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Riding the Waves of Change

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I’m sitting here today watching the Apple Event learning about all the new products they are rolling out over the next couple months. In an Apple dominated office, this is usually a big deal. One of the things that always happens during these events is they roll out a product that has totally changed from the one that rolled out probably no more than a year ago and I’m always like, “why didn’t you put that on the last one? I’m not buying another now! GEEZ!!” That’s my current thoughts about the 6S and 6+S. The things they’ve added are awesome, but I want them on the last one. But enough of that soapbox rant…

The truth of the matter is that things change all the time. This has become more and more true in the church. It seems like, especially in the worship world, that things are changing almost as fast as technology. I don’t know exactly what I think about all that, and that’s another post for another time, but one thing I know for sure is that one change I see coming could be one for the better. I sense a desire for simpler things. I see a call for things to be stripped away. I see the Matt Redman song being way ahead of its time. I sense a move toward quality over quantity in a way that we haven’t seen it in a while. I’m excited to see this large shift toward deeper truths of God. This has been a cry for quite awhile, but it seems to be getting louder and more widespread. Why is this the case?  Could it be that, now more than ever, we need the truth to stand strong in a world that is creating their own ideas and brands of the truth? I believe that may have something to do with it. I also believe that we have created an overstimulated worship experience and people are needing things to slow down. The lights have started to blind us. The screens have started to become more than just for words and have caused a need for more design than ever before. Production of those 2-3 minute videos are full time jobs within themselves. In some ways, we’ve wrapped the truth in this really big package and it’s becoming harder and harder to find. I feel in a lot of ways that people aren’t wanting the gift wrap as much as they just want the gift. And what a gift we have to give!

What does that look like in your church? In my church? I don’t know what that means for you. I doubt it means that you start tearing down your trusses and selling your intelligent lights on eBay. Here’s what it means for me. It means that I need to care that much more about content. For those of you who know me and have served alongside me before, you know that my heart has always been more about the words of the songs than anything else. The story is and should be the most important part of any worship experience.

Ultimately, we have to follow where the Lord is leading. Lots of prayer and listening to the Lord’s voice in my life has lead me to this point. Where do you hear the Lord leading you? Do you feel like you can flow with the changes that he may be making in your life? Are you listening?

Worship and the Next Generation

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Simply put, worship is an outflow of the heart. You already know that. Or maybe you don’t. But that’s the simple truth. You worship what’s closest to your heart. If you are struggling with the depth or lack thereof in your worship experience, that might be where you want to start your search for change. Now that I’m off that soapbox…

As a baseball fan, I love watching a game on TV and they show a family in the stands and they have a little baby with a onesie on that says “my first (insert favorite team here) game”. Usually, if a family is willing to spend the money on that little outfit for that baby, they are fans. It means that child is going to grow up loving that team because that family is investing time and money in teaching that baby to love that team. I have done the same thing. My children have all had Cardinals hats and blankets and bibs and anything else you can think of. I can’t wait to buy them their first jerseys. It’s fun to have someone to root for. It’s a bold statement now that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area to go see the Cardinals when they come into town dressed head to toe in the red and white. As you would expect, I get mixed reviews and responses. It’s something we have come to expect.

Last night something awesome happened. I was preparing for this upcoming Sunday with a bunch of the kids that do drama at our church. I realized that we have some awesome worship leaders in the making and it’s exciting. As I watched them I saw that they were all children who had families that consisted of people who were leading somewhere within our church. These children are in a pipeline of leaders. At some point in their lives, they have spent time in the midst of people who are leaders. People are are showing them the importance of leading others. And it shows. And I’m excited for what these kids can and will do for the Kingdom long after no one wants to listen to me. It’s gonna be pretty cool.

What are you training your children to worship? Who are you training your children to worship? If you aren’t sure, give it some time. You’ll find out.

Worship in Discipleship

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So, I want to start out by saying this post, even more than normal, will be me thinking out loud and a little more on the fly. I usually write down my thoughts and organize them a little before I write, but I haven’t done that as much with this one. I’m working on a pretty big project that started out as one thing, but continues to point back to this subject. I am totally okay with that. Anyway…

 

I am continuing to sense, based on the things I read and the conversations I have, that we are at the beginning of a pretty big shift in worship and even greater, the Church. One of the big things that is pushing this shift is worship. But it’s pushing in a different way than it has in the past. While I believe there is still a place for full bands, lights and technology, I believe that there is also a cry for simplicity. Whenever there is a call for something to be simplified, there has to be some evaluation of what we are stripping away and what is going to be left. “When the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come…” That song has been ringing true in my heart again like it just came out last week and isn’t over 15 years old (WHOA!!). The chorus rings out so loud because it truly should be all about Christ. And if our worship should be all about Christ, then it should be all about leading people into an authentic encounter with Him. Worship is and should be more than just a weekly experience. It should be a penetrable force throughout our entire lives. That sort of change in thought process takes some time to develop. It means studying and prayer and letting others speak into our lives. It means running repeatedly to the foot of the cross and letting it be the barometer for what should and shouldn’t be in our lives. The more I wrestle with this seemingly overwhelming truth, I am thankful and floored by the opportunity I get to play in this process.

What does this look like for the church? How can the worship experience play a role in discipleship? How can Sunday morning enhance the process? Do you believe that there have been times that it has hindered the process? These are questions that I am asking, not because I have the answers, but because I am trying to answer them myself. I would love to hear some of your thoughts.

I have renewed my writing card. Part of it comes from a dear friend pushing (ever so gently). Part of it is that I feel like there is something to be said again. But that’s another post. For now, I want to stay close as I can to the title.

What does this really mean? Well, I didn’t even know I was thinking about this until I spent a few days with my friends at the National Worship Leader Conference. They are always challenging and encouraging during this week, and this year was nothing different. I found myself looking for that thing, that one thing I could hold onto that I could bring back to my church. At the end of the week, I came away knowing that I needed to make some changes in the way that I think about this thing I do every day. There are so many different things to get sidetracked on (evident by the vendor booths), and it’s easy to think that I have to be trying to do all of the latest and greatest things for my church. We see it all and think that it could all work in our churches. No, it doesn’t all work in your church. Even more important than great verbal transitions, effective youth choirs, learning to foster communication between the band and the tech crew, not getting burnt out, being a better leader or any of the other litany of workshops that were offered, the thing that continued to ring out in me was the thought of transformational worship.

Worship has to come from the inside. It’s an outpouring of what should already be there. If worship is starting to feel stale to you, it might be the fact that your church is doing the same 15 songs all the time. But it just might be your heart toward those songs. It might not have anything to do with the songs at all. It could be your outlook toward worship in general. It might be the attitude of being a consumer of worship instead of a participant. The transformation for me is remembering that I’m not feeding consumers, I need to be fostering participation. When I look at worship from the eyes of a facilitator it changes how I arrange and plan. But in order to do that, I need to adjust my approach. That means I have to look at the inside. I have to get back to square one. I have to get back to what this whole blog is about in the first place. Encountering the Savior so that I can enrich my community and engage the world with the gospel. Once I was hit with that this week, it became clear again. I’m sitting on my thoughts and gifts and ideas and not sharing them. So I’m writing again with that renewed purpose. Getting to reconnect with friends like Rick, and making new friends like Rich were definitely highlights of the week. But, like always, God had plans to grab at my heart again. And He totally did. And I’m being transformed. Again. Let’s see what happens.

 

Starting Fresh

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Sure, this a title that is more for the beginning of the New Year, but I was busy having a newborn in my house and recuperating from Christmas hours at work. So here I am now. A lot has happened in the past few weeks, and I won’t even try to catch you up on all of that. But we do have a new baby who is just the cutest thing ever. If you aren’t a follower on any of my social media sites, his name is Xavier and we love him dearly. He’s 5 weeks old now and is such a joy for our entire family.

Onto this topic of starting fresh…

Here at Bridges Community Church we just started a year of renewal. As part of the pastoral staff I have been thinking about this long before the year started. It’s such an easy time to think about this as a new year starts. People join the gym like crazy, but generally have already fizzled out by now, which is the case at the gym I attend. There are all of these things that we try to do to give ourselves a fresh start, a renewal, a rebirth. I am no different. This year, however, I’ve been trying to focus more internally. Sure, I want to see external changes in my life. Who doesn’t want to look better than they currently do when they look in the mirror? But it’s about way more than that. I know that I have some severe heart issues that need to be dealt with pronto. I know that the Lord has to be the one to help me get to the root of them.

I’m excited about digging in and working on myself. I’m convinced it will help me get better and doing what I love to do: helping others. I didn’t have anything particularly awesome or life changing to say today, but I wanted to write so you know that I was alive and was still committed to worship as a lifestyle and writing about it. So, 28 days late, Happy New Year!

2015: A Year of Renewal

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I won’t go as far as calling this a resolution, mostly because I think this is deeper than that. As a pastor I am always looking for true life change in myself as well as the people that I am privileged to lead. So as I look forward to this new year, there are quite a few things that lay in front of me, needing my attention and focus. I won’t bore you with all of those things, but I will give you sort of a general focus.

This year at our church we are committing to renewal. It means for me that I’m focusing on renewal. Not just in my role at the church, but in my own life. For the past couple years I’ve basically felt stagnant, and I don’t like that feeling. There are so many things that I’ve wanted to do and needed to do that I have just let sit. I’ve gotten lazy, and that can’t stay. I need heart renewal. I need mind renewal. I need body renewal. So my goal for 2015 is to focus on all three of those things in real, tangible ways. For instance, I’m going back to school in 2015. Not because I’m a glutton for punishment. But I am so much better all around when I’m focused on something. So (if I get accepted) I will be going for my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy in the fall. Renewing my mind. This is just one of the examples of something I’m doing to put myself in a state of renewal for the next year. I’d love to help pray you through and encourage your through any renewal journey you may want to take this upcoming year. If you’d like to talk about it, I’m here for that too.

Obviously, there’s going to be some looking at renewal from a worship standpoint, after all, this is worship180. That’s coming soon. I’m excited to see what God can do in and through me this year. I’m gonna try to get out of the way a bit more.

God bless you all and Happy New Year!

True Joy is Relentless

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This holiday season always brings mixed feelings among people. There are people who just can’t wait for the Christmas season. The sounds, the smells, the music and just the overall idea just makes them happy. Some are happiest when the season ends and would be most happy if it never started. They don’t like the commercialization or the idea of having to spend all that time in the stores dealing with people and fighting for the last gift on the shelf. Some people can look to particular moments, good or bad, in their lives and it sparks a huge range of emotions for them. I have a daughter who has a birthday the day after Christmas, and so we have to work hard to not let all the build up to the 25th just deflate the next day because we don’t want her to feel like she’s less important that all of the other holiday stuff that has piled up on our schedules up to that day.

So many things are floating around now, assaulting our senses as we prepare for this one super gift giving day where our materialism is in full swing. For those of us that love this time, we are in our element. We are purchasing gifts, some of us are already done. We’ve carefully looked for deals and found everything that we were searching for. For those of us that despise this time, we are trying to convince the rest of the world that their futile attempts at happiness will fade really quickly when that child breaks that new toy before the year ends. The funny thing is, neither of these represent true joy. It’s quite easy to see why the second person is not experiencing joy in the season, but look closely at the first person and you’ll also see someone who is in the midst of a temporary happiness, one that usually is tempered by January credit card statements.

What does this relentless joy look like? I believe relentless joy is something that can’t be contained in a particular moment or season. Relentless joy is something that is sewn to your heart strings and then glued in place. It is something that no one can take from you and you have no other choice but to talk about whenever you can. Right now, we are in any day mode with our fourth child.Right now if I talk to someone pretty much anywhere, chances are there’s going to be some mention of the hope and expectation of our new arrival. There are things in your life that spark that joy in your life that you just have to talk about because that’s where your heart is. For the followers of Christ, our relentless joy -especially during this season- should be about the King that was born to save this world. No matter if you love decorating the tree or you would rather tear down all the decorations in whatever store you walk into, your joy should lie firmly in the fact that Jesus is coming. And that relentless joy should still be around long after that sweater you get doesn’t fit anymore.

I have started this blog post like 6 different times today. No matter what approach I try to take on all of the things happening in the world today, I keep coming back to the cross. That’s the best answer I can come up with. Do you have to shoot someone in the face when they are unarmed? I don’t think so. Do you have to strangle a man to death for selling cigarettes on the street? I don’t think so. Did a man have to be beaten with hammers in the street? I don’t think so. Hasn’t there been enough injustice floating around in the world? Very much so. Have we seen the end of it? I don’t think so. The frenetic levels of racial tension are creating some interesting discussions, especially in social media. I tend to stay away from those. It’s not that I don’t have thoughts and opinions about what is going on in our world. That’s not true at all. It is mostly because I spend a lot of time watching people. I watch to see how people respond to the things happening around them. Difficult times seem to draw out the true colors of man, and those colors help you to know where people stand. That is the most difficult thing about all of this from my position. Why? Because the cross isn’t black or white.

See, I personally see some major trust issues in all these situations. For black people, there is a lack of trust in the law based (pretty accurately, I might add) on history. For white people, there is a belief that anyone that hasn’t made it to whatever level they have achieved must not be trying hard enough. Black people think that everyone is against them. White people believe that everyone else is lazy and don’t want to do better. A lot of this stems from the fact that there are very few relationships between those particular parties. I grew up in University City. I remember playing basketball, baseball AND football in the street with the police in my neighborhood. Black and white. They knew our names and we knew theirs. Most importantly, they had our trust. I knew who I could expect to see if something went down in my neighborhood. So I come from that side of having trust in the people that patrol our city. Does that mean I was always treated fairly by the police in my neighborhood? Not at all. I can recall many times where I was judged harshly and actually not believed by police. I can assure that that none of those times involved the police that took the time to know me. Why do I share that? I share that because it wasn’t about race. It wasn’t about anything other than relationships. I have a much better time trust people that I know. If I’m in a situation that I don’t know my surroundings, I’m going to naturally be a little bit more on edge. Probably more than I should be, seeing that I scare a lot of people just by waking up and walking around. But that’s another story… Before I started writing this, I ran across and article by NBA analyst Kenny Smith that he wrote to Charles Barkley. I love it because he said pretty much what I have been feeling about this the whole time. You can read it here.

Problems arise when we put anything above Christ. I cannot be more black than I am Christian. Whenever that happens then I’m not focused on the cross. Because the cross isn’t black. I can’t care more about anything more than I care about the cross. Neither can you. It won’t work. You may be tired of the injustice that is seemingly running rampant in this country. You may not understand why everyone is so bitter. You may be married to or related to an officer. But none of those things can overshadow the cross. Once they do, your judgement is severely clouded. Mike or Eric or Trayvon or Zemir were not the first people to die from unjust surroundings. And unless something changes in the next 15 seconds, they won’t be the last. Injustice remains. Profiling remains. Misunderstanding remains. All of these things remain in our world. Why? Because it’s the world. I can’t expect the world to be anything different. Much like I don’t expect my daughter to be a boy, I don’t expect the world to act like I expect Christians to act. But I do expect Christians to act like Christians. And what should they be doing? Looking to the cross. Why? Because the cross isn’t black or white.

 

A couple weekends ago I had the privilege of speaking at a conference. People have asked me to share things before, but not on this grand of scale. I was one of 40 breakout sessions for a 2 days conference on multicultural discipleship. I was asked to speak on worship in the multicultural environment. It seemed rather overwhelming at first, but once I started speaking it was really cool. I found that I have spent a lot of time learning things from experience that I didn’t think people cared to know from me. I was so overwhelmed by the response to my sessions. As a result I’ve been asked to share in depth with some other churches.

It sparked something in me that I forgot was there. A few years ago before we started working at churches, my wife and I were consulting with churches who were getting started with their worship teams. We spent a lot of time helping them prepare worship for their church as well as developing leaders to help them sustain their music ministries. It was a lot of fun and we loved sharing our knowledge with other churches. We haven’t done it in awhile because I’ve been working full time at church. I now have a few opportunities to do that again and am excited about what the future holds. It’s funny how things come full circle, and how the Lord prepares you for things.

Happy New Year to all! To any new readers, welcome. This is an actual blog that has an actual writer who has taken a really long break while adjusting to a whole bunch of change in the past 12-13 months. For all of you, old friends and new, I went through a long season where I felt like I didn’t really have anything to say. That is a terrible season. As I’ve made some adjustments to my life and finally found my groove, I’m realizing that I wasn’t quite done yet.

One would hope that I would have a great love for the church, seeing that I spend anywhere between 50-80 hours there weekly. You would be correct, I absolutely love Bridges Community Church. I still can’t believe that I’m blessed to be a part of such an awesome team. It’s overwhelming sometimes. But outside of the sheer joy of working at a church, I still love the church because of what she represents. The church has a specific purpose in the eyes of Christ and that’s a pretty special thing in my mind. The church has done a great job of being strategically and aggressively placed throughout the church and even the world. That is one of the main reasons why I love the church. We got part of what we were supposed to do really well. We have gone out into the world (Matthew 28:19) and made space for ourselves and given ourselves a platform to be heard. Even here in California, there are a plethora of churches. Nothing like my years living in the Bible belt, but there are still churches in the Bay Area.

Secondly, I love that churches are continuing to fight through the adversity that we knew would come because of whom we choose to follow. I am always amazed at the people who are looking for this saving from hardships and “Best Life Now” mentality after becoming a Christian. The struggle to follow Christ is a real and well documented one. As this world and the people in it continue to evolve, it will get harder and harder to shine the light of Christ in the ever deepening darkness. But the church for the most part realizes that the light of Christ is a saving one and cannot be extinguished. As a result, we push forward.

We still have the ability to be relevant. I know some people could care less about relevancy, and I also know that the desire to stay relevant can be a very slippery slope if not handled delicately. However, I love how a lot of churches have dedicated time, money and manpower to making sure they are doing whatever is available to them to reach people for Christ. I love looking at the ways churches are using technology and social media to expand their reach. I like to see how they are creating awesome spaces on their campuses that are interesting and engaging. I love how they are constantly moving forward while staying true to the groove that works for them.

I guess this is as great a segue as any, but all of these things are some of the reasons why I get frustrated with the church as well. There is a fine line between relevancy and the Keeping Up With the Joneses mentality. It bothers me when sometimes you can’t tell if it’s church or a concert. It bothers me when we disguise the Word so heavily that people aren’t sure what we are talking about and who we stand for. It bothers me when we lose our edge and stop becoming aggressive in reaching people. Not aggressive in the Turn or Burn kinda way, but more in the Come Because Our Building is Nice and Shiny and We Aren’t Really In The Position to Chase You And It’s Really Better This Way kinda way. When we become so inward focused that we find it uninteresting to even associate with non-Christians accept for to “get them right”.

Ultimately, I still love the church because Christ still loves the church. In my desire to be like Him, I want to love the things that He loves. At Bridges we are taking some major steps this new year to refocus the lens a little to make sure that we are looking at the right things. I believe that our new Breaking the Mold campaign has the ability to be very influential in getting us to turn our eyes back toward the ones we need to be looking at. I’m also (naturally) excited about our focus for worship this year. Personally, I had been dealing with some jaded feelings towards church and worship this past year, and it was causing me to have real negative outlooks on the whole process. I have had to also take some time to refocus and look at who I am and what I’m supposed be doing. I didn’t feel like I was doing this, but Stephen Miller‘s book, Worship Leaders,  We Are Not Rock Stars, gave me some renewed focus. Hopefully, I can speak to more of that in the days to come.

I’m excited about this year for my personal church, and the church in general. We have another awesome opportunity to share the light of Christ in this dark world and be effective in setting ourselves apart from without alienating. The Word of God never changes. The Blood will never lose its power. When the church keeps those things in the forefront, that’s when she is effective in doing her job. I’m excited about that this year. What about you?

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