Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

When the Spirit of God Begins To Move (Sinclair Ferguson)

In church, revival, Worship on May 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

(I recently came across this in Ferguson’s work, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life, and had to share this with you.)

Many years ago, I witnessed revival in its most microcosmic form in a sudden, unexpected, and remarkable work of God’s Spirit on a friend. The work was so dramatic, the effect so radical, that news of it spread quickly to different parts of the country. People were asking, “Just what exactly happened?”

Five things seemed to have happened, and they were still fresh in the memory two and a half decades later:

  1. A painful exposure of the particular sin of unbelief occurred. Listening to preaching was a staple of my friend’s spiritual diet, but what came with overpowering force was a sense that God’s Word had actually been despised inwardly. God’s own Word, preaching in the power of the Spirit, stripped away the mask of inner pride and outward reputation for spirituality. There was a fearful exposure of sin.
  2. A powerful desire arose to be free from all sin. A new affection came, as if unbidden, into the heart. Indeed, a desire seemed to be given actually to have sin increasingly revealed and exposed in order that it might be confessed, pardoned, and cleansed. Disturbing though it was, there was a sweetness of grace in the pain.
  3. The love of Christ now seemed marvelous beyond measure. A love for Him flowed from a heart that could not get enough of Christ, ransacking Scripture to discover more and more about Him.
  4. A new love for God’s Word was born—for reading it, for hearing it expounded and applied, and especially for knowing every expression of God’s will, so that it might be obeyed.
  5. A compassionate love for others now flowed. It came from this double sense of sin and need on the one hand and grace and forgiveness on the other. Christian witness ceased to be a burden and became the expression of Spirit-wrought and powerful new affections.


From Matt:

I do not know about you, reading over this and then writing it here makes my heart long for this work to happen among us. Does this describe you? This is not simply for the super-saints—this is what God has in store for true followers of Him. May we set our sails and be ready when God decides to move among us—and may we be joyfully obedient in the meantime.

The Danger of Unregenerate Pastors (C.H. Spurgeon)

In C.H. Spurgeon, church, evangelicalism, Evangelism, Salvation, Worship on March 25, 2009 at 11:52 am

Alas!  the unregenerate pastor becomes terribly mischievous too, for of all the causes which create infidelity, ungodly ministers must be ranked among the first.  I read the other day, that no phase of evil presented so marvellous a power for destruction, as the unconverted minister of a parish, with a 1200-pound (British currency, not weight) organ, a choir of ungodly singers, and aristocratic congregation.  It was the opinion of the writer, that there could be no greater instrument for damnation out of help than that.  People go to their place of worship and sit down comfortably, and think they must be Christians, when all the time all that their religion consists in, is listening to an orator, having their ears tickles with music, and perhaps their eyes amused with graceful action and fashionable manners; the whole being no better than what they hear and see at the opera—not so good, perhaps, in point of aesthetic beauty, and not an atom more spiritual.  Thousands are congratulating themselves, and even blessing God that they are devout worshippers, when at the same time they are living in an unregenerate Christless state, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.  He who presides over a system which aims at nothing higher than formalism, is far more a servant of the devil than a minister of God.

(C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Banner of Trust Trust, 2008, pp. 5-6)

Sunday’s Sermon: “Jesus Saves, Jesus Sends” (Luke 9:1-9)

In Christ, church, Evangelism, Leadership, Missions, Salvation, Worship on March 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm

(If you wish to listen to the mp3 of this sermon, click on the title of this sermon in the sidebar of this blog.  This sermon was preached on Sunday, March 22, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY where I have served as pastor since September 2003.)

Every leader, no matter who he is or what he is engaged in, must multiply himself. If a leader does not pass along his vision, delegate that vision out, and then give away some of that responsibility, that influence will be small. That influence will only go as far as that person can. But leaders and organizations’ influence multiplies when others are involved in making the vision a reality.

When I became a minister of music and youth at a church in South Florida, I went from a small church with a very small choir and about a ten-voice children’s choir to a church that had five large choirs from preschool to senior adults. While they already had people in place for the preschool choir and children’s choir, I was directly in charge of the youth choir, adult choir, and senior adult choirs which had a combined 90 people involved. I was swamped.

Yet, my greatest challenge was the youth choir. We formed an instant bond, and I knew how to direct choirs—but the youth also were involved in large dramatic musicals. This wasn’t where you just gave them some lines and said, “OK, guys—do your best!” There were tryouts, auditions, and some serious practices. It was not my strength, and it showed at our first musical.

So I had to swallow my pride and get some help with this. Someone in our church was good at drama and had experience doing it, so I enlisted Sean and he took over all the drama. We would coordinate, I’d tell him my thoughts, and he’d either run with what I said or improve on what I said. But the burden was lifted, ministry was expanded, and the youth choir absolutely flourished.

Jesus understood this. As we have been going through Luke, we have seen that Jesus was very busy in doing ministry. He would do the preaching, he would do the healing, he would talk to the opposition—and he did this alone! Even the account of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, people pressed in around him so much that he struggled to get from Point A to Point B. He was it! He even had to divert his attention from Jairus’ issue to tend to the woman. As far as the perspective of heaven was concerned, this was exactly how God planned it. But from heaven’s and earth’s perspective, Jesus needed to give away his ministry not only so he could spread his influence—he needed to train these young “interns” to carry on after He ascended to the Father.

It’s interesting that Jesus chose this path—involving flawed and frail human beings to expand his ministry and work through them and all who follow the Gospel.

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

As we look at this passage, we must remember this without fail: those whom Jesus saves, Jesus sends. He calls you, he empowers you, he directs you, and when it comes to the church he stays with you in his Spirit. Not only this, but the Spirit moving you along gives you the desire to point others to Christ. The connection is such in the New Testament that if you find yourself not wanting to be sent or resisting it, there is always a question as to whether you are saved. Spurgeon says:

Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty so to do as long as he lives. The propagation of the gospel is left, not to a few, but to all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.[1]

1. Jesus saves us and sends us, armed with the gospel (1-3).

Again, look at verses 1-3:

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.”

Jesus chose these twelve out of many, and he poured his life and teaching into these twelve men. During this mission, they were only armed with the power of the Word of God to do both physical and spiritual healings. This is great in seeing how Christ uses people to expand and conduct his ministry. In John 6:69-71, we read:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”

Christ chose the Twelve to serve as an extension of himself in the world. This is a foreshadowing of how his church would serve. Remember from Ephesians 2:19-21:

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Jesus saves us and sends us to be an extension of Him as well—the apostles were sent, yet we are His body that’s living and active in the world. What is the resource He gave them to use? “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” I read this, and two things came to mind. I recall in Acts 1 after Jesus rose from the dead, he spent his last days: “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The other thing that came to mind was a conference I went to in Elizabethtown this past Tuesday called “Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.” Dan Summerlin gave a breakout session talk about the necessity of a church understanding its mission. He recommended to us pastors gathering together your key leaders and spend three months on this. He said, “The first four weeks of this, do a study on the Kingdom of God to get that framework in mind. Then you’re ready for the particulars of your church.”

Notice over what Jesus gives them authority: demons and diseases. Why is this significant? Did not Jesus have power over the demons and to cure diseases in Luke 8? Jesus called them, saying that they now have His power and authority over these issues as well. He doesn’t just save them. He doesn’t just empower them. He sends them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.

We must realize that this was a short-term mission for a specific purpose. In this passage, they were to take nothing for their journey, when in another missions trip they were to take extra supplies. This was a time where they would get used to sharing the gospel in various communities, especially after the time Jesus was ascended—given great evidence of this in the Book of Acts.

We must also realize that Jesus is bringing together his apostles (and this word, from the Greek, means ones who are sent—in this case, ones who are sent by Christ for a specific purpose).

2. Jesus saves us and sends us to work the Gospel out in our communities (4-6).

Look with me at verses 4-6:

4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Verse 6 is telling: “And they departed and went through the villages.” Jesus sent out the Twelve to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.” Notice too the parallel understanding of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and “preaching the gospel.” So that’s the what—now we see the where: the villages. They went into the communities where people lived.

Christ empowers us to be witnesses from our neighborhoods to our nations. How? “The Holy Spirit will empower you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). Do we understand that the power that God gave to Christ and that Christ gave to the disciples is ours as well? We need to realize a few things: one, the one who calls us; two, what he arms us with; and three, who he sends us to.

John Benton in his book, “Why Join a Small Church?” tells the story of when U.S. troops captured the Pacific Island of Okinawa towards the end of World War II. The island by and large contained great moral and social issues, except for one city—Shimbakuku. Upon their arrival there, they were greeted by two men, one carrying a Bible.

Everything in that village was neat and tidy, a far cry from the state of the other villages they had encountered. The reason? Thirty years prior a missionary had stopped in Shimbakuku on his way to Japan. He didn’t stay long and only two people (the old men) became Christians. He left them a Bible and begged them to shape their lives by it. They did so, and the whole community changed.

Do we not need to go into our villages? Has not God called us to go into our communities as part of the Great Commission? You see, in every case where God saves, He sends! And He arms us with the Spirit and His Word! We are to know our Savior, we are to know His Word, but we are also to know the people to whom we minister.

Have you ever talked to someone who feels called into international missions? In Southern Baptist life, if someone goes into missions through the International Missions Board, whether career or a two-year journeyman stint, end up spending some time a the Missionary Learning Center. There, they are trained to learn the language and culture of the people to whom they will serve and minister the Gospel. Why? Because some of our American traditions and customs may not only fit, but some may take offense. Plus, we need to be ready to adapt.

What is so interesting to me is, we do not question those methods of the IMB in training these missionaries to study their culture. Yet, we fail to see that this is what we need to be doing as well! 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “Of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”

You see, there is a difference between the church being like the world and the church understanding the world. Some Bible-believing churches want to completely cut themselves off from anything in the world

3. Jesus saves us and sends us, challenging outsiders to deal with Him and His Gospel (7-9).

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

Consider the progression here. Jesus saves us in order to send us. He gives us His power and His love and His desire for His prized creation and re-creates them, making them new creatures in Christ who no longer desire their own wills and appeal to their own flesh are sold out to the Kingdom of God—such a disparity will make a great difference in the world.

Yet, Jesus’ ministry had gotten the attention of none other than Herod the Tetrarch (also known as Herod Antipas). Herod ruled Galilee from around 4 B.C. until 39 A.D. He was every bit as evil as his father. Luke alludes to the fact that he was “perplexed because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead” (v. 7). He by the urging of Herodias beheaded John the Baptist who accused him of adultery by having his brother Philip’s wife. He was familiar with John’s powerful preaching on the Kingdom of God, and Jesus (as far as he knew) had the same powerful preaching as well. “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”

Herod wanted to meet him. Yet later on Herod wanted to kill Jesus. But in Luke 13:32, Jesus told the messengers, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32). Later on in Luke 23, during Jesus’ trial, Herod finally meets Jesus in person and wants a miracle from him—something in which Jesus did not oblige him.

What do we see from this? For one, we see that on the surface, Christianity looks very good. The disciples were preaching, yes, but they were healing! Many saw these incredible miracles and wanted to be a part of what was going on. They liked what they saw on the outside concerning Jesus and Christianity in general.

Yet, as we see with Herod, when people hear of the very nature of Christianity and the message that not only saved us but the message that we as saved people are armed with, they want to silence us. They may like what we do, but the world will hate what Christians say because it will not just involve an enjoyment of physical miracles, but it involves a spiritual change. When the Scriptures say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness,” they will resent the notion that a change, a spiritual transformation must take place.

A.W. Tozer calls for a certain type of preacher to step up:

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt- spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.[2]

Yet, we may wish to silence Jesus, but there is a little seed that still intrigues us—as it did with Herod during Jesus’ trial. He wanted to see a miracle. Even with his skepticism, he still wanted to see if Jesus was all he said he was, but the only thing he could muster up was a desire to see an external magic trick. He still felt as if the world bowed to him, yet Jesus showed numerous times that He followed another King!

Our lives must be lived both in private and in public in such a way that the world and its leaders will have to contend with Christians—not politically, but spiritually. First Peter 3:15-16 says,

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”


One time, Billy Graham took time to speak to President John F. Kennedy about the gospel and the Second Coming of Christ. Kennedy disregarded what Graham had to say. Yet, sometime later when he and Graham were together, President Kennedy asked Billy if he could ride with him to his hotel room—clearly something was on his mind. Graham was suffering from a nasty cold and told the President he did not want to give this to him. So they settled for another time. Yet, just days later, JFK was shot in Dallas, and the conversation never took place.

[1]C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 19.

[2]A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

When Smaller Churches Rise to Greater Heights

In Acts 1:8, Christ, church, Evangelism, Leadership, prayer, Worship on March 12, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I am pastor of a church that averages around 170 per Sunday morning: 30 in the children’s area (workers included) and 140 in the main worship service. Technically, we are above the national average of churches (which average approximately 75), but we are just below the “medium” range, which begins at 200.

By the world’s perspective, smaller churches face a daunting task. In an age of consumerism where people come to a church to see what that church can do for them and provide for them, we are tempted to work to make the “big sell.”

Over the years, we have lost some of our long-time members to bigger churches in our area that have more resources to provide more programs for children, youth, young adults, parents, grandparents, singles, divorced—every type of demographic available.

While these churches gain traction and momentum, many of our smaller churches work hard to maintain. Some may visit the church, take a look and examine the particular ministries on the table, then may feel they need to move on to churches with … well… more!

John Benton in his wonderful little book “Why Join a small Church?” recounts a story of a friend of his who was a zealous Christian and a pastor of a small church. Though the church had only a dozen or so elderly folks in attendance, he took the call. He preached the Word of God faithfully, with much boldness, and accompanied by much prayer. Here Benton describe this:

What a situation! For many years nothing much seemed to happen, except a few minor encouragements from time to time. Though the preaching was good, the church continued fairly small. But my friend stuck to the task, praying, preaching, and doing whatever he could, with the help of a faithful few, to make the little flock a group of Christians pleasing to Christ. And after something like fifteen years of his ministry there, suddenly the church took off. Christians moving into the area began to join, people began to get saved. Things they had only dreamed of before as a church began to come true. The church numbers something like 200 to 250 people on Sundays, the building has been renovated and they have been used by God to plant another church in a nearby town.

Numbers are not everything. I believe this church had already become a great church even before attendance began to increase.

Even with slight numbers, small churches can rise to greater heights. How?

  1. A commitment to prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).
  2. A determination to establish God-centered, Christ-exalting relationships (Acts 2:42-47);
  3. A desire to inject the message of the Gospel, accompanied with genuine compassion and care for those you are trying to reach (Ephesians 4:15);
  4. A hunger and thirst for knowing what you believe, why you believe, and why it is worth telling (Ephesians 4:11-16);
  5. A dogged commitment to assembling together with the saints at the appointed time (Hebrews 10:23-25);
  6. A shedding of a consumeristic attitude, looking for a church that meets your particular needs, rather than rolling up your sleeves and helping that church be what God would have it to be!

I’m sure there are more. But notice what resources are needed to maintain these things: the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Bible, and you.

What about it?

For Whose Glory Do We Make Music? (Bob Kauflin)

In Music, Worship on February 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Your Burning Bush Speaks (Introduction)

In Church Life, Evangelism, Sermons, Worship on October 21, 2007 at 5:40 pm

This past month, I had the privilege of going down to Eastern Kentucky University to preach to those 250 Campus Crusade for Christ attendees. During the singing portion (and you just haven’t lived until you hear so many young Christian college students) singing praises to God.

One of the songs they sang was one called “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” They sang it to a different tune that I was used to (which I liked, by the way) but the words were still in tact and were amazing.

George Matheson found himself brokenhearted. He felt God’s call into the ministry. At the age of 20, Matheson became blind but still felt the call into the ministry. Sadly, his fiancé could not deal with being married to a blind minister, so she left. Twenty years afterwards, as his sister was to marry, he found himself overcome with sorrow. He noted that, although he was never given over to rhyme or poetry, that this song came out as if it were dictated from heaven.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

What a blessed notion is the love of God! When God begins to work and to call a people to Himself, he places in them a love not only for others but a love for Himself. Romans 5:5 says that “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5, ESV).

When we find ourselves getting off track is when we start taking our eyes off of our love for Him and Him for us and start looking at the issues around us. In Exodus 3:1-10, we find out one very important principle: when our burning bush speaks, we see clearly where our delight truly lies. Let’s read Exodus 3:1-10:

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. [2] And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. [3] And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” [4] When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” [5] Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” [6] And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

[7] Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, [8] and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Periz-zites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. [9] And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. [10] Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Notice what God does here. He doesn’t lead with the task, he leads with Himself and his holiness. We in our churches get it wrong, don’t we? We tend to lead with the task, then try to back it up with God. Maybe we need to spread the glory of Who He is! But in order for us to respond to what God wants us to do, we need to get in our hearts exactly who He is. If not, we will be like Moses and only look at ourselves. The results can be sticky.

Southern Seminary’s Chapel Schedule for Fall 2007

In Worship on August 18, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Here it is!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Southern Seminary’s Chapel Schedule for Fall 2007

In Worship on August 18, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Here it is!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Why In The World Do We As Christians … Sing?!?

In Church Life, Devotional, Sermons, Worship on July 9, 2007 at 8:00 am

Notice in Nehemiah 12:27.

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

This celebration was filled with singing. In fact, the entire dedication service was geared primarily around singing — both improvisational and structured. The Levites were summoned from their homes to come and lead the celebration “with gladness, with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

Have you noticed that when the people of God celebrate, there is always singing involved? Consider singing took place when the world was created. In Job 38:4-7

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

When God brought the people of Israel through the Red Sea and delivered them from the Egyptians, it says that:

Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him (Exodus 15:1-2, ESV).

When David slew Goliath, the Word tells us that “the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’ (1 Samuel 18:7). Note too that the Psalms, the largest book in our Bible, was basically the Jewish songbook — and this is just a portion of the collection. Song of Solomon celebrates God’s gift of marital love.

Yet, the sweetest songs in all of Scripture have to do with the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. We have songs by Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah (Luke 1:67-80), the angels (Luke 2:14-15), and Simeon who rejoiced at seeing the baby Jesus (Luke 2:29-32). And notice in Revelation the continual singing of the angels, the 24 elders, and all the inhabitants, exclaiming and praising the glory of our risen and exalted Savior.

You see, among Christians, they personally cannot help themselves. It just erupts. It’s much like what Psalm 30:11 says:

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
And clothed me with gladness,
That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent (Psalm 30:11-12a, ESV).

But the Scriptures also talk about a more formal leading of singing. In 1 Chron. 25:1, we see David setting up the worship service of the Temple:

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was:

They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. [7] The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288. [8] And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.

So this is one of the reasons why we sing songs in a particular order in our worship services: David was a man after God’s own heart who led God’s people in unified praise and thanksgiving. And this is important.

Notice that when these choirs were singing, they always had this description: “Who gave thanks.”

People like to sing for different reasons. Sometimes, we enjoy songs because of the memories that come up. While a minister of music, I would ask folks to pick out a song, but one Sunday night I made them tell me why they picked them. I was a naïve seminary student who expected them to talk about some deep theological truth. Nine times out of ten, however, they would connect that some to some memory from their childhood or from a very moving service in the past.

Some like to sing, but only if it’s a certain style. Some only like the hymns — others only like newer sounding music. Some like choirs, others like praise teams. Some like piano and organ, some like more modern instrumentation.

Our reason for singing should be singing unto the Lord. We don’t just sing because of certain styles — we sing because of faithfulness to the Lord.

So Fewer are Enrolling as Music Majors at our Seminaries? I Know Why (Part III: A Resolution)

In Church Life, Worship on May 14, 2007 at 1:52 pm

As promised, this will be the last post of my observations (such as they are) concerning the reason why enrollment is down at our seminaries’ music schools and exactly what type of resolution should be made.

But first, I feel I need to clear up some comments I made. One of my deacons who has been at Boone’s Creek since the late 30s read my blog and took umbrage with one particular paragraph:

I believe that if we are to be a Great Commission Church, we need to not only be trained in our seminaries in the classical genres in order to hone our musical skills to the glory of God (Psalm 33:3 — which I will deal with in the next blog), we need to understand how to minister with this vehicle of music in our particular ministry setting.

At the same time, I believe that we must also help our church members come out of their rut of liking a set of hymns that they could sing backwards, forwards, and sideways and expose them to hymns with great music and great theological meat.   In other words, sing something great that says something great!

The issue he had was that it seemed as if I wanted to do away with hymns and instead replace it with some other type of music. My apologies — that most certainly was not my mindset. My aim was to get out of the rut of liking a set of hymns which we tend to sing over and over out of comfort. Rather, we should be willing to learn new songs (hymns or choruses) that convey great thoughts about God and His Son coupled with great music as well.

What do I mean by “great?” I mean done well, to the best of the abilities God has given to you. In other words, strive for excellence. Strive for what is best in the setting to which God has called you.

Another comment came from Philip who is a graduate of Southern Seminary (we actually attended Southern at the same time, he pursuing his DMA, I pursuing my MCM). 

I think it is incredibly sad that worship leaders don’t have the
ability to read music anymore. The comment from dbrowneph4, that is
worship leader “doesn’t read music” and that they “don’t use hymns”
tells you why the enrollment is down in seminaries–the church has left
traditional music. Now, maybe you applaud that, but I deplore it.
Classically trained musicians don’t have a place in the Southern
Baptist Church anymore.

I grieve that I came across as “applauding” the notion that this worship leader doesn’t use hymns.  I’m not so concerned that the church has “left traditional music,” but that the church is turning it’s back on its heritage.  For many, just because a hymn is deemed ‘old’ means that it should never be used.  Being traditional or being new should never be the standard — being obedient and doctrinally sound should be the standard, be it hymns or choruses.  To simply discard one or the other solely based on style or emotional appeal (or lack thereof) is incredibly short-sighted and deprives your people of the hymns from our past, and from the songs being given now.  We must be careful not to overgeneralize.

Here’s the question:  Should we encourage our young musicians called into the music ministry to pursue a seminary education?  Some took my comments and said, “Thanks for encouraging me not to pursue seminary education.”  That was too strong a conclusion to come to.  Should you, though?

In short, yes.

Yet I suspect you would like for me to elaborate. Why would I encourage them? The same reason why I would tell someone who is called into the preaching ministry to attend seminary.

First, they teach you to do your calling with discipline and excellence. I could play piano pretty well before I went to seminary. Even played in the church. Even led choir and congregational hymns. I thought I had all I needed. Then I went to seminary and was taught

  • how to practice;
  • how to understand the intention of the composer;
  • how to understand the historical background and culture in which the piece was written;
  • the rudiments of music theory so my eyes and ears were on the same page (musicians know what I’m talking about).

Sounds like exegetical work for the preacher, does it not?  Same animal.  And that’s honestly just the beginning. 

Secondly, you find yourselves exposed to God-gifted composers and arrangers to help you climb the lofty heights of musical expression and possibilities.  I could have cared less about J.S. Bach or Mozart before I went to college and seminary to study it therein.  Then I tried to play and compose and found it such a difficult task.  Then I listened to Bach and Mozart and Chopin and began to appreciate their gifts and talents and began to understand why they are still appreciated 200-300 years later.  And by being surrounded by those greats, it inspired you to be better and to advance the gifts that God has given you.

We read and put together sermons and write for our congregations in trying to express some doctrinal or devotional area of the Christian life.  But then we read John Calvin, or Luther, or Edwards — or even today of the John Pipers, John MacArthurs, D.A. Carsons, etc.  We begin to breathe in that great air that God blessed them with and it inspires us to dig deeper into the treasure trove of God’s Word and drives us to a deeper desire to be deep and clear about preaching and teaching His Word. 


What’s the resolution?  First, to the seminaries.

Don’t simply rely on your reputation to draw another generation of music students.  Make your case.  Tell the music student who desires to lead a congregation in worship why a classical education of studying European composers and their history and their music and their culture matters.  It does — more than we ever give it credit for.  Music reflects the culture and culture reflects the music — we have to understand that these piece have endured for a reason.  They have endured because they stand as a tribute to excellence! 

Now, to the prospective students. 

Don’t simply settle in your own musical abilities — always strive to improve and learn from others who have made that journey.  One person made the comment that their particular worship leader did not even read music.  Praise God that God has given him that ear — but he will be limited and hit the proverbial wall in his leadership.  It would be the same as if a preacher stood up, yet noting that the preacher could not read His Bible.  I have known preachers who could preach but could not read, but they would hit the wall in how they could grow. 

Can God use anyone with any particular breed of education?  Yes!  But if God opens up the opportunity to learn from the best His kingdom has to offer, then take advantage of it.  But as music ministers, never separate your gifts or your particular ‘ministry’ from the people to whom you minister. 

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