Monthly Archives: June 2011
I am well associated with people who do not have time to do anything. Some excuses are reasonable (“I have five kids”), others less so (“I want to sleep in”). The latter may have lives that are well intentioned, yet poorly planned. But the business of life will swiftly teach that unless you are proactive, you will always be chasing tomorrow’s tail.
“Not having enough time” is an abused statement.
Just like “I’ll pray about it” is often abused when people are asked for assistance. We have more time than we think, but we often waste it on secondary priorities. In that case, you’re busy not for lack of time, but for lack of prioritizing. Has the thought occurred to you that you may live in an unmanageable schedule because you overpacked for the trip? If I am overwhelmed, it’s not my calendar that’s to blame, but my tendency to prioritize whatever comes up in the moment,* instead of what I planned for last week, because, well, I never planned anything last week, so I am at the whims of emergency. No one is to blame but me. I am not the victim. Nor are you.
You have the same 24 hours as the President of the United States, and he’s much more busy than you.
“Yeah, but he’s the president; he has resources, manpower, money, etc.”
Exactly. He gets pushed into a corner everyday, and has to figure out how to get his job done. He can’t pretend to be victimized, because there’s no one higher up the chain of command that will listen. He has an unbearable load of obligation that forces him to be tenacious, willing to carve up his day planner, and when necessary, to make sacrifices. And if he can do it, you can too. You can start by asking a few questions of yourself…
- what are the five most important things you need to get done this week?
- can you reschedule around these main priorities?
- can you delegate some of your obligations to other people?
- what can you put off until next week to attend to your five priorities today?
- what meaningless activities can you drop to free up more time for what counts? (sleep, video games, T.V., etc.)
Don’t waste your day.
These are a few questions I ask myself when putting together a song list for Sunday morning.
- Trinitarian (is it about the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?)
- Congregational (can it be sung by many people, or only an individual?)
- Truthful (does it say right things about God?)
- Affectionate (Can people express themselves through the song? FYI, this may include my grief)
- Catchy (see #2)
- Narrative (does the entire setlist tell a story?)
- Unifying (does it work with the sermon?)
- Prophetic (is it for our local gathering?)
- Dynamic (is it boring, tedious, or mundane? In other words, will it MELT YOUR FACE OFF!)
- Rich (is the content befitting a King?)
(The ones in italics are variable)
Any thoughts on song choice for worship gatherings? I hear from worship leaders on this, but rarely from the congregation themselves (or preachers, for that matter).
In a blog post surrounding the broad issue of corporate worship, I brought up several elements of our worship gathering by asking,
Are there ways we can renew a sense of community around the sacraments?
It might be helpful to think about each one at a time. I will throw out some of my initial ramblings, and you can contribute to the mess, if you like (ha!). I want to start with one of the more evasive,
- The Lord’s Supper
Of all our various practices this probably seems the least communal—most of us are prone to experience this rich act of worship in isolation. We take a wafer and some juice, or wine, and reflect quietly on the finished work of Jesus on the cross. During this act, we are proclaiming “the Lord’s death until comes” (1 Cor. 11:26, NASB) as a way to remember him (Luke 22:19). Yet, how much more intense were early Christians when they engaged in this ancient, Christ-ordained act?
The Early Church didn’t eat wafers by themselves; they ate a feast with each other!
In fact, Paul’s beef with the Corinthians was over their factions, cliques, and ethnocentrism. It was to his chagrin that he had to call them out on their lack of community,
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore, when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-20).
How did Jesus practice the Lord’s supper?
Now, there’s a good question. Jesus celebrated “communion” with his closest friends, in a house, at a table of food (see Luke 22:7-21). Now, let’s think about this gracefully…because there is a reason we have the cute wafers and little plastic cups of juice at our corporate gatherings—try inviting everyone from your church over for dinner—my question is more geared towards smaller communities within the church.
Is there a way we can bring back the “Supper” in the Lord’s Supper together?
Since you were all so kind to share your favorite reads on various subjects, I want to return the favor. This is a quarterly list of my most influential reads:
Cross-Cultural Servanthood was one fo the first books to ruin my ethnocentric approach to mission and evangelism. When I first read it, I was somewhat turned off because of its plain appeal to international missions, but as I quickly found out, Elmer was writing principles useable across all cultures, including the different ones that live within my neighborhood block. This book taught me how to relate to people for the sake of the gospel. I highly recommend it to anyone that needs to learn how to communicate to people separated by cultural boundaries.
Hans Finzel writes an excellent book on the pitfalls of leadership, mostly dealing with the things that kill leadership in the middle of its success. I devoured this book, and continue to put its short chapters into practice.
There are plenty of worship treatments out there, and this one is of the scholarly tone. It is basically a scan of the entire Bible’s perception on worship, not just single scattered proof-texts. If you’re digging into what biblical corporate worship is, but want something more in-depth than the typical, palm-sized devotional, this book will grill you. Peterson is masterful with his research (some chapters have 6 pages of footnotes). This is theology, baby!
Kauflin is a worship leader who’s understanding of worship I admire. Unlike the book mentioned before, this is largely a practical book on worship, especially for worship leaders, but including musicians of varying degree. Kauflin IS theological, but he spends a significant amount of energy in the book looking at how the theology affects our leading in an actual situation. Though I cannot agree with all of his conclusions, this was such a refreshing read, and is the best “worship ministry” book I’ve ever read.
Empowered Evangelicals is a treatment on the various sides commonly associated with charismatic and evangelical. The author (a charismatic), makes the case for church unity, which is one of my favorite things in the world, besides Jesus, Brianna, and cookie dough.
Hirsch is that guy that shakes the boat a bit. But he has some incredible insight as a missiologist and thinker, and provokes a lot of introspection of the methods of church community and mission.
all images © jessicafairchild.com
I love worshipping my God!
Especially with other worshippers. There is something very special about being with others who have this common agenda. We all have our own way of expression, too. Some dance, others lift their hands, some sit and contemplate. I usually sing in a corner of the room in private isolation, I take communion by myself (or with my wife on occasion), and I quietly reflect on the Scriptures as the music plays. In fact, I frequently encourage others to “be intimate with Jesus” in this same way, by finding a quiet isolated place “away from distractions” so they can pursue personal space with the Lord. It’s a wonderful time of introspection.
But is this right?
Is worship an individual’s sport?
Can you think of a single passage in the New Testament that involves worshiping as an individual? I can’t either. (hence the term corporate worship). In fact, almost every instance of worship in the New Testament involves the community. We don’t congregate so that we can worship alone. Yet, this is a far cry from how I normally experience worship in a gathered setting when I retreat in my aloneness with the Lord. Consider some of the most popular passages on corporate worship in the NT, as when Paul encourages us to be “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19, emphasis mine). Recall his glad exhortation for the church to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16, emphasis mine). Worship has a deeply communal aspect. Again I ask, is there ANY passage in the New Testament that promotes worship in isolation? Some would imply that communal worship is actually embedded in our DNA as Christians…
It is no accident that to follow [Christ] meant cleaving to him bodily. That was the natural consequence of the Incarnation. Had he merely been a prophet or a teacher, he would not have needed followers, but only pupils and hearers. But since he is the incarnate Son of God who came in human flesh, he needs a community of followers, who will participate not merely in his teaching, but also in his Body. The disciples have communion and fellowship in the body of Christ. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)
Worship is the flame, but community is the furnace.
Worship does not just consist in the singing of lyrics either. Consider sacraments which the church has in place as deeply significant experiences of worship, that being baptism and the Lord’s supper. All of those happened in New Testament communities too, never in isolation. I mean…what good would a baptism by yourself have for anyone if no one was there to experience it with you?
I’m just processing. No, I’m not going to refashion the way we do worship at our gatherings next Sunday. But I do hope I have your attention. Because here comes the double-jeopardy question.
Are there ways we can renew a sense of community around these aspects of our worship…
- Lord’s supper
- not able to produce
Contrast “sterile” with this…
A Christian is a disciple of Jesus who re-produces.
He produced us, and we are to reproduce ourselves.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit” (John 15:1-5, NLT)
Jesus’ mission strategy was to reproduce disciples
Robert E. Coleman noted the unique relationship between Jesus and his disciples saying, “The purpose of both the vine (himself) and the branches (believers in him) was to bear fruit” (The Master Plan of Evangelism, 789). Jesus’ entire evangelistic strategy was to persuade his followers to make more followers. Yet we sometimes downgrade biblical fruit to include various works, effects, and other general successes, e.g. “I had some great conversations with my co-workers at lunch, there was much fruit,” or “my church has a bumpin’ singles ministry—so much fruit,” or “We just had a very fruitful smoothie outreach.” Eh…you get it.
But we’re being dishonest if we cheapen Jesus’ strategy to comprise anything less than freshly-made disciples! Jesus was calling us to reproduce disciples, not just get busy and productive!
Jesus devoted 3 years to only 12 guys
He was teaching them to reproduce themselves! This is so foreign to our culture’s motivation for numbers and crowds. His unswerving commitment to a few would result in over 20,000,000 disciples by 310 A.D. (Hirsch. The Forgotten Ways. p.18). This was how Jesus planned to build a church that would terrify hell itself (Matt. 16:18), by creating a few disciple-making disciples. It was what he staked his life on.
It is not enough to rescue the perishing, though this is imperative; nor is it sufficient to build up newborn babies in the faith of Christ, although this, too, is necessary if the firstfruit is to endure; in fact, it is not sufficient just to get them out winning souls, as commendable as this work may be. What really counts in the ultimate perpetuation of our work is the faithfulness with which our converts go and make leaders out of their converts, not simply more followers (Coleman, 826).
Jesus had no back-up plan
You’re looking at the best grassroots structure in the history of the world. The Lord of Heaven and Earth sought to win the world to himself by making twelve disciples, who would make more disciples of Jesus, who make more disciples of Jesus, etc. And this movement eventually reached you with the same basic plan—The reproduction of disciples. Fruit.
This means if we are not reproducing disciples, we are living lives that are inconsistent with what we believe and who we follow. We are sterile Christians….which makes about as much sense as a football bat.
The future of the church is largely affected on whether or not we make more disciples.
This is a short clip from the Adorn archives, where I describe a tourist experience I had with Brianna while gawking at something remarkable, and how this eventually resulted in a truly remarkable epiphany. I expound more about this on Brandon’s blog.
(There is no sound for the first second, but it will kick in)
As a college pastor, I am continually trying to understand the people I have been called to shepherd (myself included). This is the book I’ve been waiting for: a fresh study on my generation, from a humble perspective of those trying to reach them with the gospel. This book was authored by Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer, a Boomer and a Millennial, respectively. Their age differences offer wisdom, insight, and differing viewpoints needed for one generation to understand the other.
The Millennials is a collection of stats, interviews, and research on those born roughly between 1980 and 1990. The Rainers look intently at the most important issues that have formed the identity of the world’s largest generation, and the demographic of which the entire world wants a piece. Some of the issues involve significance, transparency, reconciliation, the workplace, and spirituality. But no other issue is more important to a Millennial than relationships. The Rainers explore this throughout their book, shedding light on ways that we can reach out to, understand, and be positively influenced by what will become one of the most powerful generations the world has ever seen.
I gave this book the highest rating possible. I’m not sure how other people decide their 5-star rating system, but mine is particular, and since I gave this book 5 stars, you should also know why I did. A five-star rating means it fulfilled all the below requirements for me when I read a book.
- Did it have something important to say? (Or do I feel like I read this book before?)
- Was it well written? (Not?)
- Was it cohesive? (Or did I get lost?)
- Was it consistent? (Or was there wasted space?)
- Is it relevant to MY niche? (Or just simply a good book?)
If you want to connect with this generation, you absolutely must read this book. It is only available in Kindle edition, but it is currently FREE. Order now before they mark up the price.
- “The Millennials” by Thom and Jess Rainer (pastorcoleman.wordpress.com)
A crew of missiologists recently formed an official statement to describe what the term “missional” means.
Jeff Vanderstelt asks, “What is a missional community?”
Here’s the definition of missional community by Wikipedia (cause you know they’re right).
Mike Breen, one of the prominent leaders in the MC movement says in an interview, “It really isn’t a fad…it’s something we see quite clearly in Scripture”
Missional community is a buzzword in the church, but not one that is either good or bad, per se—I guess it depends on what we mean by it. For example, if we wanted to love on orphans while being unstained by the world, I guess we could call it “Incarnatheologicalization in moderation” to clarify to our collegues what is our particular niche—because that’s what’s really important, you know…being particular. Then again, I suppose it helpfully narrows down our focus which is a good thing to do, because I do want to have a clearly defined goal besides just “Telling everyone about Jesus.” Of course, we could just call what we do “pure religion” like Jesus’ followers did (James 1:27), instead of incarnational-whatever-it-was, but according to my last point, “religion” has since grown archaic, and could mean anything these days—it is not a term that most of us would associate with. So it doesn’t just matter what we mean by a given term, but what others think it means. And if a term has too much baggage (like “religion”), then we need a more focused phrase or term to specify our distinct pigeonhole…hence, incarnatheologicalization. Or missional communities. Or________x. :-)
As you can see, I’m not a sucker for too many labels (yes, of course I blogged about it). Yet though I hate to admit it, I can still see some need to clarify what we do to keep the good from being lost in all the crap. My lingering question remains, is any of the crap getting lost in translation?
Do you think terminology is important?