Are Covenants A ‘Yoke of Bondage’?

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Liberty-statue-from-below.jpg

Statue of Liberty

Ten years ago my family began attending a church plant from a well-established Southern Baptist congregation.  That was before all the "church planting" hype that has become so prevalent.  It was the most wonderful church, and I was ecstatic to be a part of this fellowship of believers.  Our church had an interim pastor, whom I enjoyed tremendously, but he was approaching the end of a long career of ministry.  The search was on for a full-time pastor.  A number of candidates came and preached, and finally the congregation called a young and talented man of God.  That was the following June.  On September 7, 2003, our church was formally established with close to 250 members.  

How did we become church members?  We attended a couple of membership classes and were interviewed by two of the church leaders (primarily to share our testimony).  Since it was a Baptist church, those of us who joined had to have been baptized by immersion.  Then during that beautiful Sunday morning service in September, we signed a Covenant.  This was something entirely new to me; however, it didn't bother me at the time.  Everyone who joined the church was committed to seeking unity, sharing responsibility, and serving in the ministry.  Who could argue with those Christian ideals? 

A year went by, and the event was commemorated on what has come to be known as Covenant Sunday with all the members agreeing once again to abide by the membership covenant they had signed.  This congregation just celebrated its ninth anniversary last Sunday by re-affirming its covenant.

My family only reaffirmed the covenant once (in 2004) because by the time the next Covenant Sunday rolled around, we were long gone!  You see, our church went through a terrible ordeal.  Suffice it to say that influential elders wanted a change in leadership not long after the church had been formally established, and they went about it in what appeared to be an underhanded way.  When the strife became known after months of back room wrangling, it caused tremendous dissension within the congregation.  The mishandling of the situation was threatening to split this newly established church.  I expressed my outrage in a three-page letter addressed to the head elder.  I hand-delivered it to the church, but it was NEVER acknowledged.  It was an extremely upsetting experience for everyone in the congregation.

Early in 2005 a seminary president began meeting with the pastor and elders on a weekly basis.  Things became much more settled.  Then on the first Sunday in April, Dee's husband visited our church for the first (and last) time.  My husband and I were pleasantly surprised to see him seated in the worship center.  During his message, our pastor informed us that he would be making a special announcement after the service.  Dee's hubby hung around to try and learn more about our church.  All of us were in complete shock when our pastor announced his resignation, effective May 1, 2005 (my wedding anniversary).  I was devastated!

I took the resignation very hard because I really liked my pastor.  No, he wasn't perfect.  Who is?  But he had such a tremendous gift for teaching God's Word.  My faith and understanding of the Bible were growing by leaps and bounds under his leadership. 

In the middle of April I felt compelled to write a memorandum to the head elder, who had replaced the one to whom I addressed my scathing letter several months before.  Looking back, I realize that this was how I got my start in what I am doing now through TWW.  I handed the memo to him in person just as I entered the worship center on a Sunday evening.  After the service, I happened to meet the head elder in the hallway.  He had read my memo, and we had a verbal exchange which probably lasted about ten minutes.  I reiterated what I had written, which was my extreme disappointment over what had occurred.  He got so exasperated with me that he blurted out the words in Luke 6:41-42.  Needless to say, that brought our verbal  exchange to an abrupt end.  This man holds a prominent position in our state and is up for re-election.   I do plan to vote for him again, despite my great disappointment in his behavior toward me.  

A couple weeks later, my pastor preached his final sermon, and we were gone!  Looking back, it's a blessing that I did not have to undergo church discipline!  In subsequent years, I have become more circumspect about everything that happened.

In the aftermath of that awful experience, I have come to believe that these unfortunate events were indeed providential.  I believe that God has used them to help me understand what is going on in Christendom.  What have I discovered?  Well, there have been some big changes in recent years, which we write about on our blog.  With regard to covenants that are becoming so prevalent, it certainly appears that they are legal documents used to keep church members in line.  While churches that implement these covenants may enforce them in a variety of ways, we have shared testimonies where they were used to invoke church discipline on members who simply disagreed.  Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, the two pastors that Mark Driscoll fired, are the first ones who come to mind.   

Speaking of Mars Hill Church, many of our readers are aware that Mark Driscoll and his cohorts changed the church by-laws a number of years ago and put in place a new covenant that EVERYONE (including current members) had to sign in order to remain members.  Those who failed to sign the membership covenant were no longer members of Mars Hill (and there were quite a few of them).  Here is the current Mars Hill Membership Covenant.  Please read through it in order to gain an understanding of how covenants can be so controlling of church members.

Before signing a covenant, I would want to know whether it was prepared by an attorney and whether it is enforceable as a legal document.  We have written a number of posts that address membership covenants, which appear to be a growing trend in Christendom.  We hope you will find these topics helpful. 

Membership Covenant Red Flags

Spiritual Abuse Final Exam – Analyze a Membership Covenant

Another Mars Hill "Testimony:  One More Reason to Beware of Covenants

Mark Dever / 9 Marks Edict – You Cannot Resign W/O Permission

Peacemaker or Kingmaker?  Beware of "Covenants"

In our upcoming post we will discuss what appears to be a fairly new trend — renewable church membership.  These are often done on an annual basis, much like what I have described in this post.  As you know, we follow Christian trends, and renewable church membership is likely coming to a church near you (or perhaps even your church).    

Lydia's Corner:   Exodus 10:1-12:13   Matthew 20:1-28   Psalm 25:1-15   Proverbs 6:6-11

Comments

Are Covenants A ‘Yoke of Bondage’? — 148 Comments

  1. I don't have a problem with requiring the member to renew their membership annually. We've got a lot of members who haven't been around in a year or more .. in one case, we had a family that had been gone 14 years write for their "membership letter" from a church in Texas. What were we supposed to tell them .. they were good, faithful members?

    As far as covenants go, I won't sign one. Wouldn't sign the Baptist Faith & Message, either (although it's highly unlikely I'll ever be asked). I'll happily sign my Bible and if that's not good enough, then I'm not the one with the problem.

    Gosh folks sure do make things complicated, don't we?

  2. Deb
    Covenants were started by churches to protect churches from lawsuits from members or former members. However, this is rarely told to unsuspecting new members who are told that this is a nice thing to do, to commit to one’s church.

    Every person should ask if the covenant was vetted by as attorney or copied from a church which did so. If the answer is yes, the next question is important. Ask why the elders/leaders did not think it important to advise the potential new member of this fact. The potential members should be informed in order to decide if they wish to consult an attorney prior to signing such a contract.

    I would advise people to never, ever sign such a “covenant” until they have attended to the church for years, to see if the leadership is worthy of such an action on your part.

    Also, if these were so gosh darned important, you think Jesus or Paul might have mentioned them.

  3. I’m thinking Jesus and Paul didn’t need signed covenants to procure a following! Nor would they be reduced to requiring a signed document to know who was in agreement with them.

  4. Dee said: “I would advise people to never, ever sign such a “covenant” until they have attended to the church for years, to see if the leadership is worthy of such an action on your part.”

    The problem is that leadership can change. This is one of the reasons I don’t think I would sign a covenant in the future no matter how much I loved the church and trusted the people. I might love and trust the people in leadership now, but as we all know… Things can change dramatically in a short period of time. We’re currently members of a church and I believe all we did was make a verbal agreement to the doctrines and the confessions of faith the church holds to. (I don’t remember signing anything. I carefully read everything I sign so I’m sure I would remember it.)

    I skimmed the Mars Hill covenant. No way would I sign it. There were a couple of major red flags such as “I will refrain from illegal drug use, drunkenness, and other sinful behavior as the Bible, my pastors, and my conscience dictate.” My pastors? Isn’t it enough to go with the Bible and my conscience? Do the pastors need to tell me what sinful behavior is? Yikes.

  5. So many red flags in the Mars Hill covenant.
    ‘I will not be divisive to its (the church’s) teaching = you are not allowed to disagree, so check your brain at the door.
    ‘My relationship will be evident in XYZ activities with the church’ = You’d better always be at every event or you’re most likely a bad person.
    ‘I will submit to discipline by church leadership’ = well, we’ve all seen real cases of what happens there.
    ‘I will refrain from illegal drug use, etc, as the Bible and my pastors dictate’ = You’d better be perfect or you’re a bad person, and we’ll tell you what you are and are not allowed to do because you’re probably too much of a bad person to know right from wrong, anyway.

  6. Actually, there was a church covenant in the old hymnals used in most Baptist churches in the 1940s and 1950s, and in some since then. It was a fairly innocuous document (including no use of beverage alcohol being the most restrictive part). Included a pledge to move one’s membership when one moved ones home from the area. It really was an agreement among the members to be supportive of each other and the congregation as a whole. Some churches read it together in unison monthly or quarterly. It was not intended to be a legal document, but a moral commitment.

  7. Intriguing to read the covenant! In the context of the text’s obsession with submission, I found the bit about scripture being the final arbiter telling, who gets to decide what scripture is saying, I wonder?

    Oh and the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll sins being singled out was pretty telling to. So I guess greed, selfish ambition, lovelessness and self-righteous pride are OK then.

  8. Maybe the focus on sins like drunkenness is why these sorts of covenants don’t seem to have caught on here in Australia – you’re not going to get very far trying to tell us to stay away from the booze!

  9. I notice the “obligation of the members to the church” section is much longer and more detailed than the “obligation of the elders to the members” section…

  10. Sallie

    I recently removed myself from a covenant when the leadership of the church changed to reflect Calvinista theology in all its glory. You can be sure it will be a long, long time, if ever, before I sign another one.

  11. Bridget

    These signed covenants have nothing to do with procuring a following. It is to proect themselves from those who follow.

  12. To our readers

    Dee will be out of pocket today. I will be involed in helping out at a medical ministry. I look forward to reading the discussion when I return.

  13. dee,

    I agree with you that covenants protect churches from lawsuits.

    I dug a little deeper and discovered that John Piper was advocating for church covenants as far back as 1993.

    Why a Church Covenant?

    I wonder what precipitated this position at Bethlehem Baptist…

  14. Jimmy:

    You said:”Jesus and Paul never had to worry about being sued. Killed? yes. Sued? No.”

    You have only one concern in life don’t you. Pathetic comment!!

  15. Dee said: “Covenants were started by churches to protect churches from lawsuits from members or former members. ”

    Well, it’s pretty clear that I need a church with a covenant to protect members from lawsuits.

  16. Dee and Jimmy –

    Yes, I’m sure that churches attempt to use the covenants to avoid lawsuits. Doctors and schools and camps have you sign agreements that you won’t hold them responsible for injuries as well. But those agreements don’t hold up well if serious harm comes to a person due to negligence or misconduct on the other parties part.

    Don’t you think it should be a serious red flag to all of us if churches have to have members sign covenants? Jesus and Paul were willing to trust God with their lives, but churches are worried about their money? Maybe something is terribly amiss with the way we do “church” if it is reduced to functioning like a business and the leaders are worried about law suits! I’d have concerned about any “leaders” asking me to sign a covenant. What might THEY do that requires protection?

    And then we have situations like Julie Anne’s, where the pastor tried to sue her . . .when it’s the members who seem to need the protection and take the most abuse. (I know some churches have boards who have go after pastors.)

    Jimmy — look at SGM. The high and mighty leaders get all kinds of protection from the help of lawyers and fellow RBD leaders and their family and friends. How were FORMER pastors and members treated? I’m glad they have an Advocate in Jesus.

    The ones who have the decision-making power (or FALSE authority) are NOT the ones who need protection.

  17. By my count the word “submit” or “submission” occurs six times in the Mars Hill covenant. Is one joining a church or the Nazi Party?

  18. Deb –

    That teaching of Piper’s on covenants you linked to is scary. He is citing the Puritans in it and has a presupposition that the Puritans’ church governance is the way to go (bug eyes here). The Puritans started killing their own in adherence to their “church covenant” and bringing “glory to God” and making sure the church was “holy.”

    This might explain the reason some of these guys have no problems with abuse for a season “in the name of God’s glorification.” It seems they are more concerned with how the world perceives the Church than they are in “being a disciple of Christ” in their personal lives. God will be glorified as individuals listen to the Spirit and live as disciples — God’s glory has little to do with church governance (IMO). Many of the leaders of today should be running a business and not leading a church.

  19. Having been a member of my mega church for 25 years I am far removed from being in a new member class or to what it even takes to become a member these days. I did however notice that the person facilitating the new members class at church is a member who is an attorney. Seems suspicious.

  20. Seems like every Calvinist minister wants to set up his own little Geneva. Thank God burning at the stake is now illegal.

  21. I’m thinking these churches with covenants want to get it in writing that it’s perfectly OK for them to abuse their members if they get out of line, and there’s not a darn thing the members can do. This would include slandering members from the pulpit (which, under normal circumstances, would be a tort and actionable). Under these covenants, the members are basically out of luck.

  22. I have no problem with a church asking prospective members to publicly profess their faith in Jesus. I willingly did so when I joined the church where I’ve worshipped for a dozen years. Signing a “covenant” or showing one’s pastor their W-2 or 1099 is another matter altogether.

  23. singleman,

    Great comment!

    I believe churches that require members to sign covenants are really saying:

    It’s the Gospel + __________ 

    And those covenants go in the blank.

  24. Deb linked to the 9 Marks covenant and explanation. There are churches which simply copy this covenant verbatim. What do you think about this portion of the justification by pastor Schmucker?
    “Attending regularly is vital because it is the first step toward being held accountable.  If you are not attending regularly (maybe you’ve moved, maybe you’ve become ill, maybe you have left for school, maybe you’ve simply chosen to attend another church) LET SOMEBODY KNOW…preferably the pastor.  Non-attendance is either a portal to sin or a reflection of sin.  It is prevented by formative church discipline, and remedied by corrective church discipline.”
    Notice the specific non-attenders he mentions, and his remedy!
    He earlier said scripture highlights our need for accountability thusly:
    “Read Matt 18:15-17 – We do not have a license to sin.  More than that, if we do keep on sinning, we risk proving that we have not been given new life from God.  Matthew 18 gives us instruction about what to do with a persistently unrepentant sinner.
    Read 1Cor 5 – If the Corinthian congregation allowed this man to remain a member of the church, he (and others) may get the wrong impression that his sexual immorality is consistent with what it means to be a Christian.  Weaker members of the body will be confused and hurt as well.  And the church will risk losing her reputation in the local community.”
    If we have not, indeed, been given new life from God, then we don’t want to “risk” proving it?
    And the church will “risk” losing her reputation…. Is this the bottom line for the church?

  25. Pam (in australia)

    RE: “Maybe the focus on sins like drunkenness is why these sorts of covenants don’t seem to have caught on here in Australia – you’re not going to get very far trying to tell us to stay away from the booze!”

    I tend to think that what I consider America’s relative “prudishness” on these things, including how charged an issue the human body is, stems from the fact that Prohibition actually happened.

    In my view, European cultures are far more reasonable.

    (granted, these cultures like all cultures are not without excesses with negative consequences).

  26. Dave A A quoted: “Non-attendance is either a portal to sin or a reflection of sin. It is prevented by formative church discipline, and remedied by corrective church discipline.”

    Not always. And what a way to try to scare people into conforming.

    Here’s a different example.

    We went through a period of burnout where we did not go to church (where we were members) for an entire summer (May – August). The story is long, but we told our pastor we needed to take a break and we were also going to visit a few other churches that were closer to our new home where we had recently moved.

    He came to visit us about 3/4 of the way through the time we were gone. We had a nice visit and he told us he hoped we would come back when we were ready. When he prayed for us before he left, I will never forget two specific things he said in the course of his prayer because they were so clearly of God and we had never said anything related to them.

    One of them was that we would not feel guilty for taking a season of rest. I had felt so guilty for not being in church each week and yet here was my pastor praying that we would not feel guilty. I truly believe it was God’s confirmation to us that He was with us in this time and we were not in error. My guilt was not a conviction of sin, but a legalistic feeling that it was wrong to not be in church.

    We went back a few weeks later and were glad to be back. The break was exactly what we needed as a family.

    I am so thankful for a gracious pastor who is willing to let the Holy Spirit lead people and not try to manipulate them into following man-made rules.

  27. Sallie,

    In Wade’s sermons I have heard him say something very similar to what your pastor told you regarding church attendance. Legalism is alive and well in some churches.

  28. A year went by, and the event was commemorated on what has come to be known as Covenant Sunday with all the members agreeing once again to abide by the membership covenant they had signed.

    Like Baptismal Promises at Easter Vigil Mass?

  29. Intriguing to read the covenant! In the context of the text’s obsession with submission, I found the bit about scripture being the final arbiter telling, who gets to decide what scripture is saying, I wonder? — Richard

    God’s Anointed Ayatollah — I mean Pastor/Apostle — of course.

    Oh and the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll sins being singled out was pretty telling to. So I guess greed, selfish ambition, lovelessness and self-righteous pride are OK then. — Richard

    Because Selfish Ambition, Lovelessness, and Self-Righteous Pride are soooo Godly(TM) — look at any of these CELEBRITY mega-pastors and Calvinistas!

    (You always denounce the sins you have no chance of ever committing; this is why Homosexuality is at the top of the hit list.)

    And Sexual Sins are always the most JUICY JUICY JUICY to denounce — how else can Church Lady types get their JUICY porn fix?

  30. Real quick and off hand, consider that one of the benefits of renewable membership is to close the insane gap between the roster and the attendance. Some mainlines in the south have a “membership” of 1500 and average weekend attendance of 300. Approximately 8 percent of their “membership” is actually dead but didn’t bother to update their status. “Renewing” pretty much takes care of that in one year: The only people on your roster become the ones who still attend. It sounds like a very practical way to get less inflated stats, which have been a problem plaguing the evangelical and mainline flagships alike.

    Just be careful and read before you sign. If you become legally bound to relinquish your firstborn child, it’s your own darned fault for actually agreeing to it.

  31. Sallie,
    Thank you so much for your story! What a blessing is a shepherd who’s NOT accusing people of being in sin and needing *discipline* because “maybe you’ve moved, maybe you’ve become ill, maybe you have left for school, maybe you’ve simply chosen to attend another church” to quote 9-Marks once more.

  32. Miguel,

    I loved your last statement:  “Just be careful and read before you sign. If you become legally bound to relinquish your firstborn child, it’s your own darned fault for actually agreeing to it.”

    Renewable church membership seems like going to the opposite extreme of having inflated church rolls.   I’m looking forward to writing about this next week.  🙂

  33. Oh yes, how blessed we were in the sandhill oilfields.

    The PEOPLE planted the church. The PEOPLE called the preacher, who served at the call of God and under the authority of the local church (PEOPLE.)

    We didn’t need their books, their songs, or their seminars.

    We had–and we READ–our Bibles.

    JESUS was Head of the church.

    And it was very good.

  34. Miguel said: “Just be careful and read before you sign. If you become legally bound to relinquish your firstborn child, it’s your own darned fault for actually agreeing to it.”

    The problem is that it isn’t apparent you are basically signing away your firstborn child. How many people would read the Mars Hill covenant and think it sounded fine? Most Christians would. On one level is DOES sound fine, especially if you have a healthy attitude about submitting to authority and have only had good experiences with it in the past. It’s only when the application of the covenant falls into the hands of controlling men that it becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong and you realize how certain phrases in there can be used to control members.

  35. I do not understand this concept of submitting to pastoral authority. What it the world does it mean on a practical level?

  36. mot, It is has only been in the last 10 years I have seen an explosion with this concept especially in the reformed movement. I grew up SBC and this concept was unthinkable.everyone would have laughed in the face of any pastor or elder who taught asuch a ridiculous thing. We were taught soul liberty and also we were responsible to Christ and would stand alone to be judged when that day comes. That was part of training to be an adult follower of Christ. (not man)

  37. Anon 1

    Praise God there are still some Baptist churches out there like you describe.  You have to look hard though.

  38. Didn’t Jesus have the Apostles sign a covenant? Wasn’t the form they signed an appendix to one of the Gospels?

  39. The people who led the “Conservative Resurgence” also taught and preached “pastoral authority” and denigrated the “priesthood of all believers”. The now deceased former pastor of FBC Dallas preached at the mid-late ’80s SBC convention in San Antonio and called any who disagreed with him bad names from the pulpit.

  40. A minister who demands these types of covenants is really only interested in a docile flock that’s willing to be fleeced. Asst pastors and elders are to act like herding dogs – hound and nip at the heels of any member who ‘strays’.

    Ministers who can’t lead by example and persuasion but have to resort to authoritarianism aren’t real ministers.

  41. Mot –

    Practically, it can end up meaning anything the “authority” wants it to mean. Nebulous.

  42. @ Dave and Sallie:

    “Non-attendance is either a portal to sin or a reflection of sin. It is prevented by formative church discipline, and remedied by corrective church discipline.”

    “One of them was that we would not feel guilty for taking a season of rest. I had felt so guilty for not being in church each week and yet here was my pastor praying that we would not feel guilty. … My guilt was not a conviction of sin, but a legalistic feeling that it was wrong to not be in church.”

    Those with Neo-Calvinist leanings do seem to have a tendency to harp hard on church attendance. Some people we know recently attended church as a family, even though three of their kids had pneumonia (the eldest for three weeks and it had advanced to double pneumonia). To me that would have been an obvious stay-home week (taking proper care of yourself, not giving everyone else your germs, etc.). But for some reason, they went anyway.

  43. Well they cannot compel you to come with magistrates like they did in Geneva and the Mass Bay Colony so they have to use other methods. But the truth is there is another reason for all this and it is fairly recent they have become so bold about this topic: MONEY.

    It is proven that people give more when they are there. In fact, we know that most people will put SOMETHING in the offering plate if there. Most churches rely on that type of giving since so few actually tithe (as in a percent amount at specified times) anymore.

    The money is not flowing as easily as it was just a few years ago. They are scared. They cannot control you if you are not there.

  44. Really, I think this “covenant” thing (today) also comes from the charismatic and shepherding movements.

    I saw it happen in the early-mid 70s – membership covenants, and household covenants – just all kinds of covenants – were THE thing.

    Thank God I never signed one, although I was treated (abused) as if I had…

  45. Really, I think this “covenant” thing (today) also comes from the charismatic and shepherding movements. — Numo

    I had experience with “shepherding” in the Seventies. Being one of the “shepherds” is a control freak’s wet dream.

    Add “charismatic” to “shepherding” and you ring in the possibilities of smelling out the rebellious and thought-criminals with Salem Massachusetts-style spectral evidence directly from God.

  46. Eagle, MH may have a selective caste-based set of differences in what parts of the member covenant apply, too.

  47. You always denounce the sins you have no chance of ever committing; this is why Homosexuality is at the top of the hit list. – HUG

    Thanks HUG – something I’ve been thinking for the last 20 years!

  48. By fascinating coincidence, our sermon today was on Matthew 6:1-18. When talking about giving to the needy, our minister was very strong on it being personal and private. He did say that yes, you probably should let your spouse know, and your accountant will probably need to know to calculate your tax deductions, but that really, nobody else needs to know. He even gave the example of giving at church and said you should try and not show how much you’re putting in the offertory, or – even better – give electronically, so that then it’s only numbers the church treasurer sees on a piece of paper. Such a difference to writing down on a form how much you are going to give!

  49. Miguel makes a good point about membership. But membership rolls themselves can be deceptive if not updated. I have heard of churches in some parts of the world where congregations seem to be enormous but the figures are actually based on people who move around from church to church without ever annulling membership of a previous body.

    But I agree that membership should require very little other than an assent to belief in the basic Christian doctrines, as reflected in, say, the three historic creeds (and maybe a historical catechism if you want to be more selective).

    In our church we don’t pass a collection plate – there’s a discreet collection box on the wall if people want to give. A lot of people give by standing order because of the convenience (OK if you have a fixed income) but nobody as far as I’m aware tells anyone how much they should give.

  50. Koyla:

    Christ set me free, why should I or anyone put ourselves under the bondage of a mere man?

  51. My parents joined a church close to them when they were in their late 70’s and were not well so they were not able to attend the church very often. This church was small and there was not a very active outreach program for the homebound members. That church removed my parents from their membership roll and sent them a letter telling them this. My parents were so shocked and hurt. I still can not comprehend the churches action.
    What is more important? Evidently the numbers not the people. When a church removes members because they are not there to renew their membership and or covenant every year they have become a social club and not a church. They evidently have not been concerned with the individual members to know why they are not present. Jesus was concerned with all the sheep in the fold and went in search of the one missing. Please consider, what is the purpose of the church?

  52. The Body of Christ should be so close and intimate in fellowship, love and supporting one another that one could not just disappear without their brothers and sisters in Christ knowing.

    The fact they think they have to have such things as membership covenants, tracking people, etc, means it is an “insitution” built by man and never really was the “Body of Christ”.

    Perhaps we should go back and start with exactly what IS the “Body of Christ”. If we answer that honestly I think we will come to the conclusion that few actually exist. Most are man built institutions.

  53. What do you all think about keeping attendance records at church? I’m at a church right now which has a card in the pew holder that they request people fill out letting them know we are there. I don’t do that (I’m FREEEEEEEEEE!!!!!). My former church/pastor who sued me actually had someone responsible for keeping track of attendance. She had a sheet of paper which listed all of the regular attenders and included blank spots for visitors (church had maybe 100 people at the most, so it wasn’t as daunting as it sounds). On the attendance sheet, the Smith family was listed with (9) to indicate how many of the Smiths were “supposed” to be there. If all 9 Smiths were not present, the blank line was there so she could mark down how many were actually present. OYYYY! Why oh why did I go to that crazy place?! All my opinion, of course, lest someone decide to lift this for another defamation lawsuit.

  54. I am convinced that we should not be in any communion with Mark Driscoll, based on his behavior as evidenced in numerous posts by numerous people. Is it possible for the eChurch to formally ex-communicate him?

  55. Pat

    i know another edlerly couple that had the same thing happen. They had been members of a church for decades. New pastor said that committment means being there and so they were “dismembered.” The were. at that point, homebound and no one from the church ever visited. I guess the focus is on young men who like beer and cage fighting.
     

  56. Mot,

    I agree with you. The membership rolls in the CofE as I understand them are not bound up with the same sort of “covenants” as are being discussed here. About the only practical implication seems to be that you can vote at AGMs and stand for official positions within the church (eg treasurer, church warden or whatever).

    Dee,

    That’s a good point. I often think that the elderly are neglected today in favour of the young (I’m middle-aged so betwixt the two ;-)). Same with the emphasis Driscoll has on getting young men into ministry – what about getting older, more mature people into ministry? I’ve greatly benefitted from the wisdom of older people (as long as they didn’t thrust it down my throat LOL).

  57. It’s sad when a word like *covenant* that could have such wonderfully deep and rich meaning has been downgraded from sticking with one another through thick and thin because of unconditional love, to showing up because of conditional law. Actually, let me upgrade that from *sad* to *depressingly evil*.

  58. Dee:

    At least for myself I had the most profound thought early this morning. These pastors and leaders that wish to control people are afraid of the Holy Spirit. They are control freaks and can not deal with the fact the Holy Spirit is operating in every believer. Therefore they in essence want to be the Holy Spirit for “their” people.

    When I was born again the Holy Spirit came into my heart and is still there guiding me as much as I am obedient to the Spirit.

    People need to really wake up to what is going on and that includes the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  59. @ Kolya & Dee:

    “I often think that the elderly are neglected today in favour of the young”

    “They had been members of a church for decades. New pastor said that committment means being there and so they were ‘dismembered.’ The were. at that point, homebound and no one from the church ever visited.”

    Warning, I’m gonna rant!

    Oh, absolutely. The conservative evangelical church has made an idol out of people under age 35 – and I say that as someone in that age group (22) who doesn’t fit the stereotype they try to “minister” to with their (usu. lame) youth programs. I don’t have a crappy relationship with my parents, I never had adolescent angst, don’t want to get tattoos, I don’t go to rock concerts and clubbing. Worst of all I can and do acknowledge the existence of adults over age 60 and treat them like people (the horror!). How I wish I was exaggerating, since we’re talking about the church…

    The pervasive youth-worship idolatry is most evident in the music programs. I’m a conservative Christian organist (pretty rare animal, that) and I can say, with confidence, that the conservative evangelical church does not want my help or my talent. Period. I’ve tried for years and been repeatedly spurned. If you want to keep the church’s traditional music alive (in the form of hymnals and other verboten things like that), you are a fuddy-duddy who is “afraid” and “trapped in the past.” Your music is “boring” and doesn’t have “the Spirit” (convenient commonly-used synonym for “backbeat”) because you think that the worship songs should actually have theological content so people can THINK about what they’re singing. Because if we made people THINK, that would hamper them “rocking out for Jesus”! And then, when I go to work at liberal mainline churches (so I can actually make a living) after this kind of treatment, I’m criticized for helping the apostates.

    Seriously, some of the most arrogant, hateful behavior I have seen in the church was perpetrated by contemporary Christian musicians/supporters (almost always young). Every time I have seen a traditional church get a contemporary Christian music program/praise band, it eventually actively worked to eliminate the classical/traditional program. This left the elderly out in the cold completely (so much for “honor the gray-headed man”). Sure, they kept some of the youth – like, a year longer than they would have if they hadn’t had the drums. The kids who were gonna leave, left anyway, they just left later. They always do.

    Eliminating the elderly from the church and its life is wrong. There are too many passages in Scripture that tell us to honor/respect/care for them to say otherwise. Which should tell us something about most of these megachurches that don’t even acknowledge their existence.

    Off rant now.

  60. Example of what I mean: our choir director recently kicked an elderly founding choir member (30+ years in choir) out of choir because she wanted to sing traditional Lutheran music and criticized his more contemporary choices. She is epileptic and the beats in the contemporary music can actually cause her to have a seizure. But instead of acknowledging/respecting this, this guy (upper 30s/lower 40s kind of age) treated her terribly and condescended to her and kicked her out.

  61. Mot said [These pastors and leaders that wish to control people are afraid of the Holy Spirit. They are control freaks and can not deal with the fact the Holy Spirit is operating in every believer. Therefore they in essence want to be the Holy Spirit for “their” people.]

    Great point … I think you totally nailed it there. The combination of Law-flesh/weakness-death is often contrasted with Spirit-power-life. These legalistic, controlling leaders have utterly missed the message of Romans 8:1-4, and missed out on the true empowerment to do right that neither they nor the Law can give.

    “… through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (NIV)

    It may also be that these kinds of controllers are afraid of legitimate “mysticism” and don’t get it (or don’t want it to be true) that the Holy Spirit may speak to and lead the sheep in ways that are counter-intuitive, that don’t make sense to the (over)rational mind. It’s almost like they are “atheists” when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Or hyper-rational hyper-skeptics. Look at how they want us to function – do they really even believe in the Trinity? Or, kind of like you said, do they want the Spirit to go on sabbatical so they can play the role of Interrim Spirit while the Holy Spirit is taking a little rest?

  62. My biggest problem with contemporary worship is not that it uses contemporary music – after all, Luther wrote some lyrics to the tune of popular beer drinking songs – but the almost complete lack of participation by the congregation. The term “liturgy” literally means ‘work of the people’, with the congregation actively part of the service. In many ‘contemporary’ services, however,this has been lost. The worship service has become entertainment, a combination rock concert/seminar where the congrgation is to listen, not participate.

  63. I’ve come to see one of the biggest problems of the modern church is it’s segmentation, particularly by age and sex, particularly in the largest churches (where having a community of the entire congregation is almost impossible because of the large numbers). So there are groups/programs for the young, the old, women, men, young families, etc., but there’s nothing offered that ties them together such as inter-generational activites. I saw what a positive effect such activities can have on a congregation at the urban church I was a member of for years before we moved. There were some very musically and theatrically talented members who annually got members of the church and the community of all ages to put on a musical such as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “The Music Man”, etc. There were two months of rehearsals and two weekends of performances. During that time, the young and the old, men and women, etc., got to know each other well and you could see that carry over throught the year, where the old and the young would actually talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company.

  64. Hester,

    You really only 22? I thought you were older (in the best sense!) than that!

    This may surprise you, but as a rock musician I agree with you, and with Jeff’s comments about entertainment rather than participation. I think different styles of music have different functions, and writing liturgial worship music is somewhat different to writing a song for people to listen to (regardless of how basic or complex the arrangements). Personally in my own personal devotions I prefer the older hymns.

    I play bass in the church but keyboards in my own group, and I do want to move on to playing the church organ: however I get the feeling that as I’m the only bassist left for morning services they would like to keep me playing bass (and that’s fair enough as I don’t want to be selfish at the expense of the whole sound). However I do worry that in the long run church organists will become an endangered species as the older ones die out.

    Incidentally the keyboard players I have admired in the past (Lord, Emerson and Wakeman) have all been at home on most keyboards and in most styles, whether classical or rock.

    Does church music hold the key to drawing in young people? I really don’t know. Although I was more of a rock ‘n’ roller when I was young than I am now, I didn’t have a problem with older hymns. If I did have a problem with some church music it was with simple choruses with stuff that was repeated several times – but that may just be me. As a godly older musician said to me recently, “if you don’t dislike at least one song in the repertoire, something is wrong!” (ie the musical content of a service should try to reach as many as possible).

    I have to be honest here and say that Paul’s article made my skin tingle. While I can see that there is an element of consumerism in some churchgoing, I think that tends to be among a certain kind of churchgoer who never settles down. Of all the people I know that left my own church under the present and past incumbent, virtually all left because of positions they held which they felt were in conscience irreconcilable with what the leadership position was, and some had been at the church for years. I’m not saying that all of those reasons were good (in particular where music was concerned!), but some were and I fully understand them.

    To quote John Milton after the English civil war, “New presbyter is but old priest writ large”.

  65. Mot said [These pastors and leaders that wish to control people are afraid of the Holy Spirit. They are control freaks and can not deal with the fact the Holy Spirit is operating in every believer. Therefore they in essence want to be the Holy Spirit for “their” people.]

    Can you say “Pastor Leader is the Fourth Person of the Trinity”?

    Manhandling his throne up to the level of the Most High?

  66. Not only do the pastors and leaders want to be the Holy Spirit in peoples lives, but so do the people in the church who don’t hold any positions. So many of them think that they are spiritually above you.

  67. Stormy:

    Excellent point! It is just plain dangerous and self righteous to attempt to be someone Else’s holy spirit.

  68. Reading through the Mars Hill member covenant, I’m reminded of what one of my wise colleg profs once said: the most effective lies are 80% truth. About 80% of the document is pretty standard (albeit conservative with a calvinist slant) stuff. No argument there. It’s the 20% that defines the members’ submission and the pastors’ role that tells you it was written by control freaks who are a little too obsessed with the sins of booze and sex.

    I was raised as a missionary kid among a pretty conservative crowd and never in my life have I been asked to sign such a document, nor would any of the people I knew have tried to make me. What ever happened to the love and grace of Jesus being lived out and adults working out their differences like mature believers?

  69. John –

    Apparently some pastors and elders don’t believe that, for the most part, members are capable of working together with the Holy Spirit to grow into mature saints. Like much of our society, churches now want instant sanctification (or instant obiedience) apart from the work if the Holy Spirit. They are also teaching that the Scripture is where we should put our trust and not necessarily in the relationship we now have with Jesus and the Holy Spirit whom he sent as our Helper.

  70. I think it is a shame that the Southern Baptist Convention fired long-term missionaries because they would not sign off on the 2000 BF&M. The 2000 BF&M is a CREED that is used to punish folks who will not sign off on it.

    For a Baptist to be asked to sign off on such a thing is UN-baptistic but it is used as a way to control people.

    We are back to that word CONTROL. It is not about Jesus, it is about controlling people.

  71. Mot said:

    “It really makes one wonder if God truly called these pastors. They have not a clue about servant-leadership.”

    Mot,

    I’m so glad you brought this up.  Yesterday was Youth Sunday at my church.  The youth were in charge of the entire service, and a young man (in his teens) preached.  He defined the word “Christian” in his message as “being Christ-like”.  For some reason, that really resonated with me. What was Jesus Christ like?  He was a servant. 

    24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

    Luke 22:27

    Where are the pastors who are Christ-like (servants)? 

  72. I think it is a shame that the Southern Baptist Convention fired long-term missionaries because they would not sign off on the 2000 BF&M. The 2000 BF&M is a CREED that is used to punish folks who will not sign off on it. — Mot

    Not so much a creed as a Party Line.

    “Ees Party Line, Comrades.”

    You know something is wrong when the only difference between Christians and classic Communists is which Party Line they recite.

  73. HUG,

    I’m sorry to say that your words do resonate with me. When I went to Moscow in the old USSR I thought Communism was a religion. Now I worry that some aspects of Christian belief today are becoming an ideology.

  74. Kolya

    Years ago, I ,too, toured Russia or, as it was called then, the Soviet Union. I saw Lenin, lying in state in his tomb, and saw people weeping and touching the glass barrier. I see that today, with people getting famous leaders to autograph their Bibles. Better yet, there is a whole series of apologetics, not for the faith, but to defend Piper, Driscoll, Dever, you name it. 

  75. Bridget

    Today’s pastors are sepnding a lot of time navel gazing and trying to decided if they are prophet, priest or king. The rest of us are just the “tithers” who are expected to put out and shut up.

  76. Jeff

    The worship service no longer has anything to do with coporate worship. You are to listen to “really cool” music by guys who supposedly were professionals so we are lucky to have them. (However, I might add that they were NOT successful and that is why they play in front of a captive audience). The worship service consists of music played deafeningly loud, an emphasis on giving money and then a sermon which is them suppposed to be discussed, in depth, instead of the Bible in small groups. Wait, I’m confused. The sermon is the Bible in some places.

  77. Hester

    In one of Mark Driscoll’s books, he discussed how he “borrowed” a complete sound system from his previous church because, of course, you can’t have a church without Bose.

    Worship leaders are now demanding high salaries. A couple of years back, a man from a church in the midwest said that a man applied for a job as their worship leader. he came from Ed young Jrs church. he demanded a  6 figure salary because he was sooooo talented and trained. They sent him packing. 

  78. Jeff

    When Deb and I visited Wade Burleson's church, they were doing their annual Christmas pageant. Everyone was in it. Young, old, the janitor, the talented, the average. Everyone put their hearts into it. It was the BEST pageant I have ever attended. It beat out Ed Young Jr's pageant with hired professionals, only beautiful people, etc.

  79. @ Jeff:

    “The term ‘liturgy’ literally means ‘work of the people’, with the congregation actively part of the service. In many ‘contemporary’ services, however, this has been lost. The worship service has become entertainment, a combination rock concert/seminar where the congrgation is to listen, not participate.”

    Amen. Like you, I don’t hate all contemporary music, but the “church as rock concert” attitude really has to go. It’s clear from the Bible that everyone is supposed to be participating and music in church is NOT a “performance” in the secular sense of the word. (I have Bible church friends who have actually said that church is a performance; I had to try really hard not to flick them in the head.)

    It’s really quite amusing, because CCM was supposed to be more “accessible” and “democratic” than “that old boring stuff” (i.e., hymns), when in reality it creates a wall between the band and the congregation. Lots of CCM is virtually unsingable by average non-musicians because it’s either highly embellished or almost an improvisation by the singer in the first place. Ever seen it on a staff? It’s almost indecipherable, the note values are so weird. (I’m a classical musician who has taken ear training/aural tests and I can’t follow some of it!) The end result being, of course, no congregational participation. Hymns, on the other hand, were written to be sung by a large group of people, so they have to be easy to follow (singable melodies, normal note values, strong cadences, etc.).

  80. Eagle said~~

    “3.Churches can now mandate members to buy the Pastor’s books and support “The Reformed Industrial Complex!””

    I agree. I do see an awful lot of “buy my latest book” going on either on their twitter, FB, blogs or church websites. It seems to be everywhere.

    Eagle also said~~

    (This is where you sneak in a “Hail Driscoll” or “Hail Mahaney!”

    I happened across this and had to smile at your above comment Eagle-

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2008/08/29/jazz-hands/

    It is puzzling to me why this would be considered funny or even appropriate for a pastor to place on his biblical blog. I wonder, beings this was four years ago, if he still feels the same way about Driscoll now that Driscoll’s infamous “visions” have been made public?

    I listened to Jared’s sermon yesterday which, coincidentally, was on Matt 18, church discipline and a bit on membership covenants. I learned a little bit about how he views his relationship to his local church in terms of accountability, and how he views that same accountability in relation to the greater body of Christ (outside of his church). fwiw

  81. @ Kolya:

    Yes, I’m only 22. : ) Lots of people would (and do) think I hate all contemporary music, or want church to be nothing but Bach, after reading what I wrote above. I don’t. I’ll be honest, there’s not much CCM that I like and I don’t really seek it out, but I don’t have a problem with it being used in church. What I object to is when it tries to carry out a hostile takeover of a congregation and kick the classical musicians to the curb (which I have witnessed many times) – or in lieu of that, behaves condescendingly toward us ad nauseam.

    I don’t think music has to be the vehicle to reach young people. I think it can be the “card” that the young people use as an excuse to bow out of church (“Church is like SOOO BOOORING and STOOPID! I’ll only come if you have DRUMS!”). And youth leaders/parents fall for it every time out of fear. Now once again, I don’t object to them having their music. They just can’t remake church in their image writ large. So if there are still hymns in the service (because the service is for the WHOLE Body, not just those members under 25) and they’re complaining, maybe it’s time for them to learn about being considerate and putting others before themselves. And if they can’t (or won’t) do that, maybe it should tell us something about their character.

    I too have a problem with mind-numbingly repetitive CCM. They’re called “7-11 songs” around here – the same 7 words 11 times.

    Once again, I’m sorry if I sound harsh toward my own peers, but sheesh! I’ve been in youth groups. It’s always the same old story – youth leaders bend over backwards and change the WHOLE church just to please a bunch of teenagers who only come to youth group to hang out, and frankly, often show no signs of even being converted. And then, when these kids inevitably leave the church anyway, the youth leaders wonder why it happened since they did all the “right things” and gave them exactly what they wanted. Which was ENTERTAINMENT. Not Jesus.

    Anyway, glad to hear that a rock musician understands. ; )

  82. Addendum @ Kolya:

    If you’re thinking of taking up the organ, Brigham Young University has an excellent online organ performance certification course with six levels. The first level is designed for pianists/keyboardists who are just starting out on the organ (it’s very different from piano, esp. given the fact you have to play with your feet). It worked wonders for me.

  83. @ Dee:

    Six figures? Church musicians are often notoriously underpaid, but that’s ridiculous.

  84. I found the order of this interesting.
    Jared Wilson:
    I’m the husband of Becky, the father of Macy and Grace, a writer of books, and the pastor of a great church. Most importantly, I am a follower of Jesus. More…

    It looks to me like Jesus gets thrown in as an after thought. Why not put he is a follower of Jesus, first?

  85. Kolya suggests that membership should be based on assent to historical creeds. Even if I weren’t (at best) an agnostic with spiritual leanings, I would not assent to membership under those terms. I studied those creeds when I was in university and used to be able to explain why certain language is included in them (and what was most definitely excluded).

    The major thing which really bothers me about the creeds is how Jesus’ life and teachings are essentially reduced to a comma and a space. (The Apostles’ Creed: “Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered…”; the Nicene Creed: “incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;…”) I’d hold that none of us, as imperfect human beings, can hold the correct and appropriate idea of God in our heads at all times and places. Frankly, the creeds are basically worthless except as a tool to “keep out the heretics.” They concentrate on the wrong things and, I believe, have had a negative impact on what the church should really be about. *shrug* But I’m a spiritual agnostic, don’t mind me.

  86. @ Mot~~

    I think “ostentatious tweeter of twitter deeps” would be good to add, imo.
    Especially if you read his last one of about an hour ago about the writer.

    As for Deb’s question, I am also wondering where the servant example of Jesus is displayed in a tweet like this. If it’s a criticism, who cares? Or a joke?–it’s not funny, really. Why does a pastor (who’s supposed to model Jesus) think that kind of statement is important to tweet?

  87. @ Eagle:

    Mike is exactly right. “Worship” = a show, “pastors” = celebrity gurus who write books and/or micromanage their congregants’ lives, and “church” = an activity center. Something has gone terribly wrong when that is the case. One can only hope that the church wakes up and smells the Biblical/theological illiteracy and immaturity.

    Personally, I wonder what the church will look like in 20-30 years, when all these cool hip worship leaders/youth pastors have aged out and are now the very same old fuddy-duddies they decried in their younger days. How will they react to the eye rolls and looks of disdain? I know Christians don’t believe in karma, but…

  88. Hester:

    You said:” I know Christians don’t believe in karma, but.”–we certainly believe in sowing and reaping.

  89. Hester
    Take a look at Ed Young Jr and his attempts to appear young. It looks a bit weird. Then there is Driscoll who, for all of his lecturing on women letting themselves go, is also beginning to look his age.

    The only person who is old who actually looks good trying to look young is Steven Tyler who said, last year, on American Idol, “Do you know how much money I have to spend to look this cheap?”

  90. Southwestern – I can see how the creeds *can* be reduced to the kind of thing you’re talking about, but for me, that’s not at all what they’re about.

    But I do see how the “keep heretics out” aspect can – and has – been used. Not good, to say the least!

    *

    Hester, I played percussion in a “worship band” for a decade and was dumbfounded by how tedious 90+% of the songs were (the ones that weren’t basically unsingable). The irony: the “worship leader” who ran things kept insisting that we should not ever “perform,” and yet… we were performing.

    Must say, though, that it was fun to play music with others – being in the congregation and singing those songs… not so much. 😉

  91. LOL Dee, that’s good! Reminds me of the joke “Rolling Stones uncertain about tour after it was believed Keith Richards did actually die 15 years ago”. (To be honest he must have the constitution of an ox to have survived his lifestyle).

    Southwestern Discomfort, you actually have iterated the reason why I believe the creeds should be the sole condition of membership (or at least main, or one of the very few!). The creeds do not attempt to explain everything – as you say, they are just a sort of boundary. And I think a very basic boundary is what is needed, esp when I see the authoritarian demands for assent to doctrinal niceties or even secondaries.

    Paul’s requirement for Christians in Rom 10 seems very simple – “believe” and “confess” (with your lips, not to a spiritual overseer!).

  92. Hester, thanks for your advice, I will check that out although I don’t know if it would work for a UK player? My biggest problem is convincing my own church that they need another (albeit younger) organist rather than a bass player. Don’t get me wrong, I like playing the bass too (but my bass is not working at the moment anyway :-/ – and I’m not a soldering kind of musician!). Plus my hours tend to be irregular so I have to practice when I can, which is usually evenings when the church is locked up. (Can’t imagine neighbours would be too thrilled with bass pedals after 10pm!).

    I agree with much of what you say and I find it interesting that you are saying it from a youthful viewpoint. Another organist and I often moan together (maybe we shouldn’t moan, ok, naughty!) about the move from accessible congregational songs to complex music which again is fine in performance (one of the reasons I like Rush as a band, after all) but not so good for people to pick up quickly, unless they’re all listening to it on their iPods beforehand (which probably excludes us middle-aged people or those who don’t have the readies to spend on such gadgets). Things like vocal syncopation sound interesting but I probably wouldn’t include them in a hymn I was writing.

    I hope this doesn’t sound patronising or arrogant, but I sometimes say to Christians that if they want to be in a group, go out and form a group and play in public. I understand what Dee meant by “captive audience”. I think a lot of the folk who want to do this in church are sincere, but I think it might actually be better to have more Christians playing and writing into the culture of the day.

  93. Hester,
    Discussion of true “elders” roles in church, organ music, and BYU brings up a memory of a elderly man I was blessed to know when I was close to your age. He played the piano sometimes at a senior citizen’s bible study I taught. When younger, he’d been asked to be the organist at a certain “tabernacle” in Salt Lake City. Ya think he was any good?!
    He told me he was honored, but was forced by conscience to decline the offer, due to his Christian faith. Maybe he should have been teaching me.

  94. Kolya wrote

    The creeds do not attempt to explain everything – as you say, they are just a sort of boundary. And I think a very basic boundary is what is needed, esp when I see the authoritarian demands for assent to doctrinal niceties or even secondaries.

    Exactly! Thanks for this – I was having difficulty thinking of the right words in my reply to SW Discomfort, but you nailed it.

  95. Hester, it seems like you and I have a lot in common (I’m in my mid-20s and prefer more traditional music at church). Here is what I recently emailed to all of my family members in jest after experiencing an Easter service with only CCM songs:

    There seems to be a deadly disease infecting church worship services. It is called “Tomlin-itis”, after Chris Tomlin, the CCM musician. You know your church has been infected when over half of the songs chosen were written by the highly esteemed Mr. Tomli and/or sung by him and played on your local Christian radio station. “Tomlin-itis” reaches its deadliest stage when two things occur- 3 year olds start whining to Mommy “Is it over yet?” and the hymnals are removed from the church. You can start planning the funeral for your church’s worship service when the choir is done away with in favor of 5 to 6 well-dressed color coordinated young people who actually know how to sing the songs (each with their own microphones to enhance the “music”). Once again, “Tomlin-itis” is a very deadly disease whose goal is to infect and take over every church worship service. Unfortunately there is no vaccination or any known treatment.

  96. @ Kolya:

    I had wondered about the international thing. The courses have midterms and finals which you have to take at authorized testing centers, so if there’s not one of those in your area it might be problematic. You could try ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) exams, which are British and have exams for just about every instrument imaginable and theory also. They have 8 levels (1 being beginner, 8 being professional).

    Per complexity – it can be good, but it doesn’t take much of it to freak out a congregation. I love some of the newer hymns but unfortunately, many of them are guilty of this (“Hail Thee, Festival Day” with its quarter note triplets comes to mind). But at least when a hymn gets “complex,” it does still have an internal logic and the congregation is, eventually, able to follow along and get it right. There are some things that should be done solo or up front, and I have no objection to solos in church as long as the soloist doesn’t start crossing that line into it being about them instead of about God. And choirs singing complicated music is great.

    I thought Dee’s point about the captive audience was amusing. I’m fine with Christians starting bands, but I think they should just perform and let the (Christian) content of their music speak for itself. You have to admit it looks a little weird when they say that their concerts are about Jesus, but then seem to have no objection to a horde of teenagers screaming (over them) and moshing in front of the stage. And giving a Gospel message at the end sounds like a good idea, until you remember that the audience’s minds and emotions have been so affected by the music that they’re probably in no fit state at that point to rationally accept or reject it.

    My main things are that 1) the music program needs to be about God; 2) it needs to be accessible to ALL ages (and I mean ALL); and 3) it needs to be about education and preserving the music history of the church. Sure, we’ve all heard of Bach, but how many people in the average church have ever heard of Tallis, Dufay and Perotin? Or even Isaac Watts and Ralph Vaughan Williams for that matter? We all know the answer to that question.

  97. @ Mandy:

    What’s really funny is when, 15 years later, the congregation infected with Tomlinitis starts getting nostalgic about the old hymns and wishes they sang them more often. That’s the cue for us “traditionalists” to facepalm in unison.

  98. Bridget

    I am of the opinion that if the church has an attorney vet the covenant or uses a covenant from another church in which an attorney did so and the people who are asked to sign it are not apprised of this fact, the church is not worth joining nor is the covenant worth signing. I hate legal games, and they are playing games.

  99. I agree. But a lot depends on the attorney and what the purpose of using an attorney might be. Suppose the attorney is a member and the scribe of a committee attempting to develop a social contract among the members (what a covenant should be) that is fair and open. Attorneys to a lot of writing, and scribing an agreement is one good use of the writing skills. It does not have to be an enforceable contract, but could be an agreement as to how we are going to live together.

    The issue is, who is pushing the covenant and is it a grass roots document or a top down imposed document?

  100. “Personally, I wonder what the church will look like in 20-30 years, when all these cool hip worship leaders/youth pastors have aged out and are now the very same old fuddy-duddies they decried in their younger days. How will they react to the eye rolls and looks of disdain?”

    That is already happening. The seeker mega movement came to age in force in the 80’s-90’s. Some of those guys are now in their 50’s +. And some are working overtime to be relevant. It is sad, really. I know of one personally who has succombed to TV even though the mega said they never would. they have tried everything to grow but keep losing attendees such as opening sat campuses in upper class communities, bringing in a young assoc pastor (who is showing up the older one) and now TV. They are hanging on by their finger nails. When one goes from 26,000 members to barely having 6 thou show up on 4 campuses in less than 10 years, they will do anything to keep the gig going. Oh, and laying off a ton of staffers, too.

    Oh and the assoc pastor is selling his house for 700,000 and buying 85 acres in a area outside of town that is quite expensive. Tbey have not figured out this gig is not going to last forever. But his book is high on the amazon list so he is going national anyway while he uses mega resources to do it. Building his brand on their dime. That is the way it is done, you know.

  101. An Attorney

    I would have absolutely no trouble joining a church in which you vetted the contract. You are a different sort than the ones to whom we are referring. These are the ones who intend to o hard on discipline and need a contract to protect them.

  102. Dee,

    Understood. And I would not call anything I wrote for a church membership a “contract” nor would a covenant I wrote read like a contract that a business would have.

  103. I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread since I, also, am a church musician, and thankful to be in a church, albeit small, that allows me to use my talents and training (piano, organ). Hester, I know where you’re coming from, having once been a 22-yr.old organist–a looong time ago!–I have a daughter near your age who also prefers more traditional music, but is open to beautiful contemporary stuff as well. We had an experience a few years ago where the former pastor, through endless machinations and behind-the-scenes manipulation, managed to kill the choir and run off about one-third of the church. When his teen worship band didn’t pan out, he resigned. So much for his “church-growth” plan. It was a “live and learn” lesson for us. I think that’s when I started learning more about narcissistic pastors, etc. In the next few months, we had a pastoral candidate come in whose wife told us we needed to sing Chris Tomlin songs and things would instantly turn around. We had learned that lesson, and have had gorgeous worshipful music that is meaningful and uplifting to our mostly over-50 congregation.

  104. Hester, thanks for the info. Once I can get regular access to an organ I will try to get something sorted out.

    I know Tallis as well as Bach, and of course Vaughan Williams and Isaac Watts, but didn’t recognise the other two names you mentioned. Do you know H H Parry? For that matter (LOL) do you know Jon Lord?

    I take your points about Christian bands. I think it’s almost better to let the lyrical and musical content of your work speak for itself than to label yourself something.

    I think music can and does glorify God, but I am a bit sceptical about the claims made for it by both its supporters and detractors. I wonder if people would listen to the words at all if the music were no good, whether it’s Matt Redman or Marilyn Manson, and if you asked a bunch of people to honestly answer whether the lyrics meant anything to them at all, I have a feeling that most of them would be more attuned to the lyrics. Having said that, I’ve heard technically brilliant groups who nevertheless made me cringe with the sheer awfulness of their lyrics (usually cheesiness).

    Is there really any shortcut to church growth, be it music, church planting or whatever? I feel a bit sceptical!

  105. @ Kayjay:

    “We had an experience a few years ago where the former pastor, through endless machinations and behind-the-scenes manipulation, managed to kill the choir and run off about one-third of the church. When his teen worship band didn’t pan out, he resigned. So much for his ‘church-growth’ plan.”

    So typical. When you can’t win the argument on merit, just bully the opposition into going away and then say that everyone agrees with you! You really have to wonder about the thing they’re pushing when they have to completely trample on the principle of “walk in the light” to get it through.

  106. Hester – I love both Dufay and Perotin, but don’t think they’ve gotten all that much attention, the early music crowd aside. (Perotin especially!)

    John Dunstable is another fave of mine…

  107. @ Numo:

    Dufay, Perotin and Dunstable all in one comment? This thread is making this music history nerd very happy. : )

    The early music crowd is interesting and a bit strange sometimes. I used to complain that people think music history started with Bach, but talking to some of those people, you’d think it ENDED with him. I tend to take a pretty broad view and I like things from all over the timeline, not just early music. I’m actually working on a project with my friend right now, making techno remixes of Puritan psalter tunes. I’m sure John Calvin and Cotton Mather are rolling over in their graves…

  108. Hi Hester,

    Thanks for the heads up. What do you think of Holst? I can’t help feeling for most people his work begins and ends with The Planets (not that I know his other works, and “Jupiter” makes a good hymn tune as in “O God Beyond All Praising”.

    For Jon Lord: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Lord One of those people who could cross into different genres. I’ve spent some time in the past trying to get that growling Hammond sound!

    Part of the problem for Christian music today may be what Hans Rookmaaker argued, namely that there was no distinction between “high” and “low” art until art itself became a sort of religion in the 17th/18th century and thereafter divided into elitist or lowbrown forms.

  109. Kolya – to give credit where credit is due, Hester is the one who 1st mentioned both Dufay and Perotin.

    I was really taken with Dunstable’s motets after hearing a very hard-to-find recording of them by the Hilliard Ensemble, back in the late 80s when I was working in the classical department of a record store. The pay was bad, and the temptations to spend it all on CDs was even worse!

    I hear you re. the people who think that music ended with Bach, too… 😉

  110. @ Numo:

    The Hilliard Ensemble rocks. Their CD of Perotin is gorgeous. The Tallis Scholars and Anonymous 4 are great groups too, though I don’t think either of them ever recorded Perotin.

    Oddballs aside, there are still lots of cool things in early music. Like shawms. I was glad to hear them used in the soundtrack of the third Harry Potter movie.

  111. @ Kolya:

    Holst is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve loved The Planets for as long as I can remember – I first heard it on a squeaky old cassette tape from the ’80s when I was four – but lots of his other stuff is great too. He wrote some really nice vocal suites and lots of smaller orchestral works (St. Paul’s Suite and Seven Scottish Airs for Piano and Orchestra are esp. good). He also wrote a hilarious chamber opera called The Wandering Scholar (only about 20-25 min long).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wandering_Scholar

  112. Wow – looking over this thread, it really has veered deep into music nerd territory! It’s been great talking to you all about this, though. It’s so easy to feel alone/misunderstood as a church musician.

  113. Yeah, we got a bit off track, didn’t we? 🙂 But I found it interesting and helpful. Maybe you should set up a blog or website! (On the other hand maintaining them takes a bit of stamina 😉

  114. Okay, I’m not a professional church musician and this is a major tangent, but I think I can say this name and someone in this discussion will actually know who I am talking about.

    Telemann

    He’s my favorite, but most people have never heard of him. Love his stuff.

    My five year old daughter has heard Sinfonia Spirituosa often enough that she hums along and plays her imaginary strings with the various movements. LOL!

  115. Sallie – yep, most people know Bach and Handel, but not Telemann – though I suspect that might be different in Europe (or Germany, anyway).

    What’s funny is that recordings of his music sell very well for use as background music, along with much of Vivaldi’s work. (At least, that’s what I saw back when I was a salesclerk in a store that specialized in classical music.)

  116. Hester – I suspect that the winds you heard on the HP soundtrack are actually Armenian duduks. They’ve been used on a *lot* of soundtracks since the mid-late 80s – I think partly because an s/t album from that time featured them, and partly because there are a fair number of Armenians in California. So it’s not as hard to find players as it might be in, say, Montana.

  117. @ Numo:

    No, the sound I’m thinking of was very definitely reedy… Although you are right about duduks being pretty common in soundtracks. (I first heard them in a video game and then learned more about them on a world music CD.) So it wouldn’t surprise me if there were duduks somewhere in the HP soundtrack. If it wasn’t actually a shawm, it was some other kind of woody-sounding reed. It was also only in one small part so it might be easy to miss.

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  119. @ hester – see wiki – they did use a duduk. might also be another kind of asian reed, i’m thinking…

  120. duduks come in different sizes and tunings – even bass-ish. (usually the accompaniment duduk is much lower-pitched.)

  121. could also be a shakuhachi – again, made in different sizes and tunings. it’s listed in the s/t info. …

  122. Didn’t Telemann also write a lot of stuff for the recorder, or am I getting confused with someone else? The name certainly rings a bell.

  123. Hester

    Thank you for the video. I will use it today in my rant about Driscoll. All of his sermons (and expressed thoughts) seem to be derived from a single theme – sex. Somehow, this video fits.

  124. Short answer: Probably so.

    Long answer: It depends on the people running the church. What I’m not really sure of is how much the power that church covenants bestow on the pastors/elders affects their judgment. Does having that power negatively affect the leaders? For example, does it make them more authoritarian and dogmatic? Or can leaders who tend not to be heavy handed use their increased authority in a responsible manner?

    A study on that would be very interesting.

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  126. Only a culture of consumeristic individuals would think it is “bondage” to formalize your commitments, especially to fellow believers. The evangelical churches used to do this regularly before the loss of the idea of the church to the acids of individualism and the autonomy of the radical individual.

  127. John

    You write… “Only”
    “Only a culture of consumeristic individuals would think it is “bondage”
    to formalize your commitments,”

    Well, that’s NOT an accurate statement for me. You say, “Only.”
    I believe there are many reasons to think “signing a covenant” is “bondage.”

    And where is “signing a covenant,” “signing church membership” forms – in the Bible?
    That’s a big reason for me “NOT to sign.” It’s NOT in the Bible.

    And, if someone with the “Title/Position” – Pastor/Leader/Reverend – asks you to sign a covenant: That’s another really big reason NOT to sign. This – Pastor/Leader/Reverend – really does NOT know that this “Title/Position” is – NOT in the Bible.

    But, I cudda missed that John. Maybe you can help?

    In the Bible – How many of His Disciples – Are “Called” – Pastor/Leader/Reverend?
    In the Bible – How many of His Disciples – “Call themself” – Pastor/Leader/Reverend?
    In the Bible – How many of His Disciples – Have the “Title” – Pastor/Leader/Reverend?
    In the Bible – How many of His Disciples – Are Hired or Fired – as a – Pastor/Leader/Reverend?

    Now I could be wrong – BUT…
    In the Bible, there is only “ONE” who’s name is – Shepherd. Psalm 23:1 KJV, 1 Pet 2:25 KJV
    In the Bible, there is only “ONE” who’s name is – Leader – Mat 23:10 NASB.
    In the Bible, there is only “ONE” who’s name is – Reverend. Psalm 111:9 KJV.
    These “Titles” are NOT for “Mere Fallible Humans.”

    Psalm 111:9 KJV.
    …holy and reverend is his name.

    In my experience…
    “Titles” become “Idols”…………….. Idols of the heart, Ezek 14:1-11 KJV.
    “Pastors” become “Masters” ……. A No, No, for “Disciples.” Mat 23:10 KJV.

    So John, That’s just two reasons for NOT “signing a covenant.”
    And these reasons have nothing to do with – “consumeristic individuals.”
    It mostly has to do with so-called “Leadership” who say one thing and do another.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}