Thursday, February 22, 2018

LITURGICAL FIDGIT: Why We Need Isaac Watts (and others like him)

Hymn Tour participants at Watts Park, Southampton
As the church flounders about in the “liturgical fidget” (term borrowed from CS Lewis's Letters to Malcom Chiefly on Prayer), Isaac Watts can give us both the theological and liturgical ballast Christian worship so desperately needs (what I here argue for Isaac Watts can be said about many of the luminaries of Church history and hymnody). And he can give us an emotional rudder, a means of steering the passions in worship by objective propositional truth feelingly delivered. Without such a rudder, worship is shipwrecked on the shoals of cheap-trick emotionalism generated in much the same way it is at a concert or a football game. Tragically, in place of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in worship to Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16–17), raw feelings of having done so may be supplanting the real thing.

Watts was around nearly three hundred years before Little Richard said, “The blues had an illegitimate baby and we named it rock ‘n’ roll.”[i] But he understood important things about how human beings are wired, things Little Richard and his offspring understand, but which are suppressed or ignored by many in the church today. Watts understood that “our passions are intensely directed toward material things but are hardly moved by the most important discoveries of faith.” He was warring against the stale lifeless singing in worship in his youth, and he rightly wanted to see emotion and passion, as we do, in sung worship. He knew that passions “are glorious and noble instruments of the spiritual life when under good conduct.”


But here is where Watts is a counter voice to many well-meaning worship leaders today; he knew that passions “are ungovernable and mischievous energies when they go astray.”[ii] He grasped—and so must we—that it is the business of church leaders both “to assist the devout emotions” and “to guard against the abuse of them.” Centuries before the invention of the electric bass, Watts warned church leaders: “Let him not begin with their emotions. He must not artfully manipulate” their passions and feelings until he has first “set these doctrines before the eye of their understanding and reasoning faculties. The emotions are neither the guides to truth nor the judges of it.” He argued that since “light comes before heat . . . Christians are best prepared for the useful and pious exercise of their emotions in the spiritual life who have laid the foundations in an ordered knowledge of the things of God.”[iii]


In the very best of Watts’ hymns, he combines both emotion and knowledge. But for Watts, it is always light first, then heat. The feeling of wonder, the emotion of profound gratitude, the escalating thrill of adoration and praise always follow the objective propositional exploration of the doctrines of the gospel. For Watts, the doxological always followed the theological. And the foundation of ordered knowledge of the things of God that must precede true doxology is essential for all Christians, men and women, rich and poor, in all times and in all places, those with PhDs or GEDs, men from every tribe, kindred, people, and language. We know this not because Watts said so. Watts discovered it from divine revelation. Hebrew poetry in the Bible can be deeply passionate, even erotic, and the Psalms are rich with thrilling emotion, but it is always light first, then heat. Surely this is what the apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote, “I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15b).


The best way to discover this, however, is not by reading Watts’ prose arguments. Read and sing his hymns. A generation of Christians that returns to Watts’ feast of devotion spread before us in his hymns will find celebratory nourishment for both mind and spirit. Watts’ grasp of doctrinal truth about Christ and the atonement will become our grasp. His determination to take every thought captive to Christ will become our determination. His love for children and the poor will become our love. His passion for the lost will become our passion. His thrill at the forgiveness of sins will become our thrill. His praise will become our praise. His awe will become our awe. His wonder at Christ’s saving love for sinners will become our wonder.

All who long for Christ, for being like Him, for adoring Him, for serving Him, for sharing His grace with the world, will find in Watts a treasure trove of experiential doctrine, richly adorning biblical truth that leads to the most thrilling passion for Christ.


What about a Christian culture that abandons Watts? We should expect to continue to be cheated by raw emotion masquerading as spiritual light. I for one do not want for an instant to be thrilled with emotion, to become a junkie of my feelings, to be enslaved to raw passion—and tell myself it’s Christ with which I’m thrilled. I don’t want a cheat. I want Christ. I want to examine from every angle the wondrous cross on which my Savior willingly gave up His perfect life for my miserable, unworthy one. I want to see His head, His hands, His feet, the blood and water of His sorrow and love flow mingling down, washing me clean from my guilt and corruption. I want to survey with wonder a love so amazing and so divine. Then, and only then, I want to be carried away, dazzled beyond words, with Jesus my atoning sacrifice, my gracious Substitute, my perfect righteousness.


By the gracious gifting of Jesus, Watts was given a gift of timeless poetic wonder. It was a unique genius. We cannot have it; it was Watts’ gift. But it was a gift given for the edification of the church until we reach that “land of pure delight.” By it, every generation of God’s children can take Watts’ words as their own. By his poetic devotion, every Christian can share in his wonder at Christ and the glories of the world to come.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all

Douglas Bond is author of twenty-six books of historical fiction, practical theology, and biography, including The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts (Reformation Trust, 2014) from which this blog post is adapted, and the Mr. Pipes Series on hymnody for children and young adults. In addition to speaking at conferences and leading Church history tours, Bond is also lyricist of New Reformation Hymns and the Rise & Worship album (2017); books and cds are available at, and you are invited to follow his podcast The Scriptorium at

[i] Jack Newfield, Who Really Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll? (New York, The Sun, September 21, 2004), on-line:
[ii] Jeffery, English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, 82.
[iii] Ibid.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Newlywed Persecution: 3 Ways to Face Challenges Together

[Let's Pray for Persecuted Marriages Around the World]
“I am prepared to die with you,” whispered Maura to her husband Timothy. It was AD 286 and Emperor Diocletian was ruthless in his determination to stamp out Christianity in the empire. We might expect this devotion from a trusting wife happily married to her husband for decades, but Timothy and Maura had married only twenty days before. They were newlyweds who should have been basking in one another’s love in a cozy bungalow on some warm Egyptian beach along the Nile or the Mediterranean.

Diocletian had other plans for the couple. Timothy was a copyist and keeper of Christian books. We would call him our church librarian, the bespeckled bibliophile who runs the bookstore. But Christian books were contraband in AD 286 and possessing and distributing them was an intolerable crime.

For Timothy’s refusal to turn over the library in his charge, the governor ordered him to be suspended upside down and a heavy rock to be chained to his neck, almost choking him. Still he refused to comply. Next, they applied red hot irons to his ear. Meanwhile, Roman soldiers had seized his wife Maura and, thinking Timothy would crack under threat of harm to his new bride, they brought her in and thrust the young woman toward him. “I am prepared to die with you,” she reassured her husband.

What happened next, what they did to Maura, is too terrible to describe in complete detail. After tearing out her hair, the executioners severed fingers from her hands, then immersed her in a cauldron of near-boiling water. Though onlookers enjoyed blood sports, cruelty masquerading as entertainment, even they began to grumble against the extent of the brutalities inflicted on the young married couple. Yet Maura, alongside her husband, endured with remarkable constancy. When the audience had had enough and called for the governor to halt the torture, Maura replied, “Let no one defend me. I have one Defender, Christ, in whom I trust.”  

Tradition tells us that Timothy and Maura were then led out and, like their Lord, crucified, crosses facing one another, giving thanks to God that they were called to suffer for Christ’s sake. They died together May 3, 286.


How did Timothy and Maura face such a titanic challenge so early in their marriage? Young newlyweds enduring such brutal martyrdom together, all their temporal hopes and dreams and pleasures cut short? No doubt they drew on the promises of the Word of God contained in those books Timothy refused to hand over to the governor  for burning. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Or Christ’s solemn promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Or “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

When we consider the stalwart faith of a couple like Timothy and Maura, it’s easy for such a marriage to seem too heroic, too unlike our mundane and all-too-comfortable lives, and we push it away, consign it to the fantasy folder in our minds, and dismiss it as wholly irrelevant to our lives and marriages today. That would be a mistake, akin to reading a weight loss story of ginormous proportion but dismissing any application of it to our diet and exercise needs. "That would never work for me. Pass the potato chips."


I think there were three heart conditions, three higher loves, that both Timothy and Maura must of had that strengthened their married love for one another, and prepared, and enabled them to endure such a tragedy so early in their married life together:

1. Devotion to God's Word. It's what Timothy did, copy and preserve the Bible and other Christian writings from the early Church. Timothy and Maura were one in their devotion to the Word of God. They knew with renewed minds, and felt with regenerated hearts, that their God is faithful, and whatever trial he has ordained, he will enabled them to endure it patiently (I Corinthians 10:13). Together, they were a married couple who loved God's Word and thereby were impervious to the Enemy's assaults.
2. Devotion to Christ. The Word of God pointed them to the Lord of the Word. I received an email from a former student asking if I would officiate at her wedding. "I finally found someone who loves Christ more than me." This young woman understood something many already married couples do not. Seek love for Christ, first and last, and devoted love with your spouse will be a delightful byproduct. Timothy and Maura's devotion, first and last, in life and in death, was to Jesus Christ. He was their Lord and God, not Diocletian. Couples who claim to be Christians but who have other masters, other lords, other loves, will have great difficulty whispering in one another's ear "I am here to die with you, my love." Timothy and Maura were not friends with the world (James 4:4). They had not made peace with Rome and it's god-deluded emperors. They were devoted to Christ, even, similar to their Lord's, to a horrible death.
3. Devotion to the Kingdom of God. Heaven. Timothy and Maura had their eyes fixed on Jesus; they loved his eternal kingdom. Therefore, no temporal allurement held any sway for them. Their short marriage--twenty days--was not a diversion from heaven.  It was the closest thing to heaven. Still on their honeymoon, they knew that "earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy [our deepest longings], but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing" (CS Lewis).   I remember before I was married not wanting to say "Thy kingdom come," for fear it would, and I would never know the pleasures of married love, children, family. Timothy and Maura were far ahead of me. 

Timothy and Maura's devotion to God's Word, to Christ, and to the heavenly Kingdom of God made them constant in the greatest extremity of affliction. May your loyalties, the things you are most devoted to, make the "things of earth [to] grow strangely dim/In the light of his glory and grace."

Douglas Bond, author of more than twenty-five books, is writing a non-fiction book on the Marriages of the Ages, the good ones, the disappointing ones, and the despicable ones, from which this blog post is adapted. He leads Church history tours, speaks at conferences, writes New Reformation Hymns, and podcasts at The Scriptorium. Learn more at

Monday, February 5, 2018

Worship as Entertainment: Entertainment as Worship

“We must beware lest our ears be more intent on the music than our minds on the spiritual meaning of the words. Songs composed merely to tickle and delight the ear are unbecoming to the majesty of the church and cannot but be most displeasing to God.” (John Calvin)

Playing at worship

One pundit quipped that Americans “worship their work, work at their play, play at their worship.” I suspect that most Christians would object. Entertainment evangelism “worship,” for them, is the best thing that’s happened to church; the building is full, and look how happy everybody is.

But the numbers may be skewed. According to the Barna Research Group, though five out of six males consider themselves on some level to be Christians, only two out of six regularly go to church. They may be full, but many American churches are two thirds female and one third male.

There are many reasons for this, but changes in music may take center stage. But the debate over worship music, ironically, isn’t very much about worship. Few proponents of entertainment worship music ask what music is appropriate for the worship of God. Instead, with the best of intentions,“They imitate the nations around them” (II Kings 16:10; 17:15-41) in order to be relevant to their tastes and evangelize them.

A leading church-growth expert candidly admits this. “What kind of music do you listen to?” he asked the folks in his community. “I didn't have one person who said, ‘I listen to organ music.’ Not one. It was 96-97% adult contemporary, middle-of-the-road pop. So, we made a strategic decision that we are unapologetically a contemporary music church.”

            Well-intentioned Christians have reinvented what goes on at church by shifting the question. Young church planters generally ask: “What does the world like to listen to?” rather than “What music is appropriate to worship God in the splendor of his holiness” (I Chronicles 16: 29b-30a)? Thus, church growth becomes the all-excusing rationale for what people sing in church. And they tell us it’s working. “Right after we made that decision and stopped trying to please everybody,” claimed one church-growth expert, his church “exploded with growth.” End of discussion.

            Or is it? Roman emperors packed out arenas by giving entertainment-crazed citizens what they liked. People showed up in droves. We too are a culture that values amusement. We like to feel good. We like to sway and clap. We like rapid images passing before us. We like celebrity. And we’ll pay for it. Church growth proponents argue that cashing in on the postmodern infatuation with entertaining music will fill churches. So give them what they want.

The late Neil Postman, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death cites the executive director of the National Religious Broadcasters Associations who seems to agree with the church-growth philosophy: “You can get your share of the audience only by offering people something they want.”

Postman, though no Christian, made the perceptive observation: “This is an unusual religious credo. There is no great religious leader—from the Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Luther—who offered people what they want. Only what they need.”

When the church fashions worship to entertain the world, to give people what they want, it inevitably creates, as one journalist termed it, “a Christian ghetto watering down the gospel.” Moreover, when the goal is to make Christian worship appealing to a feminized culture we inevitably alter the message and make it less offensive--and less Christian.

Whenever Israel imitated the pagan worship of the nations around them, God became angry and judged them. Thus, John Calvin urged that “all human inventions in worship be removed and driven from us, which God himself justly abominates.” Far from aping the world, Christian men ought to stand against the impulse to reinvent worship so it looks and sounds like the world.

Loud, loud, loud!

In Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis described heaven as a region of music and silence. The demon Screwtape is frustrated by this reality: “Music and silence—how I detest them both!” He boasts that in hell:

No moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the great dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards earth. The melodies and silence of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it.

But contemporary church growth enthusiasts, however, don’t seem to agree. “We are loud,” says one mega-church pastor. “We are really, really loud. I say, ‘We're not gonna turn it down.’”

Conversely, Lewis sees music and silence as complimentary features of heaven. He gets this, of course, from biblical passages where God calls us to “Be still and know that I am God,” and to “sing for joy.”

But does high-volume rock ‘n’ roll fit with the music and silence that Lewis describes, or does it sound more like the noise and loudness Screwtape and many church growth leaders prefer? This isn’t as hard a question as we’ve made it. Nevertheless, church growth advocates and most musicians agree with pop music expert Don Butler, “Every style and form of music can become gospel, whether it’s jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, or rap” (Inhouse Music, March/April 1991).

Tolkien readers will immediately think of Boromir, who, rather than destroy the ring, urged the fellowship to use the power of the ring--for good ends. Like the post-conservative church, Boromir, too, was certain that he would not be corrupted by it. He was wrong.

Beware. If entertainment evangelism advocates can convince you that music is amoral, merely a matter of taste, then the discussion ends—and so does discernment. Wise young men, however, will be suspicious of conclusion that sweep away moral judgment.  

Moral or amoral?

In the preface to the Genevan Psalter of 1545, Calvin wrote of music that “there is hardly anything in the world with more power to turn the morals of men.” Yet Christians today insist that “Music is amoral.”   As if to say, “Just use the ring!”

But historically nobody has thought music was amoral. Agnostic Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Preface to The English Hymnal wrote, “Good music for worship is a moral issue. The eternal gospel cannot be commended with disposable, fashionable music styles, otherwise there is the implication that the gospel itself is somehow disposable and temporary.” Tragically, well-intentioned Christians, confused by the amoral argument, may be undermining the gospel by making it appear throwaway to the watching world.

Paste in whatever words you want, loud entertainment music already conveys its own message. Certainly it makes people clap and feel exhilarated, but it’s not conducive to careful thinking about the whole counsel of God. Entertainment music creates a feel-good atmosphere, but it doesn’t work well to make men feel bad. It does excitement and infatuation well but is largely bankrupt on conviction and repentance--essentials not only of biblical evangelism but of sanctification and true growth in grace.

Traditionally, music in church was employed to commend the objective message, to play second fiddle to the words. But entertainment evangelism switches this around. Eager to “imitate the nations around them,” musicians force the high objective truths of the Bible into the background. Thus, praise songs repeatedly state adoration but with few if any doctrinal reasons given to biblically support and adorn those statements. And increasingly the object of adoration is vague.

            Gene Edward Veith, writing for World Magazine, concluded his review of a wide range of popular Christian materials: “So much of this Christian material says nothing about Jesus Christ.” 

How ironic! I thought evangelism was the reason for using entertainment music. So why remove much of the explicit Christian content from the lyrics? Though the Bible is clear, Christ is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (I Peter 2:8), still we’re afraid to offend the world. The Spirit of God only removes the offense through the objective truths of the Word of God--the very thing that many post-conservative Christians are watering down in their music. Little wonder the church looks and sounds and acts like the world--instead of the reverse.

Look at me!

Visiting a church one Sunday morning, I led my family cautiously through a minefield of microphone wires and amp chords to our seats—just beneath a speaker the size of a piano. My kids stared wide-eyed at the bongo drums, the Starbucks coffee in nearly every hand, the female worship leaders and effeminate males on stage in their Hawaiian shirts. One of my young sons leaned over and whispered, “Is this an entertainment show?”

One thing is indisputable: the seeker-friendly service is shaped by the entertainment industry. Of course they’re using entertainment as a means to an end: evangelism. Most church leaders want to get them in the door by entertaining them with a really good band. But is this compatible with the spirit of celebrity seen throughout the entertainment world?

Michael Bloodgood, heavy-metal bassist and Calvary Chapel pastor, thinks it is. “We’re like Billy Graham with guitars. Rock and roll is neutral. It depends on the spirit.”

Check out the album covers on the latest ads from your Christian bookstore if you want to discern the spirit. You’ll discover shameless aping of secular musicians: provocative females, touchy-feely males, and armed-crossing hauteur. Plunk in the CD and you will hear desperate mainstream-wannabes screaming to be noticed by secular record labels.

Late rock musician Keith Green saw all this coming. “It isn’t the beat that offends me, nor the volume—it’s the spirit. It’s the ‘look at me!’ attitude I have seen at concert after concert, and the ‘Can’t you see we are as good as the world!’ syndrome I have heard on record after record.” That was decades ago. Things have not improved.

British pastor, John Blanchard in his little book Pop Goes the Gospel says this worldly exhibitionism sets up Christians to act like “stars instead of servants.” He argues that the entertainment model inevitably leads to a groping for celebrity status and is why entertainment evangelism “so easily encourages worldliness.”

 What historian Paul Johnson observed about culture in general the church seems desperate to imitate. “Entertainment [has] displaced traditional culture as the focus of attention, and celebrity has ejected quality as the measure of value.”

I don’t listen to the words

Getting the musical cart before the objective-content horse is not simply a contemporary issue. Calvin faced it in the sixteenth century: “We must beware lest our ears be more intent on the music than our minds on the spiritual meaning of the words. Songs composed merely to tickle and delight the ear are unbecoming to the majesty of the church and cannot but be most displeasing to God.”

Long before Calvin, Augustine wrote approvingly of church singing, but added strong caution. “Nevertheless, when it happens that I am more moved by the song than the thing which is sung, I confess that I sin in a manner deserving punishment.”

What would these saints say about Christian worship today? Their concerns predated the development of instruments and amplification technology designed to create psychological euphoria with loud, penetrating musical noise. A thoughtful young man, a future leader in the church, must ask: “Does entertainment music draw attention to itself and to the performers, or does it aid in making understandable the objective meaning of the words being sung? Does it awaken discernment or distract?” The jury is in. Most Christians, however, refuse to hear the verdict.

What is the universal response when parents ask kids why they listen to secular music with trashy lyrics? “I don’t listen to the words.” Amusement music is produced to affect an emotional response from the music itself rather than an intellectual response to the meaning of the words. Which compels the conclusion that entertainment music is probably a poor choice to “renew the minds” of unbelievers. I wonder how many entertainment-music-loving church goers are too distracted and “don’t listen to the words”?


Who’s evangelism?

J.I. Packer wrote that “When evangelism is not fed, fertilized and controlled by theology it becomes a stylized performance seeking its effect through manipulative skills rather than the power of vision and the force of truth.” John Blanchard exposes the problem of depending on music to do what only the Spirit and Word of God can do: “Musical conditioning is not the same as the Holy Spirit challenging the mind to think, the spirit to be still, and the heart to be humbled in the presence of God.” In this they are only stating what the church has thought and practiced for centuries—until now.

Luther made a clear distinction between worthy and unworthy music. “We know that the devil’s music is distasteful and insufferable.” But many Christians roll their eyes when someone says, “Rock has always been the devil’s music.” But it was rocker David Bowie who said this. He went on. “You can’t convince me that it isn’t. I believe that rock ‘n’ roll is dangerous.” Still the church imagines that by using music styles conceived in the sexual revolution it is plundering the Egyptians. It may prove the reverse.

Burk Parsons, managing editor of Table Talk, and founding member of the Backstreet Boys, quit rock and roll. Why? “The world of show business is the world of man-centered entertainment. The foundational philosophy of man-centered entertainment is to do whatever it takes in order to attract millions of fans and to make millions of dollars.” This requires the “entertainment gurus” to track all the latest cultural fads and follow the “whims and fancies” of the music listening public, like many candidly admit doing. Parsons continues, “This has become the philosophy of many evangelicals [who] have exchanged God-centered worship for man-centered entertainment that is founded upon the ever-changing principles of the culture rather than upon the unchanging principles of the Word of God.” He calls us to worship according to the Word of God, “which transcends the current trends of modern culture.”

Entertainment church-growth experts claim, however, that no church will grow if it does not change over to entertainment music. One wonders how Spurgeon, Calvin, Edwards, or Luther did it before guitars. Church planters are correct about the power of loud entertainment music to change people. Decades ago, rocker Jimi Hendrix understood this. “Music is a spiritual thing of its own. You can hypnotize people with the music and when you get them at their weakest point you can preach into the subconscious what you want to say.”

London preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote concerning music’s power, “We can become drunk on music. Music can have the effect of creating an emotional state in which the mind is no longer functioning as it should be, and no longer discriminating.”

Blinded by a flawed theology of salvation, I wonder if Christians now expect music to do what only the Holy Spirit can do: woo sinners by changing their mind and will, not by first altering their emotions, but by drawing them by the power of the Word to repentance and faith in Christ.

Worship like a man

Examination of entertainment church music exposes a number of problems: over-familiarity and sentimentalism; the tendency to bring God down to man’s understanding; lyrics written by young people who are musicians first, rather than hymn poetry written by experienced, gifted Christians with theological training; the tendency to sing about what we’re singing about; simplistic repetitiveness; lack of biblical progression of thought; in short, the dumbing-down of the message in order to fit it into the entertainment medium.

But let me speak man-to-man with you about the feminization of Christian worship. This has happened in many pernicious ways but perhaps nowhere more uncomfortably for Christian young men than in singing.

In contemporary worship, the girls stand caressing the air with their hands, swaying with the pounding rhythm of the music, their voices hushed and breathy, eyes pinched closed, crooning along with the worship leaders.

What are most guys doing? Shuffling their feet uncomfortably. Embarrassed by the public display of emotions, and embarrassed--or allured--by the provocative outfits and yearning posture of the female worship leaders or soloists.

Christine Rosen in the Wall Street Journal, connected plummeting male church attendance with the growing number of women taking leadership roles in the church. In his recent book, Steve Farrar decries the “feminization of our boys” in contemporary worship. “Am I in a church or a spa?” he asks. “At a deal like that, you don’t bring your Bible, you bring your moisturizer.”

In his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow argues that because contemporary worship is “tilted toward the feminine heart, created for sensitive women and soft-hearted men to meet Jesus,” a masculine man feels emasculated, “like he has to check his testosterone at the sanctuary door.”

In the canon of classic hymns, however (see appendix), men for centuries have sung of battles and fighting, of conquest and triumph, in short, of the manly Christian themes found in the Psalms.

“But today’s praise songs are mainly love songs to Jesus,” wrote Murrow, offering the example, Hold me close, let your love surround me… I’m desperate without you… Jesus, I’m so in love with you. Another song a student gave me begins Your love is extravagant; your friendship—mmmm--intimate. These “Jesus-is-my-girlfriend” songs represent a genre choked with songs no Christ-honoring, self-respecting young man can sing. 

A serious Christian man is stumped. Women worship leaders and effeminate men make you feel unspiritual if you don’t sing and behave like women. What are you to do? Know for starters that “you don’t have to be a girlie man to be a godly man.”

This is war--culture war. It’s time to break ranks with feminized worship and restore biblical manhood to the church. It begins with you and your generation. Prepare yourself to step up with manly leadership. Worship God in the splendor of his holiness. Cultivate a deep appreciation of what men in the church have sung through the centuries. Then “Rise up [young] men of God; be done with lesser things.” 

Excerpt from Bond's 2008 book Stand Fast, the first in his Fathers & Sons series for dads to read with their teen sons. Bond is author of twenty-six books, New Reformation Hymns, and articles in Modern Reformation, Table Talk, and other journals. He is a frequent speaker at churches and conferences, and leads Church history tours. He also hosts The Scriptorium, a weekly podcast on Church history, literature, writing, practical theology, art, and life. Subscribe to to follow