The World is Watching….


This week I wrote a simple post on Facebook that receive a great deal of response. It simply read, “The world watches the way we worship.”  Those of you who know me, have heard that again and again over the years, but I am burdened at how our congregations not only sing, but how they look as they “worship.”  Interestingly, white American church culture has  taught their children “behave,” be reverent,”  “sit still,” “don’t run with sissors….” etc.  I understand the  intent, but I am afraid we have missed an important aspect to worship.

As a child, I eagerly wanted to run to, and throw my arms up to my dad.  I knew he loved me and I love him.  This is the relationship God wants with us.  That is not disrespect, it is worship.   To a degree, we  have thwarted our worship activity so,  as adults, though  we often fellowship openly in the lobbies of our churches, we walk into the worship center as if Jesus has died all over again.  Black,  Hispanic, Asian,  and  other cultures teach their children to openly and freely worship and thus as adults, are free to express openly their praise.   Our intentions were no doubt pure, but the result is that our witness too often appears we have no real zeal for our faith.  Reverence is acknowledging who God truly is and worship is responding to that knowledge.  The worship of the Bible was often noisy and active.  Not “rowdy,” but it sure was not passive.

Right now we are all trying to wrap our brains around the fact that so many Christians are suffering greatly around the world.   As horrific as it is, it is bringing a great deal of attention to ChristiansThe world is literally watching believers and asking, “Is their faith real?”  With all this attention, this might be greatest opportunity the Lord has ever given us to boldly and openly worship.   As discouraging as it is around us, if we will minister/worship out of the overflow our relationship with Christ, we will not be discouraged and the world, our world, will see Jesus in us.

A dear friend once told me he wouldn’t pray in church nor sing a solo because he didn’t want to “show off.”  This isn’t about showing off, this is about openly proclaiming Christ in the pews and on the street.  We don’t need to be obnoxious or silly,  but unapologetic in our faith in Christ.  Jesus said, “If I be lifted Up, I will draw all men unto me.”  “So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  The Psalmist said, “He has put a New Song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.  Many will SEE it and fear, and trust in the Lord.”   And my “Coenian” translation of Luke 10:20, “Do not rejoice that you have the coolest or biggest music ministry, but rather Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  That is worship!

To the music guys…..God has given us  the ability to lead worship with our music.  Let’s make every effort to not only present  effective music from the platform, but get to know, to teach, to engage the guy in the last pew. Encourage him and select songs he can sing and not just listen to. (I believe the most important music in the church that of the congregation.) Teach him to smile and express his faith.  Remind him the world around him is watching.  Children and guests are watching to see if what we say is real is truly real.   Worship is a serious endeavor, yet true worship is consumed in JOY and those God has entrusted to us need to be reminded that the people  around them cannot see their insides, we must allow that joy to reflect on our faces and in our singing.  That’s not “showing off,” that is allowing Christ’s light to shine through us.

I close with something really cool that happened a couple of days ago where I am serving as interim.  I was wandering through the crowd before the evening service meeting people as I normally do.  I met a young adult  woman who was sitting alone.  In talking with her, she told me she had only been attending a couple of weeks.  (BTW, I told her that I have just one place left in the choir for a young woman who had only been attending the church a couple of weeks….)  Anyway, though she appeared to be shy and by herself, she was surrounded by a group of people who were totally engaged in worship, singing, reading God’s word, praying together.  This young guest was ‘watching’ and she saw Jesus.  I believe I will see her in the choir very soon.




Several Thousand Singers

Earlier today I posted a Facebook note acknowledging I didn’t know if anyone read my blog.  Well, the past few hours, I have learned there are quite a few of you and I am a bit shocked, and for certain, humbled.   These blog posts are simply “overflow thoughts” of my current and past ministry.  As I sit here this evening, I have been thanking God for the literally thousands who have sung with me the past fifty years.  I have had the thrill of leading choirs of eight or ten singers and choirs of more than two hundred.   I started as a clueless kid and now just an old “song and dance man,” yet my heart fifty years ago was to glorify the Lord, be an encourager to the saints, and witness to those who don’t know Christ.  I have the same  heart today.

I love to think about it and it would be a real hoot to know actually how many singers and how many songs. There must be a least a couple of thousand singers and tens of thou… uh, countless songs.   However, as much as I enjoy thinking back, I am most excited about the “next song.”

If you are reading this post and are an active singer in your choir, praise God for you; please remain faithful.   If you are reading this and are not singing and know you should, get in gear, use your gifts, sharpen your skills and partner with you minister of music and the faithful singers in your church choir.  Be a part of a great army of “singers unto the Lord.”  Yes, I like large numbers in the church choir.   Quoting my good friend, John Waters, numbers are important because every number is a person and every person has a story.  Your “story” and faith journey shows as a testimony of faith in your singing.

The world watches and listens to the way God’s people worship…..

Attempt great things for God….Expect great things from God


One of the most exciting things for me, and I’m certain all ministers of music, is to welcome a new singer to the  choir.  I love to watch those who have been with me a while encourage the new singer, show them “around,” help them find music, introduce our guest to those who will be sitting around them, etc.  I will always make a formal introduction and give them there “Welcome Snicker Candy Bar” and we jump right into rehearsing.

The past couple of evenings, I  had the opportunity to work the the choir of the Union Baptist Church in Winder, Georgia.  Brian Faglier and his wife, Lynn,  have lead the music in that fine church for sixteen years.  This is  great choir and I had a blast.

Monday evening I worked with sopranos and altos and Tuesday with the tenors and basses.  We had a great time as we “woodshed” their individual parts preparing their music for the fall.  On Monday evening, after working a a couple of songs, a lady with a very good voice ask the question, “What do you mean, resolution?”  (I had been talking about the altos resolving a particular chord.)  This prompted other questions from others.  After a few explanations about resolution, where to find their parts, when to repeat, etc, “the light came on.”  Of course, as a guest, I had no way of knowing who were veterans to music and who were new to choir.  The lady who asked the question was brand new and  had she not been bold enough to ask the first question, she may have not only been “lost” the entire evening, but because I had not been sensitive to the needs of new singers, she might have simply not returned.  (Brian would probably have not asked me back to work with the men the next night or worse yet, would not have taken me for coffee….)

Gratefully, she DID ask the question, I was able to explain,  she had a great time, and no doubt will become an active member of the choir.  It has, however, caused me to do some “meditating” the past few hours. Those who know me, know that I have been at it for over fifty years and always have made it a point to consider that my choirs are made up of very experienced singers as well as people who are just beginning their musical experience.  However, in my zeal to teach notes, I forgot to consider who was in the room.  There is nothing wrong with not knowing, but there is something major wrong if the environment is not conducive to ask questions.  I wonder how many people have attended only one rehearsal…..

I have openly been critical of Christians who use “church language” around non-church people and of churches using “church talk” around people who have hardly ever been to church and then wonder why they are turned off.  Years ago  I remember going to the northern part of the USA,  commissioned by the Home Mission Board,  to work in “unchurched” areas.  I was singing in a struggling church attempting to organize not only S.S., but TU, WMU, BH, RA’s, GA’s, Pot Luck, offering EE and CWT when the people around the church weren’t even certain who Baptists were, much less, Southern Baptists, and as my friend Clyde Chiles would say, they  may have known Jesus only as a grotesque figure on a stained glass window.  The local folks weren’t dumb, but they didn’t need all of that, they simply needed Christ.  We don’t have to “dumb down the Gospel,” but we do need to speak the language of the people with whom we are attempting to communicate.

The previous paragraph is of major significance and maybe another time I might expand on that, but the point of this “essay” is to remind music ministers/leaders that 95% of our singers don’t have degrees  music, are not seeking degrees in music, don’t really care about secondary subdominants, nor the name of the composer’s pet.  Generally they are there because they love to sing and our job is always to affirm them, encourage them, and lead them with clear language.  We don’t need to talk down to them, we just need to make sense to them.  (This makes me think of another topic for another essay, I firmly believe non-Christians and non-church members should be welcomed and part of a local church choir.)

How many times have I asked my doctor to “hold on a minute, put this in words I understand.”  That is not be being a jerk nor does it mean I am stupid, but I’m not a doctor, I just want to make certain I know what is going on in or on my body.  I have been blessed with doctors who, for the most part, have been very accommodating.  I don’t know much about medicine, but generally, my doctors don’t know a great deal about music.  (There are some exceptions, however.)

We all have men and women in our choirs who are skilled in countless disciplines that I know nothing about.  If I ever am in the position that I need to know how set a broken leg, drive an over the road truck, assemble a drive train on a John Deer, make glass, etc,,  I would home my instructor will speak to me clearly, patiently, graciously, and eagerly.

With all this said, I’ve got to get ready for rehearsal.  I am sure looking forward to welcoming some new singers tonight…….  I am really enjoying partnering with Level Grove Baptist during this interim time.  Yes, I’m a working on Christmas Celebration 2014.

(I hope things are spelled correctly. I can’t find Spell-Check…)

Great Opportunities

This morning I am studying scores for a choir retreat at Union Baptist Church in Winder, Georgia.  My good friend, Brian Faglier, is minister of music. Brian is a fantastic musician with a great spirit and heart for ministry.  He is the “keyboard man” for the Sons of Jubal and has a great understanding of how to make the electronic keyboard amazingly effective in worship and accompanying.  I am truly honored to be asked to partner with him in this retreat.

As I study and prepare this music, I am taken with what I know to be so true, the Gospel is the Gospel in any spoken or musical “language.”  Some of these songs are brand new to me, yet I am experiencing the passion for Christ in the texts and in the musical scores.   Brian has taken the time to seriously consider each song and its place in worship.  Though these choral pieces are arranged for corporate worship, they are a great blessing to me personally as I sit at my desk alone.

Retirement is not quitting work, at least for me.  For me, retirement is simply allowing me to spend time doing what I do best, the part of ministry I love most, spending time with the Lord, with people, and leading choirs and orchestras without the responsibility and “busy work” of the full time minister of music.

I can “talk to a brick,” but so far God has given me  plenty of people to visit and get to know in our “new world.”  I have a great group of men that I drink coffee with each morning.  Men from all walks of life around the same table.  Some saints and some …..  This is exactly what the the church and from my perspective, the church choir  should be.

There are people everywhere that need a friend and many Christ.  I met a young 23 year old man in a local business this week.  As I often do, I ask, “Do you sing in a choir?”  If I hear, “No,” I follow with, “Should you?”  So often the answer is ….”Well, I did when I was  younger,” or “I guess I ought to.”  This was the case with this young man.  I found that his folks were gone and apparently he doesn’t have many folks around him.  I am praying and encouraging him to come sing with me.  As Captain York would say, “The woods if full of ’em.”  All we need to go is go get them and love them.