Don and MaryAnn Klassen knew what kind of college experience they did not want to give their daughters, but living in California they did not know about Boyce College until their oldest daughter’s junior year of high school. Hearing about Boyce College from “The Briefing,” President R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview, Don began researching the school and signed up to attend Preview Day with his daughter.
While on campus, Don observed families interacting on campus: dads playing on the grass with their kids, moms with their babies, families interacting together because they live there.
“I had never seen anything like that at an undergrad, four-year school,” Don said. “I went to a secular school and saw everything that goes along with that when you live on campus, so I knew that I didn’t want my daughters going to that, and when I saw the family atmosphere on Boyce and Southern’s campus, that was a big thing for me.”
The family atmosphere promotes values the Klassens desire for their daughters like discipleship and the importance of church membership. They said Boyce College stands out as a Christian college because it re-enforces the beliefs and values they know to be of most importance.
Boyce College was reinstated to fill the need in higher education of a confessional, Christian college, Don recalled Dr. Mohler stating at Preview Day. During the open Q and A forum, Mohler illustrated stories of friends who sent their child to college, either secular or Christian, and their child returned home either confused about their faith or believing differently than they had been raised.
“We’ve witnessed that with friends of ours whose whole thought process changed in college, and once it’s your kids turn, you see the importance of being in the right place so that doesn’t happen.”
The Klassens recognize Boyce College is the right place for their daughter due to its intentionality and clear beliefs.
Living in California, there is a wide gap between California and Louisville, Kentucky, so when the Klassens dropped their daughter off her first semester, they knew they “were entrusting [her] to a place [they] felt good about.”
Now two years into her program at Boyce College, the Klassens are confident their daughter is growing spiritually and being equipped to enter the workforce with a business as missions mindset.
“Her focus is using her degree for the Lord and serving the Lord in whatever business area she chooses,” MaryAnn said. “That’s encouraging to hear her want to serve the Lord in her degree and know that even in a secular area, she can work with lost people and serve the Lord while she’s doing it.”
The Klassens recognize Boyce College is the right place for their daughter due to its intentionality and clear beliefs. They are confident their daughter sits under professors who teach with a “very high view of Scripture and handle God’s Word with reverence.”
“We became donors probably about the same time that our daughter started at Boyce,” Don said. “We had never really given any thought to supporting a seminary, but as we learned more about what’s going on at Southern [and Boyce], [have gotten] to know Dr. Mohler a little better, [and seen] what’s going on at Boyce, Southern, [we know] it’s just a wise investment for the kingdom.”
The Klassens see firsthand the training and discipleship their daughter receives at Boyce College and said they feel really confident referring people there, from those who desire to go into ministry or those who want to study engineering or sciences, by starting with the worldview certificate before going off to a public university.
“Even just for the price of it, you feel like you’re getting a good value for your money for your kids education,” MaryAnn said. “We feel like it’s really awesome for what you get; you get a top-notch education and spiritual guidance.”
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A few days ago, I had the immense privilege of speaking to a group of expatriate believers whose home churches were experiencing state-initiated persecution. The experience of their friends and fellow believers in their homeland is the latest attack on the Church in a long history that stretches back to the days of Christ.
In fact, persecution and martyrdom are perennial features of the Church’s existence in this world. Numerous New Testament passages speak along these lines (see, for instance, John 15:18–21; Acts 14:19–22; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12–19), and the historical experience of the Church down through the centuries has been one of various forms of persecution and its occasional concomitant, martyrdom.
And this past century has seen some of the worst instances of persecution. Nearly thirty years ago it was estimated that there were then 500,000 martyrs every year around the world, and global persecution of Christians has worsened since then (David B. Barrett, “Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 1991,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 15 [January, 1991]: 24–25).
The “Great Persecution”
Consider what has been rightly called the “Great Persecution” of English Dissenters in the last half of the seventeenth century and the experience of the Particular Baptists, my spiritual forebears. Between 1661 and 1688, hundreds of Particular Baptists along with equal numbers of General Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Quakers were incarcerated.
Pastors were especially targeted and many of them emerged from prison with their health deeply impaired. On occasion, full-fledged attacks were carried out on the rank and file of congregations.
On June 29, 1662, for example, a squad of soldiers came to the Baptist congregation in Petty France, “full of Rage and Violence, with their Swords drawn; they wounded some, and struck others, broke down the gallery, and made much spoil” (Behold a Cry! Or, a True Relation of the Inhumane and Violent Outrages of divers Souldiers, Constables, and others, practised upon many of the Lord’s People, commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists, at their several Meetings in and about London[London, 1662], 7).
The following month, when another London Baptist meeting was subjected to a similar attack, one of the attackers whose name was Brown punched a number of pregnant women in the congregation, “striking . . . them with his fists such blows that made them reel” ( Behold a Cry!, 8).
Although there were periods of respite—for example, in 1672, when the king, Charles II, issued a Declaration of Indulgence and then again in 1687 when his brother James II made a similar declaration—there was no lasting peace from persecution till 1688, when religious toleration was granted by William III, who had seized the throne in the coup d’étatwe call the Glorious Revolution.
The worst and darkest bout of persecution was just before the dawn of toleration, in the early 1680s, when a number of Dissenters supported an attempt by the Whig party in Parliament to prevent Charles II’s brother, the future James II, from ever becoming king. Angered by this act against his brother, Charles dissolved Parliament in 1681 and turned his wrath on the Dissenters.
In Bristol, for example, there were two Particular Baptist Churches, Broadmead and Pithay. The Broadmead congregation was often forced to meet in nearby fields or woods to escape detection by the authorities. And when Samuel Buttall (fl.1675–1707), one of the signatories of the Second London Confession of Faith(1689), preached to this congregation in a field on March 12, 1682, the church minutes record that there were close to one thousand people present.
And I love this comment. On one of the occasions that the Broadmead Baptists met in December of the following year, the church minutes pluckily note that when they met outside there was “a hard frost, and snow on the ground, …and though we stood in the snow the sun shone upon us, and we were in peace.” Oh for similar courage for all of those undergoing persecution in our day.
Editors’ note: This article was originally publishedat TGC Canada.
 J.M. Cramp, Baptist History: From the Foundation of the Christian Church to the Present Time (London: Elliot Stock, 1875), 308–309.
 Cited Cramp, Baptist History, 310.
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My family had recently moved to a new city and we were visiting a new church. The service started well, but moments after the preacher entered the pulpit, my heart stopped. This was going to be the worst sermon I had ever heard.
Quickly, the preacher checked off my pet peeves for poor preaching. Topical message? Check. Mechanically reading his manuscript the entire time? Check. PowerPoint slides? Check, check, and check. I soon dismissed the sermon and decided we would not attend this church ever again. I decided that his lack of theological sophistication, sermon craft, and public presentation disqualified him from being worthy of my attention.
But more troubling than his lack of rhetorical ability was my lack of spiritual maturity. I have had the privilege of sitting under some of the very finest Bible teachers, and yet, by dismissing this preacher, I missed a great opportunity for growth. Poor preachers are gifts from the Lord. That’s what I learned, ironically, from one of the greatest preachers who ever lived.The idol of eloquence
In his famous work Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin argues that pastors are necessary kingdom workers. Calvin learned this from the apostle Paul, who taught that God is the one who gives the church shepherds and teachers (Eph 4:11). Calvin explains:
“[The Lord] uses the ministry of men to declare openly his will to us by mouth, as a sort of delegated work, not by transferring to them his right and honor, but only that through their mouths he may do his own work — just as a workman uses a tool to do his work” (4.3.1).
Because of this delegated work, unimpressive preachers provide believers with a unique opportunity. Calvin writes:
“When a puny man risen from the dust speaks in God’s name, at this point we best evidence our piety and obedience toward God if we show ourselves teachable toward his minister, although he excels us in nothing” (4.3.1).
That’s right — Calvin argues that believers can demonstrate their love for Christ by paying attention to “puny” preachers.
Mature believers can see beauties that unbelievers and baby Christians miss. Before he was a believer, Augustine dismissed the Scriptures for their lack of eloquence. After his conversion, though, he testified, “Where I understand them, it seems to me that nothing could be wiser, nothing more eloquent than the sacred writers” (On Christian Doctrine, 4.6.9). The gospel of Christ must always rule over the desire for beautiful expression or else posturing and pretense is sure to follow (On Christian Doctrine, 4.28.61).
When Calvin exhorts us to pay attention to “puny preachers,” he is calling us to recognize the idol of eloquence. The Corinthian church followed this idol when they dismissed Paul because of the ineloquence of his speech (1 Cor 2:1; 2 Cor 10:10). We can show our ultimate allegiance is to the Lord Jesus and not to any bumbling messenger of his.Listening well to poor sermons
Calvin provides two specific ways to help us listen to a poor sermon. First, he calls us to listen carefully to demonstrate our affection for Christ himself. By listening carefully to a poorly crafted presentation, we recognize and demonstrate that the ultimate message being spoken is not the poorly formed sermon from the preacher but the very word of God that the Spirit is speaking to his church each Sunday morning.
We don’t receive life from the preaching of the preacher, but the written and preached word that points us to the living Word, Jesus Christ. Just as a loving husband notices his wife even when she is dressed grubbily, Christians can show their love for the living Word of God when he is proclaimed by inelegant preachers.
Second, Calvin calls us to listen carefully to demonstrate our obedience to Christ. A sermon is not primarily an exercise in rhetorical skill. Instead, it is a proclamation of Christ’s finished work with implications for holy living. Believers can demonstrate that they understand this fundamental distinction by listening to a poorly crafted or poorly executed sermon with the goal of holy living. We are not serving men — including our own pastor. It is the Lord Christ we serve (Col 3:22–24). By hearing and obeying his call, we demonstrate our love for him and our affinity with him.Mature believers are easily edified
The more spiritually mature we become, the more we are easily edified. May what Justin Taylor said be true of us, “It is so easy to edify him. It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t need to be the best sermon ever preached, or the most excellent song ever composed, or the most powerful book ever written, or the most theologically eloquent statement ever uttered. Just the simplest truth was enough to refresh his heart in Christ.”
And so may the Lord protect us from this worldly temptation. The Lord commanded his preachers to speak “as one who speaks oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11). May we recognize that when we hear a sermon, the preacher carries the heavy load of speaking for Christ. This preacher may not have theological sophistication or public eloquence, but if he has the word of God and the Spirit of God, then may God give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to our church through him.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published at Desiring God.
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- Introduction and background
- Joys and challenges of church planting in Atlanta
- Preaching style, preparation, and philosophy
- John’s wife, Shawndra, and the blessings of having a supportive wife while preaching and pastoring
- The role of prayer in the life of a pastor
- Lighting Round!
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If we were to compile a catalog of practices that are essential to the Christian faith, what would be included? Among other essentials, baptism would certainly need to be high on the list. Baptism is one of the means by which Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). It’s also central to the preaching of the gospel at the inception of the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). In short, the idea that Christians should be baptized—regardless of when or how—is central to the Christian faith. This should come as no surprise.
What may come as a surprise, however, is that Jesus himself was baptized. Baptism wasn’t just something Jesus commanded his followers to do, but an experience he also underwent. As familiar as we may be with the Gospel accounts, the fact that Jesus submitted himself to baptism may still strike us as odd.
The plot thickens even more when we consider that the baptism Jesus submitted himself to was John’s baptism, which is described as (1) accompanying “repentance” (Matt. 3:2); (2) in conjunction with people “confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6); and (3) as the means by which to “flee from the coming wrath” (Matt. 3:7).
It doesn’t take much pondering to realize that this doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what the New Testament says about Jesus—that he was God’s virgin-born (Matt. 1:19–25), sinless (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15), perfectly obedient Son (Heb. 5:8–9; John 17:4), fully pleasing to the Father (Matt. 3:17), who pre-existed as divine but laid aside his glory to take on flesh (Phil. 2:5–8). Nonetheless, Jesus says it is fitting and appropriate that he be baptized (Matt. 3:15).
All this leads to an important question: Why did Jesus need to be baptized?
Did Jesus need to be baptized?
Both Mark and Luke record this story but don’t raise the question (Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22). John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the events of Jesus’s baptism but emphasizes the same effect as the other Gospels—that the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, anointing him as the Son of God (John 1:32–34). Only Matthew raises the issue by including a piece of the story that the other Gospel writers don’t—John himself was hesitant to baptize Jesus. John, aware that Jesus wasn’t just another person coming to repent and confess his sins, protests: “I need to be baptized by you, but you are coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14).
Jesus’s answer to John’s reluctance is instructive, both in answering our question and also in revealing an important aspect of Matthew’s theology. Jesus said, “Let it be so, for it is fitting in this way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). This is a weighty answer, containing two words—“fulfill” and “righteousness”—that are central ideas in Matthew’s Gospel. Something important is going on here.
Nonetheless, Jesus’s response to John remains a bit esoteric for most readers today. So allow me to offer the following paraphrase: Jesus is fulfilling his role as the obedient Son of God by practicing the required righteousness of submitting to God’s will to repent (i.e., to live in the world wholeheartedly devoted to God).
Does a sinless man need to repent?
To understand this, there are a couple of elements we need to unpack.
First, “righteousness” in Matthew refers to whole-person behavior that accords with God’s will, nature, and coming kingdom. Paul uses this word in some other ways, but Matthew’s usage is more typical of the Old Testament sense of heart-deep, faithful obedience to God. In submitting to John’s baptism Jesus is showing himself to be the good and obedient Son who does God’s will perfectly.
Second, we must understand what “repentance” means. Today this word often evokes the image of someone on the street corner with a sandwich board that reads, “The end is near!” Biblical repentance is broader and tuned differently. The call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17) is an urgent invitation to reorient our values, habits, loves, thinking, and behavior according to a different understanding, one rooted in the revelation of God’s nature and coming reign. In short, repentance means, “Become a disciple!” Jesus repents not in the sense of turning from sin (our repentance necessarily includes this where his does not), but in the sense of dedicating himself to follow God’s will fully on earth.
Thus, the qualms we (and John) may have about why Jesus would undergo John’s baptism dissipate. Even as a virgin-born, divine-incarnate, unique person in the world, the Son desires to be wholeheartedly obedient to the Father (i.e., righteous). Thus, he must submit to the God-ordained message of life-dedication preached by John. To call this a “fulfillment” of all righteousness taps into what Matthew has been arguing repeatedly from the beginning of his book (Matt. 1:18–2:23), and what he will continue to do in the following stories (Matt. 4:14–16; 5:17)—Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s work in the world. He is the final goal and consummation of all God’s saving activity. God has sent John as the final herald of the King’s return, and now Jesus comes in line with this and fulfills it by submitting to John’s baptism.
The Last Adam
So why did Jesus need to be baptized? Because central to Jesus’s purpose in being the Savior of the world is his own faithful obedience to the Father. He was obedient even to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:8; Rom. 5:18), thereby securing our salvation.
As Brandon Crowe helpfully summarizes, “Jesus is portrayed in the Gospel as the last Adam whose obedience is necessary for God’s people to experience the blessings of salvation.” Jesus’s baptism signals the inauguration of his mission as the obedient Son and of his model of what it means to be faithful to God.
The church’s ongoing practice of baptism—like another essential practice, the Lord’s Supper—is simultaneously a repetition of and a post-Pentecost transformation of Jesus’s own act. Jesus was baptized as a sign of his dedication (wholehearted obedience), and so too we follow his example. At the same time, his own baptism is transformed in our experience because he is more than just a model. We don’t simply get baptized because he did. We’re baptized into him, and he baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.
Though like John the Baptist we may at first be perplexed as to why Jesus was baptized, we can see now that Jesus’s baptism is a crucial part of his saving work in the world, always to be remembered.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition.
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- Jen’s introduction to theology and call to ministry
- Complementarianism and women in ministry
- Jen’s writing, and her desire to teach people how to read the Bible
- Personal teaching/writing style and philosophy
- Role and responsibilities as Classes & Curriculum Director at the Village Church Institute
- Teaching through books of the Bible
- Your best advice for young women preparing for ministry?
- Lighting Round!
The post Episode 3: Writing, Teaching, and Women in Ministry with Jen Wilkin appeared first on Southern Equip.
The other day, as I was driving to church, I passed several mosques, a couple of Hindu temples, a Bahai temple, an Ethiopian Orthodox church and food markets from around the world. As globalization continues to thrive in America, more immigrants and refugees are finding a new home in the U.S., and we are discovering that religious liberty is creating a whole new world of religious affiliation, temples, mosques and churches from around the world. Our children are growing up in schools where multiple languages are spoken, many nationalities are represented, and religious pluralism is growing.
If we believe that our churches should represent the community in which we live, how can we best reach out to the religiously pluralistic society we now live in? How can we teach our children to reach their classmates with the gospel when their friends may have a drastically different picture of Christianity than the truth that is held in Scripture? I would like to suggest seven things families and churches can do to reach their neighbors and co-workers from other faith traditions.
- We must rid ourselves of fear.
First John 4:18 reminds us that “. . . perfect love drives out fear . . .” and then in verse 19 “We love because he first loved us.” The love of God in our lives should drive us to recognize that those of other world religions, who surround us, are lost and there is no hope in their world religion. That might appear harsh in today’s politically correct environment, but according to the Word of God.
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). We need not fear those who are perishing but fear for them of the judgment that is to come. God has placed them near us so we can share the good news of Jesus with them. Fear has no place in the life of the believer nor in the lives our families.
- We need to pray.
Jesus reminds us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matt. 9:37). Pray for opportunities to engage your neighbor or co-worker. Look for causal opportunities where you can express your allegiance to Jesus and share your beliefs about God. Pray that your new friends’ heart might be opened and for opportunities to love them well.
Teach your family to pray for the nations represented in your community and take time to lean about them. Prayercast.comand Joshuaproject.nethave excellent resources to help your family learn about your neighbors, co-workers, and students from around the world.
- We want to learn.
Challenge your church and pastors to teach on world religions. At our church we have “missions academy” where we take on the world religions surrounding us and help our members understand what they believe and how the gospel might intersect in their lives. Just learning some basics about your friends’ beliefs will help as you seek to interact with them daily.
While you do not need to know everything about every world religion it helps to know a little. For example, it helps to know that practitioners of all world religions believe that their way to “god” or “afterlife” or whatever they believe happens to their best adherents of faith, is the best and only way to achieve their best form of their world to come.
I do not believe there is a genuine world religion that tells us no matter what you do, we all end up in the same place. Hindu adherents reach Nirvana by practicing their faith, being a good person, going to temple, and believing in all the gods. Buddhists reach the same through meditation and practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. No one practices their religion because they think there is a better way. They believe their way is the best way. Learning some simple things about their faith will go a long way in establishing relationships.
- We want to make friends.
I often talk about how important it is to practice “presence” in the life of your lost friends. How you handle life, family, friends, and religion will speak wonders of your relationship to God. Talk about your faith as much as you talk about your favorite ball team or activity you enjoy.
For most other world religions, faith is a part of everyday life. To not talk about “faith” is to ignore a vital part of life. Why are you a follower of Jesus and how does he impact your daily life? Allow them to do the same, it is important to understand that their religion holds a power over them. They follow their religion because it brings them life and fills a need in their lives. What we want them to understand is that God created us to know Him and the only way we can know Him is through Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Him changes everything. As we live lives that glorify God, we are salt, and light in our community (Matt. 5).
- Try to understand your cultural differences.
Is your friend from a collectivistic culture or an individualistic culture? Most of us come from very individualistic cultures where we make our own decisions, look out for ourselves, and “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” A collectivistic culture thinks primarily about those who are around them, is concerned not only with their immediate family but extended family as well.
Many internationals send money “home” every paycheck to support extended family members or parents. Collectivistic cultures promote selflessness and put the needs of the community ahead of their own. People are considered “good” if they are generous, helpful, dependable and genuinely care about the needs of others. Individualistic cultures tend towards assertiveness and independence. As we live out our faith, we should care about the “other” and their needs. We love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Another example is what your friends think of the elderly. Many other cultures value age and place a high priority on caring for the elderly. As you share the gospel with your friend, bring along someone with gray hair to help you. Their words will have a lasting impact in the life of your friends. Our culture tends towards valuing youth and ignores the value of experience and a life well lived. Your friend, probably, does not feel the same. Age earns a listening ear.
- Get rid of your ethnocentrism.
Ethnocentrism is the belief that your culture, your way of doing things, is the best way of doing things. Everyone is ethnocentristic. However, that doesn’t give you the right to impose your way of doing things on your international friend.
I often hear people say immigrants and refugees want to be in the U.S. because we do things the right way. Truth is, most immigrants and refugees want to be in the U.S. because it is safe and secure. If their countries were safe or if they were secure back home, they would still be there. They love their culture, their language and their food. Learn to love the same. As you learn to love their culture, their food, and even their language, you’ll be able to go deep in your relationship to them. No longer the “ugly American,” but now the loving neighbor Jesus created us to be.
- Make sure you preach Jesus.
It will be easy to talk about God, religion, differences in religious understanding and church. However, the crux of the issue is not religion, but Jesus. Remember Paul who tells us “The way of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but it is the power of God to those being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Your friends won’t appreciate the fact that you say Jesus is the only way to know God — however, they need to hear you say it. The world says there are many ways to God, but the Bible says there is only one way — through Jesus. Help them understand tell them because you love them and want them to know and love Jesus as you do.
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- The current state of the IMB
- Dealing with spiritual warfare in the midst of challenging new ministry opportunities
- How theological training has shaped his past and present ministry
- Personal philosophy of preaching
- Serving local churches as president of the IMB
- Any future projects being planned?
- The Chitwood family
- Lighting round!
The post Episode 2: Missions, Preaching, and Spiritual Warfare with Paul Chitwood appeared first on Southern Equip.
Why I Will Still Sing About Christ Being Forsaken: A Response to ‘Neither Forsaken nor Estranged from God.’
Why I Will Still Sing About Christ Being Forsaken: A Response to ‘Neither Forsaken nor Estranged from God.’
The church possesses two books to aid in worship: the Word of God and the hymnal. The Scriptures stand as the perfect and unwavering revelation of God throughout the ages. It is our rule, and the only infallible word on all matters of our faith and practice. The hymnal exists in submission to the authority of Scripture and assists the people of God in singing truth. Its songs are an ever-flowing stream, sung by people responding to God in worship.
Choosing hymns for the local church is a sacred task. Even when the hymnal used is electronic and lacks binding and pages, the practice of Christian singing remains vital. As Colossians 3:16 says,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
In this text, Paul teaches the Colossians the importance of singing in the local church. The hymns we sing are not to be chosen clumsily, but with intentionality and with care. Hymns have the ability to teach us, to admonish us, and to provoke our hearts to worship our Savior with thankfulness.
Choose hymns that teach
The hymns of the church ought to be built on, shaped by, and saturated with the Word of God. While the New Testament is silent on many of the specifics of corporate worship, Scripture is clear that the Word of Christ must be central. When the hymns we sing are aligned with the Word of God, our souls are nourished by its truth. Singing is a unique way to “let the word of Christ dwell richly” in us. One reason our songs should be closely tied to the Word of God is their didactic effects. Singing for the Christian is formative and responsive, and therefore must be informed by Scripture. We learn what we sing.
Let us think of singing as a form of exposition that uses poetry to teach the Word of God. When Isaac Watts published Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, his intention was not to sing Scripture line by line, but to create poetic and emotive renditions of Scripture that allow a church to sing the truths of Scripture. Songs are sermons. They don’t work like homiletical exegesis, but they articulate, exegete, and pronounce biblical truths. Our hymns teach and shape the way people view God, man, Christ, and how we are to live in light of the gospel.
One way to ensure our singing is biblical is to comb through our songs to see if we cover the breadth of themes presented throughout the canon of Scripture. Our songs should be held up to the light of God’s Word to ensure we are singing the glories of its truth.
Choose hymns that admonish
The songs we sing as a church are meant to teach and admonish. When we gather as the church on the Lord’s Day, we need to be admonished in various ways. Throughout the week, other things call for our praise, attention, and affection. Singing hymns of God’s character reminds us of His greatness. Singing hymns of our sin reminds us of the role of confession. By singing hymns of the atonement, we remind one another of the efficacy of the work of Jesus. Hymns of consecration remind us of the dependence of Christians upon the steadfast grace of God.
We sing to admonish the weak and the weary that their salvation is in God. We sing to admonish the doubting to believe and be renewed. We sing to admonish the suffering that they have a hope that is unwavering.
Our songs ought to exhort and admonish. Our songs ought to encourage and remind. In this practice of song, God’s people will be pointed to the Scriptures, reminded of truth, and rooted in the gospel of Christ.
Choose hymns that provoke thankful hearts
We should choose hymns that provoke thankful hearts. When we sing robust theological truth, our hearts should erupt with praise. The aim of singing hymns is engaging both the head and the heart. The reason we read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures is not primarily so that we might amass knowledge, but so that our knowledge would lead to worship. The chief end of theology is doxology.
In choosing hymns for corporate worship, we should choose songs that make our hearts sing. From the content of the lyrics to the movement of the melody, we want beauty and transcendence to come together and serve the people of God. In our pursuit of theological precision, let us not neglect the pursuit of heartfelt response.
A church’s hymns are not a mere preamble to the sermon. Singing is not obligatory filler time to warm up a congregation. Singing is a holy practice. We sing because God has commanded it, and our songs should fill our hearts with thankfulness and delight in our great God.
Editors’ note: This article was originally published at Ligonier.
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The Sluggard and Covenant Faithfulness: Understanding the Nature of True Virtue and the Call to Industry in Proverbs
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