Facing a Task Unfinished

This is a great post about the hymn entitled, “Facing a Task Unfinished.” It can be found here at the Gospel Coalition website.

“In Matthew 24, atop the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Almost 2,000 years later, we’re still here, which is all the proof we need to keep on preaching the gospel, especially in places it’s yet to be heard.

Yet the gospel message isn’t restricted to sermons or tracts or books. Think of how you first absorbed the good news. For many of us, I imagine it wasn’t through a sermon, but a song.

Keith and Kristyn Getty are convinced of the vital role music plays in Christian discipleship. This is why they’ve spent much of the past two decades writing new hymns and restoring old ones—to help Christians and churches continue “making melody to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).

I corresponded with Keith Getty about their re-introduction of what he dubs the “greatest hymn on missions ever written,” how God uses music to shape Christians, other missions hymns your church should start singing, and more.


What’s the story behind the song “Facing a Task Unfinished”? Who wrote it and why?

Frank Houghton, an Anglican bishop and missionary to China, wrote the hymn in the 1930s. Originally it was written with a request to bring 200 more missionaries to China, which was a horrific period in Chinese history.

Facing a Task Unfinished” was a hymn I grew up loving. So I began talks with OMF (China Inland Mission) about a new version around the time of TGC’s Missions Conference in 2013. OMF then approached me last year and asked if we would do something for their 150th anniversary in Singapore, where OMF director Patrick Fung planned to introduce a new challenge and revitalized vision for missions.

We were so excited for the hymn itself. I think it’s the greatest hymn on missions ever written. The vital importance of missions is present throughout the entire song. So we put an agreement together to create a new copyright.

The hymn has fallen out of widespread use over the past century. How’d you come across it?

It was still sung in the churches I grew up in, but I think the hymn lacked two or three things it needed for popular appeal in today’s churches. First, it’s a Great Commission hymn, but it doesn’t give a chance to respond. Second, it was typically sung as a strophic four-part hymn, and with each new word came a new note—this tends to give guitarists sore hands! Third, the hymn doesn’t have an amazing sense of contour or journey, so by writing a new chorus we shaped it into more of a ballad. As a result, we were able to reinvent the song, still allowing people to sing Houghton’s original lyrics but with Kristyn’s new chorus.

You’ve talked about the “power of a hymn to galvanize a community, even in the most difficult of circumstances.” When it was originally written, in what ways did it accomplish that?

The amazing story of the song is that 200 missionaries were able to go out to China. The wider story of China is perhaps the most incredible story of Christian growth in history. The church has grown from fewer than 750,000 Christians in the 1930s to more than 80 million today. My wife and I always comment that when we sing the hymn, it clears our minds of things that are, by comparison, irrelevant.

How do you hope its re-introduction will continue that tradition?

Houghton understood that what we sing affects what we think, how we feel, what we pray for, and, ultimately, every decision we make in life. It is my prayer that by singing this song Christians around the world will get more excited about both music and mission, but also about living the mission of God on our own doorsteps and in our own kitchens, as well as around the world.

I imagine few churches sing hymns about cross-cultural missions—not for lack of desire, but lack of worthy choices. Could you point our readers toward a few missions hymns that are underrated and under-sung?

When Don Carson asked us to do the music for TGC’s Missions Conference, we wrote a song called “Lift High the Name of Jesus.” Over the years, Stuart Townend and I have written hymns inspired by different key missional figures. Our love for Martin Luther’s hymns inspired “O Church Arise.” Our friendship with Operation Mobilization and its prayer book led to us write “Across the Lands.” We also wrote a song called “Hear the Call of the Kingdom.”

The missions hymns I sang growing up were mostly gospel songs from the 19th- and 20th-century worldwide missions movement, which weren’t exactly the most timeless hymns. “All Over the World,” “For My Sake and the Gospel’s, Go,” and “We Have a Story to Tell the Nations” are a few I grew up singing. Other traditional hymns I sang in more choral-based churches include “Who Is on the Lord’s Side” or, my favorite, a hymn called “Go Forth and Tell” (set to the English choral tune “Tell Out My Soul”).

Let’s say a pastor or music director wants his church to start singing this song in their corporate gatherings. What does he need to do next?

It’s simple. If they visit our website, we’ve got everything they’ll need: lead sheets, chord charts, orchestrations, as well as translations into other languages. In fact, this coming Sunday, February 21, we’re asking any church who’s interested to sing “Facing a Task Unfinished.” Our goal is over 10,000 churches across every continent!

Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is?

A good friend shared a Southern Gospel song with me this past week. It is one that I cannot ever remember hearing, although the group that sings this song is one I listened to for many years. The Southern Gospel group is called Greater Vision. For your reference, I have included the lyrics below before I share some additional thoughts.

1) Preacher I’d say it’s been a while since you heard this request,
but my spirit is tired and I need rest.
I want to hear from Heaven a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.

2) I’ve been hearing other preachers say I don’t have to change.
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I’m okay.
But it hasn’t eased my conscience and I know it’s not the truth.
So when you stand before us, can I count on you?

(Chorus) Oh Preacher, you say you want to be my friend,
don’t be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And Preacher, tell me I can overcome,
but it’s only by the blood of the Lamb.
Don’t tell me like I wish it was, Preacher tell me like it is.

3) So open up the Word and let the Spirit lead,
Preach until I’ve heard God speak to me.
Don’t worry about my feelings, don’t worry about my shame,
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I’m to blame!

(bridge)
Life is quickly passing, the world is fading fast
and the foolishness of preaching is the only hope we have.

Regardless of whether you like Southern Gospel Music or not, there are still pastor-teachers who get up every Sunday or throughout the week and pray that today would be the day they heard such a song from those in their congregations.

Preaching

Sadly, this is far from truth. Many of you, who are regulars here at DefCon, know some of our story. In early 2013, I was called to pastor what I thought was a conservative, evangelical Bible-believing church in north-central California.  It took less than 2 months to ascertain that several of the “elders” were not even true believers. One was living in open sin, and they took great offense at my preaching that salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

In one leaders’ meeting, one “elder” stated this while pointing at my Bible, “I don’t really know much about that book, but if you are telling me that my friends and family who do not believe in Jesus Christ are going to die and go to hell…well, I would rather die and go to hell with them than to believe what you are telling me!”

Can you imagine such a response by one who is supposedly “called” to be a shepherd? Why would a church even ask a person to be a shepherd when they don’t know The Book?

A few months later, just shy of 70% of the congregation voted against taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Obviously, this was not a congregation that was interested in singing the lyrics of this song. They did not want sin called what it was. The men who claimed to be elders and who were supposed to be leading spiritually and watching over the flock had little to no interest in the truth of God’s Word.

Sundays come and Sundays go, and far too many faithful ministers prepare messages wondering who will show up and whether they are even upset from the Word that was ministered the week before. On the other hand, there are hirelings posing as shepherds who refrain from speaking boldly because they are afraid of losing a paycheck. Such individuals have NO BUSINESS being in the pulpit.

While there are many other things that are on my heart, I want to use this post to address those who normally sit in congregations each week. Let me tell you what a true pastor looks like.

  1. A true pastor will be faithful to the Word before he is faithful to your pet peeves.
  2. A true pastor will be obedient to the Word before he will be obedient to what you THINK you want to hear.
  3. A true pastor will honor God first and foremost before he will honor requests to dumb down the Scriptures.
  4. A true pastor will normally be found in a small gathering long before he will be found preaching to large crowds who come for everything BUT exposition of the Scriptures.
  5. A true pastor may not show up for every party you have at your house but he will keep you before the Lord each time you are brought to his remembrance.
  6. A true pastor has a family that he has been called to take care of but they will often wait long hours for him to come home because he is “needed” in another part of the harvest field for a few more hours.
  7. A true pastor may have to work long hours outside of ministry-related duties and still have to find time to juggle family, ministry, preparation, and maybe squeeze in some rest. He may do this because it is better than taking a paycheck from a congregation who thinks they can hire and fire him if he doesn’t tickle their ears.
  8. A true pastor will struggle with his own sin and concerns while preaching to himself each time he opens the Scriptures. He will strive to be faithful while at the same time endeavoring to be more like Jesus Christ knowing that he fails miserably.
  9. A true pastor weeps when he sees entire families walk away because they didn’t like the music or lack thereof, or because they chose to walk in the paths of heretics they read after or watch on TBN. He knows that what they are following after does not change their lives. He knows their struggles are real and hopping from church to church is not going to change them to be more like Christ.
  10. A true pastor is concerned when telling it like it is about sin and shame produces little response in the lives of the hearers,, and he wonders whether it is worth all the effort.
  11. A true pastor may often take the blame for much that has nothing to do with his own life, his family, or his ministry. However, he will also know that the blameshifting is merely a cry for help from those who do not want to be helped.
  12. A true pastor may often wonder if there is “anybody else in Israel that has not bowed the knee to the gods of this world” but will rejoice when he finds even one or two of the 7,000 who have not bowed.
  13. A true pastor knows the world is dying and on their way to hell apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but will normally minister to people, some who think they are “good enough” to get there on their own merits.
  14. A true pastor knows that the foolishness of preaching is the ONLY hope we have to offer to the world.
  15. A true pastor will know that to strive to be most eloquent in the eyes of the world will only bring further heartache.
  16. A true pastor knows that this world cannot be his home, that he is only a stranger on a journey to a better land, and that the rewards this world has to offer are corrupt at best and will rot away.
  17. A true pastor may at times be captured in moments of weakness by thoughts of wanting to hear compliments, but in the end remembers that the only true accomplishment will be to hear, “Well done, you were a good and faithful servant.”

For those true pastors who have refused to bow the knee to the gods of this world and the sinful desires of congregations, you are loved with an everlasting love. Your rewards will be few down here. Your body may be worn down as you strive to juggle all of your efforts to show Christ to others, but strive to remain faithful as we look toward a land whose builder and maker is God. True pastors, you have a high calling.

True believers, you have a responsibility to pray for your pastor, to support him, to love him, and to realize that he is only human. Every message will NOT be easy to hear. He is tasked with the incredible and heart-breakingly overwhelming responsibility of protecting you from the dangers of all the heresy and false teaching that is spreading like wildfire throughout evangelicalism.

True believers, it is easy to sing songs like this when they have catchy tunes or lyrics, but how often have you actually walked up to your pastor and told him such words? How often have you said, “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is!” and then instead of getting offended and looking for a new church next week prayed and asked the Lord to help you be a faithful Berean Christian who will stand for truth even when it is not popular?

 

How To Show Someone You Care

Most people who know me now don’t realize that, by nature, I am pretty insecure. I’ve never been “popular,” so I still have times of wondering if anyone loves me and why. Since coming to know the Lord, I fight to not let that rise to the surface. Instead, when the battle of the mind begins, I pray and ask God to help me to show His love to others. The Bible says that “a man that has friends must show himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24) and, although I don’t claim to do this perfectly, God has blessed me with wonderful friends who really do seem to care and whom I am pretty sure really pray for me.

I think sometimes people care more than one might realize so I wanted to give some tips that, at least for me, helps to show me that my friends are not just putting up with me but that they do indeed care.

askquestions

1) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes I think people don’t want to pry into a person’s life because they don’t want to appear nosy, or maybe they think it’s none of their business. The fact is, many times a hurting person really wants someone to talk to but they don’t want to burden others. Lines such as, “I’m having a really rough day today” or “Please pray for me today” are often doorways for you to stop what you are doing and ask if they would like to talk about it. If your response is merely, “I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll be praying for you,” that will be taken as you don’t want to hear about it or don’t really care. I am not discrediting prayer at all and, if you really don’t want to hear about it or don’t have time to do so, then that at least is a sympathetic response but, if this is a person you really care about, take time to ask them what’s going on. If they don’t want to say, they will tell you but at least they know you are available.

2) Listen. Sometimes when I’m going through a difficult time, I want advice but many times I just need to talk. Don’t feel like you need to have “answers.” Obviously, if God brings something to your mind which will help the person, share that but do it with a posture of humility, realizing that it is the person’s choice whether they take your advice or not. Mostly let them talk it out, pray with them, ask God to give you a burden for this person. It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives that we don’t really invest in the lives of others but, if God has put a person into your life, it’s for a reason. Make sure you are being the friend they need.

3) Pray. It’s one thing to say “I’ll pray for you” and another thing to actually do so. If you commit to pray for a person, write it down, put it on your calendar, do whatever you need to do to remember to pray for this person. Then take the time periodically to let the person know you are praying. This will encourage them immensely. I have over 1,000 Facebook friends and I see many prayer requests every day. Because of this, I have learned not to promise every person that I will pray but, if it is an urgent need, I will pray right away and sometimes post a comment stating that. I also have friends who text or email me requests. These I take more seriously and ask for God’s help to remember them. I have had people that I don’t know real well message me because they know I pray. I don’t know how they know that but I consider it quite a compliment and, again, if they have taken the time to ask me personally, I want to take it seriously.

prayinghands

4) Initiate interaction. If God brings someone to your mind, take time to call, text, or email that person. Many times, that is what it’s taken for me to realize a person really loves and cares for me. If I am always the one who initiates interaction, I begin to wonder, but getting a message out of the blue that says someone was thinking of me, praying for me, etc. makes my day. It lets me know I really am loved and that even God loves me enough to lay me on someone’s heart periodically. You don’t know what kind of day that person may be having, and it could be your simple act of loving kindness that lifts their spirits and brings a smile to their face. That is not a small thing.

5) Be thankful. I think this is usually the most neglected of all. Not that we aren’t thankful for our friends but I think we don’t often let them know. Take time periodically to do just that. Thank them for their love and their friendship. If someone gives you a gift, don’t just thank them at the moment (that’s common courtesy and is expected); go above and beyond the call of duty and also thank them a month, a year, five years down the road … especially if it’s something you still use. Several years ago, a friend came to visit and, as a “hostess gift,” she gave me a couple CDs. (This was a special blessing, as it showed how well she knows me.) I’ve not done it for a while but, periodically, when I would listen to the CDs, I would write to her to let her know I was listening to them and thinking of her. I just wanted to make sure she knew that she did not waste her money on those. They are still used and appreciated.

I’m sure this is far from being an exhaustive list but hopefully it will help you in reaching out to those special people in your life and making them feel truly loved. If there are other things that you have found to be meaningful in showing love to others, feel free to post it in the comments. If you are one who feels like no one really cares about you, I assure you that is probably not the case. We live in a hectic, fast-paced society. Many are struggling just to keep up and they don’t have time to think beyond their own day-to-day trials. Then there are others who just don’t know how to show that they care. It doesn’t mean they don’t. Purpose to be a friend, to show God’s love, and to think of others instead of yourself. Even if it doesn’t come back to you from people, you will receive your reward in Heaven, and I believe you will feel God even nearer while on earth, which is really the most important One to be close to anyway.

Is Jesus Culture Just Another Christian Band?

Following one of our recent posts on the Passion 2013 conference, one of the issues that came to light is the concern over the worship group “Jesus Culture.” This group has grown immensely in popularity among evangelical youth. Yet many are not aware of the fact that they originate out of the Bethel Church in Redding, California which is known for its false teachings about signs and wonders and is part of the heretical “New Apostolic Reformation” movement. The following video does a very good job exposing the background of Jesus Culture and why discerning Christians should be very concerned about them. Please take the time to watch and learn.

Hey you, worship leader guy, remember that you are not a rock star.

I wanted to pass on a good article entitled “You Are Not a Rock Star, and Other Nuggets for Worship Leaders” written by Clint Archer:

I use “worship leader” in the vernacular sense of the guy who leads the music. Of course, musical worship is only a smidgen of the worship that happens on Sunday. It’s one candle arrayed alongside the worship of preaching, fellowship, serving, giving, and parking far away so that the elderly can park closer.

But when people talk about liking “the worship” they generally mean “the band.” One congregant who should avoid this is the worship leader. Here are four tips for the leader of a worship band…

Continue reading here.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall.

Two years ago I published a post about a CCM entertainer’s comments that he gave to a Roman Catholic organization in which the entertainer, David Crowder, admitted:

“Much of the Catholic traditions and writings have been influential in my formation of faith and to be quite contradictory of what was stated earlier, I’ve found much inspiration there.”

Of course, my pointing this out went over like a lead balloon with many professing Christians. Daring to bring to light (or even make mention of) the biblically antithetical theology, leanings, and/or admitted influences of any of their beloved entertainers will always incur the wrath of the American evangelical. (That same post also spoke of David Crowder’s ties to contemplatives too, but for some reason that has never been much of a point of contention with Crowder’s defenders.)

I received numerous responses of defense for Crowder from tons of professing Christians telling me how stupid I was for pointing out Crowder’s obvious Roman Catholic leanings. In the estimation of his defenders, I was just jumping to conclusions, making mountains out of mole hills, and seeing things that were simply not there.

But was I?

(I still wonder how Crowder defenders would have reacted if he had said “Much of the Mormon traditions and writings have been influential in my formation of faith . . .“.) 

Apparently I have to venture outside the whitewashed, happy, clappy realm of Americanized Christianity to find someone else who can add 2 plus 2 and come up with 4. 

Marc, a Roman Catholic who blogs at Bad Catholic, is one of those out there who also read Crowder’s interview and saw the same handwriting on the wall. On his latest post praising David Crowder, Marc writes what’s so obvious as the noon-day sun to him (and me) but seems to escape the comprehension of so many professing Christians:

“So, remember that time I invited David Crowder to become Catholic? Yeah, that might have been redundant. . . .  I’m happy as can be, and praying for Mr. Crowder, hoping he comes into full communion soon, though it seems his heart is already there.”

Although Marc and I will disagree on many (many) things regarding theology, we can at least both agree on what we’re seeing coming from the “evangelical” entertainer, David Crowder.

Marc also wrote an open letter (an open invitation) to David Crowder to invite hm to finally “enter into full communion with the Holy Catholic Church.”

Because of Crowder’s most recent album, Marc has said that he finds himself “in one of the most incredible moments of my music-loving, Christ-worshipping, Roman Catholic existence” and that “To the Christian, this is awesome. To the Catholic, well, this is freaking fantastic.”

Here is an excerpt from Marc’s article regarding Crowder’s latest album, an album that has at least one Roman Catholic all abuzz:

“So when your album started with a man walking into a Church, and the voice of a priest saying ‘Grant them eternal rest, Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them…’ (in Latin!) I fairly well freaked out. That prayer is not merely a memory of the dead, it is a prayer for the dead, that they might be granted to enter into Heaven.”

Here is Marc’s invitation to “evangelical” entertainer, David Crowder: 

“Though I’m sure you’ve been invited before — and if not, I take this opportunity to apologize for it — I’d like to invite you to enter into full communion with the Holy Catholic Church. You’ve been in my prayers and the prayers of my friends for some time now. We heard when you said that many ‘of the Catholic traditions and writings have been influential in [your] formation of faith,’ and about your love for St. Francis when you granted LifeTeen an interview, and we got pretty pumped.”

So, I guess I wasn’t alone with what I concluded in that interview David Crowder gave to LifeTeen; even Marc and some of his Roman Catholic friends understood it and have not only been praying for Crowder, but were “pretty pumped” by what Crowder said. It’s the cultural Christians who have their fingers in their ears and their eyes slammed shut refusing to examine whether or not the CCM emperor is wearing clothes.

I also find it ironic that the very first comment Marc received on his open invitation to David Crowder came from a Roman Catholic who claims to have actually worked with David Crowder and his band, and knows them on a personal level. This commenter scolded Marc, informing him that he’s not giving David Crowder enough credit for his Romainst leanings:

“I’m a Catholic who’s worked with the Crowder band up until their recent retirement. I was standing there when they walked off stage for the last time in Atlanta two weeks ago, and I know all the guys on a personal level. . . . [Y]ou have absolutely no idea what Dave does or does not know about the Catholic faith. Without that knowledge, I’m finding it hard to understand why you chose to write a manifesto about our faith as if you were telling him things he doesn’t already know. It sounds to me you’ve made an awful lot of assumptions here. Dave has a very healthy knowledge of the Catholic faith. He knows much more than you and others are giving him credit for. When the idea of this album came up, Dave sought out Catholic musician Matt Maher and asked for his input and in depth perspective regarding the Catholic funeral liturgy.”

I’ll conclude with a short video posted on Marc’s blog of David Crowder talking about his latest album, “Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]),” a video in which the first commenter on Marc’s post wrote:

“Did David Crowder, the renowned Protestant musician, just use the words ‘Liturgy’ ‘Latin’ ‘Mass’ and ‘Eucharist’ in that video??! I’m failing to see how this could lead anywhere other than into the welcoming arms of Holy Mother Church.”


Worship Songs Compared.

DefCon touches on the issue of music and the Church from time to time; thanks to a recent article from The Watchman’s Bagpipes, this is one of those times.

Yesterday in church we sang some contemporary “worship” songs at the opening of service and closed with a traditional hymn.  Our church often mixes the old and the new, the trite and the meaty.  I want to show you the difference for what passes as “worship” songs today, compared to what used to be standard fare.  I will give them in the order we sang them, and I want you to read the lyrics with a discerning eye.

Read the entire article here.