From the Director
St. James the Elder, Apostle 2016
“A Persuasive Voice.”
"Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4/NIV)
I have always been struck by that account of Paul's ministry in the city of Corinth. He is not only "witnessing" by the Spirit's power, but "persuading". Rhetoric or "the art of using language effectively" has been an important part of the Church's proclamation of the Gospel since its earliest days.
For the past twenty years or so, a focus of studies in the Lutheran Confessions has been on the classical rhetorical structures utilized in them, especially by Melanchthon in the Apology. This approach does not necessarily change our understanding of the Confessions, but it does make clearer the way the Reformers carefully, powerfully constructed their arguments over against entrenched forces within the Church.
The interest in classical rhetoric has also touched on worship. Zac Hicks wrote a fascinating article---"In Search of the Emotionally Persuasive Liturgy"---in the May 2015 issue of Reformed Worship, citing Thomas Cranmer's careful way of constructing language in the Book of Common Prayer "...for the sake of emotional persuasion, wanting to concretize and make sensible the abstractions that distanced the worshiper's heart from the liturgy." Hicks goes on to ask searching questions about the "musical rhetoric" of our own times.
In the forthcoming Charles Ore: An American Original (the seventh in a series of publications from the Center), Chris Ahlman (a career missionary in Leipzig), citing Scriptures and studies of Melanchthon's era, proposed that church musicians also are not only heralds and prophets, but rhetoricians. As such, music ministry is connecting, witnessing, teaching, and consoling. Of course today's church musician are "preaching" to a different "choir" than Paul. In this month's issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, Martin Marty contends that "the problem for the Christian witness in the secular realm is not atheism, but an entrenched indifference and lack of involvement in the lives of people and the critical issues they face." All of this means that church musicians today must work hard in their planning at finding significant, powerful texts and presenting the Gospel message in the most engaging manner possible.
Thankfully there are many places from which to draw ideas and inspiration---books, articles, conferences, web sites, blogs etc. We hope that you'll take time on a regular basis to check out what's new at the Center for Church Music and be strengthened and equipped for your very important vocation...of persuasion.
Barry L. Bobb