Resources like Clearnote Songbook take hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to create—not to mention the countless additional hours we'll spend expanding and developing content over the years. So why did we think it was worth the effort?
There are lots of reasons, but for starters here are five:
1. The Evangelical church needs a manly alternative to contemporary worship music.
Bridal mysticism—the idea that each individual believer is a bride of Christ—is the foundational assumption of most contemporary worship music. Whenever vernacular styles are employed in the Church today, it is typically for the purpose of eliciting thoughts and sensations better suited to the marriage bed—all that yearning, burning, longing, desiring, touching, feeling, and embracing Jesus stuff. Of course men are still welcome in church, but if they're going to fit in they'll have to check their manhood at the door and get comfortable talking and singing about their tender, loving relationship with Jesus, and how passionate they are about Him.
This feminization of worship is a serious error based on the missapplication of a Biblical analogy. Bridal imagery is a prominent theme of Scripture (e.g. the Song of Solomon), but the Bible doesn't teach us to think of ourselves as individual brides of Christ, . The corporate Church alone claims that title (see Ezekiel 16; Revelation 19). To say otherwise is to make Christ's Church out to be a kind of harem. But Christ has not been betrothed to a harem. He has a Bride and the Church is His Father's household (Galatians 6:10; 1Timothy 3:15). And in God's household, we are given many fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters—all of whom individually are children of God (1John 3:2), adopted sons of God (Romans 8:33; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). We are taught to pray to God, "Our Father" (Matt 6:9); the Spirit of God in our hearts cries out "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15); Jesus, the Son of God, having become our Lord (Romans 15:6; 1Corinthians 5:4) is not ashamed to call us brothers (Hebrews 2:11). So actually, if there's any gender bending in the Gospel, it's that women (as touching their salvation), together with men, are made sons of God and fellow heirs of the grace of life (1Peter 3:7).
Here at Clearnote we're working hard in our worship to re-establish the Fatherhood of God in contemporary terms—something we call the masculine principle of worship. This is a much-needed reform that few are attempting. So we're making our feeble attempts available here, trusting the Lord will use us to inspire musical reform in your church as well.
2. Worship music shouldn't discourage corporate participation.
Both traditional and contemporary worship styles can prove difficult to join in with. At their worst, each tends to discourage robust participation. On one hand, contemporary worship music can be so nuanced and individualistic that congregants are left confused. Sometimes it seems more natural to just stop singing and listen. On the other hand, traditional worship music with its classical notation and four-part harmony is often far above the comprehension of the ploughboy today forcing him to choose between either making frequent, conspicuous mistakes or retiring behind a very soft, shuffling mumbo-jumbo.
Here at Clearnote, we try to avoid both problems. Our vision is to pair quality expressions of sound doctrine with a simple vernacular style that encourages corporate singing, thus enabling all believers to fulfill the musical duties they owe to God (Psalm 95:1) and one another (Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 5:19). It's an experiment that's had some success as time and again visitors (and especially non-native English speakers) comment on how easy our songs are to sing, compared to other churches where they've worshipped. Yes, one of the most significant aspects of our technique is to limit ourselves (for the most part) to singing in unison. But stalwart defenders of four-part harmony should realize the majority opinion of the Church (including the eminent reformer John Calvin) has favored unison singing.
3. The Church shouldn't have to bribe corporate thugs in order to sing her songs.
Gifts of songwriting—no less than gifts of teaching and administration—are given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Body of Christ. Therefore, they should be understood as belonging to the Church—not the gifted individual. We believe it is wicked for Christian songwriters to threaten the Church with lawsuits for the unsanctioned use of their work (1Corinthians 6:1).
How do they make these threats?
Through copyright restrictions mediated by the multinational corporation, Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI).
Copyright restrictions require churches to obtain specific written permissions from individual copyright holders in order to make use of contemporary sacred works, but no church desiring to use such works has the resources to obtain and maintain the necessary permissions. That's where CCLI comes in. With incessant reminders of the risks of thousand-dollar lawsuits (fear-mongering directly contrary to the explicit command of Scripture), CCLI becomes the licensing policeman between content creators and religious institutions—for a fee, of course. Churches pay annual dues (based on the size of their congregation) to CCLI for the privilege of using sacred works without fear of being hauled into court. Through CCLI's mechanism, licensing permissions are obtained, churches rest easier, and songwriters are, in theory, compensated.
In practice, however, songwriters don't receive much more than a few pennies for their work, unless it's being sung by millions of people. We're confident that, were there a way to do so, most Christian songwriters would be happy for their songs to be used freely by the People of God. It would give them joy to bypass CCLI!
Now they can! Creative Commons licenses provide an easy and secure way for Christian authors to grant specific permissions to churches out of that spirit of generosity based upon the Biblical command, "Freely you received. Freely give" (Matthew 10:8).
This is the licensing solution we have chosen for Clearnote Songbook, so nearly all of our songs are licensed under the following terms:
This means (hip-hip hooray!) you do not need a CCLI membership in order to use our songs.
You may copy, distribute, and perform our works for free.
Yes, of course Christians are to take care not to muzzle the ox (1Timothy 5:18). Those who labor in songwriting and arranging do the Church a great service and are certainly worthy of their hire. So we encourage you to give in support of our work as you are able. If you are a worship planner, consider asking your budget committee to designate an annual contribution commensurate with the benefit you receive from the Songbook. If you wish, you may make donations here.
But note that phrase, "If you wish." There's a world of difference between "if you wish" and "you better, you better, or else."
4. Liturgy is not the dirty word you think it is.
Many of us consider liturgy to be spiritually suspect. It intimidates us. Yet the word "liturgy" is simply a composite Greek word meaning "public work" or "duty." In Christian use, "liturgy" simply refers to the public service or work of the People of God. Thus, liturgy consists of whatever actions Christians perform together to express their devotion to the Lord. In this sense, every church has a liturgy—even (perhaps especially) those churches that claim to be opposed to liturgy.
Under the Old Covenant with Israel, God prescribed a gracious, but elaborate, service of animal sacrifices and votive offerings to be practiced at a single, specified location (initially the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem) through the mediation of the Levitical priesthood. These ancient ceremonies typified the coming Messiah and were fulfilled with the once-and-done sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Spotless Lamb of God; consequently, God has prescribed for the New Testament Church a liturgy of her own.
It is far simpler and less restrictive than the Old Testament ceremonial law. This New Covenant liturgy is outlined for us in Acts 2:42 where we read that the first Christians were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” These are the basic categories of public worship subsequent to the coming of Christ and the pouring out of His Spirit at Pentecost.
While there are various faithful expressions of these simple apostolic devotions, the Protestant Church has historically seen fit to make use of the elements found here. Under each category, you will find examples from Scripture and history to assist you in leading God's people in more thoughtful, Scriptural services of worship. You will also find a growing collection of Reformational confessions and catechisms to enhance your understanding of Reformed doctrine and practice.
[Please note that the Liturgy section of the Songbook is still under construction. Check back often for updates and additions. If you want to be alerted to any significant updates and changes we make, please join our email list below. Thanks!]
5. We love you and have a wonderful plan for your worship leader.
There's a dearth of godly leadership in the Church today—especially worship leadership. Your church's songs may be wonderful and your liturgy soundly Biblical, but unless there is a man up there with the requisite character and training to lead the congregation, you'll miss many of the benefits of godly worship. This is because worship is essentially pastoral in nature, and worship suffers wherever the pastor's leadership is absent.
It's common in Evangelical churches today to make a radical distinction between the work of preaching and the so-called "preliminaries" of worship. Too often, preaching and Sacraments are the responsibility of the pastor, and worship is the responsibility of any layman (or woman) who shows sufficient initiative and musical ability.
This is not a Biblical view of worship. According to Scripture (see Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), singing doesn’t just serve the "vertical" function of praise to God, but also the "horizontal" function of teaching and admonishing one another. Worship is part of the teaching ministry of the church, which means pastors and elders ought to bear responsibility for it.
This is not to say pastors can't delegate discreet leadership roles to qualified laymen (e.g. song leadership, prayer leadership), but even here he must take care to clearly maintain the spiritual authority of the pastors and elders. The problem is, few pastors have confidence in their ability to lead music, and thus are too easily intimidated by the strongly held opinions of the trained musicians of the church. Because of this, most pastors end up simply handing over the reins of worship to those less spiritually qualified.
Clearnote Pastors College is working hard to address this dilemma by training students in all aspects of worship leadership, including music. All students take a course in the theology of worship which challenges each man to think Biblically about each element of worship. We also have a specific music and liturgy track for students who show particular interest and ability in music leadership. This track includes courses in the history of congregational singing, poetics, song-writing, technology, and liturgics.
If you are interested in learning more about these programs, please contact us.