Facing a Task Unfinished

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I’m writing this mainly to pass along some info to my church, but this is a rich hymn text. Worth taking a look, even if you’re not participating in the global hymn sing!

This Sunday, February 21, 2016, our church (Colonial Baptist Church, Virginia Beach) will be joining churches around the world (nearly one million believers in 63 countries and in 10 languages, so far) in singing the hymn, “Facing a Task Unfinished.”

If you’re interested in registering your church to join in, click here.

Please take some time to give attention to this hymn and be prepared to really join in as we sing this together on Sunday. I’ve attached links to some resources that may be helpful to you as you prepare. Even if you can’t read music, you can meditate on the lyrics or listen to the audio. And below is an excerpt from the Getty Music press release with some background information to the hymn.

Half-page Hymn Insert (melody only) | 2-page Full Hymn | Official Lyric Video (YouTube)

“Facing a Task Unfinished” was originally written by China Inland Mission (CIM) worker Frank Houghton in the 1920s at a time when persecution and even martyrdom of Christians in China was extremely severe. In the midst of this darkness, the CIM issued a call for 200 new missionaries over two years, and Houghton’s hymn galvanized the challenge in song. By 1931 there were 203 new missionaries on the field, and the number of Christians now in China is estimated to be well in excess of the millions.

OMF International (Overseas Missionary Fellowship, formerly China Inland Mission) recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and invited Keith and Kristyn Getty to re-visit and re-write Houghton’s much-loved and still timely hymn. The Gettys have given the hymn a new chorus of response to help serve a new generation of congregational singing. Royalties earned by the song from all sources and uses will be donated to OMF International in support of their continued work.

“Songs have the ability to unite and move us…” says Keith Getty. “Frank Houghton understood this… ‘Facing a Task Unfinished’ provided inspiration to a generation of missionaries when it was first written, and it urges us on still, even as we also live amid persecution and martyrdom… Into these situations the call of Christ and His Kingdom is our only hope. His gospel is the window of light pouring into the darkened corners of this world. He is the good news we must sing and bring.”

 

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3 Errors of Corporate Musical Style

Congregation-blurThis is an excerpt from a worthy post I read yesterday at Challies.com:

It is ironic that music, an element meant to draw Christians together in mutual love and service (see Colossians 3:16) has become a force for significant division within the church. It just goes to show, I guess, that we can make a mess of pretty much anything. In their book The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out 3 common errors of musical style can stifle local church community:

Music that’s difficult to sing corporately. When you shape your musical style with the entire congregation in mind, you battle a consumerist mind-set that wants music that “appeals to me.” And you emphasize the breadth of community we should expect to find in a local church.

Music with limited emotional breadth. Much of church music is happy music. But if that is all we ever have, we substantially dilute the Christian experience.

Music that feels like a performance. Little can build a feeling of congregational unity more than hearing the whole church sing their hearts out in passionate praise to God. We should design our musical style with this in mind.

Above all, we must teach our congregations that congregational worship requires sacrifice [emphasis added]. If we’re serious about displaying the diversity that the gospel brings to a local congregation, then each of us will make sacrifices in the type of music we sing. But through that small sacrifice, we enable congregational unity that sings a much more profound note of praise than any individual could ever produce on his own.

My experience as a church musician and director resonates deeply with this. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the entire post.

An Interview with Frontline’s Tim Keesee

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Several years ago, my church showed a DVD on a Sunday night called Dispatches from the Front. I was stunned. Moved. Awakened. It was not the typical “missionary video” I was expecting. That happened to be the first episode: Islands on the Edge. Since then, I’ve seen most of the episodes. They’re all good. Really good. You need to watch them.

I love seeing creative media used to point people to Christ and move them toward godliness. That’s why I love these films. They’re not ostentatious. They’re well crafted. They have soul-enriching value.

The films follow Tim Keesee as he journeys to “the world’s difficult places.” The skillful camera work and rich script (Tim’s vivid journal entries) take you right along with him as he traces the gospel’s advance and meets its unsung heroes.

Earlier this summer, Tim took the time to answer a few interview questions:

PK: Briefly, for those who don’t know you or Frontline Missions International, what is Frontline, it’s purpose, and your part in all of it?

TK: My first foray into missions was years ago when I worked on behalf of persecuted Christians behind the Iron Curtain by organizing letter-writing campaigns for Christian prisoners and raising funds to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union.  After the Berlin Wall came down, I was in Eastern Europe with pastors—teaching and learning from them. It was there that I first saw the power of Gospel partnerships. In the early years, our work centered in the former Iron Curtain countries. However, the walls came down and new Macedonian calls were heard in Siberian Russia, central Asia, India, China, and the Middle East. The mission answered these calls and changed its name in 2002 to Frontline Missions International in order to underscore our wider sphere of ministry. You can find out more at www.frontlinemissions.info.

How did the Dispatches series come about? (What’s the story behind it?)

 

How many films have you made, and what is your latest project? 

We have completed 6 episodes of Dispatches from the Front, and the 7th is coming out in July 2014. The new episode, “Day of Battle” is set in North Africa. Here are all the episodes:

Episode 1: Islands on the Edge
Episode 2: A Bold Advance
Episode 3: I Once was Blind
Episode 4: Souls of the Brave
Episode 5: Father, Give Me Bread
Episode 6: The Power of His Rising
Episode 7: Day of Battle (coming in July 2014)

I am very interested in the creative use of media for the sake of the gospel and discipleship. What have been some of the effects (perhaps unexpected) of these films, for yourself, the Frontline team, and others?

God has become so much bigger in my view. Seeing the power of the Gospel at work in so many diverse cultural contexts and seeing the unity and diversity of the Church has been a personal revolution for me. I thank God that He is using these as a Gospel tool to impact the life and vision of His people. We hear from people all the time across America and from other parts of the world who have been deeply impacted by these stories. The reason for the impact is because we are simply telling what God is doing, and people are moved, strengthened, and motivated as they see God at work in the world.

One of the things that first struck me about the Dispatches films was how well-produced they are. The films are modern and compelling in their look, sound, and communication. Do you have any say in the artistic direction of the films (the look, graphics, music, etc.)? Is there any articulated strategy in your (team’s) choices?

While I am involved in the artistic direction of the film, this project would not be possible without Pete Hansen’s extraordinary skill as a videographer. But it’s much more than technical skill—Pete is able to let the story be heard and seen more than his techniques. He is also a very good traveler and has become accustomed to shooting in all kinds of situation—sometimes very complicated ones!

As far as a strategy, I am not sure if this is a strategy, but we made the decision at the outset that these videos would not be used overtly for fund-raising nor promoting any particular organization. The only reason Frontline’s name is on it is because we produce these films, and obviously people need to know where they come from. But we aren’t about using these as glorified “info-mericals.” I believe the Gospel at work and advancing in “every tribe and language and people and nation” is the greatest story in the world. It doesn’t have to be enhanced or over-produced.

Is there a lesson here for Christians to use media in a creative and compelling way? 

Different films will have different purposes and will, therefore use different creative techniques. For our series, we want to show life as it unfolds—giving people a “street-level” or “jungle-path” view of life on the Gospel front lines. So our films do not always have tidy conclusions, because that isn’t usually the way life is either.

Who is your creative team on the films? 

We are a pretty small operation: myself, Pete Hansen, and Brannon McAllister (who works with us on the package design).

You’ve traveled widely and been a part of many Christian gatherings in cultures around the world. How has your perspective been shaped in regard to corporate worship and the use of music in corporate gatherings? Do you have any insights for our gatherings here in the states? 

I have been blessed to see the variety of musical expressions of worship in many different cultures. Music is a very important cultural connector. It’s like language, dress, and customs—one of the important ways we create community. And that’s true whether the community is around the world or around the corner. So it’s beautiful to see this diversity in worship—and yet unity in Who is worshipped and magnified. It is a foretaste of Revelation 5, when people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” will praise Christ, their Redeemer, the Lamb who is worthy!

When can we expect the latest Dispatches film to be released?

The release date is July 20, 2014. It is titled “Day of Battle” and is set in North Africa.

 

I understand you’re working on a new book with Crossway as well. Can you tell us about it?

The book, Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places was released at the end of May 2014. It is my journal entries drawn from 8 regions of the world (about 20 countries). Once again, it tells of our great God’s unstoppable Gospel! You can read reviews of it here and here.

What Is Watchsong? [Video]

Why should Christian artists and musicians continue to create new content? What motivates them to create? Why do Christians need new music? Why do you need Watchsong?

I wanted to find a creative way to share the vision and mission of my website, Watchsong.com, as well as encourage Christian artists that they are vitally important. That’s where this short film comes in.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some more in-depth commentary about the film and some of the themes it presents. But first, I need to give credit to several people who made this film possible.

The “MVP award” goes to my friend Shane McMullin at NINTH HOUR Productions for bringing this project to life with such amazing skill and creativity and for the hours and hours he spent shooting, cutting, and editing this film. He also had to put up with me and all the crazy ideas I had, most of which he magically made happen.

Special thanks to: Christian Mülhauser (chrigu.org), who graciously let me use a few short clips from his stunning film Madeira; Doug Young (dougyoungstudios.com), my good friend, who let us shoot in his very unique studio space; and Fred Coleman, my pastor, mentor, and friend, who helped me think through the historical data and has always encouraged me in my writing.

Thanks also to: my friends, James Harris, Brian Pinner, Chris Barney, and Ben Fetterolf, who proofread my script and were very encouraging in this project; Ken Beale, who lent us his skill and expertise for an entire day in the mid-July heat working cameras and lighting for a Snickers bar and a verbal IOU; and my wife Heather, who also braved the heat to assist us and made sure you couldn’t tell how hot it was when you watch the film.

The end credits song is A Broken Vessel from Watchsong Music. You can find a lead sheet, lyrics, and an mp3 demo on the Music page. A full recording will be available soon on Watchsong.com.

Love Your Pastors!

As I’ve befriended and have been mentored by some of my pastors, I’ve come to realize that they probably hear more from the minority of people who are disgruntled than from the majority who really love and appreciate them and what they do. I suppose this is in our natures: the tendency to speak up only when we have a problem with something. Well, my wife and I have decided to be among a vocal majority who challenge that tendency, and we want to bring as many people with us as we can!

So I’m starting the “Love Your Pastors” campaign. Hebrews 13:7, 17 say this:

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Obey…and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

I am appalled when I hear of all the petty complaints that my pastors have to deal with. I am distressed that my pastors sometimes dread opening their email inboxes on Monday morning (after pouring out their souls for us on Sunday) because of the “hate mail” (their words, not mine) that will be waiting for them. And I have a feeling that my pastors are not alone.

When is the last time you sent an encouraging email to your pastor or pastors? When is the last time you prayed for them? When is the last time you asked them how they are doing and really listened instead of just dumping your own problems? When is the last time you found them after a service and told them how much you appreciate the way God uses their gifts to edify you?

These are questions that I’ve been asking myself lately. And, quite frankly, my answers stink. But I have already started making a conscious effort toward change. Praying for our pastors should be a given. My goal is to verbally (or in writing) encourage at least one of my pastors every week.

My church has a regular weekly service attendance of nearly 1000 people. What if just ten percent of us regularly encouraged our pastors each week? How would their Monday mornings feel if the typical ratio of encouraging emails to “hate mail” were completely turned upside down? How would you feel if 100 people told you this week that they love you and appreciate you and are praying for you?

Remember that Disney/Pixar movie called Monsters, Inc.? The monster city (Monstropolis) was powered by the screams of children afraid of monsters in their bedrooms at night, but the city was facing a power crisis. By the end of the film, they discovered that a child’s laughter was a much more potent energy source, like nuclear fusion compared to a AA battery. Encouragement and love have a similarly empowering effect on others.

I know there are many people who are faithful encouragers, but there are also many like me who just don’t think about it. So, will you join us on our quest to encourage our pastors each week? Will you encourage others to join you? Spread the word! Let’s overwhelm our pastors with love! Let’s give them the honor they deserve!