On Sunday, along with the bulletin, a summary of our second information session was given out to everyone at church. In case you missed it, you can read it in this email.
What does it mean to be part of the 5pm core team?
Based on feedback I’ve received, I just want to provide a short clarification about what it means to be part of the core team. Basically, if you’re intending to come to the information sessions and are willing to consider joining the 5pm service, then I’d love to talk to you about what it might look like for you to be part of the core team.
I’d also love to hear from you if you’re planning to remain at the 10am Service and would like to help re-launch the service if we go ahead with planting the 5pm Service. We don’t exactly know what re-launching the 10am service will look like yet and would love some people to help us think it through with us.
Just a friendly reminder to mark your calendars with the details of our upcoming sessions. In Session 3, I will be discussing the shape of our services, and how we design our preaching program.
Sunday 23 Sep Session 3: The doctrine of Church and the shape of our services
Sunday 21 Oct Session 4: Make disciples and Discipleship Teams
Sunday 25 Nov Session 5: Mature disciples and REAL Discipleship
Sunday 13 Jan Session 6: Mobilising disciples – Part 1 of 2
Sunday 27 Jan Session 7: Mobilising disciples – Part 2 of 2
The below is what was handed out on Sunday:
Singing at church
Singing in church is a privilege that we share together. As we sing, we are not only singing praises to God (e.g. the Psalms), but also encouraging each other in the Lord Jesus (e.g. Col 3:16-17). Singing therefore has both a vertical and a horizontal dimension. As we praise God for who he is and what he has done, we encourage and remind one other of the great truths of the gospel. It is therefore crucial that the songs we sing truthfully reflect the teachings of Scripture.
At the same time, we must also remember that Jesus is the true ‘worshipper’. We don’t lead people to worship, it is Jesus who does that and made it possible for us to worship God through his sacrifice (Heb 10:19).
It’s also important to remember that ‘worship’ is what we do with our whole lives (Rom 12:1). This means that we worship God everywhere, not just when we meet as a church. Worship is not limited to singing but is a whole-life response to God. As we read God’s word and respond in thankful praise, we worship. As we take out the rubbish with a desire to serve our family, we worship. As we consider others when we drive, we worship. As we seek to share Jesus at lunch, we worship. As we respond to our spring garden with wonder and thanks, we worship.
As such, singing is part of our ‘worship’ as it can express our homage to the Lordship of Christ, but is not limited to that. What matters to God is ultimately our hearts (Isa 29:13), not lip service. That’s why we don’t call our music team a ‘worship band’, nor do we call people to ‘worship’ as a reference to singing, since using such language would be reductionistic and give people the wrong impression of what ‘worship’ is. Instead, we call people to remember what God has done, remember what they have just heard and learnt, and respond with their hearts, voices and lives.
Choosing songs for church
After spending some time studying the Bible together, we then discussed the three main guiding principles we apply in choosing songs for church.
- Is the song faithful to Scripture?
We sing to teach one another, and so songs must reflect the whole counsel of God. Our songs must be biblical and doctrinally sound. To this end, some helpful questions to ask about each song include the following:
- What does it teach us about God, about us, and about our world?
- Is its message unambiguous? Could anything be unhelpfully misinterpreted?1
For instance, let’s take the song from Hillsong ‘Fire Fall Down’
Fire fall down
Fire fall down
On us we pray
As we seek
The language of ‘fire’ could refer to the Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost, however this was a unique experience the early disciples experienced which we have not been asked to seek ourselves. As such, singing this song would be calling the congregation to sing words which would be theologically unhelpful. Accordingly, ‘Fire Fall Down’ isn’t a song we would sing at church on the basis of Scriptural inaccuracy and lyrical ambiguity. We want to choose songs that are biblical, clear, and which the congregation can sing wholeheartedly.
Additionally, some people may go further and argue that this song should not be chosen because it’s produced by Hillsong. At present, the PLT believe songs should be chosen on their own merit regardless of the producer and will leave such judgments to the discretion of the music leader whenever they have the privilege and responsibility to choose the songs for that week. If the PLT’s position concerns you in any way, please do not hesitate to raise it with one of us.
- Is the song Christ-centered?
Christians are Christ-centred, by definition. Christ is the cornerstone, the fulfilment of the ages and the centre of the Scriptures. Accordingly, our songs must champion Jesus.
This means we need to take care in choosing songs which are framed with “I.” Songs which focus on our emotional response which are not framed with biblical truth such as ‘I want to be close to you’ can end up reflecting popular culture more than our relationship with God. A song that reflects on what God has done, and moves on to our own heartfelt response is thoughtful, engages our minds as well as our hearts, and therefore is richer.
This doesn’t mean that songs that are framed with “I” are not to be sung, but we need to be particularly careful in choosing them.
Kevin De Young puts it in this way,
“On the flip side, don’t be too hard on “I” songs. About 100 of the 150 Psalms have the word “I.” “I” is not the problem. The problem is with songs that… never move from how I am feeling about God to who God is and what he’s done to make me feel this way.”2
Karl Dahlfred also captures the danger of more subjective songs when he says,
What is Christ-centred worship? It centres on what Christ has done for us, not what we do for him. It is about exalting the excellencies of Christ’s work on the cross, not exalting the excellencies of our commitment to him. It is about the objective work of Christ on the cross that makes me right with God, not my subjective, fluctuating feelings about God that make me feel alternatively close to God or far from him. Most of all, it is more about Christ and less about me.
- Is the song sing-able?
God has created us as whole people, minds, bodies and emotions. Jesus calls us to love the God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk 12:30). Songs are powerful and emotive, and can be stewarded well in leading the whole church in considering all that God is and all he has done and responding with passion, commitment, love, service and praise.
A song might be theologically sound and its lyrics unambiguous, however that still doesn’t mean we should use the song if it’s difficult for the average person to sing. As much as possible, we want everyone to be able to fully participate, not just a select few.
Guiding principles for choosing songs
The third part of the information session was very brief, but it touched our song selections for each Sunday. What we try to do is to have a balance of songs between hymns (at least one hymn) and contemporary songs, with varying tempo and mood. This not only helps everyone to respond with different music, but also captures the breadth of musical preferences in the congregation.
In principle, we want the songs we sing on Sundays to introduce or respond to the big idea of the Bible reading/sermon for that Sunday. That way, we are not ‘preaching’ two different messages, but the one message on that Sunday. So, it is important to prayerfully read through the passage for that Sunday and consider the most helpful songs to lead the congregation in singing.
The songs of choice can be further nuanced as follows:
|Song 1||Celebrate as God’s people gather in the name of Jesus||God-focused
|Song 2||Prepare God’s people to sit under God’s word
|God or Christ-focused||Preparatory|
|Song 3||God’s people respond to God’s word||Christ-focused with particular consideration of the theme of the sermon||Responsive
|Song 4||God’s people dismissed into God’s world||God or Christ-focused or another response/reflective song||Declaratory
Our new Music Director
It’s wonderful to be part of a church with so many people who are gifted in music and willing to serve joyfully and sacrificially. Over the past couple of years, Simon Niam has been overseeing this ministry, and more recently, with Bec Teo’s support. When I asked them who they would like to see as the next Music Director for CSAC, they both suggested EJ Khoo. At the information session, they both had the opportunity to share with us the reasons why, which not only included EJ’s musical gifts, but also his godliness as a committed disciple of Christ.
So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with our music ministry. Your sacrificial service and hard work are helping us all sing to God with gratitude in our hearts (Col 3:16).
Your brother in Christ,