June 07, 2010

What Makes A Worship Song Uniquely Christian? [EDITOR'S NOTE: A few posts ago, I started the conversation about what our worship songs communicate about God and why that matters. Then, earlier this week, I was asked to write down some thoughts on songwriting for a booklet that will be distributed at a certain conference coming up in Australia. While I can't be certain what bits of what I sent will make it and what won't (it was rather lengthy!), here is an excerpt that I thought might be a nice follow-up to my earlier post of what is at stake in our worship lyrics.] What do our songs and prayers say about God? If we were to construct our church’s theology solely based on the lyrics we sang, what kind of “God” would that be? And more to the point, could our lyrics be applied to a generic deity or is there anything uniquely Christian about the God they depict? It is not enough to simply say “God” in our songs. Which “God”? The one Oprah describes, the one Deepak Chopra worships? People in America are filling in the blanks in their own minds of the “God” we’re talking about and the picture of God is often disfigured as a result. I can’t speak for what the view of “God” is in other countries and cultures, but one would think that in countries where many distinct religions abound—like in Malaysia, the country I grew up in—it only becomes more important that we are saying and singing things that are uniquely Christian. So, what makes a song uniquely Christian? 1. Christo-centric This is a fancy way of saying our songs should focus on Jesus the Messiah. We need to sing about His pre-eminence, how He co-created the world with the Father, how He left His throne in heaven...
Why Do We Care About Injustice? Pt. 2: Under New Management Jesus told a puzzling story once. The story is about a manager, a steward, which in the Roman world was a person who had access to his master’s wealth and was an agent of his business affairs. The manager, though, had made a mess of things. He had “wasted his goods” (Luke 16:1, KJV). He was called by the master to give an account of his management, and informed that the position of management would be taken away from him. When the manager heard this, he decided on a plan. He went to all the people that owed his master money, debts he no doubt should have collected long ago, and offered them a discounted bill-- not altogether unlike our modern creditors who will gladly take what they can get from a person in debt. “You owe a thousand dollars? Give me eight hundred and we’ll call it good.” And on he went, trying to make things right. He couldn’t fully undo the damage he had done; he could not collect the full amount of what was owed. But he he did what he could and Jesus praises him for his shrewdness. Such praise seems strange. Wasn’t the man being dishonest? Didn’t Jesus imply that the manager was simply trying to ingratiate himself with the people who owed him money in the event that he made need their assistance in the future? Isn’t this like a guy who knows he’s about to get fired from Apple giving away company secrets to Microsoft in the hopes of landing a job with them after his firing? Not quite. For whatever other layers of lessons are in this parable, there is one that stands out clearly to me now that I have never quite noticed before. The clue is in Jesus’ closing remarks:...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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