Archive for the 'Church' Category

Sunday Morning Notes

Notes on Exodus 20

Church Marketing Rocks

Yesterday, I dissed on church marketing a bit, but I’m still a huge fan.

For example: buisiness cards.

I love business cards. They work.

Today I finally got an Alabama Driver’s license. I went to the county office, waited for about 2 hours, went through 15 minutes of questions, a photo, and bam, I was done.

When it came my turn I smiled and asked the woman how her holiday was. She said it was exciting to give her husband an iPod Touch for Christmas. I said that my wife gave me a hat, which was the perfect give to keep a shaved head warm.

(On Christmas Eve we worshiped with Sojourn Church. My pal John made sure I was stocked up on churchinabrewery.com business cards to promote their launch in the brewery on Jan. 11th.)

When I reached into my wallet to pull out my debit card to pay, I pulled out a churchinabrewery.com card as well. I laid it down and said,

“I worshiped with these guys on Christmas Eve.”

She said she’d never heard of Church in a Brewery but that she really enjoyed the Christmas Eve service at Grace UMC. She asked to keep the card. (My vibe was that Grace is the right place for her – but I’m suspecting she might have a friend to pass the card along to who would find a great home at Sojourn.)

Business Cards with a web addresses just work. In a situation where it’d be awkward to try to start up a conversation about going to church while there are 300 other people waiting for driver’s liscneses it’s simple and gets you to the point quick.

Great Worship Leaves You Uneasy

Church messed me up today.

We worshiped at The Brook with Jan. It was great to be there. Jan is a pro and I was impressed with how quickly we just dove into worship with only three songs.

The set was short to make space in the service for the 50 min. Fransic Chan video.

The video sermon messed me up.

Seriously, buy a copy of the mp3 from Youth Specialties for 6 bucks or email Jan and asked to borrow the DVD – it’ll mess you up too.

There were two aspects that hit me hard.

1. Sign or No Sign?

As I dream about one day planting a church this question hits me hard. When Rob Bell planted Mars Hill his friends got a sign for the church. He was appalled and made them take it down. I love the kinda guts it takes to have that attitude about church.

The notion is that people have to want to be there.

We beg and plead for people to come to church. We put up billboards, reserve special parking spaces for visitors and make sure there’s coffee and donuts. It’s kinda like we’re saying, “Jesus isn’t enough of a reason for you to be here – we need to add all this extra crap to try and entice you.”

So part of me says, “Sign?! Church can’t have a Sign!”

Chan indirectly hit on this point today. He talked about how as pastors we want to build big churches, but Jesus didn’t do this. When Jesus got a big crowd instead of being “welcoming” he said, “Hate your mother, hate your father, hate your kids, hate your family, pick a cross and follow me.”

We can’t have a sign – people have to want to follow Jesus.

On the other hand I place a super high value on things like signs and websites. I recently saw a business card advertising a sermon series and I commented to Sarah on how intelligent it was to put a map right on the card to make it easy. I have this strong desire to “let my light shine like a City on a hill” But when do we make it so easy for people to follow Jesus they aren’t really following Jesus at all?

Following Jesus is hard.

2. Where’s the Gospel?

Chan spoke about the parable of the good soil – how some people are rocky soil and some have thorns and some is good soil. Chan said that Jesus didn’t waste his time cultivating the rocky soil. He didn’t fertilize the thorns. He only focused on the good soil.

On the one hand this hit me hard – It breaks my heart to see churches bend over backwards trying to appease lukewarm Christians. They make sure the coffee is hot, and the music’s not too loud, and the words have to be on the screen at exactly the right time otherwise it’s too “distracting” to worship God. Gimme a freaking break. If you are so spiritually impoverished that you can’t worship God because you were “distracted” then you need to take a trip to China or Africa where the real Christians live. Where you can get murdered and tortured for your faith. I have no desire to try and appease lukewarm Christians.

It’s just like fertilizing the thorns.

On the other hand I think Chan is misinterpreting the parable. The point of the parable is that the sower is crazy irresponsible!! A smart sower would not only refrain from fertilizing the rocks – he simply wouldn’t sow seed there in the first place!

I thank God that’s He’s so generous and irresponsible. I was once some pretty rocky soil before God cultivated my heart.

Isn’t the Gospel the fact that we are ALL rocky soil? We were all sinners in need of a savior? Isn’t the point that we can’t do it? – that the church isn’t perfect, that we’re all broken, that we need Jesus to save us?

Chan never got there. The whole appeal seemed to say, “Christians – step up and start living better.”

I never heard – “Oh and by the way – you can’t do it. No matter how hard you try you are completely incapable. But don’t worry – God can. He is capable. It is He who wills and works in you. Trust in Him.”

Leave a comment

If you understood a bit of the struggle I rambled about above then drop a comment. Do you wrestle with this too? Have you found any insight?

You can also check out Jan’s take on today’s service.

Beginning a Search

Today we worshiped with Buliding Church. It surprised me how refreshing it was to just go somewhere and worship God. Not show up several hours early and do a bunch of set up and lead a sound check and various other distractions from God’s presence, but just show up and worship.

After the service I talked briefly with Pastor David about being an ex-church staffer trying to find a place to plug in. He said, “I know it can be awkward.”

Man, it totally is.

The pull is to critique everything. When you’re a church professional trying to find a church it’s like John Madden trying to simply enjoy a football game. Rather than focus on a “What impressed me? – What did I enjoy?” attitude I tried to have a “How could God use me in this community? Is God calling my family here?” attitude.

I will say I really enjoyed the worship and teaching. The welcome team was on point!

We sang –

  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Joy to the World
  • Angles We Have Heard on High
  • The First Noel
  • Another song I’d never heard before
  • Run, Run Rudolph (walk out song)

Check out other Churches’ Sunday morning set lists on Fred’s blog.

The Building Church worship pastor only led one song. It was cool to see a guy who empowers his team. I’m not a big fan of Christmas carols for Sunday morning services, but O Come All Ye Faithful and Angles we have heard on High were rockin’. Seriously, some of the most worshipful arrangements of those I’ve heard.

In terms of the big 4

Solid Preaching: Check. David spoke about how Christians don’t search for peace – they HAVE peace, they don’t search for Joy, they HAVE joy. In a culture where it’s super hip and trendy to be “seeking” and very nerdy to be “found” I really appreciated the good theology.

Another thing that struck me that was HUGE was how much vision was just littered through the message. Getting into a small group as well as going through the “growth track” classes were both plugged during the sermon.

Love Huntsville: Check. We prayed over some build-a-bears (“Building Bears”) that were being sent to Children who were spending Christmas in Huntsville Hospital.

Love the World: Check. The put a picture on the screen of the orphans in Venezuela who they were helping. The Pastor and his wife served as missionaries before become church planters.

Passionate about church planting: Big Check. What really impressed me the most was the confidence that folks had about being called to Huntsville. Pat, an associate pastor, shared with wild excitement about how he’d left a paying job to raise support, take on a part-time job and help plant Building Church. They are only a little over a year old and are looking open another campus in Madison in February.

With all this I didn’t hear the whisper of God saying, “This is the place.” I have a feeling like it’s probably not gonna happen that way. I envision it more like us visiting several places and then praying in light of those experiences about where to go.

You can check out Sarah’s take on visiting Building Church.

The Most Important Aspect When Looking for a Church

What is the most important aspect when looking for a church?

For the first time in our marriage Sarah and I and in a situation where need to go out and find a church. “Church shopping” makes me want to throw up in my mouth, and yethere we are. The notion of “shopping” for a church is nauseating because it takes some thing beautiful and destroys it. Church shopping takes the Holy and Righteous Bride of Christ and treats her like she’s no more important than a Startbucks cup of coffee.

Is church just a product to be consumed or something more?

The Bible says the Church is the “fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 1:22-23) You don’t get the fullness of Christ without church – it’s thatimportant. Without getting too deep into theologies of the Universal Church vs the City Church vs local church, I believe it is ablsolute vital to faith in Jesus Christ to experience that faith in the community of a local church. For that reason the most important aspect of finding a church will be finding a community where we can SERVE. A communtiy where our unique gifts, talents and calling can be fully exploited and leveraged for the sake of the Gospel.

It’s not about what you get out of church, but what give to your Savior and others.

Yes, Sarah and I are hoping to serve in some way. My family has been pretty beat up by the transtion and we need a place to heal, but we don’t plan on taking a break from ministry. Healing doesn’t happen when you take a break from you mission. In fact, “taking time off” to heal can be the most damaging thing to faith. True spiritual healing happens when you get actively invovled in giving your entire life to Jesus and serving him with all that you’ve got. I’m not saying we want to jump immeditately into leadership – we just need some good community where we can plug into service.

So what kind of church are we looking for?

Sarah and I have come up with 4 elements we are hoping to find in the local church we want to plug into:

1. Solid Bibilical Teaching – This is the most important thing. If we are going to grow in our faith we need to find a teach who can teach us.

2. They tagibly love Huntsville– What is the church doing to actively make a difference in the city? Are all the bulletin announcement for Bible Studies and potlucks or are they getting outside their own four walls to actually love their neighbors? I’ve grown up in the church and honestly I kinda suck and loving my city. I need to find a communtiy that’s doing it and can teach me how.

3. They send missionaries all around the world – Missions in the back yard are important and so are Global missions. Do they send out people on short term missions? Do they support full-time missionaries? Bonus points are awarded if the church does sustainable ministry by sending the short-term missionaries to the same places year after year and connect with long-term missionaries in those locals.

4. They are passionate about church planting – I believe church planting is the most effective way to reach the lost and revitalize existing churches. My goal is to one day be a church planter.

Those are the big four, but bonus point are awarded for

  • The Pastor has a blog and twitter
  • Others in the church blog and twitter
  • Loud guitars with distrotion.
  • Podcasts/RSS feeds of audio and video content
  • Cool graphics on the website (shallow, and I’m just being honest.)
  • A rockin’ kids ministry (Service is the most important – I don’t care about your “kids ministry” as long as your invovling my daughters in serving Jesus. But a fun and safe Sundy morning evirionment where they look forward to going doesn’t hurt.)
  • Candles
  • Dark, dark, turn off all the lights worship.
  • Cool set design (see note on: graphics)

What do you think?

What kinds of things should we look for was we try to find a church home?

Leaving Chase Valley Church

I’m writing this post with a morose, but peaceful heart. Today was my last Sunday as the Worship Arts Pastor at Chase Valley. One week earlier I turned in a letter of resignation to the leadership. I didn’t want to but out of obedience to God I had to. I know I am following God’s will in this. It doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Chase Valley has gone through a lot of painful staff changes. I said that it was my goal to leave with the least amount of hurt and that I was willing to do anything to help transition the ministry. The leadership felt that it would be best if I made today my last Sunday. I submitted to their decision. 

My final setlist for Chase Valley was

  • I Am Free – Egan
  • Adonai – Badham, Fieldes
  • O Come Emmanuel – Chia
  • God of Wonders – Byrd
  • Once Again – Redman
  • All Creatures of Our God and King – Crowder

I didn’t plan for this to be my last Sunday – these just happen to be the songs I already had scheduled this week. You can see more setlists from other worship leaders at my friend Fred’s blog.

Why I’m Not Leaving

If you’ve read my blog or attended Chase Valley you know things have been rough. There has been interpersonal conflict and financial struggle. None of those reasons are why I have chosen to resign. In fact conflict and struggle are what I signed up for. I knew Chase Valley was facing hurt and hardship before I arrived. A huge reason why I came was because I wanted to minister in this situation. I felt called and equipped to do so. 

I love the people of Chase Valley. I love my worship team. I love my ministry. 

So What’s the Problem?

I have a high ethic of supporting leadership fully. The fact is that the senior pastors have a vision for the church that I cannot in good conscience support. I would be disobedient to God if I did. It’s not a bad vision. They have a Godly vision that authentically matches their gifts, talents, experiences and calling. Unfortunately it runs contrary to what God has gifted, equipped and called me to do. 

Two visions – both good, but both very different. 

The moral choice was to step aside and let them lead the church where they believe Christ wants it to go. 

The Masses vs The Margins

These differences in vision logically breed separate philosophies of worship. The senior pastors are called to the masses – to “cast as wide a net as possible.” The ethic here is to format a worship service that has the absolute broadest appeal and “offers something for everyone.” It’s not a bad philosophy and many churches are successful using it.

My calling on the other hand is to create new, innovative and different forms of worship. Rather than appeal to the masses, my goal is to reach out to the margins – the people no one else is reaching. If you want to reach the people no one else is reaching you need to do what no one else is doing.

A call to the masses vs a call to the margins – one does what is most popular, one does what is least popular. One seeks to follow in what is tried and proven while the other seeks to lead into uncharted territory. The world needs both kinds of churches.

The Next Step

I really don’t have any plans at this point. God told me to resign and I followed in obedience without knowing what the path would look like. Sarah and I have discussed other churches in town we’d like to visit in order to find one where we could serve Christ wholeheartedly. I’ll be posting later on the process of finding a church.

For now my hope is for the full success of Chase Valley. The Senior Pastors have assured me of their confidence in their vision – that they fully and confidently believe the church will make a turn to become a growing chruch again.

Repentance and Forgiveness

I just got back from a meeting where the recent turmoil was discussed. Some truth made it’s way out tonight and misunderstandings were clarified. Some apologies were made, forgiveness was granted and things worked the way the Church is supposed to work.

I’m feeling a deeper sense of peace about God’s plan and Chase Valley than I’ve ever felt.

I believe this is because of you. The person reading this blog. The people who have been reading and praying for Chase Valley. Your prayers are powerful and effective.

There are still things left to resolve. But we are moving toward them.

The last year has felt like a foggy cloud of ambiguity. I feel like tonight many steps were taken forward clarity and understanding.

Are You a Bivocational Worship Leader?

I need some help blog world! I am transitioning from being a full-time church staff member to having a full-time secular job and volunteering my time to church.

I’m looking to simplify my ministry processes and focus my efforts on activities that will net the most fruit.

If you are a bivocational worship leader/pastor/director I want to know, “how do you do your job?” If you can email me your phone number and a good time to call I would love to have a half hour of your time to listen to your advice.

In all honesty I’m looking for guys who have been successful at this. I believe I can be bivocational and grow my ministry so I want advice from people who have experience doing that. Even if your church is not numerically growing, I’d still like to hear from you. I believe churches grow when they are healthy. If you help grow the health of your church as a bivocational worship staff member then I really need your help!

Email me your phone number.

Leave me a comment with your most effecive ministriy practice for bivocational worship leaders.

Take Your Worship Band on Tour

This Sunday I’m taking a team of musicians on tour to lead worship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, TN. My good friend Randy is the lead pastor there. He is a visionary with great heart who is loving his people to the next level. He invited us several months ago to be guest worship leaders. I’m leaving behind a great team of musicians to lead at Chase Valley.

tour bus '74 by LordKhan

Be Missional with your Worship Ministry

Many folks who serve on worship teams only serve within their local communities. This is an opportunity for the Chase Valley worship arts ministry to serve beyond the 4 walls  of our building. It’s an opportunity to serve our Christian brothers and sisters and learn from them as well. Randy and I have planned a lunch after worship where both of our teams can interact and talk worship to share and learn from each other.

My Goal was to Go

From the very start my goal at Chase Valley was to equip and empower other leaders. I wanted to see how quickly I could get OFF-stage by empowering others to lead. When I frist showed up my time estimates on accomplishing this goal were 2-3 years. I would have never guessed it would be a real possibility within 9 months. I can’t take credit here – this is only happening because leaders have stepped up in our community. Our home team drummer hasn’t played on a worship team for many years, but came “out of retirement” for this gig.

I am crazy blessed – there are few churches our size that have enough musicians for 2 full worship teams. (I know of several churches that have a much larger attendance but a much smaller worship team.) I got lucky when God put me at Chase Valley.

A bit of Awkward Timing

The announcement went public yesterday that I’ll be going bi-vocational. It’s poor timing because I will absent from Chase Valley when most of the body hears the news.  I made some strategic decisions to prepare for this, but ultimately I’ll be relying on my team to lead off stage as well as on. I’ve prepped key leaders with the necessary information and I trust that they will be starting positive conversations in my absence.

I’m crazy excited for this weekend – both for the trip to Trinity and the awesome worship that will take place at Chase Valley. This post is a part of Creative Chaos.

Have you ever had a guest worship leader on a Sunday morning?

Have you ever gone out to do guest worship somewhere?

Reality is a Loose End

Jan posted this video and it is so compelling:

This is so refreshingly authentic because she doesn’t try to pretend. It takes maturity to simply admit “I’m growing” rather than faking it with, “I have it all figured out and all the loosed ends are now neatly tied up.”

$3,000 a Week

Many of you are praying for CVC and for me personally. Thank you again.

Our weekly budget is $9,000 – this is the amount of money we need to bring in with our offering to pay all of our bills – mortgage salaries, lights, ect… This does not include program money (we are on a budget freeze), and it does not include paying off money we owe to people. 9K is the “bare-bones” budget number.

This is the public number that we show everyone. We print it on the back of our bullitein each week.

We also print the number of last week’s offering. We tend to average around $6,000.

That’s a $3,000 gap.  Each week.

last week’s offering was closer to $5,000. That number will get printed on next week’s bulletin.

I talked to leadership about some steps to take – they are in prayer now over what I’ve shared.

I’ve been asking questions like –

What’s the right thing to do in this situation?

How do Christians act when faced with this information?

If character counts the most when character is most needed, how do we act according to strong character?

This is just the public info – there’s more going on behind the scenes. One thing has been evident – a need to be more open and transparent and a need to communicate in new and different ways. I’ll continute to be transparent. This story is still evolving.

What Big Churches Can’t Teach

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley said in a recent podcast that churches should NOT do what North Point is doing. His point was that North Point has not always done what it’s doing now. They have done different things at different stages in their development to get to where they are at now.

If you are a small church you can’t do big church things and expect the same results.

Tony Morgan says,

If you need advice, first ask the question who has walked through this same situation and come out the other side in a healthy position?

Right now Chase Valley has an enormous leadership opportunity. We are walking through a struggle that many other churches face. They need an example to follow. North Point isn’t facing it. New Spring isn’t facing it. Willow Creek isn’t facing it. But we are.

Are we going to face this opportunity with integrity and set a Christian leadership example?

Will we be open, honest and transparent enough about the process to let others see what we’re doing?

Another great leader once said,

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

Still Listening

Where does all disappointment come from? Doesn’t it happen when we have expectations and those expectations aren’t met?

There were some big positives about the meeting last night:

  • Moving Chairs. So many people came to the meeting that we had to rearrange the chairs 3 times to add enough seats for everyone. This means there was a lot of interest and a large group of people that are excited about what God is doing at Chase Valley.
  • Communion. We shared the Lord’s Supper together. This was a powerful statement of unity as we each served the one next to us.
  • Information. We were able to share a lot of information about the specifics of the financial situation with a diverse group of people who don’t normally sit in on finance or leadership meetings.

I was also expecting to hear, how is God answering peoples’ prayers? Last week when the group met we agreed to pray for a week and then return to share how God was speaking to us. There was not an opportunity last night for those returning to say, “This is what God said to me during my prayer time…” I left still wondering, “How has God been speaking to the leaders in my church?”

Well, God is still talking. I’m not done listening. I would like to know what else is He saying?

I Will Lift My Eyes

Beyond the clouds, from Vancouver to San Francisco

I’m excited and nervous. I want to trust God will all that I am.

It’s difficult.

I love my church and I see their potential. In the last 8 months these people have become my closest friends. I want to see them soar. I feel like tonight is a crossroads. We will either begin a new journey – one on the dangerous path following Jesus Christ, or we will stay safe in our apathy.

Dorothy Ann reminded me that this will probably be the first meeting of many. Those are wise words for a high octane worrier like myself.

These lyrics from Bebo Norman have been in my head all day – this is how I think about tonight:

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can’t climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

My Thoughts on Healer

Surfing Breaks by millzero.com on flickrIn The Purpose Driven Church Rick Warren (a true California pastor) makes the analogy that following the Holy Spirit is like surfing. The idea is that God, like the waves, is always moving. We can’t manufacture a movement of God’s Spirit no more than we could sit in the ocean and create a wave with our Surf board. We don’t create the wave, that’s God’s job, ours is to find the wave and ride it.

Right now God is sending a typhoon to my local church – the question isn’t “Is God moving?” The question is “Because God IS moving what am I going to do about it?”

This passion has consumed me over the last few days, and honestly, it’s made the Healer controversy seem very small compared to how much God is pushing me. So I didn’t put up a post yesterday and instead dreamed some bigger dreams for my church.

If you don’t know about this controversy that has rocked the local church around the world, or if you want to get in on the conversation I suggest starting here, or here.

Or you can comment on:

Healer: Manufactured wave or movement of God?

Something’s Brewing…

at CVC, but I can’t tell you yet.

Shhhh

I skipped out on  my guildmeeting tonight to attend the Chase Valley Administrative Counsel meeting. I was pretty bummed to have to miss a great discussion on Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning in order to sit through a church meeting. But tonight the Holy Spirit busted things up in a crazy unexpected way. You might even say we chased the Holy Spirit a bit tonight. The meeting stopped half-way through to launch into an improtu time of prayer. Then we all agreed that we couldn’t wait another month to meet again so we’d have to get together next week.

If you are part of the Chase Valley family you are welcome to hang out next Tuesday and get in on the ground floor of something BIG.

For the rest of ya’ll – I can’t wait to fill you in. I’m wildly excitied.

Give vs Take – How to Love Your City

This gets me fired up. Watch the video here:

Carlos is loving his city. Buckhead church is gifting a gift to their community by investing in it.

I think this is going to work because of the “give” attitude.

The give attitude asks

  • How can I help my community?
  • How can I share?
  • What do I have that is valuable and how can I use that outside the church walls?

The take attitude asks

  • How many converts will I get out of this?
  • Will this increase church attendance?
  • Will this net a “return” on our investment?

When we hoard all of our talent inside the church walls we are not giving.

This doesn’t need to be musical talent – you can be good a gardening, or shooting a rifle, or reading a book. Pretty much anything you love to do can be done with others who live in your community. Seriously, it doesn’t need to be huge and save millions of lives. Just do something small to invest in your community.

When we go with an agenda we are not giving.

If you watch Carlos’ video and think, “I need to do this – it’ll be a terrific way to grow my church.” Then you are totally on the wrong track. As Christians we have to love our communities absent of agenda. If you really, really need an agenda then make thankfulness the agenda. Ask yourself, “Will these people feel thankful that I showed up – or will they feel used?”

Be the Dutch Country Wheat

Old-Fashioned Sesame-Wheat Bread by ^-^liz on flickrOver coffee this morning Sarah described to me the process she goes through in choosing bread at the grocery store. She’s goes for the Dutch Country whole wheat bread. It’s not really what she wants – but it make her the most happy.

It’s not the cheapest, it costs 50 cents more than the cheap wheat bread – but that’s full of high fructose corn syrup.

It doesn’t have wheat berry seeds. The bread that does costs a buck-fifty more.

Rather than cheapest or highest quality, Sarah goes for the stuff that has the highest value.

People pick churches like the pick their bread.

You don’t have to be cooler than the hip, trendy church down the road.

You don’t have to be bigger than mega-church with the health spa in the lobby.

You will reach the most people for Jesus when you spend the most time doing what only your church can do.

Church Addict? Wordle Thinks So

In a recent post I talked about being a church addict.

I plugged my blog into wordle and this is what came out:

Guilty as charged.

Any suggestions on a new hobby I should take up?

Missions from Huntsville to Africa

Each month CVC does does a fellowship dinner with singing, a short message,  and communion. Last night we had the privilege of hearing from a missionary team we helped send to Rawanda this Summer.

Mike and Mary Wagner from HisGreatPlan.com led the team, which included folks from several churches. Mike shared that on average 100 people profess Christ as their savior for each team member that is sent from Huntsville to Rawanda.

This really hit my heart. People need Jesus.

Sarah wrote about the night here.

Complaining vs Feedback

What about people who have constructive, helpful insight into how you can do you job better? Are you listening to these people? As worship leaders are we so burnt out on complaints that we’ve closed our ears to an objective word that could help us succeed?

What if I want to share my positive, constructive feedback with my worship pastor? How will she know I really care and I’m not just complaining?

Three Factors That Help Discern Between Feedback and Complaints

The Openness Factor: Are you sharing your feedback directly with the worship leader or are you complaining behind their back? This one is simple, if you believe what you have to say is relevant and helpful then share it directly with the person who needs to hear it. If you gossip behind their back then you are…well… gossiping behind their back.

“I’ve tried going to them before and they didn’t listen” and “They are so unapproachable.” are not valid excuses here. If you can’t share it directly then keep quiet about it. If it’s not important enough to share with them directly then it’s not important enough to be shared.

The Relationship Factor: Is your worship leader within your sphere of influence? In other words, have you invested in a getting to know them and loving on them. If you have, then they will be more likely to respect your critique and act on it instead of become defensive.

Sending encouragement emails, cooking dinner and giving cards are all nice things people in my church have done for me. I listen to these people more.

If you’ve made no effort to get to know your worship leader then they are probably not going to place a high value on your opinion. On the other hand if you serve on the worship team or make it a point to be helpful to the worship leader then they will probably be more willing to listen and to act on what you’ve shared.

The Solicit Factor: Has the worship leader solicited your advice? If not then it’s probably not the best time to share what you think. Don’t assume just because the worship leader isn’t doing what you want them to do that they don’t have anyone speaking into their life. Most smart guys I know have a several trusted people who they rely on to give them objective feedback.

On the other hand if the worship pastor is having a church-wide event where they are specifically asking for feedback then you should probably go to that event and share what you think. There is one tomorrow night at Chase Valley Church.

Getting Your Worship Leader to Listen

If you really want your words to be heard here are five tips to get them to listen more:

1. Don’t Gossip. If you talk behind a person’s back you lose major credibility. People don’t listen to gossips, but if you keep your thoughts to yourself and share them appropriately then your reputation will make you more influential.

2. Go directly to your worship leader. Call them, email them, write a note or set up a time to meet. Most people will at least listen to you if you say, “Can I share something with you? It could be potentially hurtful and I don’t want you to feel you need to be defensive about it. I want you to know because I care about you being successful.” Who’s going to say, “no” to that? Most people will listen.

3. Start/build a relationship. Do things that are encouraging. If you make emotional and spiritual deposits now you’ll be more likely to have the social funds to make a withdrawal later.

4. Wait for them to ask you. If you wait until you get asked then your words will have 10 times the impact. People ask when they are ready to listen. Choosing the right moment to communicate will determine how effective that communication is.

If you share unsolicited advice at a time when someone’s had a bad day or after they’ve already received 30 other complaints then odds are they won’t listen to you no matter how important your feedback is. However when someone asks it’s an indicator that their heart is in the right place – this is the optimal moment when your words will have the largest impact.

5. Trust you’ve been heard. Worship Leaders and church workers in general get tons of advice all the time. Often times the advice is conflicting. Simply because they didn’t do what you think they should doesn’t mean they didn’t listen to and completely hear what you had to say. Insisting that your advice always be acted upon is a surefire way to be not listened to the in the future. Instead, just trust that you’ve been heard. They will talk to God and do the right thing.

The Power of Long Socks

The SocksLast Friday I stood on stage speaking to the end-of-day VBS crowd and announced into my microphone a reminder to come back on Sunday morning and sing on stage. A custom graphic lit our screen behind me announcing “Kids Sing on Sunday: Be here at 9:30 AM.” I’d primed the pump by visiting each class and personally speaking with each VBS leader. In moments they’d be engaging the crowd of parents by offering personal invitations to come back on Sunday and have their child sing in our worship service. I felt confident that my well coordinated effort that would pay off with a big crowd on Sunday. Then I heard a shout come from the back of the room.

Tomorrow is long sock day, wear your long socks!

It was Matt, our resident youth sound engineer and didgeridoo player. He himself had been sporting long, knee-high, baseball-style socks all week, and now he was offering an invitation for everyone else to follow suit. Right in the middle of my invitation!

I thought, “He doesn’t have a mic. Who authorized long sock day? That’s not official. Can he do that?”

The next day I was shocked to witness a myriad of long socks in a spectrum of colors. A few words of encouragement from the teens had gotten the kids talking and sprouted a frenzy of children who all bought into the idea of wearing longs socks. Even my own daughter, who’s vapid shyness hinders her from participating in all things silly, wore her long socks with pride.

I’m sad to say I don’t own any long socks and had to settle for some calf-highs. Oh the humiliation.

When Sunday rolled around we ended up having around 30 children sing on stage. Last year only 20 kids showed up on Sunday, so we increased participation, but it’s still a small number considering both years had 60 total kids come to VBS during the week. I’m impressed that we got 30 kids to show up on Sunday. It took some intentional effort and strategy to pull off. But I’m even more impressed by the result Matt got through his non-strategic gorilla campaign to clad VBS kids in long socks.

What made the difference?

I went around to every VBS volunteer, looked them in the eye, asked them about their kids, listened to their story and then pitched them on my idea to personally invite parents to our Sunday morning worship service. I had a microphone and on-screen graphics. My idea should have caught fire with all that marketing. How did Matt’s idea catch on so much more quickly with less effort?

Matt had something I didn’t have. Mine was an invitation to be inconvenienced – to go out of your comfort zone to talk to parents and to inconvenience them by holding them up when they just wanted to get out with their kid.  Matt’s was an invitation to have no-strings-attached-unadulterated fun. Matt taught me something that day about why some ideas go viral and others fail to spread regardless of the effort.

We can’t forget the fun.

Fun spreads. Inconvenice fizzles.

I Love My Team

Schedule’s change – it’s unavoidable.

I love when the people on my worship team call or email to let me know if they will be late or if they can’t make it to practice.

Keeping your worship pastor in the loop creates an environment of trust.

Brand the Bulletin

This week for Creative Chaos I’m talking about the redesign we did on our worship folder.

Tony Morgan blogged earlier this week about branding your series in front of your church. This is exactly the direction we are heading with our new design.

Note that we print all of our bulletins in house and choose to use gray scale as a means to better steward our resources. I make several versions of the graphic – color for our  large screen, website homepage, other print, etc… and black and white for the worship folder.

Old Bulletin Cover (Church Brand – Same cover used every week.)

Old Bulletin Cover

New Bulletin Cover (Series Brand – cover will change with each series. Our current series is simply titled, “New.”)

New Bulletin Cover

What makes Worship Remarkable? 1 of 4

Thank you to everyone who left comments on this post! They were very helpful. I’ve started to move past the question

Should worship be remarkable?

and started to ask

What makes a worship service remarkable?

(Although you are still welcome to add your comments here.)

As I’ve thought, conversed and prayed over this I’ve realized that in the last year there have been 2 Sunday morning experiences that I tend to talk about all the time. I asked myself, “What was different about these experiences that caused me to tell the story over and over again?”

When the answer came to me I realized that both of these services were remarkable for 2 very different reasons. I’ll tell you why in my upcoming posts.

For now,

What do you think makes worship remarkable?

The Newsprint Connection and Remarkable Predecessors

Here is my Worship Text-fessional for March 30, 2008

Set list for Chase Valley Church

  • God of Wonders – Mark Byrd and Steve Hindalong
  • Beautiful One – Tim Hughes
  • Light the Fire Again – Brian Doerksen
  • Hungry -Kathryn Scott
  • Evermore – Joel Houston

Highlights/Lowlights

One of our singers brought in a Newspaper today dated 8 years ago. She had forgotten about this news clip and just found it today by happenstance. It was from the first day Chase Valley Church worshiped in this building when it was newly constructed. There was an article about CVC and large picture taken during the worship service. The lyrics on the screen in the photo were

Clothe me in white so I won’t be ashamed. Lord light the Fire again.

Also by random chance I chose Light the Fire Again as a song for today. It was awesome to do that song and feel that deep connection to the past.

Practice was amazing this week. I had high hopes for today. I was a bit disappointed. Our execution was decent but not exceptional.

I have a deep longing to worship God in a way that is remarkable. Read: I want things to be done in a way that they are worth remarking on. I want people talk about worshiping God to their friends. I’m not sure that right now people are so excited about our worship service that they are compelled to talk about it. I’m wrestling with the notion that God could be calling me to simply be faithful and not worry about being remarkable.

Evermore. Great song. I love my predecessor. She was in love with Hillsong and as a result the congregation knows TONS of Hillsong songs. I’ve never done Evermore before this week, but chose to learn it based on the church’s familiarity. I love this song. All week long I was singing these lyrics into my heart:

Even if my world falls I will say, ‘Above all I live for Your glory.’

For that matter I love both my predecessors. I’m Worship Pastor #3 for Chase. It’s a big honor to follow in their footsteps.

What do you think?

“Being remarkable” should or should not be a goal within the worship ministry?

Creative Chaos: Monitors as Mains

Necessity fathers invention. Today my post is about thinking inside the box. Various limitations are imposed on each of us from physical space limitations, to human resources, to a very real limit on money. Rather than getting upset about these limitations we can get creative. Los and Wade have inspired me to get creative by thinking inside the box and using my existing situation and existing resources to do something new.

The Dilemma

We have major gaps in our Sunday morning sound. Our worship center was built without an adequate sound system. We have one main array in the middle the blows out the center seating section with sound while the side areas sit in dead spots. It kinda looks like this:

|||||||||||||||| Main Array |||||||||||||||

Dead area |||| Too Loud |||| Dead area

To compensate the former worship pastor used some addition PA speakers to distribute sound around the room:

||| Speaker ||||| Main Array ||||| Speaker |||
Good Sound |||| Good Sound |||| Good Sound

The issue I face is that those speakers were the personal property of the former worship leader so they took them down when they left – leaving me with big dead spots again.

The Creative Solution

I didn’t have any spare PA speaker sitting around but I did have some extra floor monitor wedges. I did some adjustments to the output on the power amp and played around a bit with our crossover. I tipped the floor wedges on their side and now they are kicking out some extra sound to fill our worship space. It’s not a permanent solution, or even a very good one -but it will make a huge difference for Easter vs. having the dead spots.

||| Wedge ||||| Main Array ||||| Wedge |||

Ok Sound |||| Good Sound |||| Ok Sound

Get creative by using what you’ve got in a unique way.

Thanks Matt and Joseph for all your help on this project!

March (Holy Week) Maddness

For most of us who work in the church Holy Week can be busy enough to drive you mad. Extra prep for Easter as well as additional services can shoot the stress levels through the roof. It can be maddening to keep up with everything, but by simplifying you can work smarter and not harder to pull off an awesome celebration of our awesome Lord’s resurrection.

Here’s how I’m keeping things simple to lower the stress and maintain the sane for Holy Week:

Ditch the Band: For our Thursday and Friday services this week I’m going acoustic. Thursday will be a solo show, and I’ll have some additional singers for Friday. It’s more work for me but it frees up the band to focus all their time and energy on perfecting the music for Easter rather than dividing their effort across multiple unique services.

Extra Rehearsals: Our team normally holds one rehearsal a week, but this week we are doing two. Again it’s a little more work for everyone involved but extra rehearsal time ensures that we can nail down difficult elements and go into the weekend services feeling confident and stress-free about our leading.

Leverage your team: I schedule the same singers for Good Friday and Easter. We have enough singers that I could’ve put separate vocalists on each service – but more teams equals more separate scheduled rehearsals. Rather than having two rehearsals for two teams we’re doing two rehearsals for one team. It’s fewer people to coordinate and communicate with throughout the week and the end result should be less confusion and a tighter sound.

Leverage your music: We’ll be singing “Were you there” on both Good Friday and Easter. Not only does it fit thematically with the mood and flow we are trying to accomplish for each service (It’ll close Good Friday and open Easter) but it means that time the singers spend practicing this piece gets to pay off double with two opportunities to lead the same song.

Do less music: A standard week around here includes 6 songs. Because I’ll be opening Easter acoustically with 2 songs this leaves 4 songs for the band to learn. 4 songs means more time focused on each song.

Any thoughts? How do you maintain your sanity during Holy Week?

Worship: Rock the Choir

Today worship was awesome!

Set List for Chase Valley Church March 9th, 2008

  • No One Like You – David Crowder
  • King of Majesty – Marty Sampson
  • Made to Worship – Chris Tomlin
  • Wholly Yours – David Crowder
  • Hear I am to Worship – Tim Hughes
  • Psalm 103 – Billy and Sarah Chia
  • The Heart of Worship – Matt Redman

We had a lot of music today.

Highlights & Lowlights

  • The hour time difference threw lots of people off. Half the team showed up late. Really late.
  • The Choir sounded phenomenal! (More on that below)
  • The band was super tight. Everyone worked hard on the music this week and it really showed.
  • I put so much into it I was pretty drippy with sweat when I got off stage.
  • No One Like You rocked. This is a brand new song for the congregation. It’s also a tricky one to learn in typical Crowder fashion. We did it pretty close to the CD version so there was a lot of nuances the people had to pick up on. Everyone worked hard and we nailed it.
  • King of Majesty – Not my favorite song, although a lot of people around here like it so we may be doing it again. I’m not a fan of lyrics like “These words are from my heart, these words are not made up.” They’re just a little trite for me, but I know some of the songs I like lyrically are too convoluted for some people. Being a worship pastor is not all about picking only the songs you like.
  • Made to Worship – tough song to sing. I even brought it down to A and it was still hard. I liked being able to play a lead line on this one.
  • Wholly Yours – I totally messed this one up. This song has a progression. The lyrics take you through a story of being broken and then finally giving your all to God. Well I showed up today ready to worship. I didn’t want to wait through the whole song. When we should’ve gone into the bridge with says, “But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel the depth of our fall and the weight of it all.” I shouted out “So here I am” and tried to go into “here I am finally all of me everything!” Apparently I was too excited and didn’t want to have to wade through “depth of the fall” to get to “all of me wholly yours.” Fortunately the choir was rock steady and went the bridge when they were supposed to. I fumbled a few chords and got back on track thanks to the choir.
  • Here I am to Worship – went well the first time.
  • Psalm 103 – I didn’t plan on doing this song. We front loaded a lot of music today and then band sat down and we went into offering. Normally the congregation sings a full song during offering, I haven’t really done “special music.” I came back up and started finger picking to give some back ground music while the offering was being collected. When I looked at my pastor to give him the cue that offering was done and he could come back up, he simply had his head bowed in prayer just vibing a spirit of worship so I started singing. It felt well received.
  • Hear I am to Worship (take 2) – I finished Psalm 103 and Fred gave me the cue to do another song. So we sang another verse and a few choruses of Hear I am to Worship. (The theme for today’s sermon was “Worship.”) I stopped playing guitar, and while the crowd sang acapella I put down my guitar and left the stage then joined the crowd to sing. So we sang with no one on stage but God. I didn’t plan this but I was hoping to underscore the notion that worship is not about the music or the band but it’s all about God.
  • The Heart of Worship. Didn’t quite have the punch I thought it would. Fred told Redman’s story of how worship had gotten stale and routine and that his church stopped using a band for a season to focus on what worship was really supposed to be. During this season Redman wrote Heart of Worship. I thought after the message this would really hit home, but perhaps the fact that this song is so oversung it may have felt like the stale, routine worship that Redman was trying to avoid the first place. (I’m just speculating at this point, really the whole day was amazing and I heard tons of great comments about both the music and the message today. Really every other song went spectacular and this one was not bad, but simply average.)

How to Rock the Choir

We don’t do choir the same old way at Chase Valley. Instead of a feature act, the choir sings once a month as the “back up” singers. They learn all the worship songs that we do for the day and sing on each one. They sing mostly melody but throw in a good mix of harmony as well. It has several benefits:

  • Having 10 – 15 extra people on stage leading really helps to draw people into worship.
  • The sound is really full because we use condenser mics and run them through the mains
  • They stay on track when I don’t!
  • There are tons more that maybe I’ll do a post on in the future.

I love doing Choir this way. It has it’s challenges and perhaps in the future we’ll do some special music but today I was really excited to being doing choir this way.

So there’s a lot there to comment on. Let’s keep a conversation going on this post (or other past ones) next week while I lighten the blogging and celebrate the best 2 years of my life.

Saying “Yes” to Serving God

One of the most exciting elements of being the new Worship Arts Pastor at Chase has been the opportunity I’ve already had to see our worship ministry grow. It’s been a privilege to interact with so many people interested in music, media and technology. Some are greatly accomplished in their areas and others are brand new with a simple desire to learn.

When a person comes to me and asks, “I’d like to serve God. Can you help me out?” My goal is to always say, “Yes.” I may not be able to say, “Yes” to an accordion solo next week during our Sunday morning worship, but I make it a point to always have opportunities available for people to serve God and grow in their faith. Even if I’m not currently aware of how someone can plug into the team I love helping people discern their gifts and getting creative about ways to plug in.

Recently, Jordan, a friend of mine who is a worship pastor in another church, held an audition with a potential vocalist. It was clear that her gifts would not best be used on the vocal team. Instead of simply saying, “No, there is no place for you here.” Jordan said, “No, this is not your primary area of gifting. We will help you find it.” He essentially said “Yes” to serving God, even if he had to say “No” to a specific situation. After some time it was discovered that this woman held some unused administrative talent. As a result she was able to take a key role in a children’s outreach program. After the event this woman thanked Jordan. She made it a point to say that if she had committed to the worship team she would have been too busy for the outreach. Instead she was able to serve God and feel great about how she was serving because she was serving in her primary area of giftedness.

I love being at Chase because of our team environment. I’ll tell you guys straight up, I don’t simply recruit for my own ministries, but I always keep an ear out for how someone might fit in the larger team – even if it’s in an area I’m not personally involved. Next to worship, my highest passion is seeing people sold out for Jesus, serving Him with all they’ve got. I love seeing people not only serving God, but also being successful and feeling great about their ministry because they are serving in an area where they are called and equipped.

What are your areas of passion or ability?

Are you using those gifts for God’s glory?

Let’s have a conversation about it. I’m not very interested in simply filling slots. I’ve am extremely interested in seeing you serving God in an area you feel great about and I’d love to help see you get there.

Please send me an email (private conversation) or leave a comment (public conversation).

God bless, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

*originally published in my church’s newsletter

How do you measure the Spirit?

I was watching video of myself leading worship two years ago. My voice was ridiculously off-pitch and the transitions were horrendous, but there was a spirit of worship in that place. You could tell by looking at the people on stage that they were into it. There were parts where you could hear the crowd singing over top of the band. In fact it was so powerful I found myself drawn into the video and worshiping right along with it. Not because things were technically good in any way, but because God inhabits the praises of his people.

Going into my first worship service at a new church I want a lot of things. I want the band to sound tight. I want the harmonies to gel. I want the music to be so well rehearsed that those on stage don’t need to think about it and they can focus on worshiping. I want the media and graphics to integrate seamlessly and I want the sound to be run transparently.

To one extent or another you can measure those things and should. We improve by measuring things we have control over. But how do you measure God’s spirit?

Tomorrow, more than great a great performance on behalf of the musicians or techs I want God to show up. I don’t really believe God “shows up,” I mean he’s omnipresent so he’s always there, but there’s a difference between being where God is present and being in the presence of God. I don’t know how to point to it or measure how much of it happens. But that’s what’s I’m praying for.

Help the New Guy

I could use your advice and insight. Next week I start a new job and although I’ve been involved in some facet of Church work for the last 10 years there are always new challenges associated with a new position.

Chris put up a post asking What Do You Wish You Had Done Differently?

If you are a worship leader, pastor, church worker, or have a job of any kind where you’ve been the new guy how would you answer?

Head over to Chris’s blog and leave a comment to continue the discussion.

I’d much appreciate it as you’d help me to succeed in my new role. (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22)

My New Church

This past Sunday I was announced as the new Worship Arts Pastor at Chase Valley Church in Huntsville, AL!

I’m beyond excited about this new position. Months ago when Sarah when I first started praying over what Church we’d go to to lead worship our biggest concern was not simply finding another place to work but truly finding a community that God was calling us to serve in. Chase Valley is a place where my unique talents, gifts and experiences can really be used for God’s glory.

After countless interviews over the past few months I hadn’t felt a real sense of calling. I drove down to Huntsville for the interview with a great deal of trepidation and not much hopefulness for anything different. Man, was I completely surprised and blown out of the water. Everything I experienced said, “Billy this is where you and your family belong.” I also had this amazing sense that those on the interview team were Godly people committed to prayer. I drove home with an great deal of peace knowing that whoever they chose for the role would be right knowing that they had sought God in fervent prayer. When they offered me the job, Sarah and I likewise received an immediate affirmation. It was still difficult as we had to turn down some amazing opportunities to get to this place. I simply believe this is exactly where God wants me.

We visited Huntsville for the last 4 days. I have loved everything about Chase so far. My Pastors rock and the people are amazing. I have already met tons of people who have deep faith and passion for God’s kingdom. The love that’s been lavished on me and my family has been unreal. I was blessed enough to be able to get on stage to play guitar yesterday. It was an absolute privilege. If everything falls into place my goal is to lead my first worship service on the 13th.

Of course like any church there’s tons of baggage. (CVC doesn’t really have any more baggage than your average church, simply a different kind. If you want to be in church without the baggage your probably in the wrong line of work.) For me it wasn’t an issue of finding a church with no problems (such a place does not exist) but rather finding one who’s problems I could specifically deal with. (Perhaps like finding a spouse?)

At CVC right now there’s been a lot of hurt and a lot of transition. Their Senior pastor of 16 years took a call to another church in the last year and then of course the old Worship Pastor is currently in the process of planting a church. Both of these are super exciting things that God is doing in these people’s lives. Unfortunately it’s left some turmoil within the community. (Imagine if your Senior Pastor and Worship Pastor left your church within 6 months of each other.)

For me this is great news.

One, because Fred and Dorothy Ann, the new Senior Pastors are amazing. They are veterans in ministry with a grounded faith and ridiculously enormous hearts. The know how to love people the way I can only hope to. I’ve already felt a deep sense of team and I can’t wait to start working with them more.

And two, becuase God is moving as Chase Valley Church in a powerful way. Everyone’s reaction to me coming on staff has been humbling. When I was introduced on Sunday several people actually stood as they clapped. I believe they are as excited to have me as come on board as I am. I believe what God is doing right now within the community at CVC, including bring me on staff, is just the beginning. As I talked to different key leaders with in the community I felt a deep sense of hunger for God’s spirit and expectancy. There was a widespread earnestness and passion that I’ve not seen in any church I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t wait to move down to Huntsville and be with these people more.

Thank you to everyone who’s been praying that I find the right church. I have.

Now please pray for our house to sell and a smooth transition to Huntsville.

Look for some new worship confessionals coming soon.

Book Review: The Golden Compass

So here’s my take on The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It’s a little rambly. (If you want to read a great article about this book check out Christianity Today’s take on The Golden Compass.)

Honestly Guys, I really liked the book. It was tremendously well written. The characters were engaging and unique. The plot like was intriguing and packed with action. His use of simile and metaphor throughout the book is beautiful.

I probably think the book only had one problem with it: the slams on religion.

I‘m not just saying that because I’m a Christian. When I went to college I actually earned a BA in English and I’m speaking as a guy with a literary background.

Hear me out.

Essentially you have this excellent book, it’s multilayered in it’s meaning and subtle in it’s approach – at least throughout most of the book. I found this so refreshing for a fantasy novel. A lot of fantasy will straight up take a break from the story to go on and on about the history of the characters or to spell out very blatantly and in a boring manner the unique rules of that fantasy world. (*cough* Fellowship of the Rings *cough*) Pullman doesn’t bore you with this drivel. Instead he uses the characters and plot to reveal fantasy elements.

For example, he doesn’t take you on some ridiculous tangent to explain the fantasy rule: a Daemon must maintain a close physical proximity to their human. Rather he reveals this quite cleverly through the story. At one point Pan (Lyra’s Daemon) starts to “pull”(move outside of the normal physical closeness) and Lyra describes how retched she feels. It’s more engaging because you are told about an experience rather than a simple sharing of facts.

Enter the theology bashing. Honestly, a lot of it is clever and subtle like the rest of the book. For example, Pullman doesn’t come right out and say, “The Church is Bad,” at least not early in the book. Instead he does things like introducing a character who is a clergyman and that character has some really negative traits. It’s like an underhanded and slight way of bashing on the Church.

Then, in the closing chapters of the book, that all of a sudden changes and out of nowhere you get a face full of dissertation.

Lyra asks her father a few questions and he launches into a several page monologue on theology and original sin. It was completely out of place in this story. Most of the book is fast-paced, emotional and very real. This was the boring junk you expect out of fantasy. It’s not even that huge of a bash on the Church because he gets so specific about what original sin is and what it isn’t he’s really only bashing a subsection of the church who holds to that theology. (Keep in mind this is just a review of The Golden Compass. I haven’t read The Subtle Knife or the Amber Spyglass, which I heard are more deliberate in the selling of atheism.) I almost laughed out loud when in the monologue this character quotes the Bible and Pullman’s re-written it to include daemons. This was so dorky and cheesy. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book which is pretty hip for a fantasy novel.

The Golden Compass, from a literary point of view, would have simply been better with the final monologue omitted.

Unfortunately you couldn’t do that without sacrificing the entire story. Throughout the book Pullman is a genius about setting up very subtle foreshadowing that pays off big time later one. He does it over and over again very masterfully – except for the main point of the book!

It’s like he set up all the clues a hints and they’re all pointing at something and when it came time to write the final chapters he just ran out creativity and was like, “Oh well, I’ll just be lazy and have this one character tie up all my loose ends in one chapter through the use of a long boring monologue.”

I call this the Star Trek syndrome. Ya know – they’d invent some type of complicated situation and you never thought they’d get out of it and your totally intrigued with what’s going to happen. In the end all the problems get solved simply and easily because some science guy invents a weird device and launches in a monologue to explain some made-up science fiction reason why it works. It’s unimaginative at best.

So for all my ranting I really enjoyed the book.

Go check out the Christianity Today Golden Compass Article.

Leave a comment. I’ll talk more about this with you.

Ask Ahead of Time

Dwayne Moore muses in a post entitled How Much Music Is Enough In a Worship Service?

How many songs are “just right” in one worship gathering? Exactly how long should the music portion of the service go?

These are great questions. Rather than prescribing a set number of songs Moore lists a 10 question diagnostic that he personally goes through when deciding how long to play.

When looking at his list I admired that fact that seeking God first is so prevalent. I’m also huge on deferring to the leadership of your Senior Pastor.

Where I disagree is that he seems to be mostly asking, “How long should I go?” in the middle of his set. There’s an emphasis on current moment.

I tend to ask myself these questions during my planing time rather than waiting until I’m on stage to figure it out. For me the number of songs and the length and order of the set should be determined way ahead of time. This doesn’t mean your not open to last minute changes like dropping a song when another aspect of the service goes too long. And it doesn’t mean you close yourself to the leading of the Holy Spirit – it simply means you ask for the Holy Spirit’s leading when you plan the service.

My advice: Don’t wait until your already on stage to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.

Ask Ahead of Time.

Worship Philosophy: Relationship Evangelism

Evangelism through Relationships with Unbelievers

An effective creative arts/worship ministry goes beyond the Sunday morning band to engage all kinds of people in creative expression.

Rick Warren, says in this podcast, “Saddleback doesn’t have any kind of official evangelism program. We simply ask people, ‘What do you love to most? Go do that with unbelievers.’ ” One example he uses is “If you like to shoot guns get 5 guys who are lost who don’t know the Lord and take them down to the shooting range and shoot guns.” I would add,”If you love to play music go do it with unbelievers in your community.”

A great worship pastor is not only leading worship in church on Sunday morning he is also supporting the local music scene in the club on Friday night. He doesn’t only facilitate music for worship on Sunday morning, but is also encouraging Christian musicians and artists to be using their gifts and talents to add to the culture of their city. A great worship pastor has rapport not only with the other worship pastors in town but also with non-Christian artists, actors and musicians who perform in the community. Because he is a leader who multiplies himself he actively encourages everyone on the worship and tech team to have not only fellowship with other Christians, but also to be involved in the lives of unbelievers as well.

People come to Christ when we love them as Jesus does: without an agenda. We can’t get to know people simply “so that they’ll come to church,” but we have to truly love them for who they are. They will come to Jesus by getting to know us. Jesus is a pretty compelling guy.

The added bonus of doing evangelism this way is that when people make a decision for Christ they have a clear picture of what living life as a Christian looks like. Too often people make a “commitment” to Christ after simply hearing a sermon or a 5 minute tract-accompanied presentation without truly counting the cost.

Evangelism through Relationships with Unbelievers is part 4 of a 5 part Philosophy of Worship Ministry series entitled 5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry.

New Churches in Evansville

Matt Brunton put together this compelling fundraising video. He really hits home on the need for new churches along side of the old.

A note of trivia: The bench in the first scene is the same one I’m sitting on in the picture on my about page. Downtown Newburgh is also where we took some fun wedding photos.

I am always inspired to see other local people fighting the good fight.

Some Evansville church plants that I’ve been praying for:

Why I Love Church Work

Yesterday I was reminded of why I love Church work.

As part of everything that was happening on Sunday morning some conflict arose and some people I care about were hurt. I left church with a heavy heart. Often these types of situations can be frustrating and cause us to question the call to ministry.

For  me it was actually an affirmation that I belong working in the church.

Our choir did a song that calls, “Let the Church rise from the ashes.” The implication is that once we were on fire and now that fire has gone out. I love seeing the Church shine. I love when people get saved, grow in their faith and turn back around to serve in their communities. But it’s not always like this. Church work is full of a lot of heartache and criticism. After all the church is a broken place full of broken people just like everywhere else.

I had to ask myself the question, “Do I only want to work in the church when it is burning brightly or do I want to get down into the ashes and love people through their struggles, doubts and frustrations?”

The answer for me is that I want to get dirty in the messiness of the Gospel.

My Southern Fried Neighbors

When I was talking to Conner today, it hit me that I regularly connect with worship leaders all over the country and yet there were several worship leaders I didn’t know in my own neighborhood. I made it a point to go out today an meet some of the worship pastors in the churches surrounding my house. I’d previously met Jon, BJ and Kevin – but today I dropped in to say,”hi” to some other guys. It was pretty fun to meet the staff of churches I drive by all the time.

Jerry, the lead pastor at Christian Development Center was even cool enough to give me a CD of his band Jeryco. If you are into classic rock you will seriously love these guys. They do Apologetix style parodies of tunes like Prince’s Purple Rain and Free Byrd by Lynard Skynard. I was listening to it in my car and when the Ghost on the Water (a parody of Smoke on the Water) kicked in I was absolutely forced to start rockin’ the air guitar. Thank God I didn’t crash into someone. I’m telling you this CD is dangerous.

Do you know your neighbors?

Worship Philosophy: Encouraged Believers

Encouragement through Relationships with Believers

A great worship leader should not only be training up other leaders and teaching them, but he needs to be learning as well. It is vital for a leader to be effective that he have strong relationships with other Christians who can speak into his life, hold him accountable and encourage him.

Being a part of a creative arts/worship ministry shouldn’t only be work but it should also be fun too! We should enjoy spending time with the people whom we do ministry with and there should be a healthy fellowship that exists.

Jesus modeled this type of ministry. He had a core group of 12 guys that he lived, ate and traveled with. He practiced “life on life” ministry and poured into their lives. Jesus also took the time separately and held a deeper relationship with 3 of the 12.

If we follow this model we don’t go crazy trying to create relationships with everyone, spreading ourselves thin. Instead, we love all, but invest deeply in a few. We become encouraged because we have a few meaningful relationships in our lives as opposed to many shallow ones.

Encouragement through Relationships with Believers is part 3 of a 5 part Philosophy of Worship Ministry series entitled 5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry.

Question Your Faith

I was inspired by these gut-level questions.

Deborah writes in a post entitled, “Your opinion matters…” that these 3 questions were recently asked of her:

  1. Why was little or no faith needed to believe in God during Old Testament times (God appeared to humans regularly) yet today Christians have to rely on 100% faith for their belief?
  2. What is the difference between a dream, or hallucination, and a vision from God?
  3. Why is your God the only valid God?

Often times I find myself asking questions like, “Should I be playing my electric or acoustic guitar in worship?” It’s a good question that seems to cause much controversy among church people, but are we also asking the questions that non-church people ask?

And do we have succinct answers for them?

The Golden Compass: Humility and Killing God

A startling amount of buzz and controversy has surrounded the upcoming release of New Line Cinema’s The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman. Blog posts galore and email chain letters have succeeded in spreading the word along with a very slick flash website and movie blog.

The Golden Compass is the first is book in a trilogy written by author Phillip Pullman. These books were inspired by The Chronicles of Narina, which Pullman hates because their Christian allegory. In his Children’s fantasy trilogy Pullman is seeking to promote atheism and attack organized religion.

Naturally many Christians are upset by this.

I am too, but I’m also asking:

How can we as followers of Jesus have a humble attitude about this? (Phil 2:5 -8)

How can we exploit this movie and use it for good? (Rom 12:21)

The Controlling, Domineering, Murdering Church

Pullman very overtly rejects religion because it has “involved persecution, massacre, slaughter on an industrial scale.” New Line Cinema has sought to water down the overtly anti-Christian themes in the novels. They don’t want to make a movie that offends but instead are seeking to spread a general “critique of all dogmatic organizations.”

Can’t we be humble and learn from this? Can’t we just admit, “Yes, it’s true, the Church has a record of being domineering, controlling and overly dogmatic. Many have murdered in Jesus’ name. We as Christians are sorry for our own actions, that actions of of Christian brothers and the lack of action we have taken to correct it.”

Admitting that we as people are broken doesn’t say that God is broken. On the contrary it affirms our need for God. God is perfect. We are not.

Boycott Religious Dialogue

The Catholic League has called for an official boycott of the movie.

Let me see if I understand this: There is a heavily promoted, high-budget major motion picture being released in December. It contains many references to religion and will most likely spark conversation and national debate on the topics of God, religion and the Church. People who seldom think about God and talk about him even less will now be engaged in a full fledged conversation.

And this is a bad thing?

Anyone who knows me knows I talk about Jesus all the time. I’ve experienced many people actually leave the room simply because I mention his name. These people hate to talk about religion and it has been very difficult to engage them in spiritual conversation. But when I have talked to them about The DaVinci Code we’ve been able to have a very engaging conversation about God and faith. This doesn’t make The DaVinci Code good. It means its a horribly researched, flagrant lie that I exploited to get to know some of my friends better.

Can’t we do the same thing with The Golden Compass?

Killing God

In the novels the characters finally find God and then they kill him.

The problem is they were just a bit late with this one.

Others have already killed God.

He rose from the dead.

Worship Philosophy: Empower New Leaders

One of the primary tasks of the Worship Pastor should be to train up other worship leaders. All great leaders multiply themselves. This is done not only through teaching and instruction but also through “life on life” relationships. Many of the most valuable lessons are “caught not taught.” A great worship leader doesn’t only spend time with his worship team in rehearsal, but he pours into their lives.

Leaders are made when they are delegated authority and not simply responsibility. A great leader lets go of control and allows others to have true ownership of the ministry. When a worship leader does everything on his own the ministry is severely limited to what he alone can accomplish. But when he delegates authority to others the potential for growth is limitless.

Jesus practiced this type of ministry, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)

Empower New Leaders is part 2 of a 5 part Philosophy of Worship Ministry series entitled 5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry

Creating an Engaging Corporate Worship Environment

Love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.

The Schema

When Jesus speaks these words in the Gospels (Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30, LK 10:27) he is making a statement about worship. He is actually quoting the “Schema” a series of words written in Deuteronomy chapter 6:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

(In Hebrew the word “Schema” means “hear” as in “Hear, O Israel.” The first word is used to represent a larger statement in the same way some today might refer to the Lord’s prayer as the “Our Father.” )

The Jews of Jesus’ time took these words seriously. When they woke up in the morning they would repeat the Schema because it said to. When they went to bed at night they would repeat these words again because it said to. They would tie tefillin to their hands and foreheads and nail Mezuzot to their doorframes because it said to. This was part of the spiritual rhythm of each day. The Schema was also recited during services held in the synagogue and the temple. This passage of scripture was an important part of personal and corporate worship life in first century Palestine.

When Jesus quotes the Schema from Deuteronomy 6 the people who heard Jesus speak those words would have understood that he was making a statement about worship.

Worship is multifaceted. It involves heart, soul, mind and strength. Corporate worship that is engaging contains elements that emphasize each of these expressions.

Heart

To the Jews of Jesus’ time heart represented conviction. To worship with all your heart meant that you chose to worship with your volitional will. We see this concept in Psalm 119:30 when it says, ” I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” To worship with our hearts means to choose to worship even when we don’t feel like.

Engaging corporate worship provides opportunities to worship willingly through choice and action. People who worship with their heart don’t put God in a box by waiting to worship until “the spirit moves” but rather enter with a worshipful heart expecting God’s presence and worshiping from the start.

Soul

To the Jews of Jesus’ time soul represented emotion. To worship with all your soul meant to give God your all of your emotions and to be emotionally open to the flow of worship. We see this concept in Psalm 31:7 “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” This includes both high and lows – worshiping God with your happiness and joy as well as your sadness and frustration.

Engaging corporate worship moves us to laughter and tears. It invokes anger toward injustice and inspires a feeling of triumph over what it right. People who worship with their soul offer their emotional response to God rather than stifling it.

Mind

To the Jews of Jesus’ time mind represented intellect. To worship with all your mind meant that you were intellectually engaged. We see this concept in Isiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God doesn’t want you to leave your brain at the door, but rather he wants you to analytically think about the Christian faith.

Engaging corporate worship should challenge our false notions, teach us proper doctrine, and give us “something to chew on.” People who worship with their mind seek to deepen their understanding of God’s truth.

Strength

To the Jews of Jesus’ time strength represented the physical body. To worship with all your strength meant that you used your body to physically worship. We see this concept all over the Bible. In the New Testament a Greek word for worship is “proskuneo.” In the Old Testament a Hebrew word for worship is “barak.” Proskuneo and barak both literally mean “To bow down on the floor as before a king.” So even the word “worship” implies physical action.

Engaging corporate worship offers opportunities to respond physically to God’s grace and truth. People who worship God with their strength may use such physical actions as singing, raising hands, folding hands, clapping hands, shaking hands, kneeling, standing, sitting, dancing, shouting, playing instruments, or remaining still and quiet. Even the act of simply walking through the door can be an expression of worship that loves God with “strength.”

In Summary

The phrase “heart, soul, mind and strength” should be understood to mean, “everything that we are.” These four elements aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather they provide a framework to start a proper understanding of worship. Engaging corporate worship seeks to be multifaceted and employs a broad spectrum of response rather than a one-dimensional approach.

Notes

Experiential Worship by Bob Rognlien is an excellent book on the art of creating engaging corporate worship experiences. Many of the concepts here are paraphrases from this book. For some practical ways to implement this philosophy into your worship ministry visit Rognlien’s website: www.experientialworship.com

Creating an Engaging Corporate Worship Environment is part 1 of a 5 part Philosophy of Worship Ministry series entitled 5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry

5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry

(Links will become active as each post goes live.)

5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry is part of my Philosophy for Worship Ministry.

Philosophy of Worship Ministry

Taking the time to flesh out a written statement of philosophy for your worship ministry can go a long way toward communicating expectations to your worship team and congregation. Certainly, worship pastors should be continually talking about vision and direction. At the same time having a written philosophy statement sends the message to your team and congregation that you serious about offering God the best.

Before joining the worship team at Christian Fellowship Church I was given several documents that outlined the values, expectations and philosophy of the CFC worship ministry. Immediately I knew what I was signing up for.

Over the coming days I’ll be posting a series of articles outlining my personal philosophy of worship ministry. While any philosophy of worship ministry should be adapted to emphasize the specific theology and culture of each local church, I’ll be posting some general thoughts here that will include:

Corporate and Personal Worship Defined

5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry

(Links will become active as each post goes live.)

Get Nooma “Name” on Myspace – 48 hours Only

The next Nooma, entitled “Name,” will premier on the Nooma Myspace Page this Wednesday, October 31st. The full length video will be available to watch free for 48 hours.

Noomas are a series of short videos that feature Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and they rock. Name is the 18th video in the series and it speaks to our struggle with identity.

Here is a preview clip:

You can find more exciting Nooma news, such as updates on the Everything is Spiritual DVD on the Nooma Blog.

ht: Elle Pyke

Update: My wife Sarah wrote an insightful review:
Review: Nooma “Name” by Rob Bell a Disappointing Release

4 Quick Worship Resources

Recently Terry emailed me some great worship ministry resources.

Here are 4 of my favorite websites to help resource your worship ministry:

1. Better Than Blank Resource CenterAlex has complied a list of websites and open source software that he uses in his minstry. I personally use many of the same tools. His resource page is worth booking marking as he continually updates it.

2. Hot Worship – Every conceivable worship website linked in one location.

3. Worship Trench – Brent and Jordan keep a blog where they share a great deal of hard hitting practical worship resources and advice. Subscribe to their feed, but also take a trip through the “trench” archives as you will find some gems.

The Trenches:

4. Ragamuffin Soulcast – Will Los ever podcast again? The world may never know, but I’d recommend subscribing to the Soulcast in iTunes or getting the RSS Feed and then listening to all of the previous episodes. It’s funny, relevant worship banter from a leader in the worshiping community.

Willow Creek Reveal Frenzy

reveal.gif

This past week has seen a blogging frenzy* erupt over Reveal, a spiritual growth conversation headed by Bill Hybels and Greg Hawkins of Willow Creek Community Church. These two leaders have each posted videos on the Reveal website admitting that their previous model of doing local church ministry has flaws. Through the Reveal conversation they are seeking to create a new, more effective ministry model. While some have taken a critical attitude, many have pointed out Hybel’s humility.

The blogosphere began to see posts regarding the Willow Creek’s new direction in August when Hawkins’ book Reveal: Where Are You? was announced during The Leadership Summit. A recent influx of posts has been prompted by Christianity Today’s Out of Ur article. To help sort the mass of information Greg Hawkins has offered some clarifying points on the Reveal Blog.

Personally, I’m very excited to see what will come from this conversation. Willow Creek has always been committed to helping other local churches. They are on the right track with Reveal and I believe the results of their research will produce helpful insights that the whole Church can benefit from.

The Videos

gregvideolong.jpg

Hawkins video is candid and earnest. When he speaks of the distraction a church leader feels on Sunday morning I felt as though he was pulling thoughts from my own mind. Skip the short version and watch the 13 minute one. It’s worth it.

hybels-video.jpg

Hybels brought a welcome humor to a serious situation. I laughed out loud several times throughout his presentation.

The Frenzy

*Some of the more content driven posts from this last week include:

Hillsong United Lyrics: True or False?

I’ll only ever give my all.

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this lyric and it just doesn’t work. I’ve been listening to Hillsong United’s Take It All non-stop for the last week. Musically I love this song, but I’ve been having trouble trying to reconcile the lyrics with what I know to be true about God. Until today, I was reading some blogs and I think I’m a little closer.

Warning: Thinking out loud post ahead. I may be wrong and I reserve the right to change my mind.

Sarah, first pointed it out to me by asking,

Are we really never ashamed of Jesus?

The Hillsong United lyrics “We’ll never be ashamed of You” and “I’ll only ever give my all” don’t seem congruent with non-perfect people. If we were prefect it seems we could sing these lines, but I’ve yet to met a Christian who never made mistake and only ever gave Jesus his all. It seems like at some point even the most authentic Christians give Jesus less than their all.

Bob from In the Clearing writes in Whitmanesque Worship

The reason I need a savior is that I have not loved God with my whole heart. If I say that now I do love him with my whole heart, I needn’t any longer speak of Jesus or long for Him, because in fact I no longer need him.

(ht: Shannon Lewis)

Bob’s argument is that we can’t with a good conscience sing, “I love you Jesus with all my heart” (or possibly even “I’ll only ever give my all.”) because it is a lie.

I disagree with this argument. I think we can sing it truthfully. (Just like the 10 verses of scripture that use “all my heart.”)

God calls us to love him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. Essentially to love God will all that we are, not simply our minds, but also our emotions and our actions as well. Worship works the same way. It’s multidimensional. So I worship God not only with my mind, but at times I worship God emotionally, even if it doesn’t make sense to my brain.

For example:

I love my wife. I mean I really love my wife more that I ever imagined I could ever love any other person. She is 15,000 times cooler than I even ever imagined a woman could ever be and I’m desperately, passionately, head-over-heals, crazy in love with her. This emotion is so powerful I don’t have words to describe it but I would definitely tell Sarah,

I love you with all my heart.

Do I mean it? 110% If we’re speaking emotionally. Now, in my actions do I love her with all my heart? Not even, close. I’m a pretty second-rate husband sometimes and I am way fortunate that my wife is so gracious. The the statement is true or false based on your perspective. Emotionally, it’s more than true, in action it is not.

How much more do I love God?

So can I logically worship God with my mind and sing “I’ll only ever give my all” ?

No, I don’t think so. That would be a flat out lie.

But emotionally would that line be a decent attempt to describe the indescribable way I feel about God?

Yeah.

Would it start to express what I want to say to God from the inner depths of my soul?

Yeah.

I believe in a huge God that wants to be worshiped with all of me. He’s big enough to be worshiped by my mind and my emotions. He’s even big enough to accept that worship even if I’m not using my mind and my emotions at the same time. If you’re like me when it comes to matters of emotion you start to use hyperbole. You exaggerate more and more trying to express what you feel. It’s not a lie. You fully mean every word of it and God knows that.

I’ll only ever give my all.

Jesus we’re living for your name and we’ll never be ashamed of you.

In our praise. In all we are today.

Take it all.

I mean those words. At least as much as David meant Psalm 26.

Don’t you?


 

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