Friday 31 October 2014

What songs should the church sing?

This blog title seems so harmless and yet. And yet, so many battles are constantly fought over which kind songs should be sung in the church. I am not sure that I have clear answers for each matter, but my initial comments are these.

Let us be in balance with Scripture. How many times is singing mentioned in the New Testament? It is only a handful of times and here are some of the references: Acts 16:25, 1 Cor. 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, James 5:13, Colossians 3:16, Matthew 26:30. There are also the songs of accomplishment that are sung in heaven, as recorded in the Book of Revelation as well.

However, we must keep things in perspective. In the New Testament, during the expansion of the gospel, we do not find that singing is a primary distinguishing mark of missionary activity and yet today, in some circles, singing receives a highly prized status. It is not uncommon to hear that churches, and now evangelical and reformed churches, that they must sing the latest songs written, as if we need to prove that we are not out-dated. So it appears that singing new tunes, with the latest Christian song-writers is supposedly a mark of being contemporary, progressive, and relevant to the times we live in. This sounds like a persuasive argument, but it needs examination theologically, exegetically and pragmatically.

One of my favourite verses that relates to the content of our singing in the church, is to be found in Ephesians 5:19. It reads: "Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart".
Let us make some comments on this teaching, as given here by Paul.

1. Singing is expected in the church.

2. The content of our songs matters, because we are to "address one another" with these songs.

3. Addressing means that there is a teaching and learning component, as well as encouragement, as we hear the words of what people sing.

4. There is a variety of content of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. In Sheffield Presbyterian Church, we have an inclusive psalmody position. We believe that psalms should be part of our singing but not exclusively. Some have worked hard to try to use this verse to say that each word is another way of saying a different kind of psalm. This is not persuasive in my opinion. If we are to address one another, then this must include truth in the light of the incarnation and teaching of Jesus Christ, his resurrection and the Holy Trinity. These are not found in their fulness in the Psalms.

5. It is hard to hear people's words that they sing, if they are being drowned out by a band with a loud PA pressing down on the congregation.

6. Congregational singing is required in the church, but this is not to be a sing-along-to-a-band.

7. We have no sense in the Word of God that songs and singing are to be a method to lure people into the church. The Songs of Zion to be sung by the church, are for the church, to glorify God and to encourage one another in the truths of the gospel.

Immediately, blood pressures may rise as you discuss singing in the church, and this tells me that music and singing are emotionally powerful, either for good or not for good. Let us remember that the church must be a worldliness-free-zone. We are not afraid of technology, but we are not trying to project ourselves as being "with it", in order to to gain credibility points. If Christians are confused on these matters, then elders must come back to first principles to teach people a biblical foundation, and this includes matters of singing. The reformed church reforms itself according to the principles of Scripture, not pragmatism.

Monday 27 October 2014

Three new books to consider reading

At the London Presbyterian Conference, followed by a special meeting at Sheffield Presbyterian Church, three books sold out or sold very well at the book table.

These were:

Chad Van Dixhoorn, "Confessing the Faith: A Reader's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith".
Sinclair Ferguson, "From the Mouth of God; Trusting, Reading and Applying the Bible".
Iain D. Campbell, "The Wondrous Cross".

This blog is not simply intended to recommend books, however I do not underestimate the power of the printed page. Written materials can be life-changing and I am not ashamed to make good book recommendations. We need a church that is a thinking church and therefore one that is loving God with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

Hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 12:28-31: "And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these”.

Did you notice that our minds are included in loving God? This aspect has dropped out of some sections of Western Christianity and it must be recovered. Why not pray that you would love the Lord God in all four of these areas: your heart, soul, mind and strength?

Friday 24 October 2014

Ligon Duncan's sermon preached at Sheffield Presbyterian Church, October 2014

Ligon Duncan preached at Sheffield Presbyterian Church on Monday 20th October 2014. It was a most heart-warming and sound exposition of one of Paul's prayers found in Ephesians chapter 3.

The link is as follows:

I unreservedly commend this sermon to you and I trust that it will profit you spiritually.

In the work of the gospel,

Kevin Bidwell

Monday 20 October 2014

London Presbyterian Conference 2014 Recorded Talks

It is amazing how much work and preparation goes into things such as conference organisation. This was certainly the case for the London Presbyterian Conference 2014 for Rev. Darren Moore and myself, with the help of many other people. None-the-less we trust that it was profitable to many people, on many levels.

The talks of each session can be found on the Sheffield Presbyterian Church website:

They will also appear in the coming next couple of weeks on the EPCEW website also. I especially recommend session one by Ligon Duncan on "The Inerrancy of Scripture". For those who are involved in teaching people, in whatever is your vocation, then notice Ligon's lucid, simple teaching style. To teach with such clarity and simplicity is indeed a great skill.


Tuesday 14 October 2014

London Presbyterian Conference 2014

This is the second such conference hosted by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales in the last 2 years. This year the them is "Building by God's Design" and the the topics are based upon the three doctrinal markers of our denomination. These are;

1. Biblical inerrancy
2. The Westminster Standards
3. The Great Commission

The main preachers are Ligon Duncan, Andy Young, Bill Schweitzer and Ian Hamilton. There is a website of the details, times and venue and this is:

The address and details are:
Saturday 18th October 2014 11:30am – 4pm, £5 on the door (free for concessions)

Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London W1C 2DJ

The sermons will be on the EPCEW website after the event.

Monday 6 October 2014

Reading good books can change your approach to Christianity and life

It is hard to estimate the power of the printed page. It may be the power of the electronic page also today, but the "power of the pen" or key board cannot always be measured or over-estimated. God has revealed himself to humanity through his Creation, the rainbow in the sky, the many languages of men which testify of God's miracle at the Tower of Babel and of course ... the Holy Scriptures. In many ways, outside of the coming of Jesus Christ, who is God's only begotten Son, the ways of God are preserved for us through the living word of God which abides for ever (1 Peter 1:23).

However, we are not left to figure things out for ourselves with approximately 750,000 words, which are found in the English Bible. We must recognise that we have 2000 years of church history and teaching, to draw on rich historical and theological resources. Reading the right books can send us on a rich doctrinal trajectory, one which can be life-changing. Perhaps one of the biggest heresies is when you think that you have got it all or that there is little spiritual knowledge that you have not been exposed to.

Let put a spiritual challenge before you. I am going to recommend five Christian books for you to read. I challenge you to read at least two on the list and I would be very surpassed if you remain in the same spiritual condition. Here are five books to begin with.

1. The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink
2. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
3. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
4. Romans Chapter 9 Martyn Lloyd-Jones
5. A Hole in our Holiness by Kevin deYoung

I wanted to also commend John Owen on "The Holy Spirit" because so many people misunderstand altogether the work of the Holy Spirit and confuse things with their own sensual emotions. However, these five books are enough. I hope they can be a blessing to your soul in order to help you to better understand the treasures of God's word, ones that are to be found in Holy Scripture.

Can you remember some of the phrases of the Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world?

Mark 12:24 "Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?".
Luke 24:27 "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself".
Luke 24:45 "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures".