WORSHIP & These songs, curated by a team of neuroscientists, create a sensation scientists call “frisson” – a feeling or sensation of excitement, emotion or thrill.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Today there is a great deal of discussion about online worship and if it can be as powerful as face-to-face worship. Students of music theory have known for a long time that a powerful musical experience can be experienced in the concert hall or over headphones. Part of this is because the human brain is designed to react to certain surprising musical motifs and chord progressions. Read this article to learn more about “frisson” and how to incorporate it in the songs you write.

This 715-song playlist is scientifically verified to give you the chills, thanks to “frisson.”

by Sam Gilberg, The Big Think, 5/17/22.

… “Frisson” derives from French and is “a sudden feeling or sensation of excitement, emotion or thrill,” and the experience is not confined to music. Historically, frisson has been used interchangeably with the term “aesthetic chills.”

According to a 2019 study, one can experience frisson when staring at a brilliant sunset or a beautiful painting; when realizing a deep insight or truth; when reading a particularly resonant line of poetry; or when watching the climax of a film.

… Other reliable indicators include the entry of one or more instruments or voices; an abrupt change of tempo or rhythm; a new or unexpected harmony; and abrupt modulation. Music psychologist John Sloboda found that the most common types of musical phrases to elicit frisson were “chord progressions descending the circle of fifths to the tonic.” This is a deeply affecting chord progression common in many of Mozart’s compositions.

The 715-song playlist was curated by a team of neuroscientists and is available on Spotify. It includes some of my favorites (below):

  • Twist & Shout, The Beatles
  • The Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky
  • Tears in Heaven, Eric Clapton
  • Toccata and fugue in D minor, Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Appalachian Spring, VII, Aaron Copland
  • Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Across the Stars: Love theme from Star Wars, John Williams
  • One for Daddy-O, Cannonball Adderley
  • Moby Dick, Led Zeppelin
  • Wonderwall, Oasis
  • Fields of Gold, Sting
  • Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn
  • Vincent, Don McLean
  • The Sound of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel
  • This Must be the Place, Talking Heads
  • Rhapsody in blue, George Gershwin
  • Finale, Les Miserables
  • Battle cry, Imagine Dragons.
  • One Day More, Les Miserables
  • Untitled Hymn, Come to Jesus, Chris Rice
  • Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
  • Sleigh Ride, the Ronnettes
  • One, U2
  • Walk on by, Dionne Warwick
  • Awaken, Yes
  • Oh Come All Ye Faithful, traditional
  • Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen
  • Things we said today, The Beatles
  • Born to run, Bruce Springsteen
  • Across the universe, the Beatles
  • Song for the King, Michael W Smith
  • I can’t get no satisfaction, The Rolling Stones
  • Living for the city, Stevie Wonder
  • Ripple, Grateful Dead.
  • Living on a Prayer, Bon Jovi

Read more at … https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/frisson-song-playlist/

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHacks: Some mid-tempo songs work best in large environments, but not so well in smaller churches. The energy created by a large crowd enhance mid-tempo songs with a liveness because of the experience of an assembled multitude singing together. But in smaller venues more up-tempo songs will be needed to create a liveness and experience for a smaller assembly of worshipers. Song selection should consider which songs best connect to the size of the gathering too.

See the video of the song The Passion by Hillsong Music. It is clearly anointed. And the lead worshiper crying out above the singers, captures the sense of a large cloud of witnesses singing praise.

But sometimes worship leaders, seeking to be faithful to the original recorded in a large auditorium, will cry out above the singers. But this can feel inauthentic because of the smallish size of the crowd assembled.

When choosing worship songs, look to tempos, styles and musical arrangements that have worked best in the past in connecting with your unique audience culture. Don’t necessarily replay earlier songs. But look for common personalities in the songs and wed them with the personality of your congregation (note: each worship service probably has its own unique worship personality).

Here is a helpful chart of the most common tempo markings (with bpm) and definitions from a previous article:

  • Prestissimo (> 200 bpm) very very fast
  • Presto (168 – 200 bpm) very fast
  • Allegro (120 – 168 bpm) fast
  • Moderato (108 – 120 bpm) moderately
  • Andante (76 – 108 bpm) walking pace
  • Adagio (66 – 76 bpm) slow and stately
  • Lento/Largo (40 – 60 bpm) very slow
  • Grave (20-40 bpm) slow and solemn

For more details, see my full article for Biblical Leadership Magazine.

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHack: When worship leaders begin a service, they can be feeling a sense of uncomfortableness, even stage fright. As they open in prayer, it’s often not very focused. Instead have another church leader prepare to pray in the spirit of Psalm 8, 40, 145, or 146.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel, 2/6/22. 

While observing hundreds, if not thousands, of worship services I’ve noticed that the beginning of the service sets a tone and direction for what follows. Sometimes called the opening prayer or the call to worship, it is often the worship leader who utters this. But, I’ve noticed that many times they seem less than focused and even nervous when doing so. This may be the result of working on the music more than on the words with which they’ll to utter to launch the service. This is especially true in non-liturgical churches where the worship leader often begins the service from the platform by offering a prayer. It is this prayer that I have found to be less than focused on a recurring basis.

Subsequently, it’s may be better for church leaders and/or worship leaders to designate someone else to deliver the opening prayer. The opening prayer should be a joyous entrance into worship. It should be uplifting, heavenly focused and inspire exhalation.  

Inspiration can come from psalms such as Psalm 80, 40, 145 and 146 (see below). Even if the opening prayer is pre-written and/or in a liturgical format, the person delivering the prayer can meditate upon such psalms before hand. This can put them in the right frame of mind to deliver a biblical call to worship.

The psalmist says:

“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” – Psalm 8:9

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” – Psalm 40:3

WELCOME & # SundayChurchHacks: Don’t exaggerate for online viewers, the size of an onsite audience. Leaders can make it seem that there are hundreds in attendance, when there may be dozens. This creates dismay & disappointment when an online viewer visits in person.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Part of my ongoing research is to visit churches online before I visit them in person to evaluate the online perception versus the onsite reality. One of the greatest discrepancies is in the number in attendance.

Charles (Chip) Arn, a writer, colleague and friend, told me about his experience attending a megachurch with a famous TV ministry that had now shrunk to a few hundred attendees. He noted, “They acted like they were still on TV with thousands in attendance. It not only made me uncomfortable and it gave the impression that they were untrustworthy. They should be themselves.” I noted that, “honesty is what will grow a church, not deception.”

Don’t exaggerate the size of an onsite audience for online viewers. Some leaders make it seem that there are hundreds in attendance, when there may be dozens. This will create dismay and disappointment when an online viewer visits in person.

Sunday Church Hack: When you are streaming, there are hundreds and could be thousands watching. Accept it, pray for them … but don’t hype it.

#SundayChurchHacks

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHacks: The worship singers should be skewed toward the age group you are seeking to reach. Nonetheless, they also should be skilled.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I regularly evaluate online and onsite worship services for clients and colleagues. A reoccurring experience is when a skilled worship leader is backed by supporting vocalists who have been faithful churchgoers for some time. However, if you are trying to reach younger generations (see the list of generations here and here) you should include backup singers from missing generations too.

Yet don’t err on the side of participation, and ignore skill. In many churches there is a community music leader, e.g. current or former school music teacher, etc. that can help. Seek out these musical coaches and ask them to work with your supporting vocalists, relieving the music director of having to work with novice vocalists.

Regarding getting younger people involved, see the chart below for the generational names and years (in addition, you will find an explanation of “Early Boomers,” “Generation Jones,” “Generation Alpha” and “Generation Beta” here).

Following the “Millennials” born between 1982 and 2009, the next two generations are now “Generation Alpha” from 2010 to 2024 & “Generation Beta” from 2025 to 2039. 

(chart retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/)

WORSHIP & How to tell if it is organic

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/27/17.

In the Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church I described characteristics of worship that promote an organic atmosphere.  Here is an updated brief list:

Worship flows from the audience to the stage, not the other way around.

  1. Inorganic worship: This is usually manufactured with moving lights in the haze of an artificial fog. It may be lead by the worship team with admonitions of “Come on, let’s praise Him” or “Clap your hands for Him.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done all of those things (too many times to list).
  2. Organic worship: But, I have observed worship that is more natural and flowing from the Holy Spirit originates from the audience and moves across the stage, not the other way around.

The focus is on what is going on inside of your head and heart, not what is going on on the stage.

  1. Inorganic worship: Often focuses on beautiful slides/videos behind words with moving lights on the walls and the audience.
  2. Organic worship: The focus is on what God is doing in each congregants’ head and heart.  The lights on the stage often come from the back of stage, illuminating the worship team as silhouettes so the faces are not illuminated (so that the expressions of the worship team do not distract).

For more see ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church.

WORSHIP & When Do the Latest Hillsong and Bethel Hits Belong in Your Sunday Lineups?

by Kelsey Kramer McGinnis, Christianity Today, 4/6/21.

“Learn these tunes before you learn any others,” John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing. “Afterwards, learn as many as you please.”

The specified “tunes” were those included in the 1761 publication of the early Methodist hymnal, Selected Hymns. Wesley’s seven directions for singing have long been included in the opening pages of the United Methodist Hymnal. They include exhortations like “Sing lustily and with good courage,” “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can,” and “Attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”

Wesley wrote his Directions for Singing for a different time, for a church usually selecting congregational music from a confined set of songs in printed hymnbooks. But this centuries-old guide helps establish a theological framework for a new project designed to help worship leaders evaluate a growing catalog of contemporary worship music.

The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Discipleship Ministries recently released CCLI Top 100+ Beyond, the latest iteration of a project begun in 2015, aiming to help leaders curate worship songs. CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International, which provides copyright licenses to use music from a vast library of artists; it ranks its most popular songs twice a year in the CCLI Top 100.

The UMC project offers a recommended song list, with a description of each song’s lyrics, theological underpinnings, musical difficulty, and a list of recording artists and alternate arrangements.

The list includes seven titles by Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United, seven by Bethel Music, and five by Elevation Worship; the top-ranking CCLI song at the time was Pat Barrett’s “Build My Life,” and the team said it appreciated “that this song petitions Jesus to lead us ‘in Your love to those around’ us, which ties in to Wesleyan notions of cooperation with God in Christ Jesus.”

Another resource developed by the UMC suggests issues worship pastors should consider, such as finding music from underrepresented regions, engaging global worship traditions with cultural competence, and shifting to more inclusive language without violating copyright law.

… Worship pastors from across denominations may find that the Methodist resource helps them define and articulate the theology of worship that they want to practice and impart. It’s a reflective guide—there’s no list of rejected songs, nor any diatribes about the loss of the traditional hymnals or the dangers of contemporary music.

… Music selection and worship leadership is teaching. To treat it with less weight than that is to miss the opportunity to use a powerful medium to teach, learn, and deepen faith. Through the music we sing together, we teach ourselves over and over what we as a congregation affirm about God’s identity, our identities, and our relationship with God personally and corporately.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/april-web-only/worship-song-vetting-project-umc-ccli-music-bethel-hillsong.html?

WEALTH & Does It Rob the Brain of Compassion? YES according to researchers.

by Michael Mechanic, The Atlantic Magazine, 4/4/21.

…More than a decade ago, as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of the UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, Piff used a series of rigged Monopoly games to see how people would respond to being placed randomly into a position of privilege. Some 200 student volunteers were pitted against one another. The “rich” player was given twice as much cash as the “poor” player, collected twice as much money when passing Go, and passed Go more often, because he got to roll two dice while the poorer player got only one. (Richie Rich also got the most popular playing piece, the little car, while his opponent received the undesirable boot.)

As the games progressed, rich players became more and more cocksure. They spoke louder, moved their pieces more aggressively, and even consumed more pretzels from bowls that the researchers had put out as part of the experiment. “We had little gradients on the table where you could measure how much space a person is taking up from when they began to when they ended,” Piff told me. “The richer players began to take up more room. They got bigger as they got richer.”

The Monopoly experiment wasn’t the most rigorous science ever, and Piff never published the results, although the study was later replicated by others and referenced in Piff’s popular TED Talk, “Does Money Make You Mean?” But his observations were consistent with a large body of social science finding that people of higher socioeconomic status, compared with those lower down the ladder, are more prone to entitlement and narcissistic behavior. Wealthier subjects also tend to be more self-oriented and more willing to behave unethically in their own self-interest (to lie during negotiations, say, or to steal from an employer). In one study, Piff and his colleagues stationed a pedestrian at the edge of a busy crosswalk and watched to see which cars would let the person cross. Suffice it to say that Fords and Subarus were far more likely to stop than Mercedeses and BMWs.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/does-wealth-rob-brain-compassion/618496/?

WORSHIP & Excited to see this client church creating unity by giving equal space to different worship services (pictured). Lesson – be sure to give equal space to different worship expressions or you will create second-class experiences.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Usually newer worship expressions are relegated to secondary worship spaces. Usually this is rationalized because they don’t need as much room as the traditional sanctuary affords.

But, this subtly makes it harder for them to grow, giving them a second-class feeling. Here is a church that had trouble growing its contemporary worship service because (in part) it was upstairs in an inconvenient location. But after moving the contemporary service to the sanctuary, interest and attendance jumped.

Take a look at this example exhibiting recommendations to a client. Then note the four things they did (and you can do) to ensure parity between worship expressions.

You will have to do some things to make a cavernous sanctuary feel smaller and more intimate for a smaller crowd. But, this can be done in four ways.

  1. Use lighting to make the space seem smaller. Keep certain parts of the sanctuary darker and focus most of the light on the area in front of the stage.
  2. Rope off seating. This goes along with #1. Roping off seats steers people to seating that is concentrated in part of the sanctuary.
  3. Move the preaching and worship leaders off of the platform. The platform (as can be seen in this picture of a client church) can be utilized for a screen and the worship leaders can move to the floor in front of the first rows of pews. This creates connection and community between the leaders and the congregants.
  4. Move the musicians to a location where they don’t have an extensive setup and teardown between services. You can see the musicians were moved away from the center of the stage, putting them to the side. This meant the musicians didn’t have to take down and set up as much between worship services.

  • Want to maximize the missional impact of your various worship services?

  • And do you want to unite them as well?

  • Get the outside voice you need … with consulting/coaching by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD   bob@ChurchHealth.expert

WORSHIP & Here are the tempos that research says make mood-boosting tunes.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Recently I wrote an article about how to keep worship from becoming monotonous. Part of the solution has to do with varying the tempo of the songs and not sticking to a lethargic pace (as I have noticed many churches I analyze doing). Here is more research that explains what makes a song inspirational and provokes a mood-boosting happiness.

“… back in 2015 a music-loving Dutch neurologist did us all a favor and figured out what makes for the most mood-boosting tunes. The impetus for the study came from an unusual source: British electronic brand Alba. Apparently, they wanted to know what made for a truly happy tune and reached out to Dr. Jacob Jolij to get an answer.

Jolij was happy to comply though he did note the obvious – taste in musicis subjective. What gets your friend dancing might have you running from the room covering your ears. “Music appreciation is highly personal and strongly depends on social context, and personal associations. In that respect, the idea of a ‘feel good formula’ is a bit odd,” he commented.

What you can do, however, is ask the listening public to submit examples of their favorite feel good tracks and then analyze those submissions for patterns to reveal what characteristics are generally associated with smile-inducing songs. Which is just what Jolij did. 

He found that the happiest tunes are slightly faster than your average song (between 140 and 150 beats per minute on average), written in a major key, and either about happy events or complete nonsense. Jolij combined these factors into a formula for the happiest song possible and then went searching for existing hits that matched his template. 

Here, to brighten up the tail end of what has been an all around dismal 2020, are the top ten tunes he identified. (Or if you prefer, here’s the same playlist on Spotify.)”

Read more at … “Neuroscience Says These Are the 10 Happiest Songs Ever,” by JESSICA STILLMAN, CONTRIBUTOR, INC.COM, https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/music-happiness-neuroscience.html

Is worship becoming a “slog?” Don’t stick with “Largo tempo” worship songs. Use these 3-steps to intersperse worship with exciting uptempo songs that unite, inspire and awaken. #SundayMorningHacks

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/28/20.

https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-to-keep-worship-from-becoming-monotonous/

Leading worship is something most church leaders delegate. Yet it is also something that a church leader needs to understand and to give leadership.

One of the most confusing areas for church leaders who are not musicians is the importance of tempo.  First I will explain the basics of the song tempo. And then I will show the importance of evaluating it and giving leadership in an area where the church leader may not (yet) have expertise.

Having evaluated hundreds of churches, I find that in many plateaued or declining churches their worship leaders are choosing songs in the Lento/Largo tempo (40-60 beat per minute), which means “very slow.”  And even when worship leaders pick up the tempo, they usually only do so slightly, to the Adagio tempo (66-76 beats per minute) which is “slow and stately” or Andante (76-108 beats per minute) which is “at a walking pace.”

Now, there is nothing wrong with worship songs in these “slow and stately” tempos. But in the plateaued or declining church a lack of higher tempo songs (in tempos which are more celebratory) creates a sense of “slogging” through a worship package.

Worship in the scriptures clearly at times involves an uptempo and celebratory spirit. Look at Psalm 150:1-6…

 Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!  The Message Bible 

Monotony can be elevated when a preacher also preaches in a “slow and stately” or “at a walking pace” tempo.  In one client, I witnessed how the entire service seemed laborious, forced and tiresome. The preacher was a gifted and stately speaker. But coupled with a slow and stately worship package, the entire service seemed tiresome. Rather than the preacher’s slow and stately preaching offering a respite from uptempo music, the worship package of only slow and stately music created a Sunday service with little variety, but much monotony.

For many leaders they will want to encourage the worship leaders to intersperse Moderato and above tempos (108+ beats per minute) into most worship lists. This creates ebbs-and-flows during the worship package with both …

  • celebration/reflection,
  • excitement/calmness
  • energy/stillness
  • structure/flexibleness

Here is how a non-musical leader can evaluate worship (and what they should do if they need to lead improvements).

  1. Record each song and measure each bpm (beats per minute). Applications are available to measure this.
  2. Is there a variety?  When do songs under 108 bpm occur? When do songs over 108 bpm occur?
  3. What needs to change?  Are uptempo songs needed during the worship package to energize the worshippers?
  4. Find songs in the tempos needed to create variety and inspiration.

Here is a helpful chart of the most common tempo markings with definitions and bpm:

  • Prestissimo (> 200 bpm)   very very fast
  • Presto (168 – 200 bpm)       very fast
  • Allegro (120 – 168 bpm)    fast
  • Moderato (108 – 120 bpm)   moderately 
  • Andante (76 – 108 bpm)   walking pace
  • Adagio (66 – 76 bpm)   slow and stately
  • Lento/Largo (40 – 60 bpm)   very slow
  • Grave (20-40 bpm) slow and solemn

Remember, every leader may not be a musician. But every Christian leader is called to be a worshipper.

Read the original article on BiblicalLeadership.com https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-to-keep-worship-from-becoming-monotonous/

 

WORRY & C.S. Lewis reminds us that during crises the most important question on people’s minds becomes: “Is this all there is?” and so we have the opportunity to speak of Christ to those who are waking up to the realities of this life.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 3/26/20.

… In his (C.S. Lewis’) admonitions, can we simply replace the words “atomic age” with “COVID-19 age” or was Lewis getting at something deeper and even more relevant for the church today?

…Here’s how he opened “On Living in an Atomic Age,” which can be found in the collection Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

…After the above excerpt, Lewis moves on to what he saw as the “real point.” … He points out that all of science agrees that the end of life on this earth is inevitable. It’s only a matter of “when” not “if.”

If the threat of an atomic bomb serves as a reminder for us, then it can be a good thing. “We have been waked from a pretty dream, and now we can begin to talk about realities,” he writes.

Once we are awakened to the frailty of life, Lewis says we see at once that whether or not an atomic bomb destroys civilization is not the most important question. Something was always going to destroy us and civilization.

The most important question becomes: Is this all there is?

If we are going to die (and we will), if civilization as we know it will be ended (and it will), Lewis argues, then we should be most concerned about what, if anything, lies beyond the natural world?

And as we live life differently—both from how we did previously in limiting our interactions and in how others do now through selflessness—we will have the opportunity to speak of Christ to those who are waking up to the realities of this life.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/19/no-c-s-lewis-would-not-tell-you-to-ignore-the-coronavirus/

WHY GOD EXISTS & C.S. Lewis’ “moral argument” for the existence of God explained

by Jack Wellman, Pathos, 6/14/16.

One of C.S. Lewis’ greatest strengths as a writer was his ability of logic and reason. This served him well in his apologetics. He inherently knew there were dozens of reasons to believe in God but one of his strongest objections for the argument of there being no God was his “Moral Argument” for God’s existence and it is something like this:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

To Lewis, there are so many laws that govern human behavior and activities that it is obvious that objective moral values do exist, not in the least for the governments of the world. To him, the moral objectives clearly reflected the Moral Lawgiver, Who is God. His point was that objective morals and values are more than accidental or random chemical reactions in the brain. He couldn’t understand why atheists could be sure God doesn’t exist. Since it is estimated that humans only know about one-half of one percent of all the knowledge that there is to know, could not God exist in that 99.9% of knowledge that’s missing? Lewis never understood how an atheist could know for certain that there is no god when they are unable to prove it.

Read more at … https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2016/06/14/who-was-c-s-lewis/

WORSHIP & Pew Research finds main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. Because of the Hebrew word for “worship” I call this a “face to foot encounter.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The Hebrew word for worship means to come close to a royal personage and kiss their feet in adoration and humility. Such closeness to God that we seek in our worship services I have called a “face to foot encounter.”

Sometimes today churches try to draw in people with entertaining events,. But, Pew Research confirms that people are looking for a personal encounter with God.

Top reasons U.S. adults give for choosing to attend or not attend religious services

“Why Americans Go (and Don’t Go) to Religious Services” Pew Forum, 8/1/18.

In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year, seldom or never has been growing. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. But the things that keep people away from religious services are more complicated.

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/

#Olathe

 

WORSHIP & Neuroscience has discovered the reassuring and encouraging value of rituals.

“New research reveals the effects of faith on the brain”

by Annalisa Teggi, Aleteia Magazine, 3/13/19.

An article in the March edition of the Italian magazine Wellbeing, Health with Soul(BenEssere, la salute con l’anima) offers us the chance to go deeper into a scientific perspective on the psycho-physical effects of faith, revealing a truly encouraging panorama. The author is science journalist Piero Bianucci, who from the beginning makes it clear that he’s not trying to draw an exaggerated and utilitarian conclusion such as, “If you believe in God, you won’t have any health problems.” Rather, he wants to share with us the interesting results of neuroscientific experiments showing the positive impact of religious experience.

Spiritual resonance

The article is largely based on the book Psychotherapy of God(Psychothérapie de Dieu, in French) written by French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, which reveals that, through the use of simple, non-invasive MRI scans, it has become clear that prayer and other emotional experiences related to faith activate a specific area of the brain: the prefrontal lobes, which are connected with the limbic system—the area of memories and strong emotions (highly stimulated in childhood).

As a consequence, he says, “Studies of brain circuitry do not reveal the existence of a ‘God zone’ or a ‘religion zone,’ but they do show that an environment structured by religious faith leaves a biological mark on our brain and makes it easier to re-discover feelings of ecstasy or transcendence acquired in infancy.

This leads to an interesting reflection. It’s as if we have a treasure chest within us, ready to be opened when we need it.  Activities such as saying your night prayers as a child, praying the Rosary with your grandmother, or going to Mass with your parents are not passing moments that vanish into thin air with adolescence and adulthood. Even when our adult children reject our invitation to pray, or they turn their backs decisively on religion, we can be sure that the good experiences they had as children sharing faith-based activities with us remain impressed upon their brains, and will be ready to reappear as soon as the prodigal son feels the need to return home.

Singing brings us together

The idea that repetition is necessarily boring is a very mistaken stereotype. Anyone who knows the beauty and the joy of praying the Rosary knows that this “repetitious” prayer makes us like a farmer who is cultivating a field. When hoeing and planting, every movement seems repetitious, but it’s only through this constant repetition that the field is tilled and sown, and becomes fertile and fruitful.

Neuroscience has also discovered the reassuring and encouraging value of rituals. “Prayer and the sacred formulas dissolve the suffering that comes with isolation. When you sing a hymn, you are not alone. Sacred objects symbolize the possibility of having access to Him who protects us all. Acts of faith inspire us with a feeling of belonging. The feeling of brotherhood heals our anxiety.”

Relationships are the most important human motivator, and they are most effective when the companionship is real, in the flesh. If social networks give us the impression of being together and gives us forums for sharing in which each person expounds his or her own opinion, the Holy Mass is a revolutionary gesture, the manifestation of being a choir, joined in harmony, in which we recognize each other as equals, with shared limits and needs. We are joyful because together we have words to express our gratitude and praise, words that work for all of us, and which are true for each and every one of us.

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/03/13/new-research-reveals-the-effects-of-faith-on-the-brain/

WORSHIP & How the Great Migration changed music in the black church forever. #KatherineKemp #CT

by Katherine Kemp, Christianity Today, 12/6/18.

In the 1920s, Chicago’s first African American congregations were at a crossroads. After decades of investment, the churches and their musicians were proud of their accomplishments as they had “lifted the Negro race” to a position of separate but equal status with their white peers in worship. Worship in these churches largely mirrored worship in white churches in song and liturgy. Black Methodist and Baptist congregations often sang from the same hymnals as their white counterparts. Trained singers in the choirs led the less-literate congregants in the proper rendition of hymns. European anthems were prominent in the senior choir’s repertoire. Restraint was the rule in worship.

This was all about to change. As the Great Migration drew thousands of African Americans to the North, many new residents had little interest in the music of these congregations. Instead, they brought their own songs with lyrics that often drew from the hardships of slavery and Jim Crow and rhythms inspired by African chants and medleys. The metered songs of English composer Isaac Watts, which had served as the inspiration for the revival songs of the Great Awakening, were sung without instrumental accompaniment by Southern emigrants seeking worship in smaller storefront churches where more emotion and common language were welcome.

Gospel music scholar Horace Clarence Boyer summarized this dilemma in the PBS documentary We’ve Come This Far by Faith:

There was the feeling that the more white you acted, the more you would be accepted by white people. There was not that kind of pride about having lived through slavery. … The whole emphasis was ridding every Negro of everything that was Negroid … including the church service ritual. So all of a sudden, now, we get Brahms and Handel. … And here we begin to get a whole conflict between the ways people are going to worship. And many preachers said, “Don’t sing those slave songs altogether.”

… Musical Culture Shock

The 1906 Los Angeles Azusa Street Revival changed the worship practices for many black people. The event initially resulted (temporarily) in an interracial church and became the beginning of the Pentecostal movement, the third major religious denomination of African Americans. The movement encouraged ecstatic worship along with drums, tambourines, and guitars, and as it grew, its upbeat style spread across the country. Those worship practices became embedded in the praise and worship style of the Holiness churches.

The beginning of the 20th century also marked a significant geographic shift for African Americans. Nearly half a million African Americans fed up with Jim Crow atrocities and in search of new opportunities immigrated to the North between 1910 and 1930. They arrived with their religious worship practices intact, an experience characterized by singing, dancing, clapping, and amens. Worship involved the whole body in movement and song.

But as the black population swelled, tensions began to grow between rural and city African Americans, who didn’t always share the same musical tastes...

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/december-web-only/gospel-music-great-migration-black-church.html?

WORSHIP & The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has revealed his favourite hymn is the Charles Wesley classic “And Can It Be” in an interview with BBC’s Songs of Praise.

by David Adams, Sight Magazine, London, 11/4/18.

The archbishop explained that the song – full name, And Can It Be That I Should Gain An Interest In My Saviour’s Blood – was the first hymn sung at his first church service after he “discovered the love of Jesus Christ for me and opened my heart to His love”. He said it’s been his favourite ever since.

The hymn was written in 1738 by Charles Wesley, the brother of the more famous John, and co-founder of the Methodist Church. Wesley wrote hundreds of hymns and wrote And Can It Be, according to the archbishop, “immediately after his discovery of God’s love for him in Jesus Christ”.

Watch the interview here: https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/news/10724-archbishop-of-canterbury-reveals-his-favourite-hymn

WORSHIP & Should hymns maintain the theology of their author? Experts weigh in, but #JohnWesley thought they should.

by Morgan Lee, Christianity Today, 8/10/18.

… Should hymns maintain the theology of their author? Or are they theologically neutral—a gift to the wider church, even—that can be modified at will?

CT asked experts on hymnody to weigh in. Answers are arranged (top to bottom) from those who favor hymns staying constant to those who favor their malleability. And they begin with John Wesley himself.

John Wesley, songwriter and evangelist, from the pre­face to the 1780 Col­lect­ion of Hymns for the Use of the Peo­ple Called Meth­od­ists:

Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse.

Therefore, I must beg of them one of these two favors: either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse; or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men.

Read more from “John Piper Changed ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ Experts Weigh In” at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/august-web-only/great-is-thy-faithfulness-john-piper-lyrics-hymns-theology.html