Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What In God's Name Are We Doing?

The American Church has fallen into some dangerous waters in recent decades and much of what we is an attempt to blame what we do on God's will - as if God actually commends our weak efforts at spiritualizing (rationalizing) our own selfish ambitions and passions.

Of primary importance to this writer is what we call "worship music." What is that, exactly - "worship music"? Today, it means a wide variety of things and, depending upon who you talk to, certain forms are more acceptable to God than others; certain forms lend themsleves to worship while other forms do not - and it's based on the style of the music. Really? (uh huh)

Generally, we see two main categories, with several sub-categories beneath. The two main categories of "worship music" are described as "Traditoinal" and "Contemporary." Painting broadly, here, the Traditional side of the coin tends to utilize music that is more hymn-driven, more choral, lush, has been around for a while, that sort of thing. The Contemporary side of the coin utilizes songs written in the past couple of decades, is band-driven, relies heavily on technical support (sound, lights, media, etc.).

Thankfully, I believe most of "the church" has finally moved past the idiotic notion that only one of these forms is correct or proper or best - for "worship." I believe we actually do (finally) see that not only are these different forms acceptable - they are necessary - given today's culture.

Unfortunately - the same foundational aspect is missing from both of these general categories in most of today's Christian churches. That missing element - is the HEART of worship. Or, what I refer to as "the WHO of worship." We have done a nice job of focusing on, and enhancing, the HOW of worship - but in the process we seem to have missed the actual reason we gather together in the first place - TO ENCOUNTER THE LIFE TRANSFORMING POWER OF JESUS CHRIST in the midst of our worship gathering.

I can say this because having worked in this arena for nearly 30 years I have come to discover first hand just how selfish most congregations are when it comes to the music selected for use in their services. It is very rare to find someone sitting in a pew these days who has the unselfish ability to refrain from complaining about the music. Most people in most churches are prone to be critical of the music used in the services. The list of complaints varies and seems to be never-ending - but the list is almost always verbalized - either in person, or via a phone call or email or letter... and always - in every instance - the bottom line is that the person complaining "...doesn't like..." a particular song or song style or form, etc. In other words - DO WHAT I WANT!

Here is a blunt question. Why? Why should I, as the music director, or pastor, do what YOU want? What aspect of our worship is about bowing to your personal music wishes and making sure you are kept happy?

And, yet, that is exactly what we do, isn't it? We have arrived at a place in church history where leadership is doing all we can to make sure you are kept happy! The proof of this can be seen in the fact that we now have a menu of worship services you can attend designed to meet YOUR needs... you like classical music? Go to the Classic service. You like rock? Go to the Contemporary service. You like both? Visit our Blended service. Whatever you want - we will provide it for you - so that you stay happy.

But guess what - that isn't working! People are still not "happy" - they still find things to complain about.

Now - here is the reason why people are like that - and some will read this and get very, very angry...

Spirit-led, Spirit-filled worship services do not create an atmosphere of selfishness. Read that again - Spirit-led, Spirit-filled worship services do not create an atmosphere of selfishness. You know why - because these services are not focused on the HOW - they are focused on the WHO of worship - Jesus Christ, as led in the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are probably thinking - well, OUR services are led by the Holy Spirit. Really? So, in your church, where you have constant bickering over the music styles - that is a "Spirit-led" church? Sorry to burst your bubble - but the answer is "no." How can I say that? Because the Holy Spirit is NOT a spirit of confusion. End of story. No rebuttal. If your church is made up of people who, week in and week out, feel the need to complain about the music styles being used then guess what - you are NOT operating in the power of the Holy Spirit - no matter how loudly you say you are - the proof is in the pudding.

So, what's the answer? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Shut up. Quit complaining. Stop opening your mouth and creating angst. Be quiet. Learn how to keep your selfish opinion to yourself. Need more?

2) Worship GOD. Stop worshiping YOUR wants, needs and selfish desires. God is not there for you - you are there for HIM. Get used to it cuz that's what eternity has to offer. God is more important than you are and HOW you worship Him is far less important than WHO you worship.

3) Follow your leaders. Or get rid of them. One or the other. If you want to have things your way, go start your own church. Until then, follow the leaders God has placed over you. They know better than you what God wants for the flock - otherwise they should not be your leaders. Trust them. Have faith in them. Support them. Encourage them.

4) Follow The Holy Spirit. This seems so ridiculous to say because so many churches actually believe they already are following the Spirit's leading. But, as I said earlier, if you have a congregation that is constantly complaining and bickering you are NOT led by the Spirit. So, change that. Become a congregation that IS led by the Spirit. It will not be easy - but do it anyway.

We need to stop blaming God for our own selfish desires. God has not ordained choral music as the only vehicle for worship. Likewise, He has not decided that contemporary praise bands are His chosen method. God doesn't CARE HOW you worship - so long as you worship HIM.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who's In Charge, Here?

I've been involved in church ministry for over 30 years... primarily in music and creative arts. And I've noticed a disturbing trend over the years that has seeped it's way into just about every aspect of "church life."


For some odd reason - call it ego - many well-intentioned believers feel the need to control - to take charge of - to help God with - what goes on in churches.

We form committees who debate about things that really, in the end, don't have that much importance - well, not compared to Salvation.

We try to regulate the use of certain songs or prayers or practices - anointing them as "holy" when, in fact, they are not holy. They are just - songs... or prayers... or practices. The only reason they have any sacred importance is because we have labeled them as such.

We feel the need to control what goes on in our churches, in our services, in our Sunday school classes - and more!

But - - the last time I checked - - God is the one in charge. And, He does not really need our help, thank you very much.

He just needs our unarguable loyalty, trust, obedience and worship.

We common saints must do much less controlling - and far more committing...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Here's The Thing...

Assuming that all of us are, at some level, just a common saint, walking this planet, trying to live out what we believe the Bible teaches, trying to be "little Christs" to the world... then it seems to me that we portray that ID in ALL aspects of life - not just "church."

So, to all my Christian friends who have jumped aboard the "hate wagon" during this Presidential Campaign, can I just say - enough!

Each person has their "fav" who they want elected to the office of President. So be it. Not everyone shares the same passion YOU do for YOUR candidate. Thus we have the multi-party system in this country. That's one of the really cool things about America - - unity in diversity.

Well, that's what we SAY... but rarely do we live it out.

Enough with hammering someone JUST to show you are better... back in my school yard we called that "being a bully." And as I recall, the bully was usually the first to get paddled by the principal.

Every candidate has problems. All of them. Not one is above reproach. And NO candidate is worthy of the amount of blind loyalty some seem to be handing them. McCain is not God's appointed president. Obama is not the Savior of the nation. Palin is not gonna usher in the apocaplypes. Biden... uh, Biden... hmmm. I'll think of something later - once he does something.

How about this... shut your pie hole about your candidate -- vote as you feel led -- let the chips fall where they may -- and, for once in your life, learn to trust the ONLY one who really cares about this country.

God '08!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Big is God?

No, I mean that. How big is God?

I was talking with a comic recently - she happens to be a Christian - and we were bantering about how many Christians have elected to make their God so small that anything outside of a certain set of parameters just simply does not fit and, therefore, is not "of God."

But God is very big.

God created The Beatles. The Beatles never led anyone to Christ that I know of - but that does not discount that God created them and, I will go so far as to say that God even created their music. Anything "devilish" in their music is due to their own twisting of the beautiful creation of God's called music. And if God created music - it CANNOT be evil.

We Christians are great at building walls - and our walls keep outsiders out. And then we complain why nobody comes to church - or tithes. Guess what? They don't like us!

How big is God?

He's big enought to build bridges - and that's why I follow Him.

Friday, October 10, 2008


And - - - it's LAUNCHED!

Not sure how long this blog will last - time will tell.

Hopefully this will be a place for church-going folks who share my passion for "outside the box" thinking to share ideas, passions, dreams, visions and more related to how "the church" today is ineffective in impacting the lives of those they are called to impact and then offer solutions to solve this problem.

This is not "Gripe Central" - this is "Fix-It-Ville."

So, if you are just arriving, join the adventure and let's see if it might not be possible to become architects of bridges, rather than builders of walls...