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Music and Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint, Updated Edition [Paperback]

By Calvin Johansson (Author)
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Item description for Music and Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint, Updated Edition by Calvin Johansson...

Contemporary or traditional? Many churches find themselves mired in debate over which type of worship music to use. In this updated resource, Johansson addresses pastoral, theological, and musical concerns in a comprehensive discussion of this topic. He challenges pastors and choir directors to reflect seriously on the biblical principles foundational to music ministry.

Publishers Description
Contemporary or traditional? Blended or seeker? Pop or "classical"? Chorus or hymn? Combo or organ? Questions concerning music in worship abound these days. Is there a practical way to deal with these issues?

In "Music and Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint," Calvin Johansson looks to God's Word for principles foundational to music ministry. Weaving together great scriptural truths, he establishes the need for a "directional balance" between pastoral contextualization and prophetic purity. In a time of facile musical accommodation of the gospel to culture, Dr. Johansson suggests that a heightened concern for musical style and quality is in order" not for the sake of music, but for the sake of the gospel.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Hendrickson Publishers
Pages   194
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 1998
Age  18
ISBN  156563361X  
ISBN13  9781565633612  

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More About Calvin Johansson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Calvin M. Johansson served as a church music director for four decades. In addition, he was Professor of Music at Evangel College from 1964-2003. He is the author of "Music and Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint," and "Discipling Music Ministry: Twenty-first Century Directions."

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Reviews - What do customers think about Music & Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint, Second Edition?

A fresh look at church music  Jan 2, 2005
Calvin Johansson does a commendable job of identifying the theological doctrines that have a bearing on how we view the relationship between music and congregational ministry. While I don't agree with all of his conclusions, he helped me to
think of music in theological terms. The most beneficial part of the book for me, though, was more the development of this mindset than in the practical ways that it would be carried out in the church. I don't feel like the situation is quite as black and white as he makes it.

I appreciate that Johansson takes the subject of music and ministry seriously, but some of his attacks on "bad" music are so brutal that he sounds almost like, John Calvin. For instance: "reducing art to the commercial level, to aesthetic insignificance, to sheer entertainment (religious or not) is to misuse, even profane, the creative gift," (p. 13), and "church music that does not clearly exhibit genuine creativity has no place in the church because it dishonors and demeans the imago Dei," (p. 31). I suppose I appreciate more what he says about the positive reasons we should have quality music in the Church than what he says to discredit (in theological terms, especially) Church music that is of a lower quality. I personally appreciate the classics and like to sing and hear quality music in church, but I don't know that using a lower quality of music (that nonetheless speaks, somehow, to the congregation) is tantamount toblasphemy.

Another thing that I did appreciate about Johansson's book (before I get into the specific doctrines that he addresses) was his very approach of comparing theological doctrines to musical counterpoint. I think that is an appropriate approach to theology in general (as Johannson says, "Our finite minds understand God in dynamic paradoxes - in musical terms, a counterpoint," p. 7), and an especially useful analogy to make when discussing the theology behind church music. I have long felt that music helps me to connect with and understand God in new and deeper ways, but I had never thought much about how this happens, nor had I thought of musical counterpoint as a way of thinking about how all of the apparent paradoxes in theology can co-exist.

The doctrines of creation and imago Dei are good starting points for a theological examination of why the arts should be included in Christian worship. The God who creates makes us in God's image, and thus we are called to mirror that very quality that brought us into existence by assisting in God's continual creation. I like that Johansson balances new art with the older art of our heritage ("It is implicit in creation that one
cannot profitably discard tradition," p. 17). This, I think, is a proper understanding of the doctrine of creation - for anything worth creating should be able to stand the test of time, and God's continual creation generally adds to the creation that has existed before. I feel like there is a slight problem with Johansson's explication of these doctrines,
though. He stresses throughout that music in the Church must be of a high quality, to reflect the high quality of God's creation (e.g. "to be `creative', then, means to originate with artistic excellence," p. 18). However, he also states that all people are called to this creative endeavor: "The notion that creativity is the possession of only a few is repudiated by the broad sense of the imago Dei," (p. 29... I don't fully agree with Johansson's statement here. I don't really think that all people made in God's image possess all of God's attributes in some degree. I say this because I've met people who just aren't creative at all. They have other gifts that reflect attributes of God. So I don't think that anyone who writes a piece of music should be able to sing it in Church. I'm more trying to point out what may be seen as an inconsistency in Johansson's view, to show that maybe his stance is a little too black and white [i.e. maybe not all people are called to create, and maybe not all of the music used in church needs to be of a concert hall long as it is written and/or presented in a spirit of worship]).

Johannson's argument sets up a problem, since all are called to create, but the resulting creation has to be of a very high quality. Johansson writes of the various blocks, such as congregational apathy towards the arts (p. 20), that might inhibit an artist from creating. I feel like Johansson's demand for all music in the church to be of exceptional quality could serve as an equivalent hindrance to the creative aspirations of someone who is not an exceptional artist. I, personally, am scared to writes serious worship music because I'm afraid that it wouldn't be good enough (so I end up writing joke songs, because I have more confidence in my ability to make people laugh than I have in my musical abilities). These sections did nothing to encourage me to try to use my creative abilities to benefit the life of the Church.

I feel like these doctrines should govern more the attitude that we take to creating than the quality of the product (if we are to insist that the imago Dei enlists all of us as
co-creators with God). I agree with Johansson (p. 38) that a lack of preparation or energy in our creative endeavors reflects poorly upon the God's in whose image we are made,
but I feel like, if we give our best effort, God will honor what we offer (I also believe, though, that the more talented artists in the Church should be able to use their creative
gifts in worship more often than an average congregant, so I agree that the general level of musical quality should be high).
In the sense of giving our best effort in out artistic endeavors, I agree with Johansson's attack on pop music (pp. 67-79). I cannot condemn it wholly on the grounds of musical quality, though. I think that any medium can be used to glorify God, and I've seen many youth introduced to the gospel through the pop medium. What I agree with is Johansson's argument that pop culture is designed for commercial purposes and mass-
production. A lot of it is of poor quality not because of the genre, per se, but because it is produced so quickly and carelessly. Again, I see it as a matter of the artist's mindset. I believe that a heartfelt song carefully and prayerfully composed by someone with moderate musical ability honors God more than if the same song were whipped out in a
few minutes by a talented musician who is capable of better work. If a church is choosing music that is written by people not in the congregation, I don't see any reason not to use
good Christian pop music, though (if one is able to concede that it exists).

Johansson's discussion of relevance in the incarnation section (pp. 44-50) is a good check on the temptation to become musical snobs in the Church. It would be easy, especially for a musically gifted and forward-thinking music director, to become overly concerned with presenting great music at the expense of the congregation's needs. I agree that quality music should be used in the Church, but I don't think that the Church should
become the pulpit for preaching the benefits of good music if the congregation is at an entirely different place.

I agree with most of what Johansson says about faith, especially the argument that there needs to be a balance of intellect and emotion in church (pp. 94-99). Either of these
at the exclusion of the other can have harmful effects on a church's theology and spiritual life. The same argument could be used to support occasionally accommodating to the
musical tastes of less musically-minded congregants. The risk element to faith (we can experiment with music that the congregation is not comfortable with and have faith that
God will bring about eventual gratification with it, p. 99) can also be used to argue that we should have faith that God will honor whatever music we offer sincerely and worshipfully.

The stewardship section, too, provides a nice counterpoint to some of Johansson's other arguments. He presents here the cogent argument that we need to be pleased with giving the best we have, since every effort will necessarily fall short (p.122). This illustrates the main strength of the book as a whole - most of the arguments that one can level against him are addressed in other sections. The discussion of mystery and awe would be a good section for Zwingli to read, were he still alive.

Perhaps the most powerful argument for the use of music in the Church is that it is capable of expressing things that nothing else can express: "[the arts] have a feeling tone and a drive that words do not possess," (p. 125). The "ethereal quality" (p. 126) of music allows it to express mystery and awe in ways that even James Earl Jones's acclaimed reading of the King James Version of the Bible cannot bring across. I don't know that all music has to serve this purpose, though. Johansson flatly condemns hymns that are "mildly sweet, pretty,
and tritely sentimental" as "destroyers of awe" (p. 137... I know that Johansson intends this to be a bad thing, but "Destroyer of Awe" is such a cool title, it almost makes me want to become myself a tritely sentimental hymn. People would ask me who I am, and I would boldly reply, "Why, I am In the Garden: Destroyer of Awe!").

I think that there is a place for hymns that are pretty and peaceful, which express God's comfort, rather than God's mystery and awe. We don't have to limit ourselves to John Tavener pieces.

Johansson's concluding section on application is helpful, since much of the book deals with music in more abstract terms. He outlines here a model that is very similar to Michael Bauer's developmentalism approach. The music director should begin where the congregation is at, and then slowly replace the bad music with quality music, once they have built the congregation's trust that they have their best interests in mind. This is great, except if the congregation doesn't grow to appreciate or understand the new music. This approach may leave out some simpler pieces that have meant a lot to people in the
congregation over time.

The more valuable part of the conclusion is Johansson's stress again on the attitude that the church puts forth toward worshiping God with music. The choir, for instance needs to "see their music as ministry to the Lord," (p. 158), and while we can't expect the congregation to express impeccable musicianship, there is no reason why they should sing praise songs "half-heartedly," (p. 159). Johansson notes that "even more important than doing the work of a servant is one's attitude while serving," (p. 157). This, I believe, should sum up the church's music ministry. The quality of the music is
important to consider, but any product that represents our best efforts and which is offered in a humble and worshipful spirit will glorify God and minister to the congregation.

Not afraid to ask the tough questions  Jan 19, 2004
I used to own a copy of the first edition of this book, thanks to my contact with its author. I plan to replace my lost copy with one of the second edition, and add to it Prof. Johansson's second book. I write on the assumption that the second edition of this book is not very different from the first.

One thing that impresses me about "Music and Ministry" is that it is not afraid to ask the tough questions (both theoretical and practical) that musicians in mainstream Christianity face today. Calvin Johansson stands with others such as Frank Garlock, Ronald B. Allen and Kimberly Smith in his support of dignity and quality in sacred music -- which should not copy musical styles that are intended for sensual "entertainment", but should evoke the holy awe (in all its many emotions and attitudes) of being in God's presence. To this, I can only give a wholehearted "Amen".

One thing that pleases me personally is that this book mentions in passing the work of Suzanne Haik-Vantoura (d. 2000) with the musical notation of the Hebrew Bible (Masoretic Text). That work is likewise sold on this ("The Music of the Bible Revealed", book and recording). Had Prof. Johansson dealt more with Mme. Haik-Vantoura's discovery, in the light of the implications of the biblical narrative regarding the choice of instrumentation, choral organization, and so on in the original cultural context, he would have had more effective answers to some objections to his books by reviewers here and elsewhere. Reviewing Haik-Vantoura's work more might also have helped him define better what the tension in sacred music (and indeed in the true Gospel itself) really is.

The original "music of the Bible" (especially in Psalms) combines classical sensibility with folk accessibility, and has great creativity within very limited technical means. Yes, it is chant, but of a more wholesome spirit than that of the early and medieval, antinomian Christian sects. It neither yields an inch to carnal sensuality nor denigrates the reality of human experience. For the tension inherent in truly valid sacred music is the biblical tension of law =and= grace (not law =versus= grace). Too much of what passes for Christian music, whether chant, classical, folk or CCM, effectively turns grace into license and denies the Lord it claims to serve, in both words and music. Had Prof. Johansson brought this out more effectively, I would have given his book 5 stars rather than 4 stars -- and he might well be using his talents somewhere else than at Evangel College today.

Biblical  Oct 16, 2003
Many books have been written on worship, but few of them go into biblical discussion of the actual music, and how and why it fits into worship. Johansen does a wonderful job of this. He goes through biblical doctrines, and shows how that should effect the manner, quality, and form Christian music should take. I only have one objection. He critiques pop music as being essentially uncreative, which I would have to agree. But I wonder if the limitations of pop music can give us an opportunity for creativity. It is in limitations we find creativity - write a murder mystery where someone is murdered with a knife, or write a story in which they are murdered with a knife but without using the blade. The limitation on the second example gives us more opportunity for creativity. Second while pop musicians are often very sub-standard, the people behind the scenes, the producers, engineers, studio musicians, are often highly skilled and creative. I think he might misunderstand all the creativity that goes into a recording project from the perspective of the producer. I often find classically trained musicians unable to engage in quality pop music because they don't understand that pop musics fineness is found in the gestalt in a different way than classical musicians. They play a lot of senseless clutter, and then belittle the pop musician for playing simply, though that simplicity adds to the gestalt while the classical clutter subtracts from it. It's not to far from jazz. Again let me restate that I agree with him, and thing ccm is the worst junk out there, I still think that we can creatively reshape pop music into something fine and wonderful as is worthy of GOD. I just haven't figured out how yet.
A must-read for all church musicians and clergy  May 14, 2001
This magnificent little volume probes the challenges facing the church musician today, but does not do so in the all-too-familiar context of "traditional" versus "contemporary". Johansson calls church musicians to take an incarnational approach to the selection of music: the music should embody the faith professed by the church. Is God eternal? Then music should express eternal values, not just fads. (Lest you think that this is directed merely at contemporary composers, just remember all those of earlier times who fell into deserved oblivion.) Is spirituality more than emotions? Then a music program that focuses on eliciting an emotional response from the congregation is failing in its mission. Is spirituality more than an intellectual exercise? A music program that focuses on that is also failing.

Johansson is aware that there is a constant tension inherent in music ministry. There is the desire to preserve the musical heritage we have received, but there is also the need to find new expressions, too. Bach was new once--and not terribly well regarded, either. There is the reality of dealing with a congregation where it is musically--being pastoral--while not abandoning the role of promoting musical growth--being prophgetic.

This book has been a tremendous inspiration, to which I return over and over. It does not give simplistic answers, but poses a challenge to the church musician to live into the fullness of his or her ministry.


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