The In-Between Songs

September 18, 2015

There are stages of every Christian life: Justification (salvation), Sanctification (working out our salvation) and Glorification (heaven).

Working with worship songs and songwriters, I hear a lot of songs about salvation and heaven, but not as many about sanctification. I believe there is certainly a need for songs that address all three. We need to praise God for salvation, even singing to the lost how God has saved us. We also need to look ahead at times to heaven when we will finally worship Jesus face to face.

However, there's a whole lot of life that happens in between salvation and heaven, and it's critical that we write and sing songs that deal with life as a Christian. I think our songwriting may point to a larger issue within the church, that we've gotten really good at teaching what it means to be saved, but we struggle to teach life transformation.

We need more songs on what it means to love one another. We need more songs about being faithful to our families. We need more songs about generosity. We more songs about standing up for the weak and hurting.

These things may not be as fun to sing or preach about, but our churches are desperate to know what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Yes!

Okay, that would a pretty boring blog post, so allow me to digress. I've been in church pretty much my whole life. Admittedly, my church experience, as with most of us, is limited to a pretty narrow stream. But why is it that most of the time when I worship at church, the band looks like they are either mad or bored?

Now I don't believe for a minute that most of the people in the band are mad or bored. My hypothesis is that we have issues with having fun while playing church music. That somehow we are more "spiritual" by appearing melancholy. I also think 50% to 75% of the people on stage are scared out of their minds to be in front of people, but that's a different discussion.

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God has always been a fan of fire. All throughout the scriptures it has consistently been one of the main ways He chooses to reveal Himself. As Psalm 104:4 says it, ” He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” It’s a tool used by the King to make His presence known; to demonstrate His power. Whether it’s with Moses and the burning bush, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, or Elijah on Mt. Carmel….there is just something about fire.

We also see fire deeply connected to the idea of refining and atonement. In the old testament it plays a huge role in the process of sacrifice and sanctification. Be it a praise offering or a guilt offering, fire is always present. This idea is woven all the way through the New Testament as well. Jesus, the Christ, our eternal sacrifice, He calls us to the fire. John speaks of it when he says “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16 NIV)

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This question was asked at a conference where I was a guest on a panel on worship music. Honestly, at the moment I had a bit of a loss for words. The flow of new worship songs is essentially endless. I chuckle when I hear people say, “There’s just not any great new worship songs!” Depending on your definition of great that may be true, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of contenders.

So when the guy asked, “Should I be writing songs for my church?”, my first impulse was to shout, “No! Please don’t! We have plenty already!” But after thinking about it for a few moments, I said, “Maybe.”

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We all struggle at times as worship leaders, musicians and techs on the right balance between presentation and performance, humbleness and showiness, reverent yet engaging. There are a hundred words to describe the point where a worship service crosses our proverbial red line. In many ways our creativity is at war with our conscience. To aggravate things, musicians and techs are often called out as being too slick or showy - much more than teachers and preachers are - even though we implement many of the same techniques to communicate with our audiences.

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