Archive for December, 2010

Ask pastors what is the most recurring issue facing them in their congregations today and many of them are likely to reply, “The choice of music.”

Pastors are finding that their e-mail boxes on Mondays inevitably contain messages from church members complaining about the choice of hymns, the anthems the choir sang, or the loud rock music played by the praise band. It seems that people are always ticked off about the music – no matter what the pastors and music leaders do.

There is even debate within a growing number of churches as to whether they should stick with traditional organ and choir music, switch to contemporary praise music led by rock-style bands, or compromise with a blend of traditional and contemporary worship styles.

The reality today is that more and more churches are phasing out their choirs and turning to praise bands in the hope of becoming musically relevant to a generation of young people who do not find the church relevant to their lives.

But there are those who believe that the choir is potentially the most powerful worship leader in almost any congregation, and must take a radically different approach in inspiring and helping people to truly experience God in worship.

One of the preeminent advocates of this is Dave Williamson, author of the just-published book, God’s Singers: a guidebook for the Worship Leading Choir in the 21st century (in:ciite media).

In this practical and thought-provoking 324-page book/CD combination, Dave shows that the choir, far from being something of the past, is important and relevant for worship in the church today and will be vital for new generations of worshipers for decades to come.

I met Dave a few months ago when he was recommended to fill an interim choir director position at our church (Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, www.belairpres.org). We had suddenly lost the services of our beloved choir director and were faced with finding a replacement who could lead the choir for the rest of the year, prepare us for Christmas celebration and concert, and help us fulfill a major obligation to produce a Christmas show at the Nokia L.A. Live venue at which over 25 churches would participate.

Dave, who lives in Nashville with his family, flew to Los Angeles on short notice, and quickly settled in to the task at hand. His impact on us as a choir and a church was remarkable.

During the eight weeks that he was with us, I saw the contents of his book come alive as he led us, taught us, directed us, prayed with us and for us.

From him we gained a deeper understanding of God’s original design for the choir throughout scripture – to be his Lead Worshiper and Lead Warrior in the midst of spiritual warfare.

From him we learned that the choir is called, set apart, and fully empowered by God to accomplish significant spiritual tasks through music, discipleship, prayer, relationships, and commitment.

He encouraged us to lead and worship in four ways: with passion – worshipping God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and body; with freedom – casting off restraint and worshiping without distraction; with integrity – rightly dividing the word of truth, especially in the selection of music whose words reflect biblical truth; and with joy – the underlying result of personally knowing God through Jesus Christ and expressing that joy in every aspect of our worship.

It was a privilege to first read Dave’s book in its galley form before he arrived in Los Angeles back in October, and, having now served with Dave and personally been impacted and inspired by his ministry with our choir these past two month, I encourage all pastors, choir directors, worship leaders, and choir members to read God’s Singers.

For, as Dave states in the introduction to God’s Singers, it is a book that is written for four kinds of churches:

  • The church with an existing choir ministry that wants to transform its choir from being essentially a performer to being a true worship leader
  • The church with a choir that knows it is a worship leader, but wants to move to the next level
  • The church that has a choir, but is considering abandoning it (or already has)
  • The church that has never had a choir, but might consider starting one

Yes, read God’s Singers, for it is indeed a guidebook for today’s choirs that want to be musically relevant in a changing society!


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Among my favorite songs that capture the essence of the Christmas experience is “Mary, Did You Know?” words written by Mark Lowry and music composed by Buddy Greene:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
has come to make you new?
And the child that you delivered
will soon deliver you?

Oh, Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would give sight to the blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby,
you’ve kissed the face of God?

Oh, Mary, did you know—
The blind will see,
the deaf will hear,
the dead will live again!
The lame will leap,
the dumb will speak
the praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary, did you know that your baby boy
is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy
was heaven’s perfect Lamb?
And the sleeping child you’re holding
is the Great I Am!

But, no, Mary did not know – not at first, anyway, and not fully.

She knew that her baby was special and that he would become the Messiah who would save his people, but she would not comprehend the full meaning of his messiahship until she began her daily walk with him during their life together and until she experienced his death and resurrection over thirty years later.

She had to see his birth from the perspective of his sacrificial death and resurrection before she could fully know and understand.

And so do we.

Until we accept his grace and forgiveness through his death and resurrection, and begin our daily walk with him, we will never be able to fully understand or celebrate his birth and the true meaning of Christmas.

Only then does the real Christmas come alive for us. Only then are we able to really celebrate his birth.

And as we do, we will discover a magnificence, a glory, and a mysterious divine presence that will touch us in the deepest recesses of our beings – bringing comfort, strength, healing, and peace, no matter how trying and difficult life might become.

Oh, may you know and celebrate – really celebrate – Christmas this year.


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