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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?

The Sanballats and the Tobiahs

I have the honor of preaching this weekend from Nehemiah 6:1-14, and I’ve gotta say, I have a really odd sense of apprehension about it. As I get more confident in my own preaching style and method, whole new directions and lines of thought and teaching are opening up to me, and I can’t be too sure which ones to take. This post is something of a primer and practice round for me, so pardon my mental hailstorm.

So far in the story of Nehemiah, we’ve got a guy who was the cup bearer for the King of Persia (pretty powerful dude) and has been turned into the King’s personal go-to guy for a specific project; he gets to direct the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Historically there is a ton of stuff in that alone, but just know this: it was mega-controversial, and there were a lot of people who didn’t like it one bit. Two of those guys (and their cronies, no doubt) come up an awful lot in the story, and they are Sanballat and Tobiah. So far, they have suggested that Nehemiah was rebelling against the king (which is ludicrous since our hero gets permission and then some from said king), mocked the Jews for their work, ridiculed the structural integrity of the wall, and plotted to kill the workers. Classy.

At this point, we hear from the dynamic duo once again. They say “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono”, which is obviously away from Nehemiah’s protection. Nehemiah perceives that they intend to do him harm…and rightly so, given their track record so far. So Nehemiah informs them that he isn’t coming. His work is too important and they are too UNimportant for it to be worth his time. You’d think that they’d get the point, but they obviously missed it because they sent the same request four more times. Being turned down the same way each time, the fifth was actually a little different. This time, they tell him that there is a rumor floating around that the Jews intend to rebel, and that Nehemiah intends to become their king. They ask him to meet with them, so they can sort the rumor out. Here is his response in the JPV (Justin’s Paraphrased Version):

“You are a bad liar, and a freakin’ lunatic to boot!”

Seriously, he says “You are MAKING THIS UP in your own mind!” And here is where I think the pivotal moment is. Sanballat And Tobiah Co. are now actively assaulting Nehemiah himself, in terms of his purpose and intentions as they pertain to the rebuilding of the wall. His enemies are bluffing…hoping that he’ll fall for it, show up unprotected and be captured or killed so that the pesky Jews will just go somewhere else.

In poker, one of the most painful things you can do to someone is call their bluff. They just threw a bunch of money on the table hoping that somebody would match it with a lesser hand or fold. But Nehemiah had a better hand…and he knew it. He had direct confirmation from God that his purpose was to lead the rebuilding process. He had a personal guard along with the right to pass throughout the land unharmed/unhindered given to him by the king. He held the trump hand in every possible way…and he called their bluff and stayed the course.

Even after this, the antagonists HIRED a guy to try and deceive him further, drawing him into a temple and again, away from the work he had been given. Nehemiah actually said that he would have been made to SIN by retreating from his work. He saw that the whole time, his enemies were trying to make him afraid. Afraid for his life, for his work and for his purpose. But once again, he called the bluff. He knew that if God was for him, then none could stand against him.

The takeaway is relatively simple. Stand firm in what your God is doing in and through you. Your enemies (some from within) will try and sway you, distract you and make you afraid, even to the extent bold-faced lying. Your God is not fooled, nor does He want you to be. Jesus called a spade when he saw it, just like Nehemiah did. When Peter seemingly feared for Jesus’ life, he got rebuked because he was speaking against the very purpose of that life.

In the end, it is about what God has in mind. Not you or those around you.

Un-worship

Something really slammed home for me not 2 minutes ago, and it needed to be blogged about.

In church music circles, there is a great idea floating around that really makes sense. When we play our music, we want to not distract people. We want them to be in a totally unobtrusive, safe environment where they can connect with the living God. Pretty pure motive, right?

Except, it totally isn’t. I, all of a sudden, have a major problem with this philosophy. It isn’t that it is a bad goal, it is that it is a goal period. Here’s why – it sounds suspiciously like the following:

We don’t want to offend anybody.
We don’t want to hurt anybody.
We don’t want to exclude anybody.
We don’t want to force somebody to do something they don’t like.
We don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.

That list is the embodiment of a church that is going precisely nowhere. It is a church full of people that wouldn’t even make good followers, let alone leaders. If you looked at that list and were shouting (in your heart, of course) with joy that someone finally understands your desires, here is a reality check. Those things, by themselves, are not bad. We don’t strive to offend anyone, we don’t try to hurt people, exclude them, or make them uncomfortable. We never TRY to do those things. But they happen as a natural part of being a mission and vision driven entity. Let me break it down.

The things that God calls His people to do are always extraordinary. A living God reconciling the filthy, rotten, irredeemable and unworthy despot that is humanity is always extraordinary. Especially when He predestines the death of the only innocent man, concurrently His own Son, to do so. Our God is one of all-out, unrelenting desire to see people redeemed. Jesus went to pretty ridiculous lengths to show people the glory of his Daddy. He was more concerned about doing what God wanted him to do than with making sure other people were secure and feeling safe.

Really, this isn’t about trashing good manners and tact in church. It is a shift of priorities. Don’t you dare hold back what God is doing in you for the sake of comfort, convenience or preference.

Knowing is half the battle, right? Not so here. Knowing is all of it. Hurdles like money, time, knowledge…those can all be fixed very easily, with the proper perspective. But we’ll get to those.

Step One in your church PA system adventure is knowing what the PA will be used for. This knowledge informs your choices later, so that your money is spent wisely and performance is up to snuff. We all know the folks who have all the best toys but have no clue how to use them, right? A great guitarist can make a 20 dollar pawn shop amp sound great, while the unlearned couldn’t coax a good tone out of a boutique monster if he had everything including the wind in his favor. Bad analogy…you get the idea.

Here are some questions you need to answer before you can move on. I’ll leave some of my own answers behind that are more or less universal to churches. It should also be noted that when I say PA system, I mean the whole smash. Mics, mixers, amps, monitors, main speakers…everything.

1. What kind of music is being played? The PA requirements of modern rock music and piano/vocal-driven hymns are vastly different. (It is assumed that regular human speech is a priority, since this is how we hear such things as sermons and testimonies.)

2. What kind of room are you in? This has the propensity to get technical, but is your auditorium acoustically fit? If you have no idea, ask. If the room has walls that are exactly the same (think perfect boxes and rectangles) and all of the surfaces are hard, it probably isn’t. A room that is acoustically “unfit” (this is not a technical term) will sound completely awful with some high-powered monstrosity of a PA system, and there are other hurdles involved here before you even buy a mic cable. Getting a professional to acoustically analyze your room is a VERY wise move if it hasn’t been done already. All the reading in the world does not prepare you for the firehose of information these professionals have locked in their brains.

3. Where do you see your church in 5 years? Will the musical tastes change? How about the building? Or the size of the congregation? Build for the future, not for the present. This applies to everything you ever do in your life. EVER.

In short…what do you play? What do you hear? What do you see?

More to come. Ask questions if ya got ’em.

Let’s face it. Church venues are not known for having great acoustics. Some are, to be sure…but those are the ones that have all the money they want to blow on sound gear, right?

Mostly. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This series of posts will dive into some of the general questions that will guide you in the scary task of purchasing church PA equipment. You are, after all, spending money that was given by the congregation…you WANT an end product that represents their generosity well.

So, stay tuned! Each post will deal with a major hurdle in choosing gear, implementing it and seeing it work they way it was supposed to. For those who aren’t technically minded…you are in the right place. This is more about making the right choices and talking to the right people, not about spec sheets and performance charts.

Nothing Is Impossible by Planetshakers is one of those few albums that I actually look forward to. It isn’t that other music doesn’t make the cut (although I will admit to becoming more of a music snob as of late…), but rather the Planetshakers just seem to have this edge that I can really get into. I am happy to say that the buzz has been retained and the high energy that has become something of a hallmark trait of this music is still there.

The CD opens with some seriously driving songs that will feel familiar to Planetshakers fans. Power, Bring It On and Give it Up are all blessed with an abundance of hard-hitting guitars and synth loops that are pretty much guarunteed to get your heart pumping. Of the three, Give It Up is probably the best suited for corporate worship, given its anthematic chorus and unabashedly “boom-bang” feel.

Not surprisingly, one of the best tunes on the disc is Nothing Is Impossible. This powerful song really bangs on all cylinders (in a big block V-8, in case you were wondering) without any special treatment. Add the phenominal talents of Israel Houghton, and you end up with an incredibly complex yet accessible vocal masterpiece. The high-energy bent of the Planetshakers really is perfectly mated to this song, which coincidentally has a high-energy message of God being able to do absolutely anything and our ability to partake in that power.

Hosanna is one of those special songs in that it moves from stanza to stanza very purposefully and smoothly, and then positively soars through the chorus. This piece feels almost symphonic in how deeply it moves me while listening to it. Again, all of these little details hidden in the words, the cadence, the melody and the backing instruments add together to make something truly beautiful. This cry of salvation is more complex than it first seems, and is worth multiple listens to unpack it.

One kind of song that I’ve heard a few times and never been overly satisfied with is what I might call an “evangelist’s song”; the music that very purposefully and blatantly says “you need to turn to Jesus now, buddy”. Might I humbly submit to you that Come To Jesus is on top of the pile. This offering boasts very strong theological concepts that deal directly with our identity in Christ, while simultaneously making the same desperate plea that many of us silently make to those we love. Just come to Jesus. In the right context, this song will be instrumental (hey, see what I did there?) in ushering people into the Kingdom.

The album ends with We Cry Out, a very simple, accessible and effective prayer for God to move throughout the world. It has amazed countless people what a simple prayer for a nation can do, and this song can provide great opportunity for corporate supplication.

This whole album has a lot more polish on it than the live material that we are maybe more accustomed to. Despite some of the edge being smoothed over, the basic ingredients that make Planetshakers what they are remain intact. This album has its share of engaging songs that are relatively flexible in terms of their use in worship; you would do well to consider adding this to your list if it isn’t already there.

Hope’s Anthem is a record that really did something neat in me. With a market so saturated like that of praise and worship music, I can very honestly say that if I see a name I don’t recognize, I make a series of unfair assumptions; I generally feel like I need to strap in and prepare to be blasted by the same stuff I heard yestermonth. In this case, I came away from my first listen a little sheepish and more than satisfied. There were a lot of those “Ooh! I like that!” moments throughout the whole disc, both musically and lyrically. Here are a few of the songs that really did it for me.

The CD opener, I’m Free, was just too fun. This tune begs for stomped foot, raised voice, clapped hand and joyous heart as it takes us on a simple journey of undertsanding that we are indeed free in Jesus, and what it means for us. The innocent manner in which this song tackles this monumental truth is truly refreshing, and maybe we can learn something from it. We are free. Period.

We Believe is, among other things, a prayer for cities and nations; this is the kind of song a kingdom-minded congregation will latch onto and run with. The whole thing sings like a prayer, and a big prayer at that! Calling for nations to be free and all promises to be fulfilled is a big deal, and between the soaring chorus and contemplative lows, the song has “genuine” written all over it.

So Good To Me is, hands down, no holds barred, 100%, without equivocation, my favorite song on this disc. The truly awesome groove and incredibly strong message of blessing both conspire to make a song that won’t be forgotten soon. As it says at the end, “I got love, joy, peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit!” This tune just makes me wanna sing that for hours.

The Lord is My Shepherd, as the name implies, draws very heavily from Psalm 23. Simply because of the richness of that particular passage of Scripture, I anticipate a great number of people really getting into this tune. Honestly, there isn’t much to say about the song other than “Listen to it and love it.” There is an incredible spirit of peace and joy in this song, which ought to be predictable given the foundation it was built on.

Truth be told, this whole CD is blessed with some great listening. The accomplished musicianship lends credibility to songs that already have a solid footing in Scripture, and even though by today’s standards it isn’t all congregation-friendly, I could easily see the right crowd catching what William Matthews has got. If a song like any of these popped up at church, I’d be singing in no time flat. And you can bet I’m going to try the ones listed above for that very purpose.

Integrity Music

Anyone reading this probably knows all about this company, so I won’t go into the gritty details. They are basically the label to a large group of very well known Christian artists like Lincoln Brewster, Israel Houghton, Paul Baloche and more.

Integrity, as their contribution to the Proclaim giveaway, is handing out 5 $100 gift certificates to their online music store. I don’t need to tell you how much music that means.

Here is a little from the Integrity Music website:

Helping people worldwide experience the manifest presence of God.

No wonder they are being so generous! If you are a music nut (which you just might be by reading this), you might wanna sign up 😉

This is the final post I will be making about the Proclaim giveaway. Then we can return to my (ir)regularly scheduled rambling. Enjoy, and good luck!

Hey folks! Here again with more from this Proclaim giveaway! This one is for the singers (or wannabe singers) out there. This one has me really quite excited.

PraiseVocals.com is a resource for teams to allow them to train vocalists with actual audio files of the various vocal parts in the song of choice. All are professionally recorded, and this giveaway offers a chance to win 1 of 2 year long subscriptions. You can also make unlimited sub-accounts for other team members…this is, in effect, a church-wide membership. Awesome!

From their website:

Praisevocals.com exists to serve the needs of worship leaders, vocal directors and praise singers who seek to give God their very best.

We are committed to improving the quality and impact of the worship experience at your church by providing a proven resource that will hone the skills and build the confidence of your vocalists while saving you valuable time, energy and resources.

Sounds like a winner to me!

Clover

For the next part of the Proclaim giveaway postings, we’ll be taking a closer look at Clover.

Clover is a website design company focused on making sites that people can change around without having much in the way of computer knowledge. In the era of the volunteer in church, this is perfect. But don’t let me explain it poorly…check out their introduction video for yourself.

For an example and a slightly unashamed shout out, here is the Clover site currently being used by my church: http://www.thewellchurch.ca/

There are plenty of very fine looking examples on the Clover website. Check it out!