Saturday, July 9, 2016

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Reason, No Service

Over the years of worship leading ministry, I’ve learned that people are the most important asset of ministry and yet they are also sometimes the greatest source of headaches. The greatest thing I’ve learned about dealing with people is that when it comes to conflict, it is not what someone believes but WHY they believe it. This is first true of myself. After I have my ‘house’ cleaned, I can hopefully have the discernment to look for it in others.

I’m going to take you through a hypothetical conflict. As we observe this hypothetical disagreement unfold, look beyond the content because this disagreement could be about just about any subject. The point of this exercise is to look at how we communicate, how we think (or don’t think) about our positions, and how we as leaders can deal with those who disagree with us in a healthy and constructive way, mitigating the risk of escalation.

Jim: “I miss the hymns. This new music is too repetitive. I don’t like it and I don’t know these songs!”
Worship Leader: “Jim, I’m sorry you don’t like the newer music. It sounds like you’d prefer the 9:00 service.”
Jim: “9:00 is too early for me. I’ve been coming to the 11:00 service for years. Why do we have to do all this rock and roll music. That isn’t worship. It’s not God honoring.”
Worship Leader: “The reason that we do the music we do for the 11:00 is because this service is primarily geared for people who want contemporary worship music.”
Jim: “Well I don’t like how you’ve ruined the 11:00 service and I pay my tithes! I don’t think God would approve either!”
Worship Leader: “Why do you say that?”
Jim: “Guitar music has no place within the church.”
Worship Leader: “Can you show me scripture to support that?”
Jim: “Romans 12:2 says we should stay away from worldly things…”
Worship Leader: “Rock bands also sometimes use organs. And many of today’s hymns were yesterday’s bar songs.”
Jim: “You’re just being defensive you hippy! And cut your hair, you look like a girl!” (marches off in protest)

Reason is the connection between cause and effect. It is the process to which we, with an open mind and a heart for God (because He IS truth), find and discern truth.

Please forget that the above exchange is a conflict representing the worship wars. Jim could have just as easily been an advocate for contemporary and the worship leader a traditionalist. Let’s look past the WHAT and look at WHY (or lack of it) behind each person’s arguments.

Notice that Jim starts out with the word *I*.  This can pretty much sum up most of his position. He doesn’t like the music being done in the service and refuses to attend the alternative service better suited for him. Notice that he does NOT point to a picture bigger than him. He does not for instance, make a case that this service should do different music because it would better minister to people. He doesn’t bring statistics, research, or even anecdotes supporting the notion that his church would be better poised to do different music because it would better minister to people within its body or outside of its four walls.

A reasonable person who wanted to advocate, in this case, for traditional music might point to their church’s age demography and make the case that they’d better be poised to go traditional to better minister to that predominant group. Such a person might point to a book or say Barna research that shows a trend with growing churches doing traditional worship music vs contemporary. A reasonable person might point to research suggesting that the majority of younger generations actually prefer hymns over contemporary.

Secondly, notice that when things turn theological, Jim points to Romans 12:2, but when the worship leader calls his interpretation into question, instead of engaging the worship leader, he simply accuses him of being defensive, throws in some ad hominem personal attacks and storms off in protest. A more open-minded person might have admitted they had never thought about organs being used by rock bands. They might have asked for evidence to support the claim that many hymns are reworked bar songs. Upon receiving such evidence, they might have even asked about what the proper criteria is to understand what Romans 12:2 means by ”worldly”. Here’s a hint there: the rest of the verse says we should have a “transformed mind” which shouldn’t have anything to do with the presence or absence of any musical instrument.

So what makes a person like Jim? The simple nature is our sin nature. Every one of us has it. This recognition will help us to approach the Jims of this world with humility, first guarding ourselves of this same infraction. Unless we get ourselves out of the way, we will make our world no bigger than ourselves. In such a small world, it is our desires, preferences, agendas, and insecurities that trump anything resembling facts or reason. Because we set ourselves up to be god of such a world, the ‘word’ is simply our desires. Have you ever bought something that said “no assembly required” on the box? This world is in a box that says, “no reason required”.

So how do we deal with people who aren’t reasonable or open-minded? First of all, one can be reasonable and be wrong. One can also be right for the wrong reasons. So an unreasonable person isn’t identified by their position. They are instead identified by the WHY behind their conclusions.

If we have found such a person on the opposite side of a disagreement, here are some things I have found which can work:

Give them questions not answers. Your goal is to inspire them to use the reason they tend to abandon.

 Speak in their “language”. Unfortunately that language is a childish language of self. Therefore speak to them on a visceral level. Avoid engaging them with reason because that will likely cause them to simply cast you as being too defensive or even obstinate. Let them know you love them and tell them you are sorry they feel the way they do. Agree to disagree.

Be empathetic. This is probably the most important thing you can do. It is very much related to the previous point. Unreasonable people have abandoned reason because it has been eclipsed by their selfish nature. Such people don’t care about facts, research, reason, logic, anecdotes, Bible verses (unless those things support their position). But authentic empathy can at least defuse their emotions and defang a potentially acrimonious situation. If you struggle to be AUTHENTICALLY empathetic, pray for such an individual. Prayer does a world of good for changing OUR hearts, not just the person to which we are praying.

Say as few of words as possible. I can think of at least two reasons to do this. One is in keeping with the first point of giving your antagonist more questions than answers.  Secondly, sometimes an antagonist might have nefarious motives and try to use your words against them. Proverbs 17:27 says “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” (NIV)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Worship Boss, Organizer or Leader?

There’s a fine line for a worship leader to walk between being a ‘worship boss’ on one extreme or a ‘worship organizer’ on the other.  Are you a worship leader, worship organizer or a worship boss?

Worship Leader

Leaders lead the willing. They can sometimes convince the unwilling to submit, grow or learn but when they can’t they learn to repel such mindsets.  Leaders learn how to meet people where they are as opposed to meeting people where THEY are. As a result, leaders learn to ‘feed the hungry’ by teaching the teachable, equipping the child-like to mature, and leading those who are willing to submit. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Leaders learn to do the same. Proud people never grow because pride never admits to weakness or any sort of lack.

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1 (NIV)

Leaders always try to speak the truth in love.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Worship Organizer

The Worship organizer is someone who merely plans the music, makes sure the appropriate worship team members are scheduled and organizes rehearsals. The worship organizer does the ‘backbone’ work of a worship leader but stops short of anything that risks making anyone uncomfortable.

Hospices make people comfortable because they’ve generally lost hope for their patients. Hospitals, while valuing comfort, will sacrifice it for long-term healing. Worship Organizers would make great Hospice workers but lousy doctors.

Sometimes worship team members don’t want their leader to be anything more than a worship organizer. This is because they want to serve on the worship team only on their own terms. They don’t want to admit that they might have room for growth. They are closed to learning, unteachable and therefore unreachable.

The same things that hold these people back musically, hold these people back spiritually. The worship leader who gently and lovingly challenges these folks, is not simply teaching musical concepts, they are teaching spiritual truths.

When it comes to musical skill, IF a team is full of members who have professional-level, ‘top shelf’ skills, the worship leader can THEN sit back and lead more like a worship organizer. But IF your church is like most, and has untrained volunteers, it will need a worship leader to bridge the gaps between mediocrity and excellence IF it values the worship music as an essential element for growing kingdom communities.

Sometimes a worship leader is instead a worship organizer because they lack the musical skills to correct or even discern the musical gaps. If you are in that boat, find a mentor, a teacher, workshop, conferences and training. The growth has to begin with you before it can flow outward to your team in your ministry.

Worship Boss

The worship boss, goes to the other extreme of the worship organizer. This person lacks the sensitivity and soft people skills necessary to direct people without being crass. A savvy worship leader is always guarding themselves against the danger of being a worship boss.

A worship boss corrects people publicly instead of privately (when possible). A worship boss calls individuals out instead of attempting to preserve anonymity. An example might be if the bass player is dropping the ball on the bridge of a song, the worship boss will specifically correct that bass player in front of everyone, while the worship leader will say something like, “we’re a little lost on that bridge, let’s rehearse it again.” The worship boss will directly address the rushing drummer in front of everyone, while the worship leader will say something like, “WE are rushing, let’s try it again….” The worship boss will say, “Sally, you’re flat on that verse”, while the worship leader will say, “we’re a little pitchy, let’s try it again….”

WHO are you offending?

Even worship leaders will offend people.
“Woe to you when everyone speaks good of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.“ (NIV) Luke 6:26
It is better to suffer for good than to suffer for doing evil
                “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (NIV) I Peter 3:17

It is impossible to please everyone. So the question is not whether you will offend someone but WHO will you offend and WHY are you offending them. IF offending people is inevitable, make sure you offend people for being a worship leader, not a worship organizer or especially a worship boss.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fire Starter - Leading a Worship Ministry With A Vision

Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he”.

I have sometimes served churches where the leadership did not communicate a clear vision. I found myself at risk when I asked for one to be communicated. Unfortunately, the lack of a vision DID explain the stagnation or dying at these churches.

As worship leaders, it is also important for us to communicate vision. Your vision may look different but I thought it might be helpful for me to at least communicate my vision and values as a fire starter. I derive these values from the Word and from reason coupled with experience.

I'll add comments/explanations below each item:

Communicate the counter-cultural message of Christ in a culturally relevant way.

I've never had a church disagree with this in wording but I've served plenty who violated this by their actions, being so in-reach focused and enabling that they lost sight of the bigger picture.

What is the counter-cultural message? Well examples would be doubting yourself (the essence of humility) and having faith in God and His work in you instead of simply believing in yourself. Other counter-cultural messages would be valuing ‘other-esteem’ (Phil 2:3) over self-esteem (or as the best way to acquire self-esteem).

How would those values be communicated in a culturally relevant way? Well, musically, they might be better communicated in modern music styles (since that is what the world listens to) vs in classical music or hymns. This is not to condemn those styles nor is it to suggest that we should soley style our worship music for non-believers…

Worship is the purpose of man and is defined in Rom 12:1-2.

This expression can include music, especially for corporate worship, but worship should never be reduced to it. Biblical worship is 24/7. It is not to be limited by church services.

The Worship music is a picture of Rom 12:1-2 worship.

It symbolizes the 24/7 worship model. What we do with worship music when the church gathers is really just one way of expressing worship corporately. Love, for God and each other, is the chief way we worship Him. Everything else should be an outworking from love. I Corinthians 13:1 says that without such love we are nothing but clanging cymbals.

Give God our first fruits.

Related to the 24/7 worship model expressed in the previous point, we should worship like Abel & not like Cain. This means that musically we DO care about excellence, not for purposes of putting on a show but to paint the picture of giving God our entire life (again back to Rom 12:1-2).

We ARE performing but God is our only audience.

Again, this helps put the previous point on “first fruits” into perspective because oftentimes people confuse excellence with showing off, showmanship or putting on a concert.

The Little Drummer Boy played his best for Him.

Attitude produces altitude/aptitude.

This is where I start to get practical. I care more about my worship team's willingness to grow then I care about their current abilities (beyond core competency).

I'd rather lead a team of beginners who are hungry for growth than proud virtuosos or obstinate, stuck in their ways musicians at any level. This is not merely a preference but a picture of the attitude we are to have spiritually and not just musically.

People don’t care how you know until they know how much you care

As a leader, build relationships and love people. Leadership is not a right, it is earned. Love provides the merit. Until Godly loving relationships are established, you’ll never have any long lasting influence to lead.

Meet people where THEY are, not where YOU are

If you treat others as if they are you, that will only work for people like you. But what about leading people who are significantly different than you? For instance, I prefer text messages if you’re simply wanting to tell me you’re going to be late or something else informative. But with others, I know I can’t text them because they don’t do text. The same goes for different personality types.

So what is YOUR worship leading vision?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Handling Criticism

I remember an episode of the old T.V. show the X-files where a genie was granting wishes to Agent Mulder. Mulder wished for world peace and ‘poof’, the genie granted his wish by removing all the people from the world. I’ve heard it said that ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people.

The riskiest land mines I travail in my worship ministry are critics. They can feel like they are everywhere.  I don’t have all the answers, but I would like to share with you the things that I’ve learned over the years. But before I do, let’s lay down a necessary foundation.

I need to ensure that I’m not living in a ‘glass house’. A ‘glass house’ would be a place where I’m NOT open to being wrong or humble enough to look at my weaknesses. This will take a lot of ‘house cleaning’ for most of us. It takes humility to be willing to look at our weaknesses and admit we might have some improvements to work on.  Find wise loving people in your life and ask them the hard questions about yourself. Weigh what they say and if their feedback is found credible, implement change. If you make this a life practice, you’ll get to the point where you can walk in confidence knowing that it will be difficult for a critic to ‘blind side’ you with a valid criticism.

Once we are out of the ‘glass house’, we are free to deal with the critic. The first thing I’ve learned is to express appreciation and empathy. I have found that empathy can defuse a confrontation and prevent it from going nuclear. Put yourself in your critic’s shoes and at least imagine how they might be feeling, automatically assuming their criticism is true. And most importantly, love your critic. Pray for their best even if they present themselves as your enemy.

One essential thing I’ve learned to do with my critic is to determine if they are open or closed. I can quickly determine if a person is open simply by asking them WHY they hold their position. Open people use reason to support their positions. If a person is open, then they are the easiest to work with. Simply ask them their reasoning, give them your reasoning and both of you can see whose reasons ‘weigh’ more.

If the critic can’t give a reason, maybe when pressed you find them simply regurgitating their original criticism, then that critic is closed. Closed people draw conclusions often because of their own psychology, not because of reality. In this case, I will simply thank them for expressing their ‘concern’, make sure they know I love them and walk away. I may even have to inform them that we will have to agree to disagree but in that case, I will have to resist telling them why. You may have to employ ambiguity here. Fortunately, this can be easy to do because closed people don’t tend to go deep, they are often presumptuous. Therefore you can say something ambiguous without betraying your integrity. One general example might be, “I’ll look into it”. This is honest, as you’ll see below, but it doesn’t plumb the depths.

So I’m not necessarily ‘blowing off’ the critic. They may be right but they are not open enough to tell me why. I have made the mistake many times in the past of pressing in with questions to seek clarity, only to come up short with frustration on both sides, fracturing relations with the critic.

I have found that closed people tend to misunderstand a search for clarity with being ‘defensive’. You can’t win with these folks. So if what they are saying is not clear, don’t press it. And don’t feel guilty. The critic is really cutting off the conversation not you. You may be very interested in what they are saying or genuinely not understand them, but they close off your ability to go deeper to find clarity or a solution.

I was once given the criticism from a closed critic that when I lead worship, I often missed lyrics. Given the circumstances, I was perplexed at this so I started asking questions. Thankfully I could ask other people questions about this subject. As a result I was able to find that the real problem was that the multimedia person was not putting up the correct lyrics to our songs.

If I can’t definitively disagree with the critic, yet they are ill equipped to give me their reasoning, I have a circle of close friends who are Christ followers, and musicians with whom I can consult. Sometimes they can give me the detailed reasons the critic couldn’t give me and I can actually make a change for the better.

The insecure leader will interpret critical thinking as criticism. - Andy Stanley

If the closed person I'm describing is your boss, then beware. Everything I'm saying is greatly complicated and your ministry is at great risk. You can't simply smile and walk away in the long term sense. It is even more critical that you find others who can help illuminate. The best advice I can offer in these situations is that you do NOT try and seek clarity with these leaders. Without clarity, you are left with having to pick the interpretation of their directions that you think is best and run with and hope that if it is not what they want then at THAT point you can gain more clarity. If your boss is closed minded, try to hide any disagreement, keep your head down. "Shut up and color" is what they say. This is a very unfortunate situation. Look for the exit doors if no one with greater power can change things on this front.

In closing, here are some scriptures to support these points:

  • “….first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  – Matthew 7:5 (NIV)
  •  “….do not throw your pearls before swine….” - Matthew 7:6 (NIV)
  • “….the prudent hold their tongues”.  Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)
  • “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” – Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)

I have made many mistakes when being confronted by critics. But I always try to never ‘waste a mistake’. If I only would have known some of the things I share with you here, I think I could have extended many ministry opportunities in my life and more importantly, preserved relationships. Be willing to stare your weaknesses in the eye without flinching, meet people where they are, yet never push people beyond where they can go and most importantly love them. This is the way of Christ.

10 Things Worship Leaders Would Like Their Church to Know About Worship Leading

As a worship leader, there are things I sometimes wish my church understood about my ministry.
  1. Churches often don’t know the prep time it takes behind the scenes. The church sees the worship team on Sunday mornings but most worship teams have at least an hour-long mid-week rehearsal and a sound check/run-through before service. The worship leader also does the footwork of picking out the songs, rounding up charts, MP3s, and communicating them to the team. Many worship leaders use multitracks, downloading them or even making them to add to the sound of the group. Setting them up for control can be a little bit of a challenge if they are using a controller pedal into a laptop. The individuals on the team may often practice their parts before the mid-week rehearsal if they’re really on their game. 
  1. Vocals might be the most important vehicle for carrying the message, but the drums and bass are musically the most important musical contributors for most modern styles. If a vocalist calls in sick, it’s usually not such a big deal but if a drummer or bassist does, I’m on the phone or looking for my drum machine unless we are going for more of a “stripped down” acoustic sound.
  1. Sometimes decisions have to be based upon what FITS the style(s) for the worship service. You may love hand bells, or you may be a great classical pianist, both perfect for a more traditional service, but they may not work well for non-traditional styles.
  1. Sometimes fulfilling a member of the congregation’s preferences is the worst thing a church can do if it wants to survive and thrive. If a church is stagnant or declining, sometimes this is because the leadership has been listening to the preferences of the congregation. Sometimes the congregation has been getting exactly what they want and THAT is the problem. Sometimes churches develop cultures that are alien to the culture(s) outside its walls. If such a church is going to reach folks outside of those walls, it may have to sacrifice its preferences in order to reach others. Such sacrifice does NOT equal a compromise of doctrine.
  1. The worship leader and worship band often can’t tell when the house volume is too loud. A worship team doesn’t hear what the congregation hears. The team has a separate monitoring system.
  1. Excellence isn’t inherently a performance. It is a result of substituting distractions with inspiration. Yes sometimes a worship team mistakes worship for entertainment. Yes sometimes team members strive for excellence in order to garner attention and to “show off.” But a lack of excellence on a worship team, aside from the fact that it violates the picture of worship Scripture gives us in the story of Cain & Abel, and Psalm 33:3, can be a distraction. When a person is flat or off beat, it is hard to focus on God.
    Striving for excellence also increases the “carrying capacity” of the music. By carrying capacity, I’m referring to the music’s ability to carry the authentic heartfelt emotion of a healthy worshiper. In the end, it is always up to the worshiper to engage, not the worship leader. We can hinder worship, but we can’t force it.
  1. You can’t ask a worship leader to do a good job without at least RISKING people getting hurt. Excellence costs. Sometimes the only way a worship team can improve is to ask its members to look at their weaknesses and try to address them. If for instance, a vocalist is consistently flat, she might have to be told so while offering a way to address it via lessons or practice. Some people can humbly grow from such critiques while others go into defense mode. Pride is ultimately the reason anyone might adopt the latter attitude. Pride comes before a fall and humility before an ascension. This principle transcends music, overflowing into our Spiritual lives.
  1. Leaders in particular, don’t simply tell us you want us to lead “x” style. It’s often more complicated than that. When you say “contemporary,” you may very well mean something different than we do. Leaders, I suggest you start a dialogue and go deeper to avoid such pitfalls.
  1. Worship can include music but shouldn’t be reduced to it. Our language is confusing when we start the music portion of the service and then say something like, “let’s stand and worship.” Music is but one picture of worship. Worship is 24/7 and is defined in Romans 12:1-2. Worship isn’t simply what we do on Sundays but it is the very breath a believer breathes. It is purpose by another name.
  1. Most of our job consists of working with and leading people. However, the music component is more important than you might realize. The most difficult challenges most of us face as worship leaders isn’t the music, it is the people. The people are the reason we lead worship, specifically connecting them to God. As a result, a worship leader needs to be good with people to be effective.
    However, I think many people in the church underestimate the importance of the music component of the job. This is easy to do because if a worship leader is musically strong, their skills and knowledge can often become invisible. The pitfalls of a worship leader not having their musical skillset aren’t always obvious.
    For instance, a worship leader who has strong musical knowledge can communicate better (thanks to the language of music theory). As a result, rehearsals can be much shorter and less frustrating to the worship team as well.
    The better a worship leader is at music, the less they have to practice. Said another way, the more one practices music, the less one has to practice songs. As a result, a musically strong worship leader will be more relaxed and be more effective in other areas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another "Why People Aren't Singing" Article

If you’re a worship leader or Pastor, you’ve likely seen rants (disguised as blogs) on ‘why aren’t people singing’ in church. I don’t think anyone has all the answers but for what it’s worth, here is what I’ve observed.

First the Obvious

Let’s get these out of the way. Most every worship leader knows that people will not sing if they don’t know the songs, the songs are too difficult, they are presented in a style that is foreign to the culture or the songs are too high. These are the obvious things.


If we major on the obvious, we risk rendering ourselves irrelevant. So yes worship leaders, we need to get these things right and just because they are obvious, doesn’t mean they aren’t important. But these are prerequisites. These things can all be in place yet people still might not sing. So what are the less obvious reasons people might not sing?

It LOOKS Like A Show

Don't get me wrong, it may BE a show if the worship team is bringing the wrong attitude to the platform (notice I don't call it a stage). Bright lights, smoke machines, camera crews and big screens don't help the case here but that doesn't necessarily mean these things are bad. But even without these things, some people simply associate a band (especially a good one) as being a performance. Why? Because that's what they hear OUTSIDE the church. Inside, they expect mediocrity. That's unfortunate too because the Bible says we should play skillfully for the Lord.
There is nothing inherent about a well-polished worship band that prohibits singing. Pastors and leaders just need to tell their congregations this and lead by example. Furthermore, even if someone can't get it out of their head that it's a 'show', at most U2 concerts for example, people STILL sing.


Volume is complicated. For instance, one school of thought says that if things are too loud, people can’t hear their own voices so they won’t sing. Another school of thought says that if the volume is too soft, people won’t sing because they CAN hear their own voices (and more importantly their neighbor can hear them).


So which is it? I’ve found no definitive data. But I suspect that it depends upon the person. However, if your church gets its theology right, the latter can be mitigated. Keep reading and I’ll explain.


I was born and raised Pentecostal. One thing I can tell you about Pentecostals is that they sing. Not only that, but they shout, dance, hoop, holler…. they are generally far less self-conscious than their counterparts. Matt Redman had a song called Undignified that describes it very well:


“I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king

Nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul…


And I’ll become even more undignified than this

Some would say it’s foolishness…”


On the other hand, I find that mainline denominations (as an example) tend to not be very expressive with singing. Why the differences? I believe they boil down to culture and theology…. keep reading….


Those Pentecostals and Charismatics have a theology that breeds and attracts a certain culture. Their DNA produces people who are expressive. They are hungry for a faith that is emotional so of course they are going to sing. On the other hand, a lot of churches are more reserved. Many churches hunger for an intellectual pursuit of God. Human nature tends to swing from one extreme at the neglect of the other. So one side values the heart at the expense of the mind, while the other does the opposite… No wonder the truths of Christ are filled with the tension of opposites we call paradoxes.


What is the culture of your church? What attributes of your church’s culture should you accommodate as a worship leader? Which attributes should you challenge in order to lead a body to conform to the image of Christ?


Another cultural factor is shyness and insecurity. But this is also tied to theology so keep reading….


“O clap your hands all ye people, shout unto God with a voice of triumph." - Psalm 47:1


"Thus I will bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name." – Psalm 63:4


“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” – Psalm 33:3


“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;”  - Psalm 95:6


“Let them praise his name with dancing… “ - Psalm 149:3


So the fact that the Bible speaks of the raising of hands, shouting, singing, dancing and kneeling as valid expressions of worship is indisputable. But what is your church’s theology? Does your church view these passages as prescriptions or only descriptions? Are these commands or are they simply examples of what CAN be done but aren’t required? This largely depends upon your theology.


I won’t go any deeper here but let me encourage you to study how Jesus handled Scripture in terms of descriptions vs prescriptions. At the same time, we do know that just because Noah built an ark doesn’t mean we are to do the same so tread carefully. The greater point is that interpreting God’s word requires careful study and a pure heart. The answers to these questions are in the hands or preaching Pastors and Bible teachers more than in the hands of worship leaders.


Closing Thoughts

I personally believe it is usually safer to assume a Scripture is prescriptive unless it is blatantly obvious that it is descriptive. The old joke is that the Scripture teaches that Judas hung Himself and it later says, “Go do likewise”.  The point is to always take Scripture within context.


I get the sense that many churches prioritize making believers feel comfortable instead of challenging them through the transformational cleansing of the Word.


Does God’s word tell us to bring the comfort of praise? Or isn’t that word supposed to be sacrifice? Does the expression of such worship look like the rocks that Jesus said would cry out if we don’t, or does it look more like David who in self-abandon, danced before the Lord? Preachers, teachers and leaders, what can YOU do to get people to sing? Your worship leader is in charge of the prerequisites but you have a part to play as well.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Am a Traditionalist

"Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." - Jaroslave Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities

I am a traditionalist. Like the early church of the 1st century and the church that developed throughout history, I traditionally believe that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Because of this love, and God’s love for us, I believe that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. I believe in the historic tradition of the church that confesses that the God incarnate who revealed Himself to us, demonstrated such love with His life to save us as we give Him our lives in faith. THAT is tradition. The rest is just man’s rules.


What do I mean by “the rest?”


Jesus taught things that are timeless truths… His teachings are devoid of anything dictating whether or not we have stained glass windows, acolytes, liturgies, music, organs, guitars, pews, coffee, candles, multimedia and light shows, or even church buildings. I’m not against such things. They are certainly good expressions of our faith. But so is the use of multimedia, worship bands and church coffee bars.  But the expression, whether old or new, is not the Word.


It seems to me that if these methods or techniques are old, people call them tradition and hold on to them. Those same people often eschew them if they are modern. And at the same time, there are those that hold on to the modern, having a mindset that newer is always better, while eschewing the old, with the same level of dogmatism.


What I’m calling for is a ‘naked Christianity’. If Christ didn’t teach it, if the Word doesn’t prescribe it, then maybe I can still believe it but I cannot make that belief my dogma.


Christ taught us that we should build upon a rock so that when the storms of life come, our house will withstand the onslaught.


When a storm hits the natural world, trees with shallow roots are uprooted while those with deeper roots are left standing. Just as a storm ‘shakes’ up a tree to determine whether or not it has what it takes, Christians should test everything we believe and practice against Christ’s teachings. If anything doesn’t pass the test, do we have the courage to abandon our dogmas?


Think for a moment of an image of a beautiful sanctuary. Do you have that picture in your mind? That picture is not found in my religious traditions or dogmas…. My tradition is not to be reduced to something physical that I believe in. No, my tradition is rather a place that I live in…. it is within my soul, the true temple of the living God.