John Cornish

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

In honor of Reformation Day…

In History, Music on October 31, 2010 at 4:00 pm

493 years ago today was a day that changed the world forever. On October 31, 1517, a young Catholic professor and priest took a stand against centuries of spiritual darkness and oppression, serving as the catalyst which launched the Protestant reformation. This man was Martin Luther. On that day, All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), which at that time was recognized as the day before All Saints Day, he went to the church in the small college town of Wittenburg, Germany and nail to the front door a document entitled “95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” Nailing things to the church door was not such an uncommon thing to do, as church doors served as a type of community “bulletin board.” But what Luther nailed to that door was not at all common.

The document was a call to debate about the Catholic practice of selling indulgences. This practice involved selling documents that offered a free pass from purgatory to whoever would donate money to the church. In this particular case, Pope Leo X was trying to raise money for the building of St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome. For this fundraising project, Leo solicited the help of one Johann Tetzel. Tetzel had much success in selling indulgences, and was asked to head up the selling for this project. Johann Tetzel would travel with much pomp and circumstance from village to village bearing the pope’s symbol. He used fear and manipulation to coerce people into buying the indulgences. He would graphically describe the fires of hell, and guilt the people for not offering “a little bit of money” to free their loved ones.

Many church leaders throughout the region had grown to find the practice detestable, but few had the courage to say anything. When Martin wrote his 95 these, he didn’t intend for them to be widely spread or published, and he even wrote them in Latin so they couldn’t be read by any but clergy and learned men. However, they were quickly translated and published all throughout the Holy Roman Empire, and what was meant to be a call to debate quickly became a call to reformation. Read the rest of this entry »

But when would we worship?

In Worship on October 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I heard a great story in chapel at seminary today that really has me thinking. The more time I spend studying Biblical worship and thinking about God’s priorities for the church, the more I am beginning to think that we’ve really wandered away from what God wants us to do and be. I love the church, and I love God’s people, but I wonder if we are so busy trying to be relevant and passionate that we’re simply missing the point.

The preacher in chapel today relayed the story (I can’t verify its authenticity, but it makes a good point nonetheless) of a minister who was serving in a very old church. On the pulpit was an old metal ring. One Sunday, the minister asked the congregation if they knew what the ring actually was. He went on to explain that the ring was actually an hourglass holder that was donated from the people to a former minister. The minister went on to share that in those days the people generally allowed the minister one to two full turns of the hourglass per sermon! When he said this, a woman in the congregation audibly gasped. “But when would we worship?” she cried.

I don’t think our mindset is all too different these days. We’ve unintentionally equated music to worship and true biblical preaching to a drudgery that we must sit through in order to get back to more music. Unfortunately, churches are compromising in this area to the point where the preaching of God’s word becoming nothing more that a sidebar in the “worship experience.” And what preaching there is seems to be gravitating more and more to what is being popularly called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” the “God is here to help me be a better person, have my best life now, and that’s about all I need Him for” view of religion. We fear proclaiming the truth of the Gospel for fear that someone might be uncomfortable and not want to come back.

Any pattern of worship that does not have as its center the Word of God cannot be worship. Or rather, it cannot be worship of God. Sure, it can be worship of music, songs, lighting, ourselves, etc., but it isn’t the worship of God. I hope it isn’t too late to turn these trends around. Young people and teens are dropping out of church at an alarming rate, and who can blame them? We aren’t focusing on that which is truly life-changing: the living and active Word of God, which is capable of changing lives.

God grant that our churches would see the importance of the proclamation of God’s Word and the gospel in the worship service, for I fear that if we continue on our current path we are heading towards a Christianity that is too busy “worshiping” to care about what really matters.

What’s the point of a worship service?

In Ministry, Worship on October 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm

So, I heard something on the radio yesterday that blew my mind. There is a local Christian radio station here in DFW that has a talk show every afternoon at 5. It’s hosted by a professor at one of the local Christian colleges. Typically, I really enjoy the show, as it’s generally focused on theological, ecclesiological, and apologetical issues that are extremely relevant and engaging.

Well, yesterday’s topic was dealing with how the church relates to and/or ministers to the world, i.e. those outside the church. It didn’t take long for the subject of music in worship to arise, as it is often at the centerpiece of such discussions. One particular caller was talking about how her church had two worship services: one in both contemporary and traditional styles. She mentioned that she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. In response, the host said something that blew my mind. Now remember, this gentleman is a professor at a fairly well-respected Christian college, as well as a pastor for many years.

His response went something like this (you can actually hear the audio here…it starts about 7:00): “Now, the real issue at the heart of all of this discussion about contemporary vs. traditional music is a fundamental debate about for the worship service is intended. There are really two options here: those who are more traditional say that the primary purpose of the worship service is the edification of the saints. Those on the contemporary side say that the primary purpose is for the evangelization of the lost. So as believers we have to decide which of these two perspectives we agree with.”

I nearly drove off the road. He then proceeded to ask this woman which perspective she agreed with, to which she responded that she believed that the worship service should be geared to the lost. Wow.

The problem here is that BOTH options are absolutely and completely unbiblical, which may be the reason there is so much confusion in the church today. A worship service is supposed to be an opportunity for the people of God to engage in…get this: WORSHIP. Worshiping who? The lost? Each other? NO. We gather to worship GOD.

Granted, evangelism and edification are both wonderful side effects of corporate worship, but we should NEVER design worship with either as the primary goal. No wonder the church is so confused…

So, I’m starting a blog…

In General, Life on October 26, 2010 at 10:09 am

Blogging is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but just never got around to it. I think for a while I did have one of those Xanga blogs (do those even still exist?), but mostly ended up writing about what I had for dinner or other equally interesting issues. Hopefully I can be more interesting than that here.

Those of you that know me know that my life is pretty crazy. Not like a little (like your neighbor next door with the pink flamingos in her lawn) crazy, but certifiably (think white padded room) crazy. Don’t get me wrong: I love my life. It’s just that sometimes in trying to keep up with being a full-time doctoral student, adjunct professor, worship and communications minister, husband, and daddy, that life seems a little out of hand sometimes. So…I’ve decided to add one more thing to the mix and try to keep up a blog. Yeah, I’m nuts.

Actually, I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I’m doing this for me. Don’t get me wrong…I hope others will read this (maybe at 3:30 in the afternoon at work when they’re bored and the boss isn’t looking). But sometimes in the academic world and in ministry I feel like I’m bombarded with so many issues, problems, and random thoughts that I never have a chance to work through any of them. So, I’m hoping to do that here. Hopefully somebody out there will find something interesting…or at least oddly amusing.

The other reason I’m doing this is that I honestly do want to write about things that will be helpful to others. That’s why I chose the blog title that I did. I’m a conductor, and one of the great things about being a conductor is that you get to give leadership and direction to others. My job is to take a bunch of random dots on a page and bring them to life for others. I want this blog to be kinda like that. In sharing my thoughts about issues, perhaps I can somehow bring clarity to others, or at least an interesting perspective. Obviously, I live life in a variety of theaters (academia, music, ministry, and home), so not everything will interest everyone. That’s okay. Like I said, I’m mostly doing this for me. Hopefully, something I write at some point will help someone.