Monday, March 26, 2007
I was at a worship conference years ago and chose the workshop titled, “Submitting your song.” As an inspiring young song writer, I thought maybe this might help me get some of my work noticed. The guy leading the seminar was from a company who discovered the song “Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman. He was very proud of this song and proceeded to tell us the story of how it was written. The church Mr. Redman was leading at the time was encountering a season of sloth in its approach to worship. The leadership began to detect this and decided the proper response in addressing it was to remove music from their times of worship, to sit quietly together and simply allow the Spirit to move in their midst. It was reported that an incredible time of renewal came upon their congregation. The line from the lyric, “I’ll bring you more than a song…” reflects that time. Seminar Guy encouraged questions from us in attendance, so I asked him if there was ever a time when they found an awesome song like that, but decided to leave it alone because it was too sacred to be thrust upon the masses. He had no idea what I was asking. I tried to clarify by exploring the notion of allowing a song to stay where it was born and letting it live out its useful days there, instead of seeing it as the next big thing and recording and selling the life out of it. My bottom line question was, “Have you ever found a great song you knew would sell, but did not bring yourself to try and get that song noticed?” “No.” Next question. I may just be judgmental, but there is something in me that wanted to hear the guy say yes, followed by a number of examples of how their company let an incredible song be. But instead it was more about finding the next big hit. Suddenly, getting a song noticed lost some of its luster. What was becoming of my motive for song writing? Was it to bless the people I was leading, or was it to make a name for myself? I’ll admit it’s a pretty good buzz to hear someone sing your stuff. I’m not sure I have the maturity to handle too much of that kind of success. Which bring me to my point, that the Worship Leader of the Church of the Future will not be seduced by popularity, recognition or fame. But instead will have the ability to say no to all of it, even if it means not allowing a song to be noticed. Instead, he or she is able to keep it as an intimate and sacred expression for the flock.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
The worship leader in the Church of the Future will understand the importance of putting his or her congregational experiences into words. King David did this for his people, and it was such an important part of cultural life, it became canonized. Every expression of church needs to identify the people with a gift of writing and allow them to chronicle it's journey. The ability to look back over personal history gives perspective, reminds us of where we have been and how faith has grown as a result. God constantly put this one word in front of His people; Remember. Psalms don’t necessarily need to be music. Some of David’s works might have been publicly sung, and are noted, for the choir director, but we don’t use them in the same manner today. Don’t make writing music a requirement. First encourage writing. This is one of the cool things about the blog world. The Internet has given everyone a voice, despite whether or not they have anything good to say. An aspiring psalmist doesn’t need to wait around on someone to give permission. She can just write. If it’s good, others will eventually find out. So if you’re reading this and think you might be able to fill this role, but are not currently writing, I ask “Why not?” Don’t wait for someone to give you permission or a position before you start. Write first for you.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
How many times have you heard, or even said yourself, that worship is not about singing songs? I once heard a guy speak at a leaders conference about worship, going on and on about how it’s more than a song, more than a band, more than music. He spoke passionately to this group of young leaders about being aware that God wants more than just singing. He ended his time by saying we were going to worship together. I was intrigued by what we would do after such a talk. We sang. I was so disappointed. Here was a leader of leaders, expounding on the need to understand that worship is more than a song, and yet when it came time to “worship,” we did the same old thing. We sang songs. The Worship Leader of the Future will take seriously the need to lead people to express worship outside the realm of music. Worship Music has become a product, and a commodity and I believe there needs to be a shift away from that. I’m not saying that music is wrong or has no place in the expression of worship. It will always be a part of our devotion toward God. Music lets us say things that mere words alone would not. But if we are going to seriously proclaim that worship is more than a song, we’ve got to be willing and able to back that up through leadership. King David questioned his ability to offer praise from the grave. Only living beings respond. Dead ones don’t. No life. No Worship. If The Worship Leader of the Future will put his/her effort toward awakening hearts to fully and deeply experience Life to the Full, maybe then worship will be a more common, everyday occurrence, music or not.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
What I observe in the worship movement over the last 20 years is that worship has become a product and not an expression. Worship music is a viable economic genre in the music industry. If you have a good voice and can play an instrument, and are a decent person, you can probably make a name for yourself if you get the right breaks. Notice I said nothing about leading people. All one has to do is lead music. The problem enters when you want to do music that your congregation or audience doesn’t want to sing. This is when you find out what kind of leader you are. Will you simply be a dispenser of religious goods and services via the songs you choose, or will you have the savvy to recognize and go to task against a consumptive spirit that demands to be fed? I got started leading music in front of people around 1990. The praise band thing was very new. Not many in my circle were aware of the shift that was occurring. They just thought I was hip and innovative. I didn’t have the spine to say I was following someone else’s lead. We took lots of risks in those days. We took some heat for it at times, but for the most part people followed where we led them. We used lots of different styles of music and other expressions of awe and gratitude. It was a great experience. But as time went on, something odd started to happen. It was not new any longer. The rise of the worship rock star caused people to want to sing his songs. It became more difficult to lead locally with intimate expressions that flowed from our own congregational life. The public wanted what was on the CD, not what was on the leader’s heart. It was at this point nearly three years ago, when I witnessed people evaluating a so-called worship experience. You could have exchange the word “food” for “worship” and get the same result. I didn’t like this….Too much…Too long…. Not familiar…I want…I like…I prefer…etc, etc. etc. I knew if I were to keep doing what I was doing, I was in for a long, uphill climb. It became clear that the next leg of the journey would fall to the leader who can lead people out of this consumptive mode. I determined I was not up for the task within that world. I decided to step out and take a different path. It’s been that long since I picked up my guitar. Not out of self-pity, but rather out of deference. Is worship more than songs, more than my instrument, more than my position on stage in front of people? Is it more than CD’s and concerts and bands and cool personalities? I plan to find out.
As a person who held a position in the Church As We Know It for several years as Worship Leader, I offer my thoughts on a few things the person in that role needs to consider if he or she is serious about moving forward and not stagnating. My next posts will cover these ideas The Worship Leader of the Future… …Must learn to lead people, not worship. …Must express worship outside of the realm of music …Will become a psalmist …Will have the courage to say no to recognition.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Perception is reality”? This was a new one to me, heard on the radio recently. It was used to describe baseball player Barry Bonds alleged steroid use. People form an opinion about Barry Bonds, not because they have accurate, truthful information about it, but rather based on how they perceive the situation. This is why lawyers and politicians rely on spin doctors to position their story in a way that the public will receive it the way they want. Our culture will grow continually suspect of information they receive. Who can you believe anymore? Network news? Cable news? Talk radio? Internet bloggers? These sources all spin their stories according to an agenda. If I want to know how the war in Iraq is doing, who do I believe? At any point during the day I can find conflicting reports, one says it’s going well; the other says it’s a lost cause. So who do I believe when I want to know the condition of the Church As We Know It? Media will tell me one thing. Denominational leaders will tell me another. The Emergent Guy has his opinion. So does the Purpose Driven guy. GodMen think they’ve got the answer, as does the numerous Christian authors who are pissed at the church but not at Jesus. The answer? I’m not really sure, but I do think I see a result. More and more ordinary people like you and me will realize that it doesn’t really matter what everyone else thinks. The average, everyday, ordinary guy will find that the experts don’t really have all the answers and that what really matters is how he lives his life each day. Once this shift occurs, men will stop feeling like they have to rely on the Church As We Know It to validate their visions. They will act upon what they believe needs to be done, not upon what is perceived as the common, acceptable way of doing ministry. More and more men will take hold of leadership of the Church of the Future and stop waiting around for someone to validate and affirm their manhood.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Anger is everywhere I look. The guy that flipped me off in the parking lot waiting on someone to back out of a parking space. The Christian talk show host railing against the Democrats. The lady in line at Target yelling at her kids. I’m not sure why, but I have started watching for anger in our culture and I am amazed at what I see. Why are we so angry as a society? What’s driving all this madness? Whenever I see a puzzling, intriguing or uncomfortable behavior in someone else, I try and remember Jesus’ words and look for that very behavior in my own life. It’s a whole lot easier to study that way, because I can ask myself questions all day long, where as Mr. Drive-By-Finger guy left before I could ask him what the hell his problem was. What makes me angry? Usually it’s when I have been thwarted in some way. I want something and can’t have it, so I get mad. I would guess it’s the same for you, too. It doesn’t matter if its sleep, respect or the remote. If we don’t get it, an irritation develops; one that can easily lead to anger. What helps ease the emotion is if we have an advocate for our desire. A simple act of saying “I’m sorry” can quench the fires of many angry hearts. But in our culture, who stands for us? We are mostly alone. We are left to fend for ourselves. So if anger is provoked internally by me not getting my way, is this the same reason for anger in the Church As We Know It? Is your pastor or favorite bible teacher angry? Are your deacons angry? Are key leaders in your church angry? Maybe it’s because they are not getting their way. Years ago, The Church As We Knew It walked in close step with a common morality among the people our culture. Local governments liked the influence of churches because it helped them do their job and vice versa. Why do you think there were no alcohol sales on Sunday? But over time, those rules became irrelevant, and so was the Church. The Church isn’t getting its way, and many of its leaders are pissed. But if I am going to ever hope for sweeping change, I must firmly grasp the fact that change always begins with me, then with us. I will never see any kind of transformation if I try to start with you, and fail to include how I need to change in order to be a part of the solution. Polarity won’t win this kind of battle.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
The Church of the Future is going to have to reckon with certain issues if it is going to have anything to do with the redemptive work of which it claims it is a part. A big one is what it will do concerning homosexuality. I’m not implying that it needs to decide if it is right or wrong. What I am saying is that the Church of the Future will need to know how to contend with the issue, because it’s not going away anytime soon. If you are a sports fan and listen to talk radio like I do, you probably heard the week-long topic of discussion of John Amaechi and Tim Hardaway. For those out of the loop, Haradway, a former NBA player, made some very strong, hateful comments toward Amaechi, after he announced he was gay. Amaechi wrote a book about his NBA career and what it was like being a homosexual in the sport. Hardaway in these words said, “I hate gay people.” One of the myriad of talking personalities during the week commented on how statements like these only serve to further the cause of the person being attacked. Amaechi comes out looking better and sells more books, while Hardaway creates a stain on his image that probably won’t ever buff out. This is a deeply polarizing issue for the Church As We Know It. But I propose that the Church of the Future not take an “us versus them” stance. Like it or not, the condition is going to be with us for a while. It will only continue to gain mainstream support, and the Church As We Know will either be backed into a corner by it, or it will learn how to be kind, compassionate and gracious, thereby proving its faith is something worth having. In the faith tradition I grew up in, there seemed to be an unwritten rule that to have compassion on someone who disagrees with your morals is to somehow compromise your own personal morality. One guy I knew wouldn’t give any help to street people because he said it wouldn’t do any good, and that it was probably their wrong choices that got them into that situation, so to give them money would just reinforce those poor decisions. He could use the Bible to reinforce his position, too.
Friday, March 09, 2007
As parents, we want to do a good job raising our kids. It’s very easy to set boundaries and rules for children to follow. They need structure and guidelines to help their progress toward maturity. But as my wife and I have found, there is a continual relaxing of those very rules as a child gets older. The reason being we want them to make their own decisions. We have not succeeded as parents if by age 18 we are still telling our kids what to wear and what to do. The Church of the Future will need to understand and embrace this idea as it interacts with its surrounding culture. There is no longer any kind of common morality between the Church as We Know It and our society at large. If playing by the rules is the starting point for the conversation, the Church as We Know It is not going to find many people with which to speak. Instead, the Church of the Future will have the ability to walk along side and wait, just as in the story of the Prodigal Son. I call it the “Eat until you’re hungry” approach. The son was clamoring for his freedom, and the father willingly gave it to him, and even saw fit to fund it as we. The father knew that there was no way the son would ever understand how good he had it until he set him free to do whatever he pleased. He sent him out to get his fill, to eat and eat and eat until he got hungry. His freedom led to an epiphany; his life is going nowhere. And it took unbridled freedom for him to find that out. Freedom to do ill as well as freedom to change. The Church of the Future will adopt this kind of fatherly role. Instead of being frantic that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, it will stand secure in what it believes without trying to force or manipulate others to change, but instead being ready to love, willing to forgive, and thus proving the faith it holds dear.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Freedom should not be that hard to understand, but trying to explain the spiritual concept sometimes seems harder than trying to describe the doctrine of the Trinity. Freedom is freedom. Period. It means you have permission to do whatever you desire. If you’re not free to do wrong as well as right, then it’s not freedom. When the Law was given to the Israelites, it was just like any other law; it provided civil and social order. It served as means to direct cultural life and set apart those who kept it from the rest of the world. It kept the people distinct. But Jesus died to free us from that restriction. No longer does the person of faith need a set of rules to make him or her look and act different. A new conscience coupled with a new relationship is sufficient. Love is now to be the distinguishing factor. But somewhere along the line, the Church As We Know It has looked to morality as the badge of honor. If the Spirit is here now to help us determine right and wrong and how to judge between the two, why are we so quick to run to a set of guidelines, or six easy steps, or seven promises to govern our behavior? In most ChristianMan gatherings I’ve been in, the common answer to overcoming sexual temptation has often been behavioral. The way we were taught to avoid it was to be in an accountability group, memorize Romans 6, 7 and 8, avoid tempting situations and now a current one, unplug your computer. It may have temporarily adjusted the behavior, but did it really address the real question of the man’s heart? Freedom does not mean just avoiding certain actions. I believe it means those actions no longer hold any power. Is the alcoholic really free if he can’t be around alcohol? Is the guy addicted to porn walking in liberty if he needs to have someone check his history file? So why does the Church As We Know It give men behavioral answers and tell us we can’t really expect to be free? Morality is an important thing, but morality is not the starting point of the life of faith. Look at the first family of faith; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were a bunch of liars, cheats, polygamists. Study their behavior sometime and try and explain their morality to your kids. What they did possess is faith, which is something the Son of Man is very interested in.