Friday, October 23, 2020

Picking Songs To Sing In Corporate Worship
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Pastor, Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis, MO)

Not all that long ago, a church member approached me and asked how we go about selecting the songs that we sing on Sundays for the worship service. After giving thanks for such a wonderful question, I went on to recount about 6 or 8 things that we try to bear in mind when selecting the songs and hymns to sing.  I decided to jot them down and I will elaborate briefly on each point.

First and foremost, the theology is always most Important  — Whatever song we sing in corporate worship, the ultimate question is: ‘what does the song teach in these lyricsI’?  It must be biblical, accurate, true. We refuse to sing shallow, inaccurate, or even songs that are unclear about the message it conveys. We understand that music teaches in the worship service far more than we may realize. It must be, then, that the song lyrics teach a thoroughly biblical message.

Choose a song as a “call to worship” — Often one of our first songs (or two songs) may come under the theme of “Call to worship.” This means that the song is sung either first in the service or near the beginning of the service (for instance, after the announcements or a Scripture reading & prayer). A song that leads us in a “call to worship” is a song that we sing to God and others. In singing the words, we are calling or summoning or inviting or reminding one another in the assembly to praise & worship God! For example: “Come Christians join to sing” is a class call to worship! These are wonderful ways that we can teach the congregation about coming into God’s presence and even together, corporately, and vocally invite one another to worship the King!

Sing about God (describing God, Jesus) — Many hymns describe God in his character, in His nature, in his gospel. These hymns are usually marked by singing about God in the third person — “Holy, Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty” and countless others. These are wonderful songs to insert early on in the song set. These songs teach truth, they remind us of God, they bring Scriptures to mind as we sing songs that allude to and echo Scripture texts.

Sing to God (obedience to Him, personal reflections)  — Then there are songs and hymns that speak to God. These come in the second person descriptions: “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee” or “Jesus I my cross have taken all to leave and follow Thee.”  Songs such as this do not so much speak about God (though they certainly can!) but they are much more personal and individual as we speak from our own hearts to God as our God, our Savior, My King, My Lord.

We often start with quicker tempo and work toward slower and more contemplative   — Of course there are songs with all kinds of tempos and variation of rhythms. We try to be mindful, generally speaking, in picking a song or two that begins with a thunderous call to worship, and then a song that brings us to the biblical description of God, Christ, His gospel or His Word. Then we may transition into a slower song that is more thoughtful, meditative, prayerful, and even slower in pace and tempo so that the singers can pause, consider, think, and worship with the mind while singing with the heart.

Select a song that prays/prepares for the sermon (or responds to the sermon just heard)  — There can be a wonderful blessing in picking a song that deliberately prepares the congregation for the preached Word. This can also take place when the Word has just been preached. A song can be selected to respond to the preached Word and call the people to action. Show us Christ, Speak O Lord, Brethren we have met to worship and lots of others can fit this category of deliberately preparing the assembled people to hear from God’s Word.

The focus must always be on the Truth conveyed not the popularity or style.  — I give no thought to how popular a song is or how often it comes up on popular “Christian” radio. I could care less. What we do give our attention to is the truth conveyed by the lyrics.  What is the progression of the verses?  What is the doctrine being stated? How deep is it?  How accurate is it?  Does it fit well with the theme of the worship service and with the theme of the sermon to be preached?  So we pick songs not because they’re popular or cool or trendy or relevant or well-liked. We pick songs that are packed with glorious truth that will aid the mind in focusing on the biblical truth to be preached.

Select songs that are singable corporately, tempo, rhythm.  — Some songs, and many contemporary songs, can be difficult to sing in a corporate setting. Maybe the rhythm or tempo or timing of a song just may not lend itself to corporate worship. That’s why the song meter of hymns is so helpful. It keeps the singer going in a simple, clear, understandable, and repeatable manner.  For us in our particular local church, we do not encourage nor practical “special music” where someone sings a solo. We want the church to sing together with and lift our voices and hearts together with each other in songs and praises to God.

Pick songs that draw us into Church history —  Countless hymns have been sung through the history of the Church.  We could sing the Doxology and go back to the 17th century. We could sing A Mighty Fortress and almost hear Martin Luther thundering this forth with the German saints in the 16th century. We can sing Now thank we all our God with Martin Rinkart in the dark days of suffering and death in 17th century Germany.  We could join our voices with Charles Wesley in the 18th century when he wrote And can it be that I should gain? So many hymns were sung in joyful times, in times of plague and death, in times of fear and uncertainty and times of corruption. Yet, God remains the same. Hymns have held the people of God high in lofty praise through some of the darkest seasons of the church.  Singing hymns brings us into this wonderful history of hymnology and psalmsinging in the church.

Select Songs that enhance the preaching text/theme (or, the gospel, or an attribute of God)   — Of course, one of the great reasons we pick the songs we sing is to serve and aid the theme or text that will be preached.  If there are songs that go well with the text or attributes of God that will be heralded from the Word, we want to sing about them as well. So this takes deliberate prayer, thoughtful planning, purposeful intentionality but we trust that it blesses the people of God when they come to gather with the saints to worship Christ the living and risen King!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Doctrine of Sin Observations from Romans 5.12: Briefing on Hamartiology

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

God unequivocally announces that all humankind has plunged into a hopeless state of sin and depravity. So bad is this condition that no mere man, in his own strength or by his own cooperation, can ever bring himself to God. The sinful condition of man is such that man is a vile rebel, a corrupt blasphemer, and a hellbound Lawbreaker.  

In this brief writeup, I must give some declarations from a key text on the doctrine of sin: Romans 5:12.

1. Sin came through one man, Adam. — God declares, through the pen of the Apostle Paul as he wrote under the guidance and careful direction of the Holy Spirit, that through one man sin entered into the world. Where did death, dying, decay, evil, pain, suffering and all the results of the curse come from? Simple answer: Adam’s sin.  All sin in human history had its beginning point with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3 recounts this story in great (and, very clear) detail. Sin entered the world because Adam sinned before God. He disobeyed God and thus sin entered the world when it was not previously known at all. God had declared: in the day that Adam eats of the fruit, he would surely die (Genesis 2.17). This happened, and so sin entered through Adam.

2. Sin brought death. — When sin broke into human history, sin brought forth death. The Bible says in Romans 5:12 that death came through sin. Literally: through the sin death came. What did Adam’s sin produce? What was the result? Death. Yes physical death would one day come to Adam but at the very instant that Adam disobeyed God and ate, spiritual death invaded and pervaded the world. Death came through one man’s sin. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6.23). The soul that sins will die (Ezek 18.4). Sin produces death.

3. Death spread to all men. — Adam’s sin was very personal but it did not remain individualistic. His sin spread to all men. Literally the texts says that death passed through to all men. From Adam, our leader and head, all his posterity and children for endless generations to come would thus be contaminated with the depraved nature, the corrupt nature and the sinful nature of evil. In Adam, sin spread to all mankind. No one, naturally born of a woman, has ever nor could ever escape this sinful nature.

4. In Adam, all mankind sinned. — The text concludes in Romans 5:12 by affirming that all mankind sinned in Adam. In an amazingly mystical yet undeniably real way, all humankind has sinned in Adam’s sin. Adam thus is our corporate representative. He is our federal head. When he sinned, we actively sinned in Him. Later in Romans 5:19 we see a parallel with the glorious ray of hope: Through the one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners (in Adam), even so through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous (in Christ).  Just as in Adam, our federal head, we all were imputed with the sin and guilt of Adam, so also in Christ, our federal head for all the elect, we all are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. In Adam all sinned, in Christ all are made alive.  

Thursday, October 1, 2020


Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Pastor, Christ Fellowship Bible Church

God has called me to pastor a precious group of saints whom He has saved for His glory. I love the blessed & God-given duty of ministry. I understand the priorities that Scripture presents for all who are to serve as leaders in the church: they must devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word, as the Apostles demonstrated (Acts 6.4). At the same time, I also understand one of the clear directives that God gives to me from Paul’s pen in 2 Timothy 4.5 to “do the work of an evangelist.”  This can and should happen from the pulpit. I also see it as an important mark of my ministry to set an example for the church family in zealously pursuing lost souls with the clear communicating of the gospel message. Our hopes rest fully and confidently in the sovereign decrees of God to save all whom He wills. And we know that all of God’s elect shall come!

While on the streets this week, I found myself reflecting on this little statement:  Street proclamation produces gospel conversations resulting in God’s glorification!

Street Proclamation
    produces Gospel Conversations
        resulting in God’s Glorification

1. Street Proclamation.
It is my prayer that God would raise up thousands of faithful and fervent open air preachers across our land. We need men of God, walking in holiness, who understand the glorious gospel of God in its blazing glory and God-saturated fullness to stand and speak, to herald, to announce, to lift up the voice like a trumpet! Street proclamation is a method of evangelism that simply takes the gospel to the streets to the unsaved who may never enter into a faithful bible-teaching church. One way that God has ordained His Word to go forth for the saving of lost souls is through the preaching of the Word — in the open air. Faithful street preachers preach so that Jesus will be glorified and so that His gospel would be thundered forth! Gospel heralds go with confidence to simply declare God’s message from His Word and confidently believe that the Spirit of God will draw God’s elect to the Son so that the sinner will respond in true repentance, faith, and surrender. May God raise up many armies of such heralds in our cities!

2)  Gospel Conversations.
One blessing to street preaching is having other faithful laborers out on the streets to engage passers by in gospel conversations. Often, a Christian can ask someone who is walking by: “What do you think about what that man is preaching?” Or, “I saw you stop and listen for a few minutes, what did you think about what you heard?”  And then while the man is preaching the Word, there can be other Christians engaging in one-to-one conversations.  It is a beautiful picture of how God’s Word goes forth to reach many and how prayerful and observant fishers-of-men can approach people and seek to engage them in private conversations!  Street preaching often produces wonderful gospel opportunities on the streets with unbelievers.

3)  God’s Glorification.
In the faithful preaching of the gospel and in the calling of sinners to turn from sin and flee to Jesus Christ, God receives glory! We preach the Word to glorify God!  We engage in gospel conversations to glorify God! He alone must receive all praise and honor! We present and proclaim the gospel and plead with sinners to hear, heed and obey the gospel summons. Those who engage in conversations also do the same through one-to-one interactions. Why? The goal and end result is so that God may be glorified to use His Word, by His Spirit’s sovereign power, to save sinners.

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