#SundayMorningHacks – Worship leaders should minimize their talking before or between songs. These interjections often become mini-sermons & detract from the primary preaching of the Word.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I love the passion, wisdom and commitment of our worship leaders. But, in analyzing worship services as well as polling congregants, I have found that speaking between worship songs can have three unintended consequences.

  1. It can interrupt the flow between the songs.
  2. These mini-sermons often head in a different direction that the eventual sermon.
  3. The mini-sermons can make listeners weary of listening to a speaker before the sermon begins.

TRENDS & Watch this music video to see fresh expressions of the Church (and be blessed by the singing too).

From the UK, a praise video of the diverse young people choosing to follow Jesus.

#SundayMorningHacks – Continue to improve online worship after onsite worship returns. Some people may never be able to join you onsite (or choose not to).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/2020.

We are entering “age of the eReformation,” an electronic re-formation of the way the Church shares the Good News.

Yet I have noticed that some churches regard online worship as a “stop-gap” measure required by a pandemic that prevents face-to-face encounter.  But, as I noted in a recent article titled, St. Paul’s guide to leading remotely, Paul faced similar challenges of guiding and discipling the far-flung churches he led.

So, use this time of forced online worship as an opportunity to begin to offer both onsite and online worship that is anointed, powerful and life-changing.

Read the entire article by clicking on this title below:

Screen Shot 2020-05-31 at 11.29.04 AM

For more ideas see another article I wrote for Biblical Leadership Magazine

eReformation: Leading post-pandemic church growth – 10 things to start doing now

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/

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/

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Alister McGrath eulogies Michael Green, saying: “He taught me the importance of evangelism.” He taught me that too.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: a couple years ago I took a group of doctoral students to Wycliffe College at Oxford. One of the most famous professors there was Michael Green who had tremendous impact upon me when I was in seminary when I read his books “Worship in the New Testament” and “I Believe in the Holy Spirit.” Both of those books transformed me.

by Alister McGrath, Christianity Today, 2/12/19.

… Green, an academically talented student, was converted to Christianity as a teenager. In quick succession, he earned first class honors in classics at Oxford and first class honors in theology at Cambridge. His sense of calling to minister in the Church of England reflected his lifelong passion for evangelism. While serving on the staff of the London College of Divinity, a theological college of the Church of England, Green published two works aimed at a student audience that established his growing reputation as an apologist and evangelist: Man Alive (1967) and Runaway World (1968).

These books were widely read and shared by Christian students and led to invitations to speak at major churches and student gatherings throughout the United Kingdom. I read them both myself while a student at Oxford in the early 1970s, and I recall vividly the impact of a sermon Green preached in Oxford on John 3 which helped me grasp the core themes of the gospel.

… In 1975, Green became rector of St Aldate’s Church, Oxford. As an Oxford student at the time, I recall well the sense of delight and anticipation within Oxford’s Christian student community on learning of this appointment. Many were thrilled at the thought of sitting at the feet of such a gifted and well-known preacher and evangelist. They were not disappointed.

Green’s preaching wove together his love for the New Testament, his passion for evangelism, and a deep sense of care and compassion for his congregation. Green’s remarkable capacity to encourage others in their faith and in exploring their callings led many to explore ordination, missionary work, or ways of ensuring their faith and professional callings were woven together.

Somehow, Green managed to find time to write. His works of this period include his I Believe in the Holy Spirit (1975), whose warm and winsome tone did much to commend the new interest in the Holy Spirit that was gaining sway in student circles and beyond.

Read more of McGrath’s eulogy here … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/alister-mcgrath-michael-green-tribute-evangelism.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=20830743&utm_content=635605081&utm_campaign=email

SYSTEM 3 of 7SYSTEMS.church: SUPERNATURAL & How to foster encounter in worship.

7.3 systems yellow

This is third (3rd) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/24/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

Before we begin to turn around a church, we need to know what worship should be turning toward.

This is the third in a series on the “7 Marks of a Growing Church,” based on my analysis of the American Congregations 2015 Study undertaken by Hartford Seminary. Free copies of the study are available at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org 

The American Congregations Study found that in renovated churches, attendees describe their worship as “very innovative.” As I read deeper into the study, it became clear that it’s not mere innovation congregants appreciate, but it is innovation that keeps the worship fresh and supernatural. Let’s look at how you can renovate a church to a fresh and supernatural worship encounter.

How to Return to a Freshness in Worship

Everyone knows that worship can become stale. Here are three ways to keep your worship fresh.

1) Content is Fresh: 

Freshness in worship often means utilizing a style with which the audience can relate, but infusing it with fresh content. Church leaders understand people tend to like music in the musical style with which they have become accustomed. So freshness does not mean changing the musical style, but adding in fresh lyrics, fresh structure and/or fresh order. For instance, fresh worship often takes the words/melody of a new song and rearranges it in the musical style with which the congregation is accustomed. Thus, you add freshness without adding offense.

2) Exploration is Fresh.

Fresh worship happens when worship leaders are exploring a wide variety of “new” worship songs. Because the worship leader can separate the musical style from the content, they are able to take the latest songs and rework them into a style that is acceptable to the listeners.

3) Experimentation is Fresh.

The fresh worship leader is experimenting with different arts including poetry, painting, dance, drama, etc. The key is the word “experimentation,” for these are tests, not something set in stone. The fresh worship leader will keep elements to which a majority of the audience relates.

4) Feedback is Fresh.

Fresh worship results when worship leaders get weekly feedback regarding what is working. However, it is important to concentrate on what is working. Christians too easily focus on the negative (what doesn’t work) rather than the positive (what does work). Thus, the fresh worship leader takes note about what elements are creating a freshness and concentrates on them.

How to Return to Supernatural Worship

As I look over the American Congregation 2015 Study it becomes evident that people seek a worship service where they can forget about their problems and encounter the supernatural love, protection and fellowship their Heavenly Father offers. But, too often today worship has centered around attracting people to a church with high production values. There is nothing wrong with high production values, unless they become more important than the value of providing supernatural worship.Why is supernatural worship so important? The very word worship in Hebrew gives a clue. The Hebrew word shachah means to come close to God and bow down at his feet, as “a close encounter with a king which fosters in reverence, respect and praise” (Whitesel, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011., p. 96). Thus the word “worship” reminds us that it is about an encounter in which you feel you’ve been in the very presence of God – mere inches away from Him. It is not about appreciating the staging, lighting effects or this seamless integration of the liturgy – but about a feeling that God is present with you.

There are three phases to turning a church back toward a supernatural encounter.

1) Prepare Supernaturally:

Spending time in supernatural preparation often prepares us to lead others in supernatural encounter. A pastor friend told me that his church was stuck in the small size, until God told him to go to church every Saturday night and pray for Sunday’s ministry. God told him, “If you show up on Saturday night, I’ll show up on Sunday morning.” Today a megachurch, it has multiple campuses in Atlanta. God may not say the same thing to you. But it reminds us that to lead others supernaturally, our preparation includes communing with God in prayer, His word and quietude.

2) Lead Supernaturally:

Next it is important that everyone involved in leading worship is not thinking about the mechanics of their task (e.g. singing, playing, words to the song, etc.) but rather enjoying the worship encounter that comes out of it. One church I attended had the band off to the side of the stage and a large cross at the center of the stage, so the focus will be on Christ. Another church, famous for its music ministry, hid the musicians in an orchestra pit so (according to the pastor) “The musicians wouldn’t struggle with pride and the people wouldn’t focus on the musicians.” Of course judging whether someone is worshiping supernaturally is not easy. But worship leaders should gauge their ministry by asking if they are feeling close, within inches, of their Heavenly Father.

3) Participate Supernaturally:

A final aspect to supernatural worship is to observe if congregants are participating in a supernatural experience. I’ve noticed that gifted worship leaders will not only worship themselves, but also notice what’s happening in the audience. They know if the audience is connecting with God and if they are not. The gifted worship leader will make corrections midway through worship.To revitalize a church is not about changing worship to something more attractive or trendy … but it’s about living out in a church what the word worship means: a fresh encounter with a living, loving Heavenly Father.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

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

WORSHIP & How the Hebrew Word Tells Us Worship is Not “Neighbor-directed” … but “God-directed”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

Healthy Church Cover sm(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius(Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

HIP-HOP & An interview w/ Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters: The church should embrace hip-hop

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This week I am addressing a group of African and African-American pastors/bishops at their national conference. One of the topics is the influence of hip-hop and how African immigrants and African-Americans disagree on its use. Here’s a helpful interview with an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who leads one of the healthiest congregations in Texas

Article by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, May 30, 2017

I really believe that hip-hop serves as a vital theological conversation partner for our present-day work. Hip-hop is without peer in terms of its cultural influence.

It is a global phenomenon, and there is an entire canon, an entire text, that the church has yet to explore. It really speaks to me like the narratives in Old Testament history that speak of communities under oppression facing marginalization and trying to identify where God is at work to liberate them in the midst of their struggle.

So when I hear Tupac, I hear St. Paul, and I also hear St. Augustine, as they struggle with issues of soteriology.

Q: Some church leaders may think of hip-hop as a way to connect to youth. But it sounds like you are talking about something deeper than that.

We can no longer talk about hip-hop solely as a youth movement, because hip-hop as a cultural artifact is now coming up on its 44th anniversary, from August of 1973(link is external). Some of the founders of the hip-hop movement themselves are approaching mid-60s or early 70s.

So we’re really talking about something that is far deeper than just young people in high school.

We’re talking about how generations interact with the world. It has articulated their hopes and dreams as well as their pain and despair.

In many ways, the church in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the westernmost portions, is dying. But I still believe that there are persons who long for community. They long for deeper faith and spirituality.

I think we have to shift our way, our mode, of connecting with individuals.

I think, biblically, of the apostle Paul in Acts when he goes to Athens and goes to the [Areopagus], and in that space, speaking to Stoics and Epicureans, he speaks to the unknown God. And as he begins to preach in that space, he does not draw his authority from the Torah.

He draws his authority from Athenian poetry, and he uses their conceptions of God as a means of presenting the Christ to them.

I believe we have the same opportunity in terms of engaging hip-hop, using that as a cultural artifact to bridge the gap between the culture and the church.

So we can provide a greater conception of who God is and of who God has called us to be.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/michael-w-waters-church-should-embrace-hip-hop?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

LITURGY & Episcopalian ministry among millenials: When worship works.

by Jason Evans [Episcopal Diocese of Washington] 5/8/15.

…Almost every Sunday, I visit a different parish within our Diocese. Most of the time, I meet at least one or two young people who have found their way into the Episcopal tradition. Each time, I make it a point to talk with them about what brought them to their church. Whenever I listen to their stories a sense of hope rises up within me…

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman writes that there is a “43 percent drop-off between the teen and early adult years in terms of church engagement.” The Pew Research Center reported that more than 25 percent of millennials were unaffiliated with a faith community. This is enough to concern any rector or vestry member. But it isn’t a complete picture of what is happening amongst emerging adults. The National Study of Youth & Religion tracked the religious transitions of young people over a five-year period. Sociologist Christian Smith wrote in his book Souls in Transition that the study found mainline Protestants were “… relatively good at attracting new emerging adults who grew up in other religious traditions–good enough, in fact, to hold their own over these five years in terms of overall ‘market share.’”

Referring to anyone as a “market share” makes my skin crawl a bit. But you get his point–enough emerging adults are finding their way into the Episcopal Church to abate what would otherwise be a steeper decline. So, what are we doing right? In order to answer, I thought we should ask some of those I’ve met in our Diocese.

I met Dongbo Wang, a young scientist, a few months ago. He is a member of Church of the Redeemer in Bethesda, MD. Dongbo did not grow up Episcopalian. But he clearly remembers the first time he walked into an Episcopal parish while in graduate school. “When I walked through those doors, I thought to myself, this is what church is supposed to feel like,” he told me during our conversation. “It was something I couldn’t analyze as a scientist. It was something that felt right–I felt connected. The year before I had visited more than 20 churches and never felt that.”

Like Dongbo, Tiffany Koebel is a young adult who did not grow up Episcopalian. Today, she is a member of All Saints in Chevy Chase, MD. For Tiffany, the Episcopal Church provided a consistent, reliable religious culture that countered what Tiffany referred to as, “a culture constantly fixated on the ‘next big thing.’” She discovered more of a depth of theology in the liturgy during one worship service at All Saints than she had experienced in years attending churches of other traditions. “I was struck by the richness of the liturgy,” she shares, “and the central role of Scripture in the service.”

Read more at … https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/article/ministry-among-millenials-when-worship-works

And for more innovative ways some Episcopal churches are reaching out see this article … Church Has No Walls But Many Doors Accessible to Seekers.

 

CHURCH HISTORY & African rhythms, ideas of sin and the Hammond organ: A brief history of gospel music’s evolution

by Robert Stevens, The Conversation US, 3/28/18

The enslaved Africans who first arrived in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 after being forcefully removed from their natural environments left much behind, but their rhythms associated with music-making journeyed with them across the Atlantic.

Many of those Africans came from cultures where the mother tongue was a tonal language. That is, ideas were conveyed as much by the inflection of a word as by the word itself. Melody, as we typically think of it, took a secondary role and rhythm assumed major importance.

For the enslaved Africans, music – rhythm in particular – helped forge a common musical consciousness. In the understanding that organized sound could be an effective tool for communication, they created a world of sound and rhythm to chant, sing and shout about their conditions. Music was not a singular act, but permeated every aspect of daily life.

In time, versions of these rhythms were attached to work songs, field hollers and street cries, many of which were accompanied by dance. The creators of these forms drew from an African cultural inventory that favored communal participation and call and response singing wherein a leader presented a musical call that was answered by a group response.

A cornfield holler.

As my research confirms, eventually, the melding of African rhythmic ideas with Western musical ideas laid the foundation for a genre of African-American music, in particular spirituals and, later, gospel songs.

Spirituals: A journey

John Gibb St. Clair Drake, the noted black anthropologist, points out that during the years of slavery, Christianity in the U.S. introduced many contradictions that were contrary to the religious beliefs of Africans. For most Africans the concepts of sin, guilt and the afterlife, were new.

In Africa, when one sinned, it was a mere annoyance. Often, an animal sacrifice would allow for the sin to be forgiven. In the New Testament, however, Jesus dismissed sacrifice for the absolution of sin. The Christian tenet of sin guided personal behavior. This was primarily the case in northern white churches in the U.S. where the belief was that all people should be treated equally. In the South many believed that slavery was justified in the Bible.

This doctrine of sin, which called for equality, became central to the preaching of the Baptist and Methodist churches.

In 1787, reacting to racial slights at St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, two clergymen, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, followed by a number of blacks left and formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The new church provided an important home for the spiritual, a body of songs created over two centuries by enslaved Africans. Richard Allen published a hymnal in 1801 entitled “A Collection of Spirituals, Songs and Hymns,” some of which he wrote himself.

His spirituals were infused with an African approach to music-making, including communal participation and a rhythmic approach to music-making with Christian hymns and doctrines. Stories found in the Old Testament were a source for their lyrics. They focused on heaven as the ultimate escape.

Spread of spirituals

After emancipation in 1863, as African-Americans moved throughout the United States, they carried – and modified – their cultural habits and ideas of religion and songs with them to northern regions.

Later chroniclers of spirituals, like George White, a professor of music at Fisk University, began to codify and share them with audiences who, until then, knew very little about them. On Oct. 6, 1871, White and the Fisk Jubilee Singers launched a fundraising tour for the university that marked the formal emergence of the African-American spiritual into the broader American culture and not restricted to African-American churches.

Their songs became a form of cultural preservation that reflected the changes in the religious and performance practices that would appear in gospel songs in the 1930s. For example, White modified the way the music was performed, using harmonies he constructed, for example, to make sure it would be accepted by those from whom he expected to raise money, primarily from whites who attended their performances.

As with spirituals, the gospel singers’ intimate relationship with God’s living presence remained at the core as reflected in titles like “I Had a Talk with Jesus,” “He’s Holding My Hand” and “He Has Never Left Me Alone.”

Read and watch more at … https://theconversation.com/african-rhythms-ideas-of-sin-and-the-hammond-organ-a-brief-history-of-gospel-musics-evolution-90737

MULTIPLICATION & Not 1 homogeneous unit but rather a heterogeneous organization w/ many indigenous cultural channels to communicate the Good News & through which to celebrate it.

“A key to respecting indigenous art forms is to connect the Good News via the most appropriate communication modality for the people we are reaching…

Biblically speaking, it thus seems best to see a worship gathering as a time of indigenous artistic expressions that draw people from an indigenous background into connection with God. This would suggest the more worship services we can offer, the more opportunities we can offer for people to connect with God.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/8/18.

I found that all church organizations, regardless of size, grow the quickest by multiplying their sub-congregations. So in other words, they see themselves not as one homogeneous unit but rather as a heterogeneous organization with many indigenous cultural channels to communicate the Good News and through which to celebrate it.

For example, a multiple sub-congregational model blooms when even a small church  adds a youth program. The youth program has its own leader, it’s own style, its own music and its own outreach. It is a sub-congregation, of a different culture. Then, as the church grows over 100 attendees it can often begin to reach out to a different culture  by offering a different service with a slightly modified culturally aesthetic.

Of course working against this is the concept that people want to be united. And when they say that, they usually mean they want to be united in the worship gathering. However the Hebrew word for worship means to come close to God as if to kiss His feet. It doesn’t mean fellowship.

So biblically speaking, it seems best to see a worship gathering as a time of indigenous artistic expressions that draw people from an indigenous background into connection with God. This would suggest the more worship services we can offer, the more opportunities we can offer for people to connect with God.

If we want to call them “fellowship services” instead of worship services, then we could see unity as an objective. But it’s hard to create unity in a sanctuary.

One young lady I interviewed for a book said it was hard to create fellowship in the sanctuary because, “The seats all face the wrong direction.”

So therefore, I see “sub-congregation multiplication” as a key to respecting indigenous art forms and to connecting the Good News via the most appropriate communication modality for the people we are reaching.

I’ve expanded upon some of the research in this area in an interview by LifeWay. Here is the link to that article: https://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/29/when-big-goes-small-how-large-churches-are-learning-from-those-with-less/#.VxDLWcj3aJJ hey sweetie how you doing

BLENDED WORSHIP & Sharing our homes & lives creates more unity than sharing a pew #BiblicalTheology

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/26/17.

A biblical theology of worship.

Churches often want blended worship services because they seek to create cross-cultural understanding and unity. But, while earning my PhD in intercultural studies at Fuller Sem., I came to believe a Biblical theology of worship does not include creating unity.

Do we try to make worship do too much?

Because we feel we only have people for 1 hour on Sunday morning, we cram too much into that one hour.  That one hour becomes announcement time, unity-building time and worship time.  If that is the case we should call it the “Communication – Unity– Worship Hour” 😉

My goal is to get back to a biblical theology of worship which includes encounter, more than unity.  Theologically I think that unity and encounter are mutually exclusive (see the excerpt from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013, below).

Sharing our homes & lives creates more unity

If you’re there to encounter God, you’re not going to spend time encountering your neighbor. Jesus created unity usually over meals.

Thus, I would suggest that sharing our homes and our lives creates more unity than sharing a pew.

Here are some thoughts I’ve written with more detail in The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

RECONCILIATION & The Power Struggle Involved in Transitioning to a Multiethnic Church

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Reconciliation is not about acculturation or blending, but about “giving up power.” That’s what Mark and I tried to say in our book: re;MIX Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2017). Read this article below for a good corollary.

“Transitioning to a Multiethnic Church” By Eric Nykamp, Global Christian Worship, 8/25/17.

Many urban white churches realize that their congregation doesn’t reflect the diversity of the cities they reside in, and many of these churches desire to become multi-ethnic communities. However, moving from this desire to developing into an actual multi-ethnic community can be challenging, especially for churches with a track-record of being a “whites only” worship space in their city. Since most white people have little awareness of their white cultural norms, they mistakenly assume that what is normal for them is also the norm for all people … and are puzzled when their “outreach” or “welcome and enfolding” efforts fall flat with people of color. Due to this cultural blindspot, they are unable to recognize that some of their white cultural norms send the message that people of color with different norms of worship are not welcomed, unless the person of color is willing to assimilate.

Some majority-white churches realize that changing their worship norms will help them develop into the multi-ethnic space they desire to become … but find that they are stuck in making this happen. This talk, given at one such church, addresses how white Christians need to recognize and understand how white norms about worship may operate within their church. The presentation asks questions about what it would mean for white people to change their ways and give up power in order to become a multiethnic community. He concludes with a challenge to white Christians in multiethnic churches to love their brothers and sisters of color with Christ self-sacrificial love for the church, especially when it comes to issues of power and control in multiethnic churches.

Read more at … http://globalworship.tumblr.com/post/164621929550/transitioning-into-a-multi-ethnic-church-eric

Hear it at:

http://cdn.antiochpodcast.org/021.mp3

and go here for more:
http://antiochpodcast.org/podcast/episode-21-worshiping-whiteness-a-presentation-by-eric-nykamp/

STRENGTHS & Research Confirms 7Systems.church of church health & growth

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/15/17.

The following is my systems (7Systems.church) analysis of the “American Congregations 2015 Study” based upon  initial work by Arron Earls (LifeWay, Facts & Trends). The American Congregations 2015 Study” is available at ChurchHealth.wiki and http://www.faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/default/files/American-Congregations-2015.pdf

For a detail explanation of each mark and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/turnaround-churches/

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

#TransformationalLeadershipConference #StMarksTX #StLixTX #7Systems.church

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 or email me you additions.

 

WORSHIP & Did Pub Songs Lend Their Tunes to Wesley Hymns? No, but popular songs did.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When I take groups to England, a question I often receive is, “Did pub songs of their day lend their tunes to the hymns of Charles or John Wesley?”

While writing a recent devotional book on the Wesleys (its purpose is to help church members understand what the method actually is), I see three important principles about music were part of the “method” of the Wesleyan Movement.

  1. The Wesleys wanted to not only revive the church, but they also wanted to revive worship songs. Therefore, they encouraged and wrote in more engaging and up-to-date musical styles.
  2. Though Charles did not write music, only the words, he did borrow melodies from secular orchestral works (music composed for an orchestra), folk tunes and even operatic works. Thus having studied his life I know that Charles utilized popular secular melodies, but did so carefully because worship is a critical and supernatural communication.
  3. However, I also believe from studying their lives that John or Charles would not borrow the melody of a drinking song and use it as the melodic foundation for a worship song.

To understand more about #3, read this article by Dean McIntyre, director of music resources for the the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.


Did the Wesleys Really Use Drinking Song Tunes for Their Hymns?

by Dean McIntyre, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church, 7/13/15.

…There is also the deeper issue of whether the importing of secular and drinking songs into the church to accompany congregational singing would be acceptable to the Wesleys. Wesley issued three collections of tunes: the Foundery Collection in 1742, Select Hymns with Tunes Annext (in which first appears his celebrated “Directions for Singing,” reprinted on page vii of The United Methodist Hymnal) in 1761, and his last, Sacred Harmony, in 1780. What we find in these collections yields an important insight into Wesley’s musical aesthetic for hymn tunes. Here we find the simple, traditional psalm tunes and hymn melodies, primarily from Anglican song. A number of these survive in our own 1989 United Methodist Hymnal (nos. 60, 96, 142, 181, 302, 385, 414, 450, 682). However, many of Charles’s texts were in increasing number and complexity of meter and required new sources for tunes to accompany them. John made use of new tunes composed or adapted from folk tunes, sacred and secular oratorio, and even operatic melodies. It should not escape us that whenever Wesley allowed the use of secular music as from oratorio and opera he used music of accepted high standard and almost always from classical rather than popular sources. In no instance did Wesley turn to tavern or drinking songs or other such unseemly sources to carry the sacred texts of songs and hymns.

Another help to understanding what Wesley considered appropriate in hymn tunes is to be found in his “Directions for Singing.” Of particular importance is a portion of his fourth direction: “Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.” It is clear that Wesley intends the “songs of Satan” to no longer be sung. Also important is his seventh direction:

“Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this 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; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.”

Wesley’s aesthetic to “above all sing spiritually” simply would not allow drinking songs to accompany hymn texts.

Finally, in no hymn book, tune book, or other publication of the Wesleys can there be found any example of or encouragement to use drinking songs for singing hymns.

What About Today?

The question still remains, “What about today? Just because Luther and the Wesleys didn’t use drinking song tunes and other popular music for their hymns, does that mean we shouldn’t?”

Whether Wesley did or didn’t use drinking songs is not really the issue. Rather, the issue is why Wesley did or didn’t use them. Wesley found the close association of hymn text and tune (even commonly referred to as a “wedding”) to be of such importance that the use of tavern songs was beneath consideration. It was never a possibility. That question remains for us to answer today. Do we find it acceptable, appropriate, and commendable to select the music of drunken sailors or the local tavern for our worship? If Wesley’s reasoning for the Methodists of his time remains valid for our own, then the answer is no; and those who choose to use such music in worship should be able to dispute Wesley’s practice convincingly…

For further discussion of this topic, see Dean McIntyre’s article “Debunking the Wesley Tavern Song Myth.” 

Download the full article and read more at … https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/did-the-wesleys-really-use-drinking-song-tunes-for-their-hymns


Now, (this is Bob Whitesel again) some people mention that the web is filled with references to John and Charles utilizing pub songs when, as you can see, this is not supported by evidence or the Wesleys’ practical theology.

Some point to an entertaining video by the Christian ‘acapella group Glad (I use this video in class sometimes) where they say the opposite.  Watch this entertaining video (and learn about culture from it, but not history) and then read the explanation by Glad former member Bob Kauflin.

Gary, thanks for stopping by. I agree that GLAD didn’t research the topic very well when we started singing That Hymn Thing in the late 70s. I’m sorry that it was a stumbling block for you and your friends.
We never said that the melody for “We Praise Thee, O God” was an actual bar tune. We were using the tune simply to illustrate a practice that has existed for quite some time. The Psalmists borrowed poetic forms from pagan nations, and the disagreement about what music is “appropriate” to use for the church has been going on for centuries. What is clear is that some musical styles are definitely more suited for congregational singing than others and as you said, music isn’t created in a vacuum. Leaders need wisdom and discernment. But songs don’t say the same things to everyone, and there is no one style of music that can effectively communicate the glories of God or enable us to express the range of proper responses to God.
Gary: February 28, 2016 at 9:31 AM #  Need to come clean on “I once met a girl and her name was Matilda, she hugged like a bear and she looked like one too”. being the source of a hymn. It’s most certainly a lie. It is still damaging our worship service this morning.
Bob Kauflin February 28, 2016 at 8:05 PM # Gary, I did “come clean” in my response to your previous comment. If you’re interested, I found Harold Best’s book Music Through the Eyes of Faith helpful in this discussion. Grace to you.

 

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