Posts belonging to Category Worship

Coral Ridge Merger 2.0

On Sunday we just happened to be visiting Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale for their first newly combined worship service. Like many churches Coral Ridge has offered two services on Sunday mornings with two different worship styles — one traditional and one contemporary. But starting this past Sunday they have combined the two services into one, a venture that Pastor Tullian Tchividjian jokingly referred to as Coral Ridge Merger 2.0 (with reference to last year’s merger between Coral Ridge Presbyterian and New City Presbyterian churches).

Whereas many churches that offer a blended style of worship offer some hymns with the organ and some praise music with the praise band, Coral Ridge went a different route. As the congregation gathered, the orchestra played a worshipful rendition of the hymn, “This Is My Father’s World.” This was followed by a video presentation of the church’s new vision for worship appropriately titled, “One.” Next the majestic organ swelled as we all stood for the opening hymn. But then, surprise, the organ traded off for the drum kit, the orchestra and praise band joined in, and we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” to a truly blended accompaniment of all the instruments together.

The service continued with traditional and contemporary elements blended together. We sang hymns and praise choruses with various instrumentation. During the offering the choir and orchestra presented a stirring rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Pastor Tullian preached a convicting message on the importance of unity in the church from Ephesians 4:1-6. All things were done to God’s glory with excellence in keeping with Coral Ridge’s philosophy of ministry.

Kudos to the worship planners who pulled all the various elements together and also to the sound engineer who achieved a remarkable audio balance throughout the service. When I am in a church service, I like to be able to hear myself singing as well as the congregation around me. I found that even with all the instruments playing together I was able to distinguish the worship leader’s voice, the choir singing in the background, the orchestra, praise band and organ, as well as hear my own voice, the voices of those around me, and also have a sense of the whole congregation singing. That is no small feat, so thank you to whoever paid such careful attention to the sound.

For Tullian and Coral Ridge, this merging of their two services into one is not a matter of preference or convenience but comes from a theologically-shaped conviction rising out of the gospel. As Tullian shared in a blog post yesterday,

Building the church on stylistic preferences or age appeal (whether old or young) is just as contrary to the reconciling effect of the gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions. In a recent interview J. I. Packer said, “If worship services are so fixed that what’s being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don’t believe the worship style glorifies God.” One of the leading ways the church can testify to God’s unifying power before our segregated world is to establish and maintain congregations and worship services that transcend cultural barriers, including age and musical styles. (Blog post: We Are One)

I am still wrestling with whether a single worship style service is a gospel imperative or simply a gospel conviction for Coral Ridge at this time, but I appreciate the conversation Tullian is opening on this issue, and I trust it will make us all think more deeply about church and worship together. Oh, and did I mention, I had a wonderful time worshiping the Lord with my brothers and sisters in Christ at Coral Ridge Sunday. All glory to God!

Are You Sitting Rent Free?

From Thomas Watson’s A Body of Divinity:

Creatures below us, and above us, bring glory to God; and do we think to sit rent free? Shall everything glorify God but man? It is a pity then that man was ever made.

– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 9 (from the section on Man’s Chief End )

Complaints about the New Worship Songs

Dan Kimball shares a couple letters from church members complaining about the song selection and music in church.

Letter #1:

I am no music scholar, but I feel I know appropriate church music when I hear it. Last Sunday’s new hymn – if you can call it that – sounded like a sentimental love ballad one would expect to hear crooned in a saloon. If you insist on exposing us to rubbish like this – in God’s house! – don’t be surprised if many of the faithful look for a new place to worship. The hymns we grew up with are all we need.

Letter #2:

What is wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it is to worship God, not to be distracted with learning a new hymn. Last Sunday’s was particularly unnerving. The tune was un-singable and the new harmonies were quite distorting.

The first letter was written in 1863 about the hymn “Just As I Am.” The second letter was written in 1890 about the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” Hmmm, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

What do you think about the changing musical styles in church?

HT: Monday Morning Insight

American Idol and Shout to the Lord

Note:  The videos of both performances are at the end of the post.

Last week on American Idol, the eight finalists joined together at the end of the show to sing the popular praise and worship song, “Shout to the Lord.” The next night, they opened the program with the same song. This created quite a stir for a number of reasons:

  1. The first night they sang it, they substituted the words “My Shepherd” for the original lyrics, which are “My Jesus.”
  2. The second night, they sang the original lyrics, putting the words “My Jesus” back in.
  3. People were surprised that a show like American Idol would feature such an overtly Christian song, twice, especially sung by all the contestants together.

There was a lot of buzz about this around the blogosphere during the week. Here are three articles in particular that I thought covered the story well and provided some good food for thought.

I work on one of the “sister shows” of American Idol … so picture an office, with all of the producers, crew, etc. gathered in watching the live feed at our CBS offices, then this song comes on … an office filled with a few Christians … atheists and agnostic Jews. You could hear a pin drop … it was awesome … the power that came through … nothing had to be said … no debates … just people being touched more than they realized … producers, writers … crew that had never darkened a church door in their lives, or their only experience with Christians was a negative one. You don’t always see the workings of us Christians that are behind the scenes … you don’t know how much prayer went into getting a song with that message on a, let us not forget, a SECULAR show. So, from someone behind the scenes, the best thing you can do is write to the producer of Am. Idol and simply state how much you appreciate the diversity they showed in having an very inspirational song in their program. Period. No criticizing. This will go farther than you realize. Also, pray, pray, pray for us Christians that have chosen Hollywood as our vocation, career and our mission field.

And finally, here are the videos of the two performances so you can check them out for yourself.

First performance (Video length: 2:56)


Second performance (Video length: 3:08)

So, did you see either of these performances last week? What are your thoughts?

You Supply the Title (Guitar Player)

I saw this video clip over the weekend. You supply the title in the comments section. (There is no audio on the clip, but you should understand it just fine.)


Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Here is the definition I offered for worshiping in spirit and in truth in last Sunday’s message on worship. Worshiping God in spirit and in truth means:

Worshiping God truly and sincerely from the heart in the power of the Holy Spirit while proclaiming the truth about God as found in Holy Scripture.

What do you think?

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

Are We Too Dependent on Music for Worship?

Greg Gilbert recently wrote a couple of interesting posts over at Church Matters on music and worship in the church. In the first post (facetiously titled “Against Music”) Gilbert voiced his concerns about churchgoers relying too much on music in their worship of God.

I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music, or certain level of excellence in music. How many times have you heard someone say, for example, “I just can’t worship in that church.”? Or “I just don’t feel like I’m connecting with God there.”

Gilbert shares about his experience in college attending the Passion Conferences in Texas. He joined with thousands of students in worshiping God through modern praise music led by excellent, skilled musicians. Then he returned home to his small church in New Haven Connecticut.

The praise bands were gone, I didn’t have a group of people who’d gone with me and shared that experience, and the churches had a piano and thirty people singing Isaac Watts hymns. That forced me to learn how to stoke the fires of worship with truths and words, and not just with excellent music. I’ve learned how to be emotionally affected by the excellent words of hymns whether they’re played and sung “excellently” or not.

Gilbert then followed up with a second post ( “Some More Thoughts on Music”) offering the following ten questions to help us consider whether we’ve allowed our hearts to become too dependent on music for our sense of spiritual well-being.

  1. Do you get bored when someone reads a longish passage of Scripture in your church? Do you start wishing they’d get on with the music?
  2. Do you need music playing in the background for the reading of Scripture to affect your emotions?
  3. Does a prayer seem too “plain” or “stark” to you if it doesn’t have music playing behind it?
  4. Do you feel depressed a few weeks after a worship conference because you haven’t felt close to God in a long time?
  5. Do you desperately look forward to the next conference you’re going to attend because you know that, finally, you’ll be able to feel close to God again?
  6. If you’re in a big church with great music, are you able to worship when you visit your parents’ small rural church?
  7. Do you ever feel worshipful in the middle of the week, at work, at school, etc. just because of thinking about God and his grace? Or does that only happen when the music’s playing?
  8. Do you tend to feel closer to God when you’re alone with your iPOD than you do when you’re gathered with God’s people in your church?
  9. Do you feel like you just can’t connect with other believers who haven’t had the same “worship experiences” that you have? Can you only connect with other believers who “know what it feels like to really worship?”
  10. Is your sense of spiritual well-being based more on feeling close to God, or knowing that you are close to God because of Jesus Christ?

What do you think? How important are matters of style and excellence when it comes to worshiping God through music? Have we become too dependent on music for our sense of spiritual well-being?

Free Sovereign Grace Worship Conference MP3s

Sovereign Grace Ministries is offering free MP3 downloads from the 2006 Sovereign Grace worship conference (WorshipGod06; “The Glory of God’s Presence”). Five main messages are available, as well as 21 teaching seminars. If you have never been to a worship conference, this should give you a good idea of what you have been missing.

Meanwhile, over at Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin is looking for seminar ideas from readers for the WorshipGod08 conference (July 30-August 2, 2008; Covenant Life Church; Theme – “Rediscovering the Psalms.”)

Here are the titles for the MP3s that are available from the 2006 Worship Conference. (Visit Sovereign Grace for the download links.)


Worship While You Work

Charles Drew is the author of A Journey Worth Taking, a book about work and calling and finding your purpose in this world. Here are some wise words from Drew about worshiping God while working in a fallen world:

It is not always easy to worship while we work. Thanks to the fall, there is no job—whether it is raising children, running a bank, or working as a carpenter—that does not have its dreariness. Nevertheless, God made us for work, Jesus is present with us in our work, and Jesus will one day completely fix work. For these reasons, we should seek occasions to thank God for and in our work.

He then goes on to give these 5 reasons why we can be thankful to God for and in our work:

  1. Simply to be given something to do that brings order into our life is cause for thanks. If we get paid for it, all the better.
  2. Work often presents us with people to love—and this is good for us (especially when it is hard).
  3. There are, or course, those occasional jobs (or occasional tasks within a particular job) that we actually enjoy doing—for which it is only right to worship God.
  4. Then there is the recollection of how much worse work might be for us if we lived at a different time or under different circumstances—a recollection that should train our faith to see the hand of the Redeemer at work, and to thank him.
  5. Finally, there is the promise of consummation—of a coming world in which all toil will finally be taken from our work—and for this hope we worship God (especially when we are acutely aware of the toil in what we are presently doing).

The Many Faces of Worship – A Photo Essay on Church Hymnals from around the World

Here is a photo essay from Christianity Today featuring people and hymnals from around the world. The slideshow presents a brief history of hymnals as well as giving you a glimpse into believers from other cultures worshiping the Lord through song. Here is one example:

The Canela People of Brazil
    Photograph: Jack Popjes from All the World is Singing

The Canela people of Brazil have a 24-hour song cycle and can tell time simply by what song people are singing, says Jack Popjes, who moved there with his wife in the late 1960s. This photo of one of the Canelas’ Bible classes, one in a 70-day string of such meetings, shows the attendees learning a new song. Popjes, ethnomusicologist Tom Avery, and Canela song and dance leader Abilio Tami created a small hymnal in the Canelas’ bafflingly complex musical tradition with lyrics from Scripture.

When I was in high school, I actually considered becoming an ethnomusicologist. I wanted to combine my love of music and worship with missions. For more on worship around the world, check out the International Council of Ethnodoxologists web site. (Now there’s a mouthful!)

The vision of ICE is that Christians from every culture will have the opportunity to express their faith through their own heart music and arts.

To further this vision, we seek to promote the application of insights drawn from the fields of ethnomusicology, worship studies, and other disciplines in Christian ministries worldwide.


Five Things to Remember About Skill

Bob Kauflin writes about the place of skill at his Worship Matters blog. Although Bob writes primarily to worship leaders, his points here are applicable to skill in any area of life. Here are the main points. You can read the whole article here: Five Things to Remember About Skill.

  1. Skill is a gift from God meant for his glory. None of us can claim credit for any ability we possess . . . Our skill is meant to direct people’s eyes to God, not us.
  2. Skill has to be developed. [For] four years I practiced an average of four hours a day, seven days a week . . . Sometimes people come up to me and say, “I wish I could play the piano like you do,” My standard reply is, “You can! It just takes a little gifting, and practicing four hours a day for four years.” Skill has to be developed.
  3. While God values skill, he doesn’t accept us on the basis of it. So even if I can play complex chord progressions, write songs like Matt Redman, or have a four octave vocal range, I still need the atoning work of the Savior to make my offering of worship acceptable (1 Pet. 2:5).
  4. Skill should be evaluated by others. I thank God for feedback I get during rehearsal and after a meeting . . . We need the eyes and ears of those around us. It’s both humbling and helpful to hear back from people we trust who will speak the truth to us.
  5. Skill isn’t an end in itself. Skill can easily become our ultimate goal and focus. At that point it often becomes an idol . . . Years ago I read a pastor comment that “God isn’t looking for something brilliant; he’s looking for something broken.” That’s a biblical perspective to keep in mind as we seek to develop our gifts.

Seeds Family Worship Scripture Memory CDs

Here is a great new resource for families. Seeds Family Worship has produced four new CDs with songs taken directly from Scripture. Each CD contains 12 passages of Scripture focusing on a certain topic, such as Praise, Faith, Purpose or Courage. The music is modern and upbeat, and you can listen to samples before you buy.

Music is a great way for kids (and adults) to memorize Scripture. The website is offering a special Seeds of Easter sampler CD for only $2.99. This 5-song CD with songs from Seeds of Courage and Seeds of Faith is intended as an introduction to the series or as give-aways to children and guests on Easter. (Note: You must order by Monday, March 26 to guarantee delivery by April 6.)

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