Posted by: Allen | January 9, 2010

What place does beauty have in our lives?

In the high school where I am a staff accompanist, I am saddened by the apathy of students towards learning. To learn, to grow, to delight in the noble and the upright, to be challenged to new perspectives, to wonder in amazement at beauty. . .all are in short supply among the students. When I look at commercials and commercial television I see this same apathy. Possible causes? Pragmatism, consumerism, individualism. . . and others? May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Posted by: Allen | December 31, 2008

Loving the Difficult Person

Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.
– St. John of Kronstadt

Not only should we consider others in view of this truth, but we should also realize this is true about ourselves.  In the New Year fast approaching,  may we pray for the transformation of our lives to shine with this truth!

Posted by: Allen | December 29, 2008

Worship: Intimacy or Reverence?

After 30+ years in Evangelicalism (as a minister of worship and music), having misgivings about its direction, and now being away from it for a year, I suspect that in the evangelical churches, intimacy and reverence have identical meanings.

Intimacy: the Essence of Worship

In evangelical congregations of Baby Boomers, the “deepest and most meaningful worship times” are governed by music, using slow tempos and contemplative melodies.  These tunes are accompanied by lyrics that offer little revelation of God’s saving activity.  Rather, they focus on banal, intimate expressions of love toward God and/or Jesus.  These “intimate” musical worship moments are carefully arranged, emotional manipulations by the music. They generally follow a period of ecstatic music, known as “praise” music.  Afterward, the congregation  “comes before the throne”, led by the music, to express feelings of adoration toward Christ. These “adoring feelings” are perceived as intimate expressions of love.

Intimacy: Emotional Manipulations by Music

In the evangelical worship service, one of the overriding design features uses music to achieve this movement from the outer courts to the inner courts of “intimacy with God.”  The success or failure of a worship service (i.e., the music portions of a worship service) is dependent upon the congregation having the opportunity to express feelings of love and gratitude in moments of musical intimacy.  If they feel they have had intimate expressions of love towards God and Christ, they will believe the worship meaningful, true and real. (Is this “narcissistic” worship?)

Intimacy: the Unspoken Assumptions in Worship Definitions

In the definitions of worship, most evangelicals have some understanding that worship is a response to God.  This response can be love, thanksgiving, or praise, but the unspoken belief is that it occurs in moments of intimacy with God.  Intimacy with God becomes a working value in worship design. I do not believe that this intimacy is the reverence that is found in New Testament writings about worship or in any of the Church Fathers during the first thousand years of Church history.

Now I admit that the evangelical church is not one, monolithic entity. Indeed, exceptions to the above exist. But, allowing for the few exceptions, I would guess that many more do fit the pattern I have described. I would also add that many denominations outside the label of “Evangelicalism” would also find the above as a true description of their worship practice.

Confirming Evidence

One of the confirming pieces of evidence is the Contemporary Christian Music Industry. Take a look at what they are consistently publishing. Again take a look at the CCLI most popular listings. Look at the music and the lyrics, and come to your own conclusion.

Reverence and Humility

This confusion of expressing feelings of intimate love with the giving of reverence in worship is not found in the Orthodox faith. In reading the early Fathers and the New Testament, reverence was inherent in worship. Intimacy, as practiced by evangelical churches today, was a foreign concept.

The St. John Chrysostom Liturgy, St. Basil the Great Liturgy, and the St. James Liturgy, are worship services.   Reverence is not a goal in the design of these liturgies.  However, in participating in the Trinitarian life of the Eucharist, reverence and humility are naturally resulting experiences. The “need” to express one’s feelings of intimate love and the necessary music to support and encourage these feelings are absent.

Posted by: Allen | June 11, 2008

Holiness and Humility

I have a theory: as we grow in holiness, we grow in humility. This holiness is much more than moral choices. It is a character transformation that the Lord makes in us. Others can experience these qualities in our lives, but they remain hidden from our sight.

For ourselves God gives us indicators of His presence in our life by an increased awareness of our unworthiness to be the recipient of His mercy simultaneously combined with the reassurance that He delights to give us this mercy. On-going repentance (i.e. turning from sin to receive His continual offer of Life) and compunction (i.e. feelings of sorrow for lost moments of receiving His salvation in our lives) are the actions and attitudes we find formed in us.

Much more can be written about this. In the future, I hope to post more thoughts.

Thank you for visiting my musings. . .

Posted by: Allen | June 30, 2007

Impact — Not the best metaphor

On my shelf I have the 1999 Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. Looking up the meaning of the word impact, I found ten definitions. The first three give a general sense for all 10 refinements of meaning.

1. the striking of one thing against another; collision.
2. influence; effect
3. a forcible impinging

In my background, having a ministry of impact, is considered a good thing. Yet, I consider the word as devoid of any meanings of love. One of the identifiers of those who live in the life of Christ, is love. Some pray that they would have a life or ministry of impact. Wouldn’t it be better to pray for a life of Christ’s love, a Trinitarian love: loving God and loving others.

Impact or love? They are not synonymous in their meanings.

Something to consider.


Posted by: Allen | June 29, 2007

What purpose is the music in a worship service?

In a worship service the worshipper gives acts of worship to God. Each act of worship is a response to participation in the Divine Life of our Trinitarian God. Some communities of faith have a wealth of worship actions that are used (chanting, bowing, singing, giving a financial offering, interacting with icons, listening, public praying, public Scripture readings, Eucharist and symbolic actions by the priest (minister), lighting candles, smelling incense, and hearing bells.

My observation is that in most “independent Bible churches”, a dearth of worship actions is experienced. Listening to a sermon, listening to a pastor’s prayer, giving financial offering and congregational singing are the common fare served at these churches. With such limited worship “vocabulary” music becomes greatly burdened to carry more than it is capable of delivering. Evidence of this is seen in the demands that are placed on music: the music should “engage” me in worship; the music should be a peppy “celebration”; the music should express the transcendance of God; the music should express the immance of God; the music has to be “my musical language style” so that “I can express my worship to God.” and on and on it goes. . .

I suggest that music is one of many acts of worship in response to participation in the Divine Life of our Trinitarian God. When music takes its rightful place among many acts of worship, the over-weighted issues of style, could perhaps be considered more rationally.

My notes for today.


Posted by: Allen | June 28, 2007

Individualism in Contemporary Christian Music

Do you ever wonder about the marketing of Contemporary Christian Music? What defines its market niche? What are the values that under gird its lyrics and music? Is empowerment of a person’s ability to express their personal zeal (or devotion) one of the values? To this last question, I believe the answer is yes.

This may not be a bad thing. But I wonder, how does that value promote New Testament community, where the love of God and love of neighbor is the priority? In Contemporary Christian Music the concern seems to be that the music/lyrics allow one to have personal expression. Personal expression of one’s heart felt depths may be okay, when I am listening to it in my car or home. But does this promote a sense of community rooted to God’s ongoing salvific work and love of one’s neighbor during a Sunday Morning Worship service?

Just a thought to consider.