O Holy Night . . .

“O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas Carole. Musically it rises and falls beautifully, draws you in, and takes you on a journey. Lyrically it is thoughtful and well written. Theologically, this is why I really love it. This song lays out a great worship theology. “Fall on your knees, hear the angel’s voices.” These lines speak deeply into what worship is. The Greek word for worship is proskynein which translates into bow down, or a kiss toward. We don’t often see worship as this, we normally think worship is singing songs. This is just a part, the word proskynein does not indicate a physical reaction but an action of one’s heart. Your heart and soul are to bow before God in worship, what it be. In addition, hearing the angels is an indication of eternal worship. When we worship today, we are to look back at what God has done, worship Him in the present and for what He is doing and finally, perhaps most importantly, worship God for what He will do and the eternal worship we will enjoy with the angels and Jesus Christ in the New Earth, “forever and ever and ever . . .”

This song is not my normal worship song pick, it isn’t my style, nor is it written more recently. My second point comes from this. Style and era of the song shouldn’t matter, the author of the song shouldn’t matter either. We shouldn’t select songs because they are the most popular Hillsong songs, or Tomlin, or Redman, or Crowder, or Jesus Culture and we can hear them on the radio. We should pick them because they are musically compelling and easy to remember and more importantly because their theological and doctrinal language edifies us and glorifies God!! The song should cause us to proskynein (worship) God, not think “Oh this song is so cool and I love the author.” I am just as guilty as this as anyone, I freely admit that I have bias toward DC*B. My challenge to myself, and other worship leader, pastors and worshipers is to find songs that truly worship God, and don’t just give you the warm fuzzies. Our worship tells the story of God in a way that glorifies Him, make sure we strive to do that as well.

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Focus

A few weekends ago I was sitting in a worship service enjoying singing worship songs and Christmas carols with my fellow Christians at the church I attend. Now this church is not a large church by any means. It can’t afford to have the best technology, the sleekest auditorium, and the best trained volunteers. What makes this church wonderful is the people! Many of the people that attend this church feel called to be a part of it, they weren’t attracted to it because of it’s smooth presentation and state of the art facility, they were attracted to this church because they felt God was doing something there, and that they were called to be a part of it. Well on this particular Sunday morning a video was to be shown. I have always lamented the fact that changing from PowerPoint, to video was not as smooth as it could be, but the church just doesn’t own the tech. On this Sunday there was about a minute of awkward shuffling and panic from the computer/video tech guy as he attempted to sort out the issue. I patiently waited with most of the congregation for things to sort out, as they always do. I was shocked and saddened to hear the gentleman sitting right behind me say, “Oh what a surprise technical difficulties!”

I am well aware that technology and the ‘seeker sensitive’ movement has created a mass of Christians who are consumerist in their thought toward church. I am not condemning the seeker sensitive movement it did some good stuff. What I am ashamed of as a Christian and worshiper of God is the consumerist attitude many Christians have. Despite all of this, I was surprised that someone with this attitude, someone who expected everything to go off without a hitch and as smooth as a hollywood production was sitting in our church that morning. What surprised and shocked me and saddened me the most was that this person was a long time member of the church, and a person that appeared upfront on numerous occasions to give announcements and pray. At that moment I wanted to turn around and confront the gentleman, and rebuke him for his attitude and try to correct his thought process. However, I did not in that moment, because I also became angry at this gentleman for his attitude. I never did get a chance to talk to this gentleman, which I regret.

However, it got me thinking. What is most peoples focus in worship? Do they focus on the quality of the music and production? Do they focus on whether they feel their needs are being met? Or do they focus on the worship of God and the revelation of God to us through His written Word? I am the first to admit that my focus is not always as it should be. I do get lost in some of the trivial details of church sometimes. However, the Church I attend normally does a great job in their music and video production, and more importantly they always do a great job of focusing on God, and not themselves.

My question is: What do you focus on in church? Is it what you can get out of it? Or is it how you can serve and worship God best?

As time goes on . . .

I’ve been blogging since I was in college (the first time) probably late 2004, back then it was on MySpace. Wait what? What’s myspace. Yea I wasn’t very legit. My focus was youth culture and youth ministries back then. Over time my blogging transitioned from MySpace to Blogger, to WordPress, where we are now. In addition, my subjects changed. I stuck with youth thing for a long time. Occasionally writing on other subjects. More recently, I have made the transition into focusing on worship. This subject came up a lot when I wrote in the youth realm, but now it is my main focus. I may sometimes stray, and share other thoughts. To me however, everything comes back to worship. We all do it, every single human worships. Not all of us do it right. (gasp!) I don’t mean that my way to worship is right, what I mean is that some of us worship celebrities, sports, ourselves, sex, idols, other gods, or perhaps the one true God. We all worship . . . the right worship is the worship of Yahwah! Creator of our universe and all in it. This is why I focus on worship, it really impacts everyone, whether they know it or not. My philosophy is that the Bible (which is the most important text we have on God) reveals to us more who God is AND how we are to worship Him correctly. The more we know about God the more truly we can worship Him. I don’t know all the latest forms, and ideas on worship. I don’t know which is the best. What I do know, is that I worship, and you worship. I just want us to worship God, the way He wants to be. “In spirit and in truth.” I hope you’ll help me figure it out, or read as I stumble upon new truths in worship. This post is really a long, long thank you. Thanks! All of you that read, whether I know you personally, or we met through the blogosphere. Thank you so much for reading, and especially for participating in the conversation on worship. Please share your thoughts on my thoughts. Together maybe we can help each other worship more correctly!

All for the glory of the One true holy and awesome God!

Not Worthy

So the more and more I study worship, it’s techniques, the ‘Biblical’ way to do it, so on and so forth. I am realizing one thing is really and true of worship. It doesn’t matter what denomination, age, style preference, background, or anything; this one thing is true: I am not worthy to worship God, much less lead others in the worship of God! The consequence of this is really that this is universally true for everyone. However, I want to focus on me. I am a sinner, I sin everyday, whether I know it, or admit it, or it gets seen by others, this is the truth. I sin, this means that I can’t worship God. My goal is the be a worship leader, the best that I can be, not so I can brag, but so God gets the glory. But I am a sinner, so I can’t be a worship leader . . . really at all. I can pretend to be one. I may play and sing beautiful tunes, with great theological truths and life changing effects, but I am not a worship leader. I never will be. I may be labeled a worship leader, I may even be given that title someday by a church or organization. But I am not. I cannot truly lead you or anyone else before the throne of God. Why? One word: SIN!

The good news is that because I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, salvation has been bestowed upon me, sanctification given and is being worked out, and holiness imputed to me through Christ, my actions that were in vain without Christ are not. I am not a worship leader, but Christ is. The Holy Spirit that lives and works in me directs my feeble efforts to and into Christ (along with everyone else’s) and Christ than purifies them and presents them to the father for us! Hallelujah! Our Triune God is so awesome. His grace makes His requirements possible. As one of my professors likes to say “The grace of God is that He gives us what He requires of us.”

Worship Gathering vs. Worship Service

I started reading a book called Emerging Worship today, it’s by Dan Kimball. In the first chapter he makes this statement, “Emphasizing ‘worship gatherings’ is vital for the emerging church.” This follows a section where he describes that the term “worship service” as translated from the Greek is really to mean a time when the Body of Christ gathers together to offer their service to God in worship. This has been reversed in time Kimball explains, and so changing the name is necessary, is his conclusion here.

I find myself scratching my head. I am not debating that words have meaning and connotation. Here is why I bring this to your attention. (I hope that worshipers and those that are privileged to lead worship are both reading this.) Changing the name, seems to me, is the easy way out. The western church, in my opinion, seems to like to take the easy way out. Church splits, creating new denominations, is all the easy way out, when working out core issues is the best, and perhaps more painful way of working out church strife. In this case the not easy way out would be defining the terms more concretely for the church. This will take time, it will take practice, and it will take work, but it seems more worth it to me. Eventually “worship gathering” will change and someone else will want to create a new title.

Maybe I just don’t understand the real reason why. I haven’t read the entire book yet, so my mind may yet be changed. I am well aware that culture and time change the way worship appears on the surface. Perhaps this is just part of that change. I feel I must end by saying that I highly respect Dan Kimball, and everything that he has done in the ways of the ‘Emerging Church’ movement. I am just . . .confused, and a little concerned with this particular title change.

Why I failed

I realized something today. I realized why I failed as a Youth Pastor. Here is the short answer: I didn’t make well-informed decisions. This is only mostly true. Sometimes I did spend time in prayer, and asked people advice. However, I can distinctly remember as I planned out the years calendar, that I just wrote down events, and themes that seemed to make sense. I very rarely listened to the Holy Spirit. If a decision was tough I would pray, and consult my professors and mentors for their input. However, I very rarely if ever, let God guide the ministry. Why? Because I wasn’t as connected to God as I should be. This is a 50/50 problem. Here is what I mean by that. This is 50% my fault, and 50% the fault of the church.

It is my responsibility to make sure that I am maintaining my own relationship with God. I was challenged by a Sr. Pastor I worked for to be more self-disciplined, wake up earlier and connect with God early. To get to work early, work hard, and listen to God. I attempted to do this, for a week. The advice was good, I just thought I knew better. However, from the church’s side. Often they say we are paying you for FT work, which is 40 hours a week. But we really expect 50-55 hours, or something like that. The idea is that the local church expects their workers to work so hard that they have little time for everything else. This is unrealistic. My belief is if you want them to put in for 50 hours, pay them for 50 hours a week, not 40 and expect more. The church expects one to put in so much work, that the worker sometimes finds it hard to find time to connect with God, to pray for guidance, to maintain their own spiritual life.

Why did I fail as a Youth Pastor? I chose to neglect God in my ministry and life! I may want to blame the church, and I made an argument that they may in fact be partially to blame. But it’s my fault. What do I do now? I learn, God is the most important aspect of my life! How will I apply what I learn? Well shooting from the hip: I will probably never seek a full-time church job again. A part-time position for sure, but to me a full-time position tries to squeeze God out of my life, it’s not intentional by anyone, it’s just what happens to me. Anyway, the real application for me is: I will always put God first in my day, everyday, regardless!

Leadership

One of the classes I am taking for my course work this semester is, “Leadership in Worship.” As I am reading my leadership books, and reading about the different types of leaders, and the characteristics of good leaders, I was struck by something I have never been struck with in my life of leading. I barely have any of the leadership qualifications that are listed. Out of a list I just read from Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, I was unsure if I posses any of the characteristics. Here is the list: discipline (maybe), vision (i don’t think so), wisdom (probably not), decision (I’m a processor), courage (that would be my youngest brother), humility (my father for sure, not me), integrity (I like to think so?), and sincerity (Bingo! got one!). One for sure out of eight, that’s not good, maybe 3 out of 8? That is not even half. The lesson for me? At 28 years of age (almost) I still have a lot to learn on being a good spiritual leader.