Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Riddle me this: on worship

When we do our reading of the Word of God in church, we read each verse one (1) time.

When we sing, we might repeat a 2-to-4-line chorus 4, 5, 6 or even more times.

Why?

44 comments:

ThirstyDavid said...

My answer would offend too many people. I might accidently use words like "shallow" and "stupid."

Daniel said...

Many churches do over emphasize their 'congregational singing' -so much so that they even name their congregational singing "praise and worship" - as though singing were somehow more worshipful or praising than anything else they do. Furthermore they imagine that their audience participation (as they sit there and observe a "praise band" loudly banging out the latest "Christian" medleys with carnal gusto) was in some sense praising or worshipping God.

Likewise we seem to underemphasize the value and role of scripture in the life of the believer. I don't know the statistics, but I suspect that only about 15% of Christians ever read the whole bible cover to cover - and from that 15%, only 15% of them ever do so again.

Surely, the music stand is replacing the pulpit in most churches as the primary "draw" - and that is regretable - yet notwithstanding "church" is not the building or the Sunday Service - it is the assembled congregation.

The Sunday Service isn't the only time the church meets - whenever Christians assemble to study the bible, memorize scripture, or even fellowship together informally - this too is "church."

With that perspective - we recognize that when we congregate on Sunday, we (typically) do so in an orderly fashion - that is, we have a "service" that is planned and overseen by one or more elders, and typically the purpose of that meeting is not to memorize verses, but to receive instruction in the word (the sermon), sing psalms hims and spiritual songs (to one another), and to fellowship.

While it might be fun to use this time for sword drills - the reality is that you don't need a pastor or a congregation with you to memorize scripture - but you do need a congregation if you are going to "sing in the congregation" - likewise when the Spirit speaks to the congregation through the sermon - you ought to be there - yet while these things require our gathering together - yet memorizing scripture does not.

Thus it seems to me just to be a matter of logistics. What can be done privately ought to be done privately, and what cannot be done privately ought to be corporately - and in the interest of using everyone's time wisely - there needn't be too much overlap so long as the congregation are genuinely being fed.

The pastor who quotes from the bible often, will repeat the same verses time and again - so that the congregation will in fact memorize the same vicariously (as it were).

In a day and age where so few Christians know their bible it seems it would make sense to spoon feed them verses from the pulpit - but I think that is a little overly pragmatic. If a person isn't learning scripture at home - the problem isn't that they don't hear it repeated enough on Sunday - the problem is that the weeds of this world are choking out their growth, and they need to plow that fallow ground - and the way the church brings that about is to bear their burden if they are willing to carry it but are weak - and to discipline them if they refuse to bear the burden.

Either way, it ends up being a lot of work and hassle for those who are mature.

That is just my long winded opinion however. ;-)

DJP said...

Thanks, both. My question's an honest one. As far as I know, I'm open to learning something I don't yet know.

Obviously, a lot of people think it's a good idea to sing the same ~20/30 words over and over again. I ask myself if there's any precedent for such repetition in Scripture. I think of Psalm 136, with the multiple repetitions of "for his mercy endureth for ever." But those aren't the only words that are repeated; they're a refrain. The whole psalm contains a detailed, contentful relating of the marvelous works of God.

It might be helpful to hear from someone who feels (s)he really benefits from singing the same chorus 3-8 times. Is it a matter of getting through distractions? Is it that the first four or five times don't really hit home? Does it seem to drive the truth in deeper? (I'm not being sarcastic.)

Kim said...

This is question I have asked myself as well. We don't seem to sing choruses as much as 6 or 7, but definitely two or three.

Now, I'm sure someone will dislike me for saying this, but I'm tired at the moment and feeling rather cynical, but this is one reason I think this happens:

The words are not terribly difficult in these songs, and I often wonder if we aren't often on "auto pilot" when we sing this, and it takes a few repetitions to get people thinking?

Can you imagine singing "A Mighty Fortess" or something like that 6 or 7 times?

Jeremy Weaver said...

It's Bill Gaither's fault.

Dan B. said...

I sing on a "praise team", but thankfully we don't sing choruses over and over (though sometimes, I think songs do go a little long).

Kim--I definitely agree with your "auto-pilot" comment. It's greatly discouraging for me to look out and see this exhibited on the faces of those singing. I'm not for advocating hymns over praise songs necessarily, but there is a tendency for praise songs to have less substance. Praise songs or hymns which in one sense teach the truth of the Bible/theology that springs from it seem worth repeating to some extent, so that this truth can be trumpeted. Some folks like to do hymns and only sing some verses. This irritates me to no end, because the verses are strung together in telling a story.

It is a delicate balance, though. At our church we try to make every part of the service an act of worship, keeping the hearing of the Word at the center. Worship should enhance, not distract or detract, from the hearing of the Word.

Chris said...

Um... maybe I'm over-simplifying it... because repitition is a poetic form?

I guess that means we can repeat the reading of the Word of God if its from the Psalms or other biblical poetry, but there's a line between chanting and singing.

Chris said...

And, no, I don't know why I put a dash between "over" and "simplifying".

:-)

DJP said...

Kim -- The words are not terribly difficult in these songs, and I often wonder if we aren't often on "auto pilot" when we sing this, and it takes a few repetitions to get people thinking?

That's actually my most charitable speculation so far. It doesn't have that effect on me; if anything, it has the opposite effect. But worship isn't and shouldn't be about me. Since it's done in many churches, someone must get something out of it. My question is, What? Over the decades, I've noted some who seem to get more emotional with the third, fourth, fifth time around. By that time, I'm well in the other direction.

Chris -- there's the repetition of a refrain within a poem, as the poem builds (i.e. Psalm 136, again)... but the whole poem? And Psalm 136 doesn't end with the refrain repeated another 3-8 times.

Are the refrains of modern choruses pithy enough to warrant such repetition? Psalm 117 is short, and says what it says once and well. We could guess that "the choir director" sang it 3-8 times, but that would be just a guess.

The writer (ancient Psalm or modern chorus) didn't write it 3-8 times, so why is it sung that way? What does it accomplish? It must be doing something for someone. What?

Serious question.

Libbie said...

Well, to speak from experience, the more I sang a chorus through, the more I felt I 'meditated' on the lyrics, and consequently felt highly emotional worshipful sensations.

I truly believed it was meditating on the words that acheived this semi-euphoric state, but I now believe it was the music, too.

In fact, I think many times, the lyrics had little 'cues' in them which suggested certain behaviour. For example, it was common to see a large number of people raising their hands if a lyric mentioned that very thing. That's not something you do unless you're in a place of lowered inhibition.

In fact, looking back, that was often the way 'true worship' was judged - I recall being encouraged to forget that there were others there, and to not let what other people thought stop me from worshiping 'whole-heartedly'. That phrase seemed to mean being in a certain state where inhibitions about what the other young people thought of you were gone.

4given said...

Because we have so sadly failed to realize that worship is not just about singing, it is about reading the word of God with reverence. We have failed to realize that the only time our dear pastor is infallible, is when He is reading the Word of God.

Rebekah said...

If we're singing the right songs (that point us toward the Word, both the Bible and Christ, and the Gospel message), what is the problem with meditating on them by singing them several times? Even on a modern hymn like "In Christ Alone," our worship team will go back and repeat the last half of the last verse to emphasize it. And you know what? Even songs that have great theological depth, like the one I mentioned, can have more punch, if you will, when repeated. Often we're singing on auto-pilot, as Kim pointed out, and it takes a second (or even third) time through to break us out of our reverie and bring us face to face with the Gospel truth we've sung w/out thinking.

No Fluff Required said...

Nothing stocks a comment section like the question of music in the church!

Libbie said...

Amy, ain't that the truth! Highest comment count ever over at mine because of a pants song lyric.

Write about right-to-life issues, women's roles, even charismatic wappiness, but ain't nothing going to get Christians in a pickle like critiquing their singing...

DJP said...

OK, so some of you are arguing that we need to sing those 20-30 word choruses 3-8 times because it takes that many times to concentrate on them?

But we get the Word in one reading?

If that's the rationale, and if repetition is the answer... and ranking in order of importance, shouldn't we repeat (chant) the reading of the Word MORE times than we do the choruses?

Dan B. said...

(sorry, dan, that I didn't really answer your question with my first comment...and I forgot to mention--love the Riddler graphic!)

Can I come at this from a different angle? My mom was a piano teacher (worked in the home), so I grew up with music. There is something about words, when paired with music, that makes it easier to remember.

A good friend of mine told me that the key to Scripture memorization is not studying it and meditating on it until you are blue in face (hours upon hours), but actually about 10 times or so, day after day (learning it over time). So, in reverence to the Word, I guess we should say it more times than the choruses, but it could just be more practical in that songs are easier to remember.

In fact, I grew up listening to G.T. and the Halo Express. I still remember a lot of them.

I'll throw this out there: in expositional preaching that any of you have heard, does not the pastor, during his sermon, re-read each verse again as he explains it (I say this only in that if a pastor chooses a long text, maybe it would be more difficult to read it through more than once?)? Just curious.

DJP said...

Yes, Dan, when I preach I'll often repeat a phrase, a word, or the verse within the body of the sermon.

But again, that is disanalogous, whether that's a real word or not. Like Psalm 136, or the refrain of a poem or the chorus in a hymn, it plays into the development of a complex, deep, layered thought.

But these choruses themselves are sung over and over and over. They weren't very deep the first time; to me, they don't deepen with repetition. But I guess some commentators find themselves just starting to meditate on them around the third, fourth, fifth go-around?

To me, it's like the preacher said decades ago about public prayer. I forget the exact number, but it was something like this:

"For the first five minutes, the congregation is praying with you. After that, they're praying against you."

Rebekah said...

I see what you're saying. If the songs are theologically sound and Biblically grounded, however, there's really no reason not to meditate on them by singing them through a couple of times. And my Dan is right (dan b. is my husband), we remember better what has been set to music.

It seems you're more disturbed by the lack of depth in the choruses than you are by the repetition, per se.

DJP said...

Ooh! A couple! Posting on my blog!

< snork! >

I get so sentimental....

Libbie said...

It seems you're more disturbed by the lack of depth in the choruses than you are by the repetition, per se.

That would be a clincher for me. I have been known to drive my poor long-suffering children and husband to distraction by singing 'In Christ Alone' through a number of times in a row, because the words have depth and really compose a heart to worship.

Singing "And I'll stand in awe of You,
Yes I'll stand in awe of You,
And I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You." over and over is a different proposition entirely (and I speak as someone who enjoys the music of St Matt of Redman).

Kim said...

How about singing the Word of God repeatedly? That would kind of solve the whole problem, no?

Hubby and I really like the singing of a messianic Jew named Marty Goetz. He has scripture to music, and it's some of our favorite.

BugBlaster said...

I'm with Kim.

4given said...

I agree Kim. That is what we do with our children to help them memorize Scripture and it's great for adults too. My pastor and his wife are very musically talented and have written several scores for Scripture that are really beautiful. THey have also written music for the REALLY old stuff that didn't come with sheet music.
I like to sing and sign the songs with my kids. It makes them think about what is being sung.
One of my favorites that I tend to sing over and over again is "How Deep the Father's Love for Us."

Annette said...

Before marriage I attended a church with FOUR praise and worship teams. Each team had it's own "flavour" and I quickly discovered which bands I liked singing with and which I did not.

The ones that I did not like singing with where the bands that
1. played songs over and over again
2. strung songs together that it didn't make sense to string together
3. played only the really simple praise and worship songs.

Why do people play choruses over and over again? Because it "brings you closer to God" is what I was told. And that I should "be tolerate" and that I need to "open up myself more to God working inside of me" and that "emotions aren't bad".

I was given the impression that if I didn't weep, dance wildly, or fall on my knees during songs that I wasn't adequately praising God. I disagreed then and I still do.

NOTE> I LOVE much of the praise and worship music that is available. I love the freedom of being able to raise my hands in worship, or close my eyes and sway as I praise my Lord and Redeemer...but playing a chorus three times is sufficient.

Playing it emore often just brings on emotional highs that seem to focus on the person singing more than on the God they are supposed to be worshipping.

That said....The church I am currently in is a VERY conservative church. Hymns only. I find it interesting how I have learned to lift my hands in praise to God during hymns as well. To really worship God with all I have. I will NEVER regret learning to be freer in my worship of God because of what I learned at my previous church...despite the looks of shock when I do such things at this church. :)

Daniel said...

We recall of course, that the male Jewish stance for prayer was to stand with the hands lifted. I think that when scripture says to "lift up holy hands" - it isn't talking about a physical posture, but rather the necessity of holiness in prayer.

That being said, I have no problem with people who raise their hands when they sing I presume they are ignorant but genuine, and while I find nothing edifying about their ignorance - but if they are genuinely ignorant, or honestly convinced that some unnatural posture is more pious than another - then I admire their fervor for our Lord, even if it comes on the wings of misguided boldness. However, if the hands go up (as is the case with many) simply because they see others doing it I find that sort of monkey see, monkey do abominable - the very doorway through which all sorts of tomfoolery enters the church.

I expect I will take some flak for that (cringes).

Libbie said...

I often understand passages about lifting up hands in His name (such as Psalm 63:4) to be refering to glorifying the Lord in whatever we 'turn our hand to'.

Annette said...

Hi Daniel... not wanting to misunderstand....do you think that people who lift their hands in genuine worship to God while singing are wrong in what they do?

Should people merely stand and sing without any type of physical expression? Or would standing be wrong as well? (seeing as didn't they also stand when the word of God was expounded to them, as well as for prayer and all other times they sat?) Could be wrong there.

But then I think of David who danced in the streets when praising God in song. in 2 Samuel 6. Granted it doesn't say that he was singing, but he was praising God with his body... and somehow I get the impression that you think this is wrong?

I do think that one needs to come before God in Worship with the right attitude. Holiness, worship, gratitude and so forth... but I just query your thought that people are "misguided" who choose to do more than stand and worship God only with their mouths moving....regardless of what their hearts might be doing as well.

Libbie... why can't lifting up holy hands be exactly that? I can see that in whatsoever we do that we must needs do it in a way that brings Glory to God. But why can't it just be what is says....lifting our hands up before God. Kinda like a child does who trusts his caregiver (mom or dad) to take care of him? Just asking... :)

DJP said...

"The other Daniel" here.

I have split opinions on that question.

We tend, for instance, to adopt just one posture for public prayer: standing, head bowed, eyes closed. In the Bible however, one often sees open eyes towards Heaven, and perhaps outstretched hands. If I saw that (depending on the person), I'd probably find it to be ostentatious, flashy, showy.

In assembly, those who lift their hands seem a bit exhibitionistic to me -- but that's largely me, my "take." Is there a rule against it? No way. Do I really think that every last one of them is thinking, "Look at me, everbody!" No, really, not at all. I think more often than not it is simply their heart yearning after God, finding physical expression.

So at least in part of my heart, I look at the hand-raisers, and the swayers, and wish I felt as keenly as they did. I go to a Chicago concert, and am rarely motionless; the music moves me. But in church, by contrast, the music rarely affects me so intensely. (There is some foot-tapping.)

But Chicago's songs, on the other hand, never affect my mind with, "Wow, that is so deep, and so true! Oh, God, strike that deep into my heart. Please, help me get my soul around that!" Hymns can affect me that way.

Choruses, virtually never.

And the more times they're sung over and over, the less likely they are to do so.

contratimes said...

Allow me to be the most cynical here: It is all a form of Christian self-hypnosis, about working oneself into a trance. OK. Scold me. But hear me out.

Libbie is on to something in her first comment. There is an emotional response given by repetition. We all should know this, not just from our own experiences in church, but simply by merely watching other faiths. Surely we've all seen davening at the Wailing Wall? New-age mystics repeat mantras to experience a certain psychic and emotional effect. Surely we can recall the prophets of Baal competing with Elijah by working themselves into an ecstatic state (which means "standing outside oneself"). There are many, many examples from which to pick. Honestly, if you say my name over and over long enough, or your own, you will begin to FEEL something.

And that, sadly, has become the central focus of worship: HOW ONE FEELS afterwards. Music, repeated non-stop, brings about an emotional state that one can easily return to when the song is replayed. It's all very associative. Just think about pop-rock songs: repetition is essential to getting people into an emotional state that they LIKE! It is a fairly big staple of rock concerts: Have you ever listened to how many times the Rolling Stones sing "It's only rock and roll, but I like it" in that one song? Have you ever heard a groove that is so good you wish it would keep going; and yet, you know that, if it did keep going TOO long, it would begin to irritate? Repitition is about having quick access to recreate one's emotional states after the initial elevated experience (not unlike repeating one's first high?).

Now, add to this the idea of raising your hands over your head, throw in a little swaying, and you've got the ingredients for perhaps even a mystical experience. Where do you think all the blood goes when you keep your hands over your head for twenty minutes? Right to one's chest cavity, where things feel so warm, so right, so close.

OK. That is WAY too cynical. But I think the root cause of this sort of worship is that it GUARANTEES an easy emotional (to be confused, often, with a 'spiritual') experience. Alas, I am afraid that if there is a major power-outage in the North American power grid, countless Christians will not know how to worship God in the silence left without praise bands.

The comments here about Scripture are right on. What does Paul tell Timothy in I Tim. 4:13?

Until I come, devote yourself to the PUBLIC reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Yikes, not a mention of anything else! And note that Paul places PUBLIC reading of Scripture before PREACHING! Why might he do that? Because we know that when God speaks, His Word does not return to Him VOID. Moreover, notice that Paul does not even mention PRIVATE reading of Scripture (which was nearly impossible for two reasons, namely, there were no Bibles to read privately and Torah scrolls were not readily available for private viewing unless one knew a wealthy Jew or Gentile who had a scroll or two).

It is my sense that the near narcissistic aspects of worship tempt us to feel that commentary and exposition of the Bible, which is what a sermon is, some how is more important than the actual words of Christ. Hence, we often hear about people disliking certain pastors because they "don't FEEL fed" afterwards; or that they "don't feel refreshed" or "inspired." We often set up this sort of expectation when we equate a sermon with the Word of God: "Father, we just ask that You SPEAK to us THROUGH Pastor Fred this morning…."

What, then, is less inspiring than hearing someone drone out a few verses (so many people STINK at public recitation) from the lectern? I have often, and not just for fun, imagined walking up to the pulpit and reading aloud the first three chapters of Ephesians followed by, you got it, NOTHING! Let the Word just hang there; let it speak for itself. Egads, if we could just once in awhile get OURSELVES out of worship and preaching, we might actually hear God speak in our very midst. I am not talking about the abolition of self; I am talking about a self that can hear what God wants to tell us, and not what we either expect Him, or demand of Him, to tell us.

Way too long, I know. Forgive my verbosity. It's just who I am.

Peace to each of you,

BG

Daniel said...

do you think that people who lift their hands in genuine worship to God while singing are wrong in what they do?

That depends on what you mean by "genuine" worship. I believe that Nadab and Abihu were being entirely "genuine" when they offered up strange fire to God.

We can be sincere, and be wrong - it happens (look at all the JW's and Mormons!) It isn't a question of sincerity, it is a question of orthopraxy - is it "right" to worship God in whatever way we choose. I think it isn't.

The question then becomes, does scripture anywhere tell us to sing to one another with our hands up, and the answer is no, it doesn't.

If someone raises their hands or even leaps up in the air and clicks their heals together in unbridled joy during the singing of a song - hey - that is fine with me! It is the people who raise their hands as a learned behavior that I take umbridge with - the ones who think there is something holy about affecting one posture over another.

Some would say, if it feels good - do it. I say, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked - if it feels good - triple check it against scripture, and stop doing it until you are certain it is truly right to do, not because it feels nice, but because God has prescribed it.

If I went on a hay ride with my congregation, I could genuinely sing while swinging my legs as they hung off a straw covered flatbed. I don't suggest that "real" worship is stilted and stoic - I merely point out that it doesn't necessarily involve assuming some learned posture - that's all.

I don't think it was wrong for David to leap for joy and skip in circles before the ark - hardly - I think it was awesome. But I don't think David did that whenever he came into the temple (if he did why would his wife be so offended at him for doing this then?) - This was clearly the exception, not the rule.

I want to be fully understood on this point - when I talk of being "misguided" - I am talking about people who think that this particular posture (hands lifted up) while singing is something God has ever asked of us, expected from us, or wanted us to do. Such an idea is in my estimation - misguided even were their hearts 200% sincere.

I am not talking about the rare exceptions here - I am talking (mostly) about the ones who do it because they see others doing it. Why do people in snake handling denominations handle snakes when they worship? Because they have learned to do so by others who were "moved by the Spirit" to pick up snakes. The same is true of much of far too much of our "worship" - monkey see, monkey do. It has been given place in the church - and once it is in, few people will dare to cry, "The emperor has no clothes!"

Or maybe I just don't like hand raising. I can't be sure. ;-)

Annette said...

Okay...what is sounds like is you don't like fakeness in worship. I don't either...and you see it alot in churches of all sorts. People singing who are just mouthing the words without thinking about them. People dancing because they like the music...the words mean nothing. I don't like it be "proscribed" the people must worship one way or the other. God wants genuineness when we worship him....otherwise it is not really worship is it?

Thanks for clarifying.

Robert said...

A related question:
Why don't we sing ALL the verses of some of the classic old hymns. Must SBC churches I've been in skip at least verse 3, usually more. It can't be to "save time", if we can sing the same 5 word song 15-20 times, can it?
If you read closely, some of those old hymns give a complete sermon in 4 or 5 lines. Must be too deep for today's audiences-oops!.. er..congregations.

4given said...

I have found myself as of late especially, not looking around to see who is worshipping rightly or fakely or just mouthing the words. For when i do that, I fail to worship.

No Fluff Required said...

4Given,
I agree with you. What if God accepts the worship of others? What if He actually likes it because He can see their heart and they are thinking about how happy they are to be saved and what they have been saved from? What if, in their own way....even though they sing it simply and seven times, they are agreeing with God's sovereign plan for their life and actually glorifying Him. Meanwhile we, the obviously more mature Christians are counting up their chorus repitions to figure out if some how it adds up to 666.

Something comes to mind about Hannah praying and a certain priest accusing her of drunkeness.

Enough already!

Heaven forbid the Africans might actually dance in Paradise!

PressingOn said...

I appreciate this post, Dan. As a worship leader for 7 years, I have grappled with this very thought.

For me, it comes down to motivation and content. I do think that there can be something almost "hypnotic" about repetitive music. For example, I would submit that Benny Hinn's crusades are filled with manipulative practices when it comes to the music. I believe that he is (cannot say with certainty) "creating a mood" and perhaps even getting the crowd into a state of readiness for the acts to follow. Again, manipulation is the key here.

I would never repeat someting in order to set a mood or create a moment. I would, however, allow the Spirit to lead me in repeating a verse or chorus for further meditation or emphasis on the words. I have especially done this in singing songs that focus on the character and holiness of God. However, I detest the repetition of songs like "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" (which I now call "I'll Be Singing This Song Forever") because, like you, I tend to just drift off and lose focus. I'm just ready for the song to end!

I don't think repetition in and of itself is a bad thing, but the motivation for doing it and the content of the song are determining factors in my mind.

I am a huge fan of scripture choruses myself and when I write songs, I tend to use the Word for the lyrics. It's a win-win.

DJP said...

[This is weird, Kirstie, er, PressingOn; I did reply a few hours ago, but my own reply didn't make my own blog. Go figure.]

... I detest the repetition of songs like "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" (which I now call "I'll Be Singing This Song Forever") because, like you, I tend to just drift off and lose focus.

And that's the title I'll think of from now on, too. At least that song has some punctuation and form -- except for the HYP-mo-tizing chorus.

I also appreciate Scripture choruses, and the great hymns. Take one like "And Can It Be?" Sing it once thoughtfully, and it's still reverbrating an hour later. No need to do it 2-3 times.

I'm all for emotion in worship. But I think it's best when the emotion is in response to truth pressed home; not when it is stirred up directly. It should be the byproduct, not the goal-in-itself.

4given said...

You wrote this: "I'm all for emotion in worship. But I think it's best when the emotion is in response to truth pressed home; not when it is stirred up directly. It should be the byproduct, not the goal-in-itself."

And I wrote this: WELL SAID!!!

PressingOn said...

Dan,

I agree with you.

So often our emotions are used as a measuring stick for how "good" the worship service was or how "much" the Spirit was moving. We have to be very careful, especially as leaders, but for anyone really. I have come away from some worship services feeling very "dry" for lack of a better term, and yet someone else will remark how much they were ministered to at the very same service. Even corporate worship is a very personal thing, and heaven forbid that our choice of music or words should hinder or distract from what the Holy Spirit is doing.

I agree that our emotions or feelings should be in response to the truth piercing our hearts. I am saddened by the trend to water down our worship, just as we have watered down the Gospel. He is worthy of so much more.

Thanks, Dan.

Scion said...

Thanks be to God that eyes are being opened to the necessity of the contemplation of the truth of Scripture in our singing. May it NEVER be that we, song leaders, are tempted to showcase our God-given and God-owned talents in the "showmanship of worship". And if the response of the people to "our" music (which is also created and owned by the Creator of all things) is based in temporal emotion and their own pleasure in the musical stylings (or ours, for that matter), then shame on us for the attempt, intentional or unintentional, to steal any glory for ourselves. All glory belongs to God alone!

My desire is that people will be taught the truths of God the the songs we sing, and that they will come out of the time of singing NOT saying, "What great music," but rather, "What a great God, worthy of all honor and priase!"

Let me futher say that I am saddened also by the trend to confine the term "worship" to our time of singing songs. Too often I have heard statements like, "Now we are going to have a time of worship (refering to the song service), then we will have a time of teaching followed by a time of fellowship." This is amazingly shallow and misguided. Indeed, EVERYTHING we do in the congregation - singing, greeting, teaching/studying, fellowship, cleaning, praying - ANd everything we do outside of 'church' - working, eating, raising our children, talking with neighbors, enjoying any pleasures of life the God allows us - should be an act of worship unto God. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." "Thou art worthy O Lord to receive glory and honor and wisdom and power. For Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are created."

Let us never think we belong to ourselves, nor set our will, our knowledge, our understanding, or plan above that which God has already revealed about Himself and His will in His holy Word.

Grace and Peace,
Brian

Helen Sparkles said...

The Benedictine monks sing the psalms to express their joy and thanksgiving for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, and also their sense of need, and of longing for him. This is a repetitive activity; all the psalms will be sung over a week, or two sometimes, and then started again.

This is because music lets us express ourselves in more than just words: our heart, soul and spirit can sing. It helps us bring a very deep level of our being to the work of prayer. Music engages our body as well as our minds, and it unites us with other people at prayer both in body and in spirit.

Music expresses the unity and the diversity of the community at a human level, and to create a deep relationship in the spirit between the human and the divine.

Repetition is not a bad thing, singing is a good thing, and the monks are amazing to listen to although most music played in our church is pretty dreadful actually!

Tony said...

DJP, Please forgive me if this sounds harsh but, I really don't understand why singing a song of worship and praise to God more than 2 or 3 times is such a bad thing. Or why you are more focused on the number of times the song is sung instead of focusing on the One the song is sung to. What are you going to do in Heaven when we will be spending an eternity worshiping and singing and I would venture to say repeating ourselves more than 2 or 3 times. Revelations 4:8 says there are 4 living creatures that are continually saying "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come." So if God does not get tired of hearing them say it over and over day and night, I am sure He does not get tired of hearing us sing a song of praise and worship to Him 6 or 7 times. And that is really Who a worship song is for, right? It doesn't matter if I like the song, it only matter if He likes the song and it glorifies Him. If we like it too that is even better. But the focus has to be on Him, not us.

DJP said...

Then, Tony, it should be easy for you to answer my question.

So go ahead.

Tony said...

Daniel, I thought I did, but let me make another attempt. You said to begin your blog, "When we sing, we might repeat a 2-to-4-line chorus 4, 5, 6 or even more times. Why?" Well, one could also ask why not? Why are we singing in the first place? Is it not to worship God? If so, then the number of times it is sung, or if it is a hymn or a chorus, or if it is fast or slow, or if it is played on a pipe organ or on an electric guitar is all really irrelevant. What is important is are we giving Him the best and most wholehearted worship we can give Him. John Piper said in his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist "Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead." He goes on to say "Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. This cannot be done by mere acts of duty. It can be done only when spontaneous affections arise in the heart." Don Whitney, pastor of Glenfield Baptist Church and author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life writes, "No matter how spiritual the song you are singing, no matter how poetic the prayer you are praying, if it isn't sincere then it isn't worship, it's hypocrisy." And then he says, "Since the object of our worship is the glorious and majestic God of Heaven, when worship becomes empty, the problem lies with the subject(us), not the object(God)." Hebrews 13:15 says "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess His name." Now of course I have been in services where I didn't like the song or I thought they sang it too many times. But was my focus on God? Unfortunately no. But just because a song is sung only 2 or 3 times doesn't automatically mean that true worship is happening. If the song is sung once and it isn't sincere it is hypocrisy. I am not talking about worship that is just emotion based nor all logic based without any heart, but worship that is done in spirit and in truth as it talks about in John 4:23,24.

Also I have heard many preachers (my pastor included) that will repeat scripture texts many times to make certain points in the text. I think it depends on the style of preacher.

I want to make sure that you are all aware I say all these things in love and do not intend offense. If I do offend I ask for forgiveness. I value the diverse viewpoints and wisdom that I may glean from. I am not closed to instruction and realize we can benefit from each other through God's grace.

Tony

DJP said...

Tony, thanks for the extra effort, and no offense taken.

Where I don't think we're connecting is that, when we read Scripture, every word is the Word of God, insofar as the translation is accurate. Yet we characteristically read each word OF GOD only one time.

Yet many of these choruses are light and fluffy. Sing them once, and that's all there is. Yet some leaders never do sing them once, nor twice, nor even three times. It has to be four, eight, I've even seen up to twelve times for a refrain.

If it didn't "do the job" one time, or twice in case you miss it, will vain repetition EVERY TIME be more likely to get it across?

If so, I wonder why. Where is the spirit of these folks the first two or three times. It takes that long to "warm up"?

To me, the effect is the opposite. If it wasn't much the first time, it's even less the second or third. By the fourth or fifth, I probably would just give up singing, and pray instead.

Now, chanting is a well-known method for creating and manipulating emotion. But is that our aim? "And Can It Be" is one of my favorite hymns, ever. But even it might cease to be if we sang each of the six or so verses three or four times each. There is no need to. They're crafted with great God-given art and focus, and they drive home with ONE singing.