Singing for Apprentices?!

  • 29 August 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

"Why are you going to seminary to study worship? All a song leader needs to do is open the hymnal and choose 3 songs." 

My aunt said this to me just before my family and I moved to Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1994. I was pursuing a church leadership degree with a focus on congregational worship and music. My wife and I have often chuckled about her words. Yet they stay with me for two reasons. First, I'm sad that my aunt didn't understand what I wanted to learn. Second, I think congregational singing is often an underappreciated means of forming one another as Jesus' apprentices. 

In November, Mennonite Brethren from across Canada will meet in Abbotsford for the biennial Equip Study Conference. This year's theme is "Transforming Discipleship." According to the preparatory materials, "A growing disciple is one who is being transformed in such a way that the deeds of Jesus, done in the power of Jesus, become an increasingly natural way of life." Simply put, a disciple is an apprentice of Jesus. 

According to Paul in the New Testament, believers gather regularly to build up the church and each other (1 Corinthians 14). Another writer teaches that believers meet to provoke each other to love and to do good deeds; they also meet to encourage each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). Since singing has been a part of Christian meetings since the church began (cf. Ephesians 5:19a), I'm prompted to ask, "How does singing build up the church? And how does singing train apprentices?"

A Child Named Laughter

  • 16 December 2016
  • Keith Reed

Abraham, Sarah, 3 strangersI don’t anyone who would classify the Bible as a comedy, but many of its pages are filled with laughter.

For instance, God chooses a man named Abram (which means father) as his starting point for making a new nation. This sounds like an excellent choice except that his wife is barren. And as the years go by, God’s promise is threatened even further. When God decides to give new names to the white-haired couple, the situation becomes so ironic that it reaches comedic levels. The man is now called “Father of many” (Abraham) and his wife’s new name becomes “Noblewoman” (Sarah). Each of them laugh when they’re told they’ll have a son within the next year and I can’t help but think that I would have done the same thing. The comedy reaches its apex when God tells them to name their boy “Laughter” (Isaac). 

I used to think that Isaac got his name because his parents couldn’t control their giggles, but God often gives names as a testimony for what He will do. I can’t imagine Abraham laughing as he prepared to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22:1-19), but perhaps it was Laughter’s name that helped the old man remember God’s promise. No matter how much our present circumstances may threaten God’s promises, they do not fully negate what He said He will do. 

Many years later, a pair of unsuspecting couples would share in the laughter that comes from seeing God do the impossible. The births of John (“Jehovah is a gracious giver”) and Jesus (“Jehovah is salvation”) proved yet again that nothing is too difficult for God (Genesis 18:14).

When we witness God do the impossible, the most fitting things to do are to laugh and to worship.

Question: What has God recently done in your life that has caused you to laugh and to worship?

Keith Reed is the Associate Director of MinistryLift at MB Seminary.  

What are Your Primary Worship Languages?

  • 2 November 2015
  • Randy Wollf

In his book Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas describes nine ways that people typically worship and experience God. Just like we tend to love others in certain ways (see The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman), Thomas suggests that we tend to approach God in certain ways.

Identifying our primary worship languages helps us to engage in practices and find spaces that foster intimacy with God.

How do you prefer to worship God? (If you're not sure, here's a link to a free online assessment.)

Naturalists experience God in a special way when immersed in God’s creation. Going for a walk in a forest or sitting beside a creek helps them sense God’s presence. 

Sensates love God with their senses. As a family, we have celebrated a Christian version of the Passover feast in preparation for Easter. The food and drink tell a powerful story of God’s deliverance. Sensates love this kind of worshipful experience that engages their senses.