The Table Podcast

Generational Unity in Worship Music

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Ryan Flanigan, and Patrick Thomas discuss leading worship songs in church, focusing on approaches to reconcile the generational divide.

Timecodes
00:15
Del Rosario introduces guests and church music conversation
01:46
Thomas’ musical background and influences
03:39
Flanigan’s musical background and influences
06:08
Challenges in leading worship and the influence of preferences
11:26
Patrick’s approach to leading worship songs in church
14:28
Ryan’s approach to leading worship songs in church
18:00
Experiencing God through worship music
23:07
Theology and stories behind the worship songs
28:55
Flanigan’s introduction to worship music
34:30
The impact of intergenerational worship music
39:24
Flanigan explains the Liturgical Folk music project
41:35
How pastors can help bridge the generational gap
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to the Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, Cultural Engagement Project Manager at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And our topic of the day is music in the church. We’re going to be talking about reconciling the generational divide in church music, so that people from all generations can come together to worship God in unity. We have three guests in studio today. First is my friend, Ryan Flannigan. Ryan is a folk artist and Church Music Director at All Saints Dallas. Welcome Ryan.
Ryan Flannigan
Thank you. Good to be here.
Mikel Del Rosario
We also have Patrick Thomas. Patrick is the Associate Pastor at Reunion Church in Dallas, and he also leads worship here at Dallas Theological Seminary in chapel. Welcome.
Patrick Thomas
Thanks. Thanks for having me here. I appreciate it.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, it’s good to have you. And third guest is Darrell Bock, to my right. Dr. Darrell Bock is the Executive Director of Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center and Senior Research Professor of New Testament at the Seminary. Thanks for being here Darrell.
Darrell Bock
It’s my pleasure.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, today we want to talk about this whole idea of worship music and bridging the generational divide. We recently did a brown bag for our students here at the seminary with Ryan, with Patrick, and with some others, talking about how we can do this better as a church. So I want to start by introducing our guests. Patrick, you’ve been involved with ministry for quite some time, doing music for over thirty years, and some of that’s been right here at DTS. Would you just share with us a little bit about how you first got involved in music ministry?
Patrick Thomas
I started playing in church when I was about nine years old, and I told a little bit of this story in the brown bag that you mentioned. I was playing with an angel choir and we were singing, Jesus Loves Even Me, I believe it was, either that or Yes, Jesus Loves Me

but I believe it was Jesus Loves Even Me. It was a Jesus Loves song, how about that?

And it was out of the hymn book, because that’s the only way we were supposed to do it back then. But I have a family background in music in church. My grandparents, on my mom’s side, loved the Lord, loved music. They didn’t really sing or play but they kind of forced their kids into it. And then my mom and her siblings passed that on to their children as well. Even so, this is an interesting note, we had a family choir because my parents, my mom, had 12 siblings. So all of her siblings that lived in Houston and all of her kids had the Johnson family chorale, and it was a chorale because it was a lot of people. But from a family standpoint, music was very important to them, so they made sure they instilled that importance to us. And my dad had a heart to see me and my siblings, I have one brother and three sisters we’re all involved in music some type of way, and he wanted it instilled in us the importance of using that for God. So, he encouraged us to serve with it. So that started early on. Took music to a different church after that, and did some in undergrad, although I didn’t degree in music, I did have quite a bit of involvement and influence from music during that time. So, that’s kind of how I got started.

Mikel Del Rosario
Okay, well thanks for sharing that. Let me turn to you Ryan. How did you get started writing worship music, and how did your time in seminary impact your musical direction?
Ryan Flannigan
Well, I was raised in a Pentecostal church, and we were a very musical church. I had a great music minister who I learned a ton from, just by watching. And it was a very expressive environment, very melodic, very choral, sang out of hymnals as well, the gospel hymns. So I grew up in that environment, learned how to lead church music, just by watching him, as I said. Probably at some point in my high school years, I heard a praise band perform an original song, and I was like, hey, wait a minute. You can write your own?

And so I went home and got on the piano and started writing. This was probably junior year of high school. And I just haven’t stopped. And then I came here to Dallas from Chicago back in 2000. Attended Christ for the Nations’ institute for two years, a charismatic Bible college. And then I met the Reformers.

And so I went to DBU.

Patrick Thomas
I smiled when you said that.
Ryan Flannigan
Dallas Baptist University. And from there I went to Trinity Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School back up in Chicago. While I was there, I studied with Bob Weber, actually at a different seminary, and he was incredibly influential not only in my life as a student, you know, a seminary student, and learning theology and that sort of thing. But in shaping what I would be doing in ministry. In shaping my song writing, and ultimately landing me in the same tradition that he was in, Anglicanism. Yeah, I don’t know specifically how it influenced me but it was foundational.
Mikel Del Rosario
That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. Well, when we were together in the brown bag we were talking about some of these challenges that are facing worship leaders in the church today, and Darrell you’ve been a church leader for some time. You’re elder emeritus at your church, Trinity. How have you seen the challenges that worship leaders face change over the years?
Darrell Bock
Well, I’m not sure they’ve changed, they’ve probably intensified with all the options people have. You know when I first went to church it was piano, three hymns and that was what you did. And in some contexts they were slightly more liturgical with the music and how the music slotted in was pretty well determined, so you didn’t have that many options. When things kind of opened up and you had the possibility of people doing music in a variety of styles in a variety of ways. All of a sudden guitars started showing up and then drums, and then that cage that they put the drummer in-

I felt like, at least treat the drummer like a human being. You don’t have to imprison him while he’s doing his music.

Patrick Thomas
Don’t isolate him and spotlight him, right?
Darrell Bock
Exactly, exactly. Yeah, what did he do? But anyway, and with those choices of course, all of a sudden you’ve started to touch people’s preferences. So, I’ve been through churches that have wrestled with what we used to call, I think in the ’90s even, “worship wars”. That kind of stuff. And some of that stuff is still with us in terms of people’s preferences and that kind of thing, and we work really hard at the church that I was at to try and really encourage our parishioners to embrace a variety kind of style. To talk to them consciously and directly about it. Our line used to be “Well if you don’t like the piece of music that’s coming now, just remember yours is coming later, and the person next to you probably doesn’t like that.”

And trying to build some sense of awareness that different people have different tastes; different music speaks to different people in different ways. And trying to get them to think less about themselves and their own preferences and try to open them up to the possibilities of what we’re actually here to do which is to share in one form, in one voice a commitment to our love for God, our love for Jesus, and what he’s done through the Spirit in us. And so that’s how we attempted to tackle it. And so we, our church personally, we never went through, we went through music adjustment, we certainly went through that, we didn’t go through the battles that some people had. Because we worked pretty intentionally in communicating what we wanted out of it in making the move. We’re now going through another move which actually I think is interesting, because this time we didn’t talk so much ahead of time about what was going on. We just did it, because we thought, oh, they’ve got it. Nope.

So now that we’ve made this shift, you know it was like, people were like, I’m not used to this. So, all over again, hit the reset button here we go. So all those tapes that we use back there are probably going to be, to re-emerge because it’s a new generation. We made two mistakes. I think one we didn’t realize, well there are a lot of people here now, who weren’t here then. And secondly we learned that people will say they want change, but when they experience the change they don’t necessarily embrace it as they do from a distance. And so, those two things are at work, so I feel like I’m the guy in the airplane who has the seat belt on him and the captain’s come one and said, “Turbulence here”.

So, it isn’t always easy.

Mikel Del Rosario
I remember when I was in high school, just using a drum set, I grew up in a Baptist church, and just using a drum set on the stage was a big area of controversy. But now the situation has changed and we have a lot of grandparents who are the drummers in our bands, right?
Patrick Thomas
Well, if I could comment on that. These struggles are a little different if you come out of a charismatic background, or African American, not that there aren’t some African American churches that probably operate a little more rigidly historically, but the one I was in, they were like, the more drums, the more guitars, the more horns, they even tolerated us playing trumpets, saxophones and trombone-
Darrell Bock
You’re problem’s going to radical hymns right?
Patrick Thomas
Kind of. It was learning more than the first two verses. Like in some of those environments, you go in and sing How Great is Our God, they know the chorus, you start singing the verses it gets very quiet, because they may not know all of the verses, but embracing the energy, so to speak, and the freedom of expression in that has always been something that has been embraced in the background I have, probably similar to your background as well, in that regard.
Mikel Del Rosario
So, how do you approach your role as a worship pastor understanding there is a variety of different, not just two, but a variety of different generations now that are represented in front of us? Where you have like we mentioned the older generation is not the generation of yesteryear where they might be the drummers, we have younger kids who might think that a remix of a hymn they heard on the radio is actually a Crowder song. Oh, that David Crowder can write some really profound lyrics, man. Have you heard that hit? So, how do you approach your role as a worship pastor understanding all those people are in front of you?
Patrick Thomas
Yeah, I think for me, the first thing I do is a humility before God, as best I can. And I say that carefully, because that’s a kind of word an individual shouldn’t throw around easily, like humility, right? But it’s getting it straight with me and God first, saying, I have my preferences, I have my likes and dislikes, but you’ve called me for a purpose in this regard, and how can I submit myself to that. And then from there I think about, who’s going to be a symbol then? In that reunion we’ve got some old and some young. We’ve got some with a lot of money and some who just walked in off the street homeless, because we’re right downtown across the street from the Dallas Life Foundation and the Bridge and places like that and we want, we want them to come to church. And we try to keep the ground level where they’re not asking for money and we’re not giving them money because we’re there to worship. Now if someone wants to take them to lunch, side note, welcome to do that afterwards, but we’re there to worship together. And so, we have that. We have some that come from a charismatic background, and some that come from a high church, very Western, rigid worship. You know, let’s get it done in 35-40 minutes kind of deal. And then we have those from African-American, Hispanic culture and they’re just like, Sunday is just our time to just be together, so the service is never long enough for them, because they’re like let’s just be together. And then we have some that are from, some Africans, some Asians. And it’s interesting and fun leading music in this context because it keeps me challenged. And again, this is something I said earlier, I don’t always pick songs that I like, but I try to search through what’s the truth and what’s the theology that God wants us to be communicating in this season. And can I find and assemble some songs that do that well, but also challenges us to be uncomfortable. Because I think one of the reasons why there are the preferential wars is because people believe that if they can get their preference met that eventually they will worship God, and I think he’s after something different.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yes, that’s right.
Patrick Thomas
I approach it very uncomfortably, beginning with me, and I figure if I can be uncomfortable and I can worship God, then maybe everybody else can as well.
Mikel Del Rosario
Ryan, you’ve used the word evangelist to describe how you see your role and your approach to leading worship songs. Tell us a little bit about that.
Ryan Flannigan
An evangelist is a storyteller. An evangelist convinces people to believe the things that they believek – to believe the truth. In church music, as a song leader who is evangelizing this congregation, it’s my responsibility to proclaim the gospel in song. That’s not this modern reduction of the gospel to, “Jesus died for your sins”, but this expansive understanding. And in my tradition, there’s so much symbol and imagery and beauty to draw from, just to present, to proclaim before the people and to get them proclaiming for themselves. And enacting. So, yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
What are some generational issues you’ve seen throughout your time as a worship minister?
Ryan Flannigan
Man, generational issues.

The classic, every generation wants to do things their way. They have particular styles. Actually nostalgia, I think, is one of the biggest hindrances or challenges. You know, people trying to re-experience or re-live what they experienced as a kid or at a pivotal time in their life. You know several people, even within my own family, but in my church the charismatic renewal of the Catholic and Anglican Church in the late ’70s, and there’s, they don’t verbalize this but you can see, they had a profound experience back then and they want that again. I’ll get song suggestions like Glorify Thy Name, and I’ll do these songs, but there’s this, there’s always a song attached to these really big movements. So, nostalgia is a challenge.

Patrick Thomas
You mentioned recreating those experiences, right? And it’s kind of like from a pop music standpoint, my wife and I have very different tastes with music. And I’ll hear some hip hop song from the ’90s and I’ll be like, that beat has got me in the zone. And then she’ll be like it does absolutely nothing for me.

And I think so many people bring that to your point, to the experience, where it’s like if I can recreate whatever this is in my mind, I will know I have worshipped, and isn’t that coming from a good place? And my thought is maybe. But maybe not.

Mikel Del Rosario
Well, I think before you and the congregation people with all kinds of backgrounds like that, thinking this is when I felt closest and if I could get that back again. And they attach that to songs and styles. And so, at your church it sounds like you have a multigenerational, and multiethnic group.
Patrick Thomas
Yes, and it is challenging because really what you’re trying to do is define a new thing in a sense, and I’m not trying to say everything we’re doing is new, that’s not the point. I’m grabbing from the few songs that everybody else is and writing a few along the way, but finding a central theme of how do we let the strongest commonality we have which is Christ, be the centerpiece of our worship? And something I pray with the congregation every week is “Lord, we want to see you in a greater light so that we can be cause to worship you.” And I think I mentioned this earlier in our brown bag meeting, but one of the pictures I have in my mind is a 70 year old with one hand on a cane and the other hand trying to get it up as this guy is rapping these amazing lyrics.

One of our, I call him our resident rapper, he has a song that he, it’s called One Life, One Wife. And basically he talks about the oneness in the Trinity, and how that oneness translates into his relationship with he and his wife as one. And he built, we sat down and we worked through some good theology and he has some amazing lyrics. And so seeing this old man doing this, trying to get in with him on this, shows that he understands his truth. But I think the thing that bridges the gap the most, is not just the truth of the lyrics that he saw, but he was willing to build a relationship with that young man who has nothing else in common with him but Christ. And they learn to love each other and as a result he can support him when he is using his craft to support everybody else in the Lord.

Mikel Del Rosario
Have you found Darrell that when it comes to beginning to take steps to bridge these kinds of divides that the relationship with the worship pastor is a key part of that?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I think there are several elements. The relationship with the worship pastor. One of the challenges we had is we had a worship leader who really didn’t like to speak to the congregation, just liked to move from song to song to song to song. Kind of what I call a musical technician. They knew the music. They could do it. They could lead it. They could get a choir to sing and sound beautifully. But to get this person to address the audience was like pulling teeth. And so, that was hard because it was, there wasn’t the development between the worship leader and the audience in a way that drew them in to the story and the music and the sequence so that was a challenge. The other relationship that I think is really, really important is between the pastor and the worship leader, and the way that they view the service, the way in which they approach the service, et cetera. So you’ve really got, in three factors you’ve got your pastor, you’ve got your worship leader, and you’ve got your audience, and you’re trying to get them all somewhat in the same room in terms of what’s going on. And I think that what a lot of churches do, is they assume that it happens. They assume that the music does it or something like that. And there are, there are songs that do that. I’m not denying that. I do think a church is better off when there’s a little bit of intentionality tied to it, when there’s good communication and that communication is happening between all those elements, which are being affirmed in the songs, we’re singing about our relationship to God and our relationship to one another in most cases, in almost all cases in fact. That is affirmed by what is going on with the music. I think that helps get people at least moving in the same direction. And frankly I find some of the stories behind some of the hymns and some of the choruses particularly fascinating and compelling on their own terms. You know, I mean, you know the story behind, for example, It Is Well With My Soul, which I sung for years and didn’t know, and all of a sudden one day Bill Bryan, former chaplain here, took time in the middle of a chapel to share what was behind that story and the loss and everything, and you’re sitting here going well okay, this guy’s saying it is well with my soul, but look what he’s been through. He’s lost his family in a shipwreck, and I’m going-
Patrick Thomas
It gives a whole new meaning to it, doesn’t it?
Darrell Bock
Exactly right. All of a sudden you’re going this isn’t just words a guy put down on a page, he has felt what he is writing. I think that helps an audience to connect to what you’re trying to do in the context of worship.
Patrick Thomas
One of the things our church is about to go into a season of for I guess, I don’t know, maybe about six studies maybe a little longer, we’re going to actually take songs that vividly have bible scripture listed in them, and that’s what the Bible studies are going to be based on. So we can encourage them you know how can songs lead you from scripture in a way, not just I feel good, this has this answer in it, but it’s like look at the theology that’s here and how is that impacting your worship? That’s going to be, I think that’s going to be huge. We’ve got about seven, or, eight, nine small groups and probably 15 to 20 people in each and they’re going to be breaking these songs apart, which I’m happy they’re allowing me to suggest five or six of the songs they’re going to study. Which one will be like, This I Believe: The Creed, you know, I believe in God the Father, Christ the Son, great foundational stuff from the Apostles’ Creed that we say that we believe, but where are the foundational verses to support that? How does that glue together what we say we believe? And what is the hope that we have in that? And the message that we can, you know, show the world and represent as a result of that.
Darrell Bock
I actually know the person who encouraged the development of that song. You know, it’s interesting because the reaction that came, you know, he suggested, why don’t you take some of the creeds and put it to music? You’re a talented musician. And so that’s what happened, and when he saw the result he was like, man it blew him away in terms of what was going on. And I like your story about Fanny Crosby. You know, I like the here’s one of the greatest hymn writers we ever had, absolutely blind. And you were telling her story about the way she dealt with the question about blindness.
Patrick Thomas
Oh yeah. Somebody asked her, how do you feel about writing about God all these years and he never healed your sight? And her comment was, “Well, his face will be the first one I see”, which like, pretty amazing stuff.
Mikel Del Rosario
So you know the people who sit down to write music, who put lyrics together and stuff, they aren’t sitting down just trying to slap something together that goes into a service. They’re usually pouring out of themselves something of their experience to God. And I think Ryan, you talked about the fact that you see worship as telling the story of God in many ways, and I think that’s a valuable way to think about it. We’re sharing something that we hold in common that actually draws us together. It’s why we’re there.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, this is the kind of thing that bridges that generational divide, because our unity is not based on music style. Our unity is based on our identity in Christ.
Patrick Thomas
Absolutely, because Christ prayed in the garden that we would be what?
Mikel Del Rosario and Patrick Thomas
One.
Patrick Thomas
Right. And it’s interesting to see how many things of this nature that we allow to divide us. And as a result, we don’t really arrive as a community where we should.
Mikel Del Rosario
And Scripture says, Jesus says there’s an evidential value to that. That the world will know that he is from God, when they see this kind of unity we have.
Patrick Thomas
Absolutely.
Mikel Del Rosario
And it goes beyond generational divide. This is what we share as Christians.
Darrell Bock
And I find it so odd what we let divide us sometimes. Another remark you made earlier at the brown bag was besides music divides a church’s own maybe second was carpet color. And I’m sitting here thinking, you weren’t at the church I interned at in which there was a debate about blue carpet to represent heaven or red color to represent the blood. You know, this is a red and blue debate that wasn’t about politics.

Okay-

Patrick Thomas
Although it did get political.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. It had all kinds of politics and theology wrapped up in it, and I’m sitting here going, and sometimes you sit back and usually what happens is a few years later people go, I can’t believe we spent all that energy on that, you know, if they recover on the other side from it all, and yet sometimes we let that get in the way and you think to yourself, how silly.
Patrick Thomas
Yeah, I think it was James Pritchard from First Baptist Forney, and one of the things was he gave a little history of the first church that he pastored. And one of the statements that he made was it was time for them to do a building project and there was eight people with a ringleader that was like, my parents got saved in this church, they were married in this church, baptized, buried in this church, mine as well and my children, this church is important to us and we will not build another building. And the thing was, it wasn’t about the church. What was it about? The building. And the reality is, when they died, that’s when the building went. Because it’s like, at some point, it’s not about the building, it’s about the people and the community but we can get it twisted where we get our preferences, and you used the word earlier Ryan which is nostalgia, which I think is a great one, because usually there’s some desire in us to get back to whatever that thing was that made us feel a certain way. And then I, my mind keeps going back to this It Is Well, whatever this thing was for him, he didn’t have it because you lose everything, where is that connection to it? There’s only hope in one place, and it’s in Christ, but we let all these little things get in the way and we miss, what is the core element? How do we get back to spirit and truth? Because he said then we’re really worshipping, because those are the worshippers I’m seeking for.
Mikel Del Rosario
So we think about the creeds and these things that unify us and we were talking about using them in song, and using the liturgy in worship. Ryan you told a story at our brown bag together that I’d like you to share right now that God really orchestrated this move toward breaking the generational divide that didn’t really come from you. Share with us what happened to kickstart this project.
Ryan Flannigan
Yeah, so I moved down here from South Bend, Indiana, a couple years ago and a month into the job I got an email from a parishioner that just said, “Request” in the subject line.

And we all love getting requests from parishioners. And I opened it and there was a poem in there that he was suggesting we use for Transfiguration Day. I loved the poem. It was beautiful. So I picked up my guitar, wrote a little folk tune to it, sent it back to him. And I said, “By the way, who wrote this poem? It’s great, we’re going to sing it on Sunday.” And he said, “Well, I wrote the poem.” And I was blown away, and I said, “Well do you have any more poems?”

I want to write more tunes to these poems. Let’s write hymns together. So, we sort of stumbled into this partnership. This is Father Nelson Koscheski. He’s seventy, at the time he was seventy two, now he’s seventy five. And we’ve written 30 or so hymns together over the last few years.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Patrick Thomas
That’s awesome.
Mikel Del Rosario
And we have a mutual friend, Elizabeth Hamilton, who wrote an article for the Dallas Morning News about this. And you’ve been taking this worship music throughout the DFW to other churches. How has that been received by the churches in this area?
Ryan Flannigan
Surprisingly well. I don’t know if it’s just that #liturgy is catching on right now in our church culture, or if people are just genuinely drawn to what we’re doing. I find that a younger generation of people are desiring more what their grandparents desired more than what their parents desired. And they’re longing for historical connectedness. Something greater than their own privatized, individual spirituality. They want transcendence; they want beauty; they don’t want a dichotomy between sacred and secular. And it’s not that I set out to sort of accommodate this new growing desire in our culture, the Millennials, I just did what I do, write tunes.

And it seems, you said God seems to be orchestrating this. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s been really well received. A great producer picked up, or heard about the project and wanted to produce the first two volumes, so we did that. And this is just the beginning.

Mikel Del Rosario
And this is a multigenerational project in which your wife and kids are involved in it too?
Ryan Flannigan
Yup, my kids sing, how much detail do you want me to get into about the records themselves?
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, you can talk about how the record came together.
Ryan Flannigan
So, volume one consists entirely of prayers from the Book of Common Prayer, that I set to tunes, including the Apostles’ Creed. And most of them are verbatim. And my kids sing on the first commandment, we sing the first commandment or the greatest commandment. They also sing the dinner or grace song, Bless oh Lord these gifts to our use, and thus to thy service. For Christ’s sake, amen. And then, so that’s the first record. The second record consists entirely of hymns that Nelson and I have written. So, yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
I think over the past 30, 40 years, we’ve kind of lost this idea of a younger generation and older generation people working together to make art. And that’s something the church is having the opportunity to recover now through projects like this.
Ryan Flannigan
It was a good friend of mine, an African American fellow who makes documentaries here in Dallas working on racial reconciliation, doing some really great work, and he told me one of the best ways of bringing reconciliation, whether it’s race or age or any sort of division, is for people who are different from one another to come together and make something. So, you know, it’s one thing to eat together; it’s another thing to make dinner together and then eat together. And it’s true. And so he and I sat down and wrote a song together and the immediacy of the bond of love between us, just nobody can take away the thing that we made. And so I feel like something similar is happening with Nelson and I, and with the children in our church. You make things together and reconciliation happens.
Mikel Del Rosario
You know it’s interesting when you read statistics about young people leaving the church today, and one of the things they say, is those who have intergenerational ministry, tend to stay. They tend to stick around longer. And it’s just interesting, we’ve seen that, I’ve seen that doing refugee ministry, doing worship ministry in the Philippines, it just seems to work. And it’s so great seeing a mom with her kid, a dad with his son playing together on the team. Have you guys seen, any one of you, intergenerational teams doing that in a church that’s really making a difference?
Patrick Thomas
One of the blessings that I have currently, and she’s out for a few weeks because of a surgery, but our pastor’s daughter is singing on our worship team now, and I’ve seen her grow up. And we were sitting in the room, I rehearse with the singers, our main singers, and we sit down I say, okay, I’m praying about stuff for the next few months. Tell me, what are your favorite hymns that we should include in that and why, and she chimed up and said, well, whatever favorite hymn I have, I learned it from you, because you’re the person that’s taught me. And I thought about it in that moment, and I was like, she’s absolutely right, I’ve raised her musically and I’ve completely forgotten about this. Because she was just a little kid, maybe seven or eight years old when I started, so I have been the main voice in her life from a music and worship standpoint. And to see her grow up and say, I don’t like missing this and I want to be a part and I want to help you lead, communicates that something’s working. And you know, she’s probably in her early twenties. And we’ve got some that are in their early 50s that are part of the team, and it’s pretty cool to see that. And throughout our AV team we’ve always tried to mentor. Another blessing is my eleven year old son, my church doesn’t have a building. We set up and tear down, so that adds a whole bunch of community at the beginning of each service, which is amazing, because if everyone doesn’t get involved, it doesn’t happen for the day. And I just got everything organized and delegated where I don’t have to be there and my eleven year old son says, “Dad. I want to set up drums every Sunday.” Which means I have to get up earlier.

But it didn’t shock me, maybe I’m tearing up as I think about it, that he wanted to serve, because he’s watched me and his mom serve in the community and connect with people and it’s what he loves to do and he looks forward to it every single week. And so, forget the sermon’s I’ve preached, and forget all the fussing and all the stuff we say. That’s the evidence to me that maybe this does work. Because when they’re not just saying I want to hear the music, but they’re saying I want to serve and interact with the community it means we’re heading in the right direction.

Ryan Flannigan
Yeah, you’re, while you were talking something came to my mind. All throughout the scriptures you see the generations before us teaching us. And I think there’s something in the Levitical, priestly structure that says if you’re fifty years old, turn over your job to the twenty five year olds. And you know you see, we learn from what’s been handed down to us and what’s been handed down to us and you know. And I’m just thinking about music and how we have the content of hymns and the songs themselves that have been handed down to us, but what about style of music? It also seems like there’s this movement in the modern church that says, I’ll take some of the content of the music that’s been handed down to me, but I’ve got to be completely innovative with the style. Or I’m going to mimic the culture or listen, I’ll create ex nihilo-

how our music sounds. But as you’re talking, I think one of the reasons we see all generations engaging in worship is because, you know, I’m trying to be faithful to the sound that’s been handed down to me, and we don’t even have an organ, but there’s still a way to be faithful to the sound that’s been handed down both from a folk sort of standpoint but also from a higher tradition.

Mikel Del Rosario
Your project is called Liturgical Folk. And putting those two words together is kind of difficult for some folks. Help us understand what liturgical folk music is and how you talked about keeping your ear to the ground to understand that.
Patrick Thomas
Yeah, when I heard that title, I thought you just were talking about who you’re hanging out with. We’re liturgical folk.
Ryan Flannigan
The first tagline for the project was, Liturgical Folk: Music for Liturgical Folk.
Patrick Thomas
Now we’re in the zone.
Ryan Flannigan
It’s funny you should say that. It almost seems like a contradiction. In my mind, it seems redundant. Liturgy is the work of the people. And folk is basically what comes out of the ground and place right. Yeah, Liturgical Folk was somewhat inspired by a book Jamie Smith wrote a while back called Desiring the Kingdom, in which he says, we, it’s sort of a philosophic anthropology, he says, we are primarily worshipping creatures, liturgical creatures. Even before we’re thinking creatures, before we’re believing creatures, we’re worshipping creatures. Because we are what we love, we become what we love, we desire, therefore we are. Not I think therefore I am, but I love therefore I am. And you know, so Liturgical Folk, it is the people, but it’s also the sound. And it’s a project, but it’s also I think a category. Because I don’t think it’s anything innovative, what I’m doing. I think it’s, I think a lot of people are doing it, have been doing it, and I just put a name to it.
Mikel Del Rosario
So, let’s turn now to what we would say to pastors, to worship leaders who are thinking about how they can better serve their congregations and help bridge this generational divide? Darrell, what would you say to pastors?
Darrell Bock
Well, the first thing I’d say to pastors would be don’t treat the service as if what you’re doing in the word is detached from everything that’s going on around you. I happen to be in a church that serves communion every week, and the philosophy is that everything is driving our service towards the table and the reflection and remembrance that happens there. And so, and so we very much try to think about how the music, the message and the table all fit together in the context of a given service. And I think you, when you talk consciously about what you do in a service to your congregation, you help them recognize that they’re not just consumers coming in to treat a worship service like they would go through a cafeteria. And you don’t want them there for that reason, you want them there because they are coming to participate in a service, to reflect on their relationship with God, to draw instruction from that, to celebrate their community and their oneness in Christ in the midst of that, and to sing about it, to rejoice in it, or in some cases to lament where they’ve been, but in one way or another to show that cohesion. I think too many pastors, if they get to the point of moving beyond just having a pastor, and they get to where they’re going to have a worship leader, what they do with that hire is they hand it off. Okay, that’s your area and there’s no connection, and I just think that is, that is not the way to think about worship and your service. Because in the end, what the leadership as a whole reflects about the service and the role of music in the service is going to contribute significantly to how that service is viewed.
Mikel Del Rosario
Patrick, if you could just give one piece of advice to a worship minister who is wanting to think about how to do this better, what would you say?
Patrick Thomas
I would say that he or she needs to understand that they have a very important role because we’re encouraging people in the eternal things. And what I mean by that, is there’s no preaching in heaven, last time I checked. Maybe I need to re-read all that-

-there’s no Bible study, there’s worship. There’s singing and just complete adoration to an amazing God who has done so much that we can’t even contain it. And so we get to be, hopefully cheerleaders, and educators towards that concept on this side saying hey, can we just practice this together. There’s an old quartet song, and here’s a great gospel name for you, Willie Neil Johnson and the Gospel Keynotes-

They’re a little quartet band that used to get up and sing, and they had some good flavor. They used to sing a little song that said, “This is just a rehearsal. When we get to heaven we’re going to really sing.” And the whole concept was, at some point, can we just get together on this side, you know, we’ve been talking about the multigeneration gap, can we get by that? Can we get by all of the preferences and say, can we center on some truth here? We’re singing about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Look at what he’s done for us. Can we agree that’s more amazing than anything we could ever imagine? If so, can we sing about that together as a community.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah. Well, Patrick, before we run out of time, I did want to bring this out, and ask if people wanted to check out this CD you have. Rev P, Under the Influence. Where can they check that out?
Patrick Thomas
They can check that out at www.revp.org. Yeah, and you can email me there or find some of the songs there. That’s an interesting project we worked on a few years ago, and it’s not all worship music, but it’s all God music.
Mikel Del Rosario
And then Ryan’s got two CDs with Liturgical Folk, the first is called “Table Settings”, the second is called Eden Land. Where can people check this music out?
Ryan Flannigan
LiturgicalFolk.com or LiturgicalFolk.bandcamp.com
Mikel Del Rosario
And they can stream all the music there?
Ryan Flannigan
Absolutely.
Mikel Del Rosario
And they can buy the CDs as well?
Ryan Flannigan
And songbooks, yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yes, alright. Well, thank you so much Darrell for being a part of this podcast.
Darrell Bock
A pleasure.
Mikel Del Rosario
Thank you Ryan for being here.
Ryan Flannigan
Absolutely.
Mikel Del Rosario
And thank you Patrick as well.
Patrick Thomas
Thanks for the invite.
Mikel Del Rosario
It’s been great talking about bridging the generational divide in worship music. Stay with us on The Table Podcast. We hope to see you next week where we discuss issues of God and culture.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 40 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a doctoral student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles for Bibliotheca Sacra, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion though his apologetics ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
Patrick Thomas
Patrick is the Director of Chapel Music & Worship at DTS. He also serves as Associate Pastor of Music, Worship, and Marriage Ministries.
Ryan Flanigan
Ryan Flanigan is a liturgical folks artist and church music director at All Saints Church Dallas. As an artist rooted in the Christian Story, Ryan's works to create beautiful and believable sacred music for the sake of the world. He believes the church can be a credible witness of God's beauty, truth and goodness to the whole world, not just Christians. He is the founder of Liturgical Folk and a core team member of United Adoration. Ryan Flanigan was born and raised in Chicagoland and has been leading church music since 1997. He grew up in a musical family and a church that valued music greatly. Ryan moved to Dallas in 2000 to attend Christ for the Nations Institute. He graduated from CFNI in 2002 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Dallas Baptist University in 2004. He moved back to Chicagoland to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from 2004 to 2007. He earned a master's degree at TEDS and spent the next seven years in full time worship arts ministry at River Valley Church in Mishawaka, IN. In addition to leading church music, Ryan loves reading good fiction, exploring Dallas foodie culture, and building relationships with local artists. One of his greatest passions is writing, performing, and recording his songs. Ryan is married to Melissa, and they have three kids.
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