PREACHIN’ AND SINGIN’
Ongoing conversations among Baptists in recent days regarding the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate have once again reminded me of the streams of Christian thought and practice that flow into and are part of Baptist worship. As a worshiper and student of worship, all this talk has reminded me of study about Particular and General Baptists and, of course, about the Sandy Creek and Charleston Traditions and their effect on Baptist worship. As I imagine most all who read this will know, I was raised in the home of a Baptist pastor. As such I had the privilege to worship in many different kinds of environments growing up. Mom and Dad had deep appreciation for classical music training. Mom has a masters degree in organ from Baylor, and Dad had a pleasing bass baritone voice, and loved good choral music. The churches Dad pastored all had a certain accepted decorum in the worship environment, but stiffness, or formalism was certainly never an understood objective. On the other hand, I often accompanied Dad when he was preaching in revivals in churches where the environment could be called lively, and even a bit raucous by comparison at times. In my earliest days of music ministry I accompanied Dad to the Tennessee Baptist Evangelism conferences where, in that day, a wide breadth of preaching styles were often displayed. I found a deep richness in the variety of stylistic approach to preaching as well as musical expression of those gatherings. Though widely varied in style, the engagement of worship centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ engaged in and expressed through preachin’ and singin’ (or sangin’ in some parts of the state).
Last Thursday through Saturday I had the privilege of leading music in worship for a Tennessee Baptist gathering that, by name and atmosphere, reminded me of our heritage of campmeetings. The event itself was even called simply Carson Springs Camp Meeting, and was held in Stokely Chapel at the Carson Springs Conference Center. In three days I led 25 songs in 11 timeslots and heard 14 sermons from 11 different preachers. I was joined by Mike Bundon and Anne Allen in sharing music for encouragement and ministry with highlights being Mike’s presentation of the Ken Medema song, Moses, that brought the proverbial house down, and the opportunity to sing a couple of duets with Mike and enjoy the privilege of harmony with a brother in Christ.
While reminding me of something of our Baptist roots, the Carson Camp Meeting also prompted me to reconsider the power of simplicity. Granted, we were singing and preaching before a group comprised primarily of preachers, who were anticipating the Lord’s presence, and were therefore quite ready to worship together. Then again…is that not the point at all times when we gather for worship? In fact, one of the fine messages preached in the three days was given by Bro. Gary Vandergrif, Union Baptist in Maynardsville, in which he addressed that very issue while preaching from Psalm 63. He reminded us that our longing for God was itself a work of His grace! It was powerful. He reminded us of the unique environment in which the called out ones (ekklesia), those called into gathering for worship, meet the One Who has called us together.
As you lead worship in your Tennessee Baptist Church, remember that we join the stream of a long line of worshipers and ministers of the Gospel. Even in today’s complex culture of entertainment, information, and gluttonous communication, there remains power in the beautiful simplicity of Preachin’ and Singin’ the Gospel of Jesus Christ, trusting Him to work among us!