welcomeOn Sunday night, August 31, several youth groups from San Antonio-area churches of Christ met at our church, the New Braunfels Church of Christ, for a youth praise event. But this one was slightly different. Our theme was Light The Way, and part of the “sermon” was me using a tripod, a camera, a 25-second shutter speed, and a handful of flashlights to tell the story of Jesus with a technique called “Light Writing.” To do this, get the room very dark, click the shutter open, “draw” in the air with the flashlights, and when the shutter clicks closed, you have recorded a light painting in still image form. I used a projector to display the image from the camera, i.e., instead of the picture displaying on the camera’s LCD screen, it displayed on a projector. The 230 teens in attendance were being led in worship song by our guest worship leader while I painted a series of 17 different compositions. When I was finished, I scrolled back through the paintings, and delivered a short lesson from John 8:12.

Here are the images I created on stage while the teens were singing:

The light metaphor is used so heavily in Scripture, particularly by Jesus, that we wanted to build a worship experience around the idea of actual light as a way of telling the story. It was a great night, and was received very well. Months of thought, prayer, and prep went into the event. God was certainly praised by many voices, but by many eyes as well. The idea of Visual Worship was very much at the fore in our planning, because we want to worship God not just with our voices but with our eyes too. What better medium to use for that than light?

But I want to point out how this was not just a bevy of cool effects. These were specifically chosen images that form a narrative of Jesus. This was intentional, rehearsed, and story-driven. We do this in all sorts of other media. This one was visual. And it was, at least I think, cool. And it is very important because if there are ways to sin with your eyes, then there must also be ways to worship with your eyes. If this is true, then we as a fellowship may need to re-evaluate the extent to which we employ the visual in our corporate worship experiences.

redseaFull Disclosure: I am a creative type, and I’ve had a rough go in more than several worship services. And I notice that there’s fewer and fewer like me in our fellowship. But even so, I promise I’m not trying to start a “worship war.” Instead, I would like us to think about the roles that the visual can and should play in church gatherings for the express reason of making sure our message gets heard and seen in an increasingly visual culture.

I admit, the idea of Visual Worship sounds a little too artsy and perhaps foreign to members of a fellowship who worship in ‘auditoriums,’ and go to ‘lectureships’ (just look at those word roots). But we live in a visual culture filled with icons, screens, graphics, and apps, ad infinitum. The visual is the language of our current culture. If we are to engage this culture and stay relevant, I believe our worship services should employ this language so our churches are not dismissed and, more importantly, our message is not compromised by our delivery methods. And it’s no good vilifying the current culture, as if it were 21st century that’s endangering the gospel. The gospel is universal and will thrive in any culture. But it has to be communicated in culturally relevant ways. If the alternative is staying in the 19th century with our design, architecture, fonts, and furniture, that’s just as much of a cultural choice.

Understand: I not talking at all about our message. Our message is fine. The Gospel will and should be preached faithfully. Jesus came, died, resurrected. Disciples should be made. And salvation is by grace through faith. What I am saying is that it is just as ridiculous to preach the gospel to people under 30 using a clipart-laden PowerPoint as it would be to preach the gospel in Chinese to a roomful of Ethiopians. They may listen because they’re polite, but you won’t convince them it’s important. You won’t even get heard, no matter what your message is. Because—and here’s the crux—the environment of the space is monumentally important to current culture. If the environment and design of your worship space is not perceived as important to your church, then your church will be dismissed— subconsciously or not—as irrelevant.

For example, when you walk in your church’s worship space, you should be able to tell it’s a church, but you should also be able to know it’s 2014, not 1976. The color of the carpet, the style of pews, whether or not there are screens, the design of the stage area, the dimmable/non-dimmable lights may not matter to you. But they matter to hipsters, art majors, people who are the first to get the new iPhone, architects. Will interior design save souls? No. But it will set the stage for a message of salvation to be heard.

The shrubs, trees, mulch and a flowers on our church’s exterior don’t really matter to me personally, but if I’m trying to reach out to the landscaper demographic in our community, I’m going to make sure our landscaping sends the message “Hey, landscaping is important to us.” When a landscaper pulls in and notices things are done well, and done correctly, they have an open mind and good feeling about the place–and the message–before they even walk through the doors. Conversely, if the flowers are dead, and there are palm trees even though it’s Michigan, that landscaper who has decided to visit your congregation has just gotten the message that the things that are important to him are not the things that are important to this congregation. That’s not a message I want visitors to have before they even sit down.

But how many more people under thirty are there in our communities than professional landscapers?

Most often in churches, incorporating the visual means projection and computers. But what about architecture? Even interior design? Or how about the fonts and layout of the bulletin? The signage? The letterhead? There are a million tiny (visual) design elements that add up to one of two big messages: 1) we’re relevant, or 2) we’re not.

Most people aren’t able to quantify or articulate these design elements because they don’t have a background in design, film, architecture, or art. And that’s okay, but it doesn’t make these elements any less important. At the subconscious level, I’ll argue that the vast majority of people do notice the feeling, mood, general vibe and purpose of the space within 30 seconds of entering. Environment matters a great deal. And environment can go a long way in preparing a person to hear a message.

Design elements may not be the first things we think of when we think ‘worship.’ But this has not always been the case in history. In the Medieval world, the stories were told not by books or movies, but by the stain glass windows, and in a larger way, the architecture itself. Not everyone could read, and even if they could, Bibles weren’t readily available until after Gutenberg’s little invention. So the story of Jesus, indeed the story of the bible, were communicated by images. If you’ve ever been to a cathedral in Europe, you know this to be true…window after window of glass and lead that are stunning, and have been stunning for generations. (It’s worth noting that they are in the church, the place of ritual, and are illuminated from behind by light. The metaphor is just too great to pass up.) Standing there amid the Gothic architecture, staring up at those windows, you will come to know why they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And pictures, images, ideas conveyed in color and texture capture us like few other things can.

God knows this, and leveraged it back in the Ancient Near East. The artistry of Israel’s tabernacle bespoke its sanctity and importance. It is in the last third of Exodus that we meet Bezalel and Oholiab, God’s designated artisans. They were men who would communicate the gravity and eminence of God’s dwelling place through their creativity. They were chosen by God to build and decorate the tabernacle because they were tremendously gifted, and there’s something about the creative process that connects us with God. Not connect us in the church-y sense, but connects us to something Other, in the place where art has a voice that is beautiful and mysterious and makes you sound nuts when you try to explain it, because it is not from the country of words. Indeed, notice: when you walk into our modern church buildings, you look around for people you know. When you walk into one of those intricate cathedrals, you look up. Which seems to lead to a mindset and posture of worship? When it comes to telling a meaningful story, artists have the upper hand. And we Christians have the most meaningful story of all. Let’s start empowering artists to tell it, and tell it excellently.

There is even a modern resurgence and interest in the ideas of using technology in ways which enhance the message, not become the message. Indeed there is a annual conference in Nashville about this very subject called SALT. This is from the website of Salt Nashville:

“Worship is similar to the family gathering together at our Father’s house partaking in a meal together. At the dinner table there will be a main course, that for us represents the meat of our services, or the Truth of God’s word. Side dishes compliment the main course through music, prayer, offerings, announcements and liturgy. We don’t believe visuals are the main thing. We don’t even believe they are a side dish. We believe they are the seasoning that covers all these elements. There are two seasoning elements on the table: salt and pepper. Both add flavoring to your meal, but only one has the ability to preserve and heal wounds. That’s what art does in our services.”

Luke McElroy, one of SALT’s founders, has written an informative précis on Visual Worship and its origins here: http://www.sundaymag.tv/visual-worship/

Environmental Projection is a current trend in lighting, and using ProPresenter software for worship lyrics and images in ways that tell a narrative that matches the message from the pulpit or communion table. There are Addressable LEDs, projection mapping, and ways to control house lighting from your iPad. There are so many tools out there, it’s mind boggling. But as Mr. McElroy says, these seem like new ideas, but they only seem that way because the canvas has changed. Art has been a pivotal, indeed, essential aspect of the worship experience for generations. This is why I believe incorporating the visual and intentional design back into our congregations and worship services is not just an Under-30 thing. When done with excellence (which is not the same as doing it big or over-doing it; there’s a line, and we best know where it is), a visual worship element will speak to the hearts of everyone in the pews, of all ages.

On the Thursday after our Light The Way teen praise night—four days later—the granddad of a youth group member spoke to me about the event. He was in attendance and told me he was moved to tears by the singing and the lights and the message. He told me he started out in the back of the room but moved closer in the middle of the singing so he could hear and see better. This is a man who himself was a youth minister back in the day. He’s in his late-60s. He’s been in church for 40+ years. And he told me, “That was the best worship I’ve ever experienced in my life. Thank you.”

May we create environments that open us to receiving God and giving him our best.

29 Responses

  1. Duncan,

    For those of us who are not artistic or visually savvy…what do you recommend? How do we leverage these things and the people who have the creative ability to pull something like this off better in our churches? Seems like things like this would be a great way to involve people who may have gifts that don’t typically get used.

  2. Great question! Let me try to respond in several parts.

    1. Language is important. Start to think in terms of creating a worship environment, rather than planning a worship service. Cast this vision far and wide. Then pray pray pray, and plan plan plan.

    2. I would think about doing some sort of informal poll of your congregation and see who’s out there and which skill(s) they have in the arts. Drama Actors and Painters are the typical ones we think of, but there are dozens of skills that pertain to the visual; some professional, some not.
    Photographers, interior designers, people savvy with computers and lighting equipment, set decorators, potters, people who know morse code, sculptors, Mr. Fix It-types, welders, electricians are all in possession of skills that could be used to help create an environment. Pray pray pray and plan plan plan.

    3. Define what your goal is, and the event in which you want to try to achieve it. Do you want to create something for a one-time event? Or do you want to design some stage elements to go with the current sermon series? Or do you want to change the look of the room for a yearly theme? Those are all very different contexts which can be augmented by the visual in a myriad of ways.

    4. You might consider nominating someone to be the Creative Worship Team leader, either for a short-term goal, or a long-term season. You won’t know until you ask, but you might have one of those Jack-of-all-Trades sitting in the pews who has a real vision.

    5. Part of the vision needs to be that anything you do visually needs to cohere with sermon topics, song selections, prayers, etc. I.e., you don’t want Pillars of Light emanating from the pulpit if the series is on Jonah. For Jonah, you might figure out a way to create the effect of water. Not Ice Bucket Challenge water. Subtle water that is ambiance. The media is not the message. The media gets us to the message. The point is not to put on a show, but to set a mood so that the message can shine through. Start with story, and seek to illuminate the story. But employ a high degree of subtlety. It doesn’t have to be big to be powerful. That’s the beauty of images.

    6. I believe that God is honored with excellence. Not that we all need to be professional teachers before we can teach a bible class or professional set designers before we can change the lighting, but there is a big difference between someone who loves to take pictures on Instagram and someone who has a real knack and eye for composition. We can use both, and they both have their roles, but the mood will suffer if we confuse the two. When things are not done well, in any endeavor, it communicates a lack of priority and time given to the process. We DO NOT want to communicate that message to our congregations, and especially our visitors. If it matters, take the time to do it well.

    Ok, here are some practical ideas to get you going.

    1. At the simplest levels, simply dimming the lights, playing a mini-movie, and placing either still images or motion loops behind song lyrics will do wonders. 20 years in ministry has taught me people are much less self-conscious to sing when the lights are dim or off. This is a great way to freshen up the classic hymns too; we all know them so no need to fuss with the notes, which intimidate visitors anyway.

    2. Ask the audience to live-tweet your sermon, i.e., find images that go along with the sermon and display them on the screens as you’re preaching. That’s visual AND interactive. (Perhaps that one’s better for the youth devo…). But it is a good idea to put a specific hashtag on every slide of your sermon. Encourage people to tweet it.

    3. Having someone create something while the song leader leads is a simple but powerful way to lead into a sermon–or wrap one up. BUT this must be very well-rehearsed. Not the kind of thing you think of Saturday night and expect to pull off with excellence 8 hours later.

    2. Find out all you can about resources out there. Here are some. ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com has great ideas big and small. WorshipHouseMedia.com is one-stop shopping for mini-movies, stills, and motion loops, as well as countdown timers and various Welcome, Goodbye, and Upcoming slides. SALT, the Visual Worship conference in Nashville is Oct. 22-24. Stephen Proctor has some great thoughts at http://www.illuminate.us. TripleWideMedia.com offers multiple resolutions of stills and loops for the same price. MovingWorks.com makes stellar mini-movies about Jesus/Faith. LightStock.com has very modern and (in their words) cheese-free stock photography. RenewedVision.com, the makers of ProPresenter, are also an authorized retailer of Mac computers, so if you’re in the market, they can custom build you exactly what you need. And ProPresenter itself was designed for a volunteer to learn in 30 minutes. I can tell you from experience that’s absolutely true. (Full disclosure: I don’t get a dime from any of these places. I have personally used them all and have found them tremendous.)

    3. The flow might go something like this: Mr. Preacher decides to do a four-week series on Amos two months from now. He might pull a photographer in and say, “Hey you think you could capture 4 super powerful images of injustice to go along with Amos?” Photographer has now been empowered to use her talents. She takes the pictures (which are very much open to interpretation), and the preacher has them blown up so that the person in the back of the room can see them clearly. Song leaders gets some direction to choose songs about hope. Communion devotional givers get some guidelines about how the unjust becomes just in communion. Preacher displays one image per week as he preaches. But when people walk in, they don’t see a huge image, they see something under a black silk sheet. Now there’s instant curiosity. At the perfect moment during the sermon, when the preacher has led the the audience to the precise moment, he rips off the sheet and lets the image speak a thousand words. Same thing next week. But in week three, now the audience expects the Big Reveal, so think up a twist.

    4. I’m happy to talk with you about your situation or even brainstorm ideas. If you’re considering doing major surgery to your auditorium or if you’re planning a retreat and want to raise the visual bar, I’m also happy to consult.

  3. -Habakkui 2 says that when God is in His holy temple (us) we are to be silent before Him.
    -Jesus said that worship was IN SPIRIT which is a place in contrast to mountains or houses. The woman at the well understood that pattern that “Messiah will tell us all things.”
    -Paul said to worship IN THE SPIRIT instead of IN THE FLESH.
    -The “Laded Burden” Jesus came to remove is “spiritual anxiety created by religious ritual.” The BURDEN in Hebrew and Greek is a “repeat, repeat” form of song.
    -Jesus said that the Kingdom does not come with observation: that means religious observations.
    The Campbells grasped the synagogue or church in the wilderness and saidZ:
    CHURCH is A School of Christ
    WORSHIP is reading and musing the WORD (Logos, regulative principle)

    So, how would you prove that worship is a visual-audible operation disconnected from the example of Jesus and the command of Paul to silence self-pleasure meaning creating spiritual excitement by performers so that you can “use one mind and one mouth to SPEAK (opposite to ODE) that which is written for our LEARNING?

  4. The worship word for the Levite’s “service” is Abadoh which means “hard bondage” and has the same meaning as Abaddon or Apollyon because God turned the Israelites over to worship the Starry Hosts (Acts 7) because of the Mount Sinai event.

    If Calvin and the Campbells knew that the ekklesia or synagogue was a School of the Word (Logos or regulative principle), my question is: “How would we conclude that the assembly for REST is really for performing WORSHIP ACTS?

  5. Matt you always say that meaning “you aren’t rational?”

    Let me quote the lead topic about CREATING a worship experience:

    ORIGINAL TOPIC: “4. You might consider nominating someone to be the Creative Worship Team leader, either for a short-term goal, or a long-term season. You won’t know until you ask, but you might have one of those Jack-of-all-Trades sitting in the pews who has a real vision.

    5. Part of the [CAST] vision needs to be that anything you do visually needs to cohere with sermon topics, song selections.”

    The Question is easy and I am quite rational: “What is the rationale for thinking that people can be hired to CAST A VISION and conduct a WORSHIP EXPERIENCE by using the performing arts and crafts?”

  6. Remembering that the Spirit OF Christ breathed into the Prophets and a Church of Christ is built upon or educated by the prophets and apostles

    Habakkuk 2:20 But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

    templum , b. In partic., a place dedicated to some particular deity, a fane, temple, shrine:

    Because the pattern from the wilderness onward was to PREACH the Word by READING the Word while everyone RESTED (sabbath), it is pretty hard to give yur attention (that worship word) to God and His Word without being silent.

    Sileo to be noiseless, still, or silent, to keep silence; act., not to speak of, to keep silent respecting a thing (class.; stronger than tacere). I. Transf., to be still or quiet (OPPOSITE. to being in action), to remain inactive, to rest, cease (in class. prose, for the most part only of things; cf. “quiesco): et cycnea mele Phoebeaque [Abaddon, Apollyon] Carmina [singing and playinr] consimili ratione oppressa silerent,” Lucr. 2, 506: “silent diutius Musae Varronis quam solebant,

    Paul wanted both men and women to be silent “so that all might be saved (safe) anc COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.

    Maybe Duncan would explain his understanding of “worship”

    1. So you are advocating silent worship and saying we should do nothing more than to worship in silence and silently read the Bible? Am I understanding you?

      If I am reading you correctly you are missing a lot of what is behind the English word “worship” in scripture. Latreo, for instance, literally means to serve especially service as an act of reverent worship. So there is far more to worship than being silent and inactive. Worship is very, very active. Maybe I am misreading you here. Let me know if I am.

      1. That’s true but never as a Worshiping Institution. Worship is IN the SPIRIT (mind) and not IN THE FLESH says Paul. You cannot have your wife in your mind if someone wants you to pay them for helping you with a “musical worship team.” Music from mystery means to “make the lambs dumb before the slaughter.”

        “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my SPIRIT in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Rom 1:9″

        Paul “served” by GOING and preaching the Word: The Civil ekklesia or synagogue met about once a week. They read, discusssed and came to an understanding of what was handed down by a higher authority.

        Paul and Jesus were SLAVES and not worship leaders.

        “latr-euō , Elean latreiō (q.v.), A work for hire or pay, Sol. 13.48: to be in servitude, serve, X.Cyr.3.1.36; “para tini” Apollod.2.6.3. to be subject or enslaved to, serve,

        Since God didn’t command sacrifices or ritual prayers, the other option for latreuo is:

        “3. serve the gods with prayers and sacrifices phoibos Apollo, “Ph. Apollōn””

        I don’t believe that the ekklesia-synagogue ever has WORSHIP as it’s function other than “giving attendance to the public reading of the Word for comfort and doctrine.” A Disciple goes to SCHOOL and Jesus commanded that we teach what HE commanded to be taught.”

        That would take all of the pressure off the “preacher” doomed to run a Barnum and Bailey and add to the anxiety load so great that the masses will never pay others to keep them busy on Friday night.

  7. A few quick points: Jesus and his disciples worshipped in song before they left for the mount of olives. The early church certainly worshipped in ways beyond reading from Scripture (Acts 2:42ff, 1 Cor 11, etc). By the way, Spirit is not the same as mind.

  8. I like the Jesus Pattern: they hymned one hymn and WENT OUT until the next appointed hour next year. The Latin used the word DICO which means speak. That’s good because none of the Bible is tuneful.
    The Greek literature defines a hymn as a prayer. That’s why Paul commanded that we SPEAK which is opposite to ODE

    1 Corinthians 11 says “your assemblies do more harm than good.”

    H7307 rûach roo’-akh From H7306 ;
    by resemblance BREATH,
    that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation;
    figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality;
    by extension a region of the sky;
    by resemblance spirit, but only OF a rational being
    (including its expression and functions):—

    G4151 pneuma pnyoo’-mah From G4154 ;
    a current of air,
    that is, BREATH (blast) or a breeze;
    by analogy or figuratively a spirit, that is, (human) the rational soul,
    (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition,
    or (superhuman) an angel, daemon, or
    (divine) God, The Spirit OF Christ mind. Compare G5590

    OF is a preposition and spirit is almost always the spirit OF someone or a mental disposition. A spirit OF anger.

    Jesus spoke only what the Father breathed (spirit) into him and he warned the Apostles if they spoke only what He taught (the prophets and apostles) that they would be in mortal danger.

    The church continued in the Apostles doctrine or teaching as well as fellowship and I doubt that they had a Fellowship Minister. 🙂

    1. Ken, you wrote,

      “I like the Jesus Pattern: they hymned one hymn and WENT OUT until the next appointed hour next year. The Latin used the word DICO which means speak. That’s good because none of the Bible is tuneful.
      The Greek literature defines a hymn as a prayer. That’s why Paul commanded that we SPEAK which is opposite to ODE”

      Help me understand what it means that they went out until the next appointed hour next year. I am confused by that and know of no such teaching. Where are you getting that from?

      What you are doing here is eisegesis…you know your conclusion and pick up every possible stone until you find what you are looking for under it and say that is the clear, plain point being made. So you have to look to the Vulgate/Latin translation of the text to find a way for it not to be a hymn. The word there in Greek, which is what the text was written in (not Latin) is ὑμνέω which means to sing a hymn. That is all it means. The same word is used in Acts 16:25, Hebrews 2:12 and is all over the extra-biblical Greek literature in the clear context of singing a song. There is no way around it except for you to take a non-inspired translation to try to make your point which is just very poor exegesis…actually it is the opposite, eisegesis. If you want to say that singing doesn’t exist in the New Testament or in the early church you have to ignore oh so much.

    2. Just for some examples of extra-biblical evidence for the early Christians singing in worship see what Pliny wrote regarding the Christians, “They asserted that this was the sum and substance of their fault or their error; namely that they were in the habit of meeting before dawn on a stated day and singing alternately a hymn to Christ”

      Chrysostom mentions singing hymns as does as does Athanasius and so many more. It is impossible to make the point the early church didn’t sing…if that is the point you are making. If it isn’t, I am all ears.

      1. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pliny-trajan1.asp

        Still others there were, whose names were supplied by an informer. These first said they were Christians, then denied it, insisting they had been, “but were so no longer”; some of them having “recanted many years ago,” and more than one “full twenty years back.” These all worshiped your image and the god’s statues and cursed the name of Christ.

        But they declared their guilt or error was simply this — on a fixed day they used to meet before dawn and recite A hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god. So far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, they swore to keep from theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and not to deny any trust money deposited with them when called upon to deliver it. This ceremony over, they used to depart and meet again to take food — but it was of no special character, and entirely harmless. They also had ceased from this practice after the edict I issued — by which, in accord with your orders, I forbade all secret societies.

      2. Matt: Chrysostom mentions singing hymns as does as does Athanasius and so many more. It is impossible to make the point the early church didn’t sing…if that is the point you are making. If it isn’t, I am all ears.

        Here is a quick search of my Chrystom writings

        “Let the word of Christ dwell in you”; that is,
        the teaching, the doctrines, the exhortation, wherein He says, that the present life is nothing, nor yet its good things.
        If we know this, we shall yield to no hardships whatever. (Matt. vi. 25, &c) “Let it dwell in you,” he saith, “richly,” not simply dwell, but with great abundance. Hearken ye, as many as are worldly, and have the charge of wife and children;

        how to you too he commits especially the reading of the Scriptures and that not to be done lightly, nor in any sort of way, but with much earnestness.

        Out of Church.


        Such ought those who are consecrated to Christ appear, and frame themselves in their whole life, as they fashion themselves in the church for the sake of gravity; and to be, not to seem such-so meek, so pious, so loving.

        But now I know not how people change their fashions and manners with the place. As they say that polypi, assimilated to the rocks to which they adhere, are in colour such as they; so, laying aside the inspiration of the assembly, after their departure from it, they become like others with whom they associate. Nay, in laying aside the artificial mask of solemnity, they are proved to be what they secretly were.

        After having paid reverence to the discourse about God, they leave within [the church] what they have heard.

        And outside they foolishly amuse themselves with impious playing, and amatory quavering, occupied with flute-playing, and dancing, and intoxication, and all kinds of trash.

        Preliminary findings to this point in the research have led me to look more closely into frequency and resonance. The resonant frequency of our skulls is around 3.5 Hertz, and this coincides with the 14th sub-harmonic of G above middle C, which is the main frequency used in the ‘Phoenix and the Firestone’. This is the frequency directly connected to the pineal gland and is, therefore, linked to the transcendent realm and the expansion of the subconscious. Sir Andrew Wagner.

        1. Ken, your conclusion reaches beyond my ability to comprehend. You lost me. I am sorry brother but I don’t know how to respond to anything you just wrote as I am struggling to figure out what sub-harmonic frequencies have to do with Duncan’s post or in any way is a response to the fact that the early Christians sang songs, which is a matter of historical fact. I am out on this one…thanks for being patient with me.

      3. I don’t know of anything that Athanasius wrote about singers and players I can repeat. I don’t have anything he wrote about the assembly. I do know that the were Bible centered and the Bible doesn’t supply anything tuneful in our sense. Most of the singing was not in the general assembly:

        As regards forms of devotion dating from the 4th cent., neither the morning hymn (Gloria in exceltis) nor the evening one,1 tor instance, seems then to belong to public service. The former appears in varied contexts (e.g., after the Biblical Canticles or ‘Odes’ in the Codex Alex.); and in the Eastern Church it is part of the Daily Office (Lands), while in the Western it is in the Mass— whither most prized forms tended to gravitate. Once, however, both perhaps were part of the worship of an ascetic community.

        From Ephraim the Syrian and Aphrahat the Persian Sage in the 4th Century After Constantine


        To Ephraim pertains the high and unique distinction of having originated-or at least given its living impulse to-
        a new departure in sacred literature; and that, not for his own country merely, but for Christendom.

        From him came, if not the first idea, at all events the first successful example,
        of making song an essential constituent of public worship,
        and an exponent of theological teaching;
        and from him it spread and prevailed through
        the Eastern Churches, and affected even those of the West.

        To the Hymns, on which chiefly his fame rests, the Syriac ritual in all its forms owes much of its strength and richness;
        and to them is largely due the place which Hymnody holds throughout the Church everywhere.

        And hence it has come to pass that, in the Church everywhere, he stands as the representative Syrian Father, as the fixed epithet appended to his name attests-” Ephraim the Syrian,”-the one Syrian known and reverenced in all Christendom.

        From a few lines of Proba’s work can be seen the problems with this approach: little of what was created could justifiably be placed alongside the great works of the past, and since that was an implicit target the failure to meet it was embarrassing;

        more pressingly, such Christianisations did not appeal to the highly educated, who preferred to read the imitated originals, and did not appeal to Christians who would not otherwise have read the originals, who needed something written to their own culture and not to that of a past elite.

        This kind of imitation had its brief flourishing at the time of the emperor Julian, who forbade Christians to teach pagan works, but had no lasting effect.(Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, p. 760).

  9. To clarify: in the article above, by “worship” I mean what congregations do on Sunday morning when they are together. I realize the word is bigger than that and what we are actually to do with our lives as a whole, be living sacrifices, etc. I was using the word in a very specialized way.

    From John 4:23, Jesus’s discussion of those who will προσκυνήσουσιν in spirit and in truth derives a meaning of “to do reverence.” We’re not putting on a show, as I stated. We’re doing reverence in a contextual language and in a way that honors God by honoring the gifts he gave people. So you’re not an artist. Wonderful. I’m not much of a singer. Doesn’t me I begrudge those who are soaring tenors. We engage in singing reverence, preaching reverence, taking communion reverence, etc. Those are just as much ‘doing’ reverence. We’re being missional so that we may go into all the world and that they may hear the message in a way the world understands. To point, I wonder why Paul spoke Greek while he was planting all those churches?

    I don’t want to diminish Paul or any other Biblical writer, but since Paul’s time, here are some things that have affected, positively or otherwise, how the message of Christ goes into all the world:
    1. Christianity is legal in most countries. We live in one such country.
    2. Usable electricity.
    3. Printing press.
    4. Most major world cultures/legal systems today.
    5. Telephones.
    6. Airplanes.
    7. Guns
    8. Photography.
    9. Motion picture.
    10. Video conferencing in real time.

    None of these are mentioned in Scripture, but they are relevant to culture and our engagement with it. Neither are dedicated church buildings, leather bound bibles, pews, microphones, heated baptistries, youth groups mentioned in Scripture either, be we don’t hesitate to use them. We are far more contextualized that we want to admit, but the fallacy is vilifying that contextualization. It’s not a bad thing to be relevant. All things to all people that we may save some. And given that none of us are anywhere near as close to the first century church as we like to smugly believe, we had better be about the business of sharing the gospel by any means necessary, short of sin.

  10. Duncan: From John 4:23, Jesus’s discussion of those who will προσκυνήσουσιν in spirit and in truth derives a meaning of “to do reverence.

    Let me do these one at a time recognizing that Jesus didn’t put anything in the budget for one person’s desire to CHANGE which is always guaranteed to sow discord among many and detract from the command to PREACH the Word (Logos) by READING the Word for comfort and doctrine.

    Worship literally means to prostrate oneself before God. OR we can prostrate outselves to “that which is written for our learning.” LEARNING is the only duty of a DISCIPLE. SPEAKING what Jesus commanded to be taught is to the end of the world: it has no statute of limitations and rises WAY above culture of the WORLD for which Jesus does not pray.

    prosku^n-eō , make obeisance to the gods or their images, fall down and worship,
    *2 Espeially. of the Oriental fashion of prostrating oneself before kings and superiors
    Like a Dog licking boots
    3. welcome respectfully, respect, “prosekunēsa sou ta grammata” 3. a man’s writings, i.e. book, treatise, the Law of Moses, Ep.Rom.2.27, you kept school—I went there

    PLACE Spirit 2 spirit of man, living being, III.divine inspiration,

    TRUTH alēthi^nos , ē, on,
    A. agreeable to truth:

    The WORD (Logos) is the only TRUTH:
    John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy WORD is truth.

    WORD IS logos or the Regulative Principle: opposite to rhetoric, singing, playing instruments or acting.

    Jn 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and
    ye say, that in Jerusalem is the PLACE where men ought to worship.
    Jn 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me,
    the hour cometh, when ye shall
    neither in this mountain,
    nor yet at Jerusalem,
    worship the Father.
    Jn 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the
    true [b][Truthful][/b] worshippers
    shall worship the Father in spirit [b][PLACE] [/b] and in truth:
    for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

    Jn 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him
    must worship him in spirit [b][PLACE][/b]
    and in truth.


    Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city
    them that preach him,
    being read in the synagogues
    every sabbath day.

      1. I just quoted Jesus in John 4 and defined the Words.

        Worship among the Jews and Samaritans was at PLACES-houses.
        Jesus said that even then that God is SPIRIT: does not dwell in houses
        Worship was IN our spirit devoted to TRUTH.
        Worship takes place ONLY in our mind unless we are going to literally fall on our face.

        Jerusalem is a PLACE: our spirit is our mind is a PLACE.

        The Worship of the Godly israelites was quarantined FROM the worship of the starry host at Jerusalem a Jebusite High place

        Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city
        them that preach him,
        being read in the synagogues
        every sabbath day.

        Sabbath means REST and was never A Day of Worship other than Reading and Rehearsing the Word.

        God does not live in HOUSES built by human hands
        God is not worshipped with the WORKS of human hands.
        That is why both men and women were commanded to be silent “so that al might be saved and come to a knowledge of THE TRUTH.
        The pattern is to Teach that which has been taught: there is no statute of limitations and it cannot be modernized. Computers, houses, pews or large screen TEXT can assist that singular pattern but we are to study to be QUIET and reverent.

        1. Worship is not something we do just in our mind. Worship is acted out. For instance, in Matthew 14:33 did those in the boat just think worshippful thoughts or were they actually offering Jesus praise…saying worshipful things to Jesus. This is not just happening in their minds. They are proclaiming truths about Jesus in adoration. Or how about Matt 28:9 when they worshipped the risen Lord? It was not just a mental exercise…they were praising him. Luke 2:37 shows that fasting and praying is worship. Again in Acts 8:27 – the worship here has to do with some very specific acts of praise and not just a mental exercise.

          Worship comes out of our minds but is ultimately expressed through action. That is pretty basic.

  11. I’m sorry but there is absolutely nothing that we creatures can do to appease or “feed” God (come to the table). Peter said that when we SPEAK we should speak as the oracles of God. If we have talent then we can use that. However, the Word, Logos is the regulative principle and it forbids rhetoric, singing, playing instruments or acting. We worship or confess that He is God by simply being a DISCIPLE Jesus never commanded to do ACT. Jesus gave us all that pertains to life and godliness until He comes again. That speaks to the conservatives and the progressives who ADD a few more operations requiring mone and work. Jesus pleads with the Apostles: “could you not tarry with me for one hour?” The answer is no in my almost 84 years. “Will He find faith when He returns?” The answer is almost zero.

    Matthew 14:33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him,
    SAYING, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

    The worshipped him by saying “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

    They may have collapsed literally but they submitted by making a confession.

    Proskuneo meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage

    I think Jesus may have let them drown if they selected a song leader and SANG instead of SAYING and repeated the confession 10 times which defines a “burden.”

    Saying or Lego, leg´-o; a primary verb; properly, to “lay” forth, i.e.
    13.recite what is written, “labe to biblion kai lege”
    of lectures, “akousate mou skholia legontos”
    “skholia sunageirōn “ekklēsiēn” 2. in NT, the Church, as a body of Christians, as a building,
    anagignōskō cultic reading aloud —Pass., ta biblia ta anegnōsmena books read aloud, hence, published, opp. ta anekdota

    “Although the sermon was not an essential part of the synagogue service, the translation and explanation of the Scripture lesson was a step in the direction of a preaching service. There is evidence that an exposition of the lesson formed a part of the Sabbath afternoon service. In earliest times the sermon seems to have been connected with the reading from the Prophets. Anyone able to instruct might be asked to preach (Acts 13:15). The preacher spoke from a sitting position on an elevated place (Luke 4:20). (feiffer, Charles F., Between the Testaments, p. 63 Baker Book House).
    “The word that is employed for this “anaginosko, anagnosis) is the technical term for the cultic reading aloud of the Old Testament in the synagogue. By applying this terminology to the reading of his own epistles he not only ascribes the same authority to the apostolic word as to the Old Testament writings…he also combines a quotation from the Old Testament with a word of Jesus and introduces the whole with the familiar formula: ‘for the Scripture says.'” (Ridderbos, Hermon, Paul, P. 483 an Outline of His Theo., Eerdmans)

    1. So Jesus and his disciples sang but we shouldn’t. The early church sang but we shouldn’t. God tells us to worship him but because we can’t really offer him anything, so we shouldn’t. Is that what you are saying?

      1. Certainly we have EARS to offer him “to prepare for the ministry” or service which does not happen listening to “praise teams.” I have never heard these Halel prayers even once. We sing “nothing to the cross I bring??” Jesus is the Master Teacher when we READ or LISTEN to an elder “Teach that which has been taught.” That eleminates any new and improved material because the PURPOSE is to teach the great Epics of God’s dealing with mankind and this as with all ancient culture the way to PASS ON wiisdom. Our culture is DEVOID because the “progressives” don’t really NEED the Scriptures.

        Full Hallel (or הלל שלם Hallel Shalem in Hebrew Complete Hallel) consists of all six Psalms of the Hallel, in their entirety. It is a Jewish prayer recited on all seven days of Sukkot, on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah), on Shavuot, on the first two days of Pesach [passover] (only the first day in Israel), and on the eight days of Hanukkah. The sages have provided a “siman” (a way to remember) the days when full Hallel is recited. It is called “BeBeTaCh”.[4]

        Full Hallel consists of Psalm 113, Psalm 114, Psalm 115:1–11,12–18, Psalm 116:1–11,12–19, Psalm 117, Psalm 118.

        Reciting or cantillation or singing was not tunful but recited with one note for each syllable.

        The reading is beloved to the people, and so they listen closely: Megillah 21b

        The Hallel as an Institution of the Prophets, to use to pray for salvation from danger: Pesachim 117a

        See They Sang a Hymn and Went out (pretty good pattern?)

        Matthew 26.30 et hymno DICTO exierunt in montem Oliveti

        Hymnus , “divinorum scriptor hymnorum,” Lact. 4, 8, 14; Vulg. Psa. 60 tit.; id. Matt. 26, 30.

        Dīco, to say, tell, mention, relate, affirm, declare, state; to mean, intend

        A hymn is SCRIPTURE
        The Pattern is to “use one mind and one mouth that which is written for our LEARNING” or “Scripture for our comfort.”

        Paul commanded that we SPEAK the Biblical resource
        ODE and PSALLO are IN the heart meaning SILENT.
        That is because LEXIS (a LOGOS) Word is opposite to ODE. An ODE defines enchantment.

        This was not the Qahal, synagogue, ekklesia or Church of Christ (the ROCK) which absolutely outlawed “vocal or instrumental rejoicing” including high-sounding rhetoric.


        John Calvin and Thomas Campbell used the CHRIST pattern. There are 168 hours in a week to sing, clap, play or even get aroused and go NUDO like David. How about giving Jesus and our Children one hour of teaching that which has been taught without making it into marketable dogma?

    2. In Romans 15:9 Paul directly says that the Gentiles will glorify God through their singing praises to God (psallo – a word you are already well acquainted with). I don’t see any way around what is clearly taught in that verse. If you want to find a path around that and come to your predetermined conclusion I am sure there is a very complicated explanation that you can make fit. I could also mention James 5:13…I know you are already aware of these and that is why it baffles me even more that you would say we are not to worship in song and that they didn’t sing…just stuck with speaking the word.

      1. I don’t tell people what they can or cannot do: I just quote the Bible, word definitions and historic documents. John Calvin for the first time from Genesis onward made groups singing in a metrical sense long after the Reformation when he permitted some Psalms (only) to be radically rewritten and set to a simple meter to be sung in unison (only). Doesn’t that make you want to not use a simple lexicon which only shows HOW a word is used but does not DEFINE?

        We cannot say what people do as a WORSHIP CENTER when the church is defined as A School of what Jesus commanded to be taught: a church is built upon or EDUCATED by the prophets and apostles. The ekklesia or synagogue had EDUCATION as a one-piece pattern. When one person decides that the Word is not adequate and wants to IMPOSE something he always denies YOUR right to object as being divisive. What do you think moves the spirit of those who work night and day to keep Jesus silent other than reading verse 3d not relevant to the “sermon”?

        For the synagogue (gather, assemble, come together)
        Rom. 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant YOU to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
        Rom. 15:6 That YOU may with ONE MIND and ONE MOUTH glorify [praise] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        Maybe that would exclude having a worship team make music TO the audience using that which is NOT WRITTEN.

        This is a prophecy of David and may be Messianic.

        Psalm 18:48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
        Psalm 18:49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

        ALL of David’s poems were for the I and not a command for YOU

        In Romans 15 it is again “I” because Jesus
        Confessed AMONG the Gentiles
        But SINGS unto God’s Name.

        Paul went out to CONFESS among the Gentiles but Paul didn’t SING as in tunefulness.

        Rom. 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God,
        to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
        Rom. 15:9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written,
        For this cause I will confess to thee AMONG the Gentiles,
        and sing [psallo] UNTO THY NAME
        Rom. 15:10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

        Psallo (aka SOP) means “to pluck or smite a string or hair with your fingers but NEVER with a plectrum.” You cannot psallo a flute, drums or use a guitar pick. It is used for SING because of the common expression of “making the heart strings sing.” “Making the widow’s heart strings sing might be the result of someone teaching her the gospel.

        YOU the congregation in Rome

        Rom. 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of YOU, my brethren, that YOU also are full of goodness,
        filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

        Did you notice that Paul never hints that they are able to entertain one another which is the ONLY quality ever attributed to any kind of singing which arises out of the crying or lamenting impulse. Cain means a musical note or lament.

        Paul would GO among other Gentiles and never engaged in congregational singing. When you speak something assumed to be from a “god” the Greeks called it “singing.” Melody and Grace are qualities of speech.

        Rom. 15:16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

        Paul commanded that we SPEAK one to another “that which is written for our learning.”
        ANTITHESIS: ODE and PSALLO IN (en, eis) the HEART where no one can hear Ode and Psallo IF that which has been taught is being taught. Wouldn’t that be an insult to have a worship team arouse even when the Street Person was trying to speak to us?

        Sorry, there is no command, example or remote inference of CONGREGATIONAL SINGING with or without an instrument. Nor can it be rationally inferred if you grasp that a DISCIPLE goes to BIBLE SCHOOL and not a Religious Observation to which Jesus said the kingdom will never come.

        I don’t live for anyone to agree: people SING because it is a tradition of our heritage only after Alexander Campbell had a song book to sell. Once you get that PATTERNED in your brain the story of The Book of Enoch says that you have fallen and can never get back up.

  12. Duncan: None of these are mentioned in Scripture, but they are relevant to culture and our engagement with it. Neither are dedicated church buildings, leather bound bibles, pews, microphones, heated baptistries, youth groups mentioned in Scripture either, be we don’t hesitate to use them.

    The “first century church” as the REST which Christ would bring is defined inclusively and exclusively in the prophets.
    A Church of Christ is built upon or Educated by the Prophets and Apostles.
    The Prophets were breathed (spirit) into by the Spirit OF Christ. OF is a preposition.
    The Old Covenant given because of the transgression of musical idolatry would cease to have any enslaving power when all of the PROPHECIES concerning Jesus whom God made to be both Lord and Christ.
    Peter said that he was leaving a MEMORY (his part of the whole) of the Apostle’s eye– and ear– witness of the risen Jesus.
    Peter said that this prophecy certified and writen is not subject to Private Interpretaion meaning “further expounding” including sophistry (rhetoric, singing, playing, acting) by those who think they can ENHANCE the Word, Logos meaning the REGULATIVE PRINCIPLE.

    Duncan We are far more contextualized that we want to admit, but the fallacy is vilifying that contextualization. It’s not a bad thing to be relevant.

    The great affliction suddenly hit churches of Christ on the 2,000 date plus or minus. When you see Jerusalem encompassed maybe Jesus will come soon: hope He doesn’t catch anyone doing a trumpet quartet when He sounds that time is up and ZAP: no turning back.

    WE who are intimidated into lay by in the pot instead of “Jim lays by Jim” when Paul and recorded history says that giving even to the destitute is NOT a command supply a role or dole for a hired person to contextualize for us. The direct command (CENI for disciples) is to teach WHAT JESUS COMMANDED TO BE TAUGHT.” Paul makes that the Prophets and Apostles. Jesus said that command is in effect until the END OF THE AGE. The pattern for the synagogue or Church in the wilderness was long, long ago and the Spirit OF Christ in the wilderness has no statute of limitations. Those who CONTEXTUALIZE believe that the Spirit OF Christ was not smart enough to know how to prepare people for living in a spiritual dimension. Disciples of Christ come ONE AT A TIME and is never part of a community meaning COMMUNE.

    The power of God is in the GOSPEL or GOOD NEWS which is “come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you REST.” And He invites the twos and threes to come OUTSIDE the massed multitude and LEARN OF ME. A laded burden in Hebrew and Greek is an ODE that repeats, repeats. A laded burden is a TAX NOT IN TIME OF WAR. Jesus paid it all and commanded me not to pay for the free water of the Word (Isaiah 55) and outlawed “seeking our own pleasure or speaking our own words.” (Isaiah 58).

    Sabbath or Pauo means REST: Paul is used often meaning STOP the rhetoric, stop the singing, stop the playing meaning STOP THE PANIC “because of the rite.”

    Duncan: All things to all people that we may save some. And given that none of us are anywhere near as close to the first century church as we like to smugly believe, we had better be about the business of sharing the gospel by any means necessary, short of sin.

    Jesus said that God HIDES from the WISE or SOPHIST: a Sophist is a rhetorician for hire, a singer, a guitar player and especially “Melody in a Holy Place” which would have gotten a Levite soothsayer executed.

    But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. 1 Cor 9:15
    For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel 1 Cor 9:16
    For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 1 Cor 9:17
    What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
    1 Cor 9:18 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 1 Cor 9:19
    1Cor. 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
    1Cor. 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
    1Cor. 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

    In my youth the rare preacher came by and picked cotton when everyone else was picking cotton. Paul worked when everyone else worked then he could teach when everyone had free time.

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