13 Propositions on Worship and The Generation Gap

UPDATE: I have attempted to remove irony and hyperbole from is post because people were missing the attempted humour, unduly hurt by the tone, or commenting on the style rather than the substance. I apologise for my failure to communicate clearly. I also apologise that these changes make certain comments on this post a little redundant as they refer to aspects of the original post which have now been redacted.

Bob Kauflin is an American dude who came to Australia and shook the church music apple cart a couple of weeks ago. I’m still thinking through questions of emotion and persuasion and manipulation that his talk in Brisbane raised for me – I’ll post those reflections at some point, probably in a bit of a series I’m working up in my mind that I’ll explore more deeply on Venn Theology, probably post exams.

I’m a little worried that the debate on the definition of worship, currently being driven and developed at The Briefing, as a development of the Briefing’s already reactive position, is the continuation of an old conflict that the current generation hasn’t experienced, and thus, doesn’t understand. Our Australian Church History lecture yesterday covered the emergence of the so called “Briefing” position on worship.  The Briefing position, as it is described in the comments on the Briefing articles, arose as a necessary corrective to changes on the Australian scene involving the rise of the charoismatic movement. This movement typically focused on emotions and experiences as “worship” and relied on vacuous lyrics and appealing music. The “vibe” of the Briefing response has been to create a culture where our generation feels suspicious of emotion, experience, and good music – because that is what has been modeled. I think this is part of the danger of defining yourself against something. It has also created a somewhat strange definitional approach to the issue, which continues in the current response. Worship is reduced to a narrow dictionary definition, rather than a concept, and the odd response to the erroneous “worship is music” is to say “music is not worship”…

In evangelicalism in Australia we don’t have the history wars – like the intellectual elite do, we have the worship wars. It seems we reacted so strongly against the rise of pentecostalism/the charismatic movement that we’ve thrown out baby and bathwater when it comes to expressive or “affectionate” practice in church, because we don’t want to call what we do in music “worship”… because worship is all of life. Which seems odd. Music in church is a subset of all of life. From the other angle, certain advocates of a particular reformed position want to define only what goes on in the context of a church service on Sunday as “worship”…

Here are the steps in my thinking currently (which I will flesh out more later).

  1. I am pretty sympathetic to the view that all of life, for the Christian, is mission. A life lived sacrificially, based on Paul’s example (cf 1 Cor 11:1), will look like a life of pointing people to Jesus and seeking to present them mature in Christ. Paul’s use of “worship” in Romans 12:1 is a subset of his view of the Christian life and mission, a life where he was poured out as a drink offering for the sake of the gospel (Phil 2:17, 2 Tim 4:6-7 (and that’s in quotes because there’s a bit of a debate going on (part 1, part 2) about what the best sense of that translation is amongst that generation of people who make me an angry young man on this issue).
  2. Because all of life is mission, and all of life is worship, worship and mission overlap significantly. Both are what we do in response to the lordship of Jesus. We worship him by, amongst other things, serving him (there are several words conflated into our word “worship”), we serve him by, amongst other things, bringing people into his kingdom, the eschatological horizon we operate under is every knee bowing to Jesus in worship (Phil 2, Revelation 5). We also praise him, by singing to him (eg Psalm 98), which I would argue has a significant overlap with mission, the way we praise God speaks to our relationship with him – both to God, and to non-believers. I’m not arguing that praise and worship are synonyms, but they both form part of our response to Jesus.
  3. People in both the Old Testament and New Testament worshipped other stuff. Idols are objects of worship. For the original readers of the New Testament much of what was said of owning Jesus as Lord, was in competition with what was expected of a Roman Citizen in their response to the emperor (Daniel suggests this was similar in Old Testament times). Worship is a response to a God and King. Part of mission is pointing to Jesus as God and King. This is the outcome of church practices that Paul hopes for (1 Cor 14:22-25).
  4. Because worship is the outcome of mission, we need to make sure when we are we are doing music in a way that calls non-believers, and believers, to worship. This includes doing music well. Doing music well might look/sound different to different people. But I think you can make a case that God wants music to be joyful. I find it very hard to be joyful when the words are good (and evoke a sense of joy), but the music isn’t. There’s a disjunct. I think joy and physical expression are also probably linked. We talk about the necessity of non-verbal expression in good preaching, understanding that good communication requires it, but hesitate when it comes to music. This is odd.
  5. Doing music well means doing music with joy. As well as with reflection on theological truths. I go to a rock concert and I respond with my body. People see my response and know that I love the band. I go to church, and I yawn when I sing. Church music in its current form is a boring and largely emotionless experience for me. This is necessarily an outcome of our approach to music. This makes a statement to non-believers who enter our gathering, which seems to be one of Paul’s concerns for how we gather (1 Cor 14:22-25).
  6. All of life is church. This is where another attempt to unnecessarily divide the Christian life into neat categories via terminology/word studies occurs, as if we’re only a community when we’re meeting on a Sunday, or only worshipping when we’re meeting as a community and doing whatever we do on a Sunday (which includes singing).
  7. Trying to neatly compartmentalise things into categories like this is unwarranted and brings confusion rather than clarity. It doesn’t really pay heed to the way language works in the Bible and overlapping semantic ideas, and the use of paired terms. The Christian life is full of overlapping categories. It’s a massive Venn Diagram. And the push for neat distinctions is a western construction that makes little sense.
  8. It’s dangerous to define yourself against something, rather than as something. Responding to the challenges presented by the pentecostal movement was necessary, but baby and bathwater solutions aren’t real solutions. It seems to me that the argument goes “some people think worship only describes singing, therefore we must answer their wrong definition by saying singing is not worship”…Operating as an almost binary corrective means you ends up with two equally imbalanced sectarian movements – not a realigning of the position in a church. Particularly because the new generation you produce doesn’t really define itself through the conflict you fought, but through the position you adopted, without really owning it. If we, for a minute, use the imperfect of a different venn diagram, where we have a red circle and we want to correct the red circle, the corrective approach seeks to correct the red circle by setting up a disconnected blue circle, where blue is the complete opposite to red. Perhaps the truer colour is actually purple, but we just don’t want people being red. Real change, across the board, happens when you take the good parts of the red circle and overlap them with the blue to make purple. And the aim should be to make the Venn diagram as circular and purple as possible. It seems that most of us are willing to acknowledge that Sovereign Grace, Bob Kauflin, and the “Reformed Charismatic Movement” more broadly are self correcting – particularly with regards to their use of terminology. I would suggest it is difficult to argue that our reactive approach to the charismatic movement has brought this change.
  9. Music is liturgy. The songs we sing shape the way we live. Music has ethical ramifications.
  10. All gifts and talents are given by God, they become “spiritual” gifts when they serve the body and point people to Jesus (1 Cor 12-14 pushes me this way). Music is a gift. Musicians should be encouraged to perform to God’s glory, and we should stop pretending people are a pancreas when they’re a hand.
  11. If physical expression is a natural response to music, emotion, and the security that comes from love (Bob Kauflin used the illustration that you don’t have to teach a child to reach out for their parent), and, if an incredible portion of communication is non-verbal – the onus is on the people suggesting that music in church shouldn’t involve being physically expressive to prove that position from the Bible. Not for the physically expressive and emotional to defend theirs. The idea that it is culturally normal not to be physically expressive, and thus we should not be expressive because people will find it off putting, is the product of a sub-culture that is the product of the music wars, and would seem to be demonstrably incorrect based on the growth of the pentecostal movement (frankly, the appealing part of their services is the music rather than the teaching), and crowd behaviour at music performances across a variety of genres (that aren’t seated). Especially when young people are involved.
  12. It is possible that our approach to church, worship, and music, are not so much shaped by the Bible and mission, as shaped by an old conflict that the current generation did not participate in, and so, it is possible that a more moderate position is the way to go. Previous generations holding on to their positions and traditions is a guaranteed way for the church to become irrelevant, and thus for our “worship” to get in the way of our mission, which I would argue makes that “worship” not worship.
  13. The nature of multi-generational church is that the young question the traditions of the old, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and sometimes the previous generation need to remember that they were the young once, and still are on many other issues. Fresh insight should be listened to and weighed up, not just dismissed because it is overly optimistic, or not based on experience/tempered by conflict.

94 Comments 13 Propositions on Worship and The Generation Gap

  1. Simone R.

    Man, you’re annoying, Nathan! In about ten years time you’ll get called old by some kid in theological college who has no runs on the board and you’ll want to kick him.

    A few years ago I was horribly critical about all the songs we sang in church. Andrew would suggest a song, and I’d whinge about it. So he told me to have a go at writing myself. I did. It’s damn hard. I’ve (mostly) stopped whinging.

    I look forward to seeing how you are part of the solution to all of this.

    [all said with much love and affection.]

  2. Gav

    Have you read “Desiring God” by Piper?

    Check out chapter 3 if you haven’t. Its a great corrective about emotion and worship. You can even download the whole book as a df from the website desiringgod.org

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Kauflin and Piper are pretty much on the same page, and are mutual admirers of one another. This post is largely in response to the stuff being posted on The Briefing website at the moment (at the risk of being a corrective ala point 8).

  3. Gary Ware

    Wonderful that it all comes down to ‘old and young’.
    There is not an old skool Presbyterian view of worship, but rather there is the view of worship which the Presbyterian denomination affirms and which elders and pastors indicate they agree with when they are inducted into those offices.
    The Knox-Robinson view of worship was not a reaction against pentecostal or charismatic excess, it was framed to accommodate the reality of the ecumenical movement and the breaking down of denominationalism in a movement that felt more spiritual affinity outside itself than within.
    It was fuelled by the rejection of covenant theology which accompanies amyraldianism and the notion that Christ offered himself for a particular group of people.
    As a deconstruction, it’s no surprise that instead of worship there are meetings somewhat more akin to a TAFE (with better coffee) and songs that are more teaching jingles than expressive of praise. Horizontal is all they’ve got.
    One of the reasons for the difference in reaction between a concert and worship is that in one the musicians are performing to evoke that reaction, when in worship the whole gathered body is conscious of directing their actions toward God. Reactions come from that. Just because music is involved in both activities is no reason to think we’ll experience the same emotions.
    Interestingly enough, my pentecostal church leader friends monitor the ‘expressiveness’ of their folk and offer counsel that free worship be expressed in ways that don’t encourage strangers to think they’re nut jobs. It doesn’t seem that the young ones are their chief worry in that regard, either.
    Me, I just stand there and try and stay in time with my best effort at the pentecostal two-step and hope they don’t start clapping on the off-beat. I can walk and chew gum, it’s singing and clapping at the same time that I have trouble with.
    This isn’t a very big controversy, mired as it is in the predilections of one Australian diocese of a particular denomination. I’m sure it will pass.
    And generally older folk are more tolerant of the excesses of the young than younger folk seem to tolerate the failings of their elders.

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Hi Gary,

      Given that you’ve been around these parts for a while, and should, by now, have a feel for my “vibe”, I’ll ask you to read the “old people” thing as a slightly satirical stab at the notion that the “youth of today” are a force for outlandish changes in the area of music. I don’t actually think it’s necessarily and old/young distinction.

      The serious point at the heart of this is that defining issues of previous generations aren’t necessarily felt with the same angst by future generations, so while worship was perhaps a definitive issue for the Sydney Anglicans of the past – it’s not for those of us who weren’t there. And perhaps the debate needs nuance rather than polemics – I recognise that what I’ve written is essentially a polemic – but it’s a polemic calling for nuance.

      My comments re the Old Skool are perhaps reflective of my observations and experiences within the denomination – where some people would define worship exclusively as what goes on on Sunday. I think the Biblical view includes what goes on on Sunday, but not at the exclusion of the rest of life. I have no problem calling the Sunday gathering “worship” – but I wouldn’t say that worship begins and ends at the church doors, and I think Calls To Worship should be phrased accordingly, with a bit of care.

      1. Gary Ware

        It’s all worth it just to read the phrase ‘a polemic calling for nuance’.
        No, I’m just over hear in the corner trying keep my clapping in time with my two-step.

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Because you use a different name every time you comment. My problem isn’t really with the music – that’s secondary, and largely based on the amount of musical talent available and the musical style most appropriate for a church. I recognise that music I enjoy is inappropriate for the church context I’m in. But seriously. Disney musicals… My problem is with this debate about worship, and semantic arguments, and being reactionary, and defining yourself by fights of the past.

    2. Nathan Campbell

      Also, I’d argue that your definition of “runs on the board” is fairly narrow – I have runs on the board in my secular career, particularly with regards to communication and branding, which in I think translates to a church context. And I think music is part of communication and branding. How we present ourselves as a church. So I don’t think that argument is particularly fair.

      1. Nathan Campbell

        And I’m basing “runs on the board” on people still wanting to pay me for my time now.

      2. Nathan Campbell

        Furthermore, I have almost 28 years of church going on the board, and more than 10 years of being deliberately involved in ministry.

        I’m not sure where you think my lack of qualification for commenting on this issue is. I sing songs. Are only song writers and music pastors allowed to contribute to this debate?

  4. Simone R.

    Nathan – clearly I hit a nerve! 4 comments in a row!

    Of course it wasn’t entirely fair to say you have no runs on the board! But I am a mere 7 years older than you and you are calling me old because I (and my friends) think that the definition of the term ‘worship’ matters!

    But as far as trying to make a difference to the way we do music in church, it’s true that you have no runs on the board. What have you tried? I’m frustrated that singing at our church isn’t as great as I’d like it to be… but I don’t think that it’s hang ups about worship or whatever that’s causing our issues. Perhaps if fewer people yawned…

    1. Nathan Campbell

      I don’t play banjo, so I can’t improve the music at church. I’m really not particularly interested in the music at church debate – except I think that we should probably be actively encouraging people to joyfully participate, and sometimes our singing is a little bit dour.

      I also think it’s wrong to suggest I don’t think the definition of worship matters. I just don’t think we get there through playing narrow semantic games rather than big picture/paradigm type games. I think the idea that the biggest competition for “worship language” in New Testament times comes in the form of participating in Imperial propaganda and emperor worship has some bearing on how we understand the function of the words that were used in the New Testament, and I really think defining yourself against something rather than as something is a bit silly too.

      1. Nathan Campbell

        In sum, it seems to me that there are three positions in this debate not four.

        1. Worship is music, which is the position people take when they call their music pastor a worship pastor.
        2, Worship is all of life, except music, which is the reactive position.
        3. Whatever Philip is actually advocating.
        4. Worship is all of life, including music and is part of the picture of Christian living, particularly relating to our intentional response to God.

  5. AndrewF

    I’m a huge fan of SG and their songs.. as thanks Nathan, a great post. I am of EMU, but reading TP’s response to Kauflin’s Au appearance left a pretty sour taste in my mouth.. To be honest, I had no idea that SG were Charismatic.

  6. Kutz

    I have to speak with Nathan here, that it’s quite demeaning to say that he (and others of us expressing similar viewpoints this discussion) don’t care about the definition of the word ‘worship’. As Nathan has pointed out his and others’ contributions to the discussion indicate that indeed we do care.

    In fact, we care so much that we are articulating arguments that put forward a contrary position. That position, broadly speaking, is that narrowly defined word-search approaches to reading particular words combined with an argument from silence fails to take into account the broader themes present in certain NT passages. (Hebrews 10 and 12, for example)

    Without tarring the many with a single brush, it has been a consistent criticism of many Syd-Ang theological positions that they work from a basis of word studies that at times work from a narrow understanding of language use. I reckon that this is a case where a strong reaction against a wrong view of worship has encouraged this slight mis-nuance.

    It’s hardly like this is the young turks against the old fogies, either. This is actually Don Carson’s view.

    1. Mark Baddeley

      You could be right, Kutz, and you’ve been demeaned. But if you’re going to ally yourself with someone who has a rhetorical style like Nathan’s then you should probably expect the debate to have at least as much heat as light. If you entitle a post ‘worship and old guys’ you’ve arguably managed to demean your ‘opposition’ even before you wrote your first sentence – no small accomplishment. Complaining that they’ve then demeaned you seems a bit odd. If you’re complaint is that demeaning is wrong, why didn’t you protest Nathan demeaning people as well?

      And when someone writes ‘twelve propositions’ all of which appear to be a reaction to the perceived flaws of ‘those guys over there’ and number 8 begins, ‘It’s equally silly to define yourself against something’, I’m not sure whether to just go LOL or to wave generally in the direction of logs and motes. Either way, that kind of internal inconsistency is precisely the kind of thing that is going to make some people really like the post, and others throw brickbats at it.

      The thread has been, more or less, the kind of thread Nathan wanted (or at least should have expected), given the tone of the post he wrote.

      1. Nathan

        Ok. I’m clearly going to have to edit this post as it’s obvious I’vedone a poor job in carrying the humour in the angry young man responding to the previous generation of angry young people in a deliberately ironic manner, the tone is clearly distracting people from the subject, and I apologise because it means I’ve failed as a communicator…

        In my defense, young people and old people perennially fight about music, there is also a clear generation gap on this issue, I thought “angry young man” was a well known enough category that calling oneself an angry young man would be understood as a rhetorical device (in my experience, angry young men don’t claim to be angry young men, just that they’re right and the system is wrong), and I thought that given the tone of this blog generally, people would expect at least some attempt at humour. I will admit I was deliberately hyperbolic and provocative, but perhaps I can’t expect old people to understand a young people’s medium…

      2. Kutz

        Hi Mark! :) I’m going to have to chat to you about impassibility sometime, after I re-read all those posts. I’ve been chatting to Gerald and Gibbo. :P

        I hear your points, and for the most part I’m forced to agree.

        At the same time, I think that the criticisms levelled at Nathan’s post on which I defended him were not fair criticisms. Had they criticised the post for its inflammatory nature, I’d probably have been on their side. They critiqued the post based on lacking substance and not giving the central argument of the opposition its full weight. Of all its sins, this one it was not guilty of.

        1. Mark Baddeley

          A chat sounds good, Kutz. Gibbo and Gerald would *ahem* not be in total agreement with those posts. Gibbo’s position I think I understand as I’ve heard him on it. Nathan Lovell tried to explain the position that he thought was Gerald’s (and he’s a sharp guy, so I’d assume he had the idea right) and I admit I just couldn’t even grasp how it would work.

          I’m not sure I saw where the post was criticised for lacking substance – I rescanned the comments and couldn’t see it. If it is there, then I’d tend to think that’s because it was, apparently, irony done poorly. If you come over as an angry young man then everything you say smacks of lack of substance. If you try ‘a high risk high reward’ strategy like irony then, if you botch it, the content also comes over as lacking in substance. I think this was one time where the medium was the message.

          As to not responding to the central point of the opponent position, well I’m not sure it is as clear as you think that Nathan did do that. Andrew observed that one of the things that is driving the view in question is the observation that the key worship words are basically not used in the epistles of church gatherings. That’s not quite the same point as ‘all of life is worship’. They’re connected, but the two observations are different. And if Andrew is right, and that’s a key part of what is driving the alternate view, then Nathan didn’t really capture it well.

          Gary’s observation is that Nathan was completely wrong as to the concrete context of the alternative view. It came out of the doctrine of church, which was a rejection of ecumenism, and an expression of rejection of covenant theology, and not primarily a reaction to Pentecostalism.

          You and Nathan could be right about that and Gary and Andrew could be wrong. They’ve got more experience and history with the view in question, but they’re old, and us old guys are constantly making basic mistakes like that.

          But their response, “you’ve got the basic facts wrong, Nathan” was not unfair. It was, and is, one of the issues up for debate, and on which reasonable people can disagree. It’s very important to coming to a view on the question, in my opinion, but it’s not something where the options are between ‘all reasonable people think this’ and ‘that’s unfair’.

          1. Nathan Campbell

            “If you come over as an angry young man then everything you say smacks of lack of substance”

            I’m not sure that’s true or fair.

            “If you try ‘a high risk high reward’ strategy like irony then, if you botch it, the content also comes over as lacking in substance.”

            You’ve said pretty much the same thing here – but I’d suggest the irony/tone of the piece was only at the hyperbolic fringes. And actually worked, in that it produced a discussion. My serious posts get about 2 comments on average. This now has 41… It wasn’t as though my points were all flair no substance… I think it’s fairer to say that the tone gives people an excuse to dismiss it, especially people who feel like they’re in the cross hairs. And that’s a mistake on the part of the reader, not the speaker.

            “I won’t listen to what he says because of how he says it” is essentially an ad hominem fallacy.

            To be fair, you’re conflating two different positions on worship that I’m addressing when you refer to Gary’s comments. From my understanding, and it is quite possible that I’m wrong… Gary is defending the view that all of the church is worship – the so called “Knox-Robinson view”… which is quite different, in my mind, to the Briefing view of worship.

            Now I might be wrong, and this might be an appeal to authority, but in Australian Church History the other day, Andrew Bain suggested that one of the defining aspects of the rise of, for want of a better term, Jensenism, in Sydney was a reaction against the charismatic/pentecostal view of worship… and this response is not to define everything within a church service (including singing) as worship (as the Old Skool Pressies do), but to define nothing within a church service as worship, or especially not the singing… these two positions appear to have emerged at two distinct epochs, and in response to two different non-Biblical movements. I would argue that both are wrong. One because it draws the definition too narrowly (stopping at the boundaries of the Sunday gathering), and the other because it appears to argue that worship is not many things, where I would suggest worship is everything that is an appropriate response to God, and the Lordship of Jesus.

            I also think, again, that the generation gap is significant in this debate.

          2. Nathan Campbell

            Furthermore, basically what you are suggesting is that if you are a young person, and you give an old person any reason to dismiss your criticism of their position, they will. And they’ll probably say something about runs on the board in the process…

          3. Nathan Campbell

            Also (and I really should just edit all of these together)… who calls themselves an angry young man without irony?

            The irony in my post was self evident.

            I retract my claim that it was poor, and now, for the record, will argue that I edited the post because people were so myopic that they didn’t get it (some people did and commented with equal irony – which I may have missed). I also edited it so that old people had no excuse not to read what it has to say…

          4. Mark Baddeley

            Nathan,

            While this is your post, I wasn’t really talking to you, but to Kutz, so I’ll keep this brief as I can.

            “If you come over as an angry young man then everything you say smacks of lack of substance”

            I’m not sure that’s true or fair.

            It was a simply a description of the way things are, it had no moral ‘ought’ to it. If I come across as a person who lacks credibility then my message will be ‘heard’ accordingly. That mightn’t be fair, or right, but most of us realise that is what happens, and so work on coming across as personally credible. Coming across as an angry young man, or playing the part ironically and getting misheard are both examples where that can happen.

            If what you’re saying is that I’m not being fair in saying you came across that way, then (again, for we’ve been here before) I think you’re demonstrating a narrower view of language than you claim to hold. ‘come across that way’ is simply a way of saying ‘some people seem to have read it this way’. I’m not sure how such an assessment could be fair or unfair – you and I can disagree on whether that is right, but how I think you were ‘heard’ is hardly an issue of fairness.

            And my comments on Gary were not to join the debate over the substance of your post. I was querying Kutz’s characterization of your critics as being unfair. I wasn’t saying Gary’s criticism was right or wrong – indeed I said a reasonable debate could be had on that issue. I said he wasn’t being unfair.

            Furthermore, basically what you are suggesting is that if you are a young person, and you give an old person any reason to dismiss your criticism of their position, they will. And they’ll probably say something about runs on the board in the process…

            Yes, I think that a reasonable reader would exegete that meaning from what I said.

            I retract my claim that it was poor, and now, for the record, will argue that I edited the post because people were so myopic that they didn’t get it (some people did and commented with equal irony – which I may have missed).

            I was surprised that you thought you’d made a mistake in the first place, so that you’ve now decided that the problem is entirely with other people really doesn’t surprise me.

          5. Nathan

            Hi Mark,

            While you may well have been “talking to Kutz”, I’m not sure that blogs work that way, I responded because I felt a little unfairly maligned by your comment. You took my apology and whacked me with it. I didn’tthink that was fair, and I think any interpretation of a text should consider authorial intent. I don’t think seeing the irony in the original post was all that difficult, and I don’t feel like I’ve been given the benefit of the doubt. People have simply chosen the interpretation that suits them best.

            Contrary to whatever belief some may have, I post thousands of non-argumentative things online for every argumentative or obstreporous thing. I do actually stand by the apology in my post, it probably wasn’t wise to employ any device in communication that was likely to cause an obstacle, but I truly am frustrated by the manner in which this issue is approached in our circle.

            Communication is a two way street. I have apologised for my part, but all that has led to is a bunch of people emailing me to say I shouldn’t have (the people who agreed with me) and a bunch of people using the apology to vindicate their initial response.

          6. Kutz

            “I admit I just couldn’t even grasp how it would work.” Yeah, there were a few sentences in Gerald’s talk that would have needed full lectures in their own right to help me get how/why they led to the conclusions he drew. I think Gibbo and I are on a pretty similar page.

            “I’m not sure I saw where the post was criticised for lacking substance” Ah, that may be because I can also see a bunch of Facebook comments embedded in this page somehow. Not sure if you can too. I was primarily responding to Richo in that, but I’m pretty happy being ‘robust’ with him given he’s a good mate and that he, Nathan and I all served on the same ministry team for a year.

            “Gary’s observation is that Nathan was completely wrong.” Looking back, I can see why you would say this. I don’t think Nathan’s as wrong about it in his mind as you’d think if you’d only read the post. (which, I realise, is all most people can go from!) He knows it wasn’t a reaction simply to pentecostalism. I guess I’ve had the added benefit of chatting about it to him in person and sitting in a lecture with Bogga where some of the background of the issue was discussed.

            Whether Nathan’s got the full picture of the historical debate correct or not, I’m more than happy to defer to those with more knowledge. Despite that, Nathan’s comment with respect to narrow linguistic theological arguments is at the centre of the theological basis for the position in question. While it may not address the context and reasons for the debate, it addresses the theological basis for one side of those who argued within it. I guess that’s the issue on which I felt that the Facebok criticism was unfair.

            I don’t really get a bunch of what Gary was saying, or where he stands on it, to be honest, and wasn’t attempting to address his post.

            @Gary: Apologies if I seemed to be attacking your comment. I did not intend such.

          7. Nathan

            Hi Mark,

            I’m curious, while there may not have been an implicit “ought” in your statement… do you think the following statements are true:

            1. Writers ought to consider the way readers might respond when writing.
            2. Readers ought to consider the genre/medium they are reading.
            3. Readers ought to consider authorial intent.

            It seems to me that what has happened in this post represents a breakdown in all three of these areas. But in the comments it is particularly clear that 2 and 3 are happening.

            Especially where you say “I think this was one time where the medium was the message.”

            Do you think that is a failing entirely on my part? I’m assuming that the following was intended as a dig:

            “I was surprised that you thought you’d made a mistake in the first place, so that you’ve now decided that the problem is entirely with other people really doesn’t surprise me.”

          8. Mark Baddeley

            Hey Kutz,

            You and Gibbo are on a pretty similar page? Oh dear, we really do need to talk then and try and call you back to something closer to historic orthodoxy ;)

            I did read Richo’s comment, again this is an issue of linguistics in practice – I wouldn’t take “you’d do well to take [this concern] seriously” as meaning “your post lacks substance”. Okay, if you and Richo have something else going on relationally so that was deliberately pushing back at him then that’s fine. (Personally I wouldn’t do that, as even with that back injury he could tie me into a pretzel, but you’re apparently a lot younger than us old guys and might be able to outrun him.)

            Again, wasn’t trying to say Andrew and Gary are right. I think my views on this are pretty close to where yours and Nathan’s are, and always have been. What Nathan’s calling ‘the worship wars’ has never really interested me as it seemed so patently daft (not saying that it really is daft, just that that has always been my instinctive reaction, and that tends to lower my interest in a topic). I was simply trying to say that their responses were ‘fair comment’ to Nathan’s post.

            On Nathan’s point 7, Andrew’s response is fair. I regularly make a point similar to Nathan’s point 7 with regards to word studies, but, again at the risk of unfairly maligning Nathan in comment to you, his tone in point 7 was so high-handed and so breezily dismissive of the alternative position, granting its concerns no validity at all, that it isn’t surprising that someone who holds the view in a mature and nuanced way – like Andrew – will read that point and go “you haven’t engaged with my view at all there”. If you don’t want that, then that’s the weakness of ironically taking on an angry young man persona, or to write, in Nathan’s words ‘a polemic calling for nuance’ – the style of polemic doesn’t have room for nuance, and without some nuance or sympathy those owning the view will just see it as a caricature of their position. (And if you think that’s wrong, then look at how you and Nathan have reacted to responses to the post that you thought lacked sympathy towards it and nuance in content.)

            If, however, you are looking to generate a firestorm of comments in reaction to your polemic and then deliberately generate the nuance through the ensuing conversation in the comments then that’s not a limitation, that’s a feature of a two-stage posting strategy. I’ve used that method with a couple of my series on Sola. But if that’s the strategy, then I have found it counterproductive to then get upset that some of the comments coming in are angry and/or misunderstand the full nuanced genius of what I was doing. You just play the ball where it lies, and thank God for anyone willing to genuinely engage (as opposed to just troll). The heat of the polemic helps get people engaged, and so you get more comments. But you get a bit scorched along the way, and have to work hard to channel that heat in a productive direction. Blaming others doesn’t help that process, in my opinion.

          9. Mark Baddeley

            Hi Nathan,

            While you may well have been “talking to Kutz”, I’m not sure that blogs work that way, I responded because I felt a little unfairly maligned by your comment.

            Sure; I wasn’t saying you were doing anything wrong by responding, I was flagging why I was trying to keep things shortish – I wasn’t talking to Kutz as an indirect way of talking to you.

            You took my apology and whacked me with it.

            I’ll take your word for that and apologize for it. My memory is that I whacked you before you had apologized, and when you did, took that apology on board and so softened it a bit on the second comment to Kutz. But if you saw what I did as wrong, then I apologize and will try and lift my game for the rest of this conversation.

            I didn’tthink that was fair, and I think any interpretation of a text should consider authorial intent. I don’t think seeing the irony in the original post was all that difficult, and I don’t feel like I’ve been given the benefit of the doubt. People have simply chosen the interpretation that suits them best.

            Irony is hard to get in a piece of writing unless it is done very, very well. Those who can write a sustained piece entirely in the ironic mode (or dropping in and out of it) and doing so while having a substantial discussion about an involved topic are very few. The writer and those who know him or her well, who bring a lot more to the piece, will (almost) always think what’s written has been a lot clearer than the piece actually has been. People who write highly polemical pieces of work criticizing another group as a block generally surrender benefit of the doubt – it’s part of using the polemical mode, as the polemical mode itself doesn’t lend itself to giving the benefit of the doubt. When critized (or even attacked) don’t assume bad motives (‘people have simply chosen the interpretation that suits them best’) unless you have compelling evidence that’s what’s going on – for once you’re there, it is almost impossible to have genuine conversation.

            I do actually stand by the apology in my post, it probably wasn’t wise to employ any device in communication that was likely to cause an obstacle, but I truly am frustrated by the manner in which this issue is approached in our circle.

            I’m not saying it is never wise to employ devices likely to cause an obstacle to communication. Scripture is full of them. High risk high reward strategies are worth doing. I’m saying that employing a device likely to cause an obstacle to communication is likely to cause an obstacle to communication, no matter how well you think you’ve done it. What you gain from the method you’ve chosen is always going to have a cost. You pick what you’re prepared to live with based on what benefits you want, you pay your money, and you take what you get back.

            And if you’re frustrated by how this manner is approached in our circle then I think you need to take a breath and step back. Frustration is almost never constructive. For me, when I see myself getting frustrated that’s when I start to pull back, because frustration is always my problem, not that of people ‘out there’. The thing causing my frustration can be their problem, but frustration is something to guard against.

            Communication is a two way street. I have apologised for my part, but all that has led to is a bunch of people emailing me to say I shouldn’t have (the people who agreed with me) and a bunch of people using the apology to vindicate their initial response.

            I agree, apologizing is a mug’s game. When I am doing a post series and dealing with intense conversations in the comments I think I probably apologize about ten times for every genuine, unqualified, straight apology I receive back. More often someone uses my apology as a tactical device to score some cheap points and/or someone on my side tells me that I really don’t have anything to apologize for given the relative behavior of me and the other person. People are naturally boorish and churlish outside of a personal relationship and especially so online (polemical to make a point). Again, I have found that I either have to accept that and take it on the chin, or allow myself to slowly sink to a lower common denominator of behavior than I think is right.

            I think apologizing regularly and unreservedly is worth it, for a whole raft of reasons. But it is a mug’s game.

          10. Nathan

            Hi Mark,

            Thanks. Useful reflections and well thought out critique. I appreciate it. Perhaps I’ll take a leaf out of Tony Payne’s book and actually write “irony ahead” – but that takes all the art out of the equation.

            “Frustrated” and “angry” probably aren’t the right words. It’s whatever you feel when there’s an irritating sound playing in a room and you can’t figure out where it’s coming from… This debate isn’t keeping me up at night, nor is it going to change how I approach things. It’s really not a defining issue to me. I’m not about to start a worship watch blog. It’s an interesting and important topic, and has interesting application. But really, it’s just convenient procrastination at the moment to have a debate to occupy my time and keep my slightly more creative juices flowing (more creative than exegeting and translating John).

          11. Nathan

            Also (I really need to wait five minutes before I hit submit)… I have a disclaimer on the site that describes what I think a blog is, and thus how I approach writing,, and a “Play the ball not the man” rule written on the comment form… it’s really hard for me to do anything more to encourage people to engage with the issues not the style of debate…

          12. Mark Baddeley

            Picking up your second comment to me:

            1. Writers ought to consider the way readers might respond when writing.
            2. Readers ought to consider the genre/medium they are reading.
            3. Readers ought to consider authorial intent.

            I agree with all three.

            But when I write my motto is, “assume everyone is incompetent”. That’s not because they actually are (it’s actually an ironic way of saying that I’m not as competent as I think I am), but because I find that’s the easiest way to get me in the zone to write as clearly as I can, clearer than I would otherwise. It doesn’t push me to write things that are easy to read – I write long, dense, and involved posts as a general rule, and they’re usually part of some multi-part series where the later posts assume you’ve got the earlier ones. But it is the easiest way I know to remind myself that communication with nothing more than written words is hard, and miscommunications, misunderstandings, and ill-will is common, and a genuine meeting of minds across difference is hard-won.

            And when I come to handle the comments on the posts, I assume that it will be a very mixed bag – people bring to my posts a whole world that I know nothing about and what I say will generate meanings and ideas that I never envisaged (and often take umbrage at) and all sorts of ulterior motives will be detected for what I’m trying to accomplish that I repudiate. And the more demanding the posts I write are (especially if I adopt irony or polemics, both of which are hard to get in the absence of personal relationships or face to face contact to give non-verbal clues, or if I’m writing on something about which people feel strongly and/or are grouped into fairly fixed ‘camps’) the more I expect that some of the balls coming over the net will have a lot of force and some strange spins on them, and that if I want a constructive rally with that person then the onus is on me to try and make it happen.

            While it takes two to tango (hallo mixed metaphor) it works better if I approach comments as though it is entirely up to me to get something constructive out of this. Just take whatever comment I get, no matter how bad (within reason), and see if I can respond to it in a way that invites them to move with me on a more constructive path. Publicly failing comments because I think they have read me badly doesn’t help that process, in my view. So as much as I can with integrity I bleed privately, smile publicly, and, if I have to challenge a comment, make it as focused, concrete, particular, and non-judgemental (and non-defensive) as I can. Not ‘people were so myopic’ but ‘I’m not sure that there is what I was trying to say – see these words here, I think they indicate that there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding between us at this point’.

            Especially where you say “I think this was one time where the medium was the message.”

            Do you think that is a failing entirely on my part?

            No, people are responsible for their reading. That’s a moral act. But I think you are responsible for adopting an approach that your own experience of blogging should have told you would have some collateral damage and then not being prepared for that to manage it as constructively as possible. Doing ironic polemics and then getting frustrated with ‘our circle’ is also a moral act. My comment to Kutz that’s generated this mini-thread was not that you’d done anything wrong by the post. I think irony and polemics are fine. It was that the responses were predictable and reasonable – a reasonable person could misunderstand your post and/or react in a non-constructive way to it. And behind that is my view that the responsibility is on you as the poster and host of the ensuing conversation to anticipate that, accept that things will be said about you that you think are unfair, and focus on trying to push a constructive conversation forward rather than defending yourself.

            And partly that’s just enlightened self-interest – defend yourself and you (usually) convince only those well-disposed to you anyway. Forgo that (more or less) and work on a constructive conversation and anyone ‘reachable’ will see that the personal criticisms are misplaced anyway. And they’ll then give you some back-handed patronizing compliment like, “you’re actually quite nice for an ironical angry young man once someone gets to know you”.

            I’m assuming that the following was intended as a dig:

            “I was surprised that you thought you’d made a mistake in the first place, so that you’ve now decided that the problem is entirely with other people really doesn’t surprise me.”

            Well ‘dig’ could be a “you say potato” moment. I wouldn’t classify it that way as I think ‘digs’ are inherently negative, if not passive aggressive. It didn’t needed to be said out loud, and it was sharp and directed at you personally, so if those things qualify as a ‘dig’ for you, then yes it was a dig.

            I was, and am, morally outraged that you thought, (let alone wrote!), “people were so myopic that they didn’t get it” in the context of taking back your apology. Rather than whack you with the various passages of Scripture that I thought you had just transgressed, I took a different high-risk strategy, and just told you what my thoughts had been.

            I was surprised that you owned the problem originally and when you did I thought, “Okay, this is what Simone sees in this guy, he manned up and did what needed to be done to push things in a constructive way irrespective of whether he thought he was being treated fairly or not.” Then, when in twenty-four hours and (given that it seemed to be in response to the next thing I said to Kutz) you completely backtracked on it and put the blame squarely on everyone else and completely absolved yourself, I thought ‘ah well, disappointing, but I’m not surprised’. And the reason for that is that, in every online debate I’ve seen you in (not many, but 100% of my experience of you), sooner or later you appeal to your better grasp of the nature of language, or your experience in communications in your secular employment, which suggests that they’re quite important to your self-concept. That suggests that you think you are a good communicator and that you understand language better than most other people and that that gives you a real edge. In my experience, people who think of themselves in those kinds of ways will usually conclude that a problem in communication is with the other party. That comes from my life experience of family members, work colleagues, friends, ministry colleagues I’ve worked with and ministry superiors I’ve worked for. Whereas those who really are good at communicating almost always start and finish by looking at what they could have done better and only reluctantly put the onus on the blame of miscommunication entirely on someone else’s shoulders. That’s not objectively right – usually the other person isn’t carrying their fair load – but my observation is that it’s the best way to orientate yourself to the problem so that you make the most constructive contribution possible.

          13. Nathan Campbell

            Ouch.

            Just a couple of minor responses…

            Myopic might be the wrong word. I guess I was trying to capture the idea that people had chosen the reading they immediately wanted to, rather than being prepared to think through anything past a flat literal reading of the text to think about the author’s intent, and genre, and context (ie it’s a post on a blog that definitively, from the name to the content, does not take itself too seriously).

            But. The apology still stands in the introductory paragraph on this post, the post is still rewritten, and a subsequent apology post also still exists.

            It is possible that that particular comment was a response to feeling like my apology, a genuine act of contrition, had been taken and used as evidence against me to keep on whacking me over the style of the post rather than dealing with questions of substance.

            “sooner or later you appeal to your better grasp of the nature of language, or your experience in communications in your secular employment”

            I don’t think that’s fair. In this conversation that was brought up only when Simone suggested I have no runs on the board. In our last debate – the gay marriage one. I don’t run around thinking I’m better at communicating than anybody else. I do work very hard at writing lots to develop whatever gifts I have in that area.

            I think the issue at the heart of this debate is fundamentally about what language is, how it works, and what words do… and I’m not really interested in appealing to myself as an authority on the matter. I am much more interested in a substantial conversation about how language works.

            You’ve put forward what feels like a pretty lengthy ad hominem attack here. This requires some reading between the lines and seeing some implicit criticisms – ie the idea that any redeemable qualities people who actually might know me in the real world are somewhat illusory, or at least beyond your grasp, when you self-admittedly have seen me in “not many” debates… But do you think that’s particularly fair?

            “In my experience, people who think of themselves in those kinds of ways will usually conclude that a problem in communication is with the other party. “

            In my defence, again… Experience which you admit is limited, but which nonetheless seems to be contrary to the evidence available, especially in the form of this follow up post linked in the first paragraph. My oft repeated, both here, there, and in previous posts, and in my disclaimer, and in comments in just about any thread you’ve “experienced” this phenom in – my position on communication is fairly clear. And I have, as much as possible, tried to make the job of interpretation as clear as possible, by providing a guide to interpretation in a link at the top of every page – which aims to treat my responsibilities and reader responsibilities with equal weight. I’ll now include the disclaimer with the comment form (it used to be there, dropped off with a design change)…

            Lest you think I am making this up, here’s a comment from that post from 1:44pm yesterday:

            …and it’s just something I have to be more mindful of… if I keep saying “people need to understand the medium” then at some point it’s actually my problem, as well as theirs…”

            Or, from my disclaimer:

            “Your job, as a reader, is to understand the medium. The genre. That’s part of interacting with a text in its context…My job is to be clear, and to remember certain things about the online world. Non-verbal communication is hard.”

            I think thinking about author’s intent, and implied readers, and reader response is important for assessing whether a piece of communication is successful. That’s all my experience has taught me.

            But my position on communication, not just when it suits me, but consistently, is demonstrably that communication, in my experience, is a two way street. When it becomes clear I haven’t upheld my side of the street I’ll man up. I’ll retract. I’ll apologise. If life hasn’t already moved on – posts, while permanent, represent transient moments both in my thinking and attention.

            That is, I think, the sum total of conclusions drawn from my “professional life” in “secular work”. Furthermore, since it is the writer who initiates the communication, I think the greater portion of blame almost always lies with the writer.

            Anyway, I think you’ve essentially with your nice little sequence of paragraphs here – painted me as something I’m demonstrably not.

            I’m not the guy who thinks that communication breakdowns are ever the fault of one party (except extreme cases where one party is demonstrably reading something against the grain, deliberately misrepresenting the communicator). And I’m not the coward who seems to man up then runs and hides. I am, however, pretty defensive of my reputation. This page is me. It’s written under my name. People judge me by it. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t like people putting pretty personal criticisms of me, or my writing, into black and white. Especially if they don’t give me the benefit of the doubt. And more especially if I don’t feel like they know me well enough to be making the criticisms.

            It’s quite possible that I’m misinterpreting or overreading and overreacting to your criticisms, making the general into specifics… but the vibe of your comments has been, from start to finish, in my interpretation, to suggest that my post lacks credibility, via the tone, and so others have rightly dismissed it. I’ve taken that as a suggestion that I personally lack credibility (and I’m not sure how credibly you thought this post was meant to be taken. It represented my musings and responses to a debate, and some propositions that expressed how I personally, Nathan Campbell, thought the debate should actually take place. I wasn’t seeking peer review or publication. This may not have been your intention – but it’s certainly how I’ve interpreted your comments…

            But. I will say. That in the online world – I think rules of hospitality typically apply. And I’m a little bit hyper-sensitive to people levelling personal criticism against me, and impugning my character, on my website. So my comment yesterday that I was withdrawing my apology was an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to what I saw as more criticism that played the man, and not the ball – again, something contrary to the instructions on the comment form that people are filling in to post here. If you really want to get stuck into me personally. I can take it. I’ll doubtless be defensive. But this isn’t the place. This is permanent. I don’t delete comments. I write stuff under my own name. I’m completely accountable. And I provide an email address. If you think I’m an arrogant young turk who needs to pull his head in – email me, don’t tell the world.

            This isn’t somewhere that I’ve been invited to have a presence. This is my place. I pay the bills. I provide the content. It’s optional to come to my place, and I think it’s pretty poor form to go to anybody’s premises and insult them. This isn’t a Sola Panel or Briefing. I’m not writing from a platform created by a brand. I don’t think it’s ever ok to go up to somebody who’s practically a stranger to you and eloquently, and in a round about way, call their ability to man up, and their identity, and their ability to communicate into question… especially if the person doing the hospitality has made the “house rules” pretty clear.

            Really, I’m a bit over thinking of myself as some sort of martyr. I’m much more interested in arguments about the points I raised than the tone, and I’m wondering why so many paragraphs have been wasted saying something that I’d already acknowledged. My initial post was weakened by the tone, and wasn’t a particularly well thought out piece of communication – but I never really claimed that it was either of those things… When I admitted that I wasn’t really asking other people to chime in and agree with me that yes, it was a bad piece of communication, with the imputation that that makes me a bad communicator.

          14. Mark Baddeley

            Nathan,

            You’ve put forward what feels like a pretty lengthy ad hominem attack here. This requires some reading between the lines and seeing some implicit criticisms – ie the idea that any redeemable qualities people who actually might know me in the real world are somewhat illusory, or at least beyond your grasp, when you self-admittedly have seen me in “not many” debates… But do you think that’s particularly fair?

            This is where you and I probably have a different take on things, and it’ll cause some (more) difficulties between us. I don’t see what I wrote as a series of ad hominem attacks, nor do I see it as either fair or unfair. I see it as an explanation of something I wrote that I took it you were querying. When someone asks me to explain what I think on something or what I’m seeing I just describe it as I see it.

            By saying that it was my experience of you, one based on only seeing you in action a few times, I am, in my mind, inviting the reader to put a big question mark over what I’m saying. I am stating why I wasn’t surprised, at your action, someone whose knowledge of you is clearly quite minimal. By giving my reasons I’m also saying that I don’t think my reaction there should be dismissed out of hand – it is a reasonable position. Those together were inviting you and others to weigh it up for what value it had, and different people will draw different conclusions.

            In doing that I wasn’t simply shooting at you from some protected position, I was putting myself up for moral judgement as well – in the same indelible, permanent forum you have. People who decided my assessment wasn’t worth the photons it was written with (not just that it was wrong, but that it was out of line) would draw the relevant inferences about me from that. It’s one reason why I chose this rather than quote scriptures at you – this way I was putting myself at risk as well, and that seemed far more equitable.

            Now, by virtue of the fact that it was about you, it was by definition ad hominem. But you (implicitly in my mind, you might have thought you were doing something different) invited me to say something about what I’d written – and you did so online, not privately. To my mind I was following your lead.

            And that is, to my mind, the benefit and problem of the new social media (not that blogging and commenting is particularly new). It invites a faux intimacy and personal relationship that doesn’t actually exist. People say things that wouldn’t otherwise be said because it seems to be personal, but actually isn’t.

            Different people have different ways of dealing with that, my approach is to take the faux personal as though it is real and so talk to people personally in public if that’s where the conversation goes. Your approach seems to be quite different from that from what you’ve written, and you see that (or at least this example) as transgressing the rules of hospitality. I disagree (quite strongly, I don’t think it makes much difference whether it is Sola or a personal blog, I used the exact same rules when I was posting on my own little blog lurking in cyberspace that I’ve stated here) but I think your position is a reasonable one. So, again, I apologize – it was my misunderstanding, not a deliberate transgressing of your take on how blogs (or at least your blog) should work.

            Again, I have little interest in the topic you wrote about, or the content of your post. Nothing I wrote was trying to address that. As far as I’m interested, I think you and I basically agree about the issue.

            I was writing to Kutz about why I thought that bad reactions were reasonable, not right. And by ‘reasonable’ I don’t mean ‘everyone should think this way and think Nathan is an idiot and everything he has written is dumb’, I mean the ‘reasonable person test’. Do you have to be unreasonable person to have reacted that way or is this an possibility (and that’s all, just a possibility) for a reasonable person reading this? Saying that something is reasonable doesn’t mean that I agree with it, endorse it, encourage anyone else to think that or the like. It just means that it’s not off with the canaries, profoundly myopic, a sign of people reading it in a way that they want or the like. It is something that a basically competent person could derive with a clear conscience without making any egregious errors of interpretation. It is something over which reasonable people can disagree over.

            At the risk of blowing this up further, I think you and I having a profound misunderstanding over what I mean when I say that negative reactions to your post were ‘reasonable’ and ‘not unfair’. I don’t think it was the subtle, all-encompassing assault you are reading it as.

            And ‘man-up’, another example of how easily misunderstandings occur. That was a compliment, and an unreserved one. I never said, nor meant to imply, that you then switched to cowardice, or couldn’t sustain it and so changed gears. I attributed the change to a different reason entirely than to your courage and general manliness. I attributed it to the fact that I thought you think that you are clear communicator and that people’s misreading and/or poor reaction to you is because they were ‘myopic’ or read into the post what suited them. I can see that you find that insulting as well (and that’s entirely reasonable, although I disagree) but the “man-up” was an unreserved compliment, and one well deserved. I’m sorry that it added salt to the wound instead.

          15. Nathan

            Hi Mark,

            Thanks, read through that framework I’ve got no problem with anything you’ve said about the post, the communication breakdown, or the response.

            I think this is a good demonstration of the problem at the heart of this debate. Intention is pretty important for understanding the “thing” that a word represents… And perceived tone can sometimes be misleading.

            I apologise for not fairly interpreting your comments…

            On the personal blog being different to the corporate blog… I’d say there are a few differences analgous to supermarkets and corner stores. So, on Sola you have the imprimatur of the organisation behind you, you have the power of the collective (which means a naturally bigger pool of readers, and that you’ve also got a team who gives the impression of having your back – even if you disagree on some stuff), and you don’t have the “pressure” of running the show or carrying the can all by yourself… Now, blogging isn’t my livelihood so this difference isn’t do or die… Or a matter of this site’s survival. But. Because I want to be personally accountable I write under my own name, which means google catches everything. Other personal bloggers choose to hide surnames, or adopt pseudonyms, or take steps to protect their identity, but I’ve hung my shingle, and a surprising number of people use blogs to try to trip up young candidates for ministry, which means, as I am still young, and don’t have a secure job yet, I need to be careful both with what I say, and with what is said about me, in this forum. One member of a committee assessing me for something even took umbrage at this blog’s name… And brought that up not in front of me, but in a meeting discussing my suitability… My mum sends me emails if she thinks I’ve offended people I had no intention of even talking about. Other people close to me are also hyper sensitive, and assume that I am criticising them when I wasn’t even aware they held particular positions… Somehow this strikes me as being slightly different to being a writer for a professional blog, or a collective blog with a distinct editorial agenda… Because I’m not bound by such an agenda people tend to read some intent into the topics I choose that may or may not be there… I guess those are some of the differences in my mind…

            Thanks for commenting though, I like robust discussion, even if sometimes it leads to the point that I appear to be a defensive twerp who can’t hack the heat of his own kitchen… That’s certainly not my intention. I think I just need to be more prepared to be burned though, or less surprised when it happens…

          16. Peter Kutuzov

            Hey Mark,

            “I wouldn’t take “you’d do well to take [this concern] seriously” as meaning “your post lacks substance”. ”

            I just took it to mean that he thought Nathan wasn’t taking it seriously. Hence, I argued that he did. :)

            And no, I’ve got buckley’s of outrunning Richo. The man’s a machine!

            With respect to Nathan’s posting style, his post was one pretty typically designed to form the firestorm to get the comments going. He often does it because it’s the easiest way for him to test his arguments out. Despite what he lets on, he often needs this process to work out if he’s actually on the side that he’s arguing for! (Though I wouldn’t say that’s a totally accurate description in this case…)

            Andrew knows this much better than I about Nathan, and so I was settling in for a discussion in which I’d get to interact with him on this issue.

            Perhaps ‘demeaning’ was too strong a choice of words, but as I say, it was an attempt to match Andrew’s slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘my young padawan’. Certainly no disrespect to Richo intended.

          17. Mark Baddeley

            Hey Nathan

            I think this is a good demonstration of the problem at the heart of this debate. Intention is pretty important for understanding the “thing” that a word represents… And perceived tone can sometimes be misleading.

            Yes, and I’d add my hobby horse – often you can’t avoid some misunderstanding and hotter emotions by writing the perfect piece of communication. Sometimes you just have to hang in there and keep trying to talk and listen and move through the bad phases to something more substantial on the other side. Hence the value of robust debate in the threads as long as the conversation doesn’t self-destruct or go toxic.

            I apologise for not fairly interpreting your comments…

            I never thought you were unfair (i.e. unreasonable) in how you interpreted my comments, with that in mind, apology accepted. In retrospect, I think this was always going to take a couple of rounds to understand each other, and there was going to be some tension along the way.

            I basically agree with you about a lot of the differences you state between private and sponsored blogs. But I think the principles I am putting forward are as risky for a sponsored blog as a private one. If someone googles my name, I think my sola articles are the first things to do with this “Mark Baddeley” to come up. And in those threads I have been accused of a whole raft of bad things. That’s there permanently. Things I said that could be taken very badly by an unsympathetic reader are there too. And it’s all permanent. I haven’t ‘made it’ either, such that there’s no consequences for me either. It’s not entirely unlikely that my DPhil examiners will google me as part of examining my thesis. I’m not ordained, and there’s no tenure in a theological college.

            My advice to others is what I practice. Don’t play to that audience. Keep it in mind, and try not to do anything really dumb and/or ungodly, but we have enough people either playing it safe in order to get ordained or going out of their way to ‘be their own man/woman’. Both groups are potential poison for a church or grouping of churches as both put themselves before the needs of others. We could do with more people who just try and play the hand as it has been dealt, and who take some risks in their attempts to speak the truth. Of that group, some of us will get unfairly crunched by church selection committees, examining committees and the like, that’s just how things are, and we can trust God with it even it means something objectively bad for our lives.

            I enjoyed this:

            My mum sends me emails if she thinks I’ve offended people I had no intention of even talking about.

            In my case it’s my wife, and she just bypasses the whole email thing in favor of more direct approaches. Everyone owes her multiple votes of gratitude for her faithful service in this regard over the years.

            Thanks for commenting though, I like robust discussion, even if sometimes it leads to the point that I appear to be a defensive twerp who can’t hack the heat of his own kitchen…

            That’s not how I read this. Blogging is personal for the person doing it, however much we’re also projecting a persona, and so responses can catch us off guard and/or hurt. I haven’t blogged much this year at all. I’m still recovering from just how toxic things went off my ‘warm-up’ series on egalitarianism and complementarianism. Completely defied every expectation I had. So I’m not going to go throwing rocks elsewhere.

            I have a disclaimer on the site that describes what I think a blog is, and thus how I approach writing,, and a “Play the ball not the man” rule written on the comment form… it’s really hard for me to do anything more to encourage people to engage with the issues not the style of debate…

            My own view, which you’re entirely free to disagree with, is that those words make, at most, 5% difference to the comments you get. More often all they do is enable you to point to them as justification for your moderating decisions.

            I think the way to encourage people to deal with the issues and not the style is by the tone of your comments, and the kind of ‘bar’ you set by how you interact. It’s like a small group in that sense – the group norms are set primarily by the example of the leader in the actual discussion that takes place. Where the problem arises is that this is a small group where anyone blows in from anywhere and just starts talking, so those norms never have a chance to set – they pretty well have to be re-established with each new person that comments.

            Still, this was a conversation worth having, thanks for sticking with it until it turned more constructive, and for hosting it.

  7. Andrew Richardson

    Mmm – communication difficulties. My comment up there on facebook was trying to keep the same tone that you set in the original article. Ironic, but with a serious point.

    Anyway, just to say, I have never met anyone who thought all of life except singing was worship. I think the point the church is not worship people were trying to make was that calling church worship is like calling church breathing. Yes we breath at church – just like we breath in all of life. But it’s slightly misleading to call it a breathing service.

    I would also say that I’ve never met anyone who thought that church was an entirely horizontal event where God was not present in a special way. The point is how is God present – through our worship, or through his word? Obviously I would say the latter.

    Having said all of that, I was sympathetic to Bob Kauflin’s argument that our expression of praise should match the incredible joy of what we’re singing about. I thought he overplayed his hand at TWIST Brisbane – I couldn’t sing the final song because I felt that he had implied that if I didn’t raise my hands to sing I was in some way being sinful, and I wasn’t happy about that. But I am thinking about how we can encourage an atmosphere at church where people feel free to be more expressive in their praise. I actually don’t think it has anything to do with whether church is primarily a worship service or not though…

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Yeah – the communication difficulties were proving too much. Third parties were concerned about the tone of the discussion. So I thought it best to change the tone… Plus, most comments began by expressing some issue with the tone, rather than addressing the issue, so the tone was probably an unnecessarily a stumbling block to the substance…

      Let me give you an example from the Brisbane Twist event – a learned minister leaned over to you and said “the problem is, his a priori assumption is that music is worship”… I think Bob had done a fair job of articulating how his picture of worship was much bigger than music, so the only way that sentence about his assumptions can make sense is if the problem is that music is being treated as worship at all. Now. I may have misread what was meant there – but, as we’ve seen from the reaction to the tone of this post – it’s what people think you mean that shapes how they respond. The discussions on the Briefing articles have reflected this – the young guard keep saying “the vibe is X” and the old guard keep saying “but that’s not what we mean, we mean Y”… You can mean Y all you like, but if everybody is hearing X, that’s what you’re presenting.

      I don’t understand why you feel the choice to create a dichotomy between God being present in our worship and through his word – the in-dwelling of the Spirit means that God is present wherever the believer is, and I’d suggest he’s more obviously present to the observer when a believer is, by the work of the Spirit (which is necessary for any fallen human to respond to God at all), worshipping. I think this is my problem with Philip’s stuff – and I raised it over there – you’ve got Jesus saying he’ll be there whenever more than two are gathered (in some way that I assume is different to his presence in us as individuals, by the Spirit), and if we’re a body with Christ at our head – whenever that body moves God’s presence should be obvious. The word has a pivotal part in all of that… but it’s the idea that we can create these clear categories, and build brick walls around them, based on word studies, that I find particularly troubling. It seems to me that all the words used to describe the Christian life are trying to do just that, describe the Christian life. We can’t turn worship off, any more than we can turn being part of the church off, any more than we can turn the work of the Spirit off, or God’s presence off – and yet our sinful nature means it’s a constant battle to have those things being obvious in our life…

      We had a sermon in chapel this week where the preacher said that unless we’re starting the day with reading the word in a devoted manner we’re doing life wrong and need to essentially repent – and then the service leader prayed that God would forgive us for when we didn’t start the day in his word. I feel like even if I’m not reading the Bible every morning (and I dont’), that I’m applying it, and turning to it, for how I live my life, it fundamentally shapes who I am… This debate is the same approach applied to different aspects of Christian living, and it’s a category error.

      Our thinking is a little bit too narrow if we start making little compartments in our life for pondering God’s word/making it central, or worshipping, or being the church… most evangelicals agree with one or two of those three…

      1. Andrew Richardson

        I don’t understand the paradigm vs words dichotomy. Surely words only create paradigms in so far as you accurately understand them. Interesting point about 1 Cor 14. But I think it could be significant that this is the ‘proskuneo’ worship word, as opposed to the ‘latreo’ word in Rom 12.

        1. Nathan Campbell

          I just don’t think language works the way that Philip seems to be suggesting it works. Words are broad in meaning, not narrow, and it seems to me that Paul is trying to create a picture of what the Christian life looks like, not arguing for a narrowly defined concept that can only mean one specific thing rather than a word having a broad semantic range and thus a broad effect.

          1. Andrew Richardson

            Well I think words can be either broad or narrow in meaning – depending on how they’re used. It’s entirely possible that proskuneo and latreo, two of the greek words for worship, are completely separate, or at least distinctive in their meaning. I have to admit I don’t entirely follow what Philip is saying. But I’m pretty interested in the idea that proskuneo has more of a heart response nuance, where latreo is more of an outward service word. I don’t see how you can dismiss this idea with ‘that’s not the way language works’.

            And just to say – I don’t disagree with all your 13 points – but I actually don’t think some of them are particularly linked. For example, seems to me you could be pro emotionally expressive praise, but against calling church a worship service (well I hope you can be, because I think that’s where I’m at).

          2. Nathan Campbell

            Hmm. I think though when you build an idea by constantly linking two words to create a concept then it is possible that those words will carry distinctive aspects of the same bigger concept – it seems odd then to move away from that bigger concept. Paul could have used non worship words any time he chose to use one of those words. And we’re building an approach to written communication that is far too focused on the individual words in a sentence and not focused enough on the sentence and paragraph they fall into… we’re turning individual words into hermeneutical units, rather than seeing them as part of ideas… at least that’s how it seems to me… even if all the proskuneos and latreos were translated as serve inwardly and serve outwardly, they still work together to show that the correct response to God is to serve with your life… and any time service is framed as a response to God it carries the same conceptual (worship) weight… not because they’re synonyms, just because it’s likely they’re talking about a particular aspect of the right response to God.

            I don’t get why you think I’m saying we need to call church a worship service – I wouldn’t even call the Sunday meeting church if I had a choice. I’m arguing for a broadening of categories, not an application of labels to individual actions. The Sunday gathering is worship, and it is church, in the same way that any expression of responding to God by being part of his people is church and worship… being the church is an all of week thing. So is worshipping. That’s my argument… and the points in my post are responses to what old people of various stripes think worship is… or where they seek to apply the word as a label.

          3. Nathan Campbell

            Some of the points are more linked than others. They don’t all develop or follow on from each other. They are each a proposition…

          4. Nathan Campbell

            In sum, it seems to me that some of us in this debate are saying “don’t call Sunday services/music worship because they’re not worship” and others of us are saying “don’t call Sunday services/music worship because they are worship.” With the latter arguing that worship is bigger and applying the label creates a danger that people will understand it too narrowly.

          5. Andrew Richardson

            I really can’t agree that it’s helpful to completely generalise words in that way. Kindness and Love and Patience are all closely related, but it’s still helpful to think about the particular nuance of each. I might be very kind but quite impatient. It’s the same with worship and church. To just say everything is worship and everything is church makes the terms completely meaningless. Church has to do with being part of God’s people and is particularly associated with (although I would not say exclusively) gathering. Worship I’m actually less clear on, but it seems to be especially submission and bowing (our hearts?) to Jesus. That is a pretty broad idea, but it’s more meaningful than just saying it’s all the vibe of our response to God in all our life – that’s a bit too Dennis Denutio for me.

        2. Damien Carson

          Karen Jobes wrote a helpful article on this: ‘Distinguishing the Meaning of Greek Verbs in the Semantic Domain for Worship’ in Filologia Neotestamentaria Vol 4/8, 1991. It’s been a few years since I read it, but as I recall she talks about the semantic range and extent to which proskuneo, latreo and sebomai are synonymous. As per point 7 above, she makes her point with a venn diagram!

        3. Kutz

          Hey Andrew, :)

          You said “words can be either broad or narrow in meaning – depending on how they’re used.”

          And I think that you’re entirely correct, but in my mind this works against Philip’s argument about how they’re used. Philip’s argument straight-jackets any use of latruo or proskuneo into a narrow semantic field, rather than recognising that a word means, as E. A. Judge says, whatever its author wanted it to mean.

          As such, we use context to guide our understanding of the particular reason for a word choice by an author in a particular place. Philip’s argument seems not to take this into account at all, but rather determines a very narrow semantic range on those words in all uses. Not quite incorrect totality transfer, but a related problem.

          Does that make sense?

          Secondly, I thought a point you made was really good and actually gives me more cause to add ‘corporate worship’ to the list of categories that I have in my head to describe the church meeting. I think that a bunch of people gathered under the word of God, expressing their submission to him by their obedience to it, is surely as similar as could be to any definition (even (especially?) Philip’s) as you can get.

          What do you reckon?

    2. Craig Johnson

      Hi Andrew.

      You said, “I would also say that I’ve never met anyone who thought that church was an entirely horizontal event where God was not present in a special way. The point is how is God present – through our worship, or through his word? Obviously I would say the latter.”

      I would not say that God is present through our worship, but that we worship because God is actually present. That is what people do when they are in the presence of God, they worship.

      Why is God present when the church gathers? Well, since the church is the temple of God, and the local church gatherings are an expression of that, then you expect God to be specially present there, since that is what the temple is all about. And since God is specially present, we specially worship.

      1. Andrew Richardson

        Mmm – I kind of agree Craig. But what does it mean to ‘especially worship’? I think if God is specially present by his word for example, then we might worship by especially listening to him. If we’re together as his people will also worship by especially loving one another – since we do that when we are together. And by especially letting his word dwell in us with psalms hymns and spiritual songs.

        My problem is, I don’t think that is what most people mean when they talk about specially worshipping.

        1. Craig Johnson

          Let me put it this way: I think God is specially present when the church gathers, in a way that is distinct from the way He is present when I am, say, individually putting petrol into my car. And in that sense that God is specially present, so we specially worship Him. I’m not really trying to be complicated here, and it is not rocket science. In the physical and conscious act of filling the car with petrol, yes it is an act of worship, but I don’t think worship needs to be at the forefront of our mind in that act. It is not wrong that we concentrate on getting the petrol into the car and not all over the ground etc. But when we (eg) sing praise to God, worship should be at the forefront of our minds. We specially worship at these times. And yes, I can specially worship individually by myself as well, I can stop and in a devoted and focused way, I can worship.

          I’m getting lost in some of the details here of what every different person is arguing for and against. I’m not sure what you think people will think when they hear/speak about “worship” but I don’t really think that common usage is that far from the Biblical usage. In English worship is about worth-ship, and ideas of honour, glory, praise, awe etc come to mind. And I think these are clearly also pertinent to proskuneo. And I think the general English-speaking person understands this. When someone speaks of worshipping some sporting hero, I don’t think they usually mean they experience his presence or something.

          Now I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but you seem to avoid in your examples the idea that singing could be specially worship just because you are saying good things about God, praising Him. If you actually have a problem with saying that, then, well, that’s another ballgame altogether…

          One other thing, in terms of experiencing God while worshipping in song, I don’t have a problem with that, and look forward to it in fact. But it is not as if the act of worshipping in song itself creates that experience, like some kind of magical incantation, but just that because God is present, we should expect to experience His presence, and how much more in the midst of worshipping Him, inasmuch as He wants to encourage us in worshipping Him, that he is pleased with our worship.

        2. Kutz

          Hey Andrew, I’ve just read this other bit of yours. It seems you’ve already answered my question about what you think of the hearing of the word as worship. Cool. :)

          So we’re agreed that meeting together to submit to God’s word is worshipping him. But you’re not cool with calling a church service ‘corporate worship’? I mean, it is, by definition, worship done corporately.

          1. Andrew Richardson

            OK, back after the weekend. Kutz, If you want to define a new term corporate worship to mean meeting together to submit to God’s word, encouraging one another to serve him, praying and praising him, then that’s fine. They are all expressions of our hearts submission to God. I still don’t know if that’s what most people think when they hear corporate worship, or if corporate worship is the best description for uniquely describing what happens in church. Personally I am happy for worship to be part of our vocabulary for what happens at church, I’m just not sure I want it to be the dominant term or the shorthand term that is used to summarise what we do.

          2. Kutz

            *nods*

            Thanks for helpful and succinct summation. :) I think our positions aren’t far from each other then, at all. Not sure I can take the credit for inventing the term ‘corporate worship’ though. :P

            Interesting for me, is your position primarily for theological reasons, or for pedagogical ones?

            Or, another way, is that because you think the biblical category isn’t an accurate (or exhaustive?) description of church, or because the phrase in common parlance doesn’t connote the things you’d want it to?

          3. Craig Johnson

            Andrew, you words reminded me of WCF Ch21. “Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men… The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God” etc.
            Sounds like you are a good Presbyterian :)

          4. Andrew Richardson

            Kutz – I think corporate worship is a pedagogical category not a biblical category….and so my reasons for not using it are pedagogical.
            Craig – great to have someone find my inner Presbyterian for me.

  8. Pingback: On blogging and “tone” | St. Eutychus

      1. Nathan Campbell

        Are you saying that the object at the heart of this discussion is stupid? Or the discussion itself is? I’m pretty sure it’s more important than you’re suggesting… because it has incredible implications for how we think about the Christian life and what we do when we gather.

        It’s also a little bit silly to hide behind anonymity and criticise (I know who you are) when everybody else is publishing under their actual names.

  9. Maddie

    Youre right. I dont need to be anonymous.

    I think people have lots of discussions about lots of things that distract them from the the gospel and the importance of sharing the gospel.

    I also think if non christians knew that this is what christians spend a lot of their time on – arguing about whether we should clap in church or not and whether we should call music worship or not etc. etc.- then we have completely missed the point. And so yes, these topics can become “silly”. I dont feel the implications of this are that incredible. I do think the implications of divisions in church, and people not spending time on important things (being good witnesses for Christ) away are incredible. A group of people heatedly discussing the songs we sing at church on a sunday, starting to get cynical and bitter, and starting to put more weight behind a topic that isnt going to determine our eternuty perhaps isnt really a great ad for the church.

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Only 4 of the 13 points in this post are about music, and much of this discussion is about a broader principle where music is one example and application… I think you’re being too quickly dismissive. I think you’re also making the mistake of assuming that one discussion in a couple of corners of the internet is putting more weight behind a topic than it deserves… if music makes up about half the time spent when we gather together then it’s probably worth discussing, and like I said in the post – the way we do music is part of being a good witness… It is possible that the way we do music may determine (with due acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and role in the process) the way other people’s eternity works out.

    2. Nathan Campbell

      Also, I’d suggest that non-believers, if being honest, would prefer us to think about how we serve God as the church, rather than not think about how we do it. It shows we’re serious. I don’t see how this is a bad ad for church. It could be interpreted as a bad ad – but all responses to advertising are subjective and depend a lot on a person’s predisposition.

    3. Kutz

      Hey Maddie, nice to see you on this blog again. :)

      To be honest, of all the things that Nathan takes time out to post on, I’m surprised that this is the one you chose to pick out as pointless…

      :P

  10. Damien Carson

    Maybe I’m fighting an undistibuted middle with a straw man here, but let me ask the question anyway…

    The argument seems to be, “all of life is worship, and the Sunday morning gathering is worship, therefore the Sunday morning gathering is the same as the rest of life”?

    I wonder if the undistributed middle could be the idea of “receiving”? The whole discussion centres around what we do in worship – but what about receiving grace from God (John 1:16; 1 Cor 4:7-8); and allowing others to minister to us so that they might be blessed (Phil 4:17; Acts 20:35)?

    Remember that stuff from Reformation church history about the marks of the church and the purity of divine service? Why did they even call the Sunday gathering “Divine Service”?

  11. Jon

    Hi Nathan, thanks for this article and for sparking this discussion. One of the advantages of being an angry young man is that people listen to you even if they do get angry back. I wrote a rather acerbic review of the Bob Kauflin event and everyone just ignored me because I’m merely a grumpy OLD man.

    I think I agree with you on the words thing, although maybe for a different reason. One of the issues is that language is always changing. If a person in a Pentecostal church uses the word “worship” to mean praise singing, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in submitting the rest of their life to God. They just call it something else. This is why we need to look more at people’s actions than their words.

    Two things I would take issue with. The first is the “correcting the pentecostals” thing. Alister McGrath, who is by no means pentecostal himself, talks in The Twilight of Atheism about how protestantism, and particularly reformed protestantism, removed Christian practice and liturgy from a focus on the whole of life and God’s presence in creation, and focused it purely on the Word. In his view this helped pave the way for the rise of atheism by leaving the protestant aesthetic thin and uninspiring, with nothing for the imagination to hang on to. He says pentecostalism, with its emphasis on the direct experience of God through the filling of the Spirit, was a necessary corrective to this which revitalised Christianity.

    Incidentally the EMU stable of writers have adopted part of this (perhaps more overlap in the venn diagram than you think) by using musical forms and arrangements pioneered in pentecostal churches, while framing their lyrics in a more “reformed” manner and focusing them back on atonement. I find this narrow, but then there are plenty of other sources of music with different focii.

    Secondly, your view in 4 and 5 about good music being joyful. I’m assuming you’ve read and even studied the Psalms, and will be aware of the large number of laments included in the collection. This world is a sad place, and if we fail to sing about that we’re kidding ourselves. God shares our sadness and our anger at injustice and suffering (or perhaps it’s more correct to say we share his) and it too is part of our “worship”.

    1. Nathan

      Hi Jon,

      I confess that I am guilty of marking many items in my reader as read – and I have now gone back and read your Twist post.

      The “correcting the pentecostals” thing was simply a shorthand way of referring to part of the history of the worship wars, particularly in the Sydney context – what you say may well have merit, but it wasn’t within the intended scope of what I wrote (perhaps, again demonstrating for others the importance of considering author’s intent when picking narrow or broad meanings for things)…

      Re 4 and 5 – I’m actually studying the Psalms at the moment, in particular the lament Psalms. Short answer – I think Psalms is a book, deliberately structured – and we do it a disservice if we pull individual Psalms out and comment on their mood without paying regard to how that mood develops. But yes, there is certainly a place for lament within our songs – I think “It is Well” is a good example of how I think lament should look… my point about Joy is, again, aimed a little more at the idea that even when we’re singing happy stuff I feel bored and dour, and I think there’s room for thinking about how we can improve that… without singing Jesus is my boyfriend songs, or enforcing dancing, or doing anything weird. Singing should be fun – especially corporate singing. And at the moment, for me, it’s kind of tedious… I don’t always feel like singing essays about the Cross, or essays about the return of Jesus (the other Emu special). I do, however, think singing songs that are Biblically faithful is a worthwhile exercise, because I think songs effect the way we think and act in a powerful way… which I think explains some of the importance of the Psalms.

      1. Jon

        Yes, point taken about pentecostalism. My point, I guess, is that they were correcting something too, and it worked not just within pentecostal churches but through a positive influence on the mainstream. Your wanting to feel the joy you sing about is part of that influence, whether or not you’ve ever been a pentecostal yourself.

        Fortunately I’ve got through my life so far without the “worship wars” touching it. I don’t like wars in general although I much prefer wars of words to the other sort.

        1. Jon

          Oh and also, on the “biblically faithful” thing. “Theological” songs are one of my pet hates. That’s what the sermon’s for. Songs that express worthy theology but are emotionally flat are just not very good songs – allowing of course for differences in taste. Music is primarily an emotional language not an intellectual one. I think sometimes worship music is written from a theological or “biblical language” straightjacket which doesn’t allow the writers to really use contemporary language well for fear of being seen as heretical. As a result they self-censor and the songs become too conventional to add anything to our lives.

          Do you read “The Australian”? Today’s has an extract from Paul Keating’s new book which includes some really perceptive remarks about music.

      2. Kutz

        “And at the moment, for me, it’s kind of tedious… ”

        I can understand that, Nath. And I agree that many songs around at the moment aren’t too crash hot. Completely.

        At the same time, we’re exposed to all of the best music in the world, that we get to personally choose exactly the kind that we like, with the right levels of bitterness, angst, art, etc… and that’s what we consider normal.

        When you then have to deal with the songwriting limitations of being helpful for congregational singing (and there are about a billion of them to keep in mind) it’s very difficult to do it well.

        I guess I’m saying that certain of the standards that we apply to our judgement of mainstream music, including certain personal likes/dislikes, can’t really be applied to church music, and that’s not because the songs are necessarily bad. They’re just a different thing for a different purpose.

        All that said, I agree with the general sentiment, and doubt that I’ve told you anything here you don’t already assent to, at least in principle.

        1. Nathan Campbell

          Hi Kutz,

          Absolutely agree. What I struggle with is that in our seen we seem to have developed a one size fits all approach to church music… partly limited by talent, partly limited by theology, and partly limited by whatever culture is dominating our approach to music.

          I think the music in a congregation like Clayfield should be different to the music at MPC, or at Willows in Townsville, or Village Church… and in many cases there are slight differences. It seems, at the moment, that most of us are drawing from a pretty similar pool of songs, and taking a pretty similar approach to playing them (with talent a variable).

          I remember hearing a while back that a particularly talented muso, a professional, who was also a Christian, refused to be involved in church music because the standard was so low and the style so different from what he enjoyed… I think we’ve got to work at not being bland and the same (and each EMU writer has a fairly distinctive style).

          I don’t know. I’m not really a muso – but it would be nice to sing some more songs in the style of the music I like – music, afterall, is a subjective experience, and our current approach almost serves up an objective response… ie “this is the right way”…

          1. AndrewFinden

            If I can but in..

            I think you’re right that there’s a danger in serving up a one-size-fits-all approach or ‘style’ of congregational music. I’m sure we’ve all met people who think it should only be hymns written before 1950, and it would be easy to make the same kind of mistake (perhaps using genre or publisher as the qualifier instead). But I also think that we do need to be aware that it ought to be congregational singing, and somehow we need to find some kind of balance that allows us to deal with the subjectivity of style preference without alienating people. I know of a church on the sunshine coast which is predominantly older people, and their music is very traditional, and this seems to be a drawcard, namely because many of the other main churches are very contemporary and considered ‘too loud’. I find it a real shame that something such as style preference is causing such a generational split, and depriving some churches of wise, older saints.

            It’s very tempting for me to point to somewhere like All Souls’ Langham Place as a model of excellence (surely some of the healthiest congregational singing I’ve been a part of) but I realise that most churches simply don’t have the people or the resources like that.. and moreover, that may be the decent into ‘this is how it should be done’ prescriptivism that is the issue!

            Just out of interest, what ‘style’ would you like to sing in, Nathan?

          2. Nathan Campbell

            Hi Andrew,

            Not sure it’s butting in – given you’ve already commented above…

            I think variety is the spice of life, and I think most churches I’ve been part of, based on the pool of talent available, get stuck in a bit of a rut, where they serve up songs from the same musical genre, using the same instruments, and having the same vibe, every week. I get bored. Kill me if I ever spend three days listening to the same band over and over again…

            What I think I am suggesting is that unless you’ve got a particularly monochromatic church with one subculture you’re hitting, or one demographic in your neighbourhood – you either need to be having a few services with well articulated musical styles chosen for the purpose of mission – or you need to realise that musical taste in your congregation is varied, and try to tick a few boxes every now and then… rather than trying to please everybody at once (and pleasing nobody), or trying just being bland, and so offending everybody equally…

            One of the things I really like at Clayfield is that we do change it up – we have unplugged Sundays, and Organ Sundays… I like a good classic hymn. I love a good folky rendition of a classic hymn – we sang Come Thou Font, Mumford and Sons (YouTube it) style in Chapel today. It was great. I really enjoyed singing it. But I also like the anthemic stuff – especially at conferences… but I think if you tried to classify the congregational music from most churches that I’ve been part of, into a CD store or iTunes) sort of genre thing – it’d tick no box easily. And I actually think that’s part of the problem… most Christian “contemporary” music is a rip off of mainstream secular music from about five years ago – or a self styled pastiche of whatever is trendy for the demographic the writer belongs to at the time. That’s the reality of music being the product of particular people, from particular cultures – and that is what it is. I appreciate the gifts and hard work that go into the music we sing… and I don’t have the talent to do better.

          3. Kutz

            “we sang Come Thou Font, Mumford and Sons (YouTube it) style in Chapel today.”

            So that’s where they got the arrangement from. Nice. I enjoyed singing it too.

            The YouTube vid that I looked at says that Sufjan Stevens was the first to arrange it that way. Noice.

          4. Nathan Campbell

            I’m no expert – but the way Bob Kauflin played it at Twist in Brisbane also sounded very similar…

  12. AndrewFinden

    @Nathan

    most churches I’ve been part of, based on the pool of talent available, get stuck in a bit of a rut, where they serve up songs from the same musical genre, using the same instruments, and having the same vibe, every week. I get bored. Kill me if I ever spend three days listening to the same band over and over again…

    If you can’t listen to something for three days, either you have a poor attention span, or the music is not very good. Try working on the same music for 6+ weeks. Ok, them’s facetious fightin’ words (insert tongue poking smiley here).

    I think it’s fair to say that my experience of churches is perhaps more varied than yours, but I’d agree that for the most part, it’s to do with the resources available in terms of people and instruments. Perhaps it’s a denominational thing with sticking to a certain ‘pool’, but I wouldn’t say that’s always the case. All Souls, for example, had a really wide ‘pool’ (but again, it had the resources for a symphony orchestra!) Much of the time, with non-mega churches, the range of ‘talent’ is going to be fairly limited. I’ve been in a couple of churches where it was just P on the flute, and me on guitar or keys, and if we were away, they’d use a CD. For that reason, I think it’s a good rule of thumb that congregational music work with either a single guitar or piano backing. I love some of Zac Hicks new hymn arrangements, but most congregations don’t have the resources to produce that sound, let alone a full roster of musos who are confident in switching between 4/4 and 3/4 time every bar. So it’s all very well to say ‘mix it up’ but for many “unplugged” is the default by necessity.

    you need to realise that musical taste in your congregation is varied, and try to tick a few boxes every now and then… rather than trying to please everybody at once (and pleasing nobody), or trying just being bland, and so offending everybody equally…

    In principle, I agree, but I’m also aware of the pragmatics of many congregations. I also wonder if most people have the kind of particular taste that you seem to have (I suppose I’m much more eclectic, which makes me easier to please). Again, the most multi-cultural church we’ve been a part of were just glad to have somebody play the piano – and then they didn’t know half the songs I thought would be well known, which brings me to a further consideration.

    Congregations need to learn songs, and the musicians often need to teach them, especially if it’s a church in which the congregation can (rightly ) be heard, and not be drowned out by the band. If I teach a new song, you can bet it will be done again for the next couple of weeks (which is where writing songs that fit teaching series is very helpful). If there’s a larger pool of musos, then they have to learn it too.

    most Christian “contemporary” music is a rip off of mainstream secular music from about five years ago – or a self styled pastiche of whatever is trendy for the demographic the writer belongs to at the time. That’s the reality of music being the product of particular people, from particular cultures – and that is what it is.

    Perhaps the tendency for CCM and congregational music to overlap is part of the problem too. In fairness, I think the five-years-out-of-date kind of CCM is on the way out (e.g. Gungor), not least because many groups have realised that the CCM label is unhelpful. I agree that congregational music should come out of the people and culture of congregations too, though. The songs that Clayfield writes are going to be different from the songs that Nuremberg writes or the songs that Nairobi writes. Not that we shouldn’t share though; the Getty-Townend songs come out of a Northorn-Irish culture, yet, they’re written in a way that is accessible to lots of other people. They’re well crafted, singable,yet powerful and moving songs (some of the best ‘congregational’ music out there IMO).

    That’s all a bit rambly, but I think a) you’re right, but that b) not everyone has the resources to think beyond pragmatism.

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Blockquote styling should hopefully kick in when the cache resets… we’ll see…

      Anyway, I’d say I have fairly eclectic musical taste, it just doesn’t typically extend to the genre “boring congregational music”…

      1. AndrewFinden

        I’m pretty sure I’ve got the right assumption about the ‘pool’ your churches generally draw on are, and I think that’s pretty unfair to dismiss it all as boring. If you think it is, then do some research and start suggesting more interesting stuff to them.

      2. AndrewFinden

        I have to say, I find it difficult to reconcile your comment that ” I appreciate the gifts and hard work that go into the music we sing… and I don’t have the talent to do better. ” with the tone of your last comment, which seems fairly dismissive.

        1. Nathan Campbell

          You’re reading far too much into the tone of my last comment. And it should be read in the light of my earlier statement about congregational music:

          ” but I think if you tried to classify the congregational music from most churches that I’ve been part of, into a CD store or iTunes) sort of genre thing – it’d tick no box easily. And I actually think that’s part of the problem…”

          And you should simply assume that what I mean by “boring” is that it’s not the style of music I would buy on iTunes and choose to listen to, or sing, outside of a congregational context. It is what it is.

          1. AndrewF

            I’m a little confused by that, because you also lamented that much Christian music was “top-off” of popular stuff, so if congregational music doesn’t fit that, isn’t a good thing? I would argue that it’s right that congregational music is its own genre – it’s music for a particular purpose, and part of that is to be singable together (which much pop music isn’t).

            I’d be interested to know if you have any thoughts about such pragmatic issues raised..

        2. Nathan Campbell

          You should also read it in the light of my other statement about what I consider the shelf life (albeit reoccurring) of most music… If I’m listening to the same music for more than a few days, whoever it is, I get bored by it, and want something different. I’ve been singing the same songs, and style of songs, in church for 20 years or so…

          1. AndrewF

            See my comments above regarding attention span and quality.

            Much music does have a short life span, but good stuff, IMO, doesn’t ( take e.g. When I survey ) there are songs I’m glad have been around for 20 years. Of course, that pool does need refreshing (though in my experience, updating congregational repertoire is more like topping up the pool than refilling it).
            If your particular congregation’s pool needs refreshing, why not suggest some new stuff… Any ideas?

          2. Nathan

            Hey Andrew,

            I’m not sure how passionate you think I am about this. I also acknowledged above that I agree with the limits of congregational music. My problem with the current relationship between congreational music and popular stuff is analagous to knock off hand bags… If we were making thousand dollar handbags with a similar vibe to Luis Vutton that would be fine. At the moment our attempts to be relevant come two years after the trend has passed and they’re generally derivative.

          3. AndrewFinden

            Perhaps it’s the lack of ‘passion’ that is what is slightly irritating me… it feels a bit like you’ve said ‘yeah, there’s obviously constraints, and I can’t do any better, but most congregational music is still boring and not what I’d buy on iTunes’, and that cuts a bit for those of us who are passionate about congregational music. Imagine that I’d said that most preaching is boring and nothing like the exciting TED talks I download..

            I think, though, there’s two issues we’re talking about.
            Contemporary christian music and congregational music is not really the same thing (though I realise that Koorong et al probably blur that distinction). I’m not so sure that contemporary congregational music writers (particularly those adding to the ususal evangelical pools) are aping out-of-date styles (unless you’re willing to name names?). And I’m still confused by your suggestion that church music try mixing it up and doing styles people like, when you’ve said that doing so is almost always derivative. I agree that we can mix-up styles, but I’d be hesitant to try and ‘cater’ to certain people or groups (for every Mumford and Sons re-mix, there’s probably a few teens who would be up for a Bieber re-mix!). I’d be more inclined to encourage music writtern for congregational singing (which as we agree, has certain characteristics – perhaps a better word than limitations) and do it well, so that it’s engaging and stirring etc. That is – I think you’ve created a false dichotomy in suggesting:

            you either need to be having a few services with well articulated musical styles chosen for the purpose of mission – or you need to realise that musical taste in your congregation is varied, and try to tick a few boxes every now and then… rather than trying to please everybody at once (and pleasing nobody), or trying just being bland, and so offending everybody equally…

            In that sense, perhaps we shouldn’t think we’re in the hand-bag business at all, instead making rucksacks which have a lager focus on function, but not forsaking style (Crumpler perhaps?)

          4. Nathan

            Hi Andrew,

            Again, there’s really nothing in your comment I disagree with. I really don’t think I’m saying what you think I’m saying. The comments in the original post about music were more a comment about our approach to music, in some of the churches I’ve been part of, or preached at… I don’t think we typically do music as mission, the foundational premise of my post. I really only started talking about music at all when Kutz quizzed me on something, i’m much more interested in the question of word definitions because I think that frames our approach to everything we do when we hather, not just music.

            My problem with the derivative stuff is partly due to timing. We seem to be constantly reactive, and by the time songs are distributed, we’re behind the curve, and singing the derivative of music that was in vogue two years ago…

            Simone is on the record as deliberately ripping off te Disney musical vibe for some of her latest congregational songs, that’s a style that doesn’t resonate with me personally…

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