Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Wish I had a church like yours

I got a really encouraging email today.  A friend from central Connecticut wrote, "I wish there was a church like yours in the my area. I went to church the other day and it almost sickened me how much "worship" has become like a modern day concert. I dont understand why people don't realize that it's not about how much noise you can make....its about the connection (between you and God)."  

Recently one of our members challenged me to pay more attention to what music I've been choosing for worship.   they called a lot contemporary worship music 7/11 music.   At first I was a little chagrined.  I have spent the past 30 years singing almost exclusively the kind of music this fellow believer was talking about.  But then I thought... wait a minute.  What am I trying to defend here?  I don't like most of that music either!  

My friend from Connecticut and my fellow believer from church both are saying that they don't see any depth in much of what the church is singing these days.  I'm a firm believer in the church teaching people to be life-long learners when it comes to liturgy, worship, and church life.  But we need to think very carefully about what intelligence level we're catering to.  Is the church in the 21st century going to "sing to the Lord a new song," and "sing with my mind as well as my spirit?"  Or are we going to dumb down the message of Christ with vapidly simplistic lyrics?

Sure, there's a lot of "old favorites" that are pretty simple too and lack theological (and musical) integrity.  The church in the 21st century needs to teach the highest and best of what is being written and retain and recall the highest and best of what we already know.   

What's your favorite and deepest song or hymn of worship (new or old).  Mix it up with me.  I want to know.  Here's one of mine.  Read all the verses, not just the ones you may remember from your Crusade, Inter-Varsity, or youth group days (assuming you were born before 1960), or struggle to learn the meaning of these precious words if you were born after 1970 or have never heard them:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

--Charles Wesley, 1738


1 comment:

Rich said...

First, let me say that I agree with you - if the lyrics don't really express relationship with Jesus, then they aren't worth singing. Jesus is worthy of the highest praise our hearts and minds can muster, not hollow repetition of words that don't mean anything.

However, at Elevation,, the lyrics really do matter, which is part of what I love about this church. They write about 1/3 of the songs performed. The lyrics are amazing. So, not all "loud" churches are doing it wrong.

In the days of Musicon, I learned one of my favorite songs I consider a "hymn", which, I know it isn't, but I think of it that way. Graham Kendrick, Knowing You. Lyrics below:

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1993 Make Way Music,
All rights reserved.
International copyright secured.
Used by permission.