I have been asked more times than I can remember why do Churches of Christ spend so much time on congregational singing? My answer includes, we sing because there are approximately 400 references to sing, singing, and singer in the Bible as well as 50 commands related to singing. Here are several biblical reasons WHY our congregation chooses to sing:
In addition to congregational singing in all services, our congregation spends the second Sunday evening each month in singing. As I was reflecting on singing, which I participate in by carrying a tune “in a bucket” and “making a joyful noise to the Lord,” I asked myself, “Why do I sing?” More specifically why do I sing in and out of the assemblies, and yes, even in the shower, driving, walking, working, etc? I quickly jotted down these answers without research or studying how others may answer. Here’s my list of biblical and personal reasons WHY I sing:
In recent years I have noticed a continual reduction in singing opportunities. In most areas there used to be a gathering of congregations for 5th Sunday Singings. Singing schools were conducted on an annual or semi-annual schedule. Most congregations held special classes to train boys and men how to sing. Today, It is not unusual to hear brethren talking about how “bad” the singing is or why there aren’t many qualified or good song leaders today.
A study of church history from the last years of the first century and forward reveals that congregations gave a lot of time to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Far more time than was given to preaching. Today singing is locked into a 10 to the 15-minute slot; the Supper to 15 minutes, sermons to 20, and the rest of the sacred hour is given to announcements and praying. Most congregations have songbooks which contain 900-plus songs. One brother recently remarked, “We don’t need to spend all that money on songbooks; we only sing about 20 or 25 songs over-and-over, year in and year out. We can run off copies for those who haven’t memorized them.” (I’m not touching that brother’s remark).
Ella Fitzgerald, one of America’s late singing icons, said, “The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
The Psalmist said, “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1, 2). “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6). “Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the firmament of His power” (Psalm 150:1).
WHY DO YOU SING?
HOW CAN WE DO WHAT WE ARE DOING—SINGING—BETTER?
If you’ve ever been in one Cracker Barrel restaurant, which is especially popular in the south, you have been in them all. Why? Because basically, they are all the same. For example, as you walk outside to the entrance door you pass a line of rocking chairs, a barrel table with a checkerboard, and some advertisements. Depending on the weather one or more of the rockers will be occupied, not by teenagers, young adults etc. but by older persons. Why the presentation of rocking chairs? I think I’ve figured it out. The majority of customers, at least when I’ve visited are in the retirement age zone. What “old man” hasn’t dreamed of one day hanging up his gloves and work boots and rocking into the sunset?
In the last 50 years, our country has enjoyed the increase in life expectancy. I once read that when the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, the average life expectancy in our country was 35. This no doubt contributed to the minimum age required to be a president or vice president was 35 (And still is today). It is estimated that the average life expectancy today is 79.
While aging is taking on new features and blessings, it is also taking on a whole new set of physical health issues. It is beyond the scope of this writing to delve into all the physical and mental health issues; especially which come after 80. I want to note one point which I have observed through the years and especially in recent years. It’s what I call the “Rocking Chair Trap.” I was first made aware of it in my twenties as a young preacher in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our attendance would swell in the winter, sometimes doubling, as the “Snow Birds” would come south for the winter to escape the cold and snow in the north.
As a young and somewhat naïve preacher, I was excited in my first winter as the brethren from up north started to arrive. To me, it meant new “part-time” workers and helpers. But I soon learned as I had conversations with our visitors, most of them made it known they had been active for years back home but now they were “taking a break” or retiring. And during the passing years, I have seen what I call the “Rocking Chair Trap” all across the brotherhood. Christians who were once involved, and many of them in leadership roles, “retire to their rocking chairs”—it’s the “Now let George do it” attitude.
I have only been able to find one passage in the Bible which refers to what we call “retirement.” It is an Old Testament reference to the Levites who were in charge if the Tabernacle. “This is what pertains to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and above one may enter to perform service in the work of the tabernacle of meeting; and at the age of years they must cease performing this work, and shall work no more.” (Numbers 8:23-26). While we may wish we could retire at 50, the Scriptures, especially under the New Covenant, do not command or sanction our stopping our service in the Body of Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote in his old age and last days of his life. “For I already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
The Bible contains numerous accounts of people used by God in their older years; people past 50, 60, etc. There are also many references to aging and old age:
Junior: “Grandpa, how old is God?”
Grandpa: “Old enough to tell us what to do.”
It is obvious from Scripture that God is telling us about old age. Telling us about the challenges, blessings, and responsibilities. It’s the principles of “to whom much is given much is required” (Luke 12:48). There is no doubt that with age comes numerous challenges. Our physical strength and mental alertness slow down; aches and pains seek to control our attitudes and activities. We tend to try and hide in the shadows or retreat to a rocking chair. We need to transpose Jobs’ words from “Though He slays me, yet will I trust Him,” to “though He allows old age to take hold of me, yet will I serve Him” (Job 13:15).
There are many things a Christian can do in the sunset years to contribute to the ministry of the local congregation, community, and mission field. I still remember her. Sister Kate Cash. She was in her late 60s confined to her bed for most of the 24 hours. The first time I visited her was in the summer. Her front door was open and covered by a screen door. I knocked and told her who I was; she invited me to her bedroom where she was surrounded by cards, bulletins, several Bibles, a devotional book, and her phone. She smiled and ask “How are you doing Bub?” I replied with the same questions. She replied that she and the Lord were taking care of kingdom business. She was sending cards of various kinds, making phones calls, and praying for a large number of people. I have never forgotten the sight of her “pulpit.” It wasn’t a rocking chair but a place of faithful activity, love, and outreach.
God being our Helper we must never fall into the rocking chair trap; remembering physically it may keep us busy but it will take us nowhere. We have more tools now to reach out than ever before. How about YOU? If you are reading this it is proof that you can do something, one thing today to reach out to someone. Why not pray right now….
We’ve all heard or no first hand a story about a successful business which failed after it was passed on from the original founder and owner to a family member; a son or daughter. It is estimated that as many as 75% of businesses passed on to the second generations fail.
I once heard a motivational speaker tell the story of a father who owned a chain of hotdog carts in a major city, perhaps New York. The father made a good living for his family; even buying luxuries. He saved enough to send his son to an Ivy League university, where he majored in business with an emphasis in marketing
The father was looking forward to retiring and turning his business over to his son, which he did. The son created an elaborate business plan like he had been taught in college, a flow chart, and a marketing plan to expand the hot dog cart business into fast food restaurants. One of the first thing the son did was change the price on the basic hot dog, doubling the price from $1 to $2. The father tried to explain why that would be a bad move. The son insisted; after all, he had inherited the business. Within a year the business failed.
Business textbooks, seminars, workshops, etc. are filled with stories like this one about the successes and failures of second, third, etc. generation owners who failed, for various reasons, to keep the doors open and the business thriving.
This little story is the introduction to our Father’s business. When Jesus was 12-years-old, He already had His eye on His Father’s business. No, more than His eyes, He already had made a commitment to His Father’s business. When I was 12, I had my eyes on “monkey business.” How about you?
Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem with His family to keep the Feast of the Passover. During the week, in the midst of enormous crowds, Jesus’ earthly parents, Joseph and Mary realized He was missing (Luke 2:41-44). After a frantic search, they finally found Him in the temple with a group of teachers, listening and asking questions (Luke 2:46, 47). Unusual behavior then and now!
“So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and his mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought You anxiously. And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about MY FATHER’S BUSINESS?’” (Luke 2:48, 49).
As Jesus pursued His Father’s business He developed character, stature, and acceptance by others (Luke 2:52). How about us, Christians in the 21st Century? How are we managing our Father’s business?
TODAY, WHAT IS OUR FATHER’S BUSINESS?
As a quick reminder, we are adopted children into the spiritual family; God is our Father, Jesus is our brother, and the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We know this because the Bible tells us so.
Today, what is our Father’s business? The same as it was when Jesus was 12. Therefore, we can learn and participate in the Father’s business by imitating our “older brother,” Jesus Christ. Here are some of the many objectives of our Father’s business as taught by His “Only begotten son.”
First, when Jesus was born and when He was given a name, the Father’s business was implied: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Second, in His preaching and teaching Jesus referred to the business of bringing salvation to the lost: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to SEEK AND SAVE THE LOST’” (Luke 19:9, 10).
Third, Jesus made it clear that His Father’s business was to bring about peace, harmony, and love between His followers, as well as all people. (Read John 15:9-17).
Fourth, the Father’s business is to show a lost and sinful world how much God loves them: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Fifth, Jesus demonstrated that the Father’s business included associating with outcast and sinners: “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:1,2).
Sixth, Jesus made it clear that the Father’s business included preaching in various towns: “But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth’” (Mark 1:38).
Seventh, Jesus demonstrated that the Father’s business included attending social events, a wedding (John 2:1-12); a funeral (John 11:17-37); and the home of a sick person (Mark 2:1-12).
Eighth, Jesus made it clear that involved in the Father’s business was giving credit to the Father for his power, trust, and assignment: “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30).
Ninth, time after time in the Gospels we see Jesus demonstrating that the Father’s business included seasons, times, and places of prayer. He specifically taught us to pray to the Father: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9, 10).
Tenth, Jesus taught that included in the Father’s business was the command to forgive those who sin against you: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14, 15).
These 10 observations about the Father’s business, as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus, are only a few compared to all the Gospels and Epistles reveal about Jesus pursuing the Father’s business?
Today, even a casual look around will reveal that some congregations, as well as individual Christians, are no longer faithful to the Father’s business; His model in the Scriptures is ignored.
How are you pursuing our Father’s business? What are you intentionally doing today in working in our Father’s business? What are you presently doing to prepare yourself to be a better business partner with our heavenly Father? The world is lost, the church needs edifying, and the demand for leadership has never been greater. All of these, and more, are part of the Father’s business. Remember, He is counting on YOU!
HOW COMMITTED ARE YOU TO THE FAMILY BUSINESS? What plans are you presently pursuing to increase the expansion of His business? Use the above 10 as a work sheet. I encourage you to expand this study.
Well, thanks be to my heavenly Father, I have made it to another New Year. In fact, today is the second day of 2019. This year marks 55 years since I preached, or tried to preach, my first sermon back in 1964. (Yes, I’m still trying). During these years I have witnessed more challenges and changes, in and out of the church, than I care to remember. Many of these challenges and changes have been viewed from afar or learned about in papers, books, or seminars.
The avalanche started with the Supreme Court’s ruling on legalizing abortion, then prayer and Bible readings were removed from public schools and places. In the past twenty years, the avalanche has turned into a Tsunami. Same-sex marriages, transgender identity, sexual immorality of every description, from bestiality to acceptable pedophile, the escalation of killing babies in the womb, etc.
On the back jacket of Leonard Sweet’s 1999 book SoulTsunami, there is an eye-opening statement: Sweeping in from the cultural sea, a mountainous wave of change threatens to wash the church away. It’s a postmodern flood of mind-boggling techno-culture, problems your grandparents couldn’t have imagined, and religious pluralism that embraces everything except spiritual absolutes. Leonard Sweet calls it ‘SoulTsunami(sohl-Isoo-NAH-mee), and there’s no outrunning it. We Christians can only choose one of three ways to respond to it. We can deny its existence—and drown. We can fight it—and lose. Or we can recognize the unprecedented opportunities it presents—and chart a course across the waters toward reformation” (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich.). NOTE: I would change reformation to restoration.
While we are surprised at these evident signs of the USA descending into a modern Sodom and Gomorra pit, the Bible makes it clear that “all have sinned” and the “whole world lies in darkness.” Years ago I heard a preacher say, “If God doesn’t bring judgment on America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorra.”
The pace of decline in society is more and more being matched by the church. It is common news today to be reminded that overall, across the brotherhood, the church is in a decline in conversions, membership attendance, participation in programs, and positive financial support be every member. In many congregations, the majority of members have voted, by their absence, that Bible classes, Sunday evening and Wednesday night services are no longer needed. The litmus test for faithfulness is attendance at one service on Sunday morning.
In recent weeks I have been caught in a “crossfire” relative to the challenge the church is facing as we move into 2019. A Christian couple who was visiting our services to determine if they would place their membership with us, said in a discussion, “We will be placing our membership here because we like and believe in old school preaching.” Not soon after that, I was visiting with a Christian family who had visited a few times but didn’t seem to be interested in placing membership. The brother said, “Brother Turner, no disrespect to you or the congregation but we are not looking for old school preaching or a traditional congregation.”
More and more we are hearing the words “old school” being used in various segments of society. Contrary to the thinking of some the phrase “old school” wasn’t launched into our popular word usage back in 2003 from the movie “Old School.” According to Merriam-Webster the words first occurred back in 1749. According to Webster, the term “Old School” is an application of an earlier way or style of doing things common to the past…using or supporting traditional practice. It has evolved into an expression of pride when a person states he is doing something because it was the way it was done in the past, which they believe it was better back then. Criminals use it to brag about they are like the “old mob members” in the past.
While most sins have been given new names, titles, and authority; the practice didn’t originate in the 20th or 21st Centuries. Ironically, God’s people have been tempted many times and sadly succumbed to departing from the old school of what God demanded. Here are some examples:
“That this is a rebellious people lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceit. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isaiah 30:9-11).
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Paul makes it clear to Timothy that his mission as an evangelist was to “preach the word.” Not about, around, under, or related to the word—THE WORD.
Regardless of the time periods, we examined there were always those people who desired to depart from the “old school” approach of following the Scriptures; getting away from a “Thus saith the Lord.”
In an out of print book, The Empty Pulpit, by Clyde Reid, I used to use as one of my textbooks in teaching Homiletics, the author discusses seven criticism (Pages 25-32) against preaching back in 1967 (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, N.Y.):
Charge # 1: Preachers tend to use complex, archaic language which the average person does not understand.
Charge # 2: Most sermons today are boring, dull, and uninteresting.
Charge # 3: Most preaching today is irrelevant.
Charge # 4: Preaching today is not courageous preaching.
Charge # 5: Preaching does not communicate.
Charge # 6: Preaching does not lead to changes in people.
Charge # 7: Preaching has been overemphasized.
It is obvious that many of Reid’s observations are truer today than they were back when he wrote them. Every preacher would do himself a favor if he’d analyze these 7 charges relative to his own preaching. Likewise, those who listen to sermons week after week need to study these charges. Together, preacher and hearers, they could take preaching in 2019 to the level God intends.
The preacher who seriously faces the challenge of preaching the word today realizes he is being compared to TV stars such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, etc. No one knows how many cable channels are filling homes and phones with sermons with an emphasis on feel-good, health, wealth, and prosperity messages. The internet is overflowing with offers from “successful” preachers and ministries offering their quick shortcuts to growing a congregation. The key word today is ENTERTAINMENT. We are not without our pitches, gimmicks, and sure-fire approaches to saving the world and growing the church. Somehow along the way, some seem to have lost the difference between communication styles and techniques and the correct contextual interpretation of a Scripture.
Pop psychological and current events are being substituted for the drawing power of Christ and the cross (John 12:32) and the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:14-16). When we think we can do a better job in presenting the Gospel in rambling books, personal testimonies, lengthy blogs, and videos than Peter did in his less than a 400-word sermon on the day of Pentecost, something may be wrong.
Perhaps we’ve had enough finesse and humor in the pulpit and need more fire in our bones (Jeremiah 20:8, 9), and boldness (Acts 4:11-13) to dare and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We need to get to the power point of the Word, not creativity on a screen.
Jesus, Peter, and Paul are our models for returning to the old school way of preaching. And the prophets can teach us something too.
If a preacher was a trial being charged with being an old-school preacher would there be enough evidence to convict him? If you are a preacher, how about YOU? ME?
Most Americans have heard and used this recognizable logo: TGIF—which stands for Thank God It’s Friday. A national restaurant chain is named TGIF “Fridays.” I once read this statement by an unknown person, “No one has ever said TGIM, Thank God It’s Monday.”
Monday has been given a bad rap by society in general. Why? One reason is it puts a stop to a weekend, usually Saturday and Sunday, of leisure, entertainment pursuits, and other non-work activities. In 1956 a popular song by Fats Domino hit the charts, and is still heard today, with this verse:
Blue Monday, how
I hate blue Monday,
Got to work like
A slave all day.
A number of books have been published with an emphasis on Monday:
I have some suggestions for how Christians can reframe Monday and turn it into a really meaningful day by making an application of this Scripture, “This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Monday is the day!
We all know that Monday follows Sunday. Sunday is a day set aside by Christians to do a number of things which feed their souls, minister to others, and worship God. Some have gone so far as to refer to Sunday as “the Sabbath,” which it isn’t because the Sabbath is Saturday, the worship day set aside by the Jewish people.
Two to three hours are set aside on Sunday where Christians meet in a building to “encourage, edify, and equip one another to love and good works” (Cf. Hebrews 10:24, 25; Ephesians 4:11-17). These three hours typically involve several expression and exercises:
“Then comes Monday.” Yes, Monday still follows Sunday. It hasn’t been cancelled.
Here’s how Sunday relates to making Monday not a day where it may be said, “We interrupt your happiness to bring you Monday.” It is on Sunday where we fill our spiritual cups and make our intentional plans to DO and BE what we learned beginning on Monday. It is on Monday that we start the long journey to a resting place on Wednesday night, and on to Sunday where we once again renew and refill our spiritual reservoirs.
It is on Monday that we begin to practice what we heard, believed, and committed to practice on Sunday, the day before. I hate to inject a sad reality. Some Christians have no plans to intentionally DO and BE what they heard on Sunday. They wander from Monday to Saturday night, jump out of bed on Sunday morning to “do their duty” once again.
Think about this amazing truth. If a Christian only attends Sunday morning worship services and hears only one sermon each week, that would be 52 sermons a year. Now imagine he DOES one intentional thing he heard in the sermon during the rest of the week (Monday through Saturday), that would be 52 spiritual practices and applications a year. Now add a second lesson from Bible class and one Sunday evening that would be 104 more, thus a total of 156 applications a year. What would a congregation look like where “being DOERS of the word and not HEARERS only” (James 1:21-15) being practices, starting Monday.
Yes, Monday is coming!
Here are a few suggestions for using the power of Monday:
QUESTION: What are you presently doing that you intentionally planned to do based on the last sermon or Bible lesson you heard? How about a sermon or lesson you heard a week before last, etc.? Sadly, some preachers and teachers can’t remember what they preached or taught two or three weeks ago.
Monday is coming! Why not use it to become A DOER OF THE WORD for the rest of the week? And yes, you can start on SUNDAY NIGHT.
If you are interested in pursuing the ideas contained in this brief article you will benefit from reading two of my book related to this subject: Beyond Sunday and Spiritual Growth Journal, both from amazon.com