John Newton

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How 32 African Slaves Turned Into Millions: This year we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tragic start of the slave trade to the Americas. This powerful info-graphic rich article shows how 32 slaves ballooned into millions. 

2.       Why People Don't Think You Appreciate Them Even When You Do: Suzanne Vickberg with helpful advice for any leader. She begins by quoting Gladys Bronwyn Stern: "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

3.       Why Calvinists Should Be the Gentlest: John Newton, in his letter to fellow Christians exhorts gentleness and cautions a lack of gentleness, " If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable."

4.       Eternity and Mortality: Jennie Cesario with a beautiful reflection on how a scrape with death shaped her perspective about herself, God, and parenting.

5.       The Ugly History of Mass Incarceration: The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world. And with a disproportionate number of those inmates being black, it is an issue fraught with difficulty. As a former Detention Officer, the complicated history of and solution for our incarceration problem hits close to home. 

In Defense of Hymns

In Defense of Hymns

It is probably because of my background that hymns never felt boring or old to me. I grew up in a megachurch where we sang the popular fare of choruses of the day. “Awesome God,” “As the Deer,” and “Shout to the Lord” were the songs of my childhood.

It was in college that I really experienced hymns for the first time and they felt so fresh and different from what I grew up with. I attended an historic Congregational church replete with eighteenth century pews, an organ, and a hymn board. It was there that I began to learn of the rich treasure trove of hymns the church had been blessed with by centuries of saints.

The church I attended in seminary and then went on to be a pastor at for eight years incorporated at least two hymns in every service, sung in the traditional style, with organ accompaniment. New Life, where I currently serve as a pastor, has a modern style of worship, but even so, we still have not set hymns aside. While we typically sing updated versions, we still sing hymns about twice a month.

In the coming weeks I will defend modern worship, but before I go there, I want to defend holding onto hymns. Whether or not you sing modern worship as well, I would encourage you to continue to sing hymns.

Why would we hold onto music that is so antiquated? We don’t still wear wigs and corsets, why would we sing music from a bygone era?

Consuming Worship

Consuming Worship

Last week we took a more positive turn as we considered how our identity as consumers impacts our devotional lives. We continue in that positive direction as we consider our experience as corporate and individual worshipers in today’s consumeristic environment.

Throughout this series I have tried to provide a broader comparative historic context. The inclusion of songs in worship was present from the earliest days of the church. Paul incorporates what appear to be familiar songs in his writing, John shares songs in Revelation, and of course the Psalms provided a hymn book for the early church. The earliest house church discovered in Syria dates to the early 3rd century AD and is covered with beautiful frescoes. The church from the very beginning was worshiping artistically.