Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cross Generational Worship: A Call To Maturity

The worship wars have unfortunately created an ‘us vs them’ mentality within the church as older generations might feel threatened by younger generations worship preferences (and vice versa). Church have been dealing with this problem in several ways including blending the worship styles and having multiple services.

Paul Baloche advocates doing one newer song, one familiar song and one hymn to keep a church cross generational. I have a huge respect for Paul but I want to share a different idea.

First of all, the worship wars do not have to be so divisive. There are of course young people that like and maybe prefer hymns and there are also older folks who like the contemporary music. One thing that is also commonly done these days is take a hymn and modernize it. This seems like a method to try and keep both sides happy. So the issue doesn’t always have to please one side and displease the other.

But even if a worship leader incorporates these methods, inevitably, someone will be unhappy. What should we do in these situations? I believe that we should call some to sacrifice their preferences for the good of the body as a whole. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect to be able to please everyone so sacrifice is inevitable.

IF one side is going to have to sacrifice, which group is more likely to have the maturity for such a challenge, the younger generation or the older generation?

I am now 43 years old. I don’t want to grow old but the only other choice is death. And while I might sing “When we all get to heaven, what a wonderful day that will be”, I’m not interested in going tomorrow. As I get older, I expect my music preferences to have to make way for the next generation. If my grandchildren are being reached because my church is doing music that I don’t like, I’m all for my church doing that music.

I absolutely love the guitar. It is my favorite instrument that I play. But I keep hearing rumblings that electric guitar music is going out the door. If modern pop music is any indication, that might be true. As one might survey artists such as Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and others, one will find very very little electric guitar. I’ve even noticed this in the music of Israel Houghton, and maybe half of what you hear on K-Love.

As I grey, if this trend persists, I will mourn that loss but God is still worthy and worship was never about me. I believe that a mature believer can worship God to styles associated with any generation. Couple this with the fact that Scripture doesn’t give us any prescriptions on music styles, it seems to me that music styles are a tool, they are NOT the substance of our worship. Therefore, this tool should be used to reach the immature and the seeker. The mature in Christ can give God the glory whether it is in the form or How Great Thou Art, How Great Is Our God or even the EDM style of Hillsong’s Young & Free. Once one is called to a maturity in Christ, the calling of the cross is one of sacrifice.

Christ fed the multitudes loaves and fishes but that food was never his goal. It was simply a means to get people to seek the greater spiritual food He had to offer. I’m not a seafood person but I’m willing to put up with the fish fries if we can reach more people as a result. What about you?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Truth Is Expensive. Are We Willing To Pay?

Jesus said that the truth will set you free. I believe that freedom is at the heart of salvation. This is why I value truth.

But truth costs. The greatest lesson I've ever learned about truth was as a little boy when my parents taught me to look both ways before I cross the street. Unfortunately, many of the questions that life asks us require us to go through a much deeper process in order to adequately "look both ways".

Three Tests for Truth

Ravi Zacharias says that in a court of law, there are basically three tests for truth. Truth must be logically consistent, empirically adequate and existentially relevant. Without going too much deeper here, this means that truth must be coherent, adequately supported by observation and relevant to real life.

By the way, I'm growing more convinced that pastors and lawyers have a lot in common (no disrespect to Pastors for drawing the connection). They are both required to test for truth. The lawyer navigates this within the framework of the law while the Pastor, within the framework of the Word of God.

The process for discerning truth using just these three tests alone (and some say there are more) is arduous enough, however there is another more important foundation required for the truth expedition. That predicate is commonly called objectivity.

Following Truth No Matter Where It Leads

The idea of objectivity means that the discerning person runs these tests without prejudice (literally meaning to 'pre-judge' before evaluation). If the discerning person has a pre-existent bias, they must sufficiently be willing to set aside that bias and follow the truth no matter where it leads.

Blessed are the pure in heart. They will see God. - Matthew 5:8

God is truth. You cannot see Him without having a pure heart. Having this sort or objectivity requires that we get ourselves out of the way. And by the way, getting ourselves out of the way is at the heart of worship.

The greatest threats to this pure heart are fear, insecurity and selfishness. These defects paralyze the discerning person, tainting the evidence they might otherwise uncover. These deficiencies keep the discerning person from following the truth no matter where it may lead (toxic people), instead causing them to want to steer the evidence mined out through the testing process towards a security blanket to which they seek.

Sometimes people do this because they want to please people to keep their position. Sometimes, because of our insecurities we hide the truths that could set our loved ones free so that we protect our relationship. Politicians and political advisers are great examples of this. They are so afraid of losing votes that they will often manage perceptions (poll numbers) at the expense of truth. This is why we generally think of them as slick-tongued liars.

Glass Houses

Before we can wield the truth, we have to make sure we don't live in glass houses. Jesus never said don't judge. If you read Matthew 7, he basically teaches us not to judge hypocritically. He doesn't say don't judge because you have a plank in your eye. Instead He tells us to take the plank out of our own eye so that we can then have the vision (discernment) to help our neighbor with the speck in theirs.

By the way, when most people say "don't judge", that very statement is a judgement. They are judging judgemental people to be wrong. Secondly, they really mean don't condemn. Condemnation is when we point out people's flaws because we do not love them. We want them to fail. Love, on the other hand, dispenses truth to anyone it can because it wants to set the 'beloved' free.

Truth Seeking Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

The process I have outlined above is not for the faint of heart. Now granted if I'm trying to test whether or not 2 + 3 = 5, this is a piece of cake. But when trying to test for questions of faith, philosophy and worldview, this process is exhausting. The arduous nature of truth hunting is even at risk of being used against the truth seeker if it is being sought within the context of an argument. Typically, one side will simply accuse the truth seeker of being argumentative or being defensive. This is a risk when the accuser doesn't understand the process of seeking truth, causing them to ascribe truth's difficult nature to yours.

Some Will Remain Slaves

There is a quote from a movie that comes to my mind:
You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

Sometimes you will find that because a person's heart is soiled with insecurity and fear, they are not ready for truth. Jesus said you can judge a tree by its fruit. When I find such a tree, I have learned to simply show empathy and love to that person and then pray that God will bring them to the point where I, or someone else, could later go further down the discernment process. Unfortunately, God often seems to do this by 'breaking people'. I have come to the conclusion that while it is my responsibility as a believer to shine the light of truth in love, it is NOT my responsibility to break people.

Truth In Love

We are called not to simply speak the truth because part of the cost of truth, as discussed above, is that truth can be difficult to accept. Love 'greases' the wheels of truth making it easier to accept. As believers we have an obligation to only speak it in love, again never to condemn or put someone down. Our goal should always be to set people free. Isn't that what the saving grace of Christ is truly about?

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

No Silver Bullets

Will you ALWAYS have the answers? Is this a silver bullet? No. In fact, many times I've found that this process betters helps me to embrace my humanity and the mystery of life and God. I've often found this process to better help me to embrace questions, not necessarily answers. This process has taught me that the more I know, the more I realize what I don't know. And even as an adherent in the discerning process you will sometimes find yourself to be on the wrong side of truth. And what is scarier to me is that we can still be wrong but not know it. Because of this, the discerning process is lifelong. It should never end for the truth seeker. The process is ultimately humbling. Humility is a prerequisite for finding the truth that sets us free.

So What Does This Have To Do With Worship Leading?

Well, this actually connects better with Christian ministry in general, whether you are the senior pastor, youth pastor or worship leader. The discernment process will give freedom not only to your worship leader ministry but to your life. It will also equip you to set others free. Learning how to test for truth will help illuminate the paths for the decisions that come your way in your ministry.

It is inevitable that you will receive complaints. You will likely even be accused of things. I am describing the process for freedom. This process is the escape path. Sometimes that search for escape will be to admit that you are in the wrong. Even then you have found freedom because the truth seeker never wastes a mistake but learns and grows from them instead.

But when you are on the right side of truth, you will have the ability to set others free. Unfortunately, you will find that many times (my experience is most), the other side will not listen. While you cannot free them, you can at least learn to discern between toxic people (trees with bad fruit) and healthy people (trees with good fruit). I've had to learn to walk away from the former, praying for them, but knowing that this is also what God does. He never forces our hand.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it - C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
I can't tell you how many times I've come to an impasse with someone, tested the waters by starting down the road of the truth testing process, found that the person was unwilling and had to walk away. But fortunately, because of past mistakes in my life, this has taught me which battles to fight and which ones to surrender. I've learned that for toxic people, their language is only visceral so the best thing I can do for them is to agree to disagree and to make sure they know that I love them. And if I truly love them, I pray for their freedom.

Christopher Columbus would have never been able to go on his expedition to discover the 'new world' had he not a King who was willing to fund it.

As worship leaders, we need Pastors who are willing to pay the cost that the truth expedition demands. I've had to serve many Pastors who weren't willing to pay that cost. Instead of walking down these roads together, they walked away accusing my attempts to find truth to be offensive. Truth can often offend. It can offend so strongly that even the search for it can offend.

Salvation Requires a Crucifixion

If you are truth seeker, be warned, you are at risk for being crucified. Your truth expedition will exhaust many others around you. I've had people call me argumentative when I was really only seeking clarity, not a personal win. I've learned that although I'm called as a Christ follower to love those who oppose me, that even the presence of love is not enough to prevent the most toxic accusers.

When Argument weak pound pulpit

If you tell a toxic person something they don't want to hear and they can't refute it, they will be tempted to employ ad hominem attacks. They will call you names, accuse you of being too defensive (which would imply that they are being offensive), malign your intentions, your heart, your reputation...

The Price for Freedom Is Worth It

Again, you won't have a monopoly on truth if you practice these things. But when we purify our hearts, we are cultivating its soil to receive the seed of truth. When that seed is fully grown, freedom is its fruit.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. - John 12:24-25 (NIV)