3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Leading Worship

I started early as a worship leader and was kind of thrown into it. Looking back, I had guitar1some incredible mentors but many of those around me were learning with me. Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I first started leading worship. These things have been echoed by many worship leaders across the country that I get to meet with. All of this really came together while at the Allaboutworship.com conference. Thankful to my friends Wisdom Moon, Michael Farren, and Sean Hill for conversation there that were incredibly helpful.

Let’s start with number 2:

2. Lead your congregation up the mountain

The Old Testament offers some beautiful illustrations of God’s people ascending his mountain to enjoy his presence (Psalm 24:3). As a worship leader, you’re helping spiritually lead your congregation into God’s presence. Corporate worship is a communal experience, and part of facilitating that experience is being aware of where the rest of your church is. Sometimes the worship leader or the band can get so far ahead that they lose everyone else.

The goal isn’t to be the first to the top of the mountain; you certainly don’t want to stand at the top alone. Be conscious of emotive moments during songs, and as you foster that experience through instrumentation, consider how vocals accompany the feeling. Lead the voices of your congregation so you can enjoy the presence of God together.


Read more over at the Proclaim blog. <——

3 Reasons to Respond Graciously When your Theology is Challenged

“I would recommend to all my brethren, as the most necessary thing to the Church’s peace, that you unite in necessary truths, and tolerate tolerable failings; and bear with one another in things that may be borne with; and do not make a larger creed and more necessaries than God has done.” – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

As means of communication becomes easier and social media gives just about anyone a platform it’s easy to take shots at other camps based off of sound bites and clips. In all honesty, this is painful for me and I see this occurring all over Facebook and Twitter. On the one hand, its important to have the ability to voice concern but it becomes scary when it turns into a monster fight via social media.

When people find their identity in a theological position, denomination, or conviction and not in Jesus there’s a serious problem. And when Christians make the minors majors it’s a serious problem.

The moment of truth. If you ask me what camp I’m in the easiest answer is to say I’m reformed. But my identity is in Christ. My hope, faith, source of life, is in Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, as a stereotypical “reformed” type I’m absolutely into theology and my favorite books revolve around theology and doctrine. And at times I read blogs and articles that pin point the “reformed tradition” as being ego and intellectually driven, just a fad, or more committed to tradition than Jesus. Regardless of if this is true or not, what matters is my response. I have two choices.

1. Get defensive and attack the other camp
2. Respond graciously

Here are three reasons why I believe the gracious response is always the best option.

1. The scriptures tell us too – Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”. David helps us to illustrate the importance of unity by giving us two examples.

  • Precious oil anointing Aaron – In this imagery we find Aaron who served as high priest being anointed with precious oil. The oil would eventually flow down on his beard and over his chest which would have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Essentially, a consecrated, unified, and holy people of God would serve as an example to the rest of the world.
  • Falling dew – Dew served as symbol of refreshing, quickening, and invigoration. Likewise, brotherly unity should cause a resurgence, renewal, and refreshing for the believer.[1]

When responding in these situations we should consider how it will affect the unity of the church universal. If our response destroys unity, it’s not helpful or edifying for the church.

2. It fosters reconciliation not destruction – A gracious response may be the difference in a long and positive relationship. An un gracious response may be the catalyst for a destroyed and lost relationship. A family has fights and arguments. There are often different perspectives and opinions. However, each conversation should be aimed toward reconciliation, the same can and should be said between Christians.

3. It provides a bridge for honest conversations – If we are able to do the first two, the benefit could be an honest dialogue where both parties are heard. Its not about who wins, rather about understanding each others perspective. Our value and ability to live in unity in spite of different perspective on the minors is a thing that honors and edifies the church.

Please don’t misunderstand me. If something is said that falls blatantly outside the framework of the orthodox Christianity, we must address it. In fact, as pastors it is our responsibility to address such matters as we lovingly lead our people. This is not about being passive and not holding to convictions. It’s about holding to convictions while still representing Christ well.

 

 


[1] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 133:3.

Who really cares about your value if….

…your family doesn’t even know you anymore.

If you follow me at all on social media you probably know a couple things about me.

  1. I am always posting pictures of my sons
  2. I love pizza
  3. I travel a lot

This past week I had the opportunity to speak at a conference called Hydrate in Augusta, GA. The Hydrateconference had a couple hundred pastors and I had privilege of sharing Logos Bible Software and how Logos can really revolutionize sermon and teaching preparation for ministry leaders. The morning before my session Pete Wilson (Lead Pastor at Crosspoint church, Nashville) spoke. He did a great job but the one thing that he said in a Q/A has been running through my mind constantly.

“Your company or church could find a replacement for you in an instant, but your kids have only one dad”

Initially, this was a bit offensive. In my mind I began to justify the immense value that I bring to my job and the church and then instantly it hit me. Who cares about the value I bring to my job or church if my two boys don’t know dad. If you are like me, the motivation to excel in all areas of life is driven by a deep desire to honor God and provide for my family. But in pursuit of good things, if we are not careful, we can single handedly bring significant damage to the relationships and areas of our life that we cherish the most.

For me, the resolution to this challenge is simply priorities. It would be easy to list them out and feel satisfied like something massive was just accomplished. But unless it is lived out we will continue in a very dangerous cycle.

Transparency and action is key in breaking the cycle.

Jesus – Grieving Over the Religious..

Was Jesus ever angry?

Mark 3:5

“And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart,”

One of the most important things to me is that my boys know who Jesus is. Part of knowing who Jesus is requires us to study and dive into what he did in the scriptures. What we find is a Jesus who is committed to the work of the Father. In Mark 3:5 we also see Jesus responding to the Pharisees that highlights his humanity. One of the great mysteries of theology is that Jesus is both fully man and God. This mystery should lead us into worship of our great God. In Mark 3:5 we see that Jesus feels two common human emotions “anger” and grief”. Jesus has human emotions, and feels deeply. Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 7.39.57 PMDiving into the Greek text (thanks to Logos 5 for the research help!) we see that the Greek word “Syllypeo” is being translated as the word “grieved”. This word literally means to feel sympathy. When referring to anger, the greek word “Orge” is being used which refers to relatively strong displeasure with a focus on the emotion anger.

In this one sentence we see Jesus expressing two seemingly opposite emotions. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for their insensitivity to suffering while also grieving over the condition of their hearts. Jesus’ anger and grief teaches me the following.

  1. Don’t forget the Gospel – While these religious leaders are consumed with hatred for Christ and waiting for the opportune moment attack, they miss their calling. As the religious leaders it is their responsibility to represent God. To do His will and care for others. It’s easy for us to get consumed with things that pull us away from Gospel.
  2. Do good – Jesus asks if its right to do good or harm, to save or to kill. In the very next verses Jesus answers this question with an action. He restores the mans hand. It’s simple, do good. Start with your family, your wife, husband, children, mom, dad, and siblings. Do good in your community (including the neighbors you try to avoid cause they annoy you). Be a reflection of the Gospel of Christ.

Death – The Last Station on the Road to Freedom

In Bible College we never really talked about the practicality of death. Of course, we discussed the theology, implications, and consequences of death for the Christian but we never really discussed how to respond to the reality of death.

My wife loves Gray’s Anatomy. This popular TV show was actually the cause of significant fighting during our first year of marriage. The scenario played out like this. We would come home from work, eat dinner, and then Britt would say, “I need to catch up on Gray’s Anatomy, watch it with me.” My response every time was, “no”. Britt felt like I didn’t want to spend time with her, when really, deep inside I was dealing with some significant issues. From my perspective the entire show was filled with death. Death was packaged in a variety of creative ways always dealing with some kind of medical crisis. Regardless, I couldn’t stomach watching it. Then it hit me, why watch a show about death when there are real people that are dying all around us. These people have real families, real stories, real children, and they face a very real conversation with God after death.

As I have been processing through my feelings, fear, and honest resentment with death, BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer has been a great help. Bonhoeffer comments about death in a sermon in 1933 stating,

“How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether in our human fear and anguish, we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly blessed even in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”

Bonhoeffer rightly describes the dilemma of death. In all honesty, none of us know what death is like. Our view of death is a combination of assumptions, fears, faith, belief, and simply our acceptance of an absolutely unknown part of life. As I look to the scriptures it seems clear that death presents an opportunity to bring glory to God.

Bonhoeffer referred to death as,

“the last station on the road to freedom”

While it remains certain that we don’t know explicitly what death will be like, we can know for sure that both death and life give us the opportunity to bring glory to God. As the Apostle Paul states in Phil 1:21, life brings the opportunity to live for Christ while death gives the opportunity to depart and be with our Father. From this perspective, there is a motivation to live for Christ but a sense of peace in understanding the outcome of death is to be with God.

Nominal Christianity

I want my sons to know that Christianity is more than a label. It is more than a religious preference. And it is much more than going to “church” on a Sunday morning. Being a Christian is to be like Christ. It is a person whose affections are bent towards Jesus. It is when our life is reflective of the Gospel.

I originally wrote this post on 1/12/12

Over a year ago while I was reading and studying some of Dr. John Piper‘s work, I saw a consistent reference to Jonathan Edwards. Dr. Piper had a professor who told him to take the time to research and study a theologian/scholar to grow and learn from. The person Dr. Piper chose was Jonathan Edwards. I have been greatly influenced by Dr. Piper and I likewise wanted to study the man that so greatly influenced Dr. Piper.

Jonathan Edwards wrote about a series of topics but two of my favorites are his thoughts on  the “affections” and “nominal christianity”. My description of a nominal Christian is a person who:

 

  • Knows doctrine
  • Has an understanding of who Jesus is and what he did
  • Goes to the church
  • Serves in the church

But

  • Whose heart is not regenerate
  • Whose life is not reflective of the Gospel

The scariest part of nominal christianity is that it can creep up on anyone, especially when we begin to believe that we are self sufficient.

Self love is sufficient, without grace, to cause men to love those that love them, or imagine love them, and make much of them – Edwards

The answer to nominal Christianity is simply the Gospel and remembrance.

  1. The Gospel – It affects our hearts and causes us to find security, redemption, regeneration, and deep satisfaction in Christ and his work on the cross.
  2. Remembrance – Just as Jesus taught his disciples to take communion in remembrance of him, so we should bring to remembrance the Gospel and the work of Christ on the cross. It important and essential to live lives that are worthy of the Gospel. 

Selfishness – Grace – Forgiveness: Our Inability and Christ’s Ability

Selfishness.

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Seriously, don’t touch it.

Don’t let this cute face fool you, if you even try to touch his donut, look at it the wrong way, or ask for a bite, Liam will take you out. It’s scary to see in this handsome little boy a selfishness that no one had to teach him.

Selfishness. Grace. Forgiveness.

These three words pretty much sum up my week and what God has been teaching me. I want my boys desperately to learn from my mistakes and become Godlier men and future husbands and fathers.

Selfishness: Some may say that they want to teach their children to not be selfish. I may be crazy, but I want to teach my children to deal with their selfishness. I’ve come to terms that selfishness is part of my sinful nature. The only remedy is remembrance of the Gospel. As I remember how selfless Christ was, it compels me to become selfless like Christ. The key is not me doing something, but resting in what Christ has done, and in remembrance of Him, responding.

Grace: I screw up. Sometimes, it feels like more screwing up than not. Then comes the beauty if grace. It’s not something I work towards and build up to have available to use when I screw up. It’s free, it’s costly (Christ crucified), and it’s given to me. Again, remembrance is key here. As we remember the grace extended to us, why would we not extend it to others?

Forgiveness: May possibly be the hardest thing for me. I tend to be extremely loyal, but when I’m hurt or feel betrayed forgiveness does not come natural to me. Speaking of betrayal, I’m pretty sure I’ve betrayed Christ in numerous ways today. As I reflect on today specifically, I betrayed him most frequently by not trusting Him. He doesn’t hold this against me. He forgives me. Remembrance of Christ’s forgiveness, sets us free to forgive.

If you caught a theme, it might be summed up in one word – remembrance. I pray my sons would remember all that Christ has done. It’s key in the solution to our selfishness, the ability to extend grace, and having the capacity to forgive.