Wineskins Archive

January 28, 2014

Excerpt from the Group Guide for “Pilgrim Heart” Singing

Filed under: — @ 6:43 pm and

by Angi and Keith Brenton

March-April, 2007

This excerpt from the Study Guide for Darryl Tippens’ Pilgrim Heart appears on the ZOE | New Wineskins Web site by special permission of the publisher, Leafwood Publishers. It was written to be a companion piece to Chapter 12 of the book.

Singing: The Way to Heaven’s Door

Key idea: Music is a primary means of conversion and spiritual formation. It inspires awe and transports us to the mystery of God’s nature, binds us in community, awakens our emotions, and serves as a potent source of theology. Music is also a means of instruction and memory which aids spiritual formation.


1. Share a time when spiritual music touched you deeply as it did Anne LaMott in this chapter. Why does music stir our emotions in such a profound way?

2. What are your favorite songs and hymns? Why are they special to you? What memories are attached to them?

3. Is part of the power of singing its communal nature? What other worship activities do we perform in such a clearly communal way? Should our practice of communion and prayer be more community-oriented than individualistic?

4. Darryl writes, “In a theologically shallow environment, singing may redeem an otherwise impoverished service. As a youth I heard sermons that occasionally tended toward legalism or moralism, yet the service was full of songs like ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘A Wonderful Savior,’ and ‘Love Lifted Me.’ The sermon may have been ensnared in law, but the music was rich in grace.” How has music shaped your theology, your view of God?

5. Do you agree with Darryl’s statement, “If we must err in one direction, a missional attitude is prudent. In the spirit of Luther, we should advocate music that wins the hearts of the young and the untaught.” Why or why not?


1. Sing together in your class or small group. Look at each other as you do so. Talk about the experience.

2. Tune out the relentless parade of discouraging news and the strident voices on talk radio on your way to work this week. Instead, listen to music that inspires and nurtures your spirit.

3. If you do not usually listen to spiritual music preferred by young people, borrow a CD or tune into a Christian radio station and listen to contemporary Christian music. Read the words from the CD enclosure. Listen to the passion and energy. What do you appreciate about it?

More radical practice: If you do not sing loudly during triumphant songs of praise in your worship at church, try it. Remind yourself that God doesn’t expect your voice to be better than the one he gave you. Speak to others so that they can hear your words of encouragement. Join in enthusiastically when there are songs that do not particularly speak to you, but do speak to some of your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you do sing loudly and with great spirit, try listening quietly during songs of encouragement on occasion, to hear the message within them that God might have for you through the voices of your church family.


Describe a soundtrack for your spiritual journey. When might the exultant instrumentals of “Chariots of Fire” be playing? When would the more plaintive notes of a lament or spiritual be more appropriate? What would be the theme song to your journey? “No One Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Walking in Sunlight,” “Jesus Hold my Hand,” “Step by Step You’ll Lead Me”? Be creative.


Try singing a prayer this week, such as this refrain:

Have mercy on me, O God

According to your steadfast love

According to your great compassion

Blot out all my many transgressions

Save me from sin.

Or the lyrics from “A Living Prayer” by Alison Krause:

In this world I walk alone

With no place to call my home

But there’s one who holds my hand,

The rugged road through barren lands

The way is dark, the road is steep

But He’s become my eyes to see

The strength to climb, my griefs to bear

The Savior lives inside me there.

In Your love I ?nd release

A haven from my unbelief

Take my life and let me be

A living prayer, my God, to Thee.

In these trials of life, I find

Another voice inside my mind.

He comforts me and bids me live

Inside the love the Father gives.

In Your love I find release

A haven from my unbelief

Take my life and let me be

A living prayer, my God, to Thee.

Take my life and let me be

A living prayer, my God, to Thee.

New Wineskins

Keith and Angi BrentonAngela Brenton is Dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, occasionally teaches courses for Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine University, and serves on the Adult Education committee at church. Keith Brenton serves as the WebServant for New Wineskins. He describes himself at his blog [Blog In My Own Eye] as a “stumbling follower of Christ, husband, dad, writer, occasional Bible class teacher, currently serving as communications specialist at a large metro church. Someone who questions reality and won’t settle for an evasive answer.” That church is the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock []. He occasionally posts at [the New Wineskins blog]. You can reach him by e-mail at [].

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