Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why "Sermons in Song"?

Some have asked why we call what we do, "Sermons in Song," so this article should answer some of those questions. Mainly, we are trying to strengthen local churches by the preaching of the gospel according to Colossians 3:16. This verse says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Sermons – Let the Word of Christ
There is almost nothing that will more quickly weaken a church than the neglect of preaching the word of God. For this reason, Sermons in Song is thoroughly committed to expositional preaching. This means that we endeavor to say what the Bible says, where the Bible says it, with the emphasis that the Bible gives. This is the proclamation of the word of Christ, and it is the partial fulfillment of the great commission, where Christ says that we are to teach disciples to “observe all things” that He has commanded.

The Old Testament Scriptures and the Apostolic teaching of the New Testament provide the content of the gospel, which Christ taught to His disciples and which has been transmitted to us in the Bible. For this reason, preaching and teaching of the Word of God is the first and most important element of Sermons in Song. Without this, all other efforts are empty and powerless. We believe that the only hope for the revival of God’s churches and the strengthening of God’s people is a concentrated emphasis on the exposition of His authoritative Word.

Sermons – Dwell in You Richly
Even a church that has a full complement of Bible teaching can be weakened because they are not vitally saturated with the Word of God. It is important to note that this phrase isn’t simply a reference to the fact that the Bible is everywhere present, so what could be missing?

God’s people must come to understand that the Scriptures are far more than a source book for defending a doctrinal statement or confession of faith. They are the self-disclosure of God Himself, centered on the person and work of Christ. As a result, Sermons in Song is committed to true gospel preaching that also focuses on showing how the person and work of Christ fully and completely impacts every sphere of life. There is nothing else that can strengthen God’s churches.

Sermons – In All Wisdom
There is a subtle trap that has been laid for the American church, and it is the suggestion that the word of God is sufficient for salvation and other spiritual stuff, but it doesn’t really impact the emotional and practical life of the people. This inevitably leads God’s people to trust in the false teaching of secular psychological philosophy that has been dressed up in spiritual sounding language. The sufficiency of Christ and of the word of Christ is threatened and undermined.

We must be jealous for the ministry of the word, and we cannot allow ourselves to supplant the life-changing truth with our own opinions or the opinions of some expert that would suggest Scripture isn’t a sufficient help. Anything except seeing that all wisdom and knowledge is found in God and revealed in the person and work of Christ will inevitably lead to weak churches. This is why Sermons in song is committed to Biblical Counseling.

Song – Teaching and Admonishing One Another
When our lives are saturated and influenced by the word of God, this will naturally be reflected in our music, and now we see Paul suggesting that the proclamation of the word should be set to music. We also see that this music is to be expressed in relation to the community of believers (one another), and it is at this point that Paul gives two purposes for the use of music in the community of the local church.

This verse leads us to conclude that music must be doctrinally accurate, at the very least. However, this is not the only element of teaching that should be in view. Our music also teaches us how we are to view the world and how the Scriptures are applied to various circumstances of life, and we don’t need to look any further than the Psalms to provide us a great pattern for the ways in which we are instructed by our music. In brief, Sermons in Song believes that the Christian’s music should either be directly Biblical or reflect a distinctively God-centered and Biblical perspective.

The second purpose given here for music is very interesting. It is the word noutheteo, from which we derive the concept of “nouthetic counseling.” In other words our music both teaches and counsels us! So, we are not just taught bare facts; we are also taught how we are to respond to the truth. This includes exhortation to action as well as the emotional response that is appropriate to the truth. For example, that I am a great sinner should accompany music that reflects the sorrow that a believer necessarily has because of their sin and its effects.
Because of this, Sermons in Song believes that our music must communicate in a way that reflects emotion that is appropriate to the truth being expressed in the language of the song.

Song – Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
Much of the debate on this passage relates to the identification of these three musical terms. However they are understood, we can at least conclude that a variety of musical categories are intended. The identification of the Psalms is clear, and Sermons in Song believes the Psalms have been tragically neglected in many American churches. From this and the parallel passage in Ephesians we can also conclude that music, without lyrics, can be included, which has interesting implications for considering emotional expressions simply as they are or are not consonant with the Christian life. We can further conclude that these categories also include congregational music.

In light of these categories, Sermons in Song seeks to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the Psalms, the writing of new congregational music, the renewal of historic hymns, and providing musical expositions of Scripture, all provided that the emotional expressions of the music are consonant with the God-centered life.

Song – Singing With Grace in Your Hearts to the Lord
Music starts with who you are, and it is essential that the grace of God be evidenced in the life of the believer. Our music reflects who we are with surprising accuracy, and Christian music must start with the believer knowing the grace of God in truth. From this point, we can encourage and counsel one another, but our music and ministry to one another needs to be understood as having one primary audience that matters most. We sing for the Lord, and this demands that our music demonstrates a life of worship, reflecting the character and attributes of God in our musical expressions.

While we acknowledge that various contexts require music that is appropriate to the occasion and audience, we do not believe there is a separate category for “worship music.” Sermons in Song is committed to musical expressions that reflect lives bent toward the worship of God and the enjoyment of who He is, which is the whole purpose for which we were created.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Using the Web

Recently we have been looking at more effective ways to use the various internet resources that are available, particularly social networking and blog resources. As part of this, we are beginning to standardize and focus the various web elements for Sermons in Song. In this post, we will explain how we intend to use the various resources available.

On Blogging
The blog is a format that has some familiarity with me, since I have been blogging for several years. Many of you are aware that I have been blogging at NeoFundamentalist since early 2005. For several reasons, I have not recently been writing there, and we are probably going to archive the whole site at some point in the not-to-distant future. In respect to my Theological / Philosophical writings, I intend to begin blogging again, but that will be in coordination with a project that some friends and I have been working on recently (more sometime later on that).

However, we are also using this blog for Sermons in Song specifically, and we will continue to write here regarding matters of Worship, Music in specific, and other Ministry related articles and news. We will be moving matters of prayer to other social networking outlets, since these are more tuned to getting prayer requests out quickly to those who are interested in praying for our ministry. For those who prefer to use this site as a hub, there is a feed at the far right for our Facebook posts, which will be concerned with the general, day to day, concerns and progress of where we are and what we are doing.

So the blog will be the primary outlet for practical articles that are aimed at the church-strengthening ministry of Sermons in Song. Some cross-posting may occur between this site and the "notes" section of the Facebook fan page, but that will not necessarily be the case. We welcome and would like to encourage as much interaction as possible, since this helps us better serve the churches where God sends us.

On Facebook
Facebook is a fantastic tool, though it can become an albatross to life if it isn't used wisely. It is a great venue for bite sized transmission of information. Much of the "status" updates we see on Facebook are more or less mundane, but we would like to use the Sermons in Song updates particularly for the purpose of sharing pieces of information that will help you know how to pray for us in that particular day. We appreciate those of you who pray regularly for us and we intend to keep that aspect of this site moving regularly, even if the articles are not as regular as we would like.

Our own personal Facebook accounts (Martha and Tom both are there) will be more personal, so if you are interested in that, then you can find us and "friend" us. However, please note in your friend request how and when we met in person. We intend to limit the personal friend list to people we have actually met. Thank you, in advance, for your understanding!

In addition, the Facebook fan page has some features that are very conducive to supporting and facilitating a robust communication with those who are interested in our ministry. We have links to our music in the "Music" tab, and we have another music app on the "Wall" that allows us to post practice sessions of new songs, just for those of you who are interested in keeping up with us and praying for us.

The other feature that we hope gets used more is the forums on the Facebook page. There we can carry on extended conversations regarding what is happening and we can answer questions about aspects of our ministry that interests you. We have even posted lyrics and chords for some of our new and upcoming songs in the wall music player.

On Twitter
To be entirely honest, I don't really get Twitter. It seems too much information. I am not sure that I want to know blow by blow snippets of very many people's lives, and I certainly can't imagine people really wanting to know that for me. However, I understand that this is something that is a great benefit to many, so we will be cross posting all the Facebook updates into Twitter (@tpryde3) for those of you who use this platform. This means that you can use Twitter to receive prayer related posts from Sermons in Song.

That pretty much covers it all. We will be updating the links to reflect our usage of these tools, and we sincerely hope that our interaction is a blessing to you and an encouragement to your ministry in your church. Thank you for your interest in our ministry and your prayers, and drop us a note to let us know who you are. We would love to know who is praying for the work God has given us in strengthening His churches.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Soteriology Does Inform Your Worship

I recently read an article on worship that made the following assertion: "However, I must repeat, there is no direct impact of Reformed Theology itself on worship theology or practice. Historically there have been both conservative and progressive Calvinists, Arminians, Dispensationalists, and Covenant Theologians, and there is nothing inherent in these theological convictions that leads to a particular worship philosophy."

I could not disagree more! First, the statement assumes that Worship Theology and Reformed Theology are only tangentially related, and this assumption is made, even in the face of earlier statements that appear to be made to the contrary. For example, “[God-centeredness] is clearly evidenced in their theology, their emphases, their biblical exposition, their song texts, and their writings. It has certainly influenced their theology of worship, and no doubt has impacted the worship theology and practice of fundamentalists as well.”

This drives the thoughtful reader to ask how the writer can make the previous assertion. In searching for the answer, we discover the underlying equivocation that obfuscates and undermines the coherence of the argument, which is common in this particular writer's articles. Take notice of the various assertions made, particularly those related to “Worship Theology.” Here are a few quotes: