- What Does it Take for a Black Belt in Worship Crowd Control?: Warning: don’t read Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like while ingesting food/liquid or if trying to appear composed.
- Learning to listen: Juilliard music criticism instructor Greg Sandow provides tips on how to listen to and describe music.
- Should musicians teach?: And a New England Conservatory piano professor reflects on the questions, “Can you be the best possible artist and teach? Can you ever become the best possible artist if you don’t teach?”
- The Lives of Musicians: A nicely written account describing what it’s actually like to be a professional musician.
- Goo Goo for Gaga? I blame Bono (and Bush): Great Carl Trueman piece on the ridiculous tendency to rely on celebrity “authority.”
- What might happen more often *if* FB chat actually worked half the time:
September 24, 2010 No Comments
In response to a recent post on church music teams, Wendy asked the following question:
I visited a church once who, I learned, ‘hires’ their Sunday morning musicians to play. They are professional musicians — hired because they are awesome musicians, and not necessarily Christian. Shouldn’t those who serve in the church be followers of Christ?
In order to answer this question, the first thing to consider is, “Why does a church meet?” My understanding from Scripture is that a church meets primarily to worship God together and build one another up in the faith (1 Corinthians 14). While a church may engage in other activities (i.e. evangelizing, helping the needy, etc.) the regular Sunday morning gatherings are meant for believers who understand Christ’s work on their behalf and wish to glorify God for who He is and what He has done. Non-believers are certainly welcome — Paul mentions that gatherings should be intelligible to them (1 Cor. 14:24-25). But if they do not have the Holy Spirit, they are unable to truly participate in worship (1 Cor. 12:3).
The next question is, what role does music and the music team play in a church meeting? Music in a worship service is not for entertainment — it is fundamentally to help believers think about and engage with God and His word (Eph. 5:19) and admonish/edify one another (Col. 3:16). To this end, the music team is essentially helping to lead a spiritual activity. The 9Marks website describes this task well:
Leading the church through singing and playing music is a kind of diaconal service, whether or not the people in the position have been formally affirmed as deacons. It’s diaconal in that musicians employ their common grace skills in order to serve the church for larger spiritual ends … a church should choose musicians whose lives will commend the gospel. After all, the musicians are leading and representing the church publicly, which means they’re representing Christ publicly. (cf Acts 6:1-6 )
So in short: yes, I believe church musicians should be Christians who desire to use their gifts to serve their fellow believers. This doesn’t mean that Christians can’t worship God through the art/music of unbelievers (they can and do) — but I don’t think the church service is the place for that.
- Worship Matters: Non-Christians on the Worship Team
- Don Whitney: 10 More Ways to Improve Your Church Worship Service
- 9Marks Q&A on Corporate Worship
(Photo: Brian Petersen)
August 28, 2010 No Comments
“The arts and the sciences do have a place in the Christian life — they are not peripheral. For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God — not just as tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.”
- Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible
(Photo: Ed Siasoco)
August 22, 2010 No Comments
For professional musicians serving on a non-professional church music team, making musical suggestions can be a touchy area. Most people, regardless of their level of training, hold strong opinions about what music they like/dislike. Therefore, critiques on someone’s music-making can hit hard emotionally. Even the most well-intentioned suggestion feels like a personal attack. (I think every musician knows this feeling!)
But not wanting to offend someone shouldn’t be an excuse to just sit quietly in the corner when there are legitimate musical concerns. (Generally, this means I am operating either out of laziness or fear of man.) But we do need to exercise wisdom and humility as we seek to edify others for the sake of the church. Here are a few suggestions.
Differentiate between matters of personal taste and matters of legitimate concern.
Professional musicians are just as prone as everyone else to making their personal likings overly important. Is the issue bothering you really a problem, or do you just prefer it were done another way? For example — key too high for average congregation member to sing: important. Adding an extra Esus chord to jazz up the harmony: not important. This isn’t to say that you should never state your musical opinion. But remembering that the job of the music team is to aid, not entertain, the congregation in worship will help determine the importance of an issue.
Back up a critique with a reason and a solution.
One of the best pieces of advice I received in school was from a conducting teacher: “Always tell them why you’re doing it.” Most people don’t react well to their peers simply telling them what to do. They are much more receptive, however, if you can give a reason for your suggestion. (Incidentally, if you can’t think of a reason, you may need to reconsider point 1.)
Additionally, be ready to offer a solution for your critique. We’ve all been frustrated by people who are quick to complain but don’t lift a finger to fix the problem. Resolve not to criticize if you’re not willing to help. Sure, it will likely involve extra “work” on your part: rewriting a chord chart or staying behind for additional rehearsing. But if you are part of the team, consider it a God-given opportunity to serve and edify your teammates and the church.
Remember the Gospel.
Realizing that I am expendable is necessary before I can truly serve in any capacity. I find it all too tempting to base my value to a team on my abilities as a musician. The blessing of knowledge easily morphs into an excuse for pride. The only solution I know is to meditate often on the Gospel, for nothing else is more humbling and motivating.
Yes, I want any team I’m part of to improve, and I want to contribute to that improvement. But let it not be for the sake of sounding good or for improvement’s sake. Let it flow from a more profound desire to express in new and more beautiful ways what God has done.
August 16, 2010 4 Comments
This past weekend I’ve been hanging out in Toronto, where I completed my undergraduate degree. I had the privilege this morning of worshiping with my brothers and sisters at Toronto Holy Word Church. One of the many things I appreciate about this congregation is their commitment to singing songs that are theologically sound and musically tasteful. This involves, of course, a healthy dose of classic hymns — but also includes a regular rotation of newer music. For example, today we sang Sovereign Grace’s Surrender All. This song communicates a similar message as the well-known I Surrender All, but with different lyrics and (in my opinion) a more singable melody.
Ever since my time at HWC, I’ve been on the lookout for songs with/resources on this needed blend. I’m compiling what I’ve found below in the hopes that it will be useful for others. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment and I will add it to the list.
Singers/Songwriters (Official Sites)
- Indelible Grace – Hymns with a modern twist
- Keith & Kristyn Getty – Modern hymn writers
- Stuart Townend – Frequent collaborator with the Getty’s and lyricist for In Christ Alone
- Sovereign Grace Music – Ministry with a long history of gospel-oriented music
- Sojourn Music – Contemporary hymn/song writers
- Reformed Praise – Ministry dedicated to providing modern/updated hymns
- Mark Altrogge – Music for Scripture memorization
- Before the Throne Music – Steve & Vikki Cook
- Red Mountain Music – New tunes for old hymns
- Kris Shaffer Music – Original hymns
- Paul Jones Music (Tenth Presbyterian Church) – Instrumental / choral arrangements in a more traditional style
Blogs and Articles
- Worship Matters/Bob Kauflin
- The Rabbit Room
- Keith and Kristyn Getty
- Stuart Townend
- The Blazing Center/Mark & Stephen Altrogge
- Indelible Grace Article Collection
Conference/Training MP3s and Other Media
- Institute for Christian Worship lectures (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
- Worship God Conference Messages
- New Song Cafe @ Worship Together
(Photo: Peter Baker)
August 9, 2010 2 Comments