and poetic interest to call us to feast in their riches for years and generations to come.


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