It's Thursday, May 5th as I write this. Much of the country is celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and my wife and I plan on celebrating tonight with some classic homemade street tacos. But not only is it Cinco de Mayo, today across the United States it's the National Day of Prayer. The Christian community also celebrates this day as Ascension Thursday, referring to how Christ Jesus spent 40 days on earth after His resurrection and then ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives right outside the Jerusalem city walls. You could say there's a fair amount to celebrate on this beautiful spring day.
Last time I blogged about worship music, I talked about the pros and cons about both hymns and contemporary music. At Beacon of Hope, we have a pretty good blend of the two, but that doesn't mean I'm just choosing whatever songs out of a hymnal or whatever's the hottest new track in modern Christian music. A lot of work and prayer needs to go into song selection, discerning what will be beneficial for the church.
In my last post, I gave the reasons why singing music exists in the church service. I hope I gave good reasons why we do this and must continue doing so. Today I want to discuss a topic that was a bit more controversial years ago but still remains a contentious topic in many churches. What style of music should we sing in our church services? How do we determine the right course of action in song selection? There are a few different facets to this question, and today we're just going to tackle musical style: hymns versus contemporary music.
I've said it many times, and I'm sure I'll never tire of saying it: I have been so blessed to minister as the music pastor at Beacon of Hope Church for the past two years. I have a strong team of musicians that I get to work with each week, and we get to lead a congregation that loves God and His Word and sings out heartily every Sunday. Every so often I have the opportunity to bring before the church a song that I wrote, and they have all been received very well. The latest of those songs was written to compliment our current sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount, called "Fulfilled."
It's been a while since I've posted on the blog. I'm hoping to jump back in now that 2016 is underway, though I don't know how frequently I'll be able to find time. As incentive to start up again, I've decided to begin a new series of posts that directly address facets of church music. Being a music pastor, this involves much of what I do on a regular basis for my job at Beacon of Hope Church. My desire is that this gives you a glimpse into what I do every week, as well as my motivation for what I do.
Last weekend, we all know, was Memorial Day weekend. I hope you all had a good time enjoying the long weekend, honoring those who have given their lives for this country, and ushering in the summer season. But less well-known is that this past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday we would associate as the birthday of the Church. I would venture a guess that many more churches acknowledged Memorial Day in their services than Pentecost Sunday. (At Beacon, we kinda did a little of both.)
It's a very exciting time to be part of Beacon of Hope Church here in St. Paul. Ever since I moved to Minnesota and began serving here as the pastoral intern for music in November 2013, this church has been characterized by love and joy. That is certainly still the case today. From a musical standpoint, I am extremely blessed to work with a very talented group of musicians, and we have continued to grow as a team and become even more effective in ministry together. Very soon we will be starting an in-depth discipleship study program named Partners (originally created by my old church in California, Compass Bible Church). On top of all this, we are in the process of purchasing a building that we can have access to 24/7 (as opposed to the four hours a week we rent currently at a local college). Like I said, we are in the midst of very exciting times.
In my opinion, anything released by Josh Garrels is necessary listening. His album Love and War and the Sea in Between is a masterpiece, one that it would be hard for the best of artists to follow. But Garrels is up to the task with his latest release, Home. More of a step to the side than an attempt to take a step up from Love and War, Garrels has crafted an album that once again showcases his musical depth and his lyrical mastery.
As a music pastor, this is probably the busiest week of my year and one of the weeks I look forward to the most throughout the year. Passion Week is a glorious time to tangibly look at the last week of Christ's life on earth and glory in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on behalf of His children. It's a week filled with more work for me, preparing for more services and choosing music that works cohesively for those services, but this is the kind of work that gets me excited, makes me want to do even more. In light of all this, I'm eagerly preparing for Beacon of Hope's Good Friday service. One of the songs we'll be singing specially for this service is called "It Is Finished" by Jimmy Needham. The song centers around that saying of Christ just before He died, both in the English "It is finished" and int the Greek Tetelestai. This is one of those words that I have always found beautiful and marvelous, and I want to take some time to unpack it a little as we move closer to Good Friday.
As a worship music pastor, I am exposed to a lot of music, seeking to find new songs that will encourage and edify the congregation I lead. There are a good deal of songs being written today by excellent artists; as I write this, I'm listening to a (relatively) new song I want to introduce on Good Friday this year. But often I find songs that may be new to me, but the church has been singing them for centuries. I love looking through hymnals for ways to join the chorus of God's children throughout history.
A simple servant of the Master.