Feature

They Just Don't Sing Like They Used To

Why Congregational Singing Has Fallen on Hard Times

Sometimes I’m asked to speak on the topic of recovering congregational singing. So I ask the question “What’s wrong?” The conversation goes like this:

“Apparently people are not singing like they used to.”

“Why?”

“We’re not exactly sure, but we’d sure like to have some tools to improve the situation.”

I remember my very first attack of goosebumps. I was thirteen, maybe, one raspy voice in a middle-school choir festival a half century ago in a small town in Wisconsin, dozens of kids drawn from regional schools. The music that did it was J. S. Bach—“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” For almost fifty years I’ve not been able to hear that piece without being zapped back into that pimply choir because I was seized so chillingly—heart, soul, mind, and strength—by the beauty of that moment.

Faking It

Thoughts on Authentic Worship Leading

I have been leading worship at my church for about a year and a half. My partners are a talented praise band that includes a number of professional musicians. I am learning how to respond when people tell me they liked the music, and I usually take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the others who make my amateur fiddling and singing seem better than it is. But one Sunday morning, a remark from a member of my congregation really started me thinking.

God's Law in Worship

Part Two of a Two-part Discussion

In Part One of this article I presented the case that the church should consistently instruct and encourage Christians to live in obedience to God. Some complain that God’s law is a burden. Yet God’s will for our lives is not a set of arbitrary demands, it is how God designed us to live and the path to blessing. “Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked . . . but who delight in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 1).

Bringing the Habits Home

Using the Psalms to Connect Worship and Everyday Life

For a background on Vertical Habits see Betty Grit’s article on page 4. —JB

Connecting Vertical Habits in worship to vertical habits at home and in our everyday life brings us one step closer to making those habits our natural response. The easiest way to keep those habits fresh is to incorporate them into your family or personal devotions. Here are some suggestions for an individual, family, or small group devotional time using the psalms, as well as ideas for incorporating two psalms into a Vertical Habits worship service.

Vertical Habits

Practical Wisdom for Teaching Worship

When children are young, they learn words that build relationships. Some come easily: “Help!” “Why?” Parents and grandparents persistently teach them to say to others: “Thank you.” “I’m sorry.” We celebrate as these words become habits. When a child without prompting tells her brother, “I’m sorry,” we know that these words are beginning to shape her life and her relationships.

"We Are All Here"

Worship in the Prison Church

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake . . . all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer . . . thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!’”
—Acts 16:25-28

Solidarity with Christ

Worship in the Context of Poverty

Images often say more than words ever could. A gripping example of this is a sketch titled Christ Helps Hungry Children created in London in 1945 by Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). At first glance the sketch looks like a typical depiction of the crucifixion. But this specific rendering has several layers of meaning, all centering on the concept of solidarity.

Hearing and Obeying God's Law

Part One of a Two-part Discussion

In part one of this two-part article, Calvin Van Reken argues that the church ought to reclaim the practice of calling God’s people to obedient living. I encourage you to take time to read this article, to think it through, and to discuss it with your worship planning group or others in your church community.

When Our World Looks Different

Learning from Christians Around the Globe

In August 2006, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship sponsored an amazing trip to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. Nine Institute staff members, myself included, spent a month meeting with worshiping communities there.