Music in worship: You don't want to miss this...

(Tim) I have a close friend who hated what I recently wrote concerning music and Christian worship--and particularly some of the anthems written, but more generally the leadership of our hymn singing, by our Good Shepherd Band. His name is Robert Patterson and there are few men I enjoy pursuing truth with more than Bob. This means we argue. Rarely in person, but often by e-mail and ocassionally, when things need to get really heated, by phone. Sometimes we put aside arguments and switch to name-calling. Bob's appellation of choice for me is something along the lines of "pietistic new-schooler;" other times, it's "pragmatic, tasteless baby-boomer." Happy to reciprocate, depending upon my mood I call Bob an "aesthete" or a "prig." Of course, neither of us has ever doubted the other's respect and love.

With that context, I'm promoting here as a main blog entry several of the comments responding to an argument Bob valiantly started under my recent post, "Preparing for persecution: two concrete steps to take." This particular argument was one of the most helpful I've ever been privileged to see developing on this blog...

If you're able, don't miss each contribution to that discussion. But if you're not, I've cut and pasted some of the best comments made there.

So, with that introduction, here are a few of Bob's salvos, along with a couple excellent responses.

Whatever else you read, don't miss the end of this post where you'll find Josh Congrove's essay. Josh is a doctoral candidate in classics here at Church of the Good Shepherd. Mary Lee and I love him for many reasons, not the least of which is that he used to come over to our house of an evening and play hymns on our piano for Aunt Elaine. During Lord's Day worship Josh has been known to accompany both the amplified band and the unamplified grand piano on flutes and a recorder he made himself out of PVC pipe from Lowes.

The other contributor--new dad Philip Moyer--will be introduced later. First, then, Bob's opening salvo...

The equation of contemporary music--which is designed root and branch for performance rather than congregational singing--with the Reformer's insistence on worship in one's tongue strains all logic. For starters, the mass-mediated camp songs of the boomer generation reflect all the cultural disorder that Church of the Good Shepherd seeks to avoid. Its rejection of the musical heritage of the church, particularly the Protestant hymnody of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, robs believers of a critical resource for living in difficult times.

Insistence on quality music and good hymnody is not elitist any more than insistence on trained ministers who can rightly preach and adjudicate the Word of God. Ironically, the very choice of commercially driven music like CCM has little to do with a Christian understanding of culture or forms, but a utilitarian calculus that evaluates music for pragmatic reasons--because it allegedly draws a crowd, not because it is inherently better. If Church of the Good Shepherd really valued good congregational singing, it would never replace organ and piano with electric guitars and drums. If we take public worship as something that is really important (as we do for weddings, funerals, and Christmas Eve), the latter forms simply do not work. What young bride wants to walk down the aisle to a Top-40 tune?

As Ken Myers has argued cultural forms are not neutral: You change the music, you change the theology. A congregation that has been nurtured on vibrant congregational signing and the Trinity Hymnal would never be satisfied anything less.

Bob Patterson

Bob got some excellent rejoinders to this initial comment, so he followed up with another:

Re words:

Almost any selection of the Trinity Hymnal, like "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" to the tune of St. Columba, is far superior to anything penned by the British heart throb, Stuart Townendy. I could go on and on: nothing on the chorus scene compares lyrically to hymns like Our God Our Help in Ages Past, Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken, Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art, or Thine Be the Glory. I'll even include the more recent hymn by Margaret Clarkson, We Come O Christ to Thee.

Not only is conventional hymnody better when it comes to words, it is better structurally and musically. The structure of hymnody separates the words (the hymn) from the music (hymn tune) in such a way that the music submits to the words. Contemporary music, which our dear friend Paul Lusher considers "feminine" in attributes, has no such flexibility. The music tends to dominate and the words become secondary.

Conventional hymnody, which Paul says is masculine in attributes, is also superior aesthetically. Of course, the PC dogma of multiculturalism cringes at such a thought. But doesn't common sense and what the Westminster divines call "the light of nature" cringe at the idea of adopting the genre of American Idol for the public worship of the Living God? Have we lost our minds?

God's people deserve something better that what pop culture feeds them. They need cultural forms that reflect the beauty, form, and order of God's creation. Aesthetics and doctrine are not as easily separated as you presume. You sound almost gnostic in suggesting that musical forms do not really matter. We are embodied creatures. Likewise, doctrine is embodied in form, structures, and ritual. To deny that some forms are more suitable than others for public worship seems to me more an expression of the 1960s counterculture that holds established norms and formality as autocratic and artificial. Tom Howard is exactly right.

Tim, as much as I appreciate your theological and social convictions, I fear your music works against everything you are trying to do.

Bob Patterson

Then, Philip Moyer entered the discussion. Phil formerly served on the music staff of Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philly. Now, while pursuing his doctorate in choral conducting, Phil serves as our choir director and the drummer in our Good Shepherd Band. Phil responded to Bob as follows:

Dear Bob Patterson,

I very much appreciate your argument and I agree with many of the things you are saying. But I believe many of your assumptions about the music we are doing at CGS are wrong.

There is seldom a song, chorus, or hymn in the CCM evangelical world that Jody (the music director) or I (choir director and assistant to Jody) are favorable to. We cringe at the very same things as you are referring too. But to the statements you made above I have to ask, what is “quality music and good hymnody”?

Certainly at CGS we INSIST on quality music and good hymnody and it is not elitist to insist on these things. But it is elitist to think that “good congregational singing” cannot come of out of worship music led by “electric guitars and drums.” I suffered from this kind of pride. I was proud that I went to Tenth Pres. and worked on the music staff along with my great friend and mentor Paul Jones. And I mocked anyone’s music that was not traditional. I’m not sure if you have been to Tenth, but if you have, you know how wonderfully their congregation sings and how much gusto they have when they sing. The same is true of our congregation here in Bloomington even with our second service being a third the size of theirs. And additionally at CGS we are becoming less and less ashamed of using our bodies in worship through clapping our hands, raising our arms, and shouting “Amen.”

Three years back when I visited CGS for the first time I witnessed “contemporary” worship music different than any other I had ever experienced. And I thought, “It can be done.” It was doctrinally sound and had lyrical melodies that could be sung even with contemporary musical idioms. Forms both musical and poetic are not lost in our worship, but expanded. We don’t only use the strophic form that hymns almost exclusively use. There is so much more freedom in Christ than this. We use modern song forms, binary, ternary, da capo, etc. “Vibrant congregational signing and the Trinity Hymnal” is exactly what we do. The congregation may not know they are singing the Trinity Hymnal but they are. It sounds to me judging by the list of hymns you mentioned above that you are not opposed to the content of the music sung at CGS but are opposed to our choice of instrumentation.

>Tim, as much as I appreciate your theological and social convictions, I fear your music works against everything you are trying to do.

Actually it is quite the opposite.

In Christ,

Philip Moyer

Anything but a shrinking pansy, Bob redoubled his efforts:

I have listened to the CGS band and I am not impressed. Unless I am missing something, you take lyrics of great hymns and attempt to graft them onto modern melodies. The two do not fit. It is like mixing oil and vinegar. Or more aptly, it is like trading our Protestant birthright of excellent hymn tunes for a mess of pottage of mass-mediated show tunes. No wonder we are losing people to Roman Catholicism.

My recommendation is that you visit Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia on a Sunday morning or evening and you will be blown away by the congregational singing. Tenth, not music that you find at a Young Life rally, embodies the Reformed tradition at worship. Tenth has seen no need to change her worship or music for decades. So I honestly do not understand why Baby Boomers in many other places think they need to radically alter the music and ethos of Protestant worship. But of course, it's all about them. Rather than allowing the church to shape them, they want to shape the church into their liking.

Does anyone at CGS listen to Ken Myers's Mars Hill Audio Journal? Or have you read John McWhorter's insightful book, "Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care"? Both Myers and McWhorter might suggest that when it comes to music, CGS seems to be no longer functioning as a normative institution--as a church that sets the standard--but has accommodated itself to the disorder of our age.

Bob Patterson

Then, this masterstroke from Josh Congrove. I do hope readers have persevered thus far. If so, don't peter out now. This stuff is gold.

Dear Mr. Patterson,

The following lengthy comment I prepared before your last comment, but I only now had a connection to submit it, so excuse any misapprehensions. Thank you for your intelligent, straightforward, and respectful exchange with us. I do look forward to meeting you in person and discussing further sometime.

Warmly,

Josh

********
Dear Mr. Patterson,

I don't believe we've ever met, so please forgive me in advance if I make presumptions about you by these comments. I, too, appreciate much of your argument and your concern and commitment to God-honoring church music. Yet, as others have pointed out here, you have made a number of presumptions in your argument that are ill-founded, both about the music employed at CGS (Church of the Good Shepherd), and about the constituent elements of church music in general.

As a preliminary, it will be helpful for you to know that I am far from serving as a "yes-man" for the band here at CGS. My background contains little sympathy for CCM music, and even far, far less for rock music, which my family regarded as more or less inherently immoral, rebellious, and God-dishonoring. And in fact, in our postmodern, distinction-hating world, I do not despise, and indeed still have a measure of respect for this position, though I no longer accept it in its entirety (but that's another discussion). I have little love for electric guitar, and great dislike for distorted electric guitar, which I find obnoxious and caustic. I know by heart the four-part harmonizations to hundreds of hymns, and I like little better than a 4-part hymn-sing accompanied with piano, organ, or a capella. I dearly love each of the members of our band here, but I will just as readily offer (hopefully constructive) criticism as I will commendation of a particular musical arrangement that I find objectionable.

I say all these things not to boast, but to show that I have no natural reason to defend contemporary music in any context here. And yet, having said all that, I do accept and defend the philosophy that guides the music here at Church of the Good Shepherd. I understand and agree with the musical principles that undergird our worship, even if occasionally I disagree with the implementation of those principles. In an area such as music that so wonderfully bridges our hearts, spirits, and minds, but whose affective power we struggle to trace or explain, it is inevitable that we will disagree on musical decisions. Yet it is the principles that govern worship that we most want to get right, and we leave it to Christian charity to cover the disagreements that come with their implementation. And so with this backdrop I must say that charity demands that you argue with the principles that actually guide worship music at CGS. Parts of your argument here reflect neither the actual nature of the music employed here at CGS, nor the Scriptural principles that inform it.

First, it is likely that very few of those who attend CGS would have much sympathy with the majority of the CCM scene, and also likely that fewer still would find the music played in our worship services to bear much resemblance to that of the CCM scene. Indeed, were you to attend a worship service here, it would be a fairly rare occurrence for you to find a popular CCM song used in our congregational singing, and far more likely that you would find a hymn of Watts and Wesley sung (rarely) to a new tune, (often) to a new arrangement, or (occasionally) to even a traditional arrangement. Seriously, to identify the music at CGS with that of CCM because (for example) both incorporate guitars is something akin to conflating an anthem by Henry Purcell with one by the Gaither vocal band because both are in English and rely heavily on tenors.

Second, you assume that the musical approach taken here at CGS comes out of a desire on our part to "draw a crowd" by appealing to the commercially-driven tastes of those we wish to attract. I assure you, this is far from the truth. Musical decisions, and particularly as they relate to lyrical integrity, are not made from a "utilitarian calculus that evaluates music for pragmatic reasons," but rather from a desire to glorify God by leading His people pastorally into worship that honors the true God, not the false one that much of CCM has imagined. Honestly, if our goal is to draw the biggest crowds, we have failed utterly, for often the music sung here drives more people away than it draws. There is little that is commercially utilitarian about it.

Third, while I agree with you about the need for doctrine to be expressed in "form, structures, and ritual," your arguments imply that communicating doctrine in a contemporary style inherently demolishes form and structure. On the contrary, consider the elements of both form and structure that remain in our contemporary music: melody, often contained in a standard 8-bar pattern; harmonies, generally triadic and simple in nature, and a homophonic structure that incorporates simple chord progressions with a long pedigree in Western music. Indeed, though it's true one can make the argument that contemporary music is at times slavish in conforming to regular patterns, it's difficult to claim that it represents a hatred of form and structure.

Fourth—and this is the nub of the matter—though you seem to hold that contemporary music militates against established norms, I believe your larger point actually grants implicitly that contemporary music conforms to standards—but to standards that you consider artistically inferior to those of traditional forms. Indeed, much of your argument here turns on the notion that church music should incorporate structural elements that are better than what the pop culture offers. Thus your contention that we may be "trading our Protestant birthright of excellent hymn tunes for a mess of pottage of mass-mediated show tunes." I point out, in passing, that your opposition of excellence and show tunes is hardly self-evident. Are there no excellent show-tunes? Some of the composers of our "excellent hymn tunes" were hardly opposed to writing the equivalent of "show tunes" in their time (Handel, Mozart, and Haydn come to mind...).

Having said this, I have no quibble with making and applying value judgments to art in general, or music in particular. I do believe that certain music is "better" (however we wish to define this) than other music. Yet even if we grant your contention that the musical forms in which hymns are traditionally sung are better than those of contemporary music, it is one thing to admit this, and quite another to declare that church music should only incorporate those elements that are artistically superior. Such a contention owes more to Western cultural aesthetics than it does to Scripture. The Bible says little about the need for music to be artistically superior, and says much about the need for God's people to worship from hearts that are humble and joyful. God has been pleased through the centuries to inspire art that ranks high on the aesthetic scale (St. Matthew's Passion) as well as creations that never touch the sublime, never boggle our minds, and yet express their devotion to God in humble, heartfelt ways ("What Wondrous Love is This," "Were You There," etc.).

From a linguistic angle, had God been most concerned about artistic value, Classical Greek, with its wondrous flexibility and elegant structures, would have seemed the superior tool to use in communicating Holy Scripture; instead, however, we find the NT written in Koine Greek, a language of inferior aspirations and impoverished forms. But is it not God's practice to show His incomparable excellence by using lowly earthly vessels? Has He not chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise? I am not denying a place for high or superior art, whether in music or in literature, and indeed the NT does contain passages that at times reach for sublimity. But to insist that church music only be of the highest aesthetic caliber is to force a straitjacket on worship that is foreign to the NT. God has created elegant roses, to be sure, but He's also created common thistles, and our gardens need room for both. Can we work in a pop genre without buying into, as you say, the notions it embodies? Perfectly, no, since living in the City of Man means all our work will be tainted with sin. And yet this work, as difficult and peril-ridden as it is, is necessary, so pray for us in this endeavor.

So, am I now a devoteé of contemporary rock music? By no means. Will there be a rockin' recessional someday in my wedding? Categorically, absolutely not—unless you think the Mendelssohn march rocks (as I really do)! Will I ever enjoy singing hymns to drums and electric guitars the way I used to love singing to a piano or organ? No, as I've come to see, with a little sorrow. Am I saddened that four-part hymn singing as we once knew it will soon become a thing of the past? Yes, very much. But do I accept that traditional hymnody can be played with guitars and retain its integrity, its power, and its conviction, all the while doing so in a contemporary vulgar tongue? Yes, I do, and I count it a joy to be able to follow (and work with, when I can) godly, humble men who are so concerned for the purity of worship music, as Jody, Phil, and the other men leading worship here are. But I echo the thoughts of many others here: don't simply take my word for it; come and see. Good things can come out of Nazareth!

And so our goal for the music here is to prepare men to live humbly and rightly with their God in the face of persecution, and to do the will of God in a world that is quickly passing away. It was nearly 300 years ago that Watts penned that immortal line that I'm sure you love as I do, and that sums up so many of my thoughts on this passing world: "Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all his sons away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the op'ning day." We at CGS strive to proclaim the glory of the God who is both our Help in Ages Past and our Hope for Years to Come, and to communicate the riches of His glory in a tongue that is accurate, humble, and concerned more with communicating His Gospel than with achieving artistic excellence.

Very sincerely,

Josh Congrove

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Comments

I wanted to wedge one more comment/question into the music and persecution cupboard before it closed forever.

Music does affect us deeply, but I think the music we listen to throughout the week--in our cars, at work, in the background at home--affects us more than the few songs we hear and sing on Sunday morning. This is how the CDs that the Good Shepherd band produced can help prepare us for the coming persecution. But I was wondering, are there any other CDs in existence that you (or anyone else) would recommend for the same purpose?

Now, to get back to the general discussion, I'll elaborate on the reservations I mentioned yesterday.

Aestheticism or elitism isn't the only grounds for disapproving of a non-traditional worship style in church. I think there's a legitimate question involved in simply what is appropriate for the worship of God.

I come from a blue-collar church the majority of whose members probably don't know anything about harmony and likely never heard of terms like "ternary" and "da capo." They don't sing in parts on Sunday morning (and, being sort of musically illiterate, I have only the vaguest idea what that even means). They used to have just a piano and an organ, not because they were proud of their musical taste but because those are very "vernacular" instruments that most people can learn to play and because not a lot of them could play anything else. In recent years, more members have taken to playing in a kind of "orchestra" on Sunday mornings, accompanying the hymns. The important point, I think, is that the piano was either not on the "stage" (or platform) at all, or was, along with the organ, pushed to one side of it. And now the accompanying musicians, when there are any, sit in chairs in front on the same level as the congregation. The musicians, in other words, are unobtrusive. They don't create an entity separate from (or in competition with) the rest of the congregation that distracts from the purpose of the music itself. They are not front and center, as if the building were a club and the congregation had come to see a good show.

By the way, I have no qualms whatsoever about amplification or even the use of different instruments per se. What bothers me is the difficulty of keeping focused on God or the words of the songs when every musical element of the service is drawing so much attention to itself--whether because it's loud or because it's there to fulfill a agenda. This may just be my own personal problem that I need to get over. But I think it's telling that we'd never play loud or strident music during the taking of the Lord's Supper. It just wouldn't be appropriate to the occasion. That's pretty much what I think about non-traditional worship styles in church generally.

"But I was wondering, are there any other CDs in existence that you (or anyone else) would recommend for the same purpose?"

Derek Webb's She Must and Shall Go Free was incredible.

How may I contact Mr. Patterson directly?

I share some of David L.'s concerns. Overall I have seen the errors of the other side of this argument, horribly restrictive worship. I don't want to find that my family is on the opposite side of the canoe either.

Our preferences cause us to chose churches that are as just as restricted or as wild as we are, but this is not a Godly way to choose.

When deciding to leave the practice of exclusive psalmody a capella, the regulative principle didn't convince me and I had to admit that instruments in worship are okay. Then I had to ask which type and style are okay?

My conclusion was that CGS is biblical in its worship and my family has been greatly blessed but CGS does run the risk of letting the tail wag the dog.

Thus, I trust our leaders to shepherd us through the potential idolatry of this worship style since they also shepherded CGS through the idolatry of the old.

With this, I always think of Psalm 150, but that's more for anecdotal reasons than anything.

I personally would like to see more scriptural discussion of these principles on both sides but like most idols they are hard to put a lasso on.

We must be ever vigilant.

>The important point, I think, is that the piano was either not on the "stage" (or platform) at all, or was, along with the organ, pushed to one side of it. And now the accompanying musicians, when there are any, sit in chairs in front on the same level as the congregation.

This brings up the question of what a Church musician is, or ought to be. I've read Doug Wilson make an excellent case that the musicians in liturgical music are the representatives of the people to God. This is certainly true, but I also believe the role of the musician, and the music, isn't merely to represent the people to God, but also to act pastorally, to stand in God's stead. This is why the Good Shepherd Band, in addition to leading the singing, plays songs that aren't intended for congregational singing. The advantage is that the music speaks to the sensibilities in a way that the spoken word cannot, thus it prepares us to hear the Word preached. When the music serves the text it can communicate meaning not only to the brain but also through the emotions to the heart. In this, music is a mediator, it brings God and man, as well as man and man together, both when intended for congregational singing as well as in songs that preach.

To return to the original point, we place the musicians in the front, visible by the congregation, for the same reason that the pastor stands before the people, so that they might lead. Part of this is the didactic element, we show the people how to posture themselves. Raising hands, singing loudly, expressing our joy with our bodies; these are all things that need to be taught by example, especially in a reformed church full of middle class white people. Deciding where to put the musicians should be guided by discernment, the stage at a rock concert is one of the most idolatrous things you'll ever see, worse than most sporting events. There is a real danger here. The Good Shepherd Band is given to the occupation of building arrows, the largest most unambiguous arrows you can imagine, pointed straight upward to God. If we ever start building arrows pointed at ourselves, then please, have us take a seat.

>To return to the original point, we place the musicians in the front, visible by the congregation, for the same reason that the pastor stands before the people, so that they might lead.

Are they ordained?

Would a woman be permitted to be among this group?

David Gray,

They are.

I'm not sure I agree with Mick's conception of the role of musicians in worship, but I'll have to think about it. However, I do think the musicians should serve the church and not the church the musicians.

>They are.

Ruling elders, teaching elders or deacons?

Our musicians are not, usually, ordained--or even officers. Women do take part in musical leadership, at times and in certain ways, but always in a manner appropriate for their sex. In other words, for instance women would not lead the band, although they may be participants. The overall affect is masculine, for sure, and this is a principal with us. Masculine is good in leadership, Scripture teaches us. And this particularly important in corporate worship.

When it comes to prayers and Scripture reading, those are almost always done by ordained men or men aspiring and or being trained for office.

Love,

David,

Sorry, I wasn't clear.

No to your first question, yest to your second.

Thank you, all, for this thought-provoking post and comments.

High-art and rock band church music both confront a congregation-as-audience problem that either traditional hymnsinging or gospel/revival styles don't have. High-art is essentially performance art, it makes the congregation want to listen rather than participate, and unrehearsed people who do sing generally worse its artistic quality. Rock bands have amplification, which overpowers the congregation and makes it harder for the worship leaders to feel the congregation's response. (Actually, why does rock music have to be any louder than a piano or an organ? It generally is, though.)

It's crucial for each of us to separate what is best for church music from what he likes personally, or even from what helps him personally to worship God. This isn't just a matter of pleasing newcomers, though that should be one of several goals, but of sacrificing self for brethren.

We have to trust the leadership to gauge the congregation and potential congregation carefully in choosing music style, and it's an empirical question. I know of at least one fringe churchgoer who says he was frustrated in town because he couldn't find a good church with traditional, organ-accompanied music, so not all the unchurched want the same music in church as they listen to in cars. But I am sure there are other people who are driven away by churchy-sounding music.

Some aspects of style are central and some are not. I expect there are some people who would like to have just soloists because they don't want to have to sing to God personally, and some who would like amplification because they don't want to have to hear the voice of the person in the next pew intruding on their personal worship time. We should not worry about repelling those people. We should worry about educating them. Other people have a phobia about organ music or worry about hearing loss caused by loud music. The leadership has to figure out how many of each of those kind of people exist in congregation.

>High-art and rock band church music both confront a congregation-as-audience problem that either traditional hymnsinging or gospel/revival styles don't have.

Spot on.

>congregation-as-audience problem that either traditional hymnsinging or gospel/revival styles don't have..

Actually, no. If this were true, Bonhoeffer wouldn't recommend unison singing in his "Life Together." Why does he recommend it?

Any of us who love to sing parts know exactly why. But I'm too tired to say, and then have to defend it. I'll leave it with that.

Dear Eric,

Thanks for your good thoughts. I speak only for myself in these few responses. I agree with you that most "high art" tends to be performance-oriented. And yet, it should be noted, that some of the very best "high art" strives to involve the listener as much as possible. Bach's sacred music, for example, intends to involve the congregation through the use of chorales, and works even the untrained singer into the broader musical fabric and structure. At its best, I believe high art is capable of doing this, even if so rarely this occurs.

> Rock bands have amplification, which overpowers the congregation and makes it harder for the worship leaders to feel the congregation's response. (Actually, why does rock music have to be any louder than a piano or an organ? It generally is, though.)

I think this is one of the most crucial, and most difficult issues attending the use of amplified instruments. I take it as a foundational principle that, since congregational singing is the only musical form explicitly commanded by the NT, it must never be overwhelmed by the instrumentation, whether guitar, drum, piano, or organ. The church can have singing without instruments, but instruments without congregational singing are a violation of apostolic command.

And yet volume remains a difficult issue: for instance, there's no question that our current musical configuration is, on average, much louder than the piano-driven hymnody I grew up on; yet I have heard from others that worship accompanied by a pipe-organ can be every bit as loud as that by a band. About this I really can't say, since no church I ever attended had the money, quality, or musical sophistication to have a pipe organ!

You're right that there is an element of empiricism to church music, but the pastoral element is equally or more relevant. That is, church musicians must take into account the background, tastes, and experience of the congregation, but they must also think pastorally, leading the congregation in ways that are Scriptural, in tune with the needs and sins of our culture, and cognizant of the needs and life of the congregation as a whole. If a church musician simply bases his music only on the empirical makeup of the congregation, he is essentially being led by them; on the other hand, if his musical pastoring doesn't take into account the background and tastes of those in his congregation, he is deficient in his love of them.

>High-art and rock band church music both confront a congregation-as-audience problem that either traditional hymnsinging or gospel/revival styles don't have.

I think you're generally right about this when it comes to simple, unaccompanied, unison hymn-singing, but every additional element added increases the possibility of the "congregation as audience problem." I also think gospel/revival styles certainly face this problem as well. In the churches I grew up in, there was always a "special music" segment in which a soloist offered a song. Often this was a humble, beautiful addition to the worship service, but many were also the occasions when it turned into a showy display of the singer's glory.

Outside of this, even the addition of a simple accompanist to hymns heightens the possibility of turning the congregation into an audience. It's very easy for the accompanist (wittingly or unwittingly) to draw attention to himself and his improvisations and away from the text and the congregation; as a pianist myself, I have felt this temptation often. This doesn't mean that church music should never incorporate anything showy or flashy, but that these dangers must remain always before our minds. The particular problem here is that it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between a musician using his talents enthusiastically for the Lord and the musician displaying himself for others; and the better the musician, the harder I think this becomes, even for himself to discern.

The line between worship and performance doesn't just divide rock band and traditional hymn-singing; it also runs right through the heart of every musician.

Warmly,

Josh

Dear Tim,

Maybe I don't understand, but if unison singing is done by the congregation, then they're participants, not the audience, right? Isn't Eric saying that both high-art and rock-band styles split worshipers into two groups--those performing on stage and those following from the pews? Plus, I think Bonhoeffer has in mind very small groups, such as the family, in Life Together (pp. 57-61)?

Dear David,

I think Josh got at the nub of the issue in saying that "the line between worship and performance doesn't just divide rock band and traditional hymn-singing; it also runs right through the heart of every musician," including the congregation.

That's what I was saying.

Love,

Ok... let's get specific. I listened to the GSB recording at MySpace. One clip, "The God Of Abraham Praise," stood out to me. While the accompaniment was of arguable quality by those who appreciate such things, the marriage to the text seemed very much out of place to me. The inclusion of the kazoo(?!) seemed to add a playful, comic tone more appropriate to vaudeville or other kind of frivolity than a hymn extolling the "Ancient of Everlasting Days." Rather than rehash what has been said here (especially by the quotes from Bob Tim provided in the main post), let me ask this question- what in the minds of you defending the appropriateness of selections such as this distinguishes the GSB rendition of "The God of Abraham Praise" from an irreverent mocking or parody treatment of the traditional hymn (much less the One who is the center of the hymn)? That is something I struggle to understand here- what is said is important, but how something is said affects its message, too.

Not to say that CGS or GSB is above any kind of scrutiny, but I never thought in my mind, I would ever see this kind of discussion of what seemed to be faithful worship songs. The context I guess of one's situation puts things into perspective, where I'm sitting in the world, its impossible to get a preacher to talk about sexuality, the wrath of God, central themes, let alone have a band that speaks to the core of biblical texts and ideas. As far as the God of Abraham Praise goes and the inclusion of the kazoo it brings joy in my heart which leads me to worship a God who seeks joy for his children. But that's purely anecdotal.

Patrick,

God does bring joy to His own, no doubt. But is the enduring joy He brings appropriately expressed by a kazoo? That's the question I'm raising. Tone affects message- think someone telling your wife or mother "You look good." Those words could be said in a sincere, appropriate way, or in an inappropriate, suggestive fashion that the right kind of woman would find degrading an offensive coming from anyone else but her husband (as would her husband, son, or gentleman who held her in proper respect). While this may not be an exact parallel, what I am trying to find out from you who defend such music is what makes this song appropriate and not offensive in your mind- because I would have great difficulty imagining say, Abraham himself using such a tune as the one used by the GSB while trying to rejoice in the surety of God's covenant in the years between the promise and its fulfillment through Isaac. The minor yet confident tune traditionally associated with the lyrics? not so much.

So please, help me here- I really am wanting to understand. I get that the music is pleasant to the listeners (at least many of them who would listen)- but I am not seeing how it is aiding the listener in pairing the appropriate sentiment with the message the lyrics are trying to convey.

I guess I would ask, what sentiment do you think should be conveyed with the message? For me the thought that God is a Father of promises is something that could bring joy and the simplicity of the kazoo may be the kind of spirit going along with the fact that it's just something that should bring us joy among other emotions. I thought it was cool that someone could redeem a kazoo in such a way. I understand that God's convenants are very serious and something that is not only joyful but awe inspiring. I'm not sure what GSB was trying to convey, and why they decided to use the kazoo, but to say that you can't rejoice with simple instruments doesn't make sense, although I do value a desire to strive for quality music because God after all is the God of music. 1 Chronicles 13:8 "And David and all Israel were rejoicing before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets." If you look at how David and Israel rejoiced in this passage in scripture, these instruments were relatively simple. I'm not a music studies scholar and I'm sure the men who have posted above could give a more accurate explanation of the types of instruments used.

These are my thoughts I hope that I've helped to answer your questions.

One thing about God of Abraham Praise specifically is that it is somewhat geared toward children, you know - part of the covenant. Perhaps Abraham wouldn't get it, but I betcha an eight year old Isaac would've.

And if you'll let me toot my own horn (or kazoo) a bit, I find the final verse ("The whole triumphant host") to be thrilling, it really gets those words across to me at least.

On the other hand, since we're getting to specifics, I think that the GSB version of The Son of God goes forth to War is an example of the opposite. A good text that gets new life when separated from its rather dated 19th century tune. I can't imagine Stephen singing that bouncing old tune.

Sure, when experimenting with new arrangements and tunes, it's inevitable that there will be screw ups, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

Also, it's the original "minor yet confident tune".

Where we would seem to begin to differ, then, is distinguishing the nature of "rejoicing."

An analogy that I've heard that makes sense to me- I love my wife. I love my dog. I love pizza. However, I do not love my wife with the same quality that I love pizza or the dog, nor do I express that love in the same way. If I decide to express love to my wife by scratching her behind the ears and rubbing her belly, or providing her with choice leftovers from dinner- have I really showed her honor and affection, or have I demeaned and devalued her?

I read what you are saying in defense of the kazoo, and I don't doubt the sincerity of your motives (nor, by extension, the GSB and so on). However, I do have to ask if it has been considered that the use of the kazoo might (unintentionally) demean God by reducing the scale of our rejoicing to something we find attainable. Though something like the kazoo is familiar to us, it may not be the best means of expressing honor to the One who transcends us. I am speaking in the context of our own cultural framework, BTW- not many people would choose to use the kazoo to honor the bride at a wedding, or play "Hail to the Chief" to announce the POTUS.

Yes, and David was undignified when he danced. Not the right expression of joy. Shameful, really. Insufficient gravitas for the worship of the King of Kings and Lord of Lord's. Making a fool of himself in front of all the Presbyterians, he was. They might dance in the honeymoon suite, but certainly not the streets of Jerusalem with the whole world watching.

So now, let's move on to "Hiding Place." Obviously its problem isn't lack of gravitas, right? Maybe too much of it? Too raw with horror of God's wrath and coming judgment? The presentation of Jesus is not soft and graceful enough?

OK, I get it.

I wonder how Knox and Calvin missed it if it is really that obvious?

Josh, why would you say, "Will there be a rockin' recessional someday in my wedding? Categorically, absolutely not?"

If it can be so Christlike (you compare it to that good thing that came from Nazareth) why your reluctance, nay, your emphatic refusal?

Isn't a pipe organ just a collection of kazoos?

JK,

To say that I love and agree with your response is a massive understatement! Good one!

> Josh, why would you say, "Will there be a rockin' recessional someday in my wedding? Categorically, absolutely not?"

If it can be so Christlike (you compare it to that good thing that came from Nazareth) why your reluctance, nay, your emphatic refusal?

Dear Pastor Mitchell,

My statement about the recessional was directly tied to the sentence that immediately preceded it, and only indirectly to the closing sentence of that paragraph. Hopefully I wasn't too unclear. But, just to clarify, the reason I have no intention of having a rock recessional is that I have not become a head-banging rocker simply because I support the musical principles here at CGS. As far as I can tell (and permit me a little levity, here), I have contracted no taste for, say, Cake by knowing those who have, nor have they been stricken with Brucknerphilia by knowing me. We are all of us still unique, wholly integrated, individuated men, and so my musical loves remain much the same as ever (though I do like some Styx--thanks, Andrew). Rather, what we have endeavored to do is to subject our own musical preferences to those of our neighbor, to not bind the music of the church to the musical criteria of high (or, exclusively, low) culture, and to submit ourselves in love to those in musical leadership over us, trusting that, despite making mistakes, they will act wisely for our good and godliness. All of us here struggle with doing the first of these, many of us struggle with how to accomplish the second, and, as I've been reminded recently, I especially fail at the third. For, really, it is faith that is required of me (and us, and you) here: faith that the Lord is able to raise up children from the musical stones of pop culture, and that the Son of Man can give life to the bones of our pride and self-images.

And so if you ask what the good is that can come out of this Nazareth, I answer: it's not at all about the particularities of any wedding recessional, but about things much larger. It's about humility, joy, and faith—faith that God is pleased to use the things that are not to shame the things that are, and that we can joy in being the things that are not. It's about realizing that the neighbor we most ought to love often lives in Nazareth, and that those of us Levites who pristinely pass him by in our music cannot fully love him. And last, it's about seeing that loving him doesn't mean losing who we are, but gaining who Jesus is. And there's the rub, but also the glory.

Hope that helps,

Josh

While trying to wrap my mind around the kazoo, Google reminded me of the whizzer, spoons, washboard, and squeezable automobile horn. Maybe in our forbearance the kazoo can overcome the taint of his former associations. (We know that, after several centuries, the pipe organ--that collection of kazoos--overcame his association with gladiatorial entertainments!)

Coming from the UPCI, I understand the whole "Worship the worship" problem with music. The question becomes: "When do we go from entertaining HIM to entertaining US?" this, as I have seen first hand is a slippery slope. The greatest danger I see personally is the fact that many in the reformed circles have NOT seen or had this happen in their churches. This breeds a naivety in many a music director. "We will honor God! Our intentions are pure!" etc,...and I don't think they are lying. They just have not watched it happen.

I keep seeing "anything the world can do we can do 5 years later and half as good" happening at churches. New people come in and think "hmmm...similar to the club I was at last night, just not as good" many times it looks like it's trying too hard to be "cool", others times it's just a big distraction.

Am I saying "no drums, no guitar" no, I'm saying be VERY CAREFUL. Don't imagine that because it has not happened in front of you that it therefore, won't. If a "performance" overshadows the words/message =WARNING= you may want to check yourself before you wreak yourself. (a big no-prize to anyone who can place those lyrics)

As with all things in HIS kingdom, we must watch and test all things. HIS worship should be honoring to HIM alone. When musicians get their panties in a wad when questioned about their music at church it makes me wonder if they are able to "get out of the way" so that God can be worshipped without them? (pride?)

In regard to music changing with the times so to speak; I notice the birds all sing the same tune each and every day. You would think they would update it now and then, ya know, to keep things relevant.

I say all these things coming from a place where entertainment was the order of the day. I get nervous when I see what looks like the beginning of something very familiar, in a bad way. Does this mean it will become something bad? No. But.

We would all do well to put aside pride (before a fall) and be in constant prayer and examination of our worship. Discussions like this one only help. I could write on but, wow! It's late/early, church in a few hours!

In Christ,

Scott

P.S.

If your church installs colored lights and a smoke machine: RUN SCREAMING!!

Josh, thank you for your response, and especially for your gentlemanly tone.

However, I must press you a bit further for an answer. What I'm trying to find out is why you emphatically refuse to use this music for your wedding recessional.

Your answer seems to simply be, "Because I do." What I am trying to unearth are your reasons. What is it about the music that leads you to say that you will "Categorically, absolutely not" use it for this purpose?

(Psalms 149:1-9)
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones. Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand, To execute vengeance on the nations And punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with chains And their nobles with fetters of iron, To execute on them the judgment written; This is an honor for all His godly ones. Praise the LORD!

Put aside the fact that our worship should contain new songs, gladness, rejoicing, and praise with dancing, drums and guitars. (I understand that the dispensationalist will understand this passage to apply to the physical Israel only and that the RP people will understand this passage to apply to spiritual body movement and instrumentation only)
This passage shows that worship is to be done simultaneous with battle. One without the other cannot be true. A true worshipper is honored to fight for his God and a spiritual warrior is honored and delivered through his act of worship by a God that takes pleasure in him.

I am concerned that I don’t see Christians with anything approximating swords in their hands. I am not concerned that Jody, who does wield a sword, sometimes accompanies worship with a kazoo.

There are several issues at play here.

1. Kneeling. Absolutely the historic mainstream position for the church in which modern Reformed worship is aberrant. A real tragedy. Actually some of the better modern writing I've seen on the subject of the relationship of the body and worship is by the great CMA pastor A.W. Tozer.

2. Raising hands. Well addressed previously. Within the historic norms of the church, albeit not in the way often understood by the modern church.

3. Dancing. A complete aberration for the post-resurrection church whose primary precedents lie in medieval novelties strongly condemned by the reformers. Well there is also the modern Polka Mass if you're really desperate.

4. Music. Probably the most troubling part of this discussion. Christians who do not embrace the novelty of kazoo and electric guitar worship are viewed as either dead or at least likely to be surrounded by the spiritually dead. Also likely to be going empty handed into battle. The origins of this discussion lie in observations on how to prepare the church for persecution. But the Reformation church suffered much persecution. Wonder of wonders men like Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and George Wishart maintained their gospel witness while being burned alive and they did it without kazoos and a trap set. Yet they wielded a sword which should impress even the most elite kazoo warriors. Too much of this discussion reminds me of pietistic error in which the focus is on man and his feelings and what we can do to enhance those feelings. And not a great deal of apparent concern for the historical practice and understanding of the church.

>Too much of this discussion reminds me of pietistic error in which the focus is on man and his feelings and what we can do to enhance those feelings. And not a great deal of apparent concern for the historical practice and understanding of the church.

Precisely, David; we've been inundated by vociferous protests against amplification and a kazoo accompanying the people of God in worship, and not a word about the doctrinal content of that music which was the foundation upon which the post pointed. Petty objections to genre by men who think anyone disagrees with them are not pious, are denying the interrelatedness of form and function, deny the doctrinal content of form, and on ad nauseum.

Of course, the same men are against lifting hands as a modern aberration, also. And when it's proven to them that it's ancient, more objections spill forth.

Almost all of it is exactly as you diagnose: brothers condemning tunes and amplification and instruments because they don't like them. But of course, the arguments are much more high-minded than that.

You know: anyone who uses a kazoo in worship has a defective view of God's perfections and the nature of true joy. Anyone who uses a "rock band" to lead worship is a pramatist. Anyone who disagrees with my test doesn't recognize the doctrine of cultural forms and genres. Anyone who changes anything is a revolutionary--certainly not a reformer.

And of course, the Reformers would agree with me--not you. You see, they were a capella psalter-only strict regulative principle men. And you--why YOU are a pietistic, subjectivist; a pragmatic man blinded by spiritual pride. A conniving at defective--downright evil--culturist. You Cretin you!

Christians who embrace the kazoo are sinful, sick, proud, pietistic, pragmatic, spiritually proud, a-historical or anti-historical, sentimental, subjective, sinners.

Yes, that's what everyone says about Church of the Good Shepherd and its leaders. Everyone, that is, who knows us firsthand. Sometimes those who only know us from a distance don't see it. But those who know us firsthand despise those very traits so obvious among us.

Funny thing, still nothing said about the words. You know, persecution, hell, judgment, heaven, taking up our cross, preparing for martyrdom...

But we can't hear the words for the music, Tim!

Yes, actually I do get it. The men who have become attached to pianos hate drums, and those attached to organs hate the bass, and those who love four part harmony and, particularly, descant hate guitar solos. I get it.

With continued love and affection, and joy in this discussion knowing it's teaching and instructing and leading...

Actually, Tim, that's not an accurate summary of how this discussion has gone at all. From what I've observed, those who dislike the trends toward pop-culture-based worship haven't ascribed bad motives or inferior spirituality to those who are taking us in that direction. But your comments have relied on full-throttle sarcasm and impugning the motives and piety of your opponents, all the while assuming nothing but the purest and most sinless motives on the part of those in leadership. What's up with that? It makes me think you don't have a good rebuttal to their arguments. Sarcasm is generally what people without good arguments resort to.

The reason no one is talking about the themes of worship at CGS is because everyone (as far as I know) agrees that they belong at the forefront of our worship. No one (as far as I know) opposes them. What those who take exception to our non-traditional worship style dislike is primarily the implementation of those themes.

The kazoo is a comical instrument, and being made to chuckle during "God of Abraham Praise" just doesn't seem somehow... appropriate. But if that's not a legitimate disagreement--if raising that point is going to be taken as merely a covering for some much more base and selfish motive--then where is the line beyond which our worship won't go? Is there any form of worship that you would oppose? You raised David's dancing in 2 Samuel as a standard we should follow--but David was "uncovered" at the time. Can we expect to have "uncovered" worship at CGS any time soon? (Now, that would be "seeker sensitive"! We'd have standing room only.) Or what about techno music and a strobe light? What about a mosh pit? Can you articulate the reasons for not incorporating those forms in our Sunday morning worship in a way that's consistent with what you've been saying here?

But not only the style needs to be looked at critically. The implementation of those ideas via the CGS band itself gets rather problematic once you start asking questions about it. Why does the band play secular songs? Bob Dylan as an offertory? Not so much, sorry. Why do they play "concerts" outside of worship? Because they're pointing upward, leading us to worship God? Not so much. Frankly, and with apologies to Mick, the arrow is already pointing at the band most of the time, and they have no further to look for the reason than the choices they themselves have made. Why are the members all in their 20s? Nobody over 30 is musically gifted at CGS? It can't have failed to cross anyone's mind that the band may already be an idol for some people.

Do you remember what Allan Bloom says about music in "Closing of the American Mind"?

"Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse" (p. 73). "The inevitable corollary of such sexual interest is rebellion against the parental authority that represses it" (p. 74). Or perhaps this is the one chapter of Bloom's book that *isn't* prophetic? Maybe the presence of IU is to blame, but the musical ethos at CGS is entirely one of youth. And yet it's completely out of the question to think that the desire to have more students come to church had anything to do with that strategy? Which group of people was in mind when these decisions were made--college students or those over 60?

But you say all these concerns and similar ones are just "petty." Sure, your principles and the principles of the CGS band are the only ones that are truly principles. Everyone else's are just preferences.

>Christians who embrace the kazoo are sinful, sick, proud, pietistic, pragmatic, spiritually proud, a-historical or anti-historical, sentimental, subjective, sinners.

The whole Christians are sinners bit is spot on, me included... :)

> Why does the band play secular songs? Bob Dylan as an offertory? Not so much, sorry.

As far as I know we've only ever done one Dylan cover as an offertory and here are the lyrics. I defy you to find anything "secular" about it David L. It's one of the most reverent, Godly songs I've ever heard. It's a near -perfect poetic telling of the passion narrative through the grid of John 1:5.

IN THE GARDEN - Bob Dylan

When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
Did they know He was the Son of God, did they know that He was Lord?
Did they hear when He told Peter, "Peter, put up your sword"?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?

When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn't be seen by men
Saying, "Master, tell me why a man must be born again."
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?

When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He said, "Pick up your bed and walk, why must you criticize?
Same thing My Father do, I can do likewise."
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?

Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
The multitude wanted to make Him king, put a crown upon His head
Why did He slip away to a quiet place instead?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth."
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth."
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

Copyright ©1980 Special Rider Music

Isn't the historical practice and understanding of the church that godly men write new words with new songs arranged to novel instruments? I can't explain our hymnal any other way. By God's ordaining, children do this naturally (usually to the delight of their parents) until they learn that they're not suppose to so childish in their faith.

Also, we're having this discussion on the Internet, a revolution that is a tidal wave that makes rock-and-roll look like a splish splash. The Internet and all the associated social innovations will drag more people into sin than rock-and-roll ever has. And still, we accommodate such a vehicle for the business of the catholic church. Of course, it's fraught with challenges and failures, but godly men--sinful as they might be--must not shirk this work of redeeming fields covered in thorns and thistles to feed the Good Shepherd's sheep.

>Actually, Tim, ...your comments have relied on full-throttle sarcasm and impugning the motives and piety of your opponents, all the while assuming nothing but the purest and most sinless motives on the part of those in leadership. What's up with that? It makes me think you don't have a good rebuttal to their arguments. Sarcasm is generally what people without good arguments resort to.

Dear David,

Very little of what I've contributed to the discussion is "full-throttle sarcasm." For the record, here's everything I've written under the two posts having to do with music--from the original post to my most recent comment.

Moving on to your other accusation, I do admit I haven't contributed much serious argument in comparison to the others who are in agreement with my posts. But after writing the original posts, it pleases me to see others picking up the debate so ably. And in this exchange, I think the arguments of those others have needed little to no help from me.

As for the rest of what you've written, it's so wide of the mark in its description of what any of us think or say or do that I simply throw in the towel.

>But you say all these concerns and similar ones are just "petty."

Actually, no; I'd say a number of them (those you have written in this comment) are simply untrue. As in false.

Your pastor,

Tim Bayly

* * *

ORIGINAL POST:

Please listen to Wake Up Sleeper (the title cut) and Where Are the Persecuted? as you read this post.

At Church of the Good Shepherd, we work to raise our children and disciple new believers in expectation of growing persecution. Calvin says times of peace are not to be used getting fat, but to prepare for the next battle already on the horizon and closing on us quickly.

This is our goal at CGS and it informs our preaching, Bible study, childrearing, reading, and worship. It's these last two things I want to focus on in this post--worship and reading. First then, worship; and within worship, the themes and instrumentation of our music.

STEP NUMBER ONE: MUSIC

In our age of feminized discourse and cheap grace, Church of the Good Shepherd makes a conscious effort to restore the biblical themes of persecution, conflict, suffering, Satan, death, the coming Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

Have you noticed these themes are absent from reformed worship today? And beyond absent, they're anathema to woman deacon/Emergelical churches where everyone has an iPhone, evangelism happens in the art gallery, sermons are eloquent discourses on the many faces of narcissism, and women administer the Lord's Supper.

Living in such a decadent age, we're working to restore them--particularly to the music of our worship.

Next to one of the world's largest music schools, Church of the Good Shepherd is a congregation filled with musicians and composers, most of them classical...

We understand the central place and power God has given music in Christian worship and we're unwilling to corrupt that gift by wasting it passing on Western culture when it can be used to help us put on the full armor of God and stand.

For years we chose that broad, more traveled path in conservative Reformed congregations, indoctrinating our new believers and children that, although they could have amplification the other six days of the week, there would be none allowed the Seventh Day--at least during corporate worship. But we repented, and now we worship in the same vulgar tongue the Reformers restored to Christian worship in the face of Rome's Latin elitism. The electric bass has replaced the pedals of the pipe organ, the drums play alongside our (miked) piano, and now and then our guitar sings out a killer descant.

This reform was led by highly-trained musician elders and we've never looked back. There's been a sad, but seemingly inevitable, change in our congregation as those who couldn't stomach amplified instruments departed for congregations where the music is olde and quaint (or more likely Gaitheresque or late eighties Vineyardy). Although we miss them, those leaving have only been a very small number, and nothing compared to the number we've added whose only prior musical experience has been in the vernacular.

We all agree the benefits of the elders' decisions and the direction our Sons of Asaph have led us under the leadership of Jody Killingsworth have been overwhelming.

Preparing for persecution, imagine how original anthems written from our midst strengthen our work:

Where Are the Persecuted?

“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12

Where are the persecuted?

Show me a willing man

Since everything’s gone easy now

What a happy time we’re in

Caught in a fog of feeling

She‘s gone and dropped her task

You take too much for granted boys

Someday you‘re gonna pay it back

You‘ll have to pay it back

Where are the persecuted?

There’s something not quite right

The signal fires were beaming strong

And you turned out the light

The Lamb went to the slaughter

And you go to your bed

Our fathers drank a bitter cup

But mine went to my head

I drank wine instead

So proud of your demeanor

They like to feel you smooth

They tell me you‘re legitimate

‘Cause you don‘t pick and choose

Truth went in the cooler

Got buried in the shed

But tell me not to worry now

And I’ll make sure you‘re very well fed

‘Cause everybody knows that above all else a man has got to do just whatever he can

Here in America the times are bad and it is harder now just to keep your family fed

Keep your family fed

Where are the persecuted?

No one ever stirs the dust

It was good for Paul and Silas

But not good enough for us

Again, music's themes and instrumentation are key to the creation of biblical culture within the Church assisting in the preparation of each of us and our children for the coming persecution. I wish all of us would give up using music to pass on taste and aesthetics, and turn again to the simplicity of biblical themes and words conscientiously put in the vulgar tongue. But on to preparing for persecution and the role reading should have in that preparation...

STEP NUMBER TWO: READING

As it's now against the law for Christians to do anything physical to stop the dismembering of the 1,300,000 unborn children slaughtered each year just down the street from us, soon it will also be illegal for Christians to preach or say anything warning the sexually immoral that their conduct is an abomination to God--and that, unless they repent, they will perish eternally.

Here's a little prognostication: those believers and their pastors who find saying "No" to abortion distasteful and prefer to say "Yes" to crisis pregnancy centers are likely the same Christians and pastors who, as the cost escalates, will also find saying "No" to sexual immorality distasteful, preferring to say "Yes" to the joys of Christian marriage and morality. Those who feel most comfortable witnessing to the Faith in the "God loves you and has a wonderful man for your plan" or "God loves you and has a wonderful wife for your life" sort of way.

God's "No" is already a stench in the eyes of Emergelicals, but soon it will become illegal, too. And those who have been timid in these days of the feminization of discourse and the slothfulness of cheap grace will turn and run for their lives when prison terms are added to the cost of biblical preaching and witness.

If you want to think through carefully what steps to take as you raise your children and disciple believers in preparation for the coming persecution, don't just consider your music.

Also, get a copy of Persecution in the Early Church and read it. Carefully. Or, do as we did and read and discuss it with the church's future officers and their wives.

Honestly, I don't know how anyone can begin to consider how to live in this present world without a thorough knowledge of the circumstances and methods used in Ancient Rome to silence the Christian witness of the Early Church.

COMMENT ONE:

>I have many reservations about the implementation of your ideas in step one

Dear David,

I know, and appreciate your bearing with the Session and musicians in this. But keep in mind that it's likely we should have at least as many reservations about the implementation of cultural aesthetics in those churches staying on the more-traveled path.

Affectionately,

COMMENT TWO:

>Do you incorporate the Psalms in worship on a regular basis? Would you consider the singing of them an integral part of worship for God's people?

Dear Al,

Not as much as we've always planned to. And yes, I think it an integral part, but more their reading and prayer than their singing.

COMMENT THREE:

>cultural forms are not neutral

My dear Bob,

Yes, precisely what I was saying. And it's an abuse of Christian Lord's Day corporate worship to fight that battle for one side or the other, even among those of us whose iPods are filled with early music (as mine is) and think that's what Africans and Indians and Asians will sing in Heaven.

But then, it's an old argument between us, isn't it? Still, a couple comments.

First, the heart of the church's hymnody is not the instrumentation or the music (certainly not the rhythm or harmony), but the doctrine. In other words, words. Hence Al asking if we sing the Psalms.

To say we can't sing Watts or Wesley because our instruments are amplified is--well, about what I'd expect from those who confuse aesthetics with doctrine. You know, "all an Englishman's prejudices are a matter of principle." That sort of thing.

Move on to music that encourages congregational participation and I'd agree, although not necessarily on what produces it. Spending my entire childhood and much of my young adulthood in churches that prided themselves on their tracker organs, it's hard to make the case that volume of instrumentation necessarily favors the pipe organ when it comes to congregational participation. I've kept track when I sing at CGS and I can always hear at least the voices of the twelve people around me. But the zeal of our singing; oh my, the zeal!

Of course, it's an all-or-nothing proposition with aesthetes, but with us it's a both-and. I'd guess proportionally, we sing about one-third of our congregational songs, hymns, and spiritual songs a capella. And we have a choir, too.

Quite interesting, though, that you said nothing about the words. Nothing at all.

Lots of love to you and yours, dear brother; I miss you,

COMMENT FOUR:

Dear Andy,

No offense taken, brother.

COMMENT FIVE:

I'm closing down the discussion, here, so it may continue under the more recent post, "Music in worship: you don't want to miss this..."

http://www.baylyblog.com/2009/06/worship-and-music-you-dont-want-to-miss-this.html

COMMENT SIX (STARTING ANOTHER POST BUT ON THIS SUBJECT):

I have a close friend who hated what I recently wrote concerning music and Christian worship--and particularly some of the anthems written, but more generally the leadership of our hymn singing, by our Good Shepherd Band. His name is Robert Patterson and there are few men I enjoy pursuing truth with more than Bob. This means we argue. Rarely in person, but often by e-mail and occasionally, when things need to get really heated, by phone. Sometimes we put aside arguments and switch to name-calling. Bob's appellation of choice for me is something along the lines of "pietistic new-schooler;" other times, it's "pragmatic, tasteless baby-boomer." Happy to reciprocate, depending upon my mood I call Bob an "aesthete" or a "prig." Of course, neither of us has ever doubted the other's respect and love.

With that context, I'm promoting here as a main blog entry several of the comments responding to an argument Bob valiantly started under my recent post, "Preparing for persecution: two concrete steps to take." This particular argument was one of the most helpful I've ever been privileged to see developing on this blog...

If you're able, don't miss each contribution to that discussion. But if you're not, I've cut and pasted some of the best comments made there.

So, with that introduction, here are a few of Bob's salvos, along with a couple excellent responses.

Whatever else you read, don't miss the end of this post where you'll find Josh Congrove's essay. Josh is a doctoral candidate in classics here at Church of the Good Shepherd. Mary Lee and I love him for many reasons, not the least of which is that he used to come over to our house of an evening and play hymns on our piano for Aunt Elaine. During Lord's Day worship Josh has been known to accompany both the amplified band and the unamplified grand piano on flutes and a recorder he made himself out of PVC pipe from Lowes.

The other contributor--new dad Philip Moyer--will be introduced later. First, then, Bob's opening salvo...

Bob got some excellent rejoinders to this initial comment, so he followed up with another...

Then, Philip Moyer entered the discussion. Phil formerly served on the music staff of Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philly. Now, while pursuing his doctorate in choral conducting, Phil serves as our choir director and the drummer in our Good Shepherd Band. Phil responded to Bob as follows...

Anything but a shrinking pansy, Bob redoubled his efforts...

Then, this masterstroke from Josh Congrove. I do hope readers have persevered thus far. If so, don't peter out now. This stuff is gold...

COMMENT SEVEN:

Our musicians are not, usually, ordained--or even officers. Women do take part in musical leadership, at times and in certain ways, but always in a manner appropriate for their sex. In other words, for instance women would not lead the band, although they may be participants. The overall affect is masculine, for sure, and this is a principal with us. Masculine is good in leadership, Scripture teaches us. And this particularly important in corporate worship.

When it comes to prayers and Scripture reading, those are almost always done by ordained men or men aspiring and or being trained for office.

Love,

COMMENT SEVEN:

>congregation-as-audience problem that either traditional hymnsinging or gospel/revival styles don't have..

Actually, no. If this were true, Bonhoeffer wouldn't recommend unison singing in his "Life Together." Why does he recommend it?

Any of us who love to sing parts know exactly why. But I'm too tired to say, and then have to defend it. I'll leave it with that.

COMMENT EIGHT:

Dear David,

I think Josh got at the nub of the issue in saying that "the line between worship and performance doesn't just divide rock band and traditional hymn-singing; it also runs right through the heart of every musician," including the congregation.

That's what I was saying.

Love,

COMMENT NINE:

Yes, and David was undignified when he danced. Not the right expression of joy. Shameful, really. Insufficient gravitas for the worship of the King of Kings and Lord of Lord's. Making a fool of himself in front of all the Presbyterians, he was. They might dance in the honeymoon suite, but certainly not the streets of Jerusalem with the whole world watching.

So now, let's move on to "Hiding Place." Obviously its problem isn't lack of gravitas, right? Maybe too much of it? Too raw with horror of God's wrath and coming judgment? The presentation of Jesus is not soft and graceful enough?

OK, I get it.

COMMENT TEN:

>Better to stand like a lamp post and ascribe glory to the LORD for making lamposts, than to call upon oneself (and one's fellows) to do what no one will ever intentionally do.

Another priceless gem from dear Bill. Chuckling to myself...

COMMENT ELEVEN:

Dear Geoff,

Good questions. I'll respond in a day or two on the main page, as a separate post.

Love,

COMMENT TWELVE (MOST RECENT):

>Too much of this discussion reminds me of pietistic error in which the focus is on man and his feelings and what we can do to enhance those feelings. And not a great deal of apparent concern for the historical practice and understanding of the church.

Precisely, David; we've been inundated by vociferous protests against amplification and a kazoo accompanying the people of God in worship, and not a word about the doctrinal content of that music which was the foundation upon which the post pointed. Petty objections to genre by men who think anyone disagrees with them are not pious, are denying the interrelatedness of form and function, deny the doctrinal content of form, and on ad nauseum.

Of course, the same men are against lifting hands as a modern aberration, also. And when it's proven to them that it's ancient, more objections spill forth.

Almost all of it is exactly as you diagnose: brothers condemning tunes and amplification and instruments because they don't like them. But of course, the arguments are much more high-minded than that.

You know: anyone who uses a kazoo in worship has a defective view of God's perfections and the nature of true joy. Anyone who uses a "rock band" to lead worship is a pramatist. Anyone who disagrees with my test doesn't recognize the doctrine of cultural forms and genres. Anyone who changes anything is a revolutionary--certainly not a reformer.

And of course, the Reformers would agree with me--not you. You see, they were a capella psalter-only strict regulative principle men. And you--why YOU are a pietistic, subjectivist; a pragmatic man blinded by spiritual pride. A conniving at defective--downright evil--culturist. You Cretin you!

Christians who embrace the kazoo are sinful, sick, proud, pietistic, pragmatic, spiritually proud, a-historical or anti-historical, sentimental, subjective, sinners.

Yes, that's what everyone says about Church of the Good Shepherd and its leaders. Everyone, that is, who knows us firsthand. Sometimes those who only know us from a distance don't see it. But those who know us firsthand despise those very traits so obvious among us.

Funny thing, still nothing said about the words. You know, persecution, hell, judgment, heaven, taking up our cross, preparing for martyrdom...

But we can't hear the words for the music, Tim!

Yes, actually I do get it. The men who have become attached to pianos hate drums, and those attached to organs hate the bass, and those who love four part harmony and, particularly, descant hate guitar solos. I get it.

With continued love and affection, and joy in this discussion knowing it's teaching and instructing and leading...

Unfortunately the 2:10 PM post appears to have been entirely serious. That is unfortunate.

>Unfortunately the 2:10 PM post appears to have been entirely serious. That is unfortunate.

No, mostly tongue-in-cheek, Brother Gray. Had it been entirely serious, likely it wouldn't have ended with "joy in this discussion." Nor would it have been directed to you, one of my most treasured brothers on this blog. I meant to tweak you, not whine or have a tempter tantrum.

Sorry this didn't come through.

Affectionately,

> I meant to tweak you, not whine or have a tempter tantrum.

Whew!

That's how I read it at first, I guess my instincts aren't entirely gone. I disagree with you on this in some aspects but I hope you continue to know how much I respect you and the work you do on behalf of the church and our Lord.

Dear Brother,

No, I respect you and love to argue with such an esteemed opponent.

With much affection,

PS: And by the way, I was the man who asked our musicians to do that Dylan song as an offertory this past Easter. Since first listening to it twenty-five years ago or so, I've thought it a perfect exposition of Luke 16:27-31. And there are other songs Dylan's written I think would also be appropriate. Thank you, Jody, for putting up the words lest our good readers be misled by talk of "Bob Dylan offertories" and think we all boogied around a golden calf to "Lay Lady, Lay."

Dear David L.,

I would like to respond to some aspects of your post that I believe are inaccurate and misleading. Knowing my love for you and your family, I hope you will accept my corrections with a large heart.

>>>The reason no one is talking about the themes of worship at CGS is because everyone (as far as I know) agrees that they belong at the forefront of our worship. No one (as far as I know) opposes them.…where is the line beyond which our worship won't go? Is there any form of worship that you would oppose?

Having been in our church for several years, now, surely you know the answer to that question. But for the sake of the readers who do not know your church, let me describe our worship:

We follow the basic pattern of Calvin’s Geneva, with an invocation, an opening hymn, a Scriptural call to worship, more hymns, a prayer of confession led by an elder, a Scriptural assurance of pardon, another hymn, another prayer (typically), a Scripture Lesson (we are currently reading through Genesis), another prayer, the collection of tithes and offerings, the Doxology, a pastoral prayer while kneeling, the sermon, a closing hymn, and a pastoral benediction.

So our readers will understand, the worship at our church is boringly normal in the context of church history in general and the Reformation in particular.

>>>You raised David's dancing in 2 Samuel as a standard we should follow--but David was "uncovered" at the time. Can we expect to have "uncovered" worship at CGS any time soon? (Now, that would be "seeker sensitive"! We'd have standing room only.) Or what about techno music and a strobe light? What about a mosh pit? Can you articulate the reasons for not incorporating those forms in our Sunday morning worship in a way that's consistent with what you've been saying here?

No, I wouldn’t expect any of that. As you know, our worship is quite traditional in structure and content. You may not be aware of this, David, but we consistently speak to women, fathers, and husbands about modest dress. And we are committed, as you know, to congregational music that is corporate in nature and singable. All of the examples you raise are contrary to those basic principles, so of course they are out of the question.

>>>But not only the style needs to be looked at critically. The implementation of those ideas via the CGS band itself gets rather problematic once you start asking questions about it. Why does the band play secular songs? Bob Dylan as an offertory? Not so much, sorry.

Jody and Tim have cleared up the reality behind the Dylan offertory in comments above. In case our readers may be misled by your comment here, the band does on occasion play “secular” songs, but never in worship. At one concert a year that is an outreach to the community (the “Box Bash” for our non-Bloomington readers), the band does play a few secular songs. These songs are carefully chosen for their content and message. This is done in good fun. And it is done before a second set of worship and “preaching” songs that call us to repentance and faith.

>>>Why do they play "concerts" outside of worship?Because they're pointing upward, leading us to worship God? Not so much. Frankly, and with apologies to Mick, the arrow is already pointing at the band most of the time, and they have no further to look for the reason than the choices they themselves have made.

Dear brother, this is uncharitable at best, slanderous at worst.

The band sings, plays, and preaches about the glory and power of God, the reality of judgment, the fierceness of God’s wrath, the wonders of the gospel. Jody spent significant time in last night’s concert calling people to acknowledge their sin, repent, fear God, and turn to Jesus Christ as their only hope. This is never easy. It always leads to people hating him. He had unbelieving friends present. No, the arrow does not point to the band.

Had you been at the concert, you would know firsthand what I am writing about, and you would surely have thanked God for the boldness and love of these men.

>>>Why are the members all in their 20s? Nobody over 30 is musically gifted at CGS?... Which group of people was in mind when these decisions were made--college students or those over 60?

Well, I am 38, and I love playing with the band! Of course, I am busy as a pastor, and we have real musicians who can give themselves to this work. But if it was necessary for me to play with the band as they lead worship, you can be assured that I would jump at the chance.

And do you know who are the staunchest supporters and defenders of the band’s work? Linda Stewart (in her 60’s) and Midge Harris (in her 70’s)—sorry ladies, for pointing out your age!

I hope this helps to clarify the misconceptions that many would have had by reading your comments, David.

I join with all the others who have invited our readers to come and worship with us at Church of the Good Shepherd. You will find a body of believers—young and old alike—who love God, love each other, and love the fight God has placed us in.

And, all of you should come to the ClearNote Conference this July. The topic is Standing in the Gap, and Jody and the band will lead a conference session on worship called “Worship Wars.” Here is the description of that session:

"In corporate worship, does your congregation only sing pleasant and peaceful parlor songs, or is there martial music as well? Does the music of your corporate worship speak of the fear of God and the coming Judgment? Does it only comfort the afflicted, or does it also afflict the comfortable? Does it speak of sin, battle, Heaven, and Hell, or does it avoid these themes, speaking only in soft, assuring tones? In this session, the Good Shepherd Band will present and illustrate biblical worship that exalts Jesus Christ in His fullness as Prophet, Priest, and King."

You can register for the conference here: http://clearnotefellowship.org/Resources

Warmly in Christ,

This has been a good discussion, but a common feature of a
good discussion on a relevant subject is that it gets heated. I was
just reading about the English parliament, where they have long
had a rule that members can't mention each other's names (they
have to say, "the honorable member from Ipswich is utterly
wrong" rather than "Bill is utterly wrong") and that they cannot
accuse each other of a list of things such as lying, stealing, etc.
unless as part of a censure motion. So here are some ideas.

1. On a blog, CGS people should phrase their comments in the
abstract, on the theory of church music rather than mentioning
CGS (e.g., "It's important to probe the limits of what a church
band should be doing. Should it play secular songs? Bob Dylan as
an offertory?" instead of "The implementation of those ideas
via the CGS band itself gets rather problematic once you start
asking questions about it. Why does the band play secular songs?
Bob Dylan as an offertory?").

This is prudent for several reasons. First, we want to avoid
getting bogged down in specific things that might interest CGS
people but not outside readers of the blog. Second, to some
extent (limited but to some extent), we should be loyal to the
home town boys, eating the local marmalade even if the stuff
from London is better. Third, we locals, unlike outsiders, can talk
or write to the band and elders directly. Fourth, there is a risk of
personal, non-musical, differences entering (not a problem here, I
think, but I'm writing of reasons in general).

2. As I commented earlier, a lot depends on congregational
reaction. For example, if the old people are enduring music they
hate because they think young people find it helps worship, and
young people hate it too, that's just plain silly. So with any musical
innovation-- in any direction-- care must be taken (a) to get
feedback, and (b) to let people know their feedback is being
listened to. Part (b) is important because so often leaders do not
try to get feedback, and so members are skeptical. Part (a), by the
way, doesn't mean listening to criticism-- it means asking people,
so the reaction of the average person can be gauged. A way to
accomplish (b) is by having a meeting to which everyone is
invited who wants to talk about music with the elders, if there are
signs that a number of people are concerned.

3. Motivations are best left undiscussed, unless they're directly
relevant to the topic. "The objections are just to genre. I'm not
denying the interrelatedness of form and function, the doctrinal
content of form, and so forth," is better than "Petty objections
to genre by men who think anyone disagrees with them are not
pious, are denying the interrelatedness of form and function,
deny the doctrinal content of form, and on ad nauseum." Too
often statements about motives, especially about particular
people, are entirely speculative. In any case, the ad hominen
argument is a fallacy--- even if someone has bad motives, it
doesn't affect the validity of their argument. Sometimes motive
will be the topic itself (e.g., why are feminists pro-abortion
instead of anti-abortion?), but usually it just makes the discussion
emotional.

As I am reading this ongoing debate, I am laughing and reminded of the time (years ago) when praise band decided to do a praise song to a tune by U2 during an evening service....let's just say that it didn't go over so well- ha!

Dear Brothers,

I love that these things are being discussed here and that we are sharpening each other through Christ with our words. May we continue to strengthen and encourage one another.

>>>Why do they play "concerts" outside of worship?Because they're pointing upward, leading us to worship God? Not so much. Frankly, and with apologies to Mick, the arrow is already pointing at the band most of the time, and they have no further to look for the reason than the choices they themselves have made.

I really don't understand what these "choices" are that point arrows at the band. To play songs like Hiding Place and The Son of God Goes Forth to War in nearly any context is like lighting yourself on fire because you know people will hate you for speaking truth to them. I find myself most uncomfortable playing these songs for the OVP, CGS, and especially the public. I am sanctified through my pride being destroyed and men are strengthened by it through hearing the truth boldly and clearly proclaimed.

How is the band pointing arrows at ourselves when most of us have denied ourselves by turning our paths from highest prestige for the sake of Christ? Jody is a Baroque violinist who was pursuing his doctorate when he was called to the pastor's college. Aaron is an early music harpsichordist. Andrew, a violist who stayed in Bloomington to serve the church. Mick, who knows, a music theorist? or musicologist? Me, a choral conductor, also joining the pastor's college this Fall. If I wanted to appeal to my own flesh I would leave Bloomington this summer since I am finished my course work for a doctorate, no longer wonder where money is going to come from and get a choral job at a university. It is so much more appealing to my flesh to conduct choirs and (or) orchestras in front of audiences that I know will like me just because of the performance than it is to sit at a drumset where I am less proficient and people will hate me for the content. In classical music, you can conduct music about truth or the most immoral stories you have ever heard and people will still love you either way.

This is not the case with the band. The band is preaching. It is direct and to the heart. It is painful and must be done in this corrupt and immoral city of Bloomington. Now I must say that most of these comments apply to the concert setting that David brought up and not to worship, although some do apply to worship.

And, I am bald and 31 ;-) My youth is escaping me all too soon.

I love you brothers,

>>And do you know who are the staunchest supporters and defenders of the band’s work? Linda Stewart (in her 60’s) and Midge Harris (in her 70’s)—sorry ladies, for pointing out your age!

And in the event that Linda Stewart be discounted on the grounds that she's related, by law, to a church leader, go ahead and add Sharyl Welsh to the list of people who not only staunchly support the band but also invite non-CGS ladies in their 60's to come and hear the band.

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