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 theelement 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 oneanother 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
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!
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.
This review is not timely. Aniol published By the Waters of Babylon in 2015. After I discovered him and his book through an acquaintance who is one of his students, I let it sit too long in my online shopping cart before I finally purchased it on January 9.
Structure and Theme
I read it in three days–quite the feat for a father of two young daughters if I say so myself. It is not light reading, but is certainly accessible. There is much background information and theory, but application is there. I would argue Aniol gives readers the tools to apply biblical worship principles rather than doing so much of the work for us. Aniol’s main contribution here is groundwork for most of the book: historical information (transformationalism; the missional church), comparing historical and contemporary understandings (definitions of mission and culture), and where understandings and definitions split from biblical bases (culture is the behavior of depraved individuals). The payoff is in the last third of the book, where Aniol lays out his case for a biblical relationship between worship and mission: the glory of God is foremost, worship is our purpose, and mission is the church’s God-given task to make disciples who are worshipers; or simply, “disciple-worshipers.”
The proper approach to culture, Aniol says, “could be called the sanctificationist approach” which he states, “simply seeks to apply what the Bible has to say about behavior to every area of the Christian’s life” (116). The missional church movement, as helpful as it has been in increasing overall zeal for evangelism, accepted the contemporary anthropological definition of culture and adapted to that. In doing so, their corporate worship time became a) primarily evangelistic, and b) simply a tool for the church to use in fulfilling its mission–a secondary to support the primary.
The Assembly of the Saints
Aniol, on the other hand, makes a compelling and biblical argument that the weekly gathering of the saints on the Lord’s Day is a sacred event, a time set apart as regulated by God for his glory and our edification: ” … corporate worship is the public acting out of the spiritual realities of worship; it is a weekly dramatic re-creation of drawing near to God through Christ by faith” (135). And since the Bible includes various “kinds of imaginative forms God chose to communicate his truth” (158), it follows that ” … the truth must include not only the expression of right doctrine but also the expression of right imagination. The imagination is shaped and cultivated through aesthetic forms” (157). In other words: the manner matters. For example, corporate worship may make us happy–even making us smile with delight in God, but it must be serious. A lack of seriousness in genre or conduct teaches otherwise.
Should every elder who plans and/or executes a worship service read this? YES. Should every elder who focuses on music in the church read this? YES. However, what is obvious (and I am thankful for it) is that Aniol sees worship not simply as music or the arts, but a way of life for the believer with a special regard for the assembly of the body to whom the believer belongs.
Additional suggested reading topics based on this book:
Two-kingdoms theology, ecclesiology, the regulative principle of worship, biblical genres.
For this very brief episode, I recorded some thoughts based on a sermon I recently preached pointing out the beautiful symmetry and parallelism in Matthew 1 and Revelation 21.
The short, single-topic, reading from a transcript is likely what to expect more of going forward, though I do hope to record some episodes more like #s 002-009 someday soon.
In Matthew 1, we read of the angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife, and that he was to name the child conceived in her by the Holy Spirit “Jesus.” We then read:
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Take note in particular this language—the meaning of the name “Immanuel”—God with us.
Then consider Revelation 21 and its parallel. John sees a new heaven and a new earth, and new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. Then verse 3:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God …”
Notice the striking similarity? At the incarnation of Jesus Christ, he is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” At the exaltation of Jesus Christ, once again God will dwell with his people. Once again, God will come to us.
During this season, we focus on celebrating the first coming of Christ. We celebrate what the Old Testament saints anticipated. They were wise to look to the Scriptures and anticipate the arrival of their Redeemer. We would be wise to learn from them and do likewise: to search the Scriptures and anticipate the return of our Redeemer. Like those saints of old, there is much we don’t know; God’s Word is not explicitly clear on some things concerning eschatology. However, we know what to believe: that he is returning, and his return and the hope of the assurance of our eternal habitation in a city prepared by God, in a “better country,” should cause us who are in Christ to live fundamentally differently from those who are in Adam—it should cause us to see this world fundamentally differently.
Darrell Harrison said, “The Gospel calls the follower of Christ to adopt and embrace an entirely different view of this world—so different, in fact, that we are to live in it as if we belong to another world altogether, because we do.”
Indeed, the Bible is clear in its language that we are “not of this world.” Those in Christ are aliens, strangers, exiles, and sojourners—the wilderness bride of Christ.
God’s Word tells us plainly to live this mortal life in light of eternity, expecting Christ’s return: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
In his book Far As the Curse is Found, author and professor Michael D. Williams wrote:
The future to which we aspire shapes our attitudes and decisions in the present. It’s important to know where we are headed, for it tells us how to live in the present. That is as true of what we see to be our ultimate future—the issue of human destiny—as it is of our proximate futures. To live responsibly in the present requires that we be acquainted with our future end.
We believers must be able to confidently tell the world:
I ALWAYS have joy and hope and the knowledge that at the end, on the last day, I will stand before my Lord and Savior JUSTIFIED and everything I did for His Kingdom will be worth it—for His glory and my good! Everything I endured in this life—grief, pain, loss—will be worth it—for His glory and my good! I don’t know exactly every detail about how my story ends, but I know how my eternity begins: WELCOMED by my gracious Heavenly Father into everlasting life with HIM, where he will dwell with us.
In this episode, Ryan gives his recommendations for trying out the wonderfully relaxing and contemplative hobby of pipe smoking. He also talks about what he and his fellow elders have done during the quarantine to shepherd the church family.
In this episode, Ryan shares a spoken word poem called “Imputation” based on Romans 5, and discusses what the Lord’s Day gathering of the Church is and what that means when it comes to canceling services and worship service attendance.