I am officially moving from stlouisblogs to word press. My new blog address is now, (drum-roll, please...)

http://worshipinthecity.wordpress.com/

If you are an RSS subscriber, you need to go on over to the site and resubscribe. If you follow my blog on facebook, I don't think you need to do anything but sit back and enjoy.

My cousin, Sam, (yep, "Sam Ward" is a recurring name in our family tree) is a worship music guy over in Fort Wayne, IN and has an excellent blog that you should all read called Worship360. Please refrain from writing comments about how weird it is that my family produces so many creative types and have a look at Sam's questions and comments in response to the stuff I posted the other day.

Here's a few of Sam's thoughts and my responses. (Dude, this is what I love about blogs!)

"... the question was asked, "How can your church still be recognized as a Presbyterian church?" as if the only distinctive was the version of hymnal in the pews..."

For me this question in the interview seems so odd. Why do we care about being recognized as Presbyterian? Don't we care more about being recognized by a family resemblance to our big brother, Jesus Christ? And isn't racial segregation one of the major signs of hypocrisy that make people reject the church?

"...we are to sacrificially serve each other as Christ did in all areas including our music choices...the way this plays out in a specific congregation might change based on the cultural make-up of the congregation..."

It's true that if your town is all "X" and no "Y" then it would be silly to try to incorporate "Y" style music into your service. But what's God's universal will in this situation. Sam had an excellent post on his blog a few weeks ago about the difference between God's universal will vs. God's individual will (universal will=care for orphans; individual will=adopt an orphan.) God's universal will is that we are all called to break down walls, be reconciled, and love our neighbor (and our enemy). How that looks for individuals will change. We have a sister church in Kenya, New City Fellowship in Nairobi, whose mission is to see Africans and South Asians reconciled in a worshiping community. That's a unique vision that applies in Nairobi but would be kind of weird to attempt in Springfield, USA. I believe that every church is called by God's universal will to humbly and honestly look at themselves and decide if their music planning is intentionally building trust between diverse tribes of people or whether their music planning is just building up taller and thicker walls of division. Mercy, mercy mercy! We can only do this by grace.

"Through my adoption experience, I'm realizing how much we as Christians define ourselves based on physical characteristics. It also seems to me that Paul encourages the church to attempt to avoid those types of classifications such as Jew or Greek, slave or free. So while we are to serve each other sacrificially, are we continuing to define ourselves simply based on biology instead of the spirit who makes us one family?"

Sam, this is a profound statement. Reading through "Adopted For Life" I am growing in my own appreciation for how amazing the doctrine of adoption is for all of us. In fact, this is one of the strongest arguments for reconciliation. We are new creations in Jesus, a family by his grace! However, I don't believe that our adoption creates a "color-blind" church. There's a temptation to say that God doesn't care about race. God made a beautifully diverse world that Revelation 7 shows us will be diverse even in the new heavens and new earth.

My cousin, Sam, (yep, "Sam Ward" is a recurring name in our family tree) is a worship music guy over in Fort Wayne, IN and has an excellent blog that you should all read called Worship360. Please refrain from writing comments about how weird it is that my family produces so many creative types and have a look at Sam's questions and comments in response to the stuff I posted the other day.

Here's a few of Sam's thoughts and my responses. (Dude, this is what I love about blogs!)

"... the question was asked, "How can your church still be recognized as a Presbyterian church?" as if the only distinctive was the version of hymnal in the pews..."

For me this question in the interview seems so odd. Why do we care about being recognized as Presbyterian? Don't we care more about being recognized by a family resemblance to our big brother, Jesus Christ? And isn't racial segregation one of the major signs of hypocrisy that make people reject the church?

"...we are to sacrificially serve each other as Christ did in all areas including our music choices...the way this plays out in a specific congregation might change based on the cultural make-up of the congregation..."

It's true that if your town is all "X" and no "Y" then it would be silly to try to incorporate "Y" style music into your service. But what's God's universal will in this situation. Sam had an excellent post on his blog a few weeks ago about the difference between God's universal will vs. God's individual will (universal will=care for orphans; individual will=adopt an orphan.) God's universal will is that we are all called to break down walls, be reconciled, and love our neighbor (and our enemy). How that looks for individuals will change. We have a sister church in Kenya, New City Fellowship in Nairobi, whose mission is to see Africans and South Asians reconciled in a worshiping community. That's a unique vision that applies in Nairobi but would be kind of weird to attempt in Springfield, USA. I believe that every church is called by God's universal will to humbly and honestly look at themselves and decide if their music planning is intentionally building trust between diverse tribes of people or whether their music planning is just building up taller and thicker walls of division. Mercy, mercy mercy! We can only do this by grace.

"Through my adoption experience, I'm realizing how much we as Christians define ourselves based on physical characteristics. It also seems to me that Paul encourages the church to attempt to avoid those types of classifications such as Jew or Greek, slave or free. So while we are to serve each other sacrificially, are we continuing to define ourselves simply based on biology instead of the spirit who makes us one family?"

Sam, this is a profound statement. Reading through "Adopted For Life" I am growing in my own appreciation for how amazing the doctrine of adoption is for all of us. In fact, this is one of the strongest arguments for reconciliation. We are new creations in Jesus, a family by his grace! However, I don't believe that our adoption creates a "color-blind" church. There's a temptation to say that God doesn't care about race. God made a beautifully diverse world that Revelation 7 shows us will be diverse even in the new heavens and new earth.

JW1987.jpg

"We white members believe that as part of our agenda for reconciliation for the overwhelming oppression of two hundred years and in order that our black members might feel completely trusting, white culture should take a subsidiary role in our worship." - James Ward, Reformed Worship Magazine March 1987.

This statement reflects how I was mentored in the process of reconciliation in worship music. It is a huge part of what has defined the sound of New City Fellowship worship services. It's one of the reasons that NCF churches can feel so incredibly different from their sister churches in the denomination.

There's a few phrases that I particularly like. One is "We white members believe" which reflects a choice to show love, a willing desire to set aside one's preferences in order to reconcile. I also like "in order that our black members might feel completely trusting." Notice that he didn't say "comfortable" or "relevant" or something like that. We are not about making people comfortable; that's not going to happen in a multicultural context. Our desire is that the church become a place where prejudice, fear, and bitterness can be replaced with trust. Good word.

So, what do you think?
Is this Ronald Regan-era statement something that should still define our reconciliation agenda in the age of Barak Obama?
How does this process expand to include the cultures of immigrants and refugees?

A Big Music Weekend

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We are heading into a big music weekend. It starts Saturday morning, I've got a morning rehearsal for Sunday's worship. Hopefully, my dad will be there for the rehearsal. We've got a massive band with 2 keys, 2 guitars, drums, bass, perc. and 8 singers (I love working for the church!) We'll be doing a lot of my dad's music Sunday, so it should be a fun service.

Saturday night the jam continues. We've got the International Worship and Prayer Service. The should be a fun time with a really open feel. We're going in sans-rehearsal. A rehearsal wouldn't be worth it anyway since 3/4ths of the music will be provided by various groups of immigrants and refugees from our church and those of us in the band will just be playing by ear. Good times! I'm excited about being able to play with Mike Ramsey and Jules Gikundiro from our South City worship site and being able to hear some music from our Nepalese folks.

Sunday we have our 2 worship services of course. J-dub sitting in.

Then Sunday night, Dad and I will be at Covenant Presbyterian leading the worship music there. We'll be doing a few of his classic tunes like "Rock of Ages" and "Morning Sun" but we'll also be doing a few more of his unique tunes so come on out and worship with us.

The music doesn't stop Sunday! On Monday, we will hopefully be completing the last session for my new CD. I'll be meeting with Michelle Higgins at Jacob Detering's studio to cut some back ground vocals (BGVs). With my dad being in town, we might have him replace some of my tenor parts too if time permits.

Speaking of the recording, I've been interacting a lot this week with my graphic designer, Ken to get the layout ready. We are getting very close to a finished product ready for the holiday shopping season.

For the benefit of Mr. Kite...

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I can't believe how quickly my fall schedule has become overwhelmed with special events! I've had to create a unique section in our planning center to administrate these non-Sunday morning services. Here's a rough schedule so far:

International Worship & Prayer Service - THIS SATURDAY September 26 6pm @ NCF (U City)

James Ward worship concert - THIS SUNDAY September 27 6pm (come at 4 to singing in the choir) @ Covenant Presbyterian Church

Youth Worship Night - NEXT Friday October 2 7pm @ NCF (U City)

NCF Church Retreat - October 9-11

Reformation Day Service - Sunday October 25 6pm @ Twin Oaks Presbyterian

West Africa Musical Instrument Fundraiser - TBA

Adoption Celebration Service - TBA

Tuesday Heartbreak

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Tuesday my heart broke. I haven't had a broken heart many times in my life, so I try to pay attention to when it happens. The bible teaches that God is close to the brokenhearted, and so I figure that when my heart breaks, God has something that he wants to do with me.

In our regular Tuesday morning staff meeting, we had some guests. The folks from International Crisis Aid came to talk with us about the international sex trafficking industry and their plans to open a safe house here in St Louis for victims of sex trafficking here in the US. As I listened to the stories of extreme evil. I began to feel my chest tighten up and my emotions overwhelmed with anger, disgust, sorrow, and despair. I thought of the girls. Trapped. Violated. De-humanized. I thought of the men who had become so enslaved to their sin that they willingly executed such evil upon children. The darkness became so overwhelming that I felt like I was being crushed.

The gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God exists to heal and restore. But often the first step to healing and restoration is to be broken. I never know if I like songs about being broken. The "brokenness is what I long for" kind of stuff. Isn't the whole point to be restored? I've had enough with being broken; I want to be fixed. But, the heartbreak I experienced this week was a powerful force of healing. It drove me back to the gospel to claim the blood of Jesus as my refuge and my strength, and to cry out boldly to God for justice for these lost children.

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