Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday Setlist August 30, 2009

Mark Redfern preached 1 Timothy 1:15, on 4 things you must know about the gospel. It was Friend Sunday. The Lord helped our singing!

The gospel is true

Open the eyes of my heart
Holy, holy, holy
How great is our God / then sings my soul
Man of sorrows (redfern)

B/4 sermon
Were you there?

We had a full evening (so not much music). PB preached on the God of the widow and fatherless -- our need to be involved with ladies in our church who are widows or single moms.

O worship the King

How high and how wide
Nothing but the blood / Balm in Gilead

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Accommodating Churches, Accommodating Christians

Here's another blog post you should read. The blog: The India I Know. The blogger: Jonathan Christman. He does quite a bit of his own reflecting, plus posting a link to a sermon by D. A. Carson and a blog post from Tom Ascol.

Really worth some earnest attentio
n. Read More......

Sunday Setlist August 23, 2009

PT preached on "Jesus, the Thief" -- the One who binds the "strong man," then plunders his house (Mat 12). The music theme followed: God is King

Glorious is the Lord Most High (tune: hendon)
-- Wesley gospel paraphrase of Psalm 47

All hail the pow'r of Jesus name
Salvation belongs to our God
Indescribable (Tomlin)
Jesus, your name (Getty)

I stand in awe of you

A mighty fortress - from hymnal

Paul Washer, here for the beginning of the new year at MCTS, preached the gospel.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus (Kauflin version)

One pure and holy passion
Crown him with many crowns
Here is love

It is well with my soul - from hymnal

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quo Vadis? part 3

What other changes ought we make to adapt our worship in ways that will more easily be understood in our generation?
If you’ve read the previous posts (Quo Vadis? Part 1 and 2), then you have some context to understand my thoughts. You may also wish to see the discussion on principles of worship that unite us at HBC. We are committed to these.
You may find these modest suggestions. I think they are. Some may wish I’d go further. (And probably some think I’m going too far.) The gospel is always at the heart of our worship. That is, the Word and prayer (which includes our singing) must remain our central concern in our corporate meetings. So we (the church under the direction of our shepherds) make changes to encourage more earnest, more affective worship.
Please know that I love our pastors. I gladly follow their leadership. They have my unwavering support as we think through these questions.
We have a diverse congregation, and it is vitally important that we minister to all who attend HBC. Let us love each other more than we do. I know I need to. Let us love them and learn to defer to their musical tastes (Phil 2:1-4).

Having said that, I do think there is more for us to do. I speak here only for myself...

1. I would hope we continue to be a (new) hymn-loving church. Now when you see the word “hymn,” do not assume that I’m talking about 18th English sacred poetry. Stuart Townend and Bob Kauflin also write hymns. Hymns are sacred songs full of Bible content. They carry theological (both doctrinal and practical) weight. This is where the Sovereign Grace churches are so helpful. One can have a thoroughly contemporary sound and have lots of content, many words, in their singing.

2. I would also hope we would continue to preserve the heritage of hymns that has blessed the protestant church since the Reformation. This is what we mean by “being rooted.” And this is why I strive to bring the “great hymns of the faith” into the 21st century – both text and music.

3. I would hope we can find a way to sing psalms intentionally and regularly – in a manner that is fresh and contemporary (in every best sense of that word).

4. I would like to see an expanded timbre palette – the range of musical sounds we experience. I would love to have a drum set, an electric guitar, etc. available for use. Not. Every. Song. But when appropriate.

5. I want us to continue to learn new songs that bring the gospel to us, that present “the unsearchable riches of Christ” in ever fresh ways.

6. I’d love for us to be more expressive physically. See here for previous discussion.

7. If we’re going to adapt in a sensitive, thoughtful manner – not rushing too quickly nor delaying without cause, then we need to have a time each week for intentional service planning. There the elders can review last week’s services and plan for the coming Lord’s Day.

This will be a difficult process, perhaps. But one we must engage.

Your thoughts?

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday Setlist August 16, 2009

Michael Emadi preached from Eph 4:32-5:2 on forgiveness. The music theme pointed to the God of hope. Full band for this service.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus (Kauflin version)
--since this was new, and we *never* learn new songs in the morning service (!), we played the recording (from Sov Grace), with the words on the screen to follow along. I invited everyone to join in on the 3rd verse. It went very well.

Alleluia, alleluia (Christopher Wordsworth)
Blessed be your name
Amazing Grace / my chains are gone
It's been mercy all the way

b/4 sermon
I love you Lord
To the only God (Jude 24)

Pastor Sam continued with his exposition of Romans. He preached on the Jews' (and our) inclination toward hypocrisy and self-deception. Our music theme centered on Christ.
We're trying to go simpler in the evening services. Here, just piano, trombone (me) and voices.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus (again, but live)

Glorify your name
Jesus, what a friend for sinners
Stricken, smitten and afflicted
Fairest Lord Jesus
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Sunday, August 16, 2009


...from Mark Driscoll.

"There have been many adaptations in the church throughout the centuries (Pews in the 13th century; 14th century the organ was introduced in the church; 15th century the printing press; 19th century – electricity and audio microphones, 20th century – loud speakers [differences between George Whitefield and Billy Graham], radio preachers, more screens in churches than theaters, the internet) – on the front end of innovation everyone’s critical at the back end everyone’s using it.

Communication has 4 things – instant, constant, global, and permanent. That’s true for critics and for the proclamation of the gospel.

Every church contextualizes. Where are you in the continuum? If you have pews, you’re on the cutting edge of the 13th century. And so forth for organ, screens, audio, website, etc. Can you do more? Are you doing all that you can? All are contextualizing. The key is to name your year and name the year you would like to be."

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Thinking through the message

"Songs need to be watertight scripturally and culturally they [need to] mean what we think they mean." Matt Redman
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"In defense of musical diversity"

You simply must check this out. From Kevin DeYoung's blog.

Since he argues in a very similar way as I think about our gathered singing -- of course I think it's good! See it here.

So how do we connect this with Steve Hartland's point made in his sermon? (See the Quo Vadis? posts) Or better put, how should HBC process it? We already operate with a very similar kind of eclecticism. I have thoughts (the coming Quo Vadis, part 3) about specific steps HBC should take in moving forward.

I think every church must find the wisest and boldest path it can. It should mean different answers in different congregations.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Quo Vadis? part 2

Here it comes.

I posted an inquiry last week, Quo Vadis? Where do we go from here? How do we apply Pastor Hartland’s [hereafter PH] message from 1 Corinthians 9. I haven’t forgotten about it. I’ve been listening. Read on...

Note: I’m quite sure PH also embraces other principles from 1 Corinthians that inform how we do public worship. Chapter 14 speaks of doing all we do in an orderly (intentional) way, and so that it builds up the brothers and sisters. Our gatherings, then, are gatherings of saints. Our primary focus is on the church. But unbelievers are assumed present (so in ch. 14). And we ought to assume the same for us. Further, I know he embraces what we call the Regulative Principle for the church – doing what God directs us to do rather than innovating our way through worship. In other words, I don’t think PH has in mind some unwitting adopt-whatever-you-can-imagine kind of approach. Rather, I want to take his words at face value. Given all that we know about public worship from God’s Word, what can we do to adapt to the various peoples in the Owensboro area? (Continue to re-read that last sentence until you really understand the task before us.)

How are we going to apply this adaptive principle to our own church? If one were in a church plant (whether here or anywhere else), it would be far easier to craft a musical ‘center’ in touch with local culture. You could start from scratch without the resistance/friction of ‘how we’ve always done it.’

I’m taking the liberty, though, of thinking through how it applies specifically to HBC/Owensboro. HBC has a long history. We already have a ‘musical center.’ Our music already has a certain sound/style. The people who make up the HBC congregation already have well-developed expectations what our music sounds like. Like the music or not, they know what they’re going to hear this Lord’s Day. Believe me -- when I stray too far from ‘center,’ I definitely will hear about it!

So what changes should we continue to make? What further direction shall we take? What musical model (if any) should we follow? Should we go the route of RiverCity Church, or the contemporary service at 1st Baptist Church, or what Bellevue Baptist Church does or some other congregation? If, on the other hand, we should keep to a unique path, then how do we adapt? This question is appropriate, I think, not only to our music, but also everything else we do. Is wearing ties, for instance, the right message we want to send? What about hymnals in the pew? A large pulpit? We could go on.
Pastor Hartland said, “Bury my preferences!” Good counsel. In my experience, however, even the most seasoned saints have a hard time escaping their own preferences. So much, you see, interferes with our applying it this adaptive principle thoroughly at HBC. I do not say that we aren’t trying. But there are dispositions (deeply held) that keep us from adapting well to our culture. For instance, I think the human resistance to change is always an issue. None of us likes change – especially in music. We know from music education and the discoveries neuroscience has made that music choices are strongly imprinted by the time one hits high school. It’s not that adults can’t change. But now it becomes difficult. And in my experience, few ever do. By analogy, you might think about learning a foreign language. You can do so as an adult, but with much more difficulty than the 4 year old. And you’ll probably always speak that 2nd language with an accent.

So if you didn’t like orchestra-concert music (i.e., “classical”) when you were 15-18, or weren’t seriously exposed to it at least, you are not likely to enjoy it as an adult. I don’t say it can’t happen. But it would take some effort. You’ll have to intentionally learn how to listen to Brahms (a good thing, I think!). So if your musical tastes were shaped on the anvil of whatever was popular when you were a teen-ager, you certainly will find it strange to hear a group of people singing their way through a blue book with lots of old music in it (i.e., the Trinity Hymnal). You’ll wonder at the strange language they sing in (“thee,” “thou,” “thy”). I’m not saying you can’t learn and adapt. Many have. As a pastor, I used to counsel young Christians this way. “Pay attention to the words. You’ll catch onto the music later.” Yes, I really said that!

On the other hand, if your musical background didn’t enjoy popular music, then you may not appreciate Chris Tomlin either. And if your Christian musical experience has largely consisted of 19th century hymn tunes – for years and years, reinforced with the notion that only this music is really God-centered – can you see how listening to Jars of Clay might not be so edifying?

Personal testimony: That’s who I was! I’m a classically-trained musician. I went to Bob Jones University. Getting the picture? I remember the first time I heard Jars of Clay. I told my daughter, “They should screw the lid back on that jar!” I have a confession to make: I really don’t like most popular music. There – I said it. I don’t listen to it on the radio, I don’t download it through iTunes. You know what my preference is? I really like Dvorak (say it “vor-zhak,” not “duh-vor-zhak”). Mozart makes my day. I find string quartets incredibly fascinating. I love the sound of choirs singing ancient literature.

That’s my deepest preference. It’s what I listen to when I’m alone. But it’s not all I listen to. I’ve had to develop a broad taste, to learn to enjoy many kinds of music. I also get into good, tight jazz. And I’ve even learned to appreciate (even be edified!) by drums and electric guitars and loud music. Is it my music, in that most deeply personal sense? No. But I have learned to understand it, to appreciate it, and, at some level, to enjoy it. I know so many brothers and sisters in Jesus who really connect through a loud, contemporary sound. Because I love them, I can embrace their music style, too.

What are we doing now to adapt? How far have we come?

1. …vigorous efforts to modernize our hymn heritage

I update the language of our hymns whenever possible (to the consternation of some – and I am sorry about that). A few weeks ago we sang “Our God our help in ages past.” I think every stanza was touched at some point. Consider this change:
Time like an ever rolling stream
will bear us all away;
We pass forgotten as a dream
dies with the dawning day.

Now compare it with the original.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream
bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten as a dream
dies at the opening day.

Not a radical change, to be sure – but enough to make it sound current. Then we added insult to injury by putting in a bridge between stanzas of the hymn. Why mess with the hymns, you ask? Why can’t I just leave well enough alone? Because we’re trying to adapt. You may not like what comes out of the oven, but know that I make these changes in order to preserve this wonderful heritage of great hymns.

2. …new tunes given to old hymns

We’ve learned several this last year. The next song we learn, by the way, will be a new tune to the hymn, “O the deep, deep love of Jesus.” This is where folks like Indelible Grace, Red Mountain Church, RUF, and Caedmon’s Call are so helpful to us. Again, you may prefer “Rock of Ages” set to the 19th century American frontier tune familiar to most of us. I understand and respect that you really like that old tune. In order to adapt, however, I choose a recent tune – and we sang it recently.

3. …learning new hymns, written in our own heart-language

I’m thinking here of James Boice, Timothy Dudley-Smith, Margaret Clarkson, D.A. Carson, and others. Usually these are just the hymns (words); I have to find tunes we already know to fit to them.
I’ll put the Gettys and Stuart Townend in this same category – except that their hymns also come with new tunes! Their songs seem to be cross-generational. They have wide appeal. I am so thankful to the Lord for their ministries. What a blessing Townend’s Psalm 62 has been to us recently!

4. …singing some contemporary Christian music

We sing Sovereign Grace, Redman, Tomlin, Baloche, Michael W. Smith, Hillsong and others. While we also sing some “praise” music from the 80’s, for the most part I try to keep our repertoire current. And while we have a ‘praise band,’ it is acoustic, not electric. The piano plays a prominent role. Hand drums make our percussion section. In other words, while we sing current songs, our sound is different than you’ll hear on a CD. (While I’m out here on this tree limb sawing away, let me say that I would love to have a drum set – whether acoustic or synth. It doesn’t have to be ear-splitting.)

What other changes ought we make? That will come in part 3.
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Can we improve screen projection? Part 1

>> How NOT to do it

(If you're not sure why this slide doesn't succeed, here's a hint: think phrasing.)

This topic occasionally grabs my attention. Is there a better font we could use for our lyrics projection during our Sunday services? Better font size? Different alignment? Is there something else we could do with the screen to make the hymns and songs easier to sing? What distractions need to be removed?

Let me tell you what we do, and some of the why. I'd be interested in any feedback.

I've "been everywhere, man" (to quote Johnny Cash far out of context) on this technical issue. This has been a journey for me, I admit.

I have at least four sources that have helped shaped my present ideas on what makes a 'successful' projection screen.

First, I've read quite a bit on line from those who give their suggestions. There's much good help available, by the way. Some of it may seem obvious, but you never know who might need it that way. So I'm glad it's there.

I also see what other churches do, how they solve the same challenges we face. We all want the words to be clearly legible in the first pew and the last. Again, seeing how others solve their situation helps me think about our own.

Third, I have some experience with Powerpoint. I do know what works there and why (in my work with the Symphony Orchestra). Often (so it seems to me) folks have far too much text on each screen. And the fonts are unreadable (font size far too small, distracting backgrounds, etc.) (Bullets should be outlawed, by the way, except in rare cases.) And how about some pictures/graphics/illustration along the way?

Finally, I have our own Sunday services. What feedback do I receive about the screens? What needs do the A/V folks have for streaming it to our over-flow room, or on-line (for public domain songs)?

Here's what we're doing, and some explanation:

Software: MediaShout 3.5 – far more responsive to sudden changes in singing than Powerpoint can handle. And MediaShout can handle any kind of media far better than ppt. MS and PPT are 2 different programs, with 2 very different kinds of presentations in mind. PPT is the wrong choice for singing, as far as I'm concerned. (MS 4.0 has been released, but I've not yet seen the need for upgrading.)

Aspect: Widescreen (b/c our pulpit covers the bottom of the screen). Anyone who uses the projector can use widescreen safely. That is, nothing will be cut off on the bottom by the pulpit. (BTW, Powerpoint 2007 handles widescreen nicely. Download the widescreen design theme before you start your presentation.) Be sure to set your projector for 16:9 as well.

And, of course, I have the MediaShout display resolution set to 1280 x 768 (widescreen).

Font: Lydian BT bold. It's a narrow serif face (so I can get more words per line!). This is one of the changes I'm thinking through.

Font size: 38 pt (seems to work to the last pew). Perhaps this will change, too.

# of lines per slide: Again, because of the angle of the pulpit, screen, and pews, the bottom half of the screen is unusable. The folks in back would never be able to sing much! So only usually 4 lines of text per 'slide.' Sometimes 5 to finish a thought. NEVER 6.

[you see, it would be better if the lines break naturally at thought breaks: "'ll..."]

Line breaks: Again, I've been all over this one. At HBC we often sing 'dense' songs – lots of words. While some of our songs have repetition – on the whole, we move through quite a bit of text in a set. So I'd prefer slides full of words. As well, because I'm wanting worshipers to think through the often lengthy ideas found in hymns, I've felt the need to put many words on slide. The result of this well-intentioned effort? I've too often broken up poetic lines at awkward places (see below).

But this is something I'm increasingly uncomfortable with. I definitely want to change this. While we might wish for more words per slide (good), it can lead to awkward line breaks (bad). Weird line breaks, in fact. You'll remember that the apostle admonishes us to "sing with understanding." I need to find a better path.

Really weird line breaks! And far too much text.

Alignment: Left. It was center for a long time – but then in some reading I was doing (neuroscience study of music) it was suggested that the brain is able to process left aligned text far more quickly than centered text. So I switched.

Black with a blue line near the bottom third of the screen (see picture). I've tried full-screen backgrounds -- but the colors don't come through well (b/c of our lighting situation). They look washed-out. And the moving backgrounds mess up the cameras (so they can't focus).

In part 2 I'll talk about these new directions I'd like to explore.

Read More......

Sunday setlist August 2, 2009

Pastor Ted preached from 2 Cor 3-4 on how it is we become the "light of the world."

As a closing thought, he mentioned Kendrick's song, "Shine Jesus shine" as a treatment of this passage, and our earnest prayer. The songs follow a more general theme (trust). While any good that happens must/shall come from the Lord, we also want to do our best. And I think the 'band' sounded good. The sound is improving. Good bass. Way to go, Dave!

A mighty fortress (lifeway)

Psalm 146 "Hallelujah, praise Jehovah..."
Lord Most High / Famous One
He is exalted
Psalm 62 "My soul finds rest in God alone..." [Townend]

b/4 sermon
Nearer, still nearer

Pastor Joe preached. I wasn't able to attend the service, but this is what I think was sung.

O dearest Jesus [see Trinity Hymnal]
Rock of ages (new tune)
Christ for us (tune: b/4 "the throne of God") [H. Bonar]

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