Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?

Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?

People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?

Matt Maher on Christian Unity

UnknownMatt Maher is a twice Grammy-nominated Christian musician. He was a finalist for both an album and a single in 2014 and is once again a finalist in 2015. He is one of the most talented original artists that I have had the privilege of knowing as a Christian friend.

Matt is a life-long devout Catholic and a deep friend of Christian unity. He sings to audiences of young Catholics and evangelicals all over America. Both are drawn to the man and his music for good reason. His songs honor Christ and the faith of serious Christians. He is not a divider but uniter. I am honored to be Matt’s friend and hope that you too will enjoy his comments today on the power and importance of Christian unity.

The Seven Last Words of Christ by Franz Joseph Haydn

DaliCrucifixion-160x160Readers who did not grow up in a liturgical tradition are not as likely to have experienced the seven last words of Christ in a Holy Week context. I had preached at Good Friday services but my experience Tuesday evening at Dominican University, where I heard a string quartet play Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ” was a complete immersion experience in the richness of a Holy Week celebration. It is in this spirit that I encourage you to listen to the broadcast of this event tonight, at 8 p.m., on WFMT in Chicago. You can access the broadcast on the web at:

Franz Joseph Haydn considered “The Seven Last Words of Christ” to be one of his greatest works. Haydn’s profound religious convictions informed this music deeply. Without a deep understanding of what Haydn actually did in this music it is hard to appreciate just how well he accomplished his purpose. Haydn wrote: “Each sonata or movement, is expressed by purely instrumental music in such a way that even the most uninitiated listener will

By |April 18th, 2014|Categories: Christ/Christology, Death, Music, Personal|

The Seven Last Words of Christ – The Franz Joseph Haydn Symphony

lg-vermeerChrist_0414Millions of Christians around the world will hear the “Seven Last Words of Christ” over the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours. I heard them this week and understood them in a wholly different way.

While I have participated in a number of contexts in which these words of Christ have been read, sung and even preached, this week I experienced them in word and music in one of the most moving presentations of the seven words that I’ve ever heard. The occasion was the performance on Tuesday evening of the Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) symphony, “Opus 51– The Seven Last Words of Christ.” Haydn’s work was originally composed in 1786 and first presented on Good Friday in 1787. The original setting was the austere underground grotto of Santa Cueva (Spain) which was completely dark but for the wick of a single lamp, hung from the ceiling. Following the moving Introduction the bishop recited the first of the seven words, moved to the altar and there knelt quietly during the sonata. The bishops words served as a spoken meditation

By |April 17th, 2014|Categories: Christ/Christology, Death, Music, Personal|

Stanton Lanier in Concert – April 12


stanton-lanier1ACT3 Network is pleased to present the musical artistry of Stanton Lanier in concert on Saturday, April 12. This event begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public. (A retiring offering will be taken for the artist.) This concert will be hosted by Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois. If you are not a resident of Windsor Park you should register for this event even though there is no charge. Seating is limited. Go to to register.

The best introduction to Stanton Lanier is to first listen to his music before you listen to his story. Stanton’s stated mission, to offer “peace and rest in a hurried world,” is accomplished through storytelling, but not in words. His stories are told through instrumental melodies on the piano, transporting a global listening audience to that unique interior place that brings peace to each person’s life and circumstances.

You can meet and hear Stanton Lanier at

From his “2011 Best Neo-Classical Album” nomination (ZMR Music Awards) and “2011 Notable Sacred Music” selection (Christianity Today) for A

By |March 28th, 2014|Categories: ACT 3, Music, Personal|

A Solo Pianist with a Great Gift and Deep Christian Faith

UnknownI discovered concert pianist Stanton Lanier through my friend Chris Fabry on his afternoon broadcast on the Moody Broadcast Network during the Advent season. I wrote to Stanton Lanier shortly after I began to listen to his music regularly. Recently we met by telephone and spoke about our faith, personal journey and ministries. I hope and pray that our paths will become even more connected in 2014. This man’s albums Unknown-1are all downloaded on my personal iTunes list. I listen almost every day, especially at quiet moments and during some of my reading and writing on the Internet. His rare gift of instrumental music and deep, abiding faith is like none that I have discovered. The fact that Windham Hill Records has embraced published his solo work says a great deal too. More importantly the man behind this music is a faithful, Christ-centerred artist. I believe in helping such faithful artists do their work. Buy some of Stanton Lanier’s albums if you like what you hear. I think you

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: Friendship, Music, Personal|

Don't Let the Suburbs Kill My Soul

My friend Jeff Gokee, executive director at partner ministry PhoenixONE, shared this You Tube song with me yesterday. It is written and performed by Christian musician Ben Rector. I had never even heard of the guy until I listened to this song. The plaintive and prayerful plea is to “not let the suburbs kill my soul.” I have done a lot of reading and viewing lately about how suburbia broke down community, broke up America’s cultural oneness and then drove us to independence in radical ways that harm our collective soul. This music strikes me as a haunting challenge to life as I’ve known it my entire adult life. I now pray, “Lord, do not let the suburbs kill my soul.” Tell me what you think when you hear it.

Hymns of Thanksgiving: A Special Podcast from Beeson Divinity School

Hymns of Thanksgiving-Beeson PodcastA special  Beeson Divinity School podcast on the great hymns of Thanksgiving will surely prove encouraging and inspiring to many of you. You can find it here. This podcast is a discussion between Timothy George and Paul Richardson (past president of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada), and includes choral recordings of the hymns that are included in the podcast. Dr. George and all my friends at Beeson who worked on this project envisioned this as something that families could listen to together on their Thanksgiving road trips. It is a way to turn your hearts toward God’s goodness to his beloved people. Among other things you will learn in this podcast is the historical fact that many of our most loved Thanksgiving hymns came out of times of extreme suffering.

By |November 21st, 2011|Categories: Church History, Music|

Awesome! Pop-Up Hallelujah Chorus at Macy

This incredible video, from a project called "Random Acts of Culture," so moved me that I wept at my desk this afternoon. What an incredible experience. Be prepared to be moved to your core at the power of the text of Scripture in the lives of people through a cultural form that can still exercise great influence. When you click the hyperlink you will see the video icon and the play button clearly on your screen.

Awesome! Pop-Up Hallelujah Chorus at Macy.

By |November 8th, 2010|Categories: Culture, Music|

The Story of Amazing Grace That You May Never Have Heard

WP Well-known singer Wintley Phipps, born in Trinidad and Tabago in 1955, moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, at a very early age where he later attended Kingsway College, a Seventh-day Adventist Christian Academy. Before he became a world-renowned singer he also attended Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, where he received a Bachelors of Arts degree in Theology. I have a particular interest in Oakwood University since the campus borders the property where my mother lay in a rehab center before she passed into the presence of Christ less than three years ago in Huntsville. I wrote about Oakwood at that time commenting on my visit to the slave cemetery next door on the grounds at Oakwood. The school was begun by faithful Adventists who cared for slaves before the Civil War and for the poor former-slaves who struggled to recover after the war. Phipps later earned a Masters of Divinity degree from the best-known Adventist school, Andrews University in Berrien Springs,

By |June 16th, 2010|Categories: Church History, Music, Personal|