Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let Your Kingdom Come

We are doing a new song this week. I have really appreciated Bob Kauflin's work as an author and blogger. So we are singing a song he wrote called "Let Your Kingdom Come". Enjoy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Challenges of Writing Music for Corporate Worship

Zach Nielson over at Take Your Vitamin Z has eloquently summed up much of what I was trying to communicate with my "Examining Worship" posts. Here are the 3 most common problems facing songwriters:

1. Catchy Yet Simple Melodies: Writing melodies that are easily accessible to a large group of mostly non-musicians is very difficult, especially when most of our churches don't use musical notes on a page. If I were your average artist on the radio, I would just write melodies that are really catchy and sound good when I sing them. The worship songwriter cannot approach his craft so selfishly. The worship songwriter has unique constaints: Is this too high for the average non-singer? Is this melody too rhythmically challenging? Can this melody be quickly remembered? Is the range of the melody too extreme (like Silent Night or The Star Spangled Banner)? Writing for a large group of mainly non-musicians is not easy.

2. Unique But Not New: Writing songs that have lyrics beyond "grace, place, see your face, run the race" is difficult as well. Expressing great theological truth without sounding awkward is very challenging. We have a fixed message. Our Biblical content is unchanging. Within these fixed theological boundaries, saying something in a unique way (being creative) without saying something new (this would potentially be heresy) is quite daunting for the worship songwriter.

3. Creative and Clear: If I were a typical artist that was just looking to sell some records I could be artistically creative and to some degree could care less if my audience totally understood all my metaphors. They might just write me off as "arty" and that would be a good thing. For example, I love Radiohead and I seriously could not tell you what one of their songs is about. The worship songwriter does not have this luxury. They have to be creative enough to be respectable as an artist, but clear enough to have the mind quickly engaged in the truth that is sung. This again, is no small feat.

I recommend Zach's site for anyone with an interest in Church music, jazz, adoption, and pro-life apologetics.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Meditations

During 2009, I will be reading the book of 1 John ever so slowly. During February and March, I will read chapter 1 each day, then move on to chapter 2 for April and May, and so on. And as a blogging exercise, I will take a few minutes each Wednesday to express what the Lord is teaching me as I read His word.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4; ESV)

Just as John started his gospel talking about the Word, so he begins this epistle talking about the Life. And just as the Word was with God and dwelt among us, the Life is eternal and yet is among us in Jesus Christ.

I think it is a wise thing to spend some time pondering the eternal nature of God, the unsearchable depths of the uncreated Son, and the immanence of Jesus, who emptied himself and became a servant, dwelling among us.

John begins his letter with the absolute truth of God. This is not a series of philosophical theories that may or may not work. This is the revelation of the eternal God from before the creation of the earth. But it is also the direct revelation that he has seen with his own eyes. There is no ambiguity, and there is no questioning the facts. The only variable is how we respond to this truth.

So the truth is revealed, the truth is clear, and the truth is proclaimed. John does not keep this to himself. Because God has revealed Himself, John must also proclaim what has been revealed. It is what brings fellowship between people because they have fellowship with God through Christ, who is the Eternal Life and gives us eternal life. And the truth makes our joy complete.

Are you sharing the truth of Christ with those who have not heard, and are not in fellowship with Christ? Are you in fellowship with those who are in Christ? Do you speak the truth to one another? It seems that John doesn't see any other way.

In Defense of Contemporary Worship

By no means can I present the definitive debate-ending argument for the use of contemporary worship in Churches, especially on a tiny little blog like my own. But I will offer these short thoughts.

First, nowhere in Scripture are we commanded in what our music should sound like. While we read descriptions of harps, lyres, and cymbals, we can never know if they played in 4/4 time, fast or slow, one part or SATB, major or minor, and so forth.

Second, the demand for exclusively traditional music is counter intuitive. When a man is converted, he is being asked to die to himself, his old habits and sins. There will be many changes. Yet he may work the same job, live in the same house, be married to the same woman, drive the same car. Does it follow that he should be made to abandon his old tastes in music for an outmoded and irrelevant style that is completely foreign to him? I believe that it could well be a hindrance to his worship. It would be much like the Latin Mass or the Arabic Koran. Most pre-Vatican II Catholics do not understand Latin, and most Muslims do not read or understand Arabic. It is not edifying to instruct people in a language they can't understand. Yes, he will probably have to stop listening to some bands because of their lyrical content, but Scripture encourages him to sing, and he will be most likely to sing in a way that is familiar to him. And unless he is a big fan of classical music, his comfort zone is within the realm of contemporary worship.

Contemporary worship music is merely a tool to help the body of Christ as they offer worship to God, just like traditional worship. I would contend that the arguments of traditionalists rarely deal with the style of music, but instead deal with the way in which it is presented. But these arguments can be made toward traditional music as well.

Let me know what you think.

coming soon... in defense of traditional worship!