Tag Archives | For Pastors

The Down Side of Controversy

Some people live for controversy. I’m not one of them. However, I’ve come to realize that controversy has many positive aspects. Foundational doctrines of orthodox Christianity have been fashioned through the fires of opposition and disagreement. We can see the truth more clearly when someone says something that flies in the face of the biblical evidence. The nuances, perimeters, and shape of our faith become more obvious to us when placed against the backdrop of falsehood. Most of all, God’s truth has had opposition from the Garden of Eden. Controversy often arises simply from a desire to make clear what God has actually said. However, not …

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What We All Need

I’ve been a little lax on my posting lately, as I’m in the thick of preparing for the WorshipGod06 conference. I’ll have the privilege of teaching three seminars and one main session there, and appreciate the opportunity to meet and serve those who are coming. In the midst of my preparation, I came across this quote from a book I read a while ago, called The Future of Protestant Worship, by Ronald Byars. “Here is where we put a finger on the weakness of the marketing approach when it comes to matters of faith and worship. It presumes that people can tell you what they’re looking for. Most people can’t.” (p. 23) Later on he writes: “Even …

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Choosing a Hymnal for a Worship Service

One person recently wrote in to ask: 1. What criteria would you use in selecting a new hymnal? 2. What particular hymnals would you recommend checking into? Although we don’t use a hymnal in our Sunday meetings, if I were to choose one, I’d look for one that contains the best of Christian hymnody prior to the early 20th century. These are the songs for congregational worship that have been established, tried, tested, and proven to be beneficial to the Church. Since a hymnal should serve primarily as a tool to teach and reinforce the doctrines of the Christian faith, I’d look for many songs by Watts, Wesley, Newton, Toplady, Cowper, Hart, …

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Physical Expressiveness in Worship, Pt. 5

In response to the series I did on physical expressiveness in corporate worship, I received a follow-up question from the gentleman who originally asked the question. It was pretty extensive, but this was his closing query: Bottom, Bottom, Lowest of Bottom Lines: Am I exegetically, theologically, homiletically accurate when I say, “God COMMANDS us to CLAP our hands!”? Or should it be softened to “God ENCOURAGES us to express our love and worship to Him using our bodies?” And then let people do what they’re comfortable with. Great question. And I want to commend him for seeking to pinpoint as clearly as possible what God tells us in His Word …

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Worship and Truth

I’m in the middle of a writing retreat, working on a book for Crossway tentatively entitled Worship Matters. Catchy title, I know. Lord willing, it will be published some time in early 2007. I’m working on a chapter related to worship and the Word. One of the quotes I ran across is from a book entitled Worship At The Next Level: Insight From The Contemporary Voices, edited by Tim A. Dearborn and Scott Coil. Chapter 10 is called “New Approaches to Worship” by Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson, Cathy Kirkpatrick. Here’s the quote: Worship preparation is primarily about providing a context rather than a content. The context being an environment …

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How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship? Pt. 4

This is my last post (for now) on the topic of bodily expression in corporate worship. Let me say again that in issues regarding our faith, physical expressiveness in corporate worship is an important but secondary issue. I have no problem worshiping God with a church that may be more enthusiastic or reserved than I’m used to, as long as they are proclaiming the same Gospel and glorying in the same Savior. However, our culture tends to separate head and heart, doctrine and devotion. Some congregations sing profoundly biblical lyrics with no visible effect (which doesn’t always mean they aren’t affected). Other churches are enthusiastically …

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How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship? Pt. 3

I’ve been talking about how to help a church grow in physical expression that draws attention to the greatness of God’s glory in Christ. After teaching on the appropriateness of that expression in worshipping God and the importance of the heart, I’d move on to: 3. Address the different reasons people might be reserved in their expression and teach on preferring others. Some Christians are simply unaware of what the Bible teaches about physical responses to God. They don’t know that Scripture is filled with examples of exuberant, passionate worship (Psalm 150; Neh. 8:6; Rev. 5:11-14). Perhaps they’ve grown up in a church environment …

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How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship? Pt. 2

Last Friday I started to answer this question from a pastor: “Exactly how, and how much should we encourage our people to follow the numerous commands throughout Scripture of bodily expression (as a natural outpouring of the heart)?” I began by saying we must teach our people that physical expression is appropriate in biblical worship. We aren’t disembodied spirits. God intends that we use our whole beings to bring him praise (Ps. 16:9). But how and how much? We don’t simply tell people to “sing like they mean it,” or “jump higher for Jesus,” although in my early zeal to see God honored I crossed that line a few times. Commanding …

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How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship? Pt. 1

After the Together for the Gospel conference, I received a lengthy e-mail from a worship pastor in attendance who shared a current dilemma his pastoral team is facing. They have been “wrestling with how to best be obedient to Scripture in our corporate worship through song.” His church contains people who are “naturally NOT very expressive AT ALL” during that time. So he asks: “Exactly how, and how much should we encourage our people to follow the numerous commands throughout Scripture of bodily expression (as a natural outpouring of the heart)? First, I want to thank this pastor and his team for their humility in seeking to wrestle …

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Pursuing God’s Active Presence

In 1971, the great 20th century preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, brought these remarks to an annual Minister’s conference: “We must not be content until we have had some manifestation of the activity of God. We must concentrate on this. This is my plea, that we concentrate on this, because it is the great message of the Bible, so substantiated by the lessons of history. That is obviously today the only thing that gives us any hope as we face the future. And God seems to be saying that to us. ‘Prove Me now. Try Me. Risk your everything on Me. Be fools for My sake. Cast yourselves utterly upon this belief.’ Let us put it like this: Do we really …

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Entering the “Draw Me Close” Conversation

In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Chuck Colson has an article entitled “Soothing Ourselves to Death.” He begins with this paragraph: When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We’d been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called “Draw Me Close to You,” which has zero theological content and could just as easily be sung in any nightclub. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed. “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” he asked. “No!” I shouted, loudly enough …

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Watts on Prayer #5 – Persuading Us to Pray

I’m in the middle of a writing retreat, working on a book for Crossway Publishers. I mentioned a while back that this book was going to cause me cut back on blogging somewhat. However, I wanted to finish this series today so that I could move on to other things next week. Watts’ final chapter is called “Persuasive Arguments to Learn to Pray.” He begins:“It is to little purpose that the nature of prayer is explained, so many rules framed and directions given to teach persons this divine skill of prayer, if they are not persuaded of the necessity and usefulness of it.” (p. 167) In other words, it’s useless talking about it if we …

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Watts on Prayer #4 – The Spirit of Prayer

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing summaries of chapters from the book A Guide to Prayer by Isaac Watts. I’ve been using it in my own prayer times, and want to share the benefits. I know I could be addressing many other topics, and will eventually get to them. But if my sense is right, I think that prayer, both public and private, is an area of our relationship with God that we would all love to grow in. In his chapter on The Spirit of Prayer Watts reminds us that all the rules and directions he’s laid out for praying will be ineffective without the aid of God’s Spirit. After providing extensive Scriptural support for the Spirit …

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Watts on Prayer #3 – The Grace of Prayer

I’m continuing my summary of the chapters from Isaac Watts A Guide to Prayer, which is enriching my communication with God. Today, I’m reviewing Chapter 3, The Grace of Prayer. Watts distinguishes the gift and the grace of prayer in this way: “The gift chiefly consists in a readiness of thought appropriate to the various parts of prayer, and a facility of expressing those thoughts in speaking to God. The grace consists in the inward workings of the heart and conscience toward God and religion.” In other words, the grace of prayer refers to the life, affection, sincerity, and vigor that characterize our praying. It stems from an awareness …

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Watts on Prayer #2 – The Gift of Prayer

Yesterday I shared my burden for giving more attention to the way we pray, both publicly and privately. This is an area I very much want to grow in. For that reason I picked up Isaac Watts’ A Guide to Prayer. I’ve been so encouraged by it, I wanted to give you a synopsis of the chapters to motivate you in your own pursuit of a rich prayer life. Today, I’m looking at Chapter 2, The Gift of Prayer. Watts defines the gift of prayer as: “An ability to suit our thoughts to all the various parts and designs of this duty, and a readiness to express those thoughts before God in the fittest manner to profit our own souls as well as the souls …

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