language

A Sacrifice of Praise

“Part of the sacrifice of praise is singing music that is not necessarily our heart language.” – David Clifton

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This week, I attended “Spirit and Sacrament” at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The seminar was put together by Andy Piercy (Director of Worship Development for the Anglican Mission), with a great deal of help from John Witvliet (Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship) and Glenn Packiam (Lead Pastor of New Life Downtown in Colorado Springs, CO). Each of these men had a significant amount of insight and tools to contribute.

One of the gems of the week came from David Clifton (Director of Music and Arts at Apostles in Knoxville, TN), who said the phrase above: “Part of the sacrifice of praise is singing music that is not necessarily our heart language.”

This statement was so clear, so succinct, and carried with it such an incredible message that it has stuck with me for the days since hearing it. This is an idea that others have communicated before, especially in worship contexts that are trying to figure out how to engage multiple generations and cultures in a unified corporate worship. But, this was the first time I have heard this connected to the idea of it being a sacrifice of praise.

What Clifton references here, is the idea found in Hebrews 13:15, which says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (NASB). And, it only follows that as we seek to continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, we must throw off anything that can hinder this fruit. Now, if you have been around worship circles for any amount of time, you understand that the hinderances to this kind of sacrifice are numerous. What Clifton gets so right in this statement is the connection between the heart language of the worshiper with the sacrifice of praise that is to be made. This is especially true in corporate worship, where one must be willing to give up his or her own self in order to offer corporate praise to the Lord. That sounds like a sacrifice to me! Each worshiper must be willing to give up his or her own preference of heart language in order to join in the heart language of the full body as God is glorified.

In this way, “Worship leaders become language coaches for the church,” said John Witvliet. The worship leader learns how to invite the full body to engage in a sacrifice of praise, whether it is specific to their individual heart language or not.

And so, we make a joyful noise unto the Lord, unifying our hearts and our language to the glory of God the Father!

Welcome! I Mean It!

“The more our churches move away from immersing us and our children in the basic language and categories of Scripture, the more it essentially becomes a kind of foreign language to all of us.” – Michael Horton

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When I say, “Welcome,” I mean that I am glad you are here. I am thankful that you would take the time to read the ideas on this blog and I am hopeful that you will feel invited to engage and interact with them. This is a blog about the vocabulary of the faith, particularly as it applies to the worship of God.

In recent years, much of the language that is used in church services has become a caricature. The result has been that, in many places, the church has backed away from using language that would make visitors or non-Christians feel uncomfortable.

The unfortunate result of this trend has been that much of the language that is used in the Bible to describe our faith has lost its effectiveness in our local congregations. In removing the biblical terms for faith and worship, the church has removed a vehicle for communicate the deep truths and doctrines of the Word of God.

William Willimon, bishop in the United Methodist Church, said, “There is a peculiar sort of untranslatability to the Christian faith…that you just haven’t said salvation when you say self-esteem…and you haven’t said the Good News of Jesus Christ when you’ve said I have found a way to help your marriage work.”

What is at stake is an ability to effectively communicate what is meant by faith in God at all! Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” If the church is willing to take Scripture as the ultimate truth of God, it must be willing to communicate that truth is clearly and effectively as possible. In this way, the church has a prime opportunity in its corporate worship services to recover and reclaim the lost language of worship, in such a manner that the disciples of Jesus Christ are being called into a living faith of active obedience and worship.

And so, this blog is about faith. It’s about worship. It’s about the language that Scripture uses to inform our faith and worship. It’s about the culture that engages in worship. My hope is that it becomes an encouragement to you as you offer your very selves to God in worship.