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Worship music, attractionalism & church growth

I came across two excellent articles this week which deal with the role of music in the church, and attractional models* of church, or more specifically, critiquing such models:

 

When we gather for worship, we’re not just expressing ourselves to God. It’s not about what we can do for God. It’s not about connecting with God individually. It’s not about passion or emotion.

It’s about retelling our story. A true story. A story that most churches don’t really tell. A story most Christians don’t know.

That’s where I think the historic Christian liturgy is especially helpful. Week after week, season after season, year after year, we participate in the drama of salvation history. Our history. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to just be inspiring. It’s not supposed to produce intense emotional response. It’s a microcosmic, disciplined, anticipatory remembrance of who we were, who we are, and who we are to be.

The thing is, every church has a liturgy, whether they realise it or not, even those churches who explicitly reject a formal liturgy. It’s OK not to have a formal liturgy, but as worship leaders, working in a contemporary, informal context, we still need to be putting together services which help our people, week after week, to engage with and enter in the story of redemption. I would argue that when we dive into the story, we will see real growth, as the congregation is formed and shaped by the gospel of Christ.

And from the second article:

The only common touch point between worship and church growth is found in God’s Word. The Lord Himself said that if He is lifted up, He will draw all men. The work is His, not ours.

I am not an overt champion for any one specific musical or worship style. I am, however, more and more convicted that we need to be proclaiming Jesus more victoriously and intentionally than ever before.

I highly commend these two articles to your reading.

 

* Critiquing the attractional model of church growth is not to say that our churches shouldn’t be attractive.

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What it looks like to serve for Jesus’ sake

Thank-you, Bob Kauflin:

What does it look like when leaders seek to serve others for Jesus’ sake?
We recognize that the goal isn’t to have musical experiences dwell in people richly, but the word of Christ (Col. 3:16).
We’re more confident in God’s words than ours, both in our songs and our speech.
We choose songs that help people understand, apply, and benefit from the gospel.
We think of ways to involve others in leading and playing.
We welcome, even ask for, input from our pastor and others before and after the meeting.
We keep creativity in its most helpful place, using it to draw attention to Jesus rather than to itself or to us.
We’re relaxed as we step up to lead others because we’re aware that we’re jars of clay and Jesus is the all-surpassing treasure (2 Cor. 4:7).
We know that God loves to use the foolish things of this world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).
We make it a joy for others to follow us.

Leading others in song is always about God and what he’s done for us in Christ, not about us and what we’ve done. While God wants to use our gifts, preparation, and skills, he doesn’t need them.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

 

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#TwentyFourteenProject July: Overcome

Oops, I forgot to post about last month’s new #TwentyFourteenProject song before I flew out.. good thing I’d uploaded the recordings.

 

I struggled with July’s song. I didn’t get any solid ideas until late in the month, so I didn’t have so long to develop it. If I was to use this song in the future, I’d probably go back and rework the verse in particular. All part of the process…

Two Excerpts

Here are a couple of quotes for your Sunday reading:

Those of us in ministry, whether it’s full-time, part-time, flex-time, or volunteer, are just stewards of God’s ministry. He uses us for a time, and then he moves us on and uses someone else. We don’t build dynasties – God builds His Church.

Jamie Brown

 

I’m starting to think that a lot of modern worship music isn’t relevant to my church. It may be great at a massive stadium event, but that’s hardly the world I live in on a weekly basis.

We have to remember this: Our people come to meet with Jesus.

Oftentimes, the reason your church may not be worshiping is because they don’t connect with your song & style choice.

I’m convinced that we need more worship leaders who are willing to be less cool if it serves their churches well. There’s more than copying Hillsong. There’s more than mimicking Jesus Culture.

You have a voice. Your team has a voice. Your community has a voice. It’s time to find what that is even if it means you sacrifice “cutting edge” on the altar.

David Santistevan

Migrant service

Before I jumped on the flight to Australia, I helped lead a special migrant & refugee focused service at the Karlsruhe FeG last Sunday.

My friend Vimal spoke on what the bible has to say about about God’s heart for the vulnerable and how he expects his people to treat them; about how he is able to understand what migrants go through, as Jesus was himself a refugee; and how all of us who are followers of Jesus are migrants in this world. (Vimal has recently published a booklet to give away: Jesus: I was a refugee)

We heard a Testimony from a Tamil brother seeking asylum, who became a Christian in Germany.

We sang together some songs which helped us remember Jesus as our hope and security:

God of angel armies
The cross stands
Hier am Kreuz
In Christ alone
Wohin sonst

And shared a song which Vimal and I wrote last year:

 

The worship leader as storyteller

This is really good:

For the Worship Leader the goal of corporate worship should be to remind the people of God of the story of God’s redemption through Christ, thus leading this redeemed people into the worship of this active, living God. This corporate memory must be rekindled by connecting the local congregation to the acts of God in history, by singing songs and reading Scripture that recall these acts. 

The whole piece is good. Read it.

 

h/t WorshipLinks

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The gospel and approval

You may have read this week about the death of Broadway legend Elaine Stritch (though you might know her better as Jack’s mother on 30 Rock). My Facebook feed has certainly seen a number of tributes, but one quote in particular caught my attention:

“The terrifying thing in my life is that I am just an actress. And I have to keep pushing it and getting approval, approval, approval or I don’t think I’m worth two cents. And I am starting to get over it, thank God. And I’m just sad because I don’t have many years left and I wish I had a longer space of time to think that Elaine Stritch is okay.”

It’s so easy for us to put our identity in what we do, especially in the arts, where what we do is constantly on display, and either applauded or critiqued (or both). Here is someone who was at the top of their game, respected and rewarded, and yet the admission that so much of it is striving for approval, for validation of self-worth. This is not a judgement – I feel it, and if I think that achieving that level of artistic success would change anything, I’m kidding myself. I need to keep reminding myself:

The gospel re-shapes perspective. It puts things back in their proper place because it puts God in His proper place. He sees all we do; He is our most important audience. The opinion of whoever else is listening is just not as important as His. And what is His opinion? The gospel tells us – he approves of us already. – Tim Keller

This isn’t to be confused with a disregard for legitimate critique of our work, or of seeking to do work which impacts an audience, or even of enjoying applause for good work, rather, it is to simply remember that my self-worth, my identity is not tied inextricably to this work. It is to remember that whatever happens, whatever failures I might experience, or whatever judgement I might incur from an audience or critics, it doesn’t change who I fundamentally am, because I’m loved by grace. Before I could do anything to merit applause, He who bore the scorn of crucifixion has given me his worthiness. I’m more than OK; I am in Him, and He is perfect.