Can you imagine not knowing about the gospel, God’s free offer of salvation to all who believe in Jesus Christ? Can you imagine not owning a Bible? Going to church and not understanding a word that was being said?  Never singing in church, but only listening to the choir sing? This was the case in the Western world in the era of history known as the Middle Ages.  The church’s true treasure, the gospel was covered up with all kinds of traditions and practices dreamed up by men.

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty underwent a two-year restoration.  During this time, the statue was completely covered by scaffolding. The object designed to be seen was hidden. So in the church, the gospel had become obscured by layer upon layer of extra-biblical tradition and practice. Here are a few examples.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” This implies that listeners are able to understand the words that are being preached.  Yet in the Middle Ages, the church service was conducted in Latin, which most congregants did not understand, rather than in the native language of the people.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But at this time in history, faithful church members were required to go to the priest to confess their sin.  The priest would impose a penance (a punishment inflicted as an outward expression of the repentance) to be carried out by the sinner and would then grant absolution or forgiveness of the confessed sin. 

The church also taught that the souls of those who die with some punishment due them for their sins would enter “purgatory,” an intermediate state after death designed for suffering and purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven.  Yet Jesus tells the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Because of these practices, Martin Luther, a German monk, nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 30, 1517 and so began a Reformation that eventually swept across the world. Reformation comes from the root word reform and means to form again or revive; not starting over but reviving what had become dead.  In his 95 Theses, Luther enumerated 95 points of debate mainly regarding the gospel, repentance, purgatory and the sale of indulgences.

God used the actions of a poor monk to bring about a revival of Biblical truth that had far-reaching consequences. Martin Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German so that his countrymen could read the Bible for themselves. He is called The Father of Congregational Singing and is credited with restoring congregational singing to the church.  He considered music a gift of God that should be utilized in worship and wrote hymns for the church including the beloved hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Luther wrote, “next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits.... Our dear fathers and prophets did not desire without reason that music be always used in the churches. Hence, we have so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God.”

Luther greatly influenced J.S. Bach, considered the greatest composer of the Lutheran church.  Bach was a passionate believer and prolific composer of musical works totaling 1,120.  450 of those works are chorale settings (hymn arrangements), many based on Reformation hymns. Although he was born over a century after Martin Luther, Bach’s library was dominated by Luther’s writings and Luther’s hymns were prominent in many of Bach’s musical compositions.  Bach also appears to have embraced Luther’s teaching on vocation, that all work can be glorifying to God and good for our neighbor and that Christian calling is for the mother and the mine worker as much as it is for the pastor and the church leader. We know this because he signed many of his compositions, both sacred and secular with the initials “S. D. G.” which stand for Soli Deo Gloria translated glory to God alone. 

As we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation on October 29, 2017, we stand with the people of God around the world who will be singing, “A Mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.”  May God alone receive the glory!

“The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.”  Martin Luther, Thesis No. 62

Reflections on the Psalms

In preparation for our recent concert on the Psalms, I asked the members of the choir to write down which Psalm is their favorite and why. Their comments were so encouraging that I thought you all would like the opportunity to read some of them.  The choir as a whole was blessed in our preparation for the concert as we sang the words of Psalms 98, 121, 23, 130, 51and 84 over and over again each week. Familiarity brought warmth and life to the words as they increasingly became a part of us.  We encountered the joy of praising the Lord with His own words, the deep wells of lament, the brokenness of repentance, and we were renewed in our confidence in the Lord of Hosts, our Shepherd, our Refuge, our Helper and Keeper. Here are some thoughts on particular Psalms.  Which Psalm is your favorite?                                        

Psalm 1
Debbie Barnes

Psalm 1 has probably been my favorite psalm since college.  I have enjoyed singing it in church, over the years, as the familiar words are always new and refreshing to me. In the Psalm, the writer contrasts the righteous and the wicked.  He gives us two vivid examples to ponder.  I was reminded of these verses recently when we were in the country.  Standing in a field, I plucked a head of wheat to see what the seeds looked like. No sooner than I had it in my hand, the chaff started blowing in all directions.   Immediately, I thought of this verse – “But they (the wicked) are like chaff which the wind blows away”. (v.4)  Then, as I looked at the trees around me, I was reminded of this verse: “He (the righteous) will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (V.3) In summary, “The way of the wicked will perish,” (v.6), “But blessed is the man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (v. 1&2) In Neil’s wedding band are inscribed in two words – Psalm One.

Psalm 51
Christy Walker

Psalm 51 has always been special to me.  Many of us know the story of David and Bathsheba and how God sent Nathan to bring David to repentance.  Well, I have my own “Nathan” in my life.  My sophomore year at MSU, I was going through some very difficult times, slipping into depression and wanting to control areas that I couldn’t control.  That spring, I sat down in my new history class and recognized a girl that had also been in my previous semester’s class.  One day this girl said, “I think you live by me.”  You may be thinking that this would be common on a university campus.  However, no one could see my apartment from the road.  You literally had to know that the apartment existed to say you knew where I lived.  What evolved from that statement was a friendship.  What came from that friendship was an invitation to RUF where I heard the Gospel for the first time.  I had “graced” the pews of a church my entire life (Free Will Baptist) but I didn’t know Christ.  I don’t know how long after I started attending RUF that I had the “infamous” Brian Habig (RUF campus minister) talk.  He had a gift for really getting to the heart of the issue.  I remember sitting in the middle of the university bakery with tears streaming down my face. There I realized that I didn’t need the world or society to define who I was or where my hope/freedom should be; only through Christ could I find true freedom and security.  This was the turning point in my life. Today, as I reflect, I am amazed to think about how our Sovereign God literally placed Amy in two of my classes at such a precise moment in my life, how I just “happened” to start renting an apartment from the Eshee family, and how Amy literally lived right around the corner from me. All these details are not by chance.  I also can’t help but be in awe that when so many in my family are unbelievers, God chose me!!!!  Amy is my “Nathan” and I pray that one day I may be someone else’s “Nathan.”

Psalm 88
Mary Hope Bryant

Psalm 88 is an unusual “favorite psalm” because it is kind of depressing, but that is why I love it. The speaker, though he is a believer, feels lonely, abandoned by his friends, guilty, overwhelmed, and even assaulted by God. He sees no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope to ease his suffering. In fact, the psalm ends by saying, “You (God) have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; darkness is my only companion.” He knows God is gracious, wonderful, wise, etc. He is aware of the fact that God is a source of comfort and mercy to the troubled. But his experience is the opposite. And yet - God could put that believer’s experience in Scripture because, despite what the speaker felt at that moment (however long that moment was), God had guaranteed hope for him in Jesus Christ. I am thankful for this honest, despairing believer’s song, because I have had periods in my life in which I was not cognizant of God’s grace and care, and in which I felt incapable of escaping my own sin. This psalm reassures me that those experiences do not change God’s great love for me or his salvation of my soul. Instead, in ways beyond my understanding, they are actually part of his gracious provision, and no amount of weakness on my part can change the fact that he loves me and has redeemed my soul for his eternal kingdom.

 Psalm 23
Jackie Shelt

Many entire books have been written about the beauty and truth of Psalm 23 so speaking about it in 2-3 minutes is like having a quarter of one of those little Sam's quiches and calling it an appetizer.  But here is a taste for you to meditate on and consider later.  Psalm 23 is my favorite Psalm not just because it is true, beautiful, and comforting.  It is all those things. But even more because in six short and beautifully crafted verses it encompasses the entire gospel and the entire Christian life.  It speaks of the shepherd meeting my deepest need:  soul restoration--which Christ purchased for me by walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death.  It speaks of the shepherd's work in my sanctification, leading me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of his great name and glory.  It speaks of the glorious ending--which is the real beginning--dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.  Consider too the position and presence of our good shepherd, Immanuel:  leading us in paths of righteousness, with us in the Valley of the Shadow, pursuing us with his goodness and mercy, and ultimately allowing us redeemed sinners to sit at his victorious banquet table in the presence of His and our enemies, declaring for all eternity:  "She's with me."   In my own wobbly and storm-tossed journey to the Celestial City, God has used these magnificent words which signify wonderful solid realities to lead, keep, pursue, strengthen, comfort, discipline, and rescue me.  

Heal Us

In the last few years, our church has formally stated our desire to see our church body become more diverse, and we are actively seeking to find more ways to reach out to our neighbors. We believe this is a biblical mandate from Scripture and that diversity models the heavenly Kingdom of God when all of God’s people will together praise Him.

I know a greater diversity will mean change and will affect us in many ways we cannot foresee.  However, here are five changes that I do anticipate as the Lord grows our church to better reflect His glorious creativity and diversity.

There will be a greater mix of musical styles. 

At a time when many churches have a traditional and a contemporary service, we have made the decision to combine different musical styles in all of our worship services.  Rather than uniting because of our musical preferences, we believe that singing a mixture of songs, hymns and spiritual songs that are true, scriptural and musically excellent unites our church body in Christ while encouraging diverse expressions of praise.  This diversity of styles will naturally increase as the Lord increases the diversity of our church family.

There will be a greater use of different instruments.

I have been around long enough to remember when our church rarely used any other instruments besides piano and organ. Now we regularly hear a variety of different instruments in our worship.  As the Lord brings diverse church members with diverse musical gifts, I anticipate that the diversity of instruments and players in our worship services will grow.

There will be a greater emphasis on music of devotion.

Our music is very word centered.  We recognize that we have 52 Sundays each year to sing our theology together and we want to make the most of each Sunday.  We regularly sing hymns and songs that are word-dense and have four or five stanzas dealing with complex scriptural themes with no repeated lyrics.  However, after participating in the choir at a diversity conference, I was reminded of the great emphasis on music focused on devotion seen in many other denominations.  These songs are characterized by their simplicity: simple words and music sung several times.  These songs can also contain many scriptural themes and references.  Here is an example of one by Shane Barnard called “Oh Lord to You”, with biblical references I have added in parentheses.

We will seek You first, Lord (Matt. 6:33)
You will hear our voices
Early in the morning and late in the night (Psalm 5)
We will sing Your praises
Giving You the glory
Offering our lives to You, a holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1)

May our praise arise as incense (Psalm 141:2)
Oh Lord, to You
May our worship be a fragrance (Philippians 4:18)
Oh Lord, to You

We will have more opportunities to practice the law of love.

We all have preferences in music, and one type of music will not equally be preferred by all.  Our biblical model for handling these differences is found in the law of love.  Out of love for the family of faith, let us ask the Lord to help us rejoice when our brothers and sisters are encouraged and built up by a particular kind of music that may not be our personal favorite.

Worship is integrally related to evangelism and outreach.  Authentic corporate worship that is Spirit-driven, excellent, earnest, selfless, and truth-centered is a powerful, living witness to the watching world.  Popularity must not be the primary concern in formulating our worship.  Our primary concern must be to communicate biblical truth and assist the congregation in passionate worship. Music used in worship must engage the culture but also challenge it. By our worship, we desire to communicate that humankind’s greatest need is to give up a lifestyle of focus on self to serve and worship the one true God through Jesus Christ.

This spring our Sanctuary Choir partnered with the Worship Team to sing “Heal Us, Emmanuel.”  This hymn was originally written by William Cowper, close friend of John Newton and writer of the hymns, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” among many others.  It has been put to music by Lucas Morton and Kevin Twit, RUF pastor and founder of Indelible Grace and the re-tuned hymns movement.  Set in a gospel style, these hymn words have found new life and a soulfulness that beautifully portrays our souls’ longing for the Lord to heal our wounds, our sin, our feeble faith and our unbelief.

This hymn is on the Indelible Grace CD, Look to Jesus, and the recording has a special story of its own.  It features students from Jackson State University’s RUF.  See the whole story here.



Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133:1

Passing the Torch: Our Commitment to Teach the Next Generation to Sing the Songs of Our Savior

The Music Ministry at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church exists to lead the saints in their service of worship before God and equip them for kingdom work, utilizing God’s gift of music in obedience to His Word. You may not realize when you joined POPC that you joined our largest choir – the congregation. God’s word commands and exhorts us to sing and make music to Him. He created music and he has given this gift to the church to praise and worship Him. He has given each of us a voice to use to sing to Him and each voice is different.  You may or may not think your voice sounds very good, but He loves to hear our voices praising Him just as a father delights to hear his child call him “Daddy.”

How do we as a church steward this gift of God? By fully utilizing it corporately in the worship of God every Lord’s Day and individually in our own lives and families. We invest our time, resources and energy to pass these things along to our children, recognizing that they are the worshipers of the next generation. Children’s choir is one of the means by which we seek to train the next generation to use the gift of music in the worship of God. We recognize that we cannot change our hearts or the hearts of our covenant children, but by the grace of God, we can teach children to use their voices, plant the Word of God in their hearts, and show them what worship looks like.  We do this, looking in faith to the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts.

The two-fold goal of our children’s choirs is to teach our covenant children what God says about singing and worship and to equip them with the skills to use their voices to participate in worship.  This teaching and training of our covenant children is a gift that will serve them well their entire lives. This training could mean the difference in a lifetime of mumbling half-heartedly in the pew or singing whole-heartedly and with skill to the Lord as an act of worship. We pray that the Lord will shape our children into life-long worshippers of Him. What greater desire do any of us have for our children?

You have probably heard the statement that most people who come to Christ do so in childhood.  I have my own theory that most people who know how to sing and how best to utilize God’s gift of music in their own lives, learned those skills as a child. In my experience, adults who come to me wanting to learn how to sing, often did not have the privilege of musical training as a child.  The good news is that it is never too late to learn to sing! But the most opportune time to learn is in childhood.

You might ask, if God commands and equips, why do we need training?  In past generations, people regularly sang and made music together inside and outside the church. Today, we are an entertainment-oriented society with the idea that only professional singers sing.  We often judge ourselves and others by a false standard given to us by our culture. But God calls us to active participation. Why? Music is His gift but it is also an effective tool for us in the fight of faith as we war against the world, the devil, and our own flesh. Think of how readily we can recall scripture set to music. Can you think of a time of trial or suffering where the music of the church was used by the Holy Spirit as a powerful tool for encouragement or comfort or even chastisement?

We teach our children that what we believe is important by our actions. One of the great blessings of being in a covenant family is the partnership we experience as we join together to teach and train our covenant children. Let us be ever zealous to utilize the gift of music in worship ourselves and pass it along to the next generation that our Lord may receive glory! “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).


Treasures From the Trinity

It is my great boast about Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church whenever anyone asks me why our church is so special.  We sing!  How often I have been encouraged from the piano bench as I hear the people of God sing His praises together.  Singing has always characterized the people of God.  Indeed, singing is one of God’s great gifts and is often used by Him in powerful ways.  Singing is integral to corporate worship and can enhance our private times of worship as well.

Very soon our congregation will begin using the Trinity Hymnal.  The Trinity Hymnal is published by Great Commission Publications, the joint publishing agency of the OPC and PCA denominations and is “rooted in the rich tradition of the Reformation – with a zeal for the gospel, a high regard for doctrinal purity, and a focus on worship as defined in Scripture.” (Trinity Hymnal preface, p.7)

One of the greatest strengths of the Trinity Hymnal is the number of psalms and psalm-based hymns it contains.  It also includes The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith and The Shorter Catechism.  With a topical index drawn from The Westminster Confession, the hymns are broken down by topic and by scripture reference.

For the past two years, I have been studying the Trinity Hymnal and have sung through every one of its 742 hymns.  Through my research I have been struck by the faithfulness of God to His church evidenced by the Trinity Hymnal.  There is such beauty in the texts from so many saints from different cultures, time periods and traditions.  The list of authors of hymn texts reads like a hall of fame of men and women of faith.  From twelfth century Bernard of Clairvaux, to St. Frances of Assisi, to Puritans Richard Baxter and John Bunyan, to the great hymn writers Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, to 20th century hymn writer Margaret Clarkson, the Trinity Hymnal is a treasure trove of rich, singable, theology. Each writer has a story, and so often the stories are filled with the sufficiency of God in suffering and trial.

I think of Martin Rinkart, a German Lutheran pastor who served in the German city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War from 1618-1648.  The city became a refuge for those fleeing the horrors of war until the Black Death infected the city.  Four ministers lived there at the time.  One fled and Rinkart buried the other two.  He often presided over forty to fifty funerals a day.  In all 4500 people died.  Surrounded by death, he nevertheless was filled with hope in the God who conquers death as he wrote these words:

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices;

Who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices.

Who, from our mother’s arms, hath led us on our way

With countless gifts of love, and still is our today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills in this world and the next.

(Trinity Hymnal p. 98)

And there is William Cowper, Scottish writer and poet, friend of John Newton, who wrote the much-loved hymns “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” and “There Is A Fountain filled with Blood.”  It is well-known that Cowper struggled with severe depression, even attempting suicide on several occasions.  Yet he wrote these words:

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;

It is the Lord, who rises with healing in his wings;

When comforts are declining, he grants the soul again

A season of clear shining to cheer it after rain.

(Trinity Hymnal p. 621)

Even the writer of our “The Star Spangled Banner”, The United States national anthem is represented.  Francis Scott Key wrote the beautiful words for “Lord, With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee.”

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise thee

for the bliss thy love bestows,

For the pard’ning grace that saves me,

and the peace that from it flows.

Help, O God, my weak endeavor;

this dull soul to rapture raise:

Thou must light the flame, or never

can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise thy Savior God that drew thee

to that cross, new life to give,

Held a blood-sealed pardon to thee,

bade thee look to him and live.

Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,

roused thee from thy fatal ease;

Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,

praise the grace that whispered peace.

(Trinity Hymnal p. 80)

When you look at a hymn in the hymnal, you’ll notice there is information on the left and right side underneath the actual music.  On the left is the information about the source and author of the words. On the right side is the information about the music.  Below is the information printed below my favorite hymn, “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!”

J. Wilbur Chapman, 1910                          HYFRYDOL D

Each hymn tune has a name and beside it is a series of numbers or abbreviations.  This list of numbers separated by periods is the meter of the hymn and indicate the number of syllables in each phrase.  It is this feature that makes the hymnal such a versatile, useful tool for the church.  Using the Meter index in the back of the hymnal, you can see that there are thirty-one more hymns that have that same meter.  If you know the tune “HYFRYDOL”, you can also successfully sing thirty-one other hymn texts to that one tune.  It is this interchangeability of hymn text and tune that enables us to more fully sing our complete theology while only being familiar with around two hundred hymn tunes.

For indeed, that is what corporate singing in worship does.  It allows us to sing our theology, etching it deeply into our hearts and minds as we read the words and sing the melody.  The Trinity Hymnalwill help us to continue to do that as we worship together.  If the Trinity Hymnal were being compiled in 2016, no doubt it would include “In Christ Alone” and other hymns by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  Our commitment to singing a blend of the great hymns of the faith as well as the best songs and hymns being written today remains.  The goal for our congregational music is that it be content-rich and musically excellent, songs that come to mind in times of difficulty, sorrow and joy, songs that stand the test of time, songs that shape us more into the likeness of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

Philosophy of Music Ministry

The Music Ministry of Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church exists to develop and steward the musical gifts of the congregation so that we may fully utilize God’s gift of music in obedience to the principles and precepts of Holy Scripture.  The Music Ministry encourages authentic and vibrant musical expression from all the saints. This biblically mandated ministry is to be conducted in dependent faith as expressed in humble, prayerful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and falls under the authority and vision of the Session.

By making the following seven commitments, The Music Ministry strives to be an integral part of Pear Orchard’s worship, life and ministry to the glory of God and the building up of His people.

A Commitment to Excellence

The Music Ministry seeks to pursue excellence in all its aspects to the glory of God.  All that is done and the way in which it is done should testify to God’s character, presence and grace.  This call to excellence is also a call to educate God’s people to discern musical excellence and to develop their musical gifts and capabilities, whether great or small, beginning in young childhood and progressing into adulthood.

A Commitment to Building Corporate Musical Worship

Recognizing that God often uses music in worship to engage our hearts, The Music Ministry seeks to involve every member in the worship of God through music.  We want to be known as a “singing church”.  Also, The Music Ministry will encourage and build up the congregation as a whole by developing and utlilizing the musical gifts of individuals and small groups.

A Commitment to a Plurality of Musical Styles and Personnel

At a time when many churches have a traditional and a contemporary service, we have made the decision to combine different musical styles in all of our worship services.  Singing the great hymns of the faith connects us to the historical church and to the saints that have gone before us.  Indeed we stand on the shoulders of the great hymn writers and theologians of the past. Singing contemporary songs and hymns reminds us that new songs are still being written because God is still at work building His church and calling His people to praise Him.  Songs, hymns and spiritual songs that are true, Scripture-based and musically excellent are appropriate and relevant for our church today.  It is the Music Director’s responsibility to discern quality, both musically and textually while acknowledging a wide variety of genres and styles that will teach, encourage and build up the body of Christ at POPC.  To further reflect the creativity and diversity of God, The Music Ministry will seek to engage as many members as possible in a variety of musical expressions in worship for the glory of God and the edification of His people.

A Commitment to Spiritual Leadership and Discipleship

The Music Ministry is founded on a commitment by the Session to ensure its leaders are Christians who exemplify the grace of Christ, and a commitment of The Music Ministry leaders to disciple those who are involved.  Music ministry is not only musical artistry but spiritual ministry that must be carried out by people who are growing in their relationship with Christ.  Church membership, a practical expression of discipleship, is expected of ongoing participants in the Music Ministry.

A Commitment to Training

Scripture portrays the body of believers as a worshiping community where every member is capable of expressing worship to God through music and where many have extraordinary musical gifts.  Scripture exhorts all believers to be involved in musical worship, especially worship in song. From the earliest ages, The Music Ministry will develop, train and equip the saints to fully participate in worship through music. As much as possible, the Music Ministry seeks to develop, utilize and rely upon the musical gifts of its own members to do the ministry to which it is called.  This requires a commitment to equip and train the saints for the service of worship and other kingdom ministry.


 A Commitment to Sacrificial Love

There are individual preferences in musical tastes and styles and one type of music will not be equally preferred by all.  The biblical model for handling these differences (where no principle of Scripture is violated) is found in the law of love.  Out of love for the family of faith, Christians should be taught to rejoice when their brothers or sisters in the Lord are biblically edified by a genre of music that may not be their personal favorite.

A Commitment to Evangelism

Worship is integrally related to evangelism.  Authentic corporate worship that is Spirit-driven, excellent, earnest, selfless, and truth-centered is a powerful, living witness to the unconverted.  Popularity must not be the primary concern in formulating our worship.  Our primary concern must be to communicate biblical truth and assist the congregation in passionate worship. Music used in ministry must engage the cultural context, but is must also challenge it. The Music Ministry seeks to communicate in a living, corporate witness that humankind’s greatest need is to give up a lifestyle of focus on self and to serve and worship the one true God through Jesus Christ.

Ladies Choir – An Opportunity for Unity

Growing up, my favorite books were true stories about real people. I love the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and read them all multiple times. I used to imagine what Laura would think if she visited in the 21st century. Would she be amazed at our amount of leisure time and our modern appliances or marvel at the ease of travel? Would she be overwhelmed by the number of choices we make each day from how to spend our time to what to eat for dinner? A quick trip through the produce section of the local Kroger would stun a visiting pioneer. Who could have dreamed of year-round fresh fruit and vegetables, much less star fruit and tomatillos and packs of tri-colored mini-peppers?

We indeed have the world at our fingertips. We make most of our decisions based on our preferences rather than on our desire to live another day as the pioneers did. Our modern culture is complex and difficult to navigate, the number of choices often overwhelming. And yet from the garden of Eden to our modern day, don’t we all crave community, that sense of knowing and being known, loved and understood by others? So also the God who created us desires to commune with us and places us in a special community that He ordained through the sacrifice of His Son, calling it the bride of Christ, the church.

See what Paul says about that community called the church in Ephesians 4:1-6.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

We naturally gravitate toward relationships with those who are like us. Are you single, married, unmarried, divorced, widowed, married again? Do you work or stay at home? Do you educate your children in homeschool, public school or private school? Are you caring for aging parents or family members with special needs? Do you live from paycheck to paycheck or are you building up your retirement account? In the church at Colossae the divisions were evident. Jew or Greek? Circumcised or uncircumcised? Barbarian or Scythian? Slave or free?  These things used to divide them but in Christ they put off the old self and put on the new as we also are called to do. Jesus Christ, the one who unites, is far greater than the things that separate us. (see Colossians 3: 10-11).

Paul continues by giving instruction about how to put on the new self.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.   (Col. 3:12-16).

As our church grows, smaller groups develop from the larger whole. Deepening friendships are good, insular groups are not. Will you accept the challenge of keeping your eyes and hearts open to others at POPC by making intentional decisions to reach out to those who are not in your immediate circle of friends?

And that’s where Ladies Choir comes in! Here is an opportunity for ladies of all ages to intentionally come together, drawn not by a common interest or hobby or stage of life, but drawn together by Jesus Christ and called to relationship with each other because of our relationship with Him. And as we develop these relationships, we build each other up in the truth of God’s word as we sing it together. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is God’s gift to His church, a way for His children, His creation, to reflect the glory of their Creator. It is a testament to the unity found in Jesus Christ and a counter-cultural chance to be a music maker rather than a music consumer. Music knowledge or skill is not a requirement. If you have a speaking voice and a heart of love for Jesus, all other skills can be learned.

Your sisters in the choir are delighted to welcome you to join us for any or all of our in June at 6:30 p.m. in the choir room.  Please contact me if you have questions –

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Responsibility of Worship Leaders

To become a communing member of a church in the PCA, The Book of Church Order requires individuals to profess faith in Christ, to be baptized and to be admitted to the Lord’s Table by the session of the congregation they are joining.


Each of us took vows when we joined the body at Pear Orchard Presbyterian. They are summarized below.


  1. I acknowledge that I am a sinner deserving judgment and without hope save God’s sovereign mercy.


  1. I believe in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, receiving and resting on Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel.


  1. I resolve and promise in humble reliance on divine grace, that I will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ.


  1. I promise to support the Church in its worship and work.


  1. I submit to the government and discipline of the church and promise to promote her purity and her peace.



These membership requirements are a starting point for all who desire to lead in worship in any capacity from singing in a choir, to playing an instrument, to serving on the worship team. John Piper, in a series of talks entitled “Gravity and Gladness”, reminds us that the goal of anyone who leads in worship should be that they themselves are a worshipper. Someone may have a wonderful musical gift or be a polished performer, but these alone don’t produce a worship leader who pleases the Lord. In fact musical gifts and talents are not even mentioned by God as a requirement for those who worship Him. But John 4:24 declares, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. For we know that man looks at the outward appearance or the outward gifts but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:8) As sinners who have received God’s sovereign mercy and who trust in Christ alone for salvation, our gifts can then be used by God in worship. As worship leaders, we are called to lead a life that becomes a follower of Christ. And if we are not walking in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we are obligated to step down from our leadership position. The honor of Christ is at stake and we must undertake our leadership responsibilities with serious intent.


So often musicians tend to be drawn to worship because of love for the music, but we must be careful here. Our motivation to participate and/or lead in worship in any capacity must come from a desire to worship the living God alone.   Yet, not until heaven will our motives be completely pure. Musicians like music and they like to make music. This is naturally appealing to us. We recognize that a pure motive to worship is a gift of the Holy Spirit. As worship leaders, we commit ourselves to self-examination, prayer and accountability as we continually seek to be worshippers motivated by our love for God and worship leaders who desire to encourage the body of Christ to worship the living God. We remember the third membership vow; we resolve and promise, in humble reliance on divine grace, to endeavor to live (and lead) as becomes a follower of Christ.   And as we humbly rely on Him, He gives us opportunities to faithfully exercise our God-given gifts to support His church and promote her purity and peace.

The Importance of Congregational Song

I had the privilege of hearing Keith Getty speak to pastors and music leaders at RTS last month about hymns of the church and congregational singing.  Keith and his wife Kristyn are Irish musicians whose modern-day hymns are widely beloved and sung by Christians around the globe.  We sing many of their compositions in our worship including In Christ Alone, The Power of the Cross and Speak, O Lord.

The Gettys are passionate about worship and particularly congregational singing.  Keith encouraged us to choose congregational music that is content-rich and musically excellent, songs that come to mind in times of difficulty, sorrow and joy, songs that stand the test of time.  He likened music to a freight train that, when filled with the words of truth from scripture, chugs its way deep into the hearts and minds of the people who sing it.

So much of Christian music is more informed by American Idol than by biblical theology.  It seems everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame.  When worship teams intent on singing the latest popular Christian song stand in front of their congregations and sing new song after new song, congregations become audiences and worship teams become performers.    Keith stated that our question after worship should always be, “how did the congregation sing?”  Poor congregational singing is a poor witness.  Full, heart-felt participation from the congregation as a whole is a counter-cultural, powerful witness to the world and an encouragement to the body of Christ.  May we as leaders continue to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we choose music for worship, and may we all endeavor to follow the psalmist, David, who wrote, “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  Psalm 13:6

Why We Have a Diversity of Musical Styles in our Worship

Our church has an organ and a choir and a worship band.   We also have two services on Sunday morning, each one the same as we can make them. Why haven’t we chosen to have a traditional and a contemporary

We have a mostly white congregation of mixed ages, heavy on young couples with young kids, but also a large group of middle to older adults and a large youth group.  We have made the decision to combine different musical styles in both of our services at a time when many churches have a traditional and a contemporary service.

Singing a mix of styles means that everyone will sing songs that they love and songs that are not their favorites. Having a body of hymns and songs that the whole congregation knows binds us together and gives us opportunities to practice the law of love.  Each of us can choose to consider others before ourselves as we all sing songs in a variety of styles from a variety of time periods.

Singing the great old hymns of the church connects us to the historical church and to the saints that have gone before us.  Singing contemporary songs reminds us that new songs are still being sung because God is still at work building His church and calling His saints to praise Him.  Songs that are true, scripture-based and musically excellent are appropriate and relevant for our worship today.

As the Music Director, my job is to faithfully steward the musical gifts of our congregation, using the gifts of individual musicians and choirs to spur on the largest choir, the congregation.  Our church has had an organ from our early years and the Lord has provided our organist, Susie Cook, with both musical skill and a heart for worship. She regularly introduces the organ to our young musicians, planting seeds for church musicians in the generations to come.

We have a number of folks who attended RUF in college and were greatly influenced by the retuned hymns being sung there.  The RUF Hymnbook is a staple in our worship planning.  Many musicians enjoy being a part of our worship band which includes acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, djembe, piano, and vocalists.  We have several members who play orchestral instruments and it is a privilege to incorporate their gifts in congregational and choral singing and in instrumental solos and ensembles.   Who knows what musical gifts future members will bring!  Allowing for multiple musical expressions in worship by multiple members takes away from the “Christian Rock Star” mentality that seeps into many evangelical churches. The aim is always to focus on our Savior rather than the ones leading us in worship.  Our goal in corporate worship is to call the entire congregation to participate in the worship of our Great God, giving ourselves away to the One who gave all for us.