Monday, July 31, 2006

What Do We Wear to Worship God?

I finally got a chance to read Bob Kauflin's post on what we should wear to worship God. It's a good reminder for those of us who lead in worship. You can read the post here. Here is a snip:
We seek to make sure that our musicians know their role is to draw attention to the surpassing greatness of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. That means clothing that would draw attention to them is inappropriate. Categories include clothes that are immodest, tight, “loud,” dirty, or sloppy. Of course, those standards are variable in different cultures and to different people, but usually every church has a fairly defined idea as to what qualifies.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Lord’s Supper: A Historical Context

Over the last few weeks a lot of very interesting dialogue has taken place on the role of “The Lord’s Supper” in Christian worship. The perspectives brought by my colleague and friend Josh Malone in his post “Distinctly Christian Worship” and following posts have encouraged me to dig more deeply into my understanding of the Biblical and historical context in which the Lord’s Table was instituted by Christ and lived out in the early church. Further more it has raised questions for me regarding the historical motivation that lead many churches post-reformation to no longer observe this institution on a weekly basis. I started my research with the desire to clarify these specific questions…

Where was the Lord’s Supper observed in the early Church?

The Lord’s Supper was primarily observed within the context of the home. Believers would often gather around the meal table for this purpose. In Acts 20:7-12 we see an example of a large group of believers who also gathered in a home the first day of the week to be taught by the Apostle Paul and to break bread.

Who participated in the Lord’s Supper in the early Church?

The Bible clearly teaches that the Lord’s Supper is reserved for believers alone. This standard was mostly upheld within the early church; however, there is historical evidence that some deviated from this teaching by practicing paedobaptism and paedocommunion (paedo meaning infant/child). Though paedocommunion was practiced in the early church, it is not believed that this was a widely accepted practice.

How often did the early church observe the Lord’s Supper?

Early on in the history of the church believers would break bread on an almost daily basis. In Acts 2:42 we see the church observing the “breaking of the bread” in accompaniment to fellowship and the apostles teaching. Acts 2:46-48 implies that this happened within the homes on a daily basis. As time passed, the church evolved into the practice of breaking bread on a weekly basis. This is referenced in Acts 20:7 where the believers gathered on the “first day of the week” to break bread.

When did the weekly tradition of observing the Lord’s Supper discontinue?

The daily and/or weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper discontinued in most protestant churches following the reformation. Though reformers like Luther and Calvin were proponents of the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, most leaders within the church (like Zwingli) proposed regular but less frequent observation of this ordinance.

Why did leaders in the reformation period discourage weekly observance?

Most proponents of monthly or quarterly observance of the Lord’s Supper claimed that daily or weekly observance caused the partaking of the ordinances to become a mundane ritual. Many of these reformers were raised in the Roman Catholic tradition where the Lord’s Supper had become meaningless to the average parishioner, thus they felt that a less frequent observance would restore a “special” meaning to this institution. In response to the abuses within the Roman Catholic tradition the reformed church also put a greater emphasis on the central role of Biblical teaching, which was virtually nonexistent within the church before that time. This shift in priority likely also contributed to less emphasis being put upon the Lord’s Supper.

Why do we call the Lord’s Supper communion and distribute elements while seated?

The word communion represents the communal experience one has with the body of Christ (church) and Christ himself while partaking in the Lord’s Supper. In Roman Catholic tradition the parishioner always comes to the front of the church to receive the Eucharist from the priest. This method of partaking tends to emphasize a mystical and individualistic perspective in the taking of the elements. When some reformed congregations started distributing elements while people remained seated, they were de-emphasizing the mystical/individualistic and emphasizing the communal aspect of the Lord’s Supper by celebrating in the context of the community. In the same way as the reformation put the Word of God back in the hands of the people, it united believers with Christ through the individual handling of the elements and united believers with community through the unified partaking of the elements.

How often should we observe the Lord’s Supper in today’s church?

To start, most all evangelicals agree that Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper as a continuing practice within the church. That being established, the issue we’ve been wrestling with in recent posts is in regard to frequency. It is generally accepted that the scriptures do model differing levels of frequency. As previously mentioned, within the book of Acts we can see an evolution from almost daily observance (Acts 2:46-48) into a weekly observance (Acts 20:7). As Josh pointed out in a recent post, if there is no “thou shall” command of frequency from Christ or the apostles, we are left to use descriptive/historical evidence to try and discern a practice that would faithfully fulfill Christ’s intention for observance within the church. From the scriptures and early church historical record it would be safe to conclude that since the primary gathering within our churches are weekly, we would be “safe” to align ourselves with the practice highlighted in Acts 20 by weekly observing the Lord’s Supper; however, before we come to that conclusion I believe there is one more issue to consider.

From the reformation to present day, the majority of evangelical churches have chosen to maintain a less frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper. As some would suggest, this may be because church leaders have given preaching and artistic programming inappropriate priority within the worship service. Though there may be some supportive evidence for this argument, there is one other consideration that has been verbalized as the source of greatest concern by those objecting to a weekly observance. Namely, they believe that the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper causes the ordinance to loose significance and possibly even fuel inappropriate views about the ordinance within the congregation of believers. This leads us to the question, is it appropriate for church leaders to reduce frequency for the sake of maintaining a healthy appreciation and view of the Lord’s Supper, despite the fact that this deviates from early church practice? To me, this is the more difficult question, and the one that must be convincingly answered before the church (Parkview or any other) would consider that a change in practice is warranted.

As you ponder this question feel free to leave comments in contribution to this conversation.

In conclusion I want to clarify that this post does not necessarily reflect Parkview’s views on the Lord’s Supper, but will hopefully provide an opportunity for us all to wrestle with the scriptures for further edification. If you would like to review differing opinions on the Lord’s Supper a great resource is At this site you can read scores of articles and essays that articulate various perspectives on this issue.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Piper on Family Life Today

While running a quick errand today I noticed that John Piper is on today and tomorrow's "Family Life Today" radio broadcast. They are using the interview to promote his book "Don't Waste Your Life." Since I just reviewed that book a few days ago, I thought I would pass on the link. On the "Family Life Today" website I believe you can listen to the current days broadcast for free. You can also order the book from their site.

Right before I published this, I noticed that "Family Life Today" mentioned on their website that due to such interest in the book it is already on backorder. You can also get it here at Amazon. I told you it was a good book!!!

50 Most Influential Churches

The Church Report has released their latest list of the 50 Most Influential Churches in the U.S. Check it out here.

(HT: JT)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Emotional Spectrum of Classical Music

A year or so ago, I took my daughter to a saxophone recital at the University of Iowa that was being put on by a friend of mine who is getting her Doctorate in Saxophone Performance. As we drove to the University, I told Hannah to bring her notepad and pencil, that she had brought along for the ride, and challenged her to listen to the music and write down whatever story, words, or pictures that she thought the music was telling her about. I was so pleased to see what may have seemed boring to a young child come alive with life and meaning.

Today my two oldest children Hannah and Zach were with me in the van and we tuned the radio to a classical music station in the area. As we were listening I asked them to do the same thing, to listen to the music and imagine stories that might go along with it. I thought it was fascinating to see them react to the various emotions within the oboe concerto we were listening too. After a bit I asked them what they were thinking of. My daughter said something dreamy about dancing and human interaction of some sort (for some reason I can’t remember the specifics). I then turned my attention to my son and asked him what story the music was telling him and he emphatically and sincerely replied, “it was telling the story of when Sponge Bob made his first Crabby Patty.” Of course I wanted to burst out laughing, but restrained myself and just smiled at both of the children’s powerful imagination.

My point of sharing these stories is to encourage you to appreciate the spectrum of emotions that can be so powerfully and uniquely captured in classical music. I am not saying this to “diss” any other style of music (because I spend a lot of time enjoying many styles of music); however, it is amazing to me how the classical genre holds so much power within one composition to explore such grand extremes in the emotional spectrum. Just look at some of the best movie sound tracks. The contextually focused compositions, which are often orchestral, wonderfully capture the gentleness of a first kiss and the terror of galactic war. In the flurry of popular music, don’t forget to occasionally stop and appreciate the inspiring music within the classical genre. If you’ve always been one of those who finds this kind of music boring, try turning it up on a good sound system, closing your eyes, and see what stories your imagination can bring to life.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Modesty Heart Check

This is a "re-post" of a modesty check-list that I posted about several months ago. I thought it would be appropriate in light of Parkview's message last weekend and a good tie-in with yesterday's post on finding freedom from pornography.

This "Modesty Heart Check" is available in the Sovereign Grace Online Book Store. You have to register to download it, but it is free once you jump through the hoops. It gives women and girls some very practical tips of how to dress modestly. Thanks to Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, and Janelle Bradshaw for this great resource. It has been very helpful for my own family as we struggle to reconcile hip fashion with God's desire for women to maintain modesty. Remember, "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion." (Proverbs 11:22)

Making Worship Out of Rebels

Thanks to Ron Man’s Worship Notes for this quote on worship by A.W. Tozer.

“Why did Christ come? Why was He conceived? Why was He born? Why was He crucified? Why did He rise again? Why is He now at the right hand of the Father?

The answer to all these questions is, ‘In order that He might make worshipers out
of rebels; in order that He might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.’ Now because we were created to worship, worship is the normal employment of moral beings. It’s the normal employment, not something stuck on or added, like listening to a concert or admiring flowers. It is something that is built into human nature.”

(A. W. Tozer, “O Worship the King”)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Help In The Battle Against Pornography

Romans 13:14 says, “Rather clothe yourself with the Lord, Jesus Christ than to think of how to gratify the desires of sinful nature.” This has been a life verse for me as I have worked to find victory over issues of sexual sin in my own life. Needless to say, I am very passionate about guys and gals being loosed from the bondage of sexual sin.

This evening in services at Parkview Pastor Jeff spoke from the book of Proverbs on turning from temptation. His talk primarily focused in upon this very issue. I thought I would take a moment to post several resources that were available in a hand-out that accompanied tonights service program.
  • X3watch is free accountability software that gives an accountability partner a complete list of questionable internet activity you’ve had over the last month. This is available for Mac or PC, but I will say that I have had a difficult time getting it to work properly on my Mac.
  • Covenant Eyes, like X3, monitors internet activity and sends it to accountability partners. This software is for windows only.
  • Safe Eyes allows you to monitor where your accountability partner visits. This program gives you the ability to filter searches and site visits. It is available for Mac and PC.
  • Pure Online, will take you through a recover course to help you break free from an addiction to pornography.
In closing, I just read that Joshua Harris has a newly published book called Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is). I have not read it, but it looks like a good read. You can check it out at this link.

Friday, July 21, 2006

iPod Toy for Runners

My wife is a runner, so I am sure she will be blown away by this one. If you are a runner, check out what this new device by Apple/Nike can do for those of you.

(HT: VitaminZ)

Don’t Waste Your Life

A few days ago I finished the book “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper. I know many of you have read this book, but I wanted to take a moment for those of you who haven’t to encourage you to read it. I was most impacted by Piper’s imagery that we must live our lives with a wartime mentality. I also love Piper’s views on the joy and satisfaction we must find in Christ and how this joy allows us to magnify God, even in the grips of suffering and death. I’ll end with a few of my favorite (and most convicting) quotes. You can order the book from Amazon by clicking on the picture or title above:

“If we try to display the excellence of God without joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn and legalism.” (P.31)

“The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing.” (P.44)

“If you love for men to make much of you, you will feel shame when they don’t. But if you love for men to make much of Christ, then you will feel shame if he is belittled on your account.” (P.65)

“The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God. They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and count it gain.” (P.72)

“Avoiding fearful trouble and forbidden behaviors impresses almost no one. The avoidance ethic by itself is not Christ-commending or God-glorifying.” (P.118)

“The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capcity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.” (P.120)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Distinctly Christian Worship: A Response

Josh Malone has posted some intriguing questions regarding the “Christian” nature of our worship gatherings in today’s Evangelical churches. You can read his post here. Below are a few clips from his post and my response.
It seems to me that most current worship/arts folks define "Christian worship" very broadly and typically without any inclusion of the Lord's Supper…. This kind of worship might be something, but it does not appear to be distinctly Christian... Is the proclamation of the Lord's death and resurrection by the means which God ordained, the Lord’s Table, the focal point of our worship or do we worship according to our preferences? Seems as though we’ve made other things “sacramental” (music/preaching) and redefined Christian worship apart from its distinctiveness.
- - - -

Wow, what a juicy post Josh! I was actually going to bed early until I read this post… now I feel like I can’t sleep until I think through a response! You have some great thoughts that I find very challenging.

Outside of my childhood involvement in main-line church denominations, I have never been in a church that observed communion weekly. It is interesting thinking about the fact that the more “Evangelical” I became, the less emphasis I experienced being put upon the Lord’s Table. All this to say that I am not sure that, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup…” necessarily specifies a frequency requirement for the gathered church (1 Cor 11:26). So, even though pre-Reformation communion was likely observed weekly, since the Reformation, Evangelicals have obviously taken a much looser view on the frequency requirements of this ordinance (e.g. some quarterly, some monthly, some twice a month, etc…). Consequently, an argument for the weekly observance of the Lord’s Table is grounded more in historical and not Biblical observations.

So have modern “worship/arts” ministries left out a very central component of the gathered church in worship? Maybe. I certainly find it very interesting that the importance of creeds, baptism, communion, and other liturgical elements are being seen as favorable among new generations of believers and unbelievers alike. In defense of all those who work and serve in arts ministries around the world, I think the primary reason they classify their ministries as “dance, drama, music, media, etc…” is because they see these areas as the “how”, not the “what.” In other words, the “what” is music, prayer, scripture, preaching, communion, baptism, etc… and the “how” is the creative means by which the “what” is supported and or presented.

I do also take you to task on the issue you raised in regard to preaching (for some reason this has been a hot-button for me lately). I think the scriptures make preaching a central means of grace in the worship service. This can be seen in Rom 10:14-17 and all throughout the NT starting with Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2:14-41. Now I do understand that much of the preaching we observe post-gospels was not done in the context of a believers gathering; however, I think the NT clearly models God’s central use of the spoken word within the gathering as a means to teach the scriptures and share the gospel. (NOTE: Depending on your doctrinal view of the church, one could argue that Jesus regularly preached to the church as he gathered Jewish believers around him and taught. Did he sing in his gatherings? Likely. We at least know he did it following the last supper with his disciples in Mk 14:26.)

In closing, there is no ordained “order of service” or “liturgy” within the entirety of the NT. Is God’s word vague because He desires us to keep asking, “how did the early church do it?” Should we use the historical texts and archeological evidence to mold and shape our gatherings to become more identical with early Christendom? For the most part, my answer would be "I don't think so." If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people say that house churches are more Biblical than churches that meet within church buildings!! We’ve got to be very careful to not become enslaved to historical context to the point that we restrict the freedoms granted us by God in His Word.

In closing, I have been thinking A LOT about what Biblical worship should look like and I have been somewhat troubled by what worship in the church (international/visible) has become. Posts like this keep me searching the Word and praying over what God is calling the Worship and Arts ministry at Parkview to do in order to better proclaim the glory of God to the lost, hurting, and hopeless within this world. Thanks for the challenge Josh!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Call to End Clericalisation

This quote from Peter Leithart is an interesting (and convicting) assertion that today’s Evangelical worship is more akin to medieval worship than reformational worship.
Nearly every non-Anglican evangelical church I have worshipped in uses a form more akin to medieval Catholic worship than to Reformation worship. True, worship is conducted in the vernacular and when the Supper is served it is served to every communing member. In other ways, however, much of evangelical worship is pure medievalism, with active clergy and passive congregation. The congregation does not bow or raise its hands; the people never pray audibly, rarely if ever saying the Lord’s Prayer; the congregation frequently does not say a creed; there are no responsive readings of the Psalms or corporate readings of other portions of Scripture. On most Sundays, the congregation watches, listens, and the only active participation is singing a few hymns. Apart from singing, the only voice that is heard is the minister’s. . . .

The typical evangelical service is not Reformation worship; it is in important respects closer to the medieval abuses that the Reformers spent themselves to change. Reforming worship demands an end to the clericalisation of evangelical worship and a new emphasis on congregational participation.
Peter Leithart, “Transforming Worship,” Foundations 38:31

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Attractional vs. Missional

On my sabbatical I am wrestling through some philosophical issues regarding how Biblical principles and our present cultural context should influence our Worship and Arts Ministry in the years to come. In this post I would like to start by summarizing some of my observations on some of the fundamental shifts we are seeing in today’s churches (specifically in the United States). Volumes have been written on the specific issue I am discussing in this post, so if you think my thoughts are a gross simplification, you are right. Please join in the conversation if you have any comments or questions that could contribute to the issues within this post.

- - - -

In recent decades the most popular evangelism model for church growth has been the attractional model. I remember several years ago at the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek, Bill Hybels stood on the stage and drew a large funnel on a flip chart explaining that the seeker driven strategy gets unchurched people into the funnel (the seeker service) and then channels them from there into different levels of experience and involvement within the church community. At some point in the process these people come to faith in Christ and begin experiencing growth through involvement in the mid-week worship services, serving in ministry, attending small groups, etc... This is an extremely simplified glimpse at the attractional model; however, it gives an understanding of what many evangelical churches have embraced in some form as a primary evangelistic strategy.

The emerging church claims that effective evangelism for our postmodern culture is no longer attractional. They invert the attractional funnel, transforming evangelism strategy from a come-and-see (attractional) to a go-and-tell (missional). To effectively become missional, emergents tell us we must become incarnational. In the same way as Christ took on flesh in the incarnation so that he could identify with humanity and become the sacrificial lamb, we are to take on the culture of those we are trying to reach in order to win their trust and thus have a voice in sharing the gospel with them.

One reason this missional strategy may be more effective today is because, with the proliferation of information (via the internet, technology, etc…), cultural trends are more fragmented and morph at a higher rate of speed. This fragmentation and morphing effect is causing relevancy based attractional models to struggle because there is no longer an identifiable “style” that can effectively reach an entire demographic. On the flip side, if John is missional with his classmates, and Meghan is missional with her fellow employees, and Andrew is missional with his motocycle club, then these Christians are effectively reaching people within the context of their individual cultures (e.g. being incarnational in their evangelism).

So what does this mean for a Worship and Arts ministry in the local church? Well, quite honestly, I am trying to figure this out. One thing for sure, as my Senior Pastor recently shared with me, our approach to evangelism should not be “either/or” but “both/and.” I do agree with his statement. If our only strategy for evangelism is missional, we risk discounting the Biblical model of preaching as a means of grace for the winning of the lost. In the same regard, if we primarily rely on an attractional evangelism strategy, our churches may continue the trend of becoming less and less effective at reaching new generations.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Christian Humor

Josh Malone recently posted on the use of Christian satire on the web. In line with his post, I do think it is important that we are careful about how we poke fun at one another, especially since the web can take embarrassing information or sarcastic articles and make them instantly available to the whole world. As long as we are careful, I think there is a place for learning to laugh at ourselves. In line with these thoughts, I stumbled across this website which showed a bunch of old Christian music album covers along with other humorous posts and articles. Hopefully it will add a little levity to your day!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Don’t Sing So High!

This quote comes from the “Brehmcenter” on our tendency to hinder the participation of the congregation in singing our congregational music in too high a key. Of course, as a humble baritone I am a bit biased on this issue. There are a few generalizations in this quote; however, some good food for thought.

- - - -

“It seems that the world is full of tenor worship leaders these days! Think about it! Name a few and see if I’m not right. Great voices, great hearts . . . but tenors! I can’t believe how high Chris Tomlin sings “Indescribable”! Great song, but not me in that key! I don’t know what your vocal range is, but the average Joe and Jane Pewsitter have about a one octave range . . . from C to C. Though not all songs have a one octave range, many are very close or smaller. So, if the goal is to encourage congregational participation, then considerable thought should be given to that average C to C range. If you get beyond that range, be ready for people to shut down, stop trying to sing . . . and the cards and letters of complaint will follow! Adjust your comfort and playing ability to what is more important: congregational accessibility and involvement. Remember, the congregation is the largest group in your Worship Ministry, so their ability to focus on God and not the note they can’t reach should be of really high priority.”

(“The Worship Leader and the Vocal Range of Congregational Songs” from Brehmcenter)

Isaac Watts: His Life and Hymnody (Part 3)

This is my final installment on a series of 3 posts on the life and hymnody of Isaac Watts, the "Father of English Hymnody." I find it particularly interesting in this segement how progressive Watt's writing was and how as pastors and song leaders began to integrate his hymn texts in both casual and formal settings (as sung hymns) they were met with staunch persecution.

- - - -

Despite the “Calvinistic” theology that went into his hymns, many of his songs were accepted and embraced by all cultures and denominations. His hymns were definitely the most popular hymns of the day. They were so well and loved that they were heard sung everywhere, even on the streets of London. Farmer, Ebenezer Holman would pause from his labor in the fields on a daily basis to lead his men in the hymn “Come all Harmonious Tongues.” In witnessing the scene Paul Manning writes:
He lifted his spade in his hand, and began to beat time with it; the two laborours seemed to know both words and music, though I did not…. Somehow, I think that if I had known the words, and could have sung, my throat would have been choked up by the feeling of the unaccustomed scene.
This kind of “recreational” singing of hymns fell under harsh criticism by pastors like Charles Chauncy , pastor of First Church in Boston. He was sharply opposed to the emotional and common application of hymnody in every walk of life. Watt’s hymns even became popular in the African American tradition. African Americans would often use Watt’s text and then set them to their own rhythms. Other denominations who didn’t agree with his theology would take many of his hymns and simply edit them to fit into their theological perspective. The Unitarians were known to take many of his hymns and carefully doctor them, removing any trace of the name of Christ.

Watt’s popularity in the American colonies exploded on the heels of the first and second great awakenings. The first great awakening was launched and sustained primarily through the ministries of two men, evangelist George Whitfield and theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards. Whitfield was a captivating speaker who awakened curiosity within inventor Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was so impressed by Whitfield’s preaching that he came away from Whitfield’s message believing that his messages could be heard by over 30,000 people at one time. Jonathan Edwards was both a pastor and theologian. He is also recognized as the first president of Princeton University. One of the greatest reasons these influential leaders promoted the songs of Watts wherever they went was because he was theologically united with them in their love for Calvanistic theology. An illustration of this can be seen in Whitefield’s rejection of Wesley hymns. “When Whitefield came preaching to the American colonies in 1739, he brought with him Wesleyan hymns. When he protested the Wesley’s Arminian stance, he abandoned Wesley for Watts.”

Another reason that Watts hymns were so popular in the church of the Americas was because in America the church was in a difficult time of reformation and persecution. Watt’s fresh approach to hymnody and inspiring settings fueled peoples desire to stand up to the hypocrisy and tyranny of the corrupted church. One example of this early persecution is seen in this report of what happened in 1771, when a small Baptist congregation began adapting to the practice of singing.
Brother Waller informed us…. [that] about two weeks ago on the Sabbath Day down in Caroline County he introduced the worship of God by singing…. The Parson of the Perish would keep running the end of his horsewhip in Waller’s mouth, laying his whip across the hymn book, etc… When done singing [Waller] proceeded to prayer. In it he was violently jerked off the stage; they caught him by the back part of his neck, beat his head against the ground, sometimes up, sometimes down, they carried him through a gate that stood some considerable distance, where a gentleman [the sheriff] gave him… twenty lashes with his horsewhip…. Then Bro. Waller was released, went back singing praise to God, mounted the stage and preached with a great deal of liberty.
This example of the religious persecution of the day portrays some of the climate in which his hymns so radically lit within the people a desire to sing praise to God in a whole new way. In many ways Watt’s legacy of great hymns have been a more lasting influence upon the church and it’s theology than any great speaker or preacher. One of the hymnals that was written during the second great awakening was Ashel Nettleton’s, Village Hymns for Social Worship. In this hymnal Nettleton featured close to 50 Isaac Watts hymns. In the preface of Nettleton’s hymnal he writes:
With great satisfaction and pleasure have I often heard the friends of the Redeemer express their unqualified attachment to the sacred poetry of Dr. Watts. Most cordially do I unite with them in the hope that no selection of hymns which has ever yet appeared may be suffered to take the place of his inimitable productions.
This hymnal was considered by some as the “most evangelistic” hymnals ever produced.

The hymns of Watt’s won the attention of many great people. One of Isaac Watt’s greatest fans was Benjamin Franklin, who was responsible for publishing his Psalm paraphrases in 1729. Fanny Crosby, the most prolific American hymn writer of all time was converted when listening to the Watts tune “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed.” Charles Wesley himself, said that he would have given up all the hymns he wrote, if God would have allowed him the write the words of this most famous hymn of Isaac Watts:

When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ, my God;

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His Blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

This hymn which was inspired by Watt’s reading of Galatians 6:14 was the one that Matthew Arnold named the finest hymn in the English language. Hymnologist John Julian declares that it must be classified with the four lyrics that stand at the head of all English hymns.

Isaac Watts life finally gave in to his life time of sickness and frailty. He passed away on November 25 of 1748. He was buried at Bunhill Fields, London, near the graves of John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe. A monument to his memory was placed in Westminster Abbey, the highest honor that can be given an Englishman. Perhaps as an even greater monument in his honor are the many hymns that Christians have been singing and will continue to be sing for generations to come.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Malone Baby

Our Pastor of Young Adults and wife Emily just welcomed Rebekah Grace Malone into the world. Click here for a few pics and more details. Congratulations Josh and Emily and welcome Rebekah!

The Movie Luther

Tonight I watched the movie Luther, which was released in September of 2003. Over a year ago a good friend recommended it to me and I really enjoyed the movie. Though I have not seen a scholarly review regarding historical accuracy it received a favorably review here on It helped me knit together some of the historical events and better understand the gravity of corruption in the Catholic church that spurned the reformation. I recommend it to you as an inspirational story of faith worth watching.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Caspian Ready to Set Sail

If your like me, you really enjoyed Disney's recent motion picture adaption of C.S. Lewis' classic, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. According to Christianity Today, the next film from the Chronicles, 'Prince Caspian,' will begin filming soon.

- - - -

The next movie in the Chronicles of Narnia series, 'Prince Caspian,' will begin filming early next year, with all of the children resuming their roles as the Pevensies. Plus: Congress joins debate about PG rating for Christian film; Keith Richards to appear in 'Pirates 3'; and more.

(HT: Christianity Today)

Self Esteem vs. God Esteem

The definition of esteem is “to regard with respect; prize.” I have always struggled with the idea that I will find contentment in life by loving myself or esteeming myself more. This thinking has been primo in our culture for years. Countless therapy sessions have ended with the psychologist writing in his or her notes, “suffers from poor self-esteem.”

I have been reading John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life” and really appreciated his insights on this issue (P. 33):
For many people… they do not feel loved when they are told that God created them for his glory. They feel used. This is understandable given the way love has been almost completely distorted in our world. For most people, to be loved is to be made much of. Almost everything in our Western culture serves this distortion of love. We are taught in a thousand ways that love means increasing one’s self-esteem. Love is helping someone feel good about themselves. Love is giving someone a mirror and helping him like what he sees.

This is not what the Bible means by the love of God. Love is doing what is best for someone. But making self the object of our highest affections is not best for us. It is, in fact, a lethal distraction. We were made to see and savor God – and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them. To make them feel good about themselves when they were made to feel good about seeing God is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors.

The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Today I am officially beginning the three-week segment of my four-week summer sabbatical (July 10-31 & August 7-14). Though I may not be blogging quite as frequently, I will continue to post on a fairly regular basis. Thanks for checking in. If you have any ideas of ways this blog media can keep you better informed please let me know.

Hope you’re having a great summer! To God be the glory!


Saturday, July 08, 2006

What is ServFest?

Last week I posted a question on David Wilcox’s blog after he posted some amazing numbers for volunteers who recently got involved in his ministry. Yesterday he posted his church’s volunteer recruitment strategy, which is similar to ours, but takes it up a notch in several ways. Below is the latter half of his post. Click here for the entire post.

- - - -

On June 9th, our senior pastor, Joshua Harris, gave a message on serving. He ended about fifteen minutes early, so that anyone who wasn't serving could attend ServFest. Each major group of ministry teams gave a five-minute presentation in one of three tents set up on our back lawn. Large signs led people to the teams they were most interested in.

I did a short ditty on the Technology Ministries. That isn't even an official group, but it made sense to include the sound, lighting, video, duplication, and IT teams together in that group. Other groups were Outreach, Communications, Children's Ministry, Creative, etc. I think we managed to categorize all the ministry teams into 9 different groups for presentations

Each person got a card, and he was able to indicate on that card what ministry team group interested him most. Then he wrote down the specific ministry team on a line below that group. I guessed that I had 300 people listen to the presentation on Technology Ministries. From that, I had 80 people check off the card that they were interested.

From here, it's my responsibility to follow up. For those 80 people, we'll have a series of meetings on a Saturday in August, introducing them more fully to each of the different teams. For someone who comes in through Starting Point or the Kiosk, I'll often meet with them one on one or in small groups. At that point, they make a decision to sign up or not.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Boer Prayer Update

I have had numerous people ask about how Rob Boer is doing with his recorvery from brain surgery. I just recieved this update today. Looks like good news and answered prayer!

- - - -

Dear Loved Ones,

The following is a note from Rob regarding the last MRI. We are doing well. He and I both struggle with being tired and sleeping well (mine from a combo of fibromyalgia and Emily waking at night; his from drug interactions). But we are grateful for all that the Lord is providing. Emily is happy overall in spite of toddler frustrations when she doesn't get her way. :) She has been having some bad dreams and is scared of thunder and firework noises at night. But her joy of discovery is a blessing to behold. Thank you for all of your continued prayers and support.

Keri Boer

- - - -

Friends, I finally received a phone message from Duke, who had received the MRI film and CD-ROM from Asheville, after my scan last Wednesday. They report that the tumor has not changed or grown, praise God; it is stable and fine and there is nothing new. That is a good start; my next MRI is in 2 months at Duke, and hopefully it will continue to not grow.

Thank you for your continued prayers. I continue to serve God with my face down in prayer before Him, and my life even with this threat to it belongs to Him completely, and being Christ centered, student focused and service driven at the college is so much more exciting and focused this way!

Have a blessed week, all.

Dr. Robert Boer
Director of Music Programs
Montreat College

Postmodernity Terms Defined

I just now took some time to watch the video's in preparation for the conference much of Parkview's Sr. Staff is attending in September on postmodernity. If you've read the recent posts and have been scratching your head on what all this is about, the videos found here on the conference site are VERY helpful in clarifying terminology.

I especially appreciated Mark Driscoll's video's on Seeker vs. Missional. Very helpful!!

Incarnational Lingo (A Response)

Josh posted a response to my post entitled "Incarnational Ministry Concerns." You can read it here.

Holy is the Lord Trainwreck

I died laughing at this sound file from a church service (not our church service), probably because I've had nightmares of putting my capo on the wrong fret only to discover I am a major second above or below the rest of the band. It's only by the grace of God this kind of thing doesn't happen more often!

Incarnational Ministry Concerns

Yesterday Josh Malone, Pastor of Young Adults at Parkview posted some very interesting thoughts on Church culture. I really resonate with his thoughts. It did pull the trigger for me on one issue that I have been struggling about as I read the literature and follow discussions on what some say the Church of tomorrow must do to reach a postmodern culture. My main concerns and questions are about the term incarnational ministry. I am cautions about what this term means within emerging movements and hope my questions and comments will lead to me becoming more informed and effective in ministry. You can read all my thoughts below.

May God enlighten us all!


- - - -

Josh, I really appreciate your four-fold classification that categorizes today’s church culture. I have wanted to gain more clarity on these issues for some time. I am thankful that your post is opening up this dialogue at Parkview.

I am in agreement with you that the #2 traditionalist-relevants classification is definitely where Parkview and other churches interested in winning people to Christ needs to reside. As you implied, the brush stroke within the traditionalist-relevants classification is huge, so let me boil it down and lead into a few comments and questions.

I want to start by admitting that I don’t have a lot of first hand experience with communities that are supposedly living out the incarnational/emerging philosophy, maintaining orthodoxy, and reaching postmodern’s effectively. I have read several books, read articles/blogs, and have listened to and watched various media resources. With this limited exposure I would like to make a few likely discombobulated observations.


In the book “The Shaping of Things to Come” the “incarnational” church borders being devoid of Biblical distinctive. The book strongly encourages people serious about winning the postmodern culture to abandon “institutional” church models and start churches among lost friends at the pub or in the local motorcycle gang. I totally agree that Christians, particularly in our nation, need to become more incarnational in their outreach by getting more vitally involved in the lives of lost people; however, to define these communities as churches risks being non-Biblical because it denies the scriptural means of grace necessary to be a church and ultimately to win the lost (Preaching & Sacraments… No sacraments don’t save, they are confirming means of faith).


One of the poster-children of Pastors effectively winning post-moderns is Mark Driscoll. Mark is ministering in a church of thousands in Seattle and, from watching his Vodcasts, seems to be quite conventional with one distinction, he is very hip. In essence, he is winning people like himself and that’s it. This makes me wonder, is the problem really the mega-church model, or how it is expressed? I also think of churches like Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis. Piper’s church of 4,000 is filled with post-moderns who are living out a missional faith by going around the world to share the gospel. If I could think of a classification for churches likes these it would be reformed and missional. Though some would argue that the "reformed" (as in Calvinism) bent in these churches has nothing to do with their success, I am not so sure (discussion on this is for another post, another time).


The idea that we replace our relevant-paradigm with an incarnational-paradigm is good for the following reasons.
  • The relevancy concept in church risks being consumer/marketing driven (as you pointed out in your post)
  • The relevancy movement feels artificial and trendy, especially to post-moderns
  • Incarnational ministry gives us a more Biblical paradigm for being missional
  • The incarnational term centers our church philosophy on mission in Christ
What I am concerned about is this; the incarnation (in and of itself) is not an evangelism strategy. Wayne Grudem says of the incarnation in his Bible Doctrine book (P. 246) that,
It is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible – far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God become one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.
When I ponder the incarnation I am overwhelmed by the creativity, economy, and mercy of our great God! My first and primary reaction is awe in regard to the God-to-man nature of the transaction. My second reaction is humility and brokenness over the man-to-God result of the incarnation (e.g. we now have access to God through the imputation of our sin upon the Son of God). If “incarnational” ministry becomes a strategy, what does this do to the true doctrinal meaning behind the incarnation, which is not a strategy but a profound mystery of God?

In conclusion, I think we’ve got to wake-up in the church and address some of the non-Biblical paradigms that are rendering us ineffective in today’s emerging culture. If that mean’s we must radically shift the forms that define our ministries, then so be it. Let’s just take care to not do it at the risk of cheapening orthodoxy with the latest trend or fad.

OK, now it’s your turn. Am I out to lunch? Does any of this make sense?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

First Theology

Parkview’s Pastor of Young Adults, Josh Malone has now joined the blog world. Josh is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. He loves God and discussing the scriptures and theology. He and his wife Emily are amazing additions to Parkview’s staff team. He is now linked in my “links’ section under “First Theology.” You can also link directly to him here.

Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers

Justin Taylor featured this kids teaching program on his blog a few days ago. If you have young ones at home, this sounds like a pretty neat program for teaching your kids about some of the harder to understand Biblical issues including the Trinity, gospel, scriptures, and mission. After reading several he recommends them highly.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Nativity Story

In December 2006, New Line Cinema is releasing the major motion picture, THE NATIVITY STORY. You can go to the official site here. Below is the “about the movie” description on the site.

From humble beginnings, great things can come. THE NATIVITY STORY tells the extraordinary tale of two common people, Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, and arduous journey, and the history-defining birth of Jesus. Brought to life with an unprecedented attention to detail and commitment to historical accuracy, THE NATIVITY STORY is the very human, very dramatic, and uniquely inspiring saga of a journey of faith.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Humble Orthodoxy

The “emerging” church movement is confronting a lot of the problems in today’s church; however, in the process of reformation some of the movement has abandoned orthodoxy.

At this link you can download and view a talk given by Joshua Harris at the New Attitude conference called “Humble Orthodoxy.” I watched it this morning and really appreciated it’s message to the emerging postmodern culture. Here are a few of the sound bites:
  • We live in a day where certainty is out of style
  • Is the gospel play-dough or a diamond?
  • We need humble theology
  • What our world needs is young men and women courageously committed to the truth

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Centrality of Preaching

Recently someone expressed concern over a statement in our arts ministry that implied that artistic media is capable of “outperforming” the preaching of the Word in the divine work of calling people to saving faith in Christ. It is by no accident that I had been spending quite a bit of my time lately thinking about this very issue. I have been asking fundamental questions like… What role does the arts have in worship? What role does preaching have in worship? How should this influence how we go about planning our services?

One doesn’t need to be in music ministry long to hear comments from artistically “bent” people like “I wouldn’t mind if we’d sing for 60 minutes and have a 10 minute message.” At these comments some worship leaders smile and think about what an effective ministry they must have to have earned such a compliment. Why do you think it is that worship leaders are so fond of meditating on 2 Chronicles 5? Solomon is dedicating the temple, the Ark of the Covenant is put into place, the trumpets blast, cymbals clang, and singers sing. The presence of the Lord fills the temple like a cloud keeping the priests from continuing to minister. Worship leaders are raised dreaming of that moment when the emotional ballad ends the music set, the glory of God fills the room, and the preacher says “God is here… let’s just keep singing!” Certainly, we would all love to experience the glory of God in such a powerful way, but should this really be our consuming passion? If we are not careful, we risk becoming egocentric, thinking that “our medium” is somehow more linked to the glory of God than preaching.

Let’s look for just a moment at Romans 10:14-17.
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” but they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Based on this passage, and others like it, we’ve got to be very careful to not view services in such as way as to assume that slick marketing, excellent music, relevant dramas, or great technology will make or break God’s agenda for the service. Though mediums such as music are essential and even commanded by God in worship, Romans 10 teaches us that there is a special role and calling for the preaching of the Word as well as the administration of sacraments. Preaching and the sacraments of baptism and communion are primary means by which God chooses to create faith. This is well articulated in this line from the Heidelberg Catechism, “The Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel and confirms it through the use of his holy sacraments.”

So what are a few practical applications for those of us who love and lead worship through various artistic mediums? For one, we must work hard to serve God’s agenda for the spoken word by asking questions like “how can we creatively program a service to serve the spoken word?” or “what artistic elements will accentuate this weekends message/sermon?” We can also fervently pray for our teaching pastor who has the primary responsibility of bearing the Word of God through preaching week after week. It is a responsibility that demands hours of study, close attention to scripture, doctrine and the history of interpretation. How often do you pray that God would direct your pastor’s preparation and work powerfully through his messages? If your answer is “not much” then I would challenge you to start praying regularly for his ministry.

In closing, consider these words by Michael Horton in his book “A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship.” (P. 64)
While there may be other supports for the Christian life, “faith comes by hearing the preached Word,” says Paul. While the Spirit is free to work apart from these means, he has promised to work effectually through them alone. We must resist the temptation to associate the work of the Spirit with numbers and noise, or we will inevitably miss the magnitude of what the Spirit is doing every week in the ordinary ministry of the means he has appointed. God works savingly then and there because he has promised to meet us then and there.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Bacteria on Purses

So, the other day I picked up my wife’s mammoth stylin’ purse and inadvertently glanced inside. It contained the normal purse stuff including make-up, keys, etc… but was also filled with an assortment of children’s toys. Now, I think the kids had more to do with the toys than their mother, but it was a humorous look for me at the life of a hard working mother of five kids. Not even her purse is sacred!

This leads me to recent findings some researchers uncovered inside of women’s purses. Read below…

- - - -

A study was performed on women's purses. A health team went to a local mall and took samples from the bottom of 50 women's purses. The purses were swabbed with cotton swabs along the entire bottom of the purses and placed into special containers. The swabs were then processed at a local laboratory.

The Health Report also showed where women place their purses: public rest-rooms (on the floor beside the toilet), kitchen counters & kitchen tables, on tables & chairs in restaurants, etc. The results of the laboratory tests contained the following most serious result: 1 out of 4 purses — E COLI

Other extremely serious bacteria also were listed, including Hepatitis.

They recommended that women should DAILY wipe their purses (particularly the bottom) with a disinfectant wipe and to be extremely careful where you sit your purse. Most important, do NOT place your purse on a table (anywhere) where you will eat or on a kitchen counter and do not put it anywhere close to a toilet.