28 Jan 2015 @ 6:33 PM 

Styles of songs sung in a Sunday morning church service are an item of debate amongst Christians. It can be enough to drive parishioners from one church to another. Just to be clear, I believe that there is going to be disagreements within the Christian community. The disagreements can be separated into two areas. The big things such as how to receive salvation which is through forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus and salvation as a gift through Him alone. Then there are the little things like what color to paint the walls in the church, which version of the Bible to read, and what this post is about – styles of music to be played in a church service.

I’ve been going to church most of my life. I was brought up in a very conservative Southern Baptist church where we had a very structured service, sang hymns, and had a choir. I say this because I’m sure that my background has a lot of influence on how I view a church service.

I enjoy singing hymns in church service. Maybe its just because I’m familiar with it, and those who know me know I don’t like change. Maybe there’s more to it than that. When I was going to the small First Baptist Church in Springer, NM, I took my first spiritual gift inventory test. Spiritual gifts are a whole other topic, but I learned that my spiritual gifts were in the following order:

  1. Music
  2. Knowledge
  3. Service

I guess that explained why I enjoyed singing in the choir and ensemble group in church as well as singing in a chorus group in Jr High and High School. Although I don’t know the first thing about playing an instrument.

While I was in college, I first started seeing “worship” music being sung in a church service. I enjoyed it at the time. It was something different from the hymns I had sung in church up to that point. Being a young college student I was up for something more hip and cool :) . I can remember my music minister at the time, Charlie, telling me that he was getting a lot of resistance from older members in the church about the new songs he was introducing to the congregation. In a small college town like Starkville, MS, college students made up a significant percentage of the congregation on Sundays. Charlie told me that he had decided that to keep the peace, he would sing mostly familiar songs on Sunday Mornings and only introduce one new song each Sunday. It seemed like a reasonable compromise. This was my first experience with the controversy of music in a worship service.

After college I found myself in many different churches as I lived around the country. I was noticing that a lot of the churches in the places I was visiting were singing newer worship music except for some of the older churches I would go to where they continued traditional hymns. There was one Baptist church I went to while in Denver that was extremely conservative. So much so that I had to stop going there because of the legalism. They sang the old hymns. I remember a two sermon series they did on the evils of modern Christian music and worship/praise songs in church. I even remember the worship leader mocking churches who did not sings hymns while leading the service one morning. I didn’t agree with their message.

Fast forward to more present day. The church I go to now is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is not as conservative as what I grew up with, and for that I have been blessed. It has helped me to learn more about moving away from the legalism I grew up with and helping me to experience the grace and love of God that I had heard about in church but never really grasped.

When I first moved here, I was still recovering from a rebellious time in my life where I had basically told God to take a hike. This began after I had lost my job in Colorado. At first I kind of liked the worship songs we were singing. Most of them were new to me. Apparently if I had been listening to KLOVE instead of ChristianRock.Net, I would have probably heard them. After a while, I started growing tired of them and began to miss the old hymns that I had sung growing up.

On a trip my wife and I took to visit her grandmother in Oklahoma, the topic of music in church came up. Her grandmother made an observation that helped put into words what I had been thinking. Many of the lyrics in the newer worship songs these days focus more on the singer than on glorifying God. I believe that worship time in church on Sundays should be about singing God’s praises and exclaiming His glory. We are just the instrument for that worship.

In our church, we have two Sunday morning services. The first service sings more traditional music while the second service sings contemporary praise/worship music. The older members of our congregation tend to go to the first service as they tend to prefer traditional music. I go to a Sunday school class during the first service where we are currently studying Isaiah. I have been learning a lot from it. There isn’t as much to choose from as far as small group Bible study groups go during the second service. Because of this, I continue to go to the second service despite my preference for different music sung during the service I go to.

I have to hand it to the worship team at our church. They really do a good job of playing music and singing. I’m sure they must put a lot of practice into what they do. For that I am grateful. However, during the worship time of the service, I feel like I’m at a concert. I don’t feel compelled to join in to the singing. At first I thought maybe it was just because I wasn’t as familiar with the music, but after a few years of being exposed to it, that is no longer the case. During worship, I just stand there with my hands in my pockets listening. I would sit, but everyone else feels compelled to stand, so I just stand with them.

I’m not really sure why I don’t want to sing the songs. It may be that its too loud, that the music isn’t inspiring, the lyrics are too weak and repetitive, the harmonies are buried in the loudness, the composition of the music is too bland, or maybe its just that I’m too stubborn to want to like something different. So before you say I’m this old guy who yells at the kids to get off my lawn, you should know that I am not yet 40. The music I listen to, well, its not all classical and gospel music. I would put the bands I listen to up against any Millennial who thinks that their music choices are more modern and energetic. Disciple, Wolves at the Gate, August Burns Red, Skillet, and Thrice are just some of the bands I enjoy in case you were thinking I felt drums had no place in the worship service.

Most of the songs that we sing just seem really weak. I feel like the lyrics in many of the old hymns are much more powerful. I understand that worship can elicit emotions. However, the purpose of a worship service should not be to get people to exhibit emotions. While people are free to exhibit emotions, it should be as a result of the Holy Spirit moving in that person, not because the person leading worship chose a song for the purpose of getting people to show emotion. At times I feel like some of the songs we sing are just repetitive incantations with the goal of getting people to exhibit emotions. I believe that goal is incorrect. Emotions don’t have to be hand waving, dancing, and crying. It can be other things as well. The links below talk more about that.

The peril of both manipulatively emotional worship and emotionally sterile worship is false worship.

http://www.sharefaith.com/blog/2014/01/avoid-emotional-manipulation-worship/

There are many appropriate emotions for worship. Joy is certainly one, but there are others: reverence in the presence of our Creator and Redeemer; sorrow for sin and fear of our Judge; love for God and for one another; peace in our reconciliation, and anticipation of God’s promises fulfilled. Engaging emotions in worship means feeling, not necessarily feeling good.

To worship God with our mind alone, our emotions alone, or our bodies alone is an abortive act that dishonors the One who so fearfully and wonderfully made us.

http://www.onemag.org/emotions.htm

Experiencing emotion in worship doesn’t have to be standing, waving your hands in the air with streams of tears running down your face. If that is how the Spirit leads you, by all means, do it. If the Spirit is bringing up other emotions during worship, by all means do not suppress it. If the Spirit is not causing you to express emotions, do not fake it. Unfortunately, most emotion I experience during our worship service circulates around “I wish they would sing something different”.

This subject is something that has been on my mind for a while. This past Sunday, our closing song was the one that I dislike the most. So much so that when they play it, I get up and leave the service. I’m sure the song is well known:

How He Loves
(originally by John Mark McMillan)

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us allHe is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us allYeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us.

I believe this is one of those songs whose primary intention is to elicit an emotional response from the congregation. While there is nothing wrong with the congregation exhibiting emotion, manipulating the congregation with repetitive incantations that do not glorify God but instead talk about how we are getting something is an approach I just do not agree with. Here, it is the selection of words that causes the emotional response, not the connection with the Holy Spirit. You should also notice that the name of Jesus and God are not mentioned one time in that song. I don’t feel like this song is worthy of being included in a time of praising God. There is power in the name of Jesus, and we should not be wasting our time and God’s time in a worship service singing songs that fail to mention His glorious name. There are plenty of other songs that could be sung that make a better attempt at glorifying God. I will list a couple of short modern songs that are favorites of mine:

Holy and Anointed One

Jesus, Jesus
Holy and anointed One, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus
Risen and exalted One, Jesus

Your name is like honey on my lips
Your Spirit like water to my soul
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet
Jesus, I love You, I love You

There’s Something about that Name

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away
But there’s something about that name.

Now I ask you after reading the lyrics of those three songs, which one is more capable of worshiping and bringing glory to God?

Unfortunately, because our church does not have a choir, I don’t really have a way to use my spiritual gift of music. There’s the option of trying out to sing with the worship team, but seeing as how I don’t feel led to sing with the congregation, I doubt I will fit in with helping to lead worship.

I do not believe that I am incapable of exhibiting emotions in worship. There have been times in my life when I’ve been singing in private where I raise my hands in worship, cry, feel happy, and feel sad. I can’t say that I have often felt those kinds of emotions during corporate worship at my present church.

In the mean time, my wife and I bought some hymns on CD so we could sing hymns on the way to church. I want my kids to be exposed to hymns so they can experience more than what they will be getting in our worship service.

My wife told me about this post that some of her friends were sharing. Its Let’s Stop Singing These 10 Worship Songs. He’s got some good points.

I’m writing this because I just want to express how I feel. If nobody reads it, that’s OK. I just need to get it out.

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Categories: Religion
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 28 Jan 2015 @ 08 05 PM

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 20 Apr 2014 @ 7:58 PM 

I felt the desire to write a little bit about why Easter is important to me.

First off, I’m a Christian, so it should be a no brainer why its important to  me. You know, Christmas and Easter, the two “Christian” holidays where people show up for a church service or mass so they can get OK with God by saying they went to church.

Lots of religious beliefs and theologies have a significant figure that started their movement. LDS has Joseph Smith, Islam has Muhammad, Buddhism has Budha, atheists and agnostics have themselves, and most importantly Christians have Jesus or Yeshua as He was probably known by those who were witnessed to His life.

Here is what Easter is about to Christians. There was this guy named Jesus. He lived mostly in the Galilee region of Israel over 2000 years ago. Why was He important? Well, He claimed to be (and I believe He is) the son of God. The God of Abraham and the Jews as He was know by at the time. There were lots of gods (little g) worshiped and recognized by people in the land those days. Their gods all had names and images.

There was no image of God, and his name, YHVH, was considered very holy by those who worshiped him. This God is the one who spoke the Universe into existence. You want to understand about power, you have to realize that He only had to speak to make the Universe created as we know it. Some time after man was created, God gave man one simple rule, and then man broke that rule. Not only did he break it, but he lied about it and then tried to say it wasn’t his fault. What a pitiful beginning for man. God’s perfectness and holiness make it so that He can not be around sin. He hates it. So God’s pinnacle of His creation, whom He gave free will, was now awash in sin. The relationship that He had with man was now messed up.

Our pastor gave a great illustration today about sin and relationships. Imagine there is a married couple. Being married is about being in a relationship, sharing, loving, and making a life with your spouse. The relationship God desires to have with man is similar. Imagine that one of the partners of this marriage had a sexual relationship with someone who was not their spouse. The one who was cheated on would be very angry, and would probably not want to be around the one who cheated. There is no act that the cheater could ever possibly do to remove the pain and memory of what was done to the spouse by cheating. It will always be there. This is very similar to how it is with God and man. When we sin, it hurts God in a way that a spouse would be hurt from a cheating partner. There is nothing man can do to heal this divide that sin has caused between man and God. Restoration can only come from the one who was hurt. The only chance the cheater has is that there is faith that the one who was cheated on will offer forgiveness. Without that, the relationship can not continue.

The only thing that could be done to make up for the sins of man was the blood of the innocent. During those times, Jews sacrificed animals, who took the punishment for Jews not being loyal to God with sin.

So back to why this Jesus guy was so important. I’m not going to go into all of the prophecies that the Jews had been taught about the one that God would send to heal this relationship between His people and God. Jesus met those prophecies. More importantly, He lived a sinless life while on Earth. He spent the last three years of his life on Earth in ministry telling Jews and non Jews about repenting from sin, performing miracles, teaching about love, peace, and about God’s coming Kingdom.

During the Passover celebration one night, he was seized by the high Jewish priests and accused of being a blasphemer. This charge could only hold true if he was not the Son of God that he claimed to be. He was sentenced to death as an innocent man on what we remember now as Good Friday. He died a horribly painful death on a cross. After the Roman guards proved that he was dead by pushing a spear through his side, his body was given to Joseph of Arimathea. He owned a stone burial area that he had planned to use for himself. He decided to let Jesus borrow his burial site. On that Friday as the sun was going down, He was lowered from the cross and placed in the tomb (sepulchre) where a large stone was used to cover the entrance. Roman guards were also placed at the entrance to this tomb to ensure that no one would do anything to the body of Jesus as his death was very controversial.

Here’s the best part. Saturday, nothing. Sunday, the stone was rolled away and Jesus arose from the grave. Pretty amazing right? Many say unbelievable. I can’t prove it happened, you can’t prove it didn’t happen, but I have faith that it happened. There is one thing that Christianity has over all other beliefs. Death has no grip on Christians, which means that life on Earth also has no grip on Christians. For us, life is just a short time of waiting to be with God for eternity.

I don’t know if I emphasized it enough, but Jesus was dead. D-E-D dead. He defeated death by bringing himself back to life. I can not do enough to tell you how important that is, and how it is not found with anyone else’s beliefs. There is no place you can go to visit where Jesus is buried, because he is alive. People have an idea of where he may have been buried for those few days. Guess what, it doesn’t matter because it is an empty tomb.

This is just what is so great about getting forgiveness from God. Its a gift. It is offered to us freely, and we don’t deserve it. That is what is called grace (unwarranted favor). There is nothing we can do to earn forgiveness. Any religion that has you do lots of works or has requirements that have to be met to find favor with the one they worship is nothing but pride. Look at me and what I have done to find favor. And better yet, there is only one sin that can not be forgiven by God, and that is not accepting his free gift.

Lots of people think that being a Christian is about following a bunch of rules that God made to kill your fun. No, that isn’t it. Read what I said in the previous paragraph. Its not about what you do. The other popular idea is that if someone was a good person, did enough good things, there’s this heavenly scale God will use to decide if you are going to Heaven or hell. So how much is enough? Both ideas are completely untrue. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they are lying. There is nothing you do that earns you favor with God. You can accept what He wants to give you, and that’s it. The Bible has plenty of scripture to tell you about this. If you want to bother looking into it, its there for you to find.

Choosing to sin is choosing to separate yourself from God. Sin causes death. Since God gave us all free will, we all have the option of pushing God away. He’ll even let us spend eternity away from Him if that is what we want. That is hell. Complete separation from God for eternity. You think there is evil on Earth now, you have no idea what it will be like when God completely removes himself from your life. If that is what you want, you can foolishly choose that.

If you want a pretty good book to read about someone trying to proving that Jesus isn’t who He says He is, I’d recommend The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. The guy was a unbelieving journalist who set to to prove that Jesus was a lie. What he found was different.

Of course if you want to know more about Jesus, just read the Bible.

I believe that Easter is the most significant of the holidays that Christians observe. Some would argue its Christmas because without Jesus being born, he couldn’t have been crucified and raised from the dead. Well, I believe that without Jesus rising from the dead, there would be no need to celebrate the birth of a baby in a lowly little town in Israel.

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Categories: Misc
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 20 Apr 2014 @ 07 58 PM

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