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Entries in doxology & theology (14)


Two Posts Not To Miss

So, I've been doing a lot more guest-posting, especially over at LIBERATE, but you'll also see me writing articles a few other places, like Reformed Worship and Doxology & Theology. For those that follow my blog, I wanted to make sure you didn't miss these articles.

A Review of Dan Siedell's
Who's Afraid of Modern Art

"Hearing Art Tell Me Who I Am"

First, and most importantly, I want to commend to my readership an unparalelled book that weaves together art and theology like nothing I've ever read. It exposes how the art world, like all of our other "worlds," is a place where human beings struggle for self-justification, identity, and meaning. It asks probing questions about the way Christians in particular have thought of modern art, and it does all of this through a thoroughly strong Reformational lens that I buy hook, line, and sinker. So, if you might be on the fence about obtaining the book, please go read my post and be convinced!


The Story Behind Our Title Track

"Why the Church Should Sing About Prostitution, Slavery, and Addiction"

Our modern confession hymn, "Come And Make Us Free," serves as the thematic crown jewel of our new album by that title. This song is full of many scriptural allusions and was written through the process of an honest, personal journey. It dives into the theology of sin, particularly as the Scriptures expose sin as prostitution/adultery, slavery, and addiction. 


A Modern Trinitarian Confession Song, with Some Tradition Sprinkled In

In my chapter, "The Worship Leader and the Trinity," in Doxology and Theology, I try to give feet to how the people of God encounter Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in worship. Sometimes, as church leaders we think too narrowly about the ways in which people can learn of and actually know God more deeply. We can think that our only recourse for people understanding and engaging God as Trinity is didactically, in the wooden sense of imparting knowledge and ideas through teaching and hearing. "Here, let me teach you that God is Triune, and let me unpack what that means"...kind of like a textbook, a chapter in a systematic theology, or a catechism. Classroom-style teaching like this is wonderful, but it is not the only way that people learn of and experience God as Triune. 

I began to wrestle with all of this several years ago, and it led me to several questions, including: 

  • What would it look like for the people of God to confess our sins in a Trinitarian shape?
  • Are there qualities of the Three Persons worth highlighting in the moment of confession?
  • What would three-ness-in-oneness look like in our confession?

My friend, Bruce Benedict of Cardiphonia, and I began answering those questions in the form of a song. It became a confession that pulled in some historic words that the church has used in moments like these, as well.  It's called, "Father, Only in Your Power." We sing it all the time at Coral Ridge, and it's always powerful. Listen here, and allow me to explore the text.

Confessing to God the Father

1. Father, only in Your power
Can we ascend to You.
Help us, Father, we are helpless
To pay our righteous due.  

Among other things, God the Father is Law-maker, Law-articulator, source of Justice, and (along with Christ) Judge. He sets the standard and shows us the bar. As Father, he sets the pace for His household of kids (us). It makes sense, then, to highlight the helplessness which is immediately exposed when we encounter God the Father.

Confessing to God the Son

2. Jesus, only in Your weakness
can we your kingdom claim
Help us, Jesus, we are reckless
in self-destruction’s chains

Jesus, as Son, is our picture of Divine humility. He demonstrates God's love and power as self-sacrifice and submission. In His ministry on earth, Christ turned our concepts of power upside-down (well, really, rightside-up), exposing that we go about life all the wrong way. He gave us a vision of THE Kingdom that looks completely different than all the kingdoms we erect and admire, both in our individual hearts and in our corporate institutions. Our recklessness in seeking our own kingdom's gain is ultimately self-destructive, and it is the antithesis of the "abundant life" of the Son's Kingdom. We are exposed, again.

Confessing to God the Spirit

3. Spirit, only in Your presence
can we true union find.
Help us, Spirit, we are restless
Our soul’s divisions bind.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of peace and unity. He joins and unites the affections of the Father and Son (think about the fact that when Jesus prayed His most intimate prayer to the Father in John 17, he did so in the Spirit; or think about how at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the Spirit descended when the Father declared His pleasure in the Son). He joins us in union with God the Son that we might have fellowship with the Father. He unifies the Church as the Spirit of Truth. His presence exposes our discord, factiousness, barriers, and walls. He reveals our penchant for division with the other members of Christ's Body, and He casts a spotlight on all our internal division and self-conflict. We are internally and externally restless. We confess these things and more to the Spirit who is actively working to pursue the opposite in our lives and in our Church.

The Kyrie and Agnus Dei

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy 

Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us
Lamb of God,
Slain before the dawn of the world
Have mercy on us 

The Church, historically, had one very simple response to the problem of sin...the ancient cry, "Lord, have mercy." It's a cry that acknowledges helplessness, and it is the soil in which sola gratia (the doctrine of grace alone) grows. It is translated from the Latin, Kyrie, eleison.

Then, sung three times, the historic Agnus Dei (Latin for "Lamb of God"), which builds off Revelation 5 & 13, intensifies the plea of the Kyrie.

The Unifying Solution: The Blood of Christ

4. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Our ancient curse we own
Broken in the blood of Adam
The blood of Christ now show

As the song finishes, we "own our curse" by acknowledging we are culpable as blood-heirs of the first Adam, yet seeing hope in the blood of the Second, Greater Adam. As a true confession, it does not offer the words of God's gracious pardon to us (many modern songs of confession go there), but anticipates and demands them. This song needs to be followed up with God's gracious Word. We often sing "Nothing But the Blood" after a song like this.

"Father Only In Your Power"
Words & Music: Zac Hicks & Bruce Benedict, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP) / Cardiphonia Music
CCLI song #7006730

The Worship Leader's Central Musical Task: Build Up the Body

My time at the Doxology and Theology Conference two weeks ago was rich and filling. My team and I were inspired by the messages, leaders, conversations, and camaraderie. In many ways, I felt my vocation come full circle, especially around one man, Harold Best, whose influence on me can't be overstated. His was the first book on worship and music I'd ever read. This morning, I cracked open Music Through the Eyes of Faith (my version is the sweet "vintage" edition with the dated fonts and 80s haircuts on the cover), and I scanned through the markings of the 19- or 20-year-old me and came across this, underlined:

When a Christian musician goes about making music, the concept of the community/body should drive every note and every moment in which every note is heard. And the only object for every Christian musician is to build the body up into the stature and fulllness of its head, Jesus Christ.*

Could it be that this vision rings just as true today as it did when it was published over two decades ago? Maybe even more true? This statement is clarifying and crystalizing. It cuts through the sea of "tips of the trade" found in books, posts, seminars, and workshops. 

Pastoring Through Music

This little statement says many things (even beyond the Christian musician's task in the worship service), but what should not be missed is that the worship leader's job, when it comes to music, is first and foremost a pastoral one. The objective, for music in worship, is ultimately not great art or flawless production (as important as those things are to strive for), but formed disciples. If this is true, then a bunch of dominoes fall from this first push, and we then must have an ordered set of priorities. Though I won't answer the questions here, what follows are the types of questions one begins to ask when one thinks of music-making and music-leading as a pastoral enterprise:

  • How shall our music serve the emotional maturity of our congregations?
  • What is the relationship of congregational music to its texts?
  • Is there a place for instrumental, presentational, or "performance" music in a worship service, and if so, what is its function?
  • If "building up" is part of a spectrum of both challenging people and comforting them, how can music serve that vision?
  • How much should the music feel familiar and cultural versus different and other-worldly in any given context, and how might that balance/tension be a part of disciple-making?
  • How does music assist the end game of pointing to and exalting the body's Head, Jesus Christ?

How the Pastoral Objective Covers a Multitude of Sins

Yesterday at Coral Ridge, I was blessed yet again to sit under the preaching of my favorite elder statesman of all things grace-filled and Jesus-saturated, Steve Brown. He reminded me of this simple yet profound statement of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:8):

 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Now, our temptation with verses like these is to jump through several theological hoops when we read the words, "covers a multitude of sins." We want to go to Jesus, the cross, and atonement. And we should. It's there. But before we arrive at Calvary, Peter would have us stay a while in the nebulous, messy reality of Christian community. By "covers a multitude of sins," Peter means more than that our sins are forgiven and "covered" (a Greek word with Hebrew atonement-overtones, for sure). He means that when we put loving others at the top of the playbook, we avoid several lesser skirmishes that often plague a church's body-life, and we start to get at, I think, what Best is implying about the objective of our music-making.

In short, if in my music-making as a worship leader, I am aiming at loving God's people, I will avoid a whole host of pitfalls, dangers, snares, and landmines that often plague the worship leader's life and labor. When love becomes the overwhelming aroma in a church, it really has the power to cover up the lesser smells, which aren't gone, but overpowered. 

Congregants can tell the difference between a worship leader who leads out of self-love versus one who leads out of church-love. And when they do, they're just flat-out more tolerant, forgiving, and forgetful of all the big and small mistakes you and I make. 

So, music-leaders, consider what you do as a dietician considers meal planning for their clients. Plan and lead so as to build a healthy, strong, functioning, high-capacity spiritual body, and love the mess out of them!

*Harold Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), 36.

Why the Doxology & Theology Conference is Worth Checking Out

November 13-14
Louisville, KY 

There are a handful of conferences that come around every year or two that I think are worth a worship leader's time and investment. They're not all the same, and they therefore don't serve the same purpose. I tend to think of conferences like these in two broad categories. The first are the "big tent" conferences. A great example of this would be the National Worship Leader Conference, now hosted regionally 3-4 times a year. Big tent conferences will try to bring a lot of people together, and they're usually willing to absorb a fair amount of tension in the vision, theology, philosophy, and outlook of worship. The second category of worship conference is the "niched" conference. This type of conference is there to articulate a specific vision for and outlook on worship.  The Doxology & Theology Conference (less than one month away!) is this kind of conference.

Why Go to a Worship Conference in General?

Before I advocate for D&T, the question should be asked as to whether conferences are valuable at all. I see worship conferences as having a two-fold value, neatly divisible in even halves. 50% of the value of a conference is its content and insight, and 50% is the networking. Even if I'm not much of a "student-type" or even if I'm not in a very teachable place (my life is busy, I've got other things occupying my attention), there is something refreshing to the soul about stepping outside of your world, zooming out, and getting a perspective of the forest instead of always inspecting the bark of that one tree that you live next to. EVERY time I go to a conference, something about the content will take me by surprise, illumine my life, and affect my ministry back home. But I also go simply to meet people, have conversations, hear stories, and establish more contacts. Usually, I'm frantically trying to get their name down so that I can follow them on twitter or connect with them on FB or Instagram. I can't tell you how much I've learned from and forged friendships through conferences followed up by social media. It's been remarkable, and it is a great habit to be ever widening your own circle of contacts and "influencers." And there's an ecclesiastical-theological truth here: the more of the body of Christ I know, the better I know Christ.

Why Go to This One?

So D&T is a conference with a specific theological vision. To be clear, it will talk about worship from within a theologically conservative and evangelical framework. It will view thoughtful cultural engagement as important, and it will articulate a gospel- and Christ-centered approach to worship and ministry. If you wanted a more thorough understanding, check out the book, Doxology & Theology. In the past, it has gathered the types of worship leaders who have been associated with churches connected with bigger wheelhouses like the Gospel Coalition and the Acts 29 network, so you can expect similar (though not identical) spheres of thought. You will find that the content has been influenced by pastors and theologians like D. A. Carson, John Piper, and Mark Dever, and worship thinkers like Bob Kauflin and Harold Best.

This year's conference is focused on "The Life & Labor of the Worship Leader"...a topic which is near and dear to my heart. I'll be doing a breakout on the subject of how worship leaders can think of themselves as pastors and engage their jobs more pastorally. If you're in or around Louisville, or if you can swing a last-minute trip, I'd encourage you to come!


And the Winner of the Doxology & Theology Giveaway Is...

Two weeks ago, Broadman & Holman released Doxology & Theology, edited by Matt Boswell, in which I had the privilege of authoring a chapter on "The Worship Leader and the Trinity."  We had a little giveaway that involved spreading the love of this wonderful book.

Derek Foo, who serves as the Head of Worship Ministry at Elim Church Assembly of God in Singapore, won the giveaway. Elim Church gathers about 600 people for worship, and Derek works alongside a worship team of about 30 people!  As you read this, pray for Derek and his ministry to the saints across the globe.

Thanks to all my readership for allowing me to do some self-promotion and for making this release a greater success!


The Worship Leader and the Trinity, Part 2

Andrei Rublev, Angels at Mamre**FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY of Doxology & Theology, released last week, still going on.  Enter by going here.**

The previous post in this two-part series outlined the first half of my chapter, "The Worship Leader and the Trinity," in Doxology & Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader, where we saw how the Trinity effects the possibility and proximity of worship and protects the priority and purity of worship.  We now move from high-level to ground-level in processing a Trinitarian saturation of our worship.

The Trinity Affects the Posture and Procedure of Worship

1) The Trinity encourages a peaceful, humble posture in worship.  
There's a tendency, when we engage in worship and faith, to live with a level of anxiety about pleasing God, "having our heart in the right place," or "being a clean vessel."  The Trinity puts these pensive, doubting, fearful thoughts to rest because of the finished work He provides.  When we understand just how active, aggressive, and thorough the Trinity's work is in our salavation, we are both humbled and at peace.

2) The Trinity shapes how worship proceeds.  
When we grasp what the Trinity truly and actively does in our salvation and worship, we begin to recognize that God the Father not only calls us to salvation and worship but actually, throught the Son, by the power of the Spirit, also provides us with the response to that call.  Trinitarian worship, therefore, takes the shape of a dialogue--God speaks, we respond, God speaks, we respond, etc.  When our worship is structured as such, we reflect, practice, and truly embody the work of the Trinity among us.  Even further, though, this dialogue, because of the way the Trinity does His magnificent work, takes the shape of the gospel

  • God's holy glory
  • our recognition of our brokenness, depravity and inadequacy 
  • God's provision of Christ, inviting us to intimate fellowship with the Trinity

When we walk through this general three-part story in worship, we "rehearse the gospel," worshiping in "Trinitarian procedure."  Gospel-shaped worship is Trinitarian worship.

The Trinity Directs the Practices and Propositions of Worship

1) The Trinity should be reflected in our worship practices.
How does the way we conduct worship--from our "stage" setup, to our architecture, to the proportion of congregational vs. pastoral/leadership participation, to our musical style, to the language of our prayers and readings--reflect that our God exists in Trinitarian community?  Practices that err on the side of the communal versus the individual "look" more Trinitarian because they mirror God's oneness within His many-ness.  Suddenly, supposedly neutral, mundane, and up-for-grabs things can be informed by God's very nature.

2) The Trinity shapes the propositions of our sermons, prayers, songs, and readings.
When most speak, write, and think about "Trinitarian worship," this is usually the most obvious starting place.  How well are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit named and addressed in our worship services?  Do our songs, prayers, messages, and readings overtly reflect the Trinitarian nature of God?  (In this section, I argue that gospel- and Christ-centered preaching is a gloriously Trinitarian practice, whereas moralistic, self-help, and prosperity preaching is not just bad but anti-Trinitarian).

Want to see how these ideas are fleshed out?  Get the book!


The Worship Leader and the Trinity, Part 1

**You've got ONE MORE WEEK to sign up for the FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY of Doxology & Theology, released last week.  Enter by going here.**

In honor of the release of Doxology & Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader, I want to cliff-note-outline my chapter in two parts in hopes that (a) it will make the topic of the Trinity in worship even more digestible, and (b) it will entice some of you to get this great book and read it in its entirety.  I want to start by saying that the Trinity, or God's three-in-oneness, is one of the most relevant, applicable doctrines for living out the Christian faith on the ground level.  Think of any issue in life, from the highly philosophical to the mundanely pragmatic, and it can--and should--be informed, indeed formed, by the Trinity.  If you have a hard time seeing this, I'd suggest Michael Reeves' Delighting in the Trinity (135 pages) as an accessible starting place, then graduating up to Fred Sanders' The Deep Things of God (256 pages) as a good next step.

Click to read more ...


Doxology & Theology - FREE Book Giveaway!

Doxology & Theology Released May 1, 2013

I'm pleased to announce the release of Doxology & Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader, edited by Matt Boswell and authored by some of my favorite worship leaders in the US.  I had the privilege of contributing a chapter on how the Worship Leader is shaped by the Trinity, synthesizing important theological reflections on what it means to be truly Trinitarian in our worship.  This book is by worship leaders, for worship leaders.  For that reason, I also think it's a worship book that's very accessible for worshipers who don't have a big store of theological jargon in their vocabulary.  Here's a chapter breakdown, and no doubt I'll be posting on its contents in the weeks to come.  Happy reading!

GET IT HERE on Amazon.

Chapter Outline

Chap 1: "Doxology, Theology, & the Mission of God"
Matt Boswell, Providence Church (Frisco, TX)

Chap 2: "Qualifications of a Worship Leader"
Matt Boswell

Chap 3: "The Worship Leader & Scripture"
Michael Bleecker, The Village Church (Dallas, TX)

Chap 4: "The Worship Leader & the Trinity"
Zac Hicks, Coral Ridge Presbyterian (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Chap 5: "The Worship Leader & Mission"
Matt Papa, The Summit Church (Durham, NC)

Chap 6: "The Worship Leader & His Heart"
Stephen Miller, Journey Church (St. Louis, MO)

Chap 7: "The Worship Leader & Justice"
Aaron Ivey, Austin Stone (Austin, TX)

Chap 8: "The Worship Leader & Liturgy"
Bruce Benedict, Christ the King Presbyterian (Raleigh, NC)

Chap 9: "The Worship Leader & Creativity"
Mike Cosper, Sojourn Church (Louisville, KY)

Chap 10: "The Worship Leader & Disciple-Making"
Aaron Keyes, Integrity Music

Chap 11: "The Worship Leader & His Pastor"
Andi Rozier, Harvest Bible Chapel (Rolling Meadows, IL)

Chapter 12: "The Worship Leader & Family Worship"
Matt Boswell

Chapter 13: "The Worship Leader & Singing"
Matt Mason, The Church at Brook Hills (Birmingham, AL)

Chapter 14: "The Worship Leader & the Gospel"
Ken Boer, Covenant Life Church (Gaithersburg, MD)

FREE Giveaway!!!

**UPDATE: Thanks to all who participated in spreading the love of this release.  We posted the winner here on 5/18/13.**

Now for the fun part.  We want this book promoted!  So if you tweet about it or mention it on Facebook, you'll automatically be entered to receive a free copy of the book.  We'll announce the winner at the bottom of this post on Friday, May 17, which gives you two weeks to get the word out.  To enter the giveaway you must either tweet or FB with the following: 

Last day to enter: Thursday, May 16, 2013.

For Twitter folks, here's an auto-tweet to make it easy on you.  :)