magnify! devotional: In Christ Alone

I thought it might be good to share a sample of the devotionals in magnify!, and I can’t think of a better one to start with than the Stuart Townend/Keith Getty “modern hymn”–In Christ Alone (My Hope is Found).
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If your theology were only based on what you sing, what kind of theology would you have?  That question, put to me years ago, has followed me ever since.  For many years, we had battles within the church about “worship choruses” versus hymns.  The battle had to do with a false division of heart over head and emotion over proposition, common language over lofty language—a battle that has waged in church music for centuries (psalms vs. hymns, hymns vs. gospel songs, etc.).

Actually, when we come face to face with truth, it has an emotional impact.  We can’t help but respond.  Do you remember what it felt like when that special person disclosed the truth of their feelings for you?  Or what happened inside you when you heard about that injustice against your neighbor?  Or how it impacted you when you realized the truth of how much God loved you in spite of your sin?

Remember, people may forget the main points of the sermon shortly after they walk out the door, but they’ll be humming and singing your songs all week!  (Please don’t tell your pastor, but it is true!)  With that in mind, we have an obligation to pay attention to what the songs we use actually say.  We need to ensure that the folks we serve have something true to think about, as well as something to respond with from the heart.  We do need both.

I observed a classic moment of truth evoking tremendous response the first time I led our congregation singing “In Christ Alone.”  This song is full of incredible truth combined with the perfect melody to accent the lyric.  After the first two verses which speak eloquently of the love of Christ and of His death, the lyric paints a picture:

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!

As we got to the fourth line, people (many who wouldn’t normally) began to shout, applaud and cheer, and by the end of the verse, there was nearly universal acclamation.  As if that wasn’t enough, the fourth verse and its assurance of God’s guiding and sustaining love left me choked up, hardly able to sing.

That’s powerful—and it left a lasting impression of truth on heart and mind.  It was glorious.  That’s worship.

As you plan to lead “In Christ Alone,” consider these things:

• I dare you to read aloud the verses to this modern hymn in your rehearsal without choking up!

• Because of the depth of the content, be sure and allow an interlude between each verse.  You need time to chew on it, reflect and then swallow before the next serving.

• This song will work in a number of different musical styles.  Experiment with the setting and change it up a bit to introduce folks who might not ordinarily sing “a hymn” to the power of the truth it contains.  Don’t go for emotional manipulation, but it can work with guitar, congas and a penny whistle or a full orchestra or an edgy band with a drum loop going. Just don’t tell them it’s a hymn!

[© 2011 Fred J. Heumann and Word Music. In Christ Alone, © 2001 Thankyou Music.]

Question: What else do you see in this song that could be emphasized?

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NWLC 2011 and more…

I’ve just gotten home from a great time at the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City.  I’m having that “good kind” of exhausted today.

We saw 300 (more like 350) attend a special presentation of LOVE DIVINE: The Songs of Charles Wesley for Today on Tuesday with Tim Hughes, Brenton Brown, Chris McClarney, Katie Gustafson and John Hartley that I emcee’d, with great response for these new settings of powerful lyrics.  Marvelous to see folks worshipping from the heart with lyrics from the 18th Century and music from the 21st!  You can get a feel for the project with a free song and chart download that also has more information.

A special welcome and thanks to those who have purchased my new resource book, “magnify!–105 modern worship devotionals for lead worshippers and their teams”!  I’m glad to be able to partner with and be a resource to you.  [More on “magnify!” later…]

And, thanks to others who attended my seminar: “Planning to worship?  Help people engage by asking the right questions!”  I was blessed by your attendance and interaction, and hope that the insights will be a help–even though I know most of you came here for the worship music complaint letters.  (Those are in Worship fan mail!)  Full notes for my seminar are downloadable here, or you can revisit or share that material with the two-part webinar that I’ve done for Worship Leader Magazine.

In the next several days, I plan on making this more active, so as you have questions and comments, please post them.  With your involvement this will be a much more active community as we look at worship, music, missions, technology and more.

What other things at NWLC had an impact on you? Comment below…