Jamie Barnes and Brooks Ritter, preforming Sojourn Music’s arrangement of “Joy to the World” from their Advent Songs album.

HT: Matthew Robbins

Update: I thought this comment from Rachel B was worth reprinting in full

much has already been said, but as a musician and a worshipper i would like to add this:

i totally get what jeff & a few others are saying about jamie’s re-tuning sounding too melancholy for the text, but let’s look a little closer at what happens in this melody: it starts on a minor chord, the melody is an ascending scale. the next two phrases each descend from major to minor, and then it opens up into a building section in the major chords, one last echo of the descent into minor, and the final, repeated flourish is an ascending scale into a major chord.

musician or not, this progression was thoughtfully put together to place these words of truth about Christ’s second coming into a new context. when we sang this song across our campuses this week, it was in the wake of senseless tragedies across the world. how many times have you walked into worship with doubt in your heart? with unspeakable grief? with anxiety or pain or overwhelming despair? is your heart ready, in those moments, to sing a hallelujah chorus? can you just jump up from crushing load and shout for joy?

christians and non-christians alike enter our services each week, and many of them bear a heavy load. the beauty of this new arrangement–which is not meant to take ANYTHING away from the original–is that it takes the worshipper on a journey from a place of uncertainty, sadness, melancholy, even despair, and with the understated current of simple ascending scales, it brings a mouthful of truth to the one with no breath to sing.

i understand the discord of a song that begins with “JOY!” on a minor chord, i even feel this same cognitive dissonance at times when singing this song. but i also vividly remember the sunday morning when i received a phone call telling me that my 25-year-old cousin had a terminal brain tumor. when i walked into church 10 minutes later, i could not sing for joy. i couldn’t even stand in worship. but there were songs sung by the saints around me that carried my doubting heart to trust God.

that is what songs like this are for. that is why we need them. that is why we need them to sound the way they do.

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Comments:


55 thoughts on “Joy to the World”

  1. Jeff Wencel says:

    The re-tuning misses the exuberant spirit of this top 3 of all-time X-mas hymns. No offense intended to the musicians. But let’s not mess with near perfection. If you’re going to re-tune this one, still go exuberant! :)

  2. Mathetes says:

    The melody of joy to the world is “annoying”? I don’t know what the musicians are thinking. They are too hip for me, I guess. Upon hearing their version, I don’t sense any joy. I sense somber reflection, but nothing like heaven bursting into the earth, and not much rejoicing either. The words don’t fit the music.

    That being said, if there were different words, it would be a nice song, since it is done in a very thoughtful way.

  3. patrick lacson says:

    The song is called,”joy to the world.” I don’t hear joy in this rendition. I hear melancholy.

    1. kevin says:

      joy is not always found only in exaltation. it is found in the hard times of life as well.

  4. Jay says:

    Haters gon’ hate.

  5. Michael says:

    While I agree that the text is not painted in the same way without Watt’s original melody (and that big octave descent crystalizing heaven coming to earth), there’s no reason that joy and melancholy can’t be congruous as well. I doubt Jesus was happy about the cross, yet for the joy set before him he endured it anyway. I imagine that the joy expressed in Gethsemane might have come out in a minor key.

  6. Joe Thorn says:

    Jamie – your version is brilliant, and I listen to it multiple times every season. Sometimes even well out of season. I both hear and “sense” joy in it. It’s beautiful.

    1. Emil handke says:

      Totally agree with Joe. Love this version.

  7. Tyler Deeb says:

    trolls gonna troll.

  8. Darren says:

    Really like how this retuning can speak to those who’s Christmas seasons aren’t exactly the shiny happy people moments that the culture shoves down your throat.

    True joy can take the form of contemplative reflection and a deep understanding of God’s immense power through even pain and loss. Sometimes your Christmas is filled with hospital bills, but you gotta count it all joy. I’ll repeat it!

  9. Jacob says:

    I find the melody more contemplative and less obtrusive to the words than the traditional Lowell Mason melody, which itself was fitted to Isaac Watts’ lyrics over a century after they were written. While capturing exuberance, the Mason melody can be jarring, particularly toward the end, and isn’t particularly easy to sing. Sojourn’s melody allows the song to flow smoothly and encourages meditation on the powerful lyrics. I don’t believe anything is going to rob the Lowell Mason melody from its long-held place in the Christmas carol canon, but I think Sojourn’s version offers up a worthy alternative.

    1. Michael says:

      Who’s this Lowel Mason character think he is taking credit for Isaac Watts’ original, albeit very posthumously composed melody?

      I commend your superior research skills.

  10. Why does melancholy = joyless? Joy does not equal peppy exuberance. For instance, I could see this version matching the mood in Newtown, CT, right now.

    It’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t like this version,” but is it really necessary to question their joy in Christ?

  11. Jason says:

    Sojourn Community Church continues to put out brilliant and vibrant reworkings of classic hymn texts and this is no exception…Well done Jamie and Brooks. I don’t exactly equate reworking the melody with taking away its exuberance. Keep it up guys.

  12. Jamie and Brooks.. What you men have put forth here is excellent. I absolutely love the arrangement, and quite honestly I worship each time I hear it. Like Joe, I frequently pull out the “Christmas SOngs” year round because of their theological robust-ness.. Thanks for doing what you do!

  13. Lauren Watson says:

    How many times do we sing the most popular Christmas songs like they are second nature? It becomes such second nature because we’ve sang them the same way our whole life over and over that we forget the meaning. This version pushes me to sit back, reflect on the meaning of the words and yearn for Christ’s second coming. There can be as much joy in this new melody as the original version. Let’s not put ourselves in a box to where we restrict ourselves to only allow ourselves to worship Christ in melodies that we’ve only known our whole lives. Change can be good and Christ can use it in our lives to worship him in a way we hadn’t experienced before. Let’s not short change ourselves. Christ is working through all things, even something new and unfamiliar. Thank God for that!!

  14. Jeff Wencel says:

    Hey friends, inasmuch as some of what I read above may be reacting to my post, I’ll say again: please take no offense. No offense intended. Just seems a masterpiece was tinkered with in the wrong direction. But that’s just my opinion and sensibilities, and I confess I’m no musician (not even close). If you enjoy (yes, with joy) the re-tuning, wonderful; press on in that joy. Merry Christmas to you, with heaps and heaps of joy, of whatever variety you’re enjoying. I mean it, from the heart, dear siblings in the Lord. And inasmuch as what I said is heard by the musicians, surely you’ll take it with a grain of salt. My opinion should be very easy to disregard. Peace, Jeff

    1. Fair enough, brother. Much love and peace as well.

    2. Matt says:

      Jeff,

      Notice the move: the hipster calls Watts “annoying” and it’s assumed that to learn and like the “old” tune is, well, just not cool. That’s the assumption, not the explicit acknowledgment. I see this happen frequently SO THAT the music can be done in coffee shops and could conceivably even make the local Christian radio, but not sound like your grandfather would like it. Conversely, for you to suggest that the tune sounds “melancholy” lands you in the doghouse. But YOU’RE the one whose being critical, right?

      I actually like the tune they use… I just don’t believe its the BEST kind of arrangement for a song so unequivocally triumphant in it’s assertion of Christ’s kingship. Sure, there’s different kinds (aspects?) of joy…but this one appears to be a miss. But then, the “old” setting doesn’t lend itself to hipsters who can only play acoustic guitars.

      Its wonderful to “rediscover” old hymns that push us away from the overly narcissistic, sacharine, and poorly-composed “verse” written today (most of which has the lyrical sophistication of a elementary school poem). And I (for one) have no problem with new tunes in principle: each generation should be writing new songs of praise and I laud the attempt at re-working a lyric worth hanging onto.

      But like a school boy rejecting his father’s manner of dress (whic, after all, looks so MATURE) in favor of being an “individual” only to discover that he looks EXACTLY like all of his high school, college, or twenty-something buds… well… we should be honest enough to see this sort of imitation for what it is. The triumph of trendy and cool.

      1. Mathetes says:

        That’s a good summary of what I was thinking. I have no problem with modern renditions of hymns. I love Indelible Grace. I just find it very strange when one of the motivations for redoing a song is that it’s “annoying”. “Annoying” to who? Perhaps it’s because there’s no irony in such a song – the emotions are straightforward without subtlety.

        And yes, look at the words of the song:


        Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
        Let men their songs employ;
        While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
        Repeat the sounding joy,
        Repeat the sounding joy,
        Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

        All of creation repeats the sounding joy! That’s not melancholy – that’s exuberance. And I still contend that the melody should match the words.

      2. Kelsey Barnes says:

        Jamie Barnes played his new arrangement of this song for me before anyone else heard it (the perks of being a musician’s wife!), and I honestly had a similar reaction–it’s too melancholy, kind of a downer, doesn’t fit the exuberance of the text, etc. He respectfully disagreed, and went on to record the version he plays in the video above, because he is an artist who had a distinct artistic vision for revamping a familiar melody, in order to draw new attention to and evoke new emotions from a beautiful text. The new melody has since grown on me, but I like the familiar version as well.

        Point is, I don’t really care and I don’t think it matters which melody you prefer–after all, once we start shoving our musical preferences on others or criticizing those with different musical tastes, we begin to fit that “hipster” accusation. However, I think we, as grown-ups and brethren, can all disagree respectfully with one another’s preferences without being snarky or stooping to name-calling. You’re assuming an awful lot about Mr. Barnes when you write him off as “the hipster” and dismiss his artistic vision as no more than an attempt to be “trendy and cool.” What good is done when you assume Jamie’s motives are shallow and superficial, or when you make judgmental statements about him as a person, just because you don’t like a melody he wrote? I think your accusations (not you personally) towards Pastor Jamie are juvenile; and I wish I could see an online forum where people can RESPECTFULLY disagree with one another.

        1. rachel b says:

          hear, hear. so very, very well-said, Kelsey.

        2. Thanks Kelsey. You obviously get it.
          I love Jamie’s more meditative take on this glorious hymn, as I also love the more traditional melody. We had our congregation join us in singing this version yesterday and it was very well received, by a fairly conservative crew I might add. (We also sang the traditional tune two weeks ago.) Both melodies are beautiful attempts to express what Peter calls “joy unspeakable, and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Since Peter calls this joy “unspeakable,” he apparently felt that his words could not do it justice. We need more facets of the Lord’s joyful glory highlighted by gifted artists like Jamie if we’re ever going to get close to seeing it truly.
          As a songwriter myself, I understand how, as part of the creative spurring to rework this treasure, he might have found the older melody “annoying.” However, it obviously strikes other people as a bit arrogant to elevate one’s own work above a cherished international treasure. I really doubt that Jamie intended that, but the creative process is very personal, fragile, and easily misunderstood. Sometimes it’s better not to expose too much to strangers. His close friends would most likely benefit from knowing him at this level, but for him to introduce his work in a public setting by referring to the traditional tune as “annoying” is to invite misunderstanding and backlash.
          I hope others can get past the introduction to the beauty Jamie uncovered by his excellent attempt to expose new facets of our unspeakable joy.

  15. Andy says:

    Jamie & Brooks – love this version, and it’s impressive how good y’all sound live. Keep making great music!

  16. Jamie Barnes says:

    I appreciate Justin posting this and for the responses – though they vary. Perhaps it would help to hear from me, the guy that desecrated this old tune to let you in on what we were thinking when we recorded this years ago.

    Firstly, i sort of buck against being called a “hipster”. I’m a pastor. A shepherd of God’s church. A church that happens to be pretty mixed in terms of average age – so i help both young and grey hair alike sing the Gospel every week (i’m a middle age no-hair). I have no interest in being cool, relevant or whatever if it’s goes against loving my people and serving them with Gospel truth. Which is why I really like the hymns of Isaac Watts and this one in particular. In other words, I’d rather be referred to as a Pastor. Or Jamie is fine too. :)

    Secondly, notice in the video I said “some might say the original melody is annoying”. I didn’t express my personal feelings about it – but I have heard that from many folks who also perhaps share their opinion too boldly. Musically, my only issue with the original melody is that it really tries to jam the text into the meter chosen.

    The fact is, I was challenged by my pastor at the time to rewrite the melody so that it would fit more easily into the context of our congregation, draw renewed attention to a wonderful text and also reflect the tension that we often meditate on during the season of Advent: Longing and expectation of light into darkness.

    This is what i came up with many years ago. I realize it’s not for everyone. But, know that it’s intention was solely to glorify Jesus as the joy of the world – and help people sing out that truth. When we bust this out every Advent season at my church here in Louisville, KY – both young and old join their voices in singing it. Thankfully and to the credit of the Spirit of the Lord, as we grow as a church we seem to be better about letting our musical preferences get in the way of our ability to worship with the corporate body. For that, as a worship pastor, I am extremely grateful.

    Peace to all. – jb

    1. Ed Stetzer says:

      Jamie,

      It was wonderful. Thanks for coming on the show to share it.

      Justin,

      I am in Chicago so you can buy me dinner, but I got distracted reading the awesome comments here. ;-) Hope you are well.

      Ed

    2. Jeff Wencel says:

      Jamie,

      I personally think the lyrics go better with something more exuberant. But, as I acknowledged above, that’s my opinion. (I’d call it constructive input had I known you and were giving feedback.) Nothing wrong in principle with using a different tune with old lyrics. God bless the ministry of your church and your gifts and efforts. Press on, and make the good news known as the Lord and your leaders lead. Apparently many are blessed by what you are doing, and in that I rejoice.

      Peace to you, brother,

      Jeff

      1. Kelsey Barnes says:

        Jeff, thank you for disagreeing with respect and grace. I’m Jamie’s wife, and when he first played his new melody for me years ago, I pretty much told him everything you said in your comments, much to my husband’s annoyance. :) I have become a fan since then, but I don’t see why it’s wrong to prefer the traditional melody. I still like it as well.

    3. Glenn Carrin says:

      Jamie,

      It was the first Sojourn song I ever heard, three years ago on Christmas morning. I was awed and moved. We love it to this day. Thank you.

    4. Wayne Roberts says:

      As another Sojourn member (and a gray haired one at that), I look forward to singing this arrangement every year.

    5. Hi Jamie,
      In addition to my comments above in response to Kelseys’s post, I wanted to tell you that your version is PERFECT for Advent, and speaks deeply to many, especial those who are suffering during this season. You really captured that hopeful longing in your music.
      In the past I’ve always thought we should wait until Christmas day to sing the traditional tune, because it is such an exuberant proclamation. But now I can lead God’s people to sing of that same truth with the full realization that we still groan, longing for His return. You helped me hear the prayerful plea in the words, “Let earth receive her King!”
      Grace and peace.

  17. Shane says:

    I fall apart every time we sing this at our gatherings. The melody and arrangement strikes a rare chord with me over “He rules the world with truth and grace”.

    It’s artistically elementary to believe that because the text is joyous and exuberant so should the music or arrangement be. Tension and Juxtaposition is at the heart of beauty, and art. Always has been.

  18. rachel b says:

    much has already been said, but as a musician and a worshipper i would like to add this:

    i totally get what jeff & a few others are saying about jamie’s re-tuning sounding too melancholy for the text, but let’s look a little closer at what happens in this melody: it starts on a minor chord, the melody is an ascending scale. the next two phrases each descend from major to minor, and then it opens up into a building section in the major chords, one last echo of the descent into minor, and the final, repeated flourish is an ascending scale into a major chord.

    musician or not, this progression was thoughtfully put together to place these words of truth about Christ’s second coming into a new context. when we sang this song across our campuses this week, it was in the wake of senseless tragedies across the world. how many times have you walked into worship with doubt in your heart? with unspeakable grief? with anxiety or pain or overwhelming despair? is your heart ready, in those moments, to sing a hallelujah chorus? can you just jump up from crushing load and shout for joy?

    christians and non-christians alike enter our services each week, and many of them bear a heavy load. the beauty of this new arrangement–which is not meant to take ANYTHING away from the original–is that it takes the worshipper on a journey from a place of uncertainty, sadness, melancholy, even despair, and with the understated current of simple ascending scales, it brings a mouthful of truth to the one with no breath to sing.

    i understand the discord of a song that begins with “JOY!” on a minor chord, i even feel this same cognitive dissonance at times when singing this song. but i also vividly remember the sunday morning when i received a phone call telling me that my 25-year-old cousin had a terminal brain tumor. when i walked into church 10 minutes later, i could not sing for joy. i couldn’t even stand in worship. but there were songs sung by the saints around me that carried my doubting heart to trust God.

    that is what songs like this are for. that is why we need them. that is why we need them to sound the way they do.

  19. “Wish you could have heard the version of joy to the world we just did.” A text to a co-worker immediately after singing this version of the song at Sojourn East on Sunday.
    Loved it.

  20. Jeff Wencel says:

    More context with explanation for why they did what they did with the tune from the beginning would have been great. I guess Rachel should have had the first post, not one of the last. :) Re-tune, brothers, to the glory of God! I hope God honors what you are doing and blesses it even as he honored and blessed the original and millions upon millions through it.

    1. rachel b says:

      “more context” is usually a good thing :) i find it to be true of many situations that our own preferences –especially when using loaded words like “annoying” to describe something that someone else may love– can often confuse other people of our intentions. this dialogue was certainly worthwhile, and your thoughts are not unappreciated, Jeff. it’s a helpful reminder to all of us that our pews are filled with all kinds of people, and musical stylings are only a medium for a powerful message.

      this sunday morning, as i was singing from the stage, there was a deaf man sitting in the front row. an interpreter signed the sermon for him, but during the worship songs, i was mesmerized by his expressive signing along with the songs. it was incredible to watch as he stood facing the screen, interacting with the texts in his own way, worshipping the Lord from his heart. it was one of the most beautiful things i’ve ever seen in worship. and you know what? for him, there was no music. it’s good to remember that these songs we sing are just vehicles to move us forward toward the throne of grace. they are a means of grace, and they come to each person in a different way. it’s ok to let it be that way :)

      1. Matt says:

        Rachel,

        The words “grandiose” and “annoying” don’t normally connote appreciation, do they? “Grand” might… but “grandiose?” Pretentious and excessive, come to mind. And “annoying” is a no-brainer. It’s evokes all kinds of negative images; nothing positive. Did Jamie really think we should hear “SOME may fine the tune annoying…” as “some OTHER people find it annoying, but not me. I love it.” Really?

        Let me be clear: I don’t object, in principal to the writing of new tunes. Quite the opposite; I like it. IF they complement the lyric. (Not sure why that’s such a “rookie” mistake; most musicologists I’ve met with PhD’s seem to think that’s a reasonable assumption… please explain otherwise?)

        This comment “…is your heart ready, in those moments, to sing a hallelujah chorus? can you just jump up from crushing load and shout for joy…”

        In short, yes. Why? Because that’s what’s going to happen. When Jesus returns WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM. We shall all be changed IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE. (I’m not shouting – just don’t know how to italicize…) All of the grief and sorrow, when we see Jesus, will be GONE!

        I see young men with flannel, flip-flops, chunky glasses, beards, MacBooks, and iPhones running around planting churches among 20-somethings with a few tag-a-longs, who all eschew the word “cool” (not me!) and “hipster” even though they look the part. I don’t know your husband’s heart and don’t pretend to… I just know what he’s attempting to look like and sound like.

        If the “old” tune really was perfectly acceptable – even “fitting” given the text – and could readily, I would argue, be taught in Asia, Africa, in various parts of Europe and South America without any updates but we’re convinced it must be in order to get people to listen to the lyrics, well, something appears greatly amiss.

        Music is a gift and I actually think your husband’s tune is pretty good – for a solemn, slow, and introspective look at… something. But Christ’s second coming? I don’t get it.

        Someone make the case that the second coming – and our look to it – should be thought of in terms OTHER THAT joyful exuberance, shouts of acclamation, cries of joy, etc.

        And perhaps that’s the larger point (occurring to me just now) is that so much “corporate” music today really seems like it was written for the radio OR the prayer closet. Like communion celebration – a feast! And we turn it into a private confessional booth.

        1. Jonathan says:

          Dude, we get it. You don’t like the “retuning”. Can you just leave it at that? Why do you assume there is an attempt to be hip and relevant. Sojourn Music is intending to edify the body of Christ and point to how beautiful Christ is. Jamie is an amazing song writer who genuinely wants to use his gifts to help point people to Christ.

          Call me crazy but I don’t buy the fact that you are always ready to shout for joy. Maybe your special, but I know that there have been countless days when I can’t force shouting for joy. With the weightiness of my sin I quickly forget the beautiful work of Christ that completely covers it. Part of the beauty of the community of Christ is rehearsing that truth to ourselves and one another through song and scripture. These men are not ” young men with flannel, flip-flops, chunky glasses, beards, MacBooks, and iPhones running around planting churches among 20-somethings with a few tag-a-longs, who all eschew the word “cool” (not me!) and “hipster” even though they look the part.” And it really makes me mad that you lump them all together. Don’t challenge their heart and love for Christ and his bride simply because you don’t like this retuning. These are men who spend countless hours serving the church, being extremely intentional about how they can preach the gospel and point us to Christ day after day. These men spend hours counseling, training, encouraging, and serving us. They love The Lord, they know the great joy of Christ’s return and they point is to it over and over with there songs and there service.

          I love these men and praise God for them.

          1. Matt says:

            Jonathan,

            You’re not getting it. I have “new” hymns on my iPod. I even have “retuned” hymns on there, too. I’m saying, fundamentally, that 1) this was a bad one (and remember – I LIKE the tune in the abstract) 2) there is a temptation I see in Mars Hill, Sojourn, Indelible Grace, etc. to ASSUME that a song needs to be reformatted (re-packaged?) to make it palatable to a younger crowd.

            I have no problem IN PRINCIPLE with 1) new hymns with “contemporary” instrumentation, e.g. Sovereign Grace and the like or 2) new tunes to old lyrics… provided they “make sense.”

            This one didn’t. That’s the main thing. I think Jamie has a nice voice and the tune was attractive – I could listen to an original composition of his, perhaps one that dealt with complementary themes, all night long.

            But this one was a “miss” for me and, I suspect many others, and just like you find yourself a little incredulous at being called a “hipster” (or your pastor?) and “cool”, there are many of us who are tired of the characterization of more traditional tunes (and, worse, lyrics) as “lame” or “stodgy” or whatever the youth group turned church has done.

            Finally, I have no reason to question Jamie’s motives. I really don’t. But your defense of him (and his defense of himself) is along the lines of “You haven’t experienced what I have” or “you don’t see how good he is.” True enough. I haven’t and won’t.

            But tell me… who WOULD confess to writing songs/tunes that are, inadvertently, sending the wrong message? Or pastors who confess to preaching sermons that 5-10-20 years later produced some bitter fruit. NO ONE WILL.

            I think Sojourn has a lot of good going for it… much to admire. But this particularly area (not their biblical counseling emphasis, training of elders, church discipline, evangelism, etc.) is the one under examination in this blog post, hence the lack of more comprehensive ‘kudos’ on the other front.

            One final example: An acquaintance of mine is involved with a Sojourn network church. He’s 24 – maybe. No theological training. He’s a sharp kid (kid – from my vantage point), but has a lot to learn. The pastor “farms out” music ministry to an ‘intern’ and the intern farms it out to my acquaintance. He’s writing liturgy with little training or idea of what’s the point of this. Here’s the rub:

            He’s told the leadership this… and they’re not concerned. After all, people like it.

            He’s writing the words that people use to confess their sins, experience pardon, confess faith, etc. – arguably as or more important for a “liturgical” church than the sermon because it’s what people HAVE to say (lex orandi, lex credendi) and, yet, it’s really not seen as that important. I don’t think they’d let this guy preach… but he can write the prayers. Or, for our debate, the songs.

            I trust Jamie’s well-trained. Thoughtful. And has studied both music formally (like a pastor studies at a seminary) and isn’t just a guy who picked-up a guitar and happened to have some native ability. But many are not. Jamie says he made an irresponsible comment… but honestly, I don’t think many folks took it that way. It’s just “old is bad” and “new is good.”

            Admittedly, my perspective… but one that’s not uncommon.

            That’s it for me… thanks for the discussion.

            1. Kelsey Barnes says:

              Matt, I think it’s absolutely fine that this tune is “a miss” for you. I absolutely love that there is diversity in the church and that people have different musical preferences, learning styles, etc. And I don’t think we need to “defend” Jamie’s arrangement at all. I didn’t and I’m not going to, because frankly, I just don’t care. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But why do you continue to insult the songwriter personally? Why not just say, “Nah, don’t like it”? Why turn your nose down at him & dismiss him as a hipster? He doesn’t have a beard, doesn’t own any flannel, has never worn flip-flops… By your own criteria, he just doesn’t fit the description.

              I’m very glad you’re done with this discussion. Insulting (and inaccurate) stereotypes don’t need to be perpetuated; and hopefully, if this discussion continues, it will have a spirit of grace and brotherly love, which doesn’t seem to be possible with those who see disagreement in musical preferences as a reason to show disrespect.

            2. Jamie Barnes says:

              Matt, i can assure i never subscribe or teach the theory that “old” is bad and “new” is good. If you look into Sojourn as a church – you’ll find we are one that is deeply rooted in Church history (church calendar, our liturgy and our fondness for hymns). In fact one of our elders, Dr. Gregg Allison wrote the book on Historical Theology – that’s literally the title and it serves as a companion to Grudem’s Systematic Theology. So, please don’t assume the baby is out with the bathwater over here. We like keeping the baby in there. :)

              If you would like to continue the conversation – if it bothers you that much – here is my email: jbarnes@sojournchurch.com. I have little interest in perpetuating this in public, but have every interest in clearing up strange assumptions and always chasing the need for more unity among the body even via blog message boards. As a sign of contrition, if you email me, i’d also like to offer a free download of any Sojourn album you like. Just hit me up. Thanks again.

            3. Cheryl B says:

              Matt,

              I get what you are saying about the original reflecting the joy of the second coming. It’s one that can be sung with a sort of joyful abandon, and I love that about it.

              I also appreciate Jaime’s version, especially for it’s contrast to the original, in that, to me, it captures a longing for something not yet fully realized, and that is the heart of the advent season. There is so much joy in celebrating the birth of Christ and the original fully captures that joy; it’s beautiful. But there is a note of melancholy to the longing for the second coming in our celebrations, and taking a song that so captures the joy and re-tuning it to help us contemplate what we wait and yearn for is, I think, more the work of a spirit-filled pastor and less that of a pretentious hipster.

              I understand the pain of hearing a dearly loved classic re-tuned beyond recognition. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is one of my favorite hymns, and the things that contemporary musicians have done to that hymn in some of their recordings make me cringe a bit. However, I don’t doubt that they are sincere in their worship and those that worship along with their recordings and concerts are similarly sincere in their worship and edified by the ministry of the musicians. I don’t understand your motives in tearing into Jaime the way you have, but perhaps it would benefit you to reflect on how responsible it is to so harshly and publically criticize the worship and ministry of a brother in Christ.

        2. Jamie Barnes says:

          Matt,

          It’s totally fine to like or not like the arrangement. It’s not my identitiy, so i try not to take it personally. The comment i made at the beginning of the this clip was probably irresponsible. In my defense, if i may, i was suffering from a stomach virus the day we taped this and when i don’t feel good often my words aren’t as guarded. Please see my earlier responses about why i said what i said too. Don’t really feel the need to repeat here.

          i can assure that i’m only trying to write music that will serve and bless my church. Not trying to do anything else. I guess one can make an argument that all art is derivative of something – but i can assure you i’m only trying to do right by the context on which i serve in – which, as i stated before, is not just 20-somethings. I’m in my 30’s. I serve alongside 9 other elders at my campus that range into the 60s.

          Speaking the language of your people without wavering on the gospel – It’s what i commend other worship pastors to do and it’s also what i teach my students at a local seminary where i’m an adjunct professor.

          Thanks again for the discussion.

      2. Jeff Wencel says:

        Rachel, since you addressed me, I’ll just say that I did not introduce “annoying,” the musician did. And then another picked it up. Remember, context, context, context. :)

        1. rachel b says:

          yeah, jeff, i know. i was referring to jamie’s use of the word and that it caused some confusion about his intentions in retuning the song.

  21. Ronald says:

    And one more thing, you can claim to not be a hipster, but it is fairly obvious just by looking at you. What with your cool blue jeans and your button-down shirt, finger-picking your cutaway guitar and using a capo all while “hanging out” with Ed Stetzer?

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

    1. Jamie Barnes says:

      quack. oops. i meant, thanks. :)

  22. rachel b says:

    oh my goodness, this is kind of laughable.

    1. we do not live or die by musical preferences. it’s perfectly acceptable to have them. however, to act like someone is desecrating the gospel just by writing worship songs according to their musical preference is edging into fundamentalist territory.

    2. hipsters need Jesus. people in africa need Jesus. people 200 years ago needed Jesus. people in 100 years will need Jesus. people who like rock music need Jesus. people who like Bach need Jesus. we translate the Bible into thousands of languages so that the knowledge of God can be shared around the world. for goodness sake, i saw an EBONICS bible the other day. what is so wrong with taking theologically sound lyrics and putting them in the “musical language” of a culture? to forbid such expression is to make an idol out of culture, to elevate personal preference and cultural identity over Truth. that’s idolatry.

    3. Kelsey is married to Jamie. i am not married to anyone. just to be …. clear. and also, just so i don’t feel weird about people getting confused on that.

    4. Ecclesiastes 3. there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven. until all is made right forever, until every tear is wiped away, we will worship God with one eye on heaven’s perfection and one eye on earth’s sad state of decay. when we worship God we hold both Joy and Sorrow in our hearts. the Christian who avoids or denies sorrow will in turn miss out on the great beauty of redemption and restoration. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!!” means NOTHING if you don’t desperately need His help, His presence, His salvation. we look forward with great joy and expectation at the feast and celebration His return will bring, but we’re not there yet. this is the paradox of the Christian life, and this is where God is doing His work in our hearts.

    5. and so what if jamie is a “hipster?” i mean, he’s not, but so what? what’s the big deal? i mean, really? he’s your brother in Christ. that supersedes the kind of jeans he wears (not skinny, btw) or the music he listens to (zz top. just kidding.) let’s not let non-critical differences of taste divide the Church, for whom Christ died. diversity is a strength, and it reflects the manifold character of God. it should draw you to worship a God who has saved so many types of people!! not to fear and defensiveness or mockery.

  23. Wayne Roberts says:

    Jeff,

    I really hope you haven’t been put off with all of the back and forth. I do hope if you are in the Louisville area that you will stop in and worship with us at Sojourn.

    I don’t remember if you used the term “hipster”, but I have to admit I first heard about Sojourn a couple of years before attending. I think I read about them in the state Baptist newspaper, and my thought was, “just a bunch of hipsters trying to be cool”. Then I found myself looking for a new church, and found myself at Sojourn. As I got to know the Pastor’s (who are some of the most transparent guys I know), and the people, I realized I had made a huge assumption. I’m 52, and not what you might think is the audience being aimed for, but it does feel like home to me.

    Thanks

  24. Max Randall says:

    Love the version and the musicianship and the deep emotion it draws from my heart ever since I first heard it a couple years ago. Great job guys. Keep doing what you’re doing because it ministers to people all over the world.

    My only peeve – why couldn’t the video be encoded with the right aspect?! :)

  25. D Moore says:

    I just now saw this and have been reading the comments. I am a member of Sojourn East, where Jamie leads. I am almost 50 yrs old, have gray hair (and thankful for each of them), and would absolutely love to be referred to as a “hipster”. I rarely respond to blog postings but feel compelled to make a few statements and observations on the unchristian tone so many of these comments have been. I just think it to be totally UN-Christian to hurl personal comments that have no bearing on the reason for this post (unless I’m totally clueless on why this conversation started). I personally enjoy this version to be honest, this song, and other “retuned” songs are one of the main reasons I stayed at Sojourn. I come from a very strict religious background where all worship is done without any instrumentation, only vocal/accapella in worship. I never felt comfortable in other worship services because those leading worship seemed, from my skewed viewpoint, were more entertainers rather than worship leaders. Jamie is super talented but definitely not, as many seem to be insinuating, trying to be ‘hip’ or aiming to bring more attention to himself and his talent(s). In fact, just the opposite. I stayed worshipping at Sojourn, at a time I was definitely growing further from Christ, because Jamie does everything to reflect worship away from him and the other extremely talented musicians and focusing on Christ. It was so welcome to see someone this talented, leading worship in such a genuine and Christ centered way. In fact, I vividly remember if the congregation started applauding after a song, he would quickly go into another part of worship (reading, prayer, etc) in an obvious attempt to take the attention away from the musicians and moving it to the reason we were there…to worship the living God and give him praise. So, I’ve rambled again but the main point I think that needs to made is why, even if this arrangement isn’t to your liking, are there so many comments attempting to make Jamie appear to be less than anything but a Christian. I believe in order to be Christlike we are commanded to “lift each other up” and I dare say Jamie isn’t feeling uplifted because of this discussion. I’m sure he is able to get past this but there are other, weaker Christians, out there that if this type of conversation was aimed at them and thier God given talents, would find it more difficult to continue writing worship songs and bringing them to those of us who really need them. Shame on anyone who makes harmful, hurtful, statements that would belittle a fellow Christian. That isn’t at all Christian and satan is so happy when you do it.

  26. Barchetta says:

    I thought the rendition was quite nice although I have to be honest and say that the original isn’t one of my favorites either way. Honestly though, these songs aren’t Scripture so let’s get a grip with the negative comments.

  27. Jonathan Anderson says:

    “musician or not, this progression was thoughtfully put together to place these words of truth about Christ’s second coming into a new context”

    Maybe I am mistaken but I thought this song was about the current reign of Jesus not the second coming.

  28. Jeff Wencel says:

    Brothers and sisters,

    I just checked again the comments here. And as some days have now passed, as I’ve now gotten over finals (I’m in grad school at Wheaton) and gotten some sleep, and as I’ve spent some time considering the word in preparing to meet with some brothers to talk over Owen’s work on mortification of sin (how fitting), I’ve regretted what I initially posted. I probably should have regretted it sooner, but it’s taken this long, almost certainly on account of grace being low in my soul. I’ve had nothing like a close watch on my heart recently.

    I intended no harm. But it looks like I did harm. I typed with no malice whatever. But I also typed without due care and consideration of how what I wrote might affect others. I expressed an opinion without thinking about the fallout of that. And I can see that an unprofitable back and forth followed, spawned (it seems) by my initial comment. It’s reasonably clear now that expressing my opinion was rather unhelpful, unedifying, and more, perhaps stumbled some. And why I thought anyone should care what I think in any case is a bit befuddling to me.

    So I want to extend an apology and confess that I did not thoughtfully comment on this post, as Justin has requested in his statement about comments, and as the word of God and Christian love require. I did not speak advisedly. Please pardon my carelessness and lack of love, everyone involved, not least the musicians.

    Your brother in Jesus, unworthy to be named among the saints,

    Jeff Wencel

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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