Writing and Leading Music for Worship

Back in 2010, when Keith Getty led a workshop at the National Worship Leader’s Conference, David Neff edited and distilled ten thought-provoking ideas from Getty’s workshop comments on the craft of writing and leading music for worship:

  • The primary form we use is the story form.
  • It is important to look at things that are harrowing and that don’t necessarily make us feel happy.
  • We need lament. But if you want to write lament, remember that a successful lament resolves into acknowledging that God is God.
  • To write strong melodies remember that folk melody has to be passed on orally (aurally).
  • Use pastors and theologians as resources for your writing, keeping company with them.
  • Trinitarian worship safeguards us from so many problems our worship can get into: either an overly stern view of God or a casual view of God.
  • Martin Luther is one of ten people from history I would want to have coffee with. I have looked at a lot of Luther’s hymns and emulated him. First, Luther had a high view of redemption. He also believed we live our lives in the midst of spiritual warfare. Thirdly, he had a high view of the church and a high vision of the church.
  • The congregation is the choir and it is merely the privilege of those of us who are musically gifted to help them sing.
  • Lyrics and great writing are the same thing. Lyricism is poetry.
  • Everything I write can be sung by a congregation.

-Keith Getty, http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/review-hymns-for-the-christian-life

Life, Death, and Lies on the Campaign Trail

By Albert Mohler

“The controversy over comments made by U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock reveals the undeniable ugliness of American politics. At the same time, the media firestorm underscores the importance of getting the pro-life position right — and expressing it well.

Mourdock, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, was debating his opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly, this past Tuesday night, when the issue of abortion emerged. Both candidates claimed to affirm that life begins at conception, but Mourdock called for the end of abortion on demand. He then extended his remarks with these words:

“This is that issue that every candidate for federal, or even state, office faces, and I too stand for life. I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view and I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have [for abortion] is in that case [where] the life of the mother [is threatened]. I struggled with it for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Immediately, Mourdock was charged with claiming that God intended a rape to happen. A spokesperson for the Obama campaign said that President Obama “felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women.” Democratic operatives and media voices denounced Mourdock as hateful, extremist, and worse, and even many of his fellow Republicans scattered and ran for cover. Some demanded that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney should pull an ad supportive of Mourdock.

A closer look at Mourdock’s comments reveals that the candidate was not in any true sense calling rape “something that God intended to happen.” Everything Mourdock said in that answer flowed from his stated presupposition that life begins at conception, and that every human life is a gift from God.

Nevertheless, the liberal media went into full apoplexy, painting Richard Mourdock as a woman-hating extremist with reprehensible views on an issue as serious as rape.

Almost none of those who quoted Mourdock in making these charges used the full quotation, much less the audio of its delivery in the debate. The full quote reveals that the candidate was affirming the full dignity of every human life, regardless of the circumstance of conception.

To their credit, some in the media saw through the controversy. Writing for The New Republic, Amy Sullivan made clear that she disagrees with Mourdock’s position, but she honestly explained his words, and she expressed disappointment in his treatment by many liberal commentators.

In her words:

“Despite the assertions of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don’t think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women or want to control women. I think they’re totally oblivious and insensitive and can’t for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I think most don’t particularly care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn’t have over her own body. But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances in which a pregnancy came about.”

She is exactly right, and bravely so.  She continued:

“Take a look again at Mourdock’s words: “I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And…even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The key word here is “it.” I think it’s pretty clear that Mourdock is referring to a life that is conceived by a rape. He is not arguing that rape is the something that God intended to happen.”

Amy Sullivan also acknowledged that Mourdock’s position is “a fairly common theological belief.” Her candor and honesty were refreshing exceptions to most of the coverage.

Similarly, Kevin Drum, writing in the liberal journal Mother Jones, also registered his disagreement with Mourdock’s argument. Nevertheless, he was bold to ask the obvious — “can’t we all acknowledge that this is just conventional Christian theology?” He added, “What I find occasionally odd is that so many conventional bits of theology like this are so controversial if someone actually mentions them in public.”

Both Drum and Sullivan described Mourdock’s argument as a form of theodicy, meaning a defense of God that points to good coming out of evil. They are certainly right to identify this argument as germane to the context of rape and pregnancy, but Mourdock did not actually go so far as to make the argument.

The controversy over his statements reveals the irresponsibility of so many in the media and the political arena. The characterizations and willful distortions of Mourdock’s words amount to nothing less than lies.

At the same time, Mr. Mourdock is responsible for giving the media and his political enemies the very ammunition for their distortions.

The debate question did not force Mourdock to garble his argument. The cause of defending the unborn is harmed when the argument for that defense is expressed badly and recklessly, and Mourdock’s answer was both reckless and catastrophically incomplete.

The issue of exceptions that might justify an abortion cannot be discussed carelessly. Furthermore, any reference to rape must start with a clear affirmation of the horrifying evil of rape and an equal affirmation of concern for any woman or girl victimized by a rapist. At this point, the defender of the unborn should point to the fact that every single human life is sacred at every point of its development and without regard to the context of that life’s conception. No one would deny that this is true of a six-year-old child conceived in the horror of a rape. Those who defend the unborn know that it was equally true when that child was in the womb.

No doubt, Mourdock meant to express this point, but his words fell far short of an adequate expression of the argument. In his political situation, that failure might be fatal. In terms of the cause of defending life, his garbled argument makes the task more difficult.

And yet, this controversy was really not about a failure of communication. Behind it all is the great chasm that separates those who defend the sanctity of life and those who defend abortion on demand. With that in mind, how should the defenders of life think about exceptions that might justify an abortion?

One truth must be transparently clear — a consistent defense of all human life means that there is no acceptable exception that would allow an intentional abortion. If every life is sacred, there is no exception.

The three exceptions most often proposed call for abortion to be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. These are the exceptions currently affirmed by Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign. What should we think of these?

First, when speaking of saving the life of the mother, we should be clear that the abortion of her unborn child cannot be the intentional result. There can be no active intention to kill the baby. This does not mean that a mother might, in very rare and always tragic circumstances, require a medical procedure or treatment to save her life that would, as a secondary effect, terminate the life of her unborn child. This is clearly established in moral theory, and we must be thankful that such cases are very rare.

Next, when speaking of cases involving rape and incest, we must affirm the sinful tragedy of such acts and sympathize without reservation with the victims. We must then make the argument that the unborn child that has resulted from such a heinous act should not be added to the list of victims. That child possesses no less dignity than a child conceived in any other context.

How should we think of these questions in light of our current cultural and political context? We must contend for the full dignity and humanity of every single human life at every point of development and life from conception until natural death, and we cannot rest from this cause so long as the threat to the dignity and sanctity of any life remains.

In the meantime, we are informed by the fact that, as the Gallup organization affirmed just months ago, the vast majority of Americans are willing to support increased restrictions on abortion so long as those exceptions are allowed. We should gladly accept and eagerly support such laws and the candidates who support them, knowing that such a law would save the life of over a million unborn children in the nation each year.

Can we be satisfied with such a law? Of course not, and we cannot be disingenuous in our public statements. But we can eagerly support a law that would save the vast majority of unborn children now threatened by abortion, even as we seek to convince our fellow Americans that this is not enough.

We must argue for the dignity, humanity, and right to life of every unborn child, regardless of the context of its conception, but we must argue well and make our arguments carefully. The use and deliberate abuse of Richard Mourdock’s comments should underline the risk of falling short in that task.”

“I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/albertmohler

Kevin Drum, “Richard Mourdock Gets in Trouble for His Extremely Conventional Religious Beliefs,” Mother Jones, Wednesday, October 24, 2012.

Amy Sullivan, “Why Liberals Are Misreading Mourdock,” The New Republic, Thursday, October 25, 2012.”

RELATED POSTS

-Albert Mohler, http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/10/26/the-mourdock-moment-life-death-and-lies-on-the-campaign-trail/

Every Pastor is a Translator

by H.B. Charles Jr.

It was my first extended vacation from the first church I served.

I really didn’t want to take the time off. But, wisely, the men insisted.

With my first Sunday off, I decided to visit Grace Community Church to hear Dr. John MacArthur, Jr. I would often attend the Sunday evening service at Grace. But I had never been there on a Sunday morning.

That morning, Dr. MacArthur was preaching about the family. The conclusions he drew from the scriptures affirmed convictions I already held.

However, for some reason, I became angry as I listened to the message. I felt that Dr. MacArthur, whom I had (have) never met, was being harsh, insensitive, and uncaring.

These feelings startled me. Biblically, he did not say one thing I disagreed with. So why was taking this message the wrong way?

My mind began to drift. Rather than listening, I started looking around.

All of sudden, it seemed that I was surrounded by families. A husband, wife, and children sitting in front of me. Sitting behind me. Sitting on the pew beside me.

I then began to understand what I was feeling.

Dr. MacArthur preached a strong word to challenge the families of his congregation to stay together and be what the Lord orders Christian families to be. I felt he was being insensitive because he was not factoring in the issues represented in my congregation.

But my congregation was not there. His was. And he was doing what he was supposed to do. He was preaching to the congregation the Lord had assigned to him. It was my job to explain the word to congregation and to exhort them to live it out.

John MacArthur was preaching to families that needed to be challenged to stay together. I was preaching to single parents, broken families, and young people who had never met their fathers.

We were both heading for the same destination. But we had to begin at different starting points, considering the different people we shepherded.

That day, as I sat in worship, I learned an important lesson: Every pastor is a translator.

Truth is truth, whether I experience it or not. And we can and should learn from anyone who is teaching the truth.

But all preaching is venue specific. We must interpret, translate, and apply the word for the people the Lord has called us to.

As a result of that experience, I determined to learn everything I could from John MacArthur and his church and then go home and “color” what I was learning to speak directly to my congregation.

This is what every pastor must do, no matter what context in which you minister. Be yourself. Start where you are. Use what you have. Preach with confidence in the sufficiency of the scriptures. And trust God to do what you cannot do.

We do not need to abandon the word of God to meet people where they are. There is no reality our people face that the word of God cannot reach. But we must speak the word to our people where they are, believing that God’s word will never return to him void.”

-H.B. Charles Jr., http://www.hbcharlesjr.com/2012/10/25/every-pastor-is-a-translator/

Jesus lives! Thy Terrors Now

Jesus lives! thy terrors now
can no longer, death, appall us;
Jesus lives! by this we know
thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us.
Alleluia!

Jesus lives! henceforth is death
but the gate of life immortal;
this shall calm our trembling breath
when we pass its gloomy portal.
Alleluia!

Jesus lives! for us he died;
then, alone to Jesus living,
pure in heart may we abide,
glory to our Savior giving.
Alleluia!

Jesus lives! our hearts know well
nought from us his love shall sever;
life, nor death, nor powers of hell
tear us from his keeping ever.
Alleluia!

Jesus lives! to him the throne
over all the world is given:
may we go where he has gone,
rest and reign with him in heaven.
Alleluia!

-Christian Friedrich Gellert (1715-1769), 1757;
trans. Frances E. Cox (1812-1897), 1841

40 Reasons for Church

church

By Jesse Johnson

“Is it possible to live a faithful Christian life without being a faithful part of a local church? I’ve heard many people make the argument that it is indeed possible—especially if there are no good churches around. I disagree.

At the bare minimum, there are forty different commands in the New Testament to live life in some sense with other believers. While certainly it is possible to do some of these with Christians in general, the weight of this list should convince you of the necessity of having on going relationships with other believers.

And those relationships are only strengthened by the fellowship of the local church. In fact, I submit that some of this list is simply impossible to obey if you do not have the kind of ongoing  and ever increasing fellowship with other believers that only comes through ministry in a local church:

  1. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)
  2. Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
  3. Build up one another (1 Thess 5:11)
  4. Be of the same mind as one another (Romans 12:1315:5)
  5. Comfort one another in the face of death (1 Thess 4:18)
  6. Employ your spiritual gifts in serving one another (1 Peter 4:10)
  7. Pray for one another (James 5:16)
  8. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
  9. Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  10. Encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11)
  11. Greet one another (2 Cor 13:12)
  12. Don’t become boastful in challenging one another (Gal 5:26)
  13. Be kind to one another (Eph 4:32)
  14. Abound in love for one another (1 Peter 1:22)
  15. Live in peace with one another (1 Thess 5:13)
  16. Love one another (2 John 5)
  17. Fervently love one another (1 Peter 1:22)
  18. Have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
  19. Don’t judge one another (Romans 14:13)
  20. Take communion (the Lord’s Table) with one another (1 Cor 11:33)
  21. Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
  22. Regard one another as more important than yourself (Phil 2:3)
  23. Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2)
  24. Admonish one another (Rom 15:14)
  25. Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
  26. Do not lie to one another (Col 3:9)
  27. Bear with one another (Col 3:13)
  28. Forgive one another (Col 3:13)
  29. Teach and admonish one another (Rom 15:14)
  30. Care for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
  31. Cloth yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
  32. Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  33. Do not complain against one another (James 5:9)
  34. Show forbearance to one another (Eph 4:2)
  35. Speak to one anther in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19)
  36. Give preference to one another (Rom 12:10)
  37. Don’t bite and devour one another (Gal 5:15)
  38. Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21
  39. Seek the good of one another (1 Thess 5:15)
  40. Don’t forsake assembling with one another (Heb 10:25)

That last one brings the whole list full circle. If being a Christian means nothing more than making a decision about Jesus Christ,than none of this matters. But if being a Christian means stepping into a life altering world, where God desires your sanctification and gives you the means to grow and the commands to follow, then it is simply impossible to do that outside of the context of a local church.”

-Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/40-reasons-to-be-part-of-a-local-church/

Baby Murder

Strong words from apologist John Stott:

“How can we speak of the termination of a pregnancy when what we really mean is the destruction of a human life? How can we talk of therapeutic abortion when pregnancy is not a disease needing therapy and what abortion effects is not a cure but a killing? How can we talk of abortion as a kind of retroactive contraception when what it does is not prevent conception but destroy the conceptus? We need to have the courage to use accurate language. Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood, and any society that can tolerate this, let alone legislate for it, has ceased to be civilized.”

-John Stott,  via http://www.geneveith.com/2012/10/12/accurate-language-for-abortion/

New Jersey Police Arrest Christians for Evangelizing in Public Park

By Heather Clark

“Police in New Jersey charged six Christians yesterday for evangelizing in a public park without government permission, and for causing some hearers to be upset with their Gospel message.

Robert Parker of Millstone, New Jersey told Christian News Network that he and several Christians from Bread of Life Fellowship in Wayne were all cited on Saturday as they witnessed to passersby in Journal Square in Jersey City. He stated that Richard Corniel of Paterson, a Marine who had served in Iraq, was preaching the Gospel when he was approached by Officer Chris Baker, who immediately shut down Corniel by asserting that a permit was required for his activities. Officer Baker also reportedly informed the Christians that they were in a “private park” and that they had to leave the city-owned property.

When Parker first spoke to the police, he stated that Officer Baker demanded identification from all of the Christians under the threat of arrest. Parker said that at first he declined, but police insinuated that if they provided identification, everything would be fine. However, that did not turn out to be the case.

“He told us, ‘That will cost you $250 a piece,’” Parker recalled the officer stating. “He said, ‘Anybody who is with them gets a ticket.’”

Parker explained that the police also confiscated the mobile phone of one of the Christians who was recording the incident, contending that it was against the law for them to record police, and that the officers were taking the phone as part of an investigation.

In addition to engaging in open-air preaching and one-on-one witnessing, the Christians were also distributing Gospel literature to those inside the park. However, Jersey City police told them that they were not permitted to hand out tracts in the entire city without government permission.

“He kept asking me, ‘Do you know where you’re at? Do you know where you’re at?” Parker outlined.

When the supervising officer arrived on the scene to assess the situation, he agreed with Baker. Parker said that at this point, there were five to six law enforcement officials surrounding them.

When contacted, the Jersey City Police Department stated that because members of the public were upset with the message being proclaimed, the officers had a right to prevent potential violence. They stated that in such cases, police protocol is to disperse the crowd and silence the speaker.

However, some legal experts have noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that heckler’s vetoes — the silencing of speech based upon the reaction of the hearer — are impermissible.

In the case of Terminiello v. Chicago (1949), which involved a man who was cited for “breach of the peace” due to the reactions of those who opposed his views, the court ruled:

“Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.”

The Christians shut down in Jersey City yesterday were issued citations that stated that they were being charged with “breach of the peace” as well. Others cited besides Parker and Corniel include Patrick Colacicco of Iselin, Alexander Solis of Plainfield and Juan Luck of Piscataway. Police also informed Luis Zapata of Palisades Park that they would send his citation in the mail.

A hearing date has been set for November 23rd at the Jersey City Municipal Court. The Christians are not allowed to return without obtaining a permit for their activities.

Editor’s Note: Those wishing to express concerns about the matter may contact Mayor Jerramiah Healy at 201-547-5200 or email mayorhealy@jcnj.org, District Attorney Gaetano Gregory at 201-795-6400 or email hcpo@hcpo.org and Newark FBI Special Agent In Charge Michael Ward at 973-792-3000 or email newark@ic.fbi.gov “

-Heather Clark,  http://christiannews.net/2012/10/07/new-jersey-police-charge-six-christians-for-evangelizing-in-public-park/

Ten Worship Leading Myths

By Jamie Brown

“There isn’t a worship leader in the world who doesn’t struggle with regular, persistent, frustratingly silly (but still dangerous) moments of doubt/fear/anxiety/self-consciousness/jealousy. We start to believe myths that tell us we should be different, or we aren’t talented enough, or we shouldn’t uphold certain principles. These myths weaken our ministry as worship leaders.

Here are ten common worship leading myths that come to mind:

1: Every week you have to be more creative than the last. Wrong. Every week you get to point people to Jesus again.

2: Don’t waste too much time thinking/praying about songs for Sunday. Wrong. This is your most important job.

3: You need a great voice. Wrong. If God calls you then you’re the man for the job. Sing with abandon.

4: You have to stay up-to-date with all the new stuff. Wrong. None of the stuff changes lives. Jesus does.

5: You’ve really arrived when you get famous. Wrong. The Church needs servants not celebrities.

6: if people aren’t into it then something’s wrong with your leading. Wrong. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Be patient.

7: Anyone with a willing heart should serve on the worship team. Wrong. Look for heart AND giftedness.

8: The Holy Spirit only shows up on the 4th song. Wrong. Don’t create formulas. Magnify Jesus in whatever time you have.

9: You’d be happier at another church. Wrong. You’d just have different challenges and different reasons to be unhappy.

10: You should speak before every song. Wrong. The more you talk, the less they hear what you’re actually saying.

I know I missed several hundred more myths that worship leaders believe. If you’ve got any to share, I’d love to hear them.”

-Jamie Brown,  http://worthilymagnify.com/2012/10/10/ten-worship-leading-myths/

Are we true to the gospel?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

The gospel is in these verses: “. . . as God in Christ forgave you.”  The rest of it is how we are to be true to that gospel, how not to be a living denial of the very gospel we profess, how to be living proof of that sacred gospel.

Faithfulness to the gospel is more than signing a doctrinal statement.  That’s a good thing to do.  But faithfulness to the gospel is more.  Far more.

Faithfulness to the gospel is also treating one another as God in Christ has treated us.  It is not that hard to sign a piece of paper or take a vow that we stand for the gospel.  Again, that’s a good thing to do.  But it is far more demanding to bear living witness to the gospel by denying the demands of Ego and treating one another with the grace God has shown us in Christ.

When the gospel actually sinks in, we change.  Winning no longer matters.  Getting in the last word no longer matters.  Payback no longer matters.  We now perceive such things as contemptible, compared with the display of God’s grace in Christ.

Unbelieving people are not impressed by our official positions on paper.  They will not pay attention – nor should they – until they see the beauty of the gospel in our relationships.

Jonathan Edwards, observing his wife under the influence of the Holy Spirit, noted this about her:

“There were earnest longings that all God’s people might be clothed with humility and meekness, like the Lamb of God, and feel nothing in their hearts but love and compassion to all mankind; and great grief when anything to the contrary appeared in any of the children of God, as bitterness, fierceness of zeal, censoriousness, or reflecting uncharitably on others, or disputing with any appearance of heat of spirit.”

Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:377.”

Thanks to Ray Ortlund,  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2012/10/08/revival-replaces-reproach/

No Golden Age in Church History

By Marc Cortez

“I often ask my students to give me a quick summary of church history. It’s a good way to see what they know, and, more importantly, what they think they know. The results are fascinating. Beyond the unsurprising fact that most know very little about the story of God’s people between the end of the New Testament and the day before yesterday, the stories usually have at least one thing in common: a Golden Age.

THE GOLDEN AGE MENTALITY

Here’s how the story goes.

At some point in history, the church got things right. This could be the early church, the Reformation, the Puritans, or some other group. But, whoever it was, they nailed it. They weren’t perfect, of course. But they got as close as we’re likely to get this side of heaven.

And the reason this generation really stands out is because the other generations got things so badly wrong. These are the Not-Golden Ages. During these periods, you still have the faithful minority, the Christians who reflect the values of the Golden Age and somehow manage to eke out a faithful existence among the depraved majority. But, for the most part, these periods were mostly flawed examples of what happens when the Church goes astray.

At this point in the story, every student agrees on one thing: we are not in a Golden Age now. That fascinates me. Since I hear about the Golden Age from almost every student, you’d think that sooner or later I’d run into someone who would identify this age as the golden one. But that’s never happened. Every student agrees that we’re in a Not-Golden Age. And, to be honest, whenever I hear that many people agreeing on something, I get a little suspicious.

4 PROBLEMS WITH THE GOLDEN AGE MENTALITY

So that’s the story. And it’s one that I hear from almost all of my students. But there are at least five problems with that way of telling the story.

1. The Golden Ages weren’t very golden.

Every cherished Golden Age had its share of problems. For the early church, just read both of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, with their divisiveness, immorality, and arrogance. Or his letter to the Galatians and their problems with legalism. Or try the seven letters in Revelation. Even Peter, rock of the church that he was, exhibited his share of brokenness. If this is the Golden Age ofChristianity, we’re setting the bar kind of low.

And the same could be said for every Golden Age. Even the great Reformers of the 16th century struggled with infighting, jealousy, arrogance, and even outright persecution and violence. That doesn’t mean these generations can’t inspire us with their examples of Christian faithfulness in a broken world. But none of them got it “right,” whatever that even means.

If you doubt, just read the books and letters written during each “Golden Age.” None of those people thought they were living during some great era of the Church. Instead, they all wrote about the great challenges and terrible failures of the day.

And part of the problem with the Golden Age mentality is that it blinds us to the weaknesses of these great generations. You don’t learn from someone by ignoring their brokenness. Indeed, I think you learn far more when you truly understand their failures as well as their victories.

2. The Not-Golden Ages weren’t that bad.

The flip side is that the other generations are never as bad as the Golden Age mentality makes them out to be. The great example here is the so-called “Middle” Ages. Even the name suggests that nothing good really happened during this time. This is just the part of the story you have to endure if you want to get from the high-water marks of the early church and the Reformation. The dreaded “middle” part of the trilogy.

But none of the Not-Golden Ages deserves that reputation. Each had more than its share of faithful ministers, brilliant theologians, and dedicated missionaries. And in each, the gospel was proclaimed. Not perfectly, of course. But we all struggle with that.

The way we usually tell the story comes with two dangers. First, it’s almost impossible to emphasize how terrible a generation was and seek to learn from it at the same time. The one blinds us to the possibility of the other. But each generation has its own voice, and we silence those voices to our own detriment.

Second, if these Not-Golden ages were really that bad, if the gospel was almost entirely lost and the Church virtually ceased to function as the people of God, what does that tell us about God’s faithfulness and the work of the Spirit over time? Even at its lowest, the Church is still the Church. Bruised, battered, and broken, but still God’s people.

3. The Golden Age Mentality is Pessimistic

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Our Age isn’t as bad as we think it is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this generation is perfect, or even great. It’s not hard to look around and see all the problems and challenges we face. But, as we’ve seen, that’s been true of every generation.

Yes, we should be aware of our failings. But the Golden Age mentality tends to get stuck in that mode, blinded to the amazing things that God is doing in this age. In the last fifty years, we’ve seen unprecedented growth in our ability to reach new people groups with the gospel. Churches in South America, Africa, and Asia have exploded with new conversions, spreading their influence in ways no one would have thought possible even a single generation earlier. Even North American and Europe have seen God working in incredible ways.

But the Golden Age mentality struggles to see any of the good in this age. It’s almost as though they’ve placed a shining halo on top of their chosen age. The brilliant light from the halo blinds them to the flaws and foibles of that age. But, at the same time, the shadow it casts shrouds every other age in darkness.

4. The Golden Age mentality is geocentric.

As I said earlier, I find it fascinating that no one ever lists our own age as one of the Golden Ages of the church. If you even suggest that it might be, people will either stare at you blankly, laugh at you openly, or offer you a nice soft place to sit while they try to find you some professional help.

But why not? As I’ve just said, we’ve seen God move in some amazing ways in the last fifty years. If you didn’t live in North America or Europe, you might well be open to seeing this as one of the Church’s great Golden Ages. (I’m not saying that we should, of course, just that it wouldn’t be an unreasonable claim.)

And this highlights one of the problems of the Golden Age mentality: it tends to focus on one, narrow part of the Church. Even if the Reformation was a Golden Age for the church in Western Europe, what about the rest of the world? How was it for them? Do we even know? And the same could be said of every other high/low point in our story.

EVERY AGE A GOLDEN AGE

Have there been periods in church history filled with amazing men and women accomplishing great things for the Kingdom of God? Absolutely. And we should celebrate those people and the times in which they lived. But we can do this without closing our eyes to their blights and blemishes.

Does the church have amazing men and women accomplishing great things for the Kingdom of God today? Absolutely. We should celebrate them as well. Our age isn’t perfect, but that shouldn’t blind us to all that God is doing and will continue to do.

There was no “Golden Age.” Or maybe we’d be better off saying that every age is a Golden Age; that is, a time when God is still faithfully working through his people to spread his gospel and display his glory throughout this broken and fallen world.”

-Marc Cortez,  http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/there-was-no-golden-age.html