All posts in “Worship”

Christmas in the Congo featured image

Christmas in the Congo

With First Free Rockford’s strong connection to the Congolese church and to Tabitha centers in the capital city of Kinshasa, Christmastime unites us even more.

ReachGlobal missionaries Jim and Ruth Snyder and their family lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1985 to 1996, back when the country was called Zaire. (ReachGlobal is the world mission agency of the Evangelical Free Church of America.) We spoke with Jim via email about his family’s memories of Christmas in the Congo.

From a Nativity play: Herod’s soldiers after receiving the decree from Caesar Augustus. They especially enjoy brandishing the wooden swords. Photos provided by Mike and Julia Anne McCord

Is Christmas a big deal in DRC? It’s a public holiday, right?

Christmas is a VERY big deal. Employers generally give food stuffs (chickens, rice, fish, salt, sugar) to their employees and often have parties in early December which include a meal and the distribution of these. The closer one lives to Kinshasa, the more commercialized it has become. China’s influence (believe it or not) has introduced plastic Christmas trees, lights of all sorts and decorations that are now in many homes and churches. In general, people look forward to the holiday as it affords time off from work and with extended family.

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Church music for a new century

By Jim Killam | Illustration by Nathan McDonald

This summer’s “1 Hit Wonders” sermon series got me thinking about the term’s origin. It refers to any singer or band that produced a single popular song, then was forgotten. Think: The Macarena. Think: Who Let the Dogs Out?

Over the next day and a half while you’re trying to get those songs out of your head (sorry), think about Christian worship music, why we sing the songs we do in church and how many of those songs will be remembered years from now. Differences of opinion about church music might seem like a purely modern discussion. Hardly. 

 

Pastor Luke Teaching about Church Music in the One Hit Wonders Series

Pastor Luke teaching in the “1 Hit Wonders” series

Rediscovering a timeless perspective

Recently, I happened upon a box of old books. One red-covered volume particularly caught my eye: How to Promote and Conduct a Successful Revival, edited by R.A. Torrey and published in 1901. Torrey was a ministry partner of Dwight L. Moody and a key figure in the early days of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute.

Thumbing through this brittle, old book, I stopped on the chapter called Music in a Revival, by Daniel B. Towner. Towner wrote Trust and Obey and dozens of other hymns. He was music director for several churches and finally at Moody from 1893 to 1919.

Here’s what Towner recommended as the 20th century dawned.  It’s a 381-word paragraph, which would have gotten me kicked out of journalism school. But stick with it. Let his thoughts simmer. I’ve bolded a couple of key sentences.

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Patriotic Celebration marks 50th milestone

Our annual Patriotic Celebration received more buzz than ever this year as we celebrated 50 years of honoring our military heroes and thanking God for the true freedom we have in Jesus Christ.

To help recognize the big milestone, we invited all former choir and orchestra directors back for the celebration. We’ve had six directors in total during that time:

  • Bruce Erickson (1970-1983)
  • Otis Skillings (1984-1989)
  • Doug Thiesen (1990-1998)
  • Renee Cooper (1999 to 2001)
  • Kristyn Thor (2002)
  • Eric Walker (2003-2007)
  • Renee Cooper (2008 to present)

Renee Cooper, who serves as our classic worship director, was our director again this year and is the longest-serving director in the group. Bruce Erickson, our first director, attended this year’s festivities, and a few others were unable to attend but did send us videos sharing wonderful memories of the event.

According to Bruce, Patriotic Celebration started in 1970 as a way to bring together a divided country/community during the Vietnam War. It was a positive offering and initially took place at the Sinnissippi Park Music Shell – sometimes after the Fourth of July and sometimes in June. The celebration began with one night, was eventually expanded to three nights, and then scheduled for two nights once it moved to the current First Free Rockford main campus.

In addition to special outreach for past directors, we also invited all former choir and orchestra participants to celebrate with us this year. We had people join us from many states, including Texas, Florida, Michigan and South Carolina. More than 200 volunteers total helped organize and participated in the event, and over 2,100 people attended the celebration performances.

The color guards from the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and the Rockford Police Department presented the colors both nights, and our procession of veterans was once again a highlight for the crowd. A freewill offering collected during the program are being divided between three local veterans’ nonprofits: The Veteran’s Drop-in Center, the Oscar Mike Foundation and Brightening Veteran’s Lives (Vietnam Veterans of America – Chapter 984 Rockford).

Woman raising her hand during a contemporary worship service.

We Bring Our Highest Praise

Something that has really sunk deep into my heart lately is the concept of us bringing God our highest praise. What that means to me is that no matter what I may feel or get out of it, I’m to give God my everything. This is because of how incredibly worthy and deserving our God is.   As human’s, we are very feeling driven. We desire to receive and to “feel the Spirit” as we worship God. That is a wonderful thing but I believe there is a danger when that is the driving force behind why we worship. Regardless of what we feel, we should humbly come before the King of Kings with a great offering of praise and worship on our lips. David sums it up so well in Psalm 145:3, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.”  When we come before the Lord, let our hearts declare His glory. Let us not come with the attitude of selfishness, but with a posture of thankfulness, gratitude, praise and surrender. When we worship collectively and individually, let our anthem resound as it is so eloquently written in Psalm 100:4, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.”  What I have come to find is that when I personally enter into worship and take this attitude with expectancy in my heart, God hears my cry. When we are willing to chase Him with reckless abandon, He will pick us up. He hears our prayers. He will not fail. He never does. With that in mind, let’s not be so concerned about what we are feeling when we worship. Let’s lift and turn our hands outward as a sign of surrender to Jesus Christ, the only one who can save us. The only one who is worthy and who deserves our highest praise. 

Savior King
By Nathan Fry

Let our hearts declare Your glory
Let our praise reach to Your throne
Here and now we have but one purpose
To lift the name of Jesus, our Savior King 

All praise to You who saved us
We cry to You, be lifted high
You alone have set us free
Savior King, oh Savior King

Our voices rise before Your presence
Declaring holy is Your name
Your kingdom here as is in heaven
We lift the name of Jesus, our Savior King

All praise to You who saved us
We cry to You, be lifted high
You alone have set us free
Savior King, oh Savior King

All the earth will know Your power
You reach the farthest heart
Oh, Savior our defender
Our strength is in Your arms
Oh, Jesus have Your kingdom
Oh, undefeated God
We stretch our arms toward heaven
Be praised Oh Matchless One

All praise to You who saved us
We cry to You, be lifted high
You alone have set us free
Savior King, oh Savior King

 

Savior King

Listen to “Savior King” online now.