New worship songs and older members


worship-in-wrpfOne of the tensions faced by  young and older members in the same worship service together is that of the introduction of new songs. Young people are quick with picking up new tunes. They are passionate with singing songs that resonate with their heart. They keep tabs with the latest in Hillsong and Bethel worship. The worship team knows this and gives to them what they want. So they introduce new songs after new songs. A few may get sung again and again, and become part of the church’s repertoire and worship memory. Many fall by the wayside and are forgotten.

To resolve the tension, we need to take heed to wise heads like C.S. Lewis. He mentioned that like dancing, worship works best when you do not have to think about it.

“As long as you notice and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only learning to dance.”(C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm)

Thus the more familiar you are with a worship song or hymn the more likely you will be able to focus on God’s presence, instead of trying so hard to follow the tune, and catch up with the lyrics. Thus in worship, familiarity enhances, enriches, empowers the God encounter.
Does it mean then that we do not learn new songs? New songs are important as they express our adoration and need in ways that the children of each generation can relate to and identify with as their voice. This is a powerful way by which God’s presence nourish young people’s minds and moves upon their hearts.

The best way then is for us to introduce new songs intentionally and systematically.  This means order and discipline is needed. Sing it over several Sundays till familiarity breeds worship, not contempt. Worship then becomes “like dancing”.

INCEPTION of the good news of God’s grace

InceptionThe plot of INCEPTION

The film INCEPTION, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, poses an intriguing proposition, and by extension an interesting spiritual application. The action film is science fiction with a tantalising idea: that ideas and secrets and technology can be extracted from people while their subconscious mind are at their most vulnerable- during dream state. So the hero is skilled at extracting secret industrial information from people, and is highly in demand by competitor clients, as well as a fugitive from those who have been milked. The tension is set when he was asked to plant an idea rather than extract ideas from a particular heir of a near monopoly. Its a tight fast-moving, suspenseful movie which ends with a successful conclusion and we are meant to assume that the idea bore fruition and the client who hired him reaped the harvest from the growth of that idea.

How is  preaching like INCEPTION?

Some people think that preaching is passe and ineffective. The monologue they say is doomed to failure in a world that is increasingly interactive, and that grew up on sound bytes, moving visuals and immediate gratification of senses. Young people and increasingly the older ones as well are having shorter attention spans than ever before. It used to be 20 minutes but I speculate that it is much less, perhaps a worrying 2 minutes! Is the sermon as a method of communication past expiry date?

Despite all this I still believe there is a place for the sermon. It does help to have power point visuals, or fill in the blanks outlines in the bulletin, or to keep the sermon interesting.  However, the sermon is not a lecture, or an interesting public talk. A sermon has life: it is impregnated by the preacher’s soul and the Spirit’s life-giving power. And the worship service is the equivalent of the dream state, when a person, with all his rational and spiritual powers intact (unlike in dream state), is most receptive to receiving an implantation of the eternal, life changing good news of Jesus Christ. With the implant of an idea, that God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself, and joined them to the life of the Triune God, the recipient would have received a word that would generate life and transformation, leading to a harvest of the Spirit, the fruit of righteousness.

INCEPTION means the beginning, the start of a process, a project and it does appropriately describe what can possibly happen through preaching of the good news of God’s grace, and its reception into the receptive, believing heart. When the Word is implanted it is just the beginning of a process, a project that will culminate in life transformation and the greater glory of God.

Speaking in tongues in the worship service

During the revival, speaking in tongues was a common phenomena during the meetings, whether for prayer or worship services. There would be loud speaking in tongues with tears and crying. People were convicted and overwhelmed by the Spirit and speaking loudly in tongues, sometimes with interpretation, but most times without.

My understanding about tongues and its use in church gradually shifted with exposure to different churches: Anglican charismatic, Methodist charismatic, Baptist charismatic, Love Singapore meetings and even mega church Pentecostal services. This coupled with theological training on the interpretation of scriptures formed and shaped a nuanced understanding of the usage of tongues in the church. However I found it difficult to put it in words or to explain them simply. Until I came across this video in Adrian Warnock’s blog by Terry Virgo the founder of a network of 600 churches in 50 nations called Newfrontiers. They are Reformed Charismatic and Evangelical small churches. He spoke about the use of speaking in tongues in the church service, and it resonated with me.

5e. Free to worship from Terry Virgo on Vimeo.

the New Covenant Church in KL- from strength to strength

new worship premises at Wisma TA

improved worship dynamics and equipment

In about one year, the New Covenant Church, in Kuala Lumpur  has outgrown the premises at Atria Shopping Centre and has moved to the Wisma TA on the 1.1.11. They seem to have nearly doubled in six months.

The improvements were visible and audible. The four forbidding video cameras, theIan Chong mood-shifting lighting, the projection systems and the understated tasteful interior. So has the music, with a worship leader with stage presence, and bold and anointed vocals. These certainly increases the appeal of this church to working young adults. And there were visibly more of them than six months ago.

Saw some familiar faces from Facebook and my previous visit. It was nice just to meet Simon Yap, and catch up with Alex and Karen. This church preaches the Alexgospel of grace but has many “law”-yers. Alex remarked that since experiencing God’s radical grace, he has been more excited, blessed, more active in ministry, and gave more than he had ever in his whole Christian life. Talking about giving, this church does not pass offering bags around and nobody is paid. There are offering boxes around, but giving is a low key thing. Even when they needed more than RM$600,000 to move to this new premises the amount was raised within three weeks without much drumbeating.

Barnabas Mam preaching

The message blessed my heart. It was pastor Barnabas Mam from Cambodia who gave a verse by verse expository message on New Covenant transformation. It was enlightening, helpful, inspiring. Interwoven into the explanations and catchy outline were stories from the church planting fruitfulness of Cambodian indigenous church planters trained and supported by the institute, and regularly  supported by the New Covenant Church through teaching teams and finances.

Kenny, Barnabas, Peter Sze, Simon Yap, Yew Chzon

Later, we had a relaxed sharing over coffee with pastor Peter and his daughter, Joey. Barnabas was amiable, perceptive and unassuming in person despite his stature as one of the notable leaders of the Cambodian Church. Peter and I talked quite a bit about the church. When asked about what caused the recent growth spurt, he replied that it was God’s grace. Whatever humanly analysed factors you deduced would be of no use if not for the grace of God. In another place or time, with the very same factors present, the growth may never materialise. He was concerned that tNCC became a community, not just a large collection of individuals. He felt that’s an important element in any church that preaches the gospel of grace. That also came across strongly in the course lectures and interactions in class about making disciples I had been attending. The culture in a Christian community is so strong it influences and shapes the groups and individuals in the church: it disciples them.

The Sze extended family of 4 generations

The extended four generations Sze family celebrated the one year birthday of Esaias at a country club. Well my timing was good. Four nights confined in a hostel room reading and doing my assignments had made me shamelessly bold. So I joined them for makan and they later graciously sent me back to Kuang, not Kluang, not Klang, but Kuang.

Now driving me back was something because Kuang, as I now know, is not part of Kuala Lumpur, but is a town north of the city. The Malaysian Bible Seminary bought over this country farm/golf club and it is located in an ulu kampong area (countryside) that needed three Szes, a Volkswagon and an iPad to locate. The daughter Suzanne was driving to spare the tired father; her husband, Yew Juan was navigating with the iPad; and Peter should have stayed home to rest, but accompanied me. So how do you think it made me feel? I wasn’t even the preacher!  Like the labourers in the vineyard who came to work late but got the same wages, I got what I did not deserve.

“Should I feel guilty or what?”, I asked Peter. “Just be grateful to the Lord”.

And I was, as I laid my head on the stiff pillow at 1am that night.

Speculating on water crystals

The comment about the video says, “Research from Dr. Masaru Emoto, says that when human thoughts are directed at water before it is frozen, images of the resulting water crystals will be beautiful or ugly depending upon whether the thoughts were positive or negative. Emoto claims this can be achieved through prayer, music or by attaching written words to a container of water. Since 1999 Emoto has published several volumes of a work titled Messages from Water, which contains photographs of water crystals next to essays and “words of intent”. My son Matthew showed this video and it set me thinking.

I would like to know your opinion if this is science or science fiction or new age stuff?

IF the above videos are real science, then it is fascinating giddy stuff.

Just think of our human body. It is largely water: 70%.

Let’s engage in adventurous speculation and extrapolation.

Will the harbouring of negatives like bitterness, anger, prolonged stress and hate cause malformation at cellular level that consequentially become a disease?

On the other hand, would grateful and joyful praise all day perk the body’s performance and resistance to disease?

What is the impact of our attitudes on our water laden body? What is happening at a cellular level? Are beautiful and ugly water crystals formed and if so are they precursors and indicators of health or disease?

What are the implications on meditation? Meditation is translated from Hebrew “ hagah” which means ponder, mutter, speak, muse, and imagine. When we meditate on the gospel and the promises of God thinking on it, speaking it under our breath, muttering it – what is happening to us psychologically and physiologically? What is being birthed in us?

We keep muttering verses like, “God is my refuge and strength”, or “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?” or “The Lord is my righteousness” or “The Lord will supply all my needs” or “He himself took my sickness and diseases”. We say them over and over. What happens as we do that?

What happens below our skin when we sing praises in the congregation or in the home? When we listen to different kinds of music?

Is speculating on water, instead of gold, the next best investment of the century?
Watch this second video with a spoonful of salt:

Contemporary worship akin to moshing?

worshipI first heard about moshing from worship lecturer Dr Lim Swee Hong of Trinity Theological College. During his lecture, he mentioned how a certain writer likened what you see in contemporary charismatic worship (particularly the megachurches) to the moshing you see in punk rock concerts. Is contemporary worship in the megachurches borrowing too much from the world? Are they aping popular culture so that the non-Christian will be more comfortable, and attracted to the church? That really got me all curious. So I went to do some research about moshing.

Wikipedia definition

“an activity in which audience members at live music performances aggressively push or slam into each other. Moshing is frequently accompanied by stage diving, crowd surfing, and headbanging. It is commonly associated with concerts by heavy metal, punk rock, and alternative rock artists, although it occurs at performances by musicians of all sorts of genres. Moshing primarily takes place at live shows, though it can be done to recorded music, too. In the 2000s, many variations of moshing exist, such as “thrash”, and the dance is practiced at concerts of many musical genres. Moshing is typically done in an area in front or the stage which is referred to as the mosh pit or circle pit. While moshing is seen as a form of positive feedback or reflection of enjoyment from live audiences, it has also drawn some controversy over its dangerous nature. However, it is generally agreed that moshers are not trying to harm one another and follow a “moshing etiquette” which promotes safety through behaviors such as immediately helping audience members that have fallen back to their feet to avoid their being trampled”.

Then I went to YouTube to get an idea of what it looks like.

And then I compared it with a worship concert done by Hillsong United. Compare them for yourselves. You may think otherwise but I think they are different.

Perhaps moshing is more like what’s in this next video. No offense is meant to moshers. Please do not complain to the police or the ISD. 🙂

(First published in 13th January 2008)

Who’s your favourite worship leader, dad?

Lord thanks for those who lead us in worship“Who’s your favourite worship leader?” my daughter asked.

We were listening to some worship songs in the car.

I could not answer her immediately. My mind did a quick search.

Don Moen?  Bob Fitts? Michael W. Smith?

Chris Tomlin? Graham Kendrick? or Terry MacAlmon?…

Then my mind went back to church. To the guys that lead us in worship, Sunday after Sunday, dedicated to their And for musicians too I thank youcalling, passionate in honing their craft, waiting on the Lord. They are the ones who together with the music and AV teams  facilitate the church’s worship of God. Each of the worship leader had been used by God to usher us into His felt presence. Some had been used more superlatively than others. For me it had to be pastor Simon Tan.

So I told my daughter, “Simon Tan.”

She smiled.

Maybe she expected me to say Darlene Z, or Clark Kent,  or something like that.

Yes I like them both, but it is when the church gathers on Sunday led by one from our midst that I experience worship in Spirit and truth, so my favourite is a local homegrown.