How Music Can Help Words Gain Specificity

Nicholas Wolterstorff:

“The Christian liturgy is a sequence of actions: confession, proclamation of forgiveness, praise, and so forth. And works of art—passages of music, for example—can be more or less fitting to these distinct actions. What fits the action of confession well may be quite unfitting to the action of praise. Indeed, we can go farther. Many of the actions constituting the liturgy can be understood in a variety of different ways. And sometimes the music, by virtue of fitting closely one such understanding and only distantly certain others, lends specificity to the action and even to the words by which the action is accomplished.”

Art in Action, 116.


Chapel Message: Exclusivism and Genesis 18:22-33

Here’s a message that I preached at Bethlehem College and Seminary‘s chapel. I was assigned the topic of “Exclusivism” and asked to address the topic expositionally. Watch for quotes from Tim Keller and Michael Wittmer!

I chose as my text Abraham’s bartering with God for the city of Sodom in Genesis 18:22-33 (not 23, as I misspoke). Not an immediately obvious choice, but one that I found illustrative. See if you agree!

Tweets included:
Rigney tweet
Mcatee tweet

Sermon: “Plucking the ‘I’ Out of Idolatry”

Plucking the ‘I’ out of Idolatry
A sermon  on Psalm 115:1–9
Bethlehem Baptist Church, June 28, 2014


On behalf of my wife, Lisa, and our three sons, I’d like to thank-you, Bethlehem. When our family arrived in Minneapolis on an arctic January morning, the welcome may not have been warm meteorologically, but it was loving. We thank God for you. You’ve opened your homes to our family, and you’ve opened your hearts to our ministry. When I asked Lisa to explain how she felt, she said “Next time we move, let’s not.”

When children ask parents to explain a difficult concept, sometimes it’s easiest to explain that concept by describing what it is NOT.  When they ask, “Daddy, what does miniscule mean?” you can answer, “Well, son, that means it is not big.”

When they ask, “Daddy, what does complicated mean?” you can answer, “Well, son, that means it is not simple.” And when my sons ask, “Daddy, what does dating mean?” I can answer, “Well, son, that’s means it is not for you.”

Similarly, when we search our Bibles, we are asking, “Daddy, Father, God, What does worship mean?” And, as a good Father who knows how to give good gifts to his children, our God gives us many good answers. In today’s passage, he gives this good answer, “Worship means it’s not idolatry.” Continue reading “Sermon: “Plucking the ‘I’ Out of Idolatry””

My new Post at DesiringGod: The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Means

Here’s my newest article for the fine folks at DG. It’s an elaboration on a tweet I sent in early May. First, here’s the tweet:

5 weeks, years, & decades

Now, here’s the article.


As a brand new worship leader, I loved choosing songs. I loved finding a new song that pounded my heart and changed my world. I loved arranging that new song so that the big key change would bring the shekinah glory. And when I placed five of these beloved songs in the perfect order, I was sure the heavens would rend, Christ would return, and the eschaton would arrive.

So, when the heavens didn’t rend on Sunday morning, I didn’t understand. Did I need volunteers who were more committed, or more talented, or more committed to talent? Did I need a pastor who was even more supportive? Was it the equipment? Or the sanctuary? And why couldn’t my congregation be more like those conference attenders I saw on that worship video?

Running Fast for the Short Run

Over time, it became obvious that my view of God’s work was too narrow. I overestimated the immediate impact of my five beloved songs. I believed instantaneous revival was the ordinary response of people to a well-done service, and I was wrong. Because God can work immediate miracles, I was overlooking the Spirit’s more ordinary (but no less miraculous) gradual ongoing work.

And so I changed my perspective. I began to look for and celebrate God’s extra-ordinary blessing of my church’s ordinary gospel work.

Worship leaders need this perspective to persevere in ministry and to avoid unnecessary frustration. And we can persevere and avoid that frustration by forming weightier aspirations for the people in our church. But to begin, we must look beyond our five beloved songs and imagine the faith-growing effect of worship over time.

Read the rest.

And thanks for noticing, Challies and Warren&World!

My new post at DesiringGod: Make the Switch in Life and Worship

The good folks at DesiringGod published something I wrote last week. I hope it helps you!

During a ferocious winter storm, I awoke in the middle of the night to find my house without electricity. A quick glance out the window revealed that our entire block was entirely dark.

I called our power company. “Yep,” they said, “the power is down in your neighborhood. Our repair teams should have it restored in about six hours.”

Turning to my wife I said, “The power is down.” She hid her love for obvious statements behind an eye roll. “They’re hoping to have it restored in about six hours.”

She rolled back to sleep. I got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and closed the door. Then, I did something which I’ve thought about a hundred times.


I flipped the light switch.

Read the rest here.

New Post at DG – Serving Appetizers: Worship Services That Keep Their Promises

Here’s some of my most recent thinking about worship services, helpfully captured in my post for DesiringGod.  First, the teaser:

Many young people leave the faith because of disappointment with their local church; they have unmet expectations. And the saddest part is this: often the church is the one creating the very expectations that it cannot meet. We seem to be teaching our people to expect too much — at least in this current age.

Read the (600 word) rest: Serving Appetizers: Worship Services That Keep Their Promises

[EDITED: This blog is also posted at Doxology & Theology: here.]

New Post at TGC Worship: Why Do We Have To Go To Church Again?

I’m writing more regularly now.  Here’s my next post, from The Gospel Coalition: Worship blog. It’s entitled “Why Do We Have To Go To Church Again?”

Children ask this question on a semi-regular basis; I know my three boys have given me many opportunities to answer it. As a worship pastor, I am embarrassed to admit that I have found myself facing another service and asking the same question: why again? Did we fail last week, or do it wrong? Was last week’s service not enough?

I have not always had good answers at hand, beyond a Scriptural command not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but over time have drawn on encouragement from some portion of Scripture or a godly writer.  Having faced the challenge to frame those encouragements in ways that kids can understand and my own heart will accept, allow me to pass on my best three answers: 

Read the rest here: “WHY DO WE HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH AGAIN?

Thanks to Matt Boswell for the kind invitation. And thanks to H.B. Charles and StoryWarren for the HT. Photocredit: Stockxpert