What Church Music Should Look Like

Church music should exalt, edify, and educate.

Exalt God. Edify saints. Educate believers.

How that’s done differs, but the following aspects should be present:

1) Substance
Music teaches; it’s memorable; therefore, we should take care of what our songs teach. Are saints better served to remember the words,

“Breathe on us
Holy fire fall
Come and fill this place with
Your presence
Like a rushing wind
Send Your Spirit here
Breath of Heaven breathe on us
Breath of Heaven breathe on us”1

or better served to memorize,

“Finish, then, thy new creation
True and spotless let us be
Let us see thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee
Changed from glory into glory
Till in heav’n we take our place
Till we cast our crowns before thee
Lost in wonder, love and praise”?2

One of those examples teaches of regeneration, sanctification, glorification, reigning with Christ, and eternal fellowship with God. The other asks God to redo something done in the New Testament without stating why we should ask for it or why God might do as we ask.

2) Sing-ability
Can the congregation sing this song? Is the range too great? It is too complicated? Is it too fast? Musical styles aren’t prescribed in scripture, but some genres tend to be better suited for the assembly. And Christians are gathered to sing, not to be a passive audience.

That’s why hymns are so useful in corporate worship: the meter rarely changes; in hymnals singers can “see” where the notes are going and how long to hold them; the structures and tunes are typically simple. Many can pick up a hymn and start participating after only one stanza and refrain (if the hymn even has one).

3) Simple beauty
Take away all the lights, sound equipment, and musical instruments. If those and all our polished performers were suddenly unavailable, then would the songs still stand on their own as lovely, memorable, and inspiring? Would they point us to God? Or would we simply miss the former things that moved us emotionally because those were what we sought?

Believers should certainly be moved emotionally by our worship through song, however it must be by the content of the element and not the manner of the form. Truth (the content; knowledge) in song (the element) is what should make us feel our faith. The manner (the talent) of the form (the genre) is important only insofar as it encourages and aids worship.

Once you seek to exalt God by singing of who He is in a way that edifies your congregation and educates yourself and fellow believers on the truths of God’s Word, you’ll find no greater feeling.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:16-17

1 “Breathe on Us” by Kari Jobe
2 “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley

The Price of Peace: The Prince of Peace

Peace with God cost Him because only He could pay the price necessary to reconcile

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:9-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus came to bring peace—to reconcile us to God. That’s why He came, and that’s why we celebrate His coming.

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Original Hymn: Born That We Might Be Born Again

Feel free to sing this hymn in your church without changes, addition, or omission. Let me know all about it in the comments or via message here or on social media.

SHEET MUSIC

Born That We Might Be Born Again | Words & Music: Ryan Cornett

Not to kings nor to princes did heralds appear
Proclaiming God has come to dwell with us here
But that host, to the lowly declared Heaven’s grace
“Good news and greatest joy to all Adam’s race!”

Refrain
Born is a King, Son of God, and Son of Man
“Glory!” we sing, come to Earth is Heaven’s Lamb
God Himself has provided the off’ring for sin
His child is born that we might be born again

How the dark must have fled from the angelic light
O, but their tidings far exceeded the sight!
Never heard was a message so glori’ous and true:
“Christ, Lord and Savior, has this day come to you”

Lo, the shepherds departed with haste ever swift
Seeking the greater wonder of Heaven’s gift
So may we run to Jesus, then tell of His birth:
“God in the highest brought to us peace on earth!”

Life’s Great Questions – A Gospel Tract

Life’s Great Questions tract – FRONT

You are welcome to download this Word .doc and edit with your contact information. The page is set up for four front-and-back bookmark-sized tracts. I recommend saving as a .pdf and uploading that to your preferred cardstock printing service.

Life’s Great Questions (AND their answers):

1. Why do we need Jesus to save us?

A. Because we are born dead in our sin.

Ephesians 2:1

2. What does that mean?

A. It means that our sin has separated us from God.

Romans 3:23

3. What is sin?

A. Sin is disobeying God’s laws: not loving Him, not loving others, stealing, lying, and more.

1 John 3:4

4. Why does God get to make laws everyone has to follow?

A. Because He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign Ruler over all things. His Creation, His rules.

Psalm 103:19

5. Can’t we just try to live a good life?

A. You can certainly try, but you’ll never be good enough. God’s standard is perfection.

Romans 3:10

6. Then how can we be saved from sin if there’s no hope for us to be good enough?

A. That’s why we need Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God who, before time began, purposed with God the Father to save us because He knew we’d need Him.

John 3:16

7. How does Jesus save us?

A. Jesus was born into history, lived a righteous (sinless) life we could never live, and took God’s wrath for sin upon Himself to save people like you and me. He died a physical death and rose again to live forever so that we can live forever with Him.

Romans 5:8

8. So Jesus isn’t dead?

A. No! He is alive and is seated at the place of honor at God’s right hand in Heaven. There He advocates for us and prepares a place for us to live with Him forever.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

9. What if I like who I am and what I do even if it is sin?

A. That’s possible. But if what you’ve read here about Jesus makes you have grief and feel sorry because of your sin, then that is evidence of the work of God the Holy Spirit changing your heart.

Ezekiel 36:26

10. What must I do to be saved?

A. Repent & believe! Turn away from sin and believe in Jesus and what He has done. Sin is no match for Jesus!

Mark 1:15

On “Necessary Inference” from the LBCF Ch 1.6

“There is no Bible verse that says ‘Trinity,’ therefore I reject the doctrine of the Trinity.” – A Biblicist

The quote in the image is hypothetical and overstated to illustrate a point. Throughout church history, God’s people have looked to the whole of Scripture to inform belief–not single proof texts. Part of that process is using reason to infer truth. Ergo, we find the doctrine of the Trinity woven throughout Scripture like a resplendent, intricately-detailed tapestry.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English, chapter 1.6 begins, “The whole counsel of God concerning everything essential for his own glory and man’s salvation, faith, and life is either explicitly stated or by necessary inference contained in the Holy Scriptures. Nothing is ever to be added to the Scriptures, either by new revelation of the Spirit or by human traditions” (emphasis mine).

In using logic and reason to determine good and necessary consequences from God’s Word, we are simply practicing the interpretive technique modeled by our Lord in Mark 12:24-27:

24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

The passage to which Jesus refers does not explicitly state that there is indeed a resurrection, which the Sadducees rejected. But that doesn’t stop the Son of God from using God’s message to Moses to demonstrate the logical, reasonable truth of the resurrection. God IS the God of the living, consequently we will be resurrected: those who reject God to eternal judgement, and those in Christ to eternal life.

Original Hymn: Welcomed to the Table

Feel free to sing this hymn in your church without changes, addition, or omission. Let me know all about it in the comments or via message here or on social media.

SHEET MUSIC

Welcomed to the Table | Words & Music: Ryan Cornett

Welcomed to the table of the King 1
Though no worth unto this meal we bring 2
Come! Rememb’ring Him, we dine and sing 3

Like no bread the fathers ate and died 4
This His body, broken for His Bride 5
Eat! Proclaiming Christ the crucified 6

This the cleansing blood of our High Priest 7
From His cup the low, the last, the least 8
Drink! Awaiting Heaven’s wedding feast 9

1 (1 Corinthians 10:17, Ephesians 2:13)
2 (Job 35:7, John 6:53-57)
3 (1 Corinthians 11:24; Matthew 26:30)
4 (John 6:58)
5 (1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:24)
6 (1 Corinthians 11:26)
7 (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12; 1 John 1:7)
8 (Job 22:2, Mark 2:17, Luke 17:10)
9 (Matthew 26:29, Revelation 19:7-9)

Our church really only sings one hymn about the Lord’s Supper, so I studied scripture and wrote this. I wanted to be brief (your church can sing this in about one minute) and really make clear what God’s people are invited and expected to do.

Believers are invited to come, eat, and drink. In partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we do so in remembrance of Him, we proclaim His death until He comes, and we await His coming and the marriage supper of the Lamb!

Thoughts on Song Writing: Time

I used to come up with a catchy melody and one good line, sit down for 20 minutes, write down the first rhymes that came to me, and call a song finished. Those songs have since disappeared.

These days, writing a song takes months or years. Much of that time is spent with the song put away, focused on other things. This time away from a song allows me to be more objective when I need to be critical of it and make revisions. Sure, it’s possible to write a great song in a matter of minutes–but that is simply not the norm. Time is an ingredient songwriters mustn’t neglect.

It’s so encouraging to read successful songwriters tell of struggling with a song for months and years. Sure, it’s great to know they’re human like me, but the greatest encouragement comes from knowing I’m on the right track and haven’t been wasting my time. I’m on the older side of 40 years of age now. I don’t have nearly the time I had when I started writing songs as a young lad–time as in both availability AND longevity. As a husband, dad, assistant pastor, and instructor it’s hard to carve out time to focus on writing; as a 40+ man, I have to make the time if I’m ever going to get it done.

I want to leave behind songs that bless the church long after I’m gone. In order for my writing to be timeless, I have to give it time. You too, young songwriter, should learn to give songs time–a lot of time. Those professional songwriters I mentioned earlier who say it takes months and months to write? Unfortunately, I didn’t learn it from them; I figured it out for myself through trial and error. I wish I HAD read them years ago because there’s so much I had to figure out on my own, learning and maturing over years …. Don’t reinvent the wheel: learn from me and my mistakes.

Save time now that you can give to your songs later.

There are melodies, verses, choruses, bridges, and lyrics on which I’ve been ruminating for years. Finding their fit has proven difficult, even intimidating, and possibly impossible! But I’ll keep at it and won’t let myself settle. I’ll only present to the church songs I think are worthy of her precious time.

Five Reasons You Should NOT Start a Podcast

Who’s telling you not to start a podcast?! That’s pessimistic and lacking vision. Go ahead and start one.

I don’t know everything, but I do know this: the world needs more podcasts. Here are some answers to common objections:

1. You Don’t Have the Time

After you read your Bible and pray, you have work to do in order to provide your family. Your wife deserves affection and adoration. Your kids are over the moon when you play with them. You need to smoke a pork shoulder and have family and friends from church over this weekend. You need to prepare for Bible study. You have all those things around the house that need to be done. That doesn’t leave much time for the most important thing: a PODCAST! But you’ve got 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM free, right?

2. The Market is Saturated

There might be 8,675,309 Christian podcasts to choose from, but YOU’RE going to say something unique and important and people are going to find you, subscribe, and persist in listening to your wisdom. Your voice needs to be heard on a global scale. Local, schmocal.

3. Good Production Ain’t Easy (or Cheap)

So, you found a cheap microphone and downloaded a free DAW (digital audio workstation). Your buddy who played guitar in high school is going to record some original intro music on his iPhone just for you. And hey, that old fitted sheet your wife wants to throw out would make a GREAT backdrop for when you start vlogging!

4. Your Local People Need Your Best

You’re totally not going through all this trouble to get listens from Reformed Twitter and RT adjacent podcast listeners. Some of your local folks will listen too! And sure you’ll devote your greatest efforts to making sure family worship and your preaching, teaching, Bible study, and evangelism through your local church are just as polished and click-worthy as that upcoming episode exposing Word of Faith heretics.

5. You Won’t Always Have Something Worth Saying

Go ahead: promise your listeners you’ll have fresh content every Monday and Wednesday with bonus episodes on Fridays for Patreon subscribers. You should probably go ahead and commit to live-streaming your Saturday morning open-air evangelism on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. You’re totally going to have something noteworthy to contribute to the Christian’s faithful understanding of current events multiple times a week. You’re not going to use filler or be repetitive. You’ll probably only use a fifth of your time to talk about your sponsor.

Update on the Podcast

Podcasts are time consuming.

Plus, there are so many out there competing for limited listening time.

Therefore, I’ve put a lot of time into something very few people listen to. I’m so glad to have met great folks through the podcast over the last 18 months, but the return on my time investment is just not worth it. I can spend that time praying, meditating on God’s Word, reading, with family, working on the homestead, etc.

Plus, I’ve found that several audio Bible apps pretty much do what I’ve been doing with the Scripture Memory format. Furthermore, the brilliant Dustin Benge recently started a podcast that is basically the Rapid Theology format. And trust me–he’s much better at it than I am!

Maybe I’ll pop up in your podcast feed from time to time with the informal episodes like I used to. But that’ll have to come after spiritual disciplines, family, church, homesteading, and work.

Pray for me. SDG.

Rapid Theology: What Is Lacking in Christ’s Afflictions #005

TRANSCRIPT:

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

Colossians 1:24-26

We encountered Colossians 1:24 in our scripture memory passage earlier this week, and that verse is particularly difficult to understand given the phrase, “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body ….” On the surface, it appears Paul is saying the work of Christ was not sufficient for salvation, but that Paul himself must contribute something to finish the work of salvation for the people of God.

Well, let’s not look at this verse in a vacuum. Remember: we allow Scripture to interpret scripture. What do other parts of the Bible have to say about Jesus Christ and his work to secure our redemption?

1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”

Ephesians 1:7 tells us concerning Jesus: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace …”

Of Jesus, Hebrews 9:12 says: “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

And Paul writes in Romans 3:24-25 that God’s people QUOTE “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

Christ’s suffering of the punishment we deserved for our sins is sufficient to redeem a people for his own possession. Since Paul clearly is talking about something other than the effectiveness of Jesus Christ’s suffering and afflictions, it becomes a question of just what he does mean. Here’s what I believe is clear in the context, so bear in mind Paul finished his thought in the sentence in question by talking about his ministry:

Notice Paul uses here his favorite word picture to teach us about the church: the body. Paul says he’s filling up what is lacking QUOTE “for the sake of his body, that is, the church …” And remember that Paul told us explicitly just a few verses prior what Christ’s place is in the body: the head. So whatever Paul is talking about is for the sake of the church, but not its redemption. Thus, I believe it is about the building up of the church, or in other words, the growth of the church–God the Son’s Kingdom. Redemption came through the first cause, Jesus Christ. Expansion comes through the means God typically uses: people. People who minister.

Think about the mission of the church: to make disciples. In discipling, we have discipline–in our context, the spiritual disciplines. Our serving and suffering sanctifies us and can be used by God in the salvation and sanctification of others. It’s not that there is anything lacking in Christ’s afflictions unto salvation, but there are afflictions—there is suffering—to come to Paul, John, the martyrs, and in likely small ways to you and me, and these afflictions are for the sake of the church which grows every day because of the power of the Gospel ordinarily so through the means of its members. Listen to …

James 1:2-3

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Paul writes in Romans 5 of Jesus and the fact that QUOTE “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” verses, 2-4.

1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

Finally, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy he beautifully ties together mission as a member of Christ’s body, suffering for the sake of Christ, and eternal hope found in Christ:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

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