I’ve benefited from the many summaries I’ve read of the Together for the Gospel conference last week. How kind of the Lord to give so many a greater passion to serve His church, proclaim the Gospel, and preach His Word, in such a brief time. I’m still looking forward to taking some time to review and apply my notes. One remark I definitely hope to remember was made by my good friend, C.J. Mahaney: “This conference can be a means of progressive self-deception if we think hearing these messages insures present and future growth.” By God’s grace, I don’t want that to happen.
A number of guys have made references to how much they enjoyed the sound of three thousand men singing together. In fact, someone wrote in to ask me if I knew of any recordings of men singing accompanied by a piano. (I couldn’t find anything to recommend). While the sound really was remarkable and emotionally moving, I don’t think anyone was saying it was the “sound” that made our time “worship.” It was the truths we were singing. In fact, a friend e-mailed me, “I was moved to tears during the worship time and frankly, I rarely sang, and spent more time listening to 3,000 men encourage me with truth.” The goal of our singing was simple, and in line with the conference – to incite our hearts to worship and our lives to godliness by painting a clear, compelling view of God’s grace in the Savior.
At the conference, Mark Dever jokingly commented on how difficult it probably was for me to lead in such a “restrained” context. He meant that I wasn’t repeating many verses and was only leading with a piano. I usually, but not always, am accompanied by drums, bass, guitars, synth, and other vocalists. One pastor was grateful we toned things down and wrote, “Although (or, better, because) Bob Kauflin was put in a straightjacket regarding the instrumentation and selection of songs, the worship was both theologically sound and stylistically reverent.”
Lest anyone misunderstand, I wasn’t really wearing a straitjacket when I led. That would have been way too distracting. But actually, Mark Dever and I worked on the song list together and were in full agreement on the choice of songs. And as for being “stylistically reverent,” I seek to use music to serve the lyrics no matter what instrumentation I’m leading with. But I have to admit, it was a treat not being concerned about anyone following my chord changes.
His comments made me think of a seminar I’ll be teaching, Lord willing, at Sovereign Grace’s WorshipGod06 conference in August. It will be called “Healthy Tensions in Corporate Worship.” It’s a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a few years now and am eager to study more in depth.
It seems that when it comes to worship, we tend to speak in polarized categories. Rock music or a cappella. Edifying or evangelistic. Planned or spontaneous. Reverent or celebrative. For God or for us. We determine who’s on our side, draw lines in the sand, and seek to discredit those who don’t see things our way. Rarely do we consider that God is so vast and our understanding so finite, that we often have to hold conflicting, or at least apparently conflicting, truths in tension. Or maybe we just have a hard time understanding how God made us different in some ways so that we might learn from one another.
In any case, humble, thoughtful dialogue in these areas may not change our view, but it will certainly help us become more like the Savior we worship.