Pastor Paul’s Ponderings
Happy Tuesday New Hope!
I was thinking about music this morning. Especially the music that is used in church. I have witnessed a tremendous change in music during my years as a pastor. I have been involved in many conversations about music that have involved strong feelings.
Over the last few weeks I have seen several posts on FaceBook about the type of music that is “appropriate” in church. It seems that music has become one of the most divisive elements while at the same time becoming one of the most important factors people use in choosing a church to attend. We have moved from a disagreement over immersion or sprinkling to a disagreement over “traditional” or “contemporary”. Here are my thoughts about music in church.
When it comes to music, the notes that are played by an instrument, there is no such thing as secular or Christian music. We even need to be careful after the lyrics are added in whether or not we classify a song as secular or Christian. The most common factor used to classify a song as Christian is whether it explicitly speaks of God or Jesus. This can be helpful but I have heard songs that mention God or Jesus explicitly that most definitely do not convey a Christian message. On the other hand, I have heard many songs that do not use the name of God or Jesus in the lyrics but convey a strong Christian message. So, for me, it often comes down to a matter of the overall message of the song and/or how the singer applies that message.
Somehow organs and pianos have been identified as the only acceptable church instruments by many in this conversation. A study of church history reveals that the early church did not use instruments at all. Many of the early church fathers even wrote that instruments had no place in the church. The absence of any mention of musical instruments in the New Testament and the record of the early church apparently not using musical instruments is the reason for some Christian traditions not using them in worship today. It isn’t until around 1000 A.D. that the organ begins to be used regularly in worship in the Roman Catholic Church. In the early years of the Protestant Reformation we find many instances where the reformers would destroy any musical instruments in the chapels and cathedrals they were using. It isn’t until the mid to late 1800’s that we see instruments making a return to worship in the form of organs and pianos. Interestingly, these instruments were found primarily in pubs before finding their way back inside the church. Charles Wesley, a well known hymn writer from this period, is said to have been inspired by the tunes being played on these instruments in the pubs of England to write lyrics to reflect the Christian faith. So to say that hymns sung to the music of the organ and/or piano are traditional church music is really a relatively new tradition in relation to the age of Christianity.
.Much like the musical notes that are written, the instruments that play the notes are neither Christian nor secular. Drums and electric guitars have particularly been labeled by some as instruments of the devil. It would seem then that the psalmist was guilty of promoting the devil’s music in encouraging the use of all types of instruments in the praise of God. (Those who oppose the use of musical instruments in worship believe Christians should not follow Jewish worship customs or worship practices found in the Old Testament since we are now under the New Testament). While there were no electric guitars, there were numerous types of stringed instruments, and cymbals are definitely percussion instruments as are drums. I don’t believe that adding amplification somehow makes the instrument demonic. The real issue is not the instruments but the lyrics being sung to the music being played on these instruments.
That brings me to the argument that the “traditional” hymns are filled with sound theology while the contemporary “praise” songs are absent any meaningful theology and often contain theological error. My experience with both “styles” of music is that both “traditional” and “contemporary” songs written for church have both of these. There are theologically sound “traditional” and “contemporary” songs as well as theologically questionable ones. And while there is nothing wrong with writing a song to convey a theological Christian belief, there is also nothing wrong with writing a song that simply enables a person to express their heart to God. One of the greatest hymn writers of all time, Issac Watts, believed in using both approaches to writing songs to be sung in worship There is a place for both types of music in worship.
So what does this all mean. I believe that the style of music a person identifies as being appropriate for worship is simply based upon what they have grown up with in church. It is what is familiar and they are comfortable with. The introduction of “contemporary” worship music over the last few decades has been primarily about reaching people who are not familiar with the “traditional” worship music and do not relate to the “traditional” instruments. More and more people from a “traditional” background are embracing or at least accepting a new form of musical expression in worship. It seems to me that if the message of the gospel is not being compromised and people are coming to church who were not coming before and making genuine commitments to become followers of Jesus, we would do well to remember that it was the religious leaders that had Jesus killed for not following their traditions.
Grace and peace,
Good morning New Hope!
Sunday is our 2nd Annual Worship in the Park! I am excited and believe it is going to be a wonderful time of worship and fellowship. It has been great seeing our Worship in the Park signs in your yards and in other places throughout town. Many of you have shared that you have invited many to join us. Today and tomorrow would be an excellent time to contact those you have invited and remind them. Remember to let them know you will be looking for them Sunday morning to welcome them. Also, continue to invite! Think about your family members, friends, neighbors, and work associates that are not attending church and invite them to join us. As Jesus followers we are called to seek those who are not following Jesus and to invite them to come and discover the life-changing power that comes from being a Jesus follower.
After our worship service we will eat and enjoy fellowship with one another. If you are bringing food please remember to bring cold food in a cooler and hot food in an insulated container until time to eat. If you volunteered to help load at the church please be there at 8 a.m. We will be at the park to begin setting up around 8:30 a.m. We will be bringing folding metal chairs from church but you are welcome to bring your own chair if you want. If you have a New Hope t-shirt you are encouraged to wear it (maybe over a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt since it will be cool). We have the pavillion rented until 5 p.m. so you don’t have to rush off afterwards. It will be a beatiful Fall day and a great opportunity to sit in the park and enjoy being together with your New Hope family.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday and experiencing a tremendous time of worship and fellowship at Don Fox Community Park!
Grace and peace,
Happy Tuesday New Hope!
This coming Saturday, Septmeber 28, is the 2nd Annual Compassionate Hands Ministriy Chili Cookoff. It will be held at First United Methodist Church in Lebanon from 5-7 pm. I have entered the chili competition for Best Chili. You get to vote for your favorite chili, so I good turnout from New Hope with votes for your pastor would be awesome! There are several different categories with about 20 entries. Tickets are $10 per person or you can buy a family ticket for $25. This includes, chili, sides, drinks, and desserts. There will also be some really nice door prizes. I have tickets if you would like to get them from me or you can buy them at the door. I am attaching a file you can open that gives you an opportunity to enter the chili competition or to volunteer or provide some items needed for the event.
We will be hosting our homeless guests on Saturday evenings again this year. We will have sign up sheets soon for the areas of need for this ministry. As always we will need men to spend the night (two men each Saturday night we host), lunches to send with our guests on Sunday morning, people to cook and serve breakfast on Sunday morning, people to wash sheets and blankets, and snack food provided for them to have while they are here. It would also help to have two people who would be willing to drive the van to return our guests to town on Sunday morning. The transportation on Saturday evening is taken care of. I will have a meeting on Sunday, October 27 right after our worship service with those who would like to be involved in the Compassionate Hands Ministry.
Grace and peace,
Good Morning New Hope!
Sunday, October 13th is our second annual Worship in the Park. We have the main pavillion at Don Fox Park reserved for the day and will worship together there at 10 am. Following our worship celebration we will enjoy a time of food and fellowship. Sign-up sheets will be out this Sunday for the various areas of need to make this day happen. Please be sure to volunteer to do what you can. We will need food and drinks, we will need people to help load, transport, set-up, take down, and return tables, chairs, and equipment, and we will need people who will be at the park early to serve as greeters. If you have a New Hope t-shirt you are encouraged to wear it that day. If you don’t have one check with Robbie Haynes to see if it is possible to get one by then (call or text him this week so an order can go in as soon as possible).
Our yard signs will be available this Sunday to take with you to put out promoting this event. Please check at your home to see if you still have any from last year and bring those back please. We are using the same signs by applying this year’s date over last year’s. We need some volunteers Saturday morning at 9 am to come help us apply these updates. There are also invite cards available for you to take to hand out to invite your family members, neighbors, work associates, friends, and anyone else you know that is not attending church anywhere. Please take a handful with you on Sunday.
Pray for those who are planning and preparing for this special day. Pray for favorable weather. Pray for those people that you are inviting. Pray for God’s powerful Spirit to move in a mighty way bringing some of His lost sheep back home.
Grace and peace,