Showing posts from August, 2016

Ben-Hur 1959 v Ben-Hur 2016: A Pastor's Review

One title. Two movies. Okay, actually it's three movies. Hang on, let me double-check that... There were four Ben-Hur movies? I guess one of them is listed as a short-film. The three-and-a-half movies called Ben-Hur are based on an 1880 novel entitled Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. I haven't read the book. But I've now seen at least two of the several movies it spawned.

The Ben-Hur most people are familiar with is the 1959 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film starring Charlton Heston and directed by William Wyler. For almost 40 years, it was the only movie to win 11 Oscars at the Academy Awards (until Titanic matched it and later Return of the King). It's a theatrical epic in two acts separated by an intermission given its almost four-hour run-time.

The new adaptation of Ben-Hur is produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett (I've written on their Bible-bending before), starring Jack Huston in the title role, and is directed by Timur Bekmambetov whose most notable …

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: Putting the Next 10 Popular Church Songs to the Test

According to Mark Dever's ministry 9 Marks, there is a distinct difference between a song that is written for the purpose of congregational worship, and a song that is written as a performance piece. "Performance music can focus our attention on the performers, or even the music, rather than God" and it can "wrongly encourage a culture of passivity and entertainment."

I've watched countless "worship" videos starring a young, stylish band illuminated by incredible lighting and set-design while the audience is shrouded in black with silhouetted hands in the air. If you were to mute the video, you would not be able to tell the difference between that and any secular band singing love ballads. Strictly by appearances, the attention is directed entirely on the performer. A certain atmosphere is being manufactured. And it's not perceived as an atmosphere for worshiping God as the people of God.

If those artists want to put on concerts that people pa…

In Response to Putting Popular Church Music to the Test

Last week I did a blog reviewing CCLI's Top 10 most popular praise songs sung in churches. I received some wonderful comments saying that the blog was very helpful. Most of the comments I read were in disagreement, though for the most part respectful (except for the guy who started "With all due respect" and then proceeded to bash his Southern Baptist stereotype).

The disagreement was largely due to my statements regarding Bethel Church and Hillsong, sacred cows in American evangelical music. In pursuit of holiness, this is an important topic that must be understood not according to personal tastes or styles, but according to Scripture. The following are some of the comments given in bold, and my response follows...

"Sounds like a church curmudgeon to me. I am not for dismissing church history and hymns, but I also don't want to dismiss everything that's not a hymn either. And I'm certainly not comfortable dismissing artists who have associations with Bet…

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: Putting Popular Church Music to the Test

When I first came on at First Southern Baptist Church, I was an associate pastor with an emphasis in worship. In other words, I was the worship pastor, which is a title I didn't much care for. Technically the head teaching pastor is a worship pastor. I still lead music and we lean mostly toward hymns, but there are some more current tunes as well. I try to be as careful with the music as I am with the teaching. Even song lyrics should be sound in doctrine.

Every 6 months, CCLI releases the Top 100 praise songs sung in churches (CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International). The following is a list of the Top 10 most popular praise songs for the most recent reporting period. I'd like to offer a review of these songs, the artists who sing them, and whether or not it's a good idea for your church to include them. The title of the song is also a link to a video performance of the song if you'd like to hear it.

1) "This Is Amazing Grace" written by J…