Too Much of a Good Thing…

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As I sit here snacking on my favorite chip and thinking about how many more reps that will mean at the gym later, I wonder if I’ll be able to say “enough is enough”. For the record, I put them away…

Is there a such thing as too much of a good thing? Is there ever a time within the construct of the way we currently do church where we say, “that’s enough of that”? I think about videos like the ever popular “Contempervant” where a church sort of made fun of themselves for the way we can over produce Sunday morning. We look at that video and laugh, but do we ever look at that video and go, “maybe we are trying to do too much”? Listen, I don’t have a problem with lights and production. I love the theatre, I love concerts. I love when a plan comes together. I wonder if we work so much toward the production side that we don’t allow as much room for the freedom of the Spirit. In my own church a couple weeks ago, on a spur of the moment based on what was happening I was asked to come back up and do a song. In short, I chose to do a song we had already done that morning and was surprised to see the difficulty in which some of our production wasn’t able to roll with the punch. Immediately I felt like too much was going on if we couldn’t simply reach back to something we had already done 40 minutes previous.

Ultimately, it should be our job to tell the story of the Gospel. There can never be too much of the Gospel. After that, anything can be adjusted. If we allow these things to overshadow the beauty of Christ in our Sunday morning gatherings, we are getting in the way. Someone is there that may have never heard this story. Someone is there struggling with what they really believe about that story. So it’s our job to tell the story the best that we can without other things getting in the way. How are we doing with that in our churches? Today I’m speaking from a technological standpoint. There are other ways that we get in the way of the story. I’ll be talking about these over the course of the week. Are there any that come to mind right off the bat for you?

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.

Worship in Community

Posted by worship180 under Enrich

I have been working on a rather large project in my church lately. It has been awesome, challenging, humbling, and any other -ing words you would want to associate with a big task. There are so many facets and connection points to this thing, and I have been going over all of these things, obsessing over them, making sure that I haven’t missed anything. Now, while I’m sure that I have missed many things because of my own fallible tendencies, one thing is for certain. Community is more than just a trend.

You might read that last sentence and think, “whom ever said it WAS a trend?” I don’t know if anyone has said it outright, but I sense a shift in the church that has been happening for a little while and it is pointing toward truth and authenticity like never before. And this rings especially true for community and relationships. What’s funny about this to me as that if we look at the Bible, relationships have always been the key. The church in Acts became what it was because of the relationships. When they had the rift and appointed deacons to sort out the fair treatment of people (Acts 6), they picked 7 men who were “well respected and full of the Spirit and wisdom (verse 3). Respect (and disdain) comes from knowledge. These people lived in this community and people respected them for it.

Christian communities have struggled because we aren’t worshiping together. Sure, we are worshiping in the room at the same time. Sure people are coming to worship centers and auditoriums and sanctuaries (did I miss anyone?) around the country. But are we really worshiping in community, or are we single worshipers that happen to be in a room with other people? I believe there is a difference. If I come to work, I do my job, and it consists mostly of me emailing people and communicating with them as little as possible, knowing where people are just so I can avoid them when I go to the bathroom, we are working together because we are in the same place. But we aren’t working together. From a church standpoint, when you come into the room and you sing, but not too loud because you don’t want to be heard, or the only time you talk to someone is when they make you during the dreaded meet and greet time, and you leave right as the offering is being taken so you can get to your car before the parking lot gets too jammed because you want to beat the crowds for lunch, you might be in the room worshiping (and if you’re thinking THAT hard about other stuff, I’d challenge your idea of worship), but you’re not worshiping together.

True community and togetherness creates passion to do life with others. You share experiences. You share you worship times. You truly worship together. Again, I sense that we are going to see this be more pronounced in our churches in the next few years. I know that I’m pushing toward it in my own fellowship. There is a learning curve, and I believe it’s because we’ve been rocked to sleep. Rocked by performance driven worship. Rocked by systematic Sunday programming. Rocked by uninspiring messages. I sense that a shaking is coming and it’s coming with this next generation. I do in fact “see a generation, rising up to take their place, with selfless faith…” We really do need to be on our knees in preparation for what God wants to do next. We need to be on our knees together. Praying together. Worshiping together. Serving together. The community needs to be strong again. I know I’m starving for it. I don’t think I’m the only one.

Are you in a strong community? What is it like? Are you not in a strong community? What do you feel like you’re missing? What are you doing to find community? Let me hear from you.

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.

 

Every year we get to this time and, for the past few years at least, Facebook gets flooded with all of the things that people are giving up for Lent. Everything from coffee to chocolate, and meat to favorite TV shows. We write blogs about it (like I’m doing now), and we give updates about how things are going. Once the time is over we go back to where we started. Maybe not at first, but slowly we pick up where we so abruptly stopped. I have been that person many, many times. So please believe that I’m not pointing fingers are throwing stones or whatever other figurative phrase you can put there. It’s just something that I’ve noticed about the season and my own personal success or failure with this whole process.

The biggest problem I have with the Lent diet, whatever I may be ‘dieting’ from generally becomes the thing I think about the most. So for 40 days I’m basically counting down until I can have the thing I’ve so dearly missed. Easter becomes as much about sugar or soda as it does about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I’m pretty sure that’s not the desired effect.

So, starting with Lent, and hopefully continuing through whenever, I’m taking on James 4. I feel that for me personally I have to just do one thing. I don’t always multitask well. I’ve tried and it doesn’t always work. So I’m going to focus on drawing near to God and having Him draw near to me. If that means that I spend less time watching TV (which I don’t know if that’s possible lately), then so be it. If it changes what I listen to, then so be it. If drawing closer causes me to change my eating habits then praise God (seriously, that would be awesome). But I’m not going to start from the place of a new deficiency. I’m going to start from a new place of filling. Because if I start to fill myself with something new, something old has to move out of the way to make space. And for all of you my friends who are giving up things for Lent, go get ‘em! I will continue to pray for you as I always have. I honestly wrote this today because this is a common question around this week. Not as common as the ‘Where did you go to high school’ question for my STL friends, but common enough.

Be blessed, friends. I will leave you with the passage that sparked it all for me. James 4:2-10

You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

 

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.

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