Church Multiplication

Church Multiplication


First, I want to acknowledge my spiritual dad, Bob Roberts, who taught me all this stuff I’m about to share. We will learn from the bible and from Bob and from church history in practice this morning.


We are planted from Northwood Church (NW). NW has planted 200 + churches in their 30 years.


We are one of 9 churches that NW continues to invest in and asks to come together for partnership, for fellowship and for production. We are, by DNA, part of GlocalNet, a network of NW church plants that continues to train and mentor it’s sons (NW church plants) and brothers (fellow NW church plants).


Bob has written about us in “Glocalization”. I tell you often that you are well known, and you really are.


We’ve been talking about multiplying to two campuses for a while now, and we want to make sure you understand the why.


We also want to produce spiritual sons that get the DNA and go plant a church without any further assistance other than our training and mentoring. That’s church multiplication.


Not a distinction: Multiplying campuses is simply our way to acknowledge Father’s growth unique to us, be faithful with the kind of men and gifting Father has given and expand TRCC’s reach into Rome and Floyd County. It takes a pastoral and prophetic gift set to multiply campuses.


Multiplying churches is the way the kingdom expands. It’s in the Manual. It is also our way to acknowledge Father’s growth of apostolic / prophetic gifted men from the body who will take the DNA and pioneer growth into new places and even familiar places where we may not be able to go with other campuses. It takes an apostolic gift set to multiply churches.


It’s a difference in the gifting and abilities of the men whose desire is to lead the work.


Evangelism/Missions/Biblical Languages were my love before grad school and thus concentrations in my master’s degree. So, it makes sense that in my personal story (crazy and multi-faceted and a few detours) Father would take me into church planting and great commission work.


TRCC is here because of NW’s church multiplication work.


I’m going to be using some stuff I learned from Bob this morning, so I’ll give you a bibliographical reference and simply cite page numbers as I use Bob’s work. We’ll also be studying the bible this morning (we’d better).


Bob Roberts, Jr. The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting New Churches. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.


Church Multiplication


  1. Use the correct language when talking about kingdom growth: church multiplication


KDSC – Order is vital…Kingdom makes disciples in domains of society and that is where the church comes from. The church does not bring the kingdom. The kingdom produces the church.


Jesus said that he would build his church. How? Jesus came preaching the good news of his kingdom (Mark 1:14-15; Luke 10:9-11) and through the powerful message of his kingdom he builds his church (Matthew 16:18). Kingdom comes before the church does. The church comes into existence because of the good news of Jesus’ kingdom rule.


Kingdom growth naturally flows out to church multiplication. That’s biblical. And it’s also how the church has grown since Pentecost.

FYI: Church multiplication is the work. The persons who engage in the work are church planters. It’s also ok to call them church multipliers.


We don’t divide resources.


Matthew 13:8-23 Gospel seed sown on “good soil” produces 30, 60 even 100 fold. That’s multiplication.


The gospel of the kingdom is good news of Jesus reign and restoration of all things under his kingship through is death and victorious resurrection securing all his sons and daughters who will fill and take back all domains of society and by his power restore all things back to himself.


That seed, when sown in good soil, multiplies. That gospel does not divide. The gospel does not add. The agricultural illustration is key. A kernel of corn turns into many kernels of corn. That is multiplication not addition and it’s certainly not division.


Division takes two and gives one to each.


Multiplication takes 2 and makes 4.


The gospel multiplies it does not divide. So, lets use the language that describes what Father is doing in his kingdom, multiplication.


  1. Why don’t churches multiply?

– Distraction – Having other events, activities, lack of spiritual health, etc. Church multiplication takes dedicated work to discovering apostolic leadership, training that leadership, mentoring that leadership and then releasing that leadership with a plan. (p. 61-62)


– Ignorance – Some folks have never studied Acts with the right framework. Some people have never studied church history and church practice. Some people have never been part of a new church. They just have not experienced it. (p. 61-62)



– Delay – Some pastors believe they can’t start churches until they are some magical size that will make it easier. (p. 61-62) Kevin Cox and Vista church are 4 years old and less in number than us and they have launched 15 new church plants all over Texas. They have not multiplied campuses. They have trained and released apostolic leaders who are going to start new work.


– Competition – Some fear that if they start churches that those churches will steal their people. They don’t believe Jesus that the gospel multiplies not divides! (p. 61-62) Jesus’ parables teach us that only through giving do we get and only through dying do we live. Growth happens as we give away not as we hoard.


– It’s hard – It requires apostolic leadership not pastoral care (pastoral care is the function of Spirit gifted shepherds in the RL groups protecting, guarding and nurturing those they are in covenant with not a function of a paid professional, that’s protestant baptized Catholicism).


Knowing the blue print to extend the kingdom, pushing for movement, leveraging other people’s talents, expecting all to work and pull their load by walking in Spirit gifting (by what every joint supplies) is apostolic leadership, and that is tough sledding. (p. 61-62)


One series of questions that gets asked in our “church planter profile” is regarding what people have started from nothing. If you are not a starter of things you probably don’t have the apostolic bent of starting churches from nothing.


– Laziness – Some people are satisfied with providing a produce that attracts consumers and they are too lazy to push for more and better. (p. 61-62)


– No Plan – Some people take “Spirit leadership” to absurd places by refusing to go through the hard work of writing a plan (prospectus). The Spirit is taking his commands from the Son, the Son from the Father, who has a plan. If we don’t see the Father’s plan, we are not walking by the Spirit. If you won’t plan you won’t plant a church. (p. 61-62)


– Lack of Health – Sometimes multiplication does not happen because of a lack of spiritual health in all, some or one of its leaders. Spiritual health, holiness and repentance are vital to health and thus multiplication. A refusal to recognize sin, be quick to repent and be in right relationship with God and man will kill church multiplication.


  1. Multiplication is the way of the Kingdom…It’s in the Manual

Acts 2:5-13/37-41/19:1-10

Acts 11:19-26 (Acts 8:1)/13:1-3 (Antioch founded and in one year 11:26 they sent their first global engagement team off to plant churches)

8:1-4 (Apostles stayed at Jerusalem)

Romans 15:18-24

Titus 1:5 (pastoral leadership should be what naturally grows from the Spirit gifting of men in the fellowship after it is planted)


Observations from global leaders:

In movements (see Stephen Neil) (China, Russia, Indonesia, West Africa / we are not familiar with movements because we’ve never experienced one. We know of the great awakenings in American history that resulted in the mass multiplication of churches. We have had 2. Historically, nations have 1. We may never see another movement like that again.)…disciples plant churches and apostolic leaders appoint pastors/elders/overseers from within each new church.


In pre-movement or post-movement work (this is where we are)…apostolic leaders plant churches to make disciples in hopes of disciples planting churches so that they can help them along in training and appointing pastors/elders/overseers.


  1. How did Rome’s churches get to Rome? Titus 1:5

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—…” – Titus 1:5


Churches were planted and then pastoral/elder/overseers were appointed in each from within each.


Illustration: I once had to do a project in a Baptist History class and I studied the church records of a local Baptist church. You know how that church was planted in the 1800’s? Local farmers saw the need, came together and started meeting. They took turns teaching. They made disciples. They began using music. Then they constituted as a church.
Illustration: Spring Place Baptist Church/Spring Place Mission was started by Anna Kleist Gambold as the first successful mission work among the Cherokee. She was a woman who started a church and pastors / elders / overseers were added from the number as the church constituted among the Cherokee.


Church planting has been the way the kingdom of God has manifested itself since Pentecost!


Do Rome and Northwest Georgia and the west need more churches? Lets look at some numbers?


Rome: As of 2010:

Evangelical Protestant – 45,987

Mainline Protestant – 7,335

Catholic – 5,282

Black Protestant – 1,437

Other – 865

Total – 60,906


None – 35,411


Total – 96,317[1]


Let’s assume that the 60,906 are all saved, Spirit-filled, hearing and obeying followers of Jesus. That leaves us with 35,411 who are outside the kingdom.


The average church size in Floyd County is somewhere between 85-100.[2] There are far more very small churches than large churches. At this point, I’m unaware of a local church that has over 1,000 in attendance. There are NO mega churches in Rome/Floyd County.


If all 60,906 were actively engaged, then each church (140) would have 435 people in them. That’s just not the case. Meaning, all of that 60,906 are simply not engaged in the local church.


With an average of 85-100 per church that is 354.11 additional churches that are needed to reach the remaining 35,411. We’d say additional because they are not being reached by the one’s currently in operation?


Does Jesus care about the 35,411 (he leaves the 99 to go after the one lost)? Should we? Are they actively being reached? How do you propose they be reached?


What if there are more than 35,411 because not all those who filled out their information accurately understand the gospel?


Does Rome/Floyd County need more churches?


We must learn to stop asking, “do we need more churches?” We must learn to staop asking, “how is your church?” We need to be asking, “how is your city?”


We must think in terms of churching our city not growing our church.


How might we get to a movement level work of church multiplication?

The next two points will steer us in the right direction.

The first of these two is a statement combined with a question…


  1. Every disciple a church planter/multiplier in his or her domain…how did we loose this kingdom strategy?

If we were in the “east”, you would be expected to start churches in your home and launch them to the locations of the people that made them up.


We are in the “west”, and we think in terms of “Christendom”. This is not all good. The reformation helped rescue us from this, but vestiges of “Christendom” can still be found in our thoughts and practices.








London/Paris/Geneva/Wittenberg (Reformation)


North America






Rome and the Roman Church – With the Edict of Milan (AD 313) Constantine bonded the church to the state. (The following list is adapted from Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways)

  • Christianity adopted as the official religion of the city, state and Empire
  • Church went from the margins of society to the center (power structures, non-Christian leadership flow charts are adopted)
  • Creation of a “Christian” civilization…“Christendom”
  • Assumption that all citizens (except for Jews) were Christian by birth
  • Infant baptism as the symbol of obligatory incorporation into this new Christian civilization
  • Imposition of a supposed Christian morality on the entire society (although normally OT standards were applied)
  • Hierarchical system of church government based on the Roman diocesan and parish arrangement like the government was set up and therefore garnered state support
  • Inheritance of pagan temples to be used as church buildings and the construction of massive and ornate buildings and the forming of huge congregations or what we’d call “mega-churches” (when it used to be small, multiplying units called house church cells)
  • Distinction between laity and clergy with the laity taking on a passive role (due to the adoption of a Roman government system)
  • Division of the world into “Christendom” and “heathendom” and waging war in the name of Jesus and the church


The results of the Edict of Milan still haunt the church today.


The uniqueness of the “east” is that they have none of that baggage. All they have is the Bible and the Holy Spirit.


What we want to capture is the simple and faith filled actions of the church in the “east” or the church prior to Constantine.


We want to capture the church on the fringes of society that was transforming society rather than the church at the center due to becoming an agent of man’s government.


In the “west” we think that ordained seminary graduates who have all the right leadership qualities found in the superstar CEO’s and politicians and all the counseling skill of an LPC is what makes a good leader “pastor” or “church planter”.


In the “east” they think about character and submission to Christ.


In the “west” we think large gatherings and large buildings are success.


In the “east” they think repentance and faith is success.


In the “west” we think getting more is success.


In the “east” they think hearing and obeying by all in the fellowship is success in life.


In the “west” we pay well performing “clergy” so that the “laity” can receive a product and the more product he produces the more successful their “church” is.


In the “east” every disciple is a priest of God and therefore, a church planter and gifted by the Spirit in a working body to grow each other up into Christ.


How do we recapture this dynamic? Can we recapture this dynamic?

The “church” in the west is moving somewhere. It’s going in some direction. I’d argue any direction is possible. The question is whether or not it’s the correct direction.


I believe we can recapture this dynamic, but it’s going to take some radical re-thinking and re-tooling in our understanding of the church.




  1. Let’s Start By Working Ourselves Into This: Every Disciple a Radical Life Group Catalyst

What do you need?

– Be a follower of Jesus

– Be repentant and have biblical character

– Be available


What do you do?

– Gather with a group of people in the fellowship (can’t experience the gifts when your group is not in covenant and agreement about the gifts and the intention of the gifts)

– Discuss the sermon and the texts used in the sermon (what did you hear? what do we do with that together? What did we hear and how do we obey Jesus?)

– Pray

– Listen for the Lord to speak to you

– Encourage each other with any words you hear from the Lord

– Go home (does not have to be long / you don’t need food (you can eat together))

– Repeat next week or as often as you desire

– Make disciples

– Multiply when folks don’t fit in your house anymore

– Repeat


If we listen, obey and imitate the Lord’s ways in the text of Scripture, not what we know from our “Christendom” experience, we may become a multiplying machine.


For Reading:


Greear, J.D. Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.


Hirsch, Allan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.


Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.


Cox, Kevin. Small Church, Big Impact. Exponential Resources. Accessed 2014.


Neill, Stephen, and Owen Chadwick. A History of Christian Missions. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1986.





[2] 2014 ACP Reports, Floyd County Baptist Association

Gleanings from Paul’s Concluding Remarks to Timothy

2 Timothy 4:6-22

Gleanings from Paul’s Concluding Remarks To Timothy

Paul’s conclusions are often loaded with exegetical meaning and some are loaded with theological application.

2 Timothy 6:6-22 is a summary and theological application. Let’s look at the concluding and application points.

The church is personal and corporate v. v. 6-8, 11

Personal – Sonship is enough!!!

Corporate – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ

We are interdependent v. 9, 21a

We have a season to serve and a time to pass the torch to our protégés v. 6-8

Be intentional

Be limited to those who pursue – Discipleship is on the seeker

We should be prepared to model how to suffer and die well v. 6-8

Don’t suffering as a victim. View suffering as your perfecting. View suffering as teaching you how to lead. – BR

We should be constantly preparing our replacements v. 6-8

We are all expendable

We will often be alone v. 6-8, 16

We need each other v. 9

We will be mistreated and deserted in the work of the kingdom so beware of those who make that their MO v. 10, 14-15

There will be loyal and faithful co-laborers v. 11

We will learn that there were times we were wrong v. 11 (bring Mark with you…he is useful to me for ministry)


Even in our hurting and confinement, there is work to be done, so we need to keep our wits and keep at it v. 12-13

The Lord himself will be our constant companion v. 17

No evil will be allowed to harm us v. 18

Luke 21:10-19 “Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

Matthew 6:13

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Job 1:20-22; 2:10

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Don’t forget to greet and pass the Lord’s greetings from our faithful friends v. 19, 20, 21b

Speak blessing to the Lord’s people at all times, even at the worst moment v. 22

Singular, to Timothy: “The Lord be with your spirit…”

Plural, to the church: “Grace be with you.”

Biography: Johann Sebastian Bach

Dear TRCC,

Marschall, Rick. Johann Sebastian Bach. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. Bach among the Theologians. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.

Johann Sebastian Bach (JSB)

Huge thank you Cyndi Ivery for sharing so much music theory and music from the correct lens of a Christian worldview and some insight on hearing JSB.

Huge thank you to Bronson Long for giving me the hardest book I’ve ever “skimmed” and increasing my insight into the setting of JSB and the theology that fueled his work.

Huge thank you to my wife, Jennifer, who suggested I read about JSB. This has pushed me intellectually/practically/spiritually more than any bio I’ve ever attempted.

Truthfully, I feel like I know less now than when I started. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know so I didn’t know where to begin. Now I know what I don’t know and it’s a lot.

I truly feel a bit lost in the world of JSB, but I want to try and make some sense out of his contribution to the living out of following Jesus and capturing his domain about as well as one can.

As a starting point, let’s hear from the Scriptures regarding music, Father and our purpose as a banner over our look into the life of JSB:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

  1. Father is a musician/singer
  2. As image bearers, we all are musicians/singers to some degree
  3. Music and singing must be a crucial part of the worship of Jesus

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26-28

  • The creation mandate is to subdue the earth and have dominion over creatures
  • Mastering music is part of subduing created order. Created order is fallen. That’s why music is hard. From actual composition, to execution to personalities who do it.
  • Christians must work to subdue music as an art form not necessarily as purely “worship” music as a genre. All music is Father’s and it can be used for good or bad.

Overarching Purpose: For the glory of God, due to being made in his image, we are to subdue and have dominion over every living thing on the earth.

All of creation operates on mathematical principals, even biologically living things. This is why you do math in chemistry!

All living things have to deal with physics. This is why you do math in physics.

Follow my logic applied here: Some have argued, and I would agree, math is the language of God. Music is constructed on math. Music is the singing of God.[1]

God is creator among a host of other truths. As image bearers we most exhibit that image when we are taking creation and subduing it to create things, including music, to the glory of the Chief Creator.

“Besides other forms of worship, music has been ordered by God’s Spirit.” – JSB

This is why music, skillfully done (either in composing or in playing skillfully composed music), whether by a Christian or non-Christian, will stir the soul. Music is the singing of God. (so be careful what you portray Father as saying, if you are a composer and writer)

JSB understood this and from the math all the way up to the performance sought the glory of God in and through music.

Chronology of the Life of JSB

Johan Sebastian Bach (JSB)

1685 JSB is born March 21, in the German region of Thuringia

1695 JSB moves to Ohrdruf to live with his elder brother Johann Christoph due to the loss of both of his parents

1700 JSB moves to Luneburg and attends St. Michael’s School

1703 After brief work in Weimar, JSB is appointed organist at New Church in Arnstadt (18 years old)

1707 JSB is appointed as organist at St. Blasius Church, Muhlhausen (these are full-time positions often paid for in some money, but in housing, wood for the fireplace and some fish)

1708 JSB is appointed as court organist and chief chamber musician, Ducal court of Sachsen-Weimar

1717 JSB is appointed as Kapellmeister (person in charge of music making) at Cothen

1723 JSB is appointed cantor at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, director of music at Thomasschule and three other Leipzig churches; JSB holds this post until his death in 1750(27 years devoted to the same location)

1736 JSB is appointed as honorary court composer to the Elector of Saxony

(writes much music other than works of worship for the church)

1747 JSB accepts an invitation to perform and improvise at the court of Frederick the Great, Potsdam

(after another war, issued challenges in composing difficult scenarios and he completes the task that others could not)

1750 JSB went to be with the Lord on July 28

He was 65 years old.

JSB: Some Cool Facts

JSB was thought by some to be irritable and demanding and rather moody

This is not a surprise. Some of the artistic personality can be such. But JSB’s personality manifested was due to his great desire to make his music perfect due to the audience he composed and played for, God.

He often fired and hired people on their abilities not their good heart. He took church music seriously and demanded others do so as well. No slacking when executing the Levitical role of playing music to God.

JSB’s Motivation: For the Glory of God and the learning of his neighbor

JSB ended his works with the inscription, Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory). This is loaded with meaning.

“Most people, especially devout Chrisitans of the 21st century, understand God and understand glory. But it is hard for us today to understand how a man like JSB could say and mean alone in that credo. Emerging cultures and emerging churches have compartmentalized every aspect of life, including God. Personal fulfillment is the artist’s goal in today’s world. To Bach’s worldview, such a concept was an offense to God. God alone is the source, the content, and the goal of artistic expression.” (Marschall, p. 130)

So JSB ended his works with the creed “Soli Deo Gloria.”

He also often wrote “…and for my neighbor to learn from.”

JSB composed for the glory of God and for the proclamation of the truth of God to those who needed to know.

JSB was a preacher and his sermons were music!

In case you wonder whether the medium of music can get the message across, listen to a critic: Friedrich Nietzsche assessed JSB in 1878 and complained, “In Bach there is too much crude Christianity, crude Germanism, crude Scholasticism…”

It’s interesting that many misunderstood JSB in his own time and many do now by missing the clear gospel of the words but also of the actual composition of the music, however, a notorious atheist and cynic described him perfectly! (Marschall, p. 132)

It was written of the work of JSB:

“Bach wants to draw us into some sense of enjoying God as God enjoys us…into a holy dance!…This is shown most clearly in the Mass in B minor in its ascending and descending movements.” (Marschall, p. 132)

JSB was not licensed clergy for his day, but his knowledge of Scripture and consistent and continual study of theology made him an apt theologian as he composed music.

The result of the reformation in the reclaiming of the priesthood of the believer and the Scriptures in the heart language of the people, manifested itself in the population’s great desire to know Scripture and it’s application to their knowing God. This obviously affected JSB. Family time was spent reading Scripture, theology and singing.

Oh how time and freedom does erode what others have fought to win for us.

According to Marschall, “He was one of the most equipped and effective ‘preachers’ of his age.” (Marschall, p. 145)

One was not allowed to deliver a sermon unless they were licensed and trained as a preacher and JSB was neither of those. So he preached through the composition of music.

“Is this not the blueprint for any Christian? Willing to forsake worldly acclaim, this modest servant of his Savior thanked God for the talents with which he was mightily blessed and used them for the propagation of the gospel, the souls of his fellow man, and the glory of God.” (Marschall, p. 145)

JSB was called the 5th Evangelist.

JSB believe musical positions were founded by King David and that the Lord was present in the reverent playing of music and thus music was integral to the worship service

Based on 1 Chronicles 25, JSB believed his position and work to be founded by King David as an office.

JSB said that 1 Chronicles 25 was the true foundation for all God-pleasing music.

JSB said of 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 that “…at a reverent performance of music, God is always at hand with his gracious presence.” (Marschall, p. 18)

“…and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,

“For he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever,”

the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” – 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

This is how JSB viewed the service of worship through the excellent and skillful use of instruments and words of praise.

JSB was focused and hard working

During JSB time at Leipzig (1723-1750) he managed 1,500 performances with an average audience of 2,000 people. That’s an average of 55.5 performances per year.

We are not talking about him alone. We are talking about choirs and orchestras. This guy did surround sound before electricity. He would place singers at various places in the sanctuary, along with various instruments and groups of singers and instruments so that at various points as they moved through the service sound would be coming at your from all directions. (It’s like at a theatre when the door shutting sounds like it’s behind you)

Most of his 300 cantatas were written during this time. Think that through. In 27 years he wrong an average of 11.1 cantatas a year (not purchased and practices and performed, but written, practiced and performed). These cantatas were performed during worship services.

A Lutheran worship service lasted 3-4 hours and would contain cantatas, chorales and preaching etc. JSB planned these weekly.

JSB composed over 1,800 works and 1,200 of them actually survive to this day. JSB lived to be 65, so that’s an average of 27 compositions per year!

JSB led services at multiple churches, tutored music students, taught music at schools and still managed to compose and perform while giving adequate time to his wife and children (first wife died, remarried).

JSB was a spiritual giant and a family man

As a consequence of the reformation, JSB was, along with others, a bible reader and strong emphasis was given to knowing Scripture and communing with the Lord Jesus.

JSB’s workload never hindered his time from his family. JSB loved his 20 children and was proud of them and would make sure he spent much time at home nurturing and training his children.

Many of JSB’s children would go on to become composers as well.

This music gift was thick in the Bach clan. JSB’s father was a town musician (dudes got paid to produce and play music in towns). It was an iPod before there were iPods. Music, due to the reformation, was huge to people and it was taken seriously.

Before the Reformation, the priests primarily sang / chanted various creeds and few songs. The “laity” was not allowed to do such things.

JSB’s relatives were so musically inclined that for a season the “town musicians” were called “Bachs”. This is because their gifting was so prevalent. Perhaps it was gifting. Perhaps it was habit passed on. Either way, music was a signature of the Bach clan.

JSB could fight!

While at Arnstadt, JSB had a student who resented JSB’s insulting assessment of his abilities. So the student attacked JSB on the street. The student has a club and was swinging at JSB. JSB drew his knife and defended himself and fought off his attacker until help came to arrest the student.

Creativity through constraint

While JSB was with Prince Leopold in Cothen, he has tremendous freedom to do as he wanted (not freedom to be lazy, but freedom to compose whatever he wanted whenever he wanted). But when he left that wide freedom and went to Leipzig he was constrained to the work of the church. However, in that constraint is where his creativity soared and his production kicked of.

Perhaps, the key to productivity is not freedom but focus!

JSB: The Gospel in Word and in Composition

JSB is from the Baroque period. Baroque, in the vaguest sense, means “elaborate ornamentation” — which is a pretty good description of Bach’s technique. Because of its complexity it can be hard to appreciate if you aren’t actually performing the music, so don’t feel like you are supposed to understand all the layering and cleverness straight away. (Pelikan, p. 25)

During JSB’s time the trends started to change to what he called “light” and “airy” music. There were debates on the kind of music to use in the church. So, “worship wars” are not new to our time. People have been fighting trends in music one way or the other since the beginning.

Let’s not think we are unique to history!

JSB used what is called the “Trinity of C’s”.

  1. Counterpoint – Bass as the foundation with the other parts constructed on this. Southern Gospel is actually a southern cultural expression of counterpoint.
  1. Cantata – Literally “sung”, is a vocal composition with instrument accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir.
  1. Chorale – Musical composition consisting of / or resembling a harmonized version of a simple or stately hymn. Intended to get the audience on the thematic page of the sermon that day.

Bach composed his music based on the “four seasons” of the church’s calendar year:

  1. Advent/Christmas
  2. Lent/Easter
  3. Feast of Ascension/Feast of Pentecost
  4. Trinity Sunday running until the last Sunday before Advent (this long 6 month season, scattered with multiple days and celebrations provided a challenge for church musicians).

“In a relatively short period of time JSB composed five complete cycles of cantatas for the church year with about 6 cantatas in each, making the repertory of roughly 300 sacred cantatas. About a third of these have been lost.” (Pelikan, p. 10)

Saint Matthew Passion is a great example of the language but also the music itself highlighting the gospel.

Thank you to Cydi Ivery for analyzing and providing me with this evaluation!

Below are five examples of how Bach uses musical elements to emphasize meaning in the Biblical text. If you refer to the video St Matthew Passion Bach scrolling score

The five elements are:

  1. The Halo – use of stringed instruments producing long tones which ‘illuminate’ the utterances of Jesus. At 1:02-ish, Judas betrays Jesus. Hear the sweet tones Judas uses. Jesus responds at 1:02:39, as the stringed instruments paint a ‘halo’, by playing long suspended tones around the utterances of Jesus. This is done throughout the Passion when Jesus speaks. (Like I use a highlighter to underline words, he used music to highlight Jesus’ words)
  2. A ‘sighing’ motif – In response to Jesus being betrayed, a theme sung by a soprano and alto (the singing begins at 1:03:36). Hear how the soprano and also emphasize the first note of each pattern of two, and when the notes descend, it creates a grieving, sighing effect. (This is also done in Bach’s BWV4 when singing ‘der Tod’, or ‘death’.) (Note: We are designed to be empathetic – when someone cries, we cry for them. The ‘crying’ sighs in this lamenting theme cause us to empathize – it’s a musical element that simply cajoles sympathetic grief from the listener). (It is intented to cause us to feel what was being felt in the text)
  3. Startling – (this is not a scholarly term, just saying what it sounds like) – within this grieving sighing movement, note the juxtaposition of the full chorus periodically singing “Leave Him!” with urgency (1:03:39). This startling entrance of the chorus would most likely have caused chills bumps to appear on the listener as a result of adrenaline, as they are already captivated by the lulling sighing sadness of the singers, creating a dynamic and textural contrast to which we would respond with a start.
  4. Onomatopoeic (imitative) effects – at 2:30:26, after the congregation has sung together in response to Jesus’s death (see #5), the Evangelist enters with a heroic melody, and bass strings create a ‘tearing of the veil’ with a long downward flourish, both visible in the score and audible to the listener. The ‘earth shaking’ is represented by the ‘agitato’, or agitated rapid stroking of strings as a way of sustaining a chord. The listener perceives this as ‘shaking’ or agitation, the technique is often used to convey suspense or agitation. (Instruments are used to imitate what one would feel having been there; the music takes you back to the experience)
  5. Congregational response – This is how we know Bach meant this piece as more than mere performance. Throughout the Passion, Bach placed well-known chorales for the congregation to sing in response to what they have heard. Example: At 2:23:00, the reed instruments (notable that it is reeds) begin a piece in which the alto sings a tender invitation to “look, come, seek, live, stay” – an offer of Jesus’s mercy and redemption. Throughout this invitation, the reeds are a picture of tender mercy, rather than the reed with a sponge and vinegar used to represent scorn and mocking which we hear moments later at 2:28:20.   Next, the stark and moving recitative portrays Jesus’s death (the marked change in texture at the moment of Jesus’s death – meaning suddenly there are fewer instruments – causes the listener to sit on the edge of their seat, moved by pity, remorse, grief, etc). Immediately following Jesus’s death, a familiar chorale is introduced, intended for the entire congregation to sing:

“When I one day shall depart, then part not from me!

When I must suffer death, then come to my side!

When I am most afraid in my heart,

Then save me from those fears by virtue of Your fear and pain.”

Surely, this moment of congregational singing becomes not something observed, but rather a moment of intimate communion between God and each individual participant who knows what it is they’re singing, and to Whom they are singing it. These words could have been spoken, but as demonstrated in the Psalms, words carry more depth of meaning, beyond what can really be articulated fully, when they are expressed with beautiful melody, harmony, and congregational singing. Oxytocin, a chemical produced in the brain when singing congregationally, not only produces joy and peace, but is a chemical responsible for the feelings of bonding, such as within marriage. God intends His people to sing these words congregationally, and Bach provided the set up for these moments, unforgettable for any believer who has ever participated in the Passion through singing.

Throughout the Passion, Bach uses different effects such as a ‘stereo’ dual chorus and orchestra, which he uses back and forth as Jesus is blindfolded and is being beaten. The chorus is singing from one side of the room to the other, “Who hit you? Prophesy!”, with fervor, in a manner which conveys the disorientation and confusion of such an experience. I suggest watching it a bit at a time, but surely watching it from Jesus’s death (around 2:28) to the end gives several examples of Bach’s purposeful use of musical elements to anchor the Gospel into the heart and memory of the listener.[2]

This intentionality on the part of JSB helps us see that the music itself was to stir the soul and remind us of Scripture so that Scripture carried by the music might lift the soul and take us back to the experience of what the text is telling us.

JSB: Music as Ministry to the Soul

“Bach mastered another technique that anticipated psychology – the subliminal message, a goal of later tone poets. Like no one before or since, he used musical keys, notes, themes, motifs, cadences, rhythms, instruments, voices, and ornamentation as tools to create moods, suggest messages, and plant ideas in the listeners’ minds.” (Marschall, p. 95)

For JSB music was so much more than a necessary component of a worship service in order to fill time or simply set up the sermon.

Music itself was a sermon that prepared or repeated the sermon to be brought verbally from the Scriptures by the minister.

“The organ is to be played with both hands in such a manner that the left hand plays the prescribed notes; the right hand, however, executes the consonances and dissonances so that a pleasing harmony will result to the honor of God and the soothing delight of the spirit.” – JSB (Marschall, p. 99)

Music is more than space filler. It is the singing of God, and it has effect on the soul.

Marschall quotes Michale Torke as saying, “Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B minor Mass.

Concluding Applications

Application: Seek the glory of God in the subduing of your created domain to as much detail as you can muster as an expert in that field!

Application: Make it your aim to so master your craft in the finer details so that people recognize your skill as given of God and your praise to God as one and the same!

Application: Put some thought into not only doing your work, but doing your work in a way that it says something about the King and your desire to follow and imitate him! (Ephesians 5:1, Be imitators of God as dearly loved children)

  • Let kingdom values drive what you do
  • Let Scripture dictate how you do what you do
  • Use some creativity in crafting your day and your production so that it’s beautiful and it (the work and production itself) proclaims truth                    Do some things in threes (Trinitarian) or intentional patterns (Inclusion, like in the Beatitudes, v. 3 “Kingdom of Heaven” v. 10 “Kingdom of Heaven”, so everything in between is what the Kingdom looks like)

                     – Do things beautifully (a well done weld is beautiful)

Illustration: I worked with a guy in high school who welded. Even on welds that were hidden, he made them beautiful. He took delight in welding, and it showed. I still remember that. Why? Because it was beautiful.

                        – Do things with joy

Application: Engage in music by listening to the music and the words together. Sing the words, but receive the intent of the music to your soul. Listening to and participating in music is a spiritual exercise!

  1. Try closing your eyes and listening to the flow of the music during the Lord’s Supper.
  1. Fully engage your mind and soul and body in the music and the words when we worship Father, Son and Spirit together.
  1. Make a habit of listening to all kinds of music and quality music composed to the glory of God (Sovereign Grace Music; Hillsong; Bob Marley; Cold Play; Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige Christmas CD “What Child is This?”; Sarah Brightman; Lecrae; Sting & Cheb Mami, Live Desert Rose; U2)
  1. Receive and enjoy the pleasurable and emotional effect of the music (enjoy those chill bumps and adrenaline releases of good music as a gift from the Lord) Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is  fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

[1] Mitchell Jolly

[2] Analysis provided by Cyndi Ivery, Director of Fine Arts, Unity Christian School