TWIST Reaction 3

So was it important that the excellent things that Bob Kauflin was saying at the TWIST pastor’s conference were being said by a ‘Reformed charismatic’?

At one level the answer has to be ‘no’. The truth is the truth. Doesn’t matter who says it.

But the truth is never contextless, nor are we ourselves. We have relationships and history. And that Bob’s history and ours should intersect at this particular point I think has the potential to be really helpful but also possibly harmful. I have three reasons why it’s positive and three why it’s potentially negative.

First the positives:

  • It’s got to be good for us here in Sydney to listen and interact with people who are  in the same theological ballpark, and yet different enough to challenge us and to highlight our blindspots. Listening to smart and thought-through people from different traditions almost always teaches you something, and keeps you humble.
  • It was also excellent that Bob said the things he did coming from his particular background, because it almost certainly helped people hear the ideas more clearly. What I mean is that if one of our Sydney evangelical leaders had stood up the front and bagged out  the ‘rock concert’ culture of modern Christian ‘worship’, it might easily have been dismissed as an anti-charismatic, anti-Hillsong, anti-emotionalism rant from one of the usual suspects (like me for example!). But because of who Bob was, and where he comes from, I’m sure people listened and took his critique on board (not to mention that he said lots of other positive and insightful things, and delivered the material in a winsome, thoughtful, and convincing way).
  • Thirdly, it was helpful to hear Bob Kauflin speak because it revealed something of the trajectory that the Sovereign Grace movement is on. As Bob himself would readily admit, 20 years ago he would have thought and expressed himself rather differently—on all sorts of issues. As a movement, Sovereign Grace has discovered Reformed theology, and is on a journey to work out the implications of that discovery. Trying not to be too simplistic about it, their movement (led by CJ Mahaney) seems to be on its way out of traditional pentecostalism and into a more Reformed and evangelical space. There is no doubt that they are a gospel-loving, word-centred, genuinely Calvinist bunch. They might not be all the way there (as a glance through their official doctrinal statements will reveal). And perhaps they have come as far as they are going. But this has certainly been their direction in recent times, and it is wonderful to see.

However, I also thought Bob’s charismatic background and context could be unhelpful for us. For three reasons:

  • There are those amongst us who are on the opposite trajectory—that is, who are a bit disgruntled and dissatisfied with Reformed evangelicalism and are looking for ‘something more’. This is the sub-group in our churches (who are always with us) that tend to be susceptible to the charismatic offer of a deeper experience, a higher level of the Spirit’s power, a more victorious life, and so on. And I worry that Bob’s visit may unwittingly encourage and embolden them to go further on this trajectory (that is, away from a word-centred, cross-centred, Calvinist theology and ministry). The irony is that if they do so, they will in all likelihood pass Bob and the Sovereign Grace movement going in the opposite direction!
  • Related to this, although Bob said so many helpful things, he continues to couch all that he’s saying in ‘worship’ language and (to some extent) worship categories. He retains his ‘Worship Development’ title, runs ‘WorshipGod’ conferences, and his book (which I’ve just finished reading) is called ‘Worship Matters’. For a whole range of reasons, I can’t see how labelling our singing as ‘worship’ would be helpful.
  • And finally, I’m not sure that Bob has completely escaped a charismatic paradigm of church music—by which I mean a view of music in which the music is a means for mystical contact with God, a means of ‘encountering God’ or experiencing his ‘active presence’. (But I’d like to re-read his book before I make any further comments down this line.)   (In light of Stephen’s and Bob’s comments below, I think it was a bit unfair to make this third point without substantiation. I’m withdrawing it.)

I think the task before us is to continue to articulate (and put into practice) a robustly evangelical approach to singing: one in which the singing is gospel-centred, and is addressed to one another and to God (depending a bit on what we’re singing); one in which the words and theology are vital, but in which the moving of the affections is also important. And we’re trying to do this in a climate where the charismatic model (exemplified and promoted so widely by Hillsong and others) exerts a constant influence.

Given our context, I think we can make the most of Bob’s visit, and I am grateful to him for coming all this way to see us. So let me say: Bob, thank you for your hard work, your graciousness, your extraordinary musical skill, your good humour and the excellent and stimulating things you had to say.  (And it was a pleasure to meet you in person at last.)

Now, the points I’ve made above raise lots of questions—about ‘worship’ language, for example, and its place. And also about whether evangelicalism really has a theology of the ‘affections’, or whether we need to inject ourselves with a bit of the charismatic movement in order to find some.

But before I say anything else on these topics, I want to hand the microphone to Philip Percival, the director of Emu and the organizing force behind TWIST. Philip and I have been chatting about these issues, and he has thought about them more than anyone I know. So the next entry in this mini-series will be a guest post from Philip …



47 thoughts on “TWIST Reaction 3

  1. I’ve enjoyed this series of posts. It’s good to see Bob has been on a helpful trajectory, and I hope the same could be said of myself. Personally, I don’t feel that Sydney Anglicanism has had music “right” for the past generation, and we can sit back and wait for everyone else to catch up.

    In the late 90s I was a muso in a church in the middle of Western Sydney, that was trying to tow “the Briefing line” faithfully. It was often a negative experience. Songs were put through a theological inquisition (except those from St Matthias Press). Emotional engagement was treated with suspicion. Words like “experience”, “heart” and “feel” were no-go zones. Attempts at excellence were viewed as “performance-ism”. It was dispiriting. I’m sure this is not the outcomes that were intended, but this is what happened “on the ground”.

    Gosh, this turned into a bit of a rant! I didn’t intend that – but I’ve spoken truthfully of my experiences, and I’ve heard of similar happening in other SA churches.

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing what Phillip has to say…

  2. Hi Craig

    I wonder if your western sydney church understood what the briefing was saying.

    I’ve never known the “briefing line” to suggest a “theological inquisition”, be suspicious of “emotional engagement”, ban terminology such as “heart”, “feel”, and “experience”, and discourage “excellence” as being the same as “performance-ism”.

    However – maybe I missed that issue. Perhaps you could point me to the article or issue you had in mind?

    On the other hand, I have seen the Briefing encourage excellence in music – saying it should be done well, be theologically helpful, heartfelt, emotionally engaging and be a positive experience.

    Of course – perhaps I have been reading the wrong briefings.


    • Hi Mike,

      Like Craig, that’s also been my experience, and the experience of others I know that have been involved around the Sydney traps. It would be an interesting study to consider where this attitude came from if the theological brains of Sydney (Moore / Matthias / St Matthias etc) deny this emanated from them. Perhaps there was confusion about whether anti-Hillsong = anti-emotional in what was being written / said. That would suggest the teaching hasn’t been incisive enough. I had to read Tony carefully to be comfortable he wasn’t making the same mistake (perhaps that’s more my expectations of seeing it!).

      For example, I’ve heard senior clergymen in the Synod suggest that the preaching of the Word of God was more pivotal and that as a result singing should be a minor part of gathering. I think this kind of logically loose, insufficiently incisive comment contributes to the experience that Craig and I have had. I say logically loose because given our rightful attention to the theological sanctity of the songs, our songs are either tied to the word of God, if not almost identical to verses from it. So I don’t think its quite right to distinguish between song and word proclamation so distinctly. They aren’t the same, but the bow was drawn a bit long with what was suggested by the clergyman. (I’m don’t think I should drop names given that I can’t recall exact wording).

      I also happen to think that the knee-jerk, anti-emotional, almost deliberately poor praise I’ve experienced is becoming less and less of an issue in recent years – maybe because the reaction against Hillsong is dissipating.

  3. I wonder why we’re hesitant to call music worship when music is a subset of life and worship is all of life. I understand that we’re rejecting a narrowing of the definition, so I think “worship leader” is the wrong title for a muso, but aren’t we also doing an injustice to the idea that music is a subset of worship, and a legitimate means of human expression and connection to God, that the Bible suggests will form part of the new creation, and should form part of our relationship with God (ie Psalm 98)…

    • That is the question I’ve been asking for 10 years. If anything, it’s as though everything is worship except singing. And I just don’t get that.

      • I agree it’s often taken to an extreme, or rejected in an unhelpful knee-jerk way. But it seems pretty clear to me that for a great many modern Christians, “worship” IS limited in their theological vocabulary to “singing”, rather than seeing every right response to the gospel as worship. Given that context, I think Tony’s point is fair: titling all those things “worship” seems to reflect, and will certainly feed, that narrow and limited “worship” mentality.

        Maybe the problem is that too often, we just assume the positive point that, yes, of course corporate singing is worship! If that is affirmed first, the second point (that it’s only one of a huge range of “worship” responses) may not come across as being so reactionary.

    • I think it is a mistake to continue to claim that worship is “all of life.” It is not this in the Bible (see my comments here: Using worship language in this way actually dilutes what the Bible speaks about when it uses worship language (except for Rom 12:1 where the translation “worship” is inappropriate).

      OTOH, I do agree that “singing” should not be equated to “worship” either!

      • Hi Martin,

        Enjoyed your post. Bob made some similar points about the broad range of terms we translate as “worship” in English when he spoke at Twist Brisbane.

        I’m not sure how you’re suggesting the range of words that we’ve brought under the worship umbrella negates the idea that there are a range of activities across our lives that are all worship, and that music is a subset of those activities… I think, when I use the “all of life” language I’m reacting against those who see worship as what you do on a Sunday, or what you do in music, where in fact I’d see it as what you do when you serve God and give him the honour that is his… and surely singing his praise is a subset of that? But I agree that my “worship is all of life” isn’t a great summary of what’s going on in Romans (while I had Romans in mind it wasn’t the only place I was pulling my picture of “worship” from)…

        • Hi Nathan. The problem as I see it is that “we” try and impose upon ‘worship’ meanings which are foreign to both the way it is understood in modern English in general and which do not fit well with biblical usage. As I wrote: “The danger in collapsing distinct terminology, terminology which is not strictly synonymous, into a single English term obscures the meaning of the different texts. If ‘service’ and ‘worship’ are different in meaning but we translate them using the same term, we lose sight of the distinction and can feel free to import the meaning from one context into another.”

          I don’t see how diluting the meaning of the terms is in any way helpful.

          So much of what we do on Sunday is more correctly labelled “worship” than, for example, eating breakfast or preparing dinner. It is more correctly “worship” than getting a good night’s sleep (which I’ve heard suggested as worship), or observing the road rules while driving.

          • How much do you think we need to consider the way the words we collapse into worship were understood in their cultures (OT and NT) in order to avoid committing both illegitimate totality transfers, and oversimplifying our definitions of worship? I suspect we all operate in this debate with slightly different definitions both of what worship is as a concept, and what worship looks like when applied…

  4. and fwiw, I think the tone and angle of Tony’s posts on TWIST have set a wonderful example of how to avoid this ‘vibe’.

    There has been no unemotional/suspicious/smug vibe here. Very easy to hear Tony’s genuine warmth in these articles.

  5. Tony, thanks for these engaging, encouraging, carefully evaluative posts. I only wish I had known that you were sitting at the table next to me at lunch so we could have had a more thorough conversation!

    There are so many things we could talk about, not the least of which is “worship” language. My strategy at the moment (and this would include the book) is to make inroads into the thinking of those who equate singing with worshiping God in two ways. First to help them see that biblical worship is a life response of reverence before and submission to God, initiated and made possible by God himself. Second, to help those who lead and participate in singing God’s praises understand how singing together is meant to glorify God and edify one another at the same time.

    And if I ever talk to anyone going away from a word-centered, gospel-driven theology of singing, I’ll do everything I can to persuade them that they’re doing exactly the opposite of what the Spirit was sent to do – that is, exalt Jesus Christ through his Word.

    Thanks again for the warmth you’ve conveyed in these posts and for everything else you’re doing to advance the gospel and serve the church.

  6. Thanks for this series, Tony – I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated it. And I felt it was really thoughtful and balanced … until your “However” half-way through this post. Not that I have a problem with you disagreeing with Bob! And of your three negative points, I’m with you completely on the second. The first is a good and valid point, though hardly Bob’s fault.

    But I really felt the third point was unnecessary and ungenerous. If you’re not sure, why would you say it (in such a public space), and thus put out there the idea that Bob has “a view of music in which the music is a means for mystical contact with God”?

    All in all, given the tenor of the series, I felt like like it was an overly-critical way to end – “3 positives, 3 negatives … it’s a 50/50 thing”. I’m sure that’s not what you intended, and I don’t want to take away from the rest of the series. But endings matter.

  7. My gripe with the “music as worship” thing, is that it seems (to me) to confine worship ONLY to music. Music is but one (small) part of worship.

    Just see Romans 12: 1.

  8. Well, since Stephen brought it up, I don’t believe Scripture teaches that “music is a means for mystical contact with God, a means of ‘encountering God’ or experiencing his ‘active presence’.” Music is a language of emotion which can soften hearts to make someone more aware, alert, affected, and attentive, but in no way makes God actively present or enables a mystical contact with God. There is an apparent benefit to combining music and the Word or else we wouldn’t have the Pslams or passages like 1 Chron. 16:4-6; Eph. 5:18-20; and Col. 3:16. But only one mediator exists between God and man, and it isn’t music or the music leader. Heb. 10:19-22. That being said, I’m eager to see how something I’ve said or written might be perceived that way.

    • Thanks Stephen.

      Reading back over what I’ve written, I think you’re right. Although that third point I made did reflect the impression I received at a couple of points in my first read through Bob’s book, without substantiation or detail it comes across as a bit of a slur. And it might have been an inaccurate impression!

      So I will pull my head in, and not say anything further until I’ve done some more careful reading and thinking. My plan is to do a joint review of Bob’s book, along with Bryan Chapell’s one on Christ-centred worship — be a couple of months down the track before it comes out.

      Thanks again for your encouraging feedback.

    • Hi Bob

      Thanks for the kind remarks, and the clarifications. It would have been nice to have more time to chat.

      As I mentioned in reply to Stephen, I’m sorry if my comment in this area misrepresents you (and from what you’re saying it does). It wasn’t really fair to make that implication without providing any substantiation — so I will happily withdraw it.

      Maybe the most helpful thing would be to get in touch ‘offline’ after I’ve had a chance to read through your book again and get my thoughts in order.

      Apologies and warm regards.


  9. Yeah, I’m with Mikey Lynch. I think we have to admit there is truth in what Craig said. I think he is also right in saying these things are probably unintended consequences. So of course you won’t find Briefing articles that suggest we should be suspicious of “emotional engagement”, ban terminology such as “heart”, “feel”, and “experience”, and discourage “excellence” as being the same as “performance-ism”. Craig did say that these were the things happening on the ground where he was, rather than specifically taught in the Briefing.

    Years ago when I was the music organiser at St Matthias, I told Phillip (Jensen) that we needed to run a music training day for the musicians and the Bible study group leaders, and that Phillip needed to come and tell them all that he loves music and singing and that we should do these things well. I said they needed to hear it from him. So we organised the day, and had over 200 people (from memory – I remember we ran out of outlines). We had time together where Phillip taught us all, and then we ran some music workshops while the Bible study leaders went off to another session with Phillip on ‘Emotions in the Christian life’. It was a great day.

    But obviously we ran the day because there was a feeling around the place that we shouldn’t put our all into our music just in case someone thought we were seeking glory for our musical abilities etc. I wanted to try and correct that somehow. It is true that people can hear good teaching (“don’t seek glory for yourself when you play music in church”) and then make further assumptions that aren’t in the teaching (“therefore don’t do music well or put any effort into it because it doesn’t matter”).

    Having said all that, I would like to know what you meant, Craig, by “the Briefing line”. Could you elaborate? I’m genuinely curious.

  10. Hi Tony – I was edified and encouraged by your series on TWIST, a conference I would have loved to attend. If I may, I would like to share my observations from this year’s WorshipGod conference that may help clarify some of your concerns regarding “worship” language:
    – During the conference we were repeatedly reminded through word and deed that the conference was not restricted to discussing and considering worship music. I appreciated Bob’s explanation during one of the workshops that the word worship isnt that helpful when not paired with a subject (hence why they organised a WorshipGod conference, rather than a worship conference)
    – In our programmes, the congregational singing was labelled as “Worship in song”: other words used to describe that portion of our meetings in conversations included “corporate worship” and “gathered worship”. I didn’t hear anyone use just the term “worship” to describe the congregational singing portion of the meeting.
    – They do still retain the term worship leader, but from the way Bob defines the term (through the first part of his book – haven’t got the book on me but the definition’s somewhere near the start), I think it makes sense than other titles (eg music leader, song leader), as it describes a worshipper who not only leads musically, but has a teaching role as well (for example, reading and explaining Scripture) and exercises leadership over the meeting when they’re involved.

    So I think at the very least, Bob is aware of how the term “worship” can be an unclear label, and it was evident to me at least that the Sovereign Grace team have tried to be clearer in their use of the term.

    Grace and peace to you,

  11. Hi Emma,

    I think you have summarised my concerns pretty well. Probably not just thinking about the Briefing, but also teaching in the Church Musos Handbook, which was very influential at the time.

    As you point out, I’m sure these were unintended consequences, but they were real nontheless. I’m pleased to see us dialoging over these issues with Bob.


  12. Hi Tony (Tee-Payne),

    Good few articles. Really enjoyed reading them and understanding your thoughts on worship…I mean praise…I mean song. :D I found it very encouraging that you think song leading should be done well, that affections are important (integral?) and should be driven by true knowledge of God and Scripture (see Psalm 100 for what I mean).

    One question that was lurking in my mind: is it true you had a lengthy debate with Don Carson about the use of worship/song once before?

    Having said all that, I think you said something discouraging, perhaps hurtful thing. It links to my earlier comment and relates to this bit of your article:
    “This is the sub-group in our churches (who are always with us) that tend to be susceptible to the charismatic offer of a deeper experience, a higher level of the Spirit’s power, a more victorious life, and so on.”

    I think this is another example of the kind of logically loose talk that I referred to in my above comment. What do I mean?

    Take “deeper experience”. I can’t really tell what you mean by that. Does it mean, “I open my mouth and pant, because I long for God’s commandments”. Or perhaps “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul for you, O God?” Or perhaps “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Those sound like some pretty deep experiences to me (and the latter is talking about the Spirit). Or are you referring to something else?

    Take “victorious life”. Does it mean “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith”? Or perhaps “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”? Or are you referring to something else?

    I mean, what does “susceptible” suggest? Does this mean that Christians that thirst for a deeper experience of God (as outlined in Scriptures above) or that Christians that are exuberantly thankful for God’s victory over sin and death and that victory now belonging to us (in faith) are somehow weaker than those that don’t? I think that’s hurtful. For those with less conviction, I think that it is this kind of loose logic and language that contributes to the shirking back from the alloying of experience/affection and knowledge in Sydney.

    You have had experiences in the pentecostal church and I’d be surprised if, like others I know well and to some extent like me, there aren’t deeply painful experiences associated with that. However, I think it’s important to be careful about what is said in response to some of its excesses so that we avoid tearing apart was God has put together for us to enjoy.

    Thanks again for your work in these posts.

  13. Tony, thanks for the response. Would love to engage in further conversation as you have time. And impressed that you would take the time to read through my book again! Thanks for caring so deeply about this topic.

  14. Hi Tony,

    I had the privilege of attending a session Bob gave at Moore College recently. It was an incredibly helpful time, and very well received by the students in attendance. I think you’re right that it is slightly unnerving to hear such rich thinking on this topic from someone ‘outside’ of our circles. As a bit of an outsider myself (from NZ) I was appreciative of the context and history you provided for this discussion.

    Personally, I feel like your ‘trajectory’ concern is more a problem with Sydney than with Bob. There may well be an unhelpful reaction here against the approach to music taken by many conservative churches, but Bob can hardly be blamed for this. He isn’t advocating the position that you fear people are running to.

    I also fear than an over zealous dogmatism on the use of ‘worship’ language has actually contributed towards this reaction against conservative theology. Challenging people’s language we can indeed help people to think more deeply about their theology. But sometimes it just sounds like boundary policing, and isn’t matched by an equal commitment to help people transform their thinking and passions. To paraphrase Paul in Colossians 2, arbitrary regulations won’t change our sinful hearts, and I assume neither will policing language necessarily change our theology.



  15. Hi Immanuel, Emma & Craig

    I’m agree there is a problem. However, I just think it’s ungracious (and wrong and naive) to lay the blame for it all at the feet of The Briefing (calling it “the briefing line” and other such examples).

    There are other influences out there other than “The Briefing” and “Hillsong”. Perhaps the issues you point out are a result of something other than “The Briefing”.

    It may be the case that The Briefing has not always been as clear as it could have been. It may be the case that some people haven’t actually spent the time to listen graciously to the briefing articles. It may even be the case that people haven’t listened because of the “camp” the Briefing comes from.

    It’s quite amazing how people have responded so positively to Bob, when he’s said things the Briefing has been saying for years (and getting knocked for saying them!).


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  17. “to lay the blame for it all at the feet of The Briefing”

    Sure, there are a myriad of influences on every church. But I’d argue that The Briefing/Chuch Muso’s Guide have had a pretty enormous influence over music in many SA parishes.

    There’s been some good stuff come out of it all, for sure. But I want to say that I observed some (substantial) difficulties “on the ground”. I felt that Tony’s article had a “We’ve had it right all along” vibe, and I wanted to throw up a challenge to that.

    • Craig, what is the basis for your challenge? Can you show your links between your observed ‘on the ground problems’ to particular teaching (from the Briefing)?


      • Hi Di,

        Regarding the specific problems “on the ground”, I listed those in my first comment. If you are asking me if I can draw a line directly from each problem back to a specific paragraph in the CMG, for example, possibly I could but I’m not inclined to do so. As Mikey said, “it’s the vibe of the thing”.

        Of course, this makes my assessment highly subjective, so people are free to discount that if they wish. But it’s interesting that a couple of people have echoed my comments in this thread. If many people are saying the same thing, usually there’s a smidgeon of truth in there somewhere.


        • Surely our relationships as Christians should be based on more than ‘vibes’ and the ‘opinion of many’. Criticism of such significant ministry as Matthias Media deserves more clarity.

          Craig, you mentioned:
          ‘Emotional engagement was treated with suspicion’.
          ‘Words like “experience”, “heart” and “feel” were no-go zones’.
          ‘Attempts at excellence were viewed as “performance-ism”’.

          Yet in the Church Musician Handbook Tony says (p72):
          ‘Emotions are part of God’s good creation…However, let us put emotions in their right place. Let us not suppress our feelings, as if it is inappropriate to feel strongly about God, and to express this. But let us also not confuse our feelings with the closeness to God that comes only through Jesus Christ. We are close to God because our true life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:1-3).’

          Facing the challenging question: ‘What really pleases God?’, Rob Smith says (p28):
          ‘…what really excites God is when a group of Christians – musical or tone-deaf – begin to serve one another in love and speak the truth to one another in love. I honestly can say that it is my sincere hope that all of us will have great music in our churches, that it will be lead well and that our musicians will continue to increase in skill and ability. But more than all of that, I hope that we may learn to so live and operate in genuine self-giving love that the use of all our gifts will be controlled by this love, and our personal tastes subordinated to our desire to serve others.’

          Here’s my take on the ‘Church Musician Handbook’ from Matthias Media. It is one the best for only $8 (ebook). It’s got far more than $8 worth of thought in the book and wisely seeks to derive practice from theology. There are many articles by different authors – such as John Woodhouse, Rob Smith, David Peterson, Tony Payne and many Australian musicians/singers/songwriters/technicians. It’s a little gem – theologically thoughtful and very practically confronting the many issues faced by Christian pastors and musicians.

          There are articles on so many aspects in the Handbook – topics from song leading to running music teams to the importance of the technical sound equipment, music and children, vocal techniques, teamwork, emotions and much more… The whole book is about doing things well, to the glory of God.


          • Thanks Di. I was going to say something similar, about the very assumption behind the Church Musician’s Handbook being that we should do music well (from choice of songs, to leading, to playing, to PA, to making sure we do the right thing by copyright, etc).

            But you’ve made the case already.


          • Thanks for your comments Di. In hindsight, my initial post was a little too frank. People have invested themselves in these products, and I should be mindful of that.

            As for your other comments, I have no desire to engage in a point by point argument with you, so I will leave it there.


          • Thanks Di

            What you’ve said reflects my own reading of the MM stuff. When actually read, they seem to say the opposite of what various people claim.

            Of particular interest, Bob seems to have said very similar stuff – but he’s not being accused of having a “negative vibe”, being anti-emotional, or encouraging people to be suspicious of emotion or music.


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  19. Can I pick up on Craig’s comments, Dianne?

    I think on the massively important primary emphases, ‘the Briefing line’ or ‘Church Musicians Handbook’ say the right and most important things.

    This isn’t a discussion about the most important things… ‘the vibe of the thing’ is about secondary things where we have at times negelcted secondary things.

    So in the quotes you listed, each of them make a positive statement about quality or emotions and then immediately say ‘however’ or ‘but’.

    The effect of this kind of rhetoric is a subtle message of undermining the value of what is affirmed. I think that’s what can lead to the ‘vibe of the thing’: you can never mention the positive nature of emotions without immediately rushing to qualify that statement.

    • Hi Mikey
      I wouldn’t call the ‘but’ clauses qualifications. Rather, they make clear statements of warning out of love for others. The question is: are they good warning vibes? And if not, what is unbiblical about them? Are they against the knowledge of God? Are the warnings building the church? It is not a secondary issue when it becomes an issue of how one encounters God and what pleases him.

      I heard a sermon Bob Kauflin gave in Sydney and he did the same thing in his talk on a broad scale: following his positive points for physical expressiveness Bob added the warning – it can be self-glorifying, self gratifying, self deceiving… eg can be exuberant but living in adultery.

      Paul seems to constantly put warning alongside positive. It’s the way of wise living in the last days, isn’t it?

      The scriptures are oozing with what is great about the salvation won for us in Christ, and yes, we have indescribable joy. We have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, we are raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus and we are now citizens of heaven.

      In Hebrews 12 it states that we’ve come to Mt Zion, to the city of the living God, to innumerable angels in festal garments and to the assembly of the firstborn, to God, the judge of all and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

      Such reality is foot stamping, hand waving, shouting type news!! It truly is. It is also comforting, quietening and overwhelming. Yet the writer goes straight on to give warning… ‘See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”’

      The response to such mind blowing knowledge is to heed the warning concerning the need to listen to Jesus.

      Was the writer a killjoy? No, he was a realist who feared God and feared for people. He wanted the vibe of ‘please take care’, ‘watch out’, ‘don’t be deceived’, ‘don’t drift’, to be hanging around because he knew the possibility of having an evil, unbelieving heart, leading people to fall away from the living God, in these days of tribulation.

      Are the warnings/prophecies from MM/Briefing similar to those given by the NT writers? They should be rightly tested and given appropriate response.

      The writers of the NT had a great sense of urgency for others, warning them so that they might be saved. Warning and teaching ‘vibes’ abound in scripture alongside and a consequence of the glorious gospel, which is, in itself, also a warning.


      • Gosh! That’s a long reply, Dianne…

        You’re absolutely right in what you’re saying. But I’m making a slightly different point. I’m talking about tendencies within a particular church culture. These are built up over time, with lots of verbal and non-verbal, deliberate and accidental acts of communication

        And my fear is that if we always respond to those kind of subtle critiques on ‘vibe things’ with broad biblical defences – we run the risk of being unteachable on such matters.

        There’s no shame in saying we have to some extent accidentally (and out of good motives) created a culture that sometimes is perceived to give off a vibe of negativity towards emotions and musical skill. It’s no one’s fault, and it is just a vibe. And yet to acknowledge that it’s there gives us the ability to adjust a little…

        • Mikey,

          There is both positivity and negativity about ‘emotions’ in scripture. So discernment is needed.

          If there is an ungodly vibe about emotions then the godly correction will come from the knowledge of God, which creates its own culture (and vibes).

          ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Romans 12)

          We constantly need to work within broad theological frames as Jesus did, otherwise we end up calling good vibes bad and bad vibes good.


          • We live in a complex world, though. And sometimes it is wisdom about wider issues than godliness that also create vibes.

            I know godly people who have never really been coached about dress and body language. They give off very negative vibes in their personal manner. It’s not a simple godliness issue.

  20. As a Music Pastor (St Paul’s Castle Hill), I have thoroughly enjoyed the dialog here about music and ministry. Bob Kauflin’s impact on the Diocese through his book ‘Worship Matters’ (and the TWIST events) cannot be underestimated. His insistence that we should seek to engage with God with our hearts, minds and bodies is insightful.
    As Tony has said, Bob’s comments could well have (and have) come from traditional Sydney academics, but the fact they are from a respected international worship leader (reformed Pentecostal?) I too find refreshing.
    My contribution here is small. God commands…and deserves our very best offering. Whether preaching, singing, cleaning up, leading etc, it should be done for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Most will agree with this philosophy, but I sympathise with Craig when he says, this is sadly not always the case; and I mean here at spch as well as at other churches/events.
    The vision of the music team at spch is to ‘pursue excellence, not perfection’. That is, we value the arts and unashamedly use all of the creative tools and resources at our disposal (even though it may be criticised as looking like ‘Hillsong’ etal), to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in a relevant way. We also train and equip volunteers so that their God given gifts can be most effective for the Kingdom. cf. King David (imagine coordinating 4000 musicians, 288 singers, AND all the other tasks associated with building the temple! (1 Chr.)
    Humbly yours,

  21. I’m a bit late commenting on this, but I think I have something to add about the ‘vibe’ issue.

    It is that sometimes people associated with what has been called the Briefing line appear not very engaged during the singing at our assemblies. So we cross our Ts, and say that of course the emotions matter, and our hearts should be engaged as well as our minds when we sing at church.

    But we set a different example. I see church or conference leaders (from my ‘stable’) singing half-heartedly, or busying themselves with something else (whatever is coming next), or sitting writing themselves a note during the song. Perhaps worse still, having a chat or a joke with the bloke sitting next to them. (I am shamed to say I am pinged on that one sometimes.) Or sometimes just walking in late during the first couple of songs.

    All that sends a message: the singing isn’t that important.

    The reason I am thinking of this right now comes from our Synod. Peter Jensen, the chair, has every reason to be distracted, or thinking of what’s coming next on a busy agenda, and occasionally he looks that way during a speech (even perhaps just occasionally bored!) But never during the Bible reading and sermon. And never during the songs. He sings with gusto and a bit smile.

  22. Dear Sandy, I think you are right. When Craig agreed to be our music director 12 months ago – a condition of him saying yes – was that I was in the front row – singing enthusiastically. I think he made a very good point that I need to be modelling that. Occasionally I have caught myself not doing this and I have realised how right his point was. Warmly, Dominic.

    ps here’s the link to the talks:

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