Monday, April 17, 2006

A Brief Interval ...

Just a few things I have noticed in between typing out "Thy Kingdom Come!".

A friend at Ministry Without Borders have provided an extremely exciting looking promotional video for their Bible Week in the summer. It looks awesome - a tremendous blend of Spirit-anointed worship and preaching of the Word. Kinda reminiscent of Stoneleigh Bible Week (*siigghhh*). The Bible Week is entitled "See Above and Beyond". I like the sound of that ... I am looking forward to hearing what happens there.

Mark Heath has provided an amazing resource - a list of theologians websites - with news and updates on potential commentaries forthcoming. So if you are a fan of Don Carson, Gordon Fee, Tom Schriener, Moises Silva or N T Wright, or just commentaries in general - it's all here.

There's going to be a 'Together for the Gospel' 2008 ...

Sven provides a helpful list of tips from his vast experience as a blogger. They still all use words that are like the gift of tongues to me. "Technorati" and "Pingomatic" and "Atom Feed". What do these things mean!?

And finally ... Bob Kauflin of SGM weighs in on the "Colson-Draw Me Close" debate. Kauflin used to sing the song with great enthusiasm in the mid-90's. But recently he has "become increasingly uncomfortable with the song and hasn't used it for years in corporate worship".


jul said...

Thanks for the info. I found the post by Bob very interesting.

Baxter's Boy said...

It is - isn't it.

James B said...

I found that post by Kauflin actually quite sad. Is there any applaudable in confessing that once, one stood and worshipped simply yes, but passionately with all their heart, and now they are "uncomfortable"!? I am sorry but I don't see anything of the flesh or the devil in that song - therefore how can one be uncomfortable with a simple expression of love to Jesus? Or are we really meant to "grow up" in our worship?

Don said...

I think Bob has a legitimate point, and shows his wisdom as an experienced worship leader in this comment:

"So if I were to use this song, I’d make sure it was preceded and followed by solid expressions of all God has done for us in Christ. I also wouldn’t spend time repeating it because I want to build people’s confidence that God is near, not diminish it."

IMO, worship leaders leading a congregation in a "formal" meeting are, or should be, responsible not for selecting any group of songs they happen to like, but for composing a set list designed to accomplish a goal -- whether to support the teaching given that day, or address a known issue (need, revelation) in the congregation that God is currently addressing, whatever. Bob understands the rich opportunity afforded by corporate worship to pastor the flock (he is a pastor, not just a worship leader) by teaching more about God, and not to stir fear or uncertainty through lyrical ambiguity at such sensitive moments. Therefore, I agree completely with his idea of surrounding a song like "Draw Me Close" with songs that have stronger/clearer doctrinal content.

However -- However -- Bob leaves an elephant standing in the room without admitting its presence. That metaphorical elephant was also in the room when Colson experienced his dissatisfaction with that song.

What do I mean by that? I'm talking about the historical and experiential context of that song, which everyone on the "con" side seems to have forgotten, or never understood. That song appeared on the Vineyard's "The River Is Here" live-worship album, published in 1994. On that album are several other songs that I doubt would pass muster in 2006 with Colson, and perhaps not with Bob Kauflin. Songs like "Take Me Away:"

I am looking for, I am longing for the place
Where I can lay my head upon your breast
I am looking for
The place where you will pour your oil over me
All over me
Pour over me
Pour over me your oil of perfect peace

Here's another one, "Master, Savior:"

Master, Savior, my creator
I love you
Words fail to convey
Please hear my heart say
I love you

Here I am again
Simply lost for words
Words they only say, in part
What is in my heart, for you

What's the common thread between these two songs, that is the elephant in the room? Why, REVIVAL! These songs were written during the amazing, heady, early days of the 90s revival! These are the songs of people who have been so wonderfully, surprisingly, caught up in the sweet, overpowering, manifest presence of God's glory, that they can hardly bring ANY words to bear on the experience, and on the intense yearning for MORE of the presence of God!

These are the songs of the love-besotted Shulamite, now seeing her lover peering through the window or leaping over the hills like a stag, now experiencing (yes, experiencing) His embrace, now smelling the myrrh dripping from the door handle and longing desperately for the fullness of His presence again. The elephant is the sweetness of the revival experience -- these songs made perfect sense to those individuals and congregations caught up in an experiential encounter with the living God in the 1990s, and that's why Bob and his wife loved "Draw Me Close" then, and shed some tears then.

The weakness of "Draw Me Close," "Master, Savior," "Take Me Away" -- and especially Matt Redman's "When The Music Fades" -- is not that there's anything wrong with them, but that they can only be understood within the context of authentic revival experience, and only fully appreciated by those who are experiencing revival, or have experienced revival -- without later rejecting that experience.

In the mid-90s, I sang "Draw Me Close," "Take Me Away, "Master, Savior" and other songs with tears streaming down my face, or in a whisper, because I was experiencing God with no veils -- except the veil of my flesh living on Earth. I sang them during times of "open heaven," when the Spirit was pouring like a firehose into me, filling me with God's love, forgiveness, compassion, mercy, encouragement, tenderness, correction, joy, holiness -- all the words are inadequate. If Chuck Colson, or anyone else, has problems with "Draw Me Close" or the other revival-breathed songs of the 90s, it's not the songs' fault -- it's that Colson very likely didn't experience what brought those songs into being. He very likely never participated in one of those revival encounters. If not, then his experience was of singing someone else's love letter, and finding it shameful and embarrassing.

I must add I am not being condescending in my attitude toward Colson. I'm just asking for people to understand that certain songs, in every generation, are written during revival and can only be understood in that context -- just as the non-born-again can -- and many do! -- sing "Amazing Grace" all their lives, and never understand what *that* song is describing!

I mentioned Redman's "When The Music Fades," and I have especial concern for that song, because I read Matt's account of how the song was birthed. It was during a time -- in the 90s revival -- when Matt realized his worship band was just performing, not leading worship. With his pastor's permission, the congregation stopped musical worship for several months, and spent time in prayer focusing on the essentials of relating to God. Only when they believed they had learned that even worship music can become idolatrous and keep us apart from God, did they break out the instruments again. That's when Matt wrote the song, and that's what it's about.

But since then, it's been/being performed by everybody, including those who have no idea what it's about, and have never experienced the purging/cleansing experience of being exposed by the Spirit, stripped of a religious idol, and being quietly wooed back into God's sweet presence and pleasure. When just anybody sings a song like this one, it means nothing. Personally, I'm sorry it was ever published -- it's really too personal a song to be sung by anyone other than those who lived through that experience in Matt's church.

So, I'm not surprised Bob Kauflin doesn't like "Draw Me Close" very much anymore, and finds weaknesses in it. He's no longer in the revival experience. Plus, CLC consciously turned away from the revival experience in the late 90s, consciously replaced songs like this one with Cross-centered songs, and didn't look back. Believe me -- in 1994 and 1995, I was in the congregation when Bob led us in singing that song, and if anyone found weaknesses in it, during those Sundays of extended, glorious, Spirit-soaked worship, they never said so to me.

I also remember a highly enthused, revival-experiencer named CJ Mahaney -- during one of those early-revival Sunday afternoons in Summer 1994 when the carpet was soaked with tears and littered with slain-in-the-Spirit bodies until 2 or 3pm -- stepping up and requesting that we begin our post-meeting, pre-ministry worship time singing "Ruach (Holy Wind of God)". We sang THAT very simple song for about 20 minutes straight -- and it seemed to make PERFECT SENSE at the time to CJ, Bob Kauflin and everyone else! That's because we were lovesick from the sweet presence of Ruach, and wanted only more of His power and mercy to linger over and through us.

(What kind of songs DO you write and sing, when at times everyone is silent because the Spirit's presence is so rich, the atmosphere so holy, there's nothing you can or dare say? What kind of songs DO you write to describe the experience of God finally showing up and destroying all your intellectual ideas of what He's like, while simultaneously piercing your heart with inexpressible and unimagined Love? What kind of songs DO you write and sing, when the entire worship team collapses to the floor and remains motionless for over an hour (as I witnessed at Rock City Church in Baltimore, June 1998)??

I'll tell you: you write -- and when the presence of God is thick like a blanket, you sing -- very childlike, simple and direct songs of adoring submission, overwhelming gratitude, and desire for more of Daddy's presence. You write songs that can be sung while flat on your face, flat on your back or standing with face tilted to the ceiling, choking back tears of joy without fear or shame. The Spirit of Jesus anoints, understands and enjoys our total helplessness when He shows up. He has no problem receiving simple worship from people who finally understand they're His beloved children, and despise the pride His presence has exposed in them. Any song more complex than that, in the perfumed furnace of revival, is at least gaudy, at most prideful.)

Has Bob forgotten all of this? Thanks to God, I have not. I pray that He will allow me to live long enough to experience such a blessing alongside younger generations. I hope they too will sing, shamelessly and with perfect understanding, these words of deep, experiential Christian doctrine:

You are my desire
No one else will do
'Cause nothing else could take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace
Help me find the way, bring me back to You.

You're all I want
You're all I ever needed
You're all I want
Help me know you are near.