Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: Music to Work By (Part 8)Friday, December 21, 2012
"If you could create it from scratch,” a reader wrote, "what would a church look like that fully embodied a proper theology of work and really empowered its members to be ministers in the workplace?” This is the eighth blog in a series responding to this question.
Now and again, to help incorporate the theology of work into its DNA, the newly planted church should sing of God’s gift of human labor. Granted, there aren’t many such songs. To the surprise of some, a few workplace-oriented hymns have been around for a long time. For example, Charles Wesley wrote "Forth in Thy Name, O Lord” more than 260 years ago. This song may be sung to the familiar tune, "Jesus Shall Reign.” Consider the first two of its five stanzas:
Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labor to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think or speak or do.
The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.
One fairly recent song by Stuart Townend relates our faith to daily work as well as to the other common ventures of living. To listen to the words and melody of "Christ Be in My Waking,” click here. The words to the first verse:
Christ be in my waking,
As the sun is rising,
In my day of working,
With me every hour.
Christ be in my resting,
As the day is ending,
Calming and refreshing,
Watching through the night.
Then there’s "God of Concrete, God of Steel” (by Richard G. Jones). It recognizes the sovereignty of God over the things we normally encounter in the work world but seldom hear about in the gathered church. It may be sung to the tune of, "For the Beauty of the Earth.”
God of concrete,
God of steel,
God of piston and of wheel,
God of pylon, God of steam,
God of girder and of beam,
God of atom, God of mine,
All the world of power is thine!
Lord of cable, Lord of rail,
Lord of motorway and mail,
Lord of rocket, Lord of flight,
Lord of soaring satellite,
Lord of lightning’s livid line,
All the world of speed is thine!
Lord of science, Lord of art,
God of map and graph and chart,
Lord of physics and research,
Word of Bible, Faith of Church,
Lord of sequence and design,
All the world of truth is thine!
God whose glory fills the earth,
Gave the universe its birth,
Loosed the Christ with Easter’s might,
Saves the world from evil’s blight,
Claims mankind by grace divine,
ALL THE WORLD OF LOVE IS THINE!
Much of the solid doctrine I learned early on in church came through what we sang. As I understand what the New Testament says about it, music in the church serves two basic purposes: teaching one another and praising God. (See I Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19; and Col. 3:16.) Matthew Henry, in his Commentary on Col. 3:16, says: "Singing of psalms is a teaching ordinance as well as a praising ordinance; and we are not only to quicken and encourage ourselves, but to teach and admonish one another, mutually excite our affections, and convey instructions.”
Much of the wealth of the church-at-large resides in its music—old and new. As the church-from-scratch taps into that treasure, it would do well to include songs that enlarge the vision of God’s design in our daily work. The fourth and fifth stanzas of John Ellerton’s "O Grant Us, God, a Little Space,” remind us: (4) "Yours are the workplace, home, and mart, the wealth of sea and land; the worlds of science and of art are fashioned by your hand.” (5) "Work shall be prayer, if all is wrought as you would have it done; and prayer, by you inspired and taught, shall then with work be one.” Well-written lyrics set to sing-able melodies can teach biblical theology—even the theology of work.