Posts Tagged theology

What does the song “Break Every Chain” really mean?

This song kind of blew up at our church this past summer and it’s really struck a chord especially as we’ve been processing the Ferguson mess. We first sung it at the end of “Jesus at the Center” and we didn’t have to explain much after singing the last verse of that song “Jesus at the center of your church…every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess you, Jesus”

A friend of mine recently wrote to me asking if we sing the song and what I thought about it having a “Word of Faith” kind of vibe to it. That whole, “speak the name of Jesus and your dreams will become manifest” sort of thing. Still, there’s plenty of biblical examples of the role of the Messiah in breaking the chains of the prisoner and the captive. In addition, you can find this stuff in many of “the good old hymns” too:

You can find it in Wesley:

“Jesus the name that charms our fears
That bids our sorrows cease
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears
‘Tis life and health and peace

He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin
He sets the pris’ner free
His blood can make the foulest clean
His blood availed for me”

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke the dungeon flamed with light
My chains fell off my heart was free
I rose went forth and followed Thee”

And you can find it in Watts:

“Blessings abound wherever He reigns
The prisoner leaps to loose His chains
The weary come home and find their rest
And all the sons of want are blessed”

I think that this song works best if we maintain that “the name of Jesus” is not some kind of incantation, but rather a confession. A confession in particular that “Jesus” is the only name by which we are saved and the only name that we call Lord. His name stands forever as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in an eternal kingdom where all forms of slavery have been defeated. Through that confession and the praise of his name, Paul and Silas had their chains literally fall off. In the name of Jesus, we are no-longer slaves to sin but sons and daughters and fellow heirs with Christ.

I’m not going to say every church should sing it, but it especially struck a chord with my church. We followed the song with prayers for the chains of sin to be broken in our lives as well as the chains of injustice and addiction that hold our communities in bondage. The name of Jesus is the only power by which racism, violence, drugs, hate, fear, etc can be overcome. If you still are concerned about the meaning of the song being misunderstood, you could pair the song with a hymn like “And Can It Be” to drive home that there is power in the name of Jesus because of the work that Jesus accomplished in the cross and the resurrection.

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Why do we have a church choir?

pic by Neil Das

Many churches don’t bother to ask this question. It would be like asking, “Why do we have a steeple or wear ties?” Of course we have a choir, it’s what you do in church. Other churches never ask this question because they have tossed out the choir concept along with a whole host of other  Christian cultural institutions in order to be relevant. As far as these folks are concerned, the choir can go the way of the pew, stained glass, and Precious Moments figurines.

So, why do we, New City Fellowship, have a choir? I have three thoughts:

The restoration of worldview

We were created as “good” image bearers of God. He made us to exist in harmony with the rest of creation, with each other, and with God. The fall ruined all that, and now we have a fractured and distorted view of reality. A choir’s job is to stand up and declare the Truth to broken hearts. A good choir anthem (like any good worship song) is designed to realign our perception of reality back in line with God’s word. It’s like balancing the checkbook of your heart. Hmm, that sounds like a good country song.

The priesthood of all believers

The reason that we can perform (gasp!) choir anthems in worship is because God has used Jesus Christ to ordain the new covenant in which he has placed his Spirit in every adopted child of faith so that we can all become priests (and priestesses) in the kingdom. This means that every Christian has the role of mediating between God and the world in order to demonstrate his powerful and holy love. Hallelujah! A choir is a simple cross section of believers (sinners saved by grace) who have been given the priestly role of ministry. Check out the book of Chronicles and you’ll find descriptions of massive choirs and orchestras of Levites, the priests. The new covenant that Christ has mediated means that we are all given Levitical roles in the kingdom.

The incarnation of theology

Theology is a big deal. Everyone has a theology, whether they admit it or not. Jesus Christ was the incarnation of the Word. The Word made flesh. In worship, we have the job of taking words and giving them flesh. The choir takes theological concepts and sings about them. This gives the congregation a tangible experience of that word. Reading “death is ended” is pretty cool, but have you been to a funeral at New City Fellowship where a massive group of believers stands up and sings at the top of their voice “DEATH IS ENDED!”? That is a serious experience of incarnate theology.

Come sing with us in the choir – 1-3pm on Saturdays @ NCF U City

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