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Why We Sing

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It doesn’t take anyone very long to figure out that music plays a prominent role in the church.  When believers gather in community for worship, we spend time in prayer, we learn about the transformational truths of the Gospel through preaching, and we sing our faith in songs about the Lord.   There are not a lot of other places in our culture where groups of people sing songs together (aside from sporting events and birthdays), yet church services are filled with song.  Where did we get this idea from, and why do we bother with it anyway?

If we look at the bible, we’ll discover it’s replete with songs.  From Genesis through the Psalms to the canticles in the Gospels to a vision of heavenly worship in Revelation, the bible tells us that the people of God have always been a singing people and have recorded their divine inspiration into scripture.  Singing was key in the early church and was re-prioritized and re-vitalized as a congregational practice in the Reformation.  Martin Luther described the high value he felt belonged to music when he said “The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them.... In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”  Indeed, every major Christian revival has come with a new repertoire of music, from the German Reformation to the Great Awakening to the modern day.  To paraphrase modern hymnodist Keith Getty, Christians sing- it’s just part of what we do.

Just over a month ago, I attended a gathering of 3000 musicians, church worship leaders, pastors, and other people who care about the music of the church just south of Nashville, TN.  This conference was sponsored by Keith and Kristyn Getty, and included speakers Alistar Begg, D. A. Carson, Paul David Tripp, David Platt, Joni Erickson Tada, and many more.  Times of musical worship filled the event as well, led brilliantly by the Gettys and their band, as well as other musicians from the classical and contemporary worship worlds along with a 200-voice conference choir that I was privileged to participate in.  Topics ranged from broad theological concepts about singing and worship to how singing impacts us personally and in our families to the role it plays as a witness to the world.  What was most impressive, however, was not how brilliant the speakers or how great the music was, but how the focus kept being put back on the people of God singing together.   Indeed, the whole conference ended with 3000 people singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy” together in 4 (or 400) part harmony, without any instruments at all.  Just people singing.  It is a powerful memory that I will have with me for years to come.

Our songs are important- that we sing and what we sing (the gospel) is a higher priority than our favorite songs, preferred style choices, or vocal ability.  Keith Getty himself reminded us that God created us to sing, God commands us to sing in the bible (for our own good), and God compels us to sing in response to his revealing himself to us.  The songs we sing we carry through our lives- from times of greatest joy to times of greatest sorrow, from our childhood to our final days.  I pray that you capture that joy each and every time we sing.

I’m very excited to have Keith and Kristyn Getty in concert with their band here at Central on Sunday November 5th.  They are energetic, brilliant performers who blend their hearts for the Lord with their Irish heritage and love of tuneful melodies.  I’m excited for our church family also because our Chancel Choir and the choir of Central Christian School will have the honor of singing with the band on the concert.  But I’m most excited because of the songs themselves: they are written for you, that they can be an encouragement for your faith, and we can all share in this joy together.

As of October 26, tickets are still available for "Facing A Task Unfinished" with Keith and Kristyn Getty November 5 at Central. Click here to purchase tickets.

Posted by Matt Mazzoni

Run the Race

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In a previous life (while pastoring a church in Williamsburg, VA) I became a high school coach for girls varsity softball.  It was quite a three year experience, with our daughter Jessie being on the team and our young son Luke serving as the team mascot.  

For our home games it was necessary to line the field before each game, a responsibility that fell to the head coach.  Just before the first game, I dutifully prepared the white spray paint machine and meticulously began my task, starting at home plate and moving to first base.  My eye was very focused on the blurred remains of the previous line and, with head bowed and hand steady, off I stepped into the world of softball-game-line-painting.  When I reached first base I proudly turned back to home plate to see my work of art, only to be shocked to painfully discover a line that must have been painted by a drunken sailor posing as a head softball coach.

For the next game, I figured there simply must be a better way and, happily, there was.  Well beyond first and third bases, in the outfield, were outfield foul polls standing about 12 feet high.  I found that if I stood at home plate with my eye focused on that poll several hundred feet away, walked slowly and not breaking my gaze from  it, that my painted line to first base was straight and true.  Play ball!

The Christian life is something like that, and God tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2 that as we live the Christian life (running the race that is set before us) we are to fix our eyes on Jesus.  What does that mean?  We will be exploring that very question in a 12 week sermon series after Easter called, "Looking Unto Jesus."  I hope you will be blessed by these messages from God's Word, and invite a friend who perhaps has not yet placed their faith in our Lord.  May Jesus be lifted up, and hearts, minds, wills, and emotions be drawn to him.

Ping Pong & Service Times

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Orlando, Florida, 2008

The parking lot was full and I was nervous and about to have a double rude awakening. Others had fancy bags over their shoulders while I had a tattered paddle stuck in my belt in the small of my back. No one said a word to me as we walked into the large gymnasium and waited in the registration line. The person sitting behind the registration desk simply said: “Sign here, the cost is $20, wait in those bleachers.”   And so it was as I waited to play my first match at a large table tennis association. “Pastor Bob, I didn’t know you were such a ping pong ninja. How did that happen?” Thanks for asking.

Tacey and I sensed God leading us to plant a new EPC church in Orlando in 2008. We knew one couple, but other than that not a soul. There was no core group. So I did what most church planters do (and what all believers should be doing) – I started to look for opportunities to meet and befriend people who probably don’t know Jesus. I joined a local gun club that yielded one new friendship. Then I saw an ad in the local paper for a table tennis club. Cool, after all I was the reigning ping pong champion of the Hopper household (although Tacey would give me a run for my money – she is so competitive and needs to repent of that).

The Lord, in His kind providence, taught me two things that night. First, I am not a very good ping pong player (I got crushed in every match I played). Second, many visitors to many churches feel the exact same thing when they visit on a Sunday morning. Through our neglect, they feel intimidated, invisible, and unwelcome. This ought not to be so.

At Central, we are doing something about that. In fact, it is the primary reason we have changed our service times and designated our Fellowship Hall for . . . fellowship! Starting this Sunday, our new schedule begins. We thank the Lord for Julie Krauss and all the volunteers who made our summer brunches so spectacular. Now we embarking on a exciting and intentional journey to transform Central into a warm and welcoming place for those whom the Lord brings to us as visitors. Consider a few ways that this new schedule will help us be more visitor-friendly.

  • We will be less rushed between services, which will allow us to engage newcomers more easily.
  • We have a place (Fellowship Hall) where you can invite a newcomer to share a cup of coffee.   Take them there and introduce them to someone else (its OK to be a little late for or even miss your Sunday School class).
  • There will be several pastors and staff present there, so please introduce your guest to one of them.

Imagine that from parking lot orange-vested volunteers, greeters, ushers, and congregants our visitors sense that they are welcomed, cared for, and introduced to the love of Christ through each of us! Lessons learned from my ping pong experience place a burden on my heart that the people of God would demonstrate the love of God to people who desperately need to discover the grace of God.

Last Sunday one of our warm and welcoming members invited an unchurched co-worker to Central for their first visit to a Protestant church. Everything was new and strange and unfamiliar. Yet I was so blessed to see how this newcomer was being engaged by our members, and on my way out they made a point to approach me and thank me for what they had just experienced. That, dear friends, is the gospel in action! No one on this planet will perish because they can’t play ping pong. Countless will perish unless they come to know Jesus. We have the great privilege to be the means (secondary cause) to that glorious end. May it be so.

– Pastor Bob

P.S. Don’t forget to take advantage of our excellent Sunday School offerings for all ages. In fact, you might even treat the visitor that you have befriended to a cup of coffee, and then invite them to go with you to one of these classes.

Posted by Bob Hopper