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Another Reformation, Please

For quite some time I’ve been an enthusiastic proponent of local churches writing, recording, producing and publishing music to be used in corporate worship. There are a lot of reasons behind my thinking. Here are some off the top of my head:
  1. There is greater theological and doctrinal accountability with the leadership concerning the lyrics. We start moving away from having “free agents” leading and writing music for the local church which they, in all honesty, may have little to no accountability with. I realize there are those who do. I fear they are the exception rather than the rule. (This goes for “speakers” as well but that’s another post)
  2. Songs don’t need to be “one size fits all” but explicitly shaped by experiences and distinctives within the specific community of faith. Thus the lyrics don’t have the requirement to be vague and doctrinally bland so that multiple strands of Christians (Methodists, Baptists, etc.) can be able to sing them (a likely requirement for many Christian radio stations and industry subscribers); on the contrary, songs created by a local church’s music team may be so specific that those who don’t subscribe to that congregation’s distinctive beliefs might just pass on that tune. For example, how many worship songs have you heard on the radio that exalt God for the grace of election, the beauty of believers’ baptism or the gift of prophecy? Now while that might not make it available for airplay on KSBJ (which isn’t and should never be the aim of music written for corporate worship), it is a song tailor-made for the congregation that produced it. Oh how we need more music which doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator of Christendom but leverages the richness of the work of Christ in the local church!
  3. It can help galvinize an important relationship between two ministries in the church – teaching and music (which is not as separate as some might think – music always teaches). Music leaders and teaching leaders can team up for an incredible “one-two” punch of helping teach through music as they work together to create songs (I’m assuming the teaching team gets to help with the creation of lyrics), which I believe with only serve to strengthen the relationship both personally and pastorally between music team and teaching team.
  4. Songs aren’t created with the goal of being a chart-topper but an instrument for the local congregation to better expresses musically their corporate worship to God. There’s less temptation to be seduced by everything that’s wrong with the moden-day “worship” movement: no one’s got a table selling t-shirts and various Christianity, Inc. pieces of “flair” in the lobby as the “leader” speedily pulls up his stakes ready to move to the next “gig” as soon as possible.
Like I said, there’s more in my grey matter on this issue but you get my drift. We need another
Reformation, one in which the church takes back that which rightly belongs to her, namely, the music that is sung when she gathers to adore her bridegroom. Why would we want it any other way?I know not every local church has the resources or giftings to become publishing houses (my church has no excuse with all the musicial thoroughbreds God’s blessed us with…just know we’re working on it), but maybe one of the ways we can apply this is by looking at the church first when we’re searching for good congregational music instead the Top 25 section of Lifeway Bookstore. I’m sure someone out there will find a great way to network like-minded churches in this venture (The Vineyard is the only denomination I know of that seeks to do this. I love their motto: By the church, for the church.). However until then, it will take a little more work to discover songs for your congregation but I believe it can be very much worth it…for you…and your church.

With that, I’d like to heartily recommend Sojourn Community Church’s “Behold the Throne”. It’s the best CD I’ve heard this year. While you might not be able to use every song, one can’t help but appreciate what the church can be and do when it comes to helping her worship our great and wonderful Savior. Thanks for leading the way Sojourn. Hopefully more of us will follow.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add a few links of guys who I think are trying to make headway into creating music for the church by the church.

Think Worship by Brad Loser of Clear Creek Community Church, Houston, TX
Doxologist by Tim Smith of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, WA
Sojourn Music by Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, KY
Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin of Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD

Let the Reformation begin.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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