Category: Theology


In Search of Accessibility

One of the core values at our church is accessibility. It basically means that we don’t speak in Christian code, one doesn’t need to know the handshake in order to come in, and we don’t filter attendees based on things like behavior.

As this distinctive, as we call it, was being out in place, I had chosen the song “Days of Elijah” as one of the songs for the week. I like that song…great encouragement, easy to play and sing, and a lot of people know it. And as I was speaking with my pastor (also my bass player) about the list, he said something profound.

“Days of Elijah isn’t accessible.”

Really?

I examined the words…sure enough, he was right. The words were true, telling us that the God that did amazing things in the times of Elijah, David, Moses and Ezekiel is the same God that lives in us today. What a fantastic message! But without extensive knowledge (and even with it, for some folks) of those times and what events the song is referring to…it is like we are singing in code. It isn’t, in our context, accessible.

So I dropped it, saving it for another, more exclusive event like a conference. That wasn’t the easiest decision…after all, it was a handy “free song” for those weeks when a gap needs to be filled, I know it well and can lead it fairly easily. It was comfortable.

But “comfort” is not a distinctive of my church. Being accessible is.

What kinds of concessions have you had to make, or should you make that you’ve been putting off? Do you find yourself speaking “Christianese” sometimes?

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A Picture of Servant Leadership

I’ve had it in my head for the last while about servant leadership. In Christian circles, we are generally familiar with the term. Outside of that, it might be a little confusing. The basic premise is that in order to lead (that is to influence others) in a healthy way, you have to serve them.

The misconceptions abound, and I think that is why I wanted to hit this topic. Jesus was the perfect example for a lot of things…and real solid leadership was one of those things. Here are a few things that Jesus did, and how we can learn from them.

1. He didn’t just give people what they wanted.

Jesus came and delivered a message that was hard for some people to grasp, and even harder for them to live with. The Jews to this point were obsessed with rituals, rites of passage and procedures because that was how they interacted with God. When the Father sent Jesus, that interaction changed…a LOT. Now, instead of making sacrifices for various kinds of sin, one single sacrifice would be made for all mankind, for all time, and for all sin. Even though, for us, the all-encompassing sacrifice makes it EASIER to approach God, it can be really hard for anyone who found security and predictability in the animal sacrifices from the age prior.

Jesus came to establish a living, breathing and dynamic relationship between God and man. On that relationship hinges everything. That is NOT what some people wanted! How many times did Jesus chew out the Pharisees because they just didn’t get it? The key here is…Jesus gave what was sufficient, what was good, and what was healthy. Many people hated him for it (and still do), but he loved them and carried on nonetheless.

2. He Had Justice in Mind.

The Son of God broke a lot of societal norms, pretty much everywhere he went. Some probably thought he did it for shock value. He upended tables and went nuts in the temple. He hung out with people that a good and proper society would shun (terminally ill, drunkards, etc) and in general eschewed the rules that the cultural gatekeepers had established.

But it wasn’t shock value that Jesus was after. He was after justice. He knew that it wasn’t right that people were sick, lame, poor, blind, oppressed, unfaithful and greedy. And so he tackled those problems head on, and encouraged his followers to do the same. And here is the kicker:

He did whatever he had to do in order to establish justice wherever he went. He KNEW that he was there for the sick…so he went to the sick.

3. He Put People Over Programs.

This is really key. Jesus never invented a 3-step guide to discipleship. In fact, he never developed a comprehensive plan when it came to his ministry. The objective was simple: Be God with the people.

Jesus was so consumed with knowing the will, face and heart of his Father that he emulated those things. And what does God the father care about? Restoring people in every way possible, most especially into a relationship with Himself.

This doesn’t mean you CAN’T develop a great 3-step plan. It means that you can’t place your great program in a higher seat than God’s heart for His people. We do it a lot, but in the end, God doesn’t care about how great you think your program is. He cares about whether or not you are being His instrument in restoring people. We complicate the mission when we really needn’t bother.

 

When have you seen servant leadership exemplified?

Well folks, I’ve been slowly working up the courage for this particular topic. As you can guess by the title, I will be picking through the debate that exists between two general camps: those who see that the contemporary style of worship music has a place and is theologically valid, and those who don’t. Some of you think this debate is dead, and to some extent it may be. However, it can stretch even further and we can ask ourselves if we think that heavy metal can really give a Christian message, or if screamo music can portray Christ just as equally as a hynm night.

Throughout this debate, which will be long (I can assure you of that), we will be browsing through the different genres of music and discussing with various people their authenticity and feasibility within the Christian world view. I urge you to give as much feedback as you deem necessary to this debate, because while I might have an opinion or bias, the whole point is to get to the truth of the matter.

I plan on learning a ton throughout this endeavor, and hope you do as well. Stay tuned!

Love As I Have Loved

I was pondering John 15:12 last night as I was reading more of “Worship Matters”, and I got this distinct sense that the North American Christian (yes, including me) has a serious deficiency here.

A common argument is that while we must love someone, we don’t have to be friends with them. If you believe that, I want to cast it away as an absolute falsehood right away. The verse says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” We are quick to forget that last part. “…as I have loved you.” How did Jesus love us? We have to know that before we can even begin to understand how we are to love others.

I won’t go into the specifics of what Jesus did for us because of His love, because you can already generate your own examples. They key here is to remember that we can’t love God and not love our brothers and sisters at the same time. That would be lying. 1 John 4:20 tells us this. So when we consider our relationships with the people we know, we can already see how short we fall in the area of love. What about our enemies? We are to love them too, and in a very real and transparent way. So I want you to think about that for as long as it takes. Do you love the worst person on the planet enough to die for him/her? Enough to be crucified in their place? Willingly? Until we can truthfully answer ‘yes’ to that question, we have not demonstrated the love of Christ that has been commanded. That is the exact love that He showed, and we do it a disservice when we pretend that we can love while keeping an arm’s distance from those we dislike.

Take this to heart in your worship team. Do you love them enough?

The Words

Well, election day has come and gone, and the winner decided. It will certainly be an interesting time ahead of us, so, like I said in my last post, let us pray for our leaders and bless them as they move forward into this HUGE undertaking.

For the real message of this post, I want to impress upon you something that I have gained from the book “Worship Matters”, which I am hoping to give a full review on shortly. The basic idea was that the words in the song are the important part, if you had to pick one. The music does add another element to those words and allows you to express them with certain emotional overtones, but the words are the heart; they are the message. So, even if you don’t sing, how much do you focus on the words? This part of a song is what ministers to us, and there is a reason we don’t just play instrumentals on Sunday! Remember that God didn’t just beam down a tape player (do people even use those anymore?), from which emitted this face-melting solo, and then His people got the message. No, instead He gave us His Word. Everything written in that book was meant to be spoken, and while the importance of music in worship is stressed throughout, it isn’t the cheif component of our worship. So, do you know the words to the songs you play? Do you simply read them off of the sheet as you go? Put these words into your heart, folks. Study the songs you play, glean the turths, find the scriptures that correspond, and know their significance. That really is a major factor to intentionalizing your worship. What good is the Truth if you don’t know it? Or if you don’t speak it?

Men’s Conference Update

Well, as I type I am in the 3rd session of 6 this weekend, and so far each message has varied significantly. They all attack the same issue, just from different angles, which is something to be appreciated. As I said earlier, the general theme is that men of courage act with no compromise in today’s world (which, coincidentally, chides you into a life of compromise). This is an important topic today, and for a number of reasons.

As most of you already know, men in church seem bored. There are endless books and works out there depicting this problem, so I won’t really get into it. This means that the church hasn’t captured the attention of men, and while the blame doesn’t rest on the church alone, it does present a siginificant problem; if men aren’t interested in church, what are they interested in? What do they invest their time and energies in? Unfortunately, the answer is already clear to many of you. As I always stress, none of us are perfect, so this isn’t a big “judge guys” post. However, there are some key areas that men really do struggle with, and the obvious answer is the church. Guys are stuck in a rut with their marriage, their sin, their job, and any other number of things. So the general question these pastors are asking us is this: Are you going to stand for that? You are getting the life sucked out of you, and you know it is happening, so what will you do?

This is an incredibly relevant message for men in North America today. We are rich and bored, which is obviously not a good combination.

I’ll do another update tonight to finalize the thoughts on today’s sessions and hopefully again tomorrow before we leave this place.

Oh, and as a side note, Lake Louise is beautiful, as always. The food is incredible, too. Until tonight!

I guess the title really gives it away. I won’t give you any hard and fast rules to live by, namely because each situation is unique. They key ingedient to solving these small disputes (whatever they may be, political, musical, opinion-related, etc) is always grace. Each person has been bought for the highest of prices, has been saved by grace alone, has seen mercy when they deserved wrath, has experienced God’s goodness and is witness to the love of Jesus Christ. All too often we choose to argue over comparitively petty things, and they cause division among us. In 2 Timothy 2:23, Paul says “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” It goes on to say that the Lord’s servant should not quarrel, be able to teach and not be resentful and to be kind. Sometimes, this is an awfully contrasting image when we look at ourselves. So, take that to heart, and ask yourself: “In the grand scheme of salvation and Almighty God, how big is this issue I want to bring up?”

Basically, don’t be so anxious to demand repentance and make everyone see your side. Rejoice in the fact that you are all saved by the blood, and the petty arguments will fade away like they were never there.

I am going to start up a series on leading a worship team from a follower’s perspective. Too often, the onus is laid upon the follower to simply be a servant and do what is asked. This is a good thing to teach, but you leaders out there have got to step it up with them! Here are some things you can try that will make your job a LOT easier, and make your band mates follow you out of a sense of desire, not duty. These ideas come from multiple sources, ranging from books to the RCAC curriculum to personal experience. These tips are intended to foster that servant heart you seek in your team.

Patience. This one is tough to have sometimes, when the team as a whole just isn’t getting the groove or someone isn’t listening. Here are some not-so-obvious reasons why your patience is a huge requirement for leading the team:

You need to square with the fact that not every task will go just the way you want it to. Therefore, allow for change to take place. Be ready for non-compliant band members. They might have their own thoughts and ideas, and if you don’t demonstrate patience and willingness to hear them, you will not only lose influence over them, but they will also lose sight of your heart and vision.

Decisiveness. Being able to make a sound and timely decision is one of those things we are afraid to do sometimes because we might step on someone’s toes. In some cases this may be true, but there are some components to this quality of a true leader that might no be readily apparent:

Follow up on that decision, especially if it had to be made at the drop of a hat. The buck stops with you, but that doesn’t mean you make the decision and leave it as is. Once all is said and done, ask your band how they think it went, and LISTEN. Showing that you actually care how it affected the team will go miles in making sure that none of them walk away with hurt feelings or unspoken frustration. Don’t think you can get away without doing this either…even some of the most outspoken people won’t tell you everything unless you are intentional about it and ask.

Confidence. You need confidence in God, your superiors, your followers, your aim and yourself. If you lack that in any of those areas, don’t wait. Build it now. Here is what you might not have realized about confidence:

It is extremely easy to spot a leader who is complacent with any of the above mentioned things. Confidence is very contageous, but a lack thereof is as well. Once you know of your own confidence in these things, make sure that your team has the same. You need to know about issues going on between your team and the church leadership, or if they don’t think that your vision is quite on par. Once you know those things, you can address them face to face. Share WHY you are confident in these things, but think about it first. Communicate that message clearly, and it will be easier for your followers to catch on.

This is by no means the end, and there is much more to come. Until next post!

I was cruising through my WordPress Dashboard just now, and saw that someone stumbled upon my site while searching for the reason ‘why we shouldn’t have worship teams’. This is more of a question and a challenge to take up that side of the debate, even if you don’t agree with it. Lay it on me! Why do you think that worship teams should be abolished?

Worship In All Things

Hey there folks, and happy Thanksgiving for the Canucks among you.

Today’s post after the Thanksgiving hiatus deals with worshiping in all things you do. Recently, I posted about doing more in church than just playing on the worship team. With that post in mind, I’d like to push that a little more and suggest this: expand your horizons with regard to which activities can be worshipful, while eliminating the things in your life that you know are not and can never be.

This is a pretty huge task to take on, because you are broadening horizons while pruning branches, so to speak. I’ll start with the first half, and then continue on in the next post. Some people think that worship can only be done in the church, while listening to music (or playing it), and that is the defined time of worship. If you happen to fall into that category, let me rock your world for a moment. Exhorting one another, learning the Truth from your pastor and applying it, feeding the hungry, acting out of servanthood for one another; all of these things that are done can be done with an attitude that points somewhere other than the self. More specifically, acting as Christ would have us act (as He lays out throughout the New Testament) throughout our daily lives is glorifying to God, because it displays our devotion to Him over ourselves.

Remember that something that can be worshipful can also get turned on its head if we misuse it or approach it incorrectly. If we play music just so people can see how cool we are, the worship team is up there to create their own worshipers, instead of acting as mirrors and reflecting the praise upward. In the same way, something that is not currently a worshipful task for you could easily become one. All that needs to be done is that you focus on Christ, as opposed to the deeds of the flesh. Ask yourself “How can I do this for God?”

A good example that I will finish on comes with a bit of a confession. I like to play computer games. There we go, I said it. Now, for a long time, this was all for my own personal enjoyment. I wondered on occasion how cool it would be if I could transform this hobby into a form of worship…a sign of some kind of dedication. I then discovered (begin shameless plug here) Christian Gamers Online. These guys are actually an online ministry, specifically focusing on bringing gamers to God. They run servers for several online games, they do a Bible study, men’s group and much more. Obviously to me, this was revolutionary. Check them out at www.christiangamers.net and see for yourself. So there you have it. Something not ordinarily considered as a worshipful activity has been transformed into an evangelistic platform.