THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG
I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.
I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.
Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."
So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.
It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.
I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.
All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.
Ralph M. Petersen
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Sunday, October 30, 2016
Saturday, October 29, 2016
• Sing them in comfortable keys. Your job is not to show off your vocal range (or vocal gymnastics). If it is too high, too low, or in challenging intervals, your congregation will not sing.
• Sing to celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God. There are good personal and relational songs of testimony or sentiments that may be appropriate in certain situations but, for the most part, worship is NOT about how warm and fuzzy you feel; it is about bowing down in humble awe of the power and glory of God. Sing His praises, sing about His attributes and sing about His mercy and grace.
• Serve your people. This might seem like a no-brainer but a legitimate worship service provides people with what they need; not what they want.
• Saturate them with the Word of God. Support your song choices with biblical references to God’s Word. He has assembled your congregation in your presence for only a few minutes each week and they don’t need junk food. They need spiritual meat and music can be a useful vehicle to deliver it to them. Make sure that your song choices are substantive and rich in scripture.
• Don’t sing songs with humanistic philosophies or heretical theology. I once read a comment that asked, “If your music doesn’t preach, why sing it?” The fact of the matter is that ALL music preaches. The problem is that so many Christians learn so much false doctrine from spiritually anemic, or downright stupid, popular contemporary music in church and on Christian radio. It takes wisdom and discernment to examine all the lyrics in light of Scripture. If necessary, you may have to make some corrective changes to the lyrics or throw them out entirely. Just do it because you are no less accountable than is your pastor when it comes to preaching or teaching false doctrine.
• Don’t draw attention to yourself. It’s not about you (or your “worship team”). Someone has suggested that, if worship teams were required to sing from behind a curtain, there would be no more worship teams. Entertainment is not an element of worship and the musical portion of your ministry is not your turn to perform. And no one wants to hear your overly dramatic, rehearsed praises and prayers. Do not use your music ministry as your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the Gospel. I once had a pastor who had a small plaque on his pulpit, engrave with these words, “Sirs, we would see Jesus.” It was fixed there to remind him (and anyone else he allowed to share his pulpit) that his responsibility was always and only to point men to Jesus.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Monday, October 24, 2016
Monday, October 17, 2016
So now he seems to be sincerely interested; he comes around frequently to talk about God and he says he wants to know Him better but he is still confused and in the dark. He keeps holding on to religious works.
Monday, October 10, 2016
(Another illustrative commentary on this hymn can be found here.)
Monday, October 3, 2016
Whatever difficulties or trials we might face in our lives, this hymn reminds us that God’s promises are true, that He never changes, and that His compassions never fail.