SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Did you know Charles Wesley wrote a song “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion.” It is more popularly known as “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

by Jeffrey Barbeau, Christianity Today, 2/14/19.

…John Wesley’s subsequent “conversion” at Aldersgate Street in London is well known, but fewer realize that Charles experienced his own “heart strangely warmed” experience only a few days before. On Pentecost Sunday (“Whitsunday”), May 21, 1738, Charles attained what might alternately be called a deepening of faith, a new birth, and an assurance of God’s love that helped launch one of the great revivals in modern Christianity.

As he lay sick in bed, Charles experienced what he described as a new “Pentecost.” He heard the voice of a woman, calling out to him: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thy infirmities.” Charles records in his journal: “The words struck me to the heart.” In a moment, Charles, with “strange palpitation of heart,” declared “I believe, I believe!”

Three days before John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, Charles beat John to the punch. He came to recognize the love of God in the presence of the Spirit, dispelling the darkness of doubt from his heart.

The event was so moving that he later memorialized the day in one of the great hymns in Christian history, “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion,” more popularly known as “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

In fact, the hymns of Charles Wesley are replete with references to love. At Easter, Christians around the world repeat the words of his most famous composition, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and declare “Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!” Elsewhere Charles praises “Love divine, all loves excelling” and honors God’s great and “universal love.”

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2019/february/charles-wesley-romance-love-sally-wesley.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=20830743&utm_content=635605081&utm_campaign=email

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

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC & The founder of Christian rock music would’ve hated what it’s become …

by Ryan Vlastelica, AVclub.com, 3/19/18.

Who was Larry Norman? He’s one of the fathers of spiritual rock music, “the Forrest Gump of evangelical Christianity”—which puts him on the front lines of America’s culture wars, though on whose side it’s hard to say—and the subject of Gregory Alan Thornbury’s fantastic new biography, Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? The book, titled after one of Norman’s best-known songs, draws extensively on Norman’s personal archives, where he was thoughtful and introspective about his beliefs, work, and doubts, giving Thornbury’s work a level of insight and intimacy that’s all too rare among recently published artist biographies. When it comes to telling the story of an artist, what makes a good biography is not the fame or even the talent of the book’s subject, but the complexity of the figure and how that manifests itself through their life and work. Norman’s story has this in abundance. Why Should The Devil also serves as a primer on Christian rock, a critical analysis of the genre, and a compact history of Christianity in the latter half of last century, a period where Jesus went from a counterculture hero to all outcasts to a cynically deployed tool of the religious right.

Today, Christian rock is closer to sub-emo and ska in the extent to which it is maligned by mainstream critics, a statement Norman himself would’ve likely agreed with. (He died in 2008). He was a man of faith but also an artist of integrity, who wanted to push music forward and saw no reason why spiritual music couldn’t challenge audiences and rock at the same time. He played on the same bills as The Who, the Doors, and Janis Joplin, and later jammed with members of the Sex Pistols, and appeared onstage with Pixies frontman Black Francis. Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney were fans; U2 and Gun N’ Roses both cited him as an influence.

There are a number of fascinating through-lines in the book, each of which arise organically from the material and are explored in depth by multiple articulate perspectives; this isn’t a book of cheap shots.

One theme centers on religious pop art in general, and whether it should be accessible enough for secular audiences or geared toward the converted, and if so, whether it should challenge or celebrate one’s faith. On top of that, there’s an analysis of faith-based art on artistic grounds, with the argument it lacks the kind of inspiration or technical skill that would make it of interest to those who appreciate craftsmanship but aren’t there for the sermon…

Norman, who pushed the envelope both artistically and thematically, is at the heart of these debates. He wanted it both ways, Thornbury writes: “He wanted to rock and he wanted to talk about Jesus, he wanted to follow Jesus and to offend other followers of Jesus, for people to enjoy his music but also be discomfited by it.” Of course this pleased no one; he was “too edgy for the Jesus people and too religious for the run-of-the mill rock fans.” Christian stores didn’t stock his records and secular ones didn’t know how to categorize him. (“‘Christian psychedelic’ was hardly a category.”)

Read more at … https://www.avclub.com/the-founder-of-christian-rock-music-wouldve-hated-what-1823533655

MUSICAL PREFERENCES & They May Crystallize Around Age 23.5 According to Research (A Leadership Exercise)

Every culture is made up of behaviors, ideas and products (Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”1. One of the most powerful and cohesion-generating products is music and the celebration that accompanies it.

Holbrook and Schindler’s research suggests that a musical preference begins to crystallize in the early 20s and hardens throughout the rest of a person’s life.

This is important to know when attempting to understand worship wars. Rather than trying to attract people to into adopting music from a different culture, it might be more helpful to find touchstones and points of agreement between the music of their youth and the music of your youth.

So if you’re trying to reach out to another musical generation, begin by studying the music of that generation’s 20something years.

Try this leadership exercise to see if this research can be confirmed with your team members.

A. Ask your team members to share the year in which they were born.  If do not want to do so, graciously excuse them from the exercise. Try to get at least two or three participants.  Write down their birth year next to their name.

B. Next, ask your leaders to name their favorite musical groups and/or singers. Write these down next to their name. Each person should select three or four examples.

C. With your team (or later on your own if you prefer) go online and locate in which years  those musical groups were the most popular.

D. Then correlate the year range of artist popularity with the period in time when the team member was in their 20s.

E.  Finally, ask yourself, “Was there a correlation?”

There seems to be so, about 60 to 70% of the time. This is enough to say that Holbrook and Schindler’s research may be partially reliable and valid. But of course, more research is needed. That’s why I ask my students to undertake this leadership exercise. It can add to their experience and to their  emerging theses (a thesis is basically a scholarly hunch 🙂 And at the very least, it can make them more sensitive to the musical products that are prefrered by members of their teams.

1. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976), p. 25.

2. M. B. Holbrook & R. M. Schindler, “Some exploratory findings on the development of musical tastes,” Journal of Consumer Research, (1989) 16(1), p. 122.

BLENDED WORSHIP & To Blend or Not To Blend: Here is a better option for small churches

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/51/15.

Let me share about blended worship and the evangelistic prowess of blended services (which I prefer to call “unity services” rather than blended – but for this discussion and clarity I will use the latter).

I’ve made clear in my books (“ORGANIX,” “Cure for the Common Church” and “The Healthy Church”) about the lack of evangelistic efficacy of blended services, but often smaller churches (as I mention in “A House Divided”) have trouble having enough people to move to two services.  In this scenario the better option to the blended format is the compartmentalized format.  In this strategy the key will be to compartmentalize your service until you have grown sufficiently to launch two services.

One client had a pre-glow contemporary music component from 10:10-10:30, and then their standard traditional service from 10:30-11:30. This meant those who didn’t like modern worship didn’t have to sit through it. I have also seen this work as an after-glow too (though with a bit more difficulty).  Eventually as growth occurs the two services grow into two worship alternatives.

The reason this is necessitated is that people worship most passionately without alien (to them) music and culture invading. That is because we worship more readily and unhindered when surround with familiarity. Thus separating the two segments (rather than blending them into some sort of muddled goo) allows people to worship more passionately.  Biblically, we see Davidic worship very different than New Testament worship.

Thus, many churches will need to follow this strategy to grow. An area growing with younger families may especially require this. As you know in my book I show you how with about 100 people you can readily go to a second service. This is the ultimate way to dissuade the cultural music wars 🙂  Until then, the compartmentalized format will help smaller churches grow with some degree of cultural anonymity.

MUSIC & Comparing Troubadours from Different Cultures. A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/10/15.

A friend of mine, Dan Kimball, encouraged me to listen to some of the lyrics of John Mayer. I first thought he said “John Mayall” a great blues-rock musician from England in the 1960s (http://www.johnmayall.com). But, he meant the more modern singer John Mayer.  As I listened to this latter day troubadour, I found a very poignant song by this young songwriter that juxtapositions generational predilections.

Here are the song lyrics from two representatives, each of a different generation (in fact I included this comparison in my book “Preparing for Change Reaction”). Weigh the lyrics of Boomer musicians Paul McCartney and his colleague John Lennon, against the Postmodern Xer lyrics of John Mayer:

Getting Better by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (London: Parlophone Records, 1967).

Me used to be angry young man.
Me hiding me head in the sand.
You gave me the word I finally heard.
I’m doing the best that I can.
To admit it’s getting better, A little better all the time
To admit it’s getting better, It’s getting better since you’ve been mine.
Getting so much better all the time.

Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer (John Mayer, Continuum (New York: Sony Records, 2006).

Me and all my friends we’re all misunderstood.
They say we stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could.
Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world,
And those who lead it.
We just feel like we don’t have the means,
To rise above and beat it.
So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change.
We keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.

A Leadership Exercise:

What do you think these lyrics can tell us about each generation?  And, can the plaintive muse (of John Mayer) be Christian (can you cite Biblical support), or adapted as such?

Write down your thoughts and share with other leaders (or fellow students).

Note:  As you may remember, I’ve included these lyrical comparisons in my book, “Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change To A Church” (The Wesleyan Publishing House, January 1, 2008).  If you are interested, you will find in that chapter questions for discussion to get your lay leaders discussing this topic.

WORSHIP & Hits and Misses: What We Can Learn From Worship Disasters

Worship!  What a great experience!!

But, in addition this may be one of the church’s most explosive topics to date.  Elmer Towns is famous for saying, “The first murder in the bible took place over forms of worship (Genesis 4:1-16)” (personal conversation cited in my book, Growth by Accident, Death by Planning, Abingdon Press).

In my seminary courses, I regularly ask my students to share their thoughts on worship “hits” and “misses.”  In my book Growth by Accident, Death by Planning I explain that “worship misses” are some of the most far-reaching missteps churches will make.  From moving worship times around capriciously, blending different genres to poor effect, proud posing on the stage, etc. it often seems the purpose of worship to usher congregants into an encounter with God is undermined.
To help alleviate worship “misses” I ask my students to pick one (1) of the two following questions to answer.

1.)  Relate a story explaining how a worship celebration (either in the planning or execution) was handled poorly.  Tell us what happened, why it happened (in your mind), and what should have been done differently.

2.)  Or, relate a story about how a worship celebration (either the planning of it or in its execution) was handled well.  Then tell us what was (in your mind) the cause of the positive outcome, and what all churches could learn from this story.

Try this yourself and send me your experiences.  Some of my students’ responses are below (anonymously);

Subject: Re: Worship Hits and Misses by Student A
The worship “mis-step” I participated in occurred last September on Labor Day weekend – unfortunately we had quite a few guests that Sunday.  The worship leader and his team were not prepared for what was about to unfold.  The service began with a congregational singing of the hymn “Solid Rock”.  Verse 1 went well, but the power point slides for verse 2 never showed.  The worship leader paused and looked to the back for help.  The technician who tried valiantly to find the slides quickly realized it would take a few moments so he yelled to the congregation: “just hum the tune while I look for the slides” and the worship leader went along with hit.  Two verses of humming was all the pastor could take and he finally stood and interrupted the rendition.  The pastor then tried to use a video clip to visualize a point of his sermon, but the video clip wouldn’t play.  After again several long pauses and attempts, the pastor relayed verbally “what you would have seen if the video worked….”  The video eventually did play but after he had relayed it verbally – and he told the technician to just forget it.  The service ended with the pastor asking the worship leader to close in prayer.  He was clearly scattered by that point and had a difficult time focusing. The prayer went on and on and on with many long, silent pauses as he was trying to bring reverence back into a tough situation.  People began to sit down and collect their belongings.  He finally said “Amen” to bring the service to a close after four “Amens” were heard from various points throughout the audience.  Unfortunately, the service created memories of laughter and joking rather than reverence and awe.

What could have been done?  Technical difficulties arise and this was one time we should have scrapped technology and opened a hymnal (which we happen to have).  I’m sure the pastor in retrospect wished he had taken control of the service, skipped the video and closed himself.   Because everyone was going to make a joke about the “humming” and long pauses, the pastor or worship leader could have made the joke themselves – making light of our weak human efforts –  and then brought it around to close on an up beat.

Bob W – Lesson:  Be careful you do’t lean too much on technology, or get frustrated when it goes awry.

Subject: Re: Worship Hits and Misses by Student B
This reply is not of a serious nature.  I figure everybody might need a laugh.  We were having candlelight service one Christmas Eve and one of our deacons had an “on fire experience”.  This gentlemen was a practical joker but the joke was on him.  After tiring of the service, which he was good at, he leaned back against the wall .  The next thing Roy had caught his leisure suit on fire with one of the candles in the window.  It did cause quite a disruption in the service but everyone got a good laugh at Roy having so much spirit he was literally on fire.