Friday, April 21, 2017
Friday, February 3, 2017
Those of you who have been around Grace Church for awhile remember Jon and Jane Sherberg. Some of the tunes they wrote ("He Gave the Greatest Gift of All," "Where Your Heart Is") were favorites during the 1980s. Below is a letter Jane distributed with information you can pray about.
Monday, December 12, 2016
And now . . . to address the “concert elephant in the room.”
The biggest complaint we get every year is the fact that people come very early in order to find a good seat, but instead find rows and rows and rows of pews roped off in the best sections. Every year we ask people not to save seats; every year we print this on the tickets; every year our request is ignored; every year the problem gets worse.
Many people have told me that their friends and family will not come to our concerts anymore because they had arrived an hour early but end up sitting in the very back or in the side sections because of saved seats. What kind of message does that send to our guests? That Grace Church members are more privileged and important than they?
"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10).
Grace Church members and attenders have the opportunity to hear our choir, orchestra and soloists every Sunday of the year. Shouldn’t they be the ones to sit on the sides and in the back, and let our visitors have the best seats? When my non-Christian mother was able to attend the concerts, she gladly waited in line like everyone else and chose her seat when she entered.
Frankly, it makes me angry to come in the Worship Center on a concert afternoon and see half the place reserved. I’d love to hear any ideas on how we can educate our members to sacrificially let our guests have the better seats (short of going around and removing all the masking tape and hymnals, which I’ve been tempted to do).
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil. 2:3-4).
Sharon (speaking on behalf of myself only)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Planning for our annual Christmas Concert series is well under way! Our choir had their all-day Saturday rehearsal, one of three Monday night rehearsals, orchestra music has been ordered, the Children's Choir has been rehearsing, and the music department is humming.
Plan to attend our concerts on December 15, 16, 17, 18. Tickets available beginning this Sunday, November 20. More information may be found on our concert page: www.gracechurch.org/concert
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
The catch: You have to belt it out with other people.
Group singing increases levels of SIgA, or secretory immunoglobulin A, the fancy name for an antibody that serves as the first line of defense against bacterial and viral infections.
Studies found that choir singers have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and better moods overall, which probably plays a role in the immune system boost.
"There's something about having to coordinate your actions with those of others that brings particular health Benefits," says Daniel Levitin, PhD, a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and music at McGill University in Montreal.
(source: Readers Digest, October, 2016)
Friday, September 16, 2016
by Dr. Bill Brandenstein, Assistant Minister of Music & Worship
The sensationalism of public “worship” alarms me. For years, I’ve been concerned and humbled by what I hear as I stand before God’s people to lead music: the congregation’s voices magnifying God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although one biblical purpose for music is to edify and encourage one another, I find a healthy tension exists between facilitating praise, and feeling out of place while overhearing the God-directed, heaven-bound collective voice. It’s one thing, as an undeserving sinner permeated by my sin’s egregious blackness, to have Christ’s righteousness imputed to me and to be delivered into His kingdom of glorious light. As if that weren’t enough – and it’s way past “enough,” as if God’s grace would somehow be insufficient and less than wondrous if it stopped there – I am called to be not only Christ’s adopted son, but His ambassador. That is just outrageous and wonderful! And so I stand, His completely unqualified but gloriously equipped representative, encouraging the saints as we surround His throne with our adoration. My friends, what a miracle of divine grace this is! It is also, in a sense, eavesdropping. Being there in a Sunday service helping people sing is a place of both privilege and blissful discomfort while listening in on what is intended for God’s ears.
Meanwhile, pop culture has transformed much that is called “corporate worship” into a spectacle. Far too often now, public gatherings are a carefully manufactured music event driven by adrenaline and emotional manipulation, while seeking by any means necessary (artificial or otherwise) to craft it into The Ultimate Experience. I understand that this is part of the spirit of the age, but just because it’s timely has nothing to do with whether or not it’s biblical. Much can be said of this, but that’s not my purpose now. Consider, rather, the so-called “Worship Leader” or the team or the band up front. Do they, like me, standing between the crowd and the Throne, share this irrepressible tension between necessity and being out of place while eavesdropping? Shouldn’t we all cringe at the thought of any attention being diverted away from Christ? So then, do we deflect the glory and attention from ourselves and back to Him? If we can say that we’ve purposed to make this true of our ministries, are our attitudes followed on by actions that communicate, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?
At our most recent Shepherds’ Conference, Tom Pennington laid out the Blind Spots of spiritual leaders in a wonderful exposition of Matthew 23:1-12 (https://www.gracechurch.org/sermons/11835). His third point was titled, “Embezzling God’s Glory.” The Pharisees “do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (Matthew 23:5), and the passage continues by furnishing a pair of examples of their behavior. You can see immediately the dilemma posed to those of us who, in carrying out even the most basic of our responsibilities, stand up in front of a group of people. Thus we must seek to not draw attention to ourselves even as some degree of attention is necessary. Pennington built a closed-and-shut case that wanting to be noticed is nothing short of self-worship by contrasting Matthew 5:16 (“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”) with 6:1-2 (“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them... so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full”). The Greek word for “glorify” and “honored” in those two passages is identical!
Permit me to quote Tom Pennington at length:
The sincere Christian’s motive is that men will glorify God. The hypocrite’s motive is that man will glorify him. Hypocrisy is idolatry – instead of wanting God's name to be hallowed, I want my name to be hallowed. When we want to be noticed by men, when we want to be glorified like the Scribes and Pharisees wanted to be glorified, men, we are embezzling from God that which rightly belongs solely to Him. We embezzle the glory that belongs to God when we desire to be exalted in the eyes of our church, or our community, or the larger Christian community, rather than desiring most of all that God would be exalted, even if that means we ourselves are unnoticed and unknown. We're embezzling God's glory when we perform spiritual or ministry activities with the desire in our hearts or in a way designed for others to notice and glorify us.
By the way, Jesus’ solution in Matthew 6 to this problem is to make a concerted effort to be seen only by God.
For music leaders to be seen only by God in our work is a practical impossibility. However, may God help us to stand before His people during corporate worship in complete humility, undeservingly, with an exclusively Christ-exalting focus. And may we never, ever, ever do the slightest thing to be noticed by others, nor for the sake of recognition, lest we who claim to promote the worship of God embezzle what belongs to Him alone: His glory.
Lord God, I come to You this day,
And ask You: fill me now, I pray.
May all I seek, and all I do
Bring your name glory, as is due;
All praise to You alone today.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
You know in the general climate of evangelicalism today, somebody would say when they came to Grace Church, "Wow, these people are really old-fashioned. Why don't they get with it and update the music?" Let me tell you something: history matters. And it matters a lot. I don't want anybody to think that we have invented Christianity. I don't want to come up with some kind of form of worship and form of expression that is so inimitable to the culture of today that it appears as if all truth resides in us. What I want people to understand is that the faith that we preach is the same faith that was proclaimed and preached by John Milton, who wrote the words to that [hymn, "The Lord Will Come"] in the seventeenth century. It is the same faith that was proclaimed by the Apostles, and the hymns convey that faith from generation to generation, and the music conveys that from generation to generation. This is not new. Christian doctrine, Christian truth, the Christian gospel is a treasure through the ages, and we are grateful to say that all that we represent is the same truth that has been represented by God's people in every generation going back to the very time of Christ. Conveying that is critical, so that you understand that this is not some new, contemporary movement. This is the true and living Christian faith passed down from the Apostles through faithful men, articulated by theologians, and even by hymn writers through the ages. We stand on that great faith, and have in our hearts a desire to change nothing. Of course, we can sing contemporary songs, of course we can update that, but not to the cost of abandoning the greatness of our heritage, that people might know that this is not a modern movement. Well, that's another sermon.
-- John MacArthur, 10/14/07