Last week our church hosted a solo gig from Stuart Townend. It wasn’t my idea, and I played absolutely no part in the hard work that went into making it happen! And lots of things made it a memorable evening, with a packed venue and great ‘unplugged’ music.
But best of all was the patter between the songs. We heard much wisdom about music and worship, and I think we could see why God has used this man so much over the past 15 years. In brief: a love for Jesus, a delight in people getting right with God; a respect for truth; and a humble willingness to take the ‘narrow way’.
I’ve tried to summarise five of his introductions that particularly struck me:
1. We need songs that speak about the character of Christ, not just about our feelings and desires. That’s to give depth and definition to our worship; and it’s also because people go home from church humming the songs more often than they go home reciting the sermon!
Hence “All my days” was written, ‘way back’ in 1998; the chorus combines many of the biblical attributes of the Lord Jesus.
2. We need to rediscover “bible story” songs. These remind us that our faith is not based just on ideas and concepts, but on historical realities: things that happened. If people are no longer being taught bible stories at home and in school, then how much more must we sing them in church!
Hence “The man who calmed the sea”.
(3 minute video on this here)
3. We mustn’t forget God’s wrath. Why was Jesus, for the previous 3 years so apparently totally in control, suddenly so crushed at Gethsemane? We can only make sense of that when we see that Christ was taking on himself the weight of God’s anger and the punishment for our sin. The notion is hard to stomach, and it’s being abandoned by some ‘evangelicals’; but it’s essential to our faith.
Hence “To see the King of heaven fall”.
4. We must sing songs about real issues! For example, you probably don’t know many Christian songs about money, even though it’s a massive issue for the world right now, and Jesus talked a lot about it, often treating it as a barometer of our hearts.
Hence “Simple Living”
5. The gospel brings freedom in Christ! Hallelujah. Perhaps that’s why “In Christ alone” is (still) the song that people most often say has blessed and helped them.
(more here on the origin of this song)
Food for the soul!