Leadership

Lights, Smoke, Worship?

Lights and smoke do not make what we do on Sunday a show, and the lack of lights and smoke do not make what we do on Sunday worship.

Lot’s of digital ink has been spilled recently about the “look” of worship in a lot of churches and why it either hinders or helps “worship”.

Many writers and leaders have diagnosed a problem. That problem being the congregation is not engaging. I believe they have correctly diagnosed the problem. However I believe the wrong solution has been prescribed. What has been missed IMHO has to do with the presence, or lack thereof, not the presentation, necessarily. The presentation can be the reason there is no presence in some settings but let’s start somewhere else. Let me give examples as explanations.

James K.A. Smith just posted An Open Letter to Praise Bands this morning.

It’s a good article. In it he gives three criteria to evaluate whether we are leading worship or delivering a concert.

1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.
2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.

In his final paragraph he says “My concern isn’t with style, but with form:”

I’m not saying he is wrong. What I’m saying is there is another aspect that is more important than style, or form.

Doug Lawrence also posted 5 Ways to De-Professionalise Your Worship.

Doug gives us these tips:

1. Stop being a slave to glitz
2. Start seeing congregations as people instead of numbers!
3. Let people see worship as part of their offering instead of just yours!
4. Stop competing with pop culture, you’re probably bombing there anyway!
5. Shut it down instead of whipping it up!

Again I don’t mean to criticize this critique. Although it does begin with an assumption that I am confident is not true of many churches. Most Church leaders and worship leaders I meet are great people who love God and love Gods people. Unfortunately We don’t have many fathers in the church. Many teachers but not many fathers. Seems like Paul mentioned something about this in 1 Corinthians 4:15. So most of todays leaders have not been taught incorrectly. They think the magic is in the media, or the presentation, or the show. “If you build it they will come” is true but what are we doing with them once they arrive?

I am not against the media, the presentation, or the show, necessarily. The issue is deeper and bigger than all of these things in themselves.

Late last year Matthew Sigle at Seedbeed, a Methodist blog from Asbury Theological Seminary. nails the main issue in his post called “Misplacing Charisma: Where Contemporary Worship Lost its Way.”

Among other things he says:

it’s important to point out that this theology of worship, while undergirded by “praise and worship” songs, understood the entire time of singing (the pauses, instrumental solos, spontaneous prayers, raising of hands, shouting, etc.) to be part of the progression from praise to intimacy. The songs themselves are only a part of the complete picture of what is occurring in a Charismatic praise and worship service. Something much deeper is understood to be going on in worship.

This needs to be couched in the next point he makes:

What’s missing? The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship. In other words, many mainline churches brought the form, but didn’t bring the theology of praise and worship into their congregations.

That last point is the main point and the reason we’re in the fix we’re in and is not exclusive to “mainline churches”. We do need to be careful about what elements we bring into the worship service. That is a much bigger conversation than I want to get into here but I want to note that we must evaluate why each element is present.

The bigger issue as leaders is our why. If get the why of worship right the how will take care of itself.

The only way to evaluate the corporate time of worship entrusted to us as worship leaders is did the Bridegroom meet with the bride?

  1. Did I prepare a place for the two to meet?
  2. Did I approach our time together with a deep love for the bride as the one Jesus bought with His own blood? (Acts 20:28)
  3. Did I prepare as one laying down his life for the sake of unity in the body?
  4. Did I prepare myself and my team well enough to recognize when the bridegroom enters and then get out of the way when He does? (John 3:29-30)

Before you reply let me clarify. I understand sometimes the bridegroom does not enter (Read Song of Solomon). I also understand your tradition may define “His entering” differently than I would. We also need to be sure we are not trying to manipulate a feeling or an emotion, although I defy you to come into the presence of God and have it not be an emotional experience, what we do is not about a specific outward response.

Having said all of this let’s make sure we begin from the right premise before we begin diagnosing a cure. Let’s do all we can to prepare a place for the Bridegroom to meet His bride and then get out of the way.

Would love your thoughts.

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Intimacy W/God, Leadership, Worship, 1 comment

The Sheep Are Not The Problem

Before I get into the purpose of this post I need to clarify a few things.

First of all life for me the past year has been very busy. Learning a new job that requires all of me for at least 45 hours a week leaves me with no bandwidth at all to maintain this site or any of my social media the way I would like so I have been posting articles written by others that I think are interesting. Also I’m sorry for not responding to every comment I wish I could.

The primary purpose of these posts are to start a conversation.

Recently I posted an article entitled “Who Will Lead Through The Church Disaster” by Randy Bohlender. Over the weekend I posted “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship” and “Why They Don’t Sing On Sunday Anymore“. I’ve also got coming up in my buffer app “Why Men Have Stopped Singing In Church

This morning I was looking through my Facebook news feed and a friend posted something to the effect of “Stop posting negative things about the way we worship”. I’m not assuming he is responding to me specifically because there does seem to be a lot of articles about what is wrong with worship.  Today I got comments on “Why They Don’t Sing On Sunday Anymore” and while looking through my news feed for something else I found “What Is The Real Problem With Todays Evangelical Worship

Looks like I’ve stumbled into a conversation.

Here are my thoughts.

Since 1982 I’ve been in this arena. Reading and searching for wisdom from all kinds of people. When I first started there was very little being written on contemporary worship. Now everywhere I look someone has an opinion on it. Some good; much of it not so good. I’m also a part of several online worship communities from communities like Worship The Rock to groups within LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Frankly I’m saddened by the bulk of the questions and answers being posted.

One post asked the question “What do I do with people who complain the songs are too high when they don’t know how to sing?”. Others are talking about “At what point do I have enough musicians on my team?”, or “Our worship team is full how do I tell people no”. I even saw a post by someone who I highly respect. A staff worship pastor, songwriter, teacher, and mentor say. “As I get older I want to be purposeful about raising up the next generation”. I’ve commented on this here so I won’t go over it again. These are just a few of the many threads that break my heart.

Every problem is a leadership problem.

I’m not saying every problem is caused by leadership but I am saying if your people are distracted, not passionate, or don’t understand what you’re doing its your job to lead them and lead them with a pastor’s heart.

I found “Misplacing Charisma: Where Contemporary Worship Lost Its Way” on a Methodist website that is spot on.

Here is the money quote:

What’s missing? The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship. In other words, many mainline churches brought the form, but didn’t bring the theology of praise and worship into their congregations.

I hope this is not your problem. I hope you understand your role as a prophet, pastor, teacher, and theologian when you stand in front of your congregation. If not get this book.

May I also suggest a few practical solutions.

  1. Have the correct EQ.
  2. Have the correct volume. Sometimes its necessary for people to not hear themselves other times its necessary that they do. It depends on the size of the group.
  3. Have songs in the correct keys. If you’re doing everything in the keys of B and C I wonder if your leading worship.
  4. Leave the lights up so we can see people’s faces and lead them in worship.
  5. Keep your eyes open and connect with people.
  6. Pick songs that are congregational. If every song in your set list is from KLOVE or have octave jumps in them I wonder if your leading worship.

 

Bottom line, stop blaming the congregation for not worshiping. It’s up to us to lead them and teach them. Bring them lovingly into the presence of God. Meet them where they are and take them someplace.

Maybe the reason there are so many articles about what’s wrong with worship is because something is wrong with worship. 10 years ago there was lots of criticism of contemporary worship that was based on style not substance but when the congregation stops participating its time for us to start asking why.

Let the conversation continue.

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Leadership, Pastoral Care, Practical, Worship, 0 comments

Continuous Worship Conference

Last weekend I attended a conference you should consider attending with your team next year.

The Continuous Worship Conference at Maranatha Bible Camp near North Platte NE. Next years conference will be the weekend before Valentines Day, February 5-7 2015. Make sure you put it on your calendar.

There are so many options when it comes to worship team training.
Why should you attend this conference?

The best reason is the heart of the leaders. They get it. The weekend was a great mixture of “the why” and “the how”. Paul, Phil, and Ty understand if our hearts are not right nothing else matters. They have humble servant hearts with a passion to equip the local church.

The workshops were very practical and very specific. Rather than a workshop for drummers the workshop was titled “mic’ ing the drums”. So drummers, sound techs, or anyone else can determine if its something they should attend based on their skill level or level of interest.

My favorite part was the jam session. They leave time for people to come on stage and put into practice what they’ve learned no matter the skill level.

It’s a lot of fun and will equip your team with the right heart.
See you there in 2015.

Continuous Worship on Twitter
Continuous Worship on Facebook
Continuous Worship Blog

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Leadership, Worship, 0 comments

You Are Always Communicating

Everything we do as leaders communicates something. Are you communicating what you want to communicate?

Does everyone on your team have a correct understanding of the culture of your team, ministry, or church? I recently had a marketing person look at all of my web presence. After his review he said “your a musician who wants to sell music.”

I had a lot of fun making a 6 song EP. I hope people will listen to it, buy it, and listen to it again. So making that impression is not a bad thing but it’s not what I want first time visitors to come away with.

Everything you do communicates something.

If the same person is leading worship every week with the same 4 or 5 people on the platform your communicating that there is no place for new people on the platform. Your saying “we have our slots filled. Sorry you got here too late. As soon as someone dies or moves away we’d be happy to audition you or we might just go with 3 backing vocalists not 4.”

Also it may be appropriate, for a season, to have video teaching until you can raise up a team of teachers. While the video teaches you are either telling the teachers in your congregation there’s no place for them or, if you do it right, you could be telling them we desperately need you. Don’t assume people will understand. You have to tell them.

Rule #4: if you don’t give your people a “why” they will come up with their own. And they will often be wrong.

Consider what you’re doing and what it communicates.

Are you saying what you want to say?

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Discipleship, Leadership, 2 comments

Worship Culture

This weekend I had the privilege of attending Peak Life Churches “Worship Culture Weekend”.

It was a weekend meant to define what the worship culture at Peak Life Church would be.

Culture is defined this way:

To till, to plow, to guard. Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguish one group of people from another; a set of traits that have been plowed into a groups way of life.

What culture are you plowing?

If you don’t define it and guard it. Your culture will become something you probably don’t want.

It is essential that you cast vision at every meeting and every practice. You must establish a foundation and then continually build and repair as you grow. Those who were there in the beginning will forget and new people will not pick it up by osmosis.

Culture must be plowed and guarded.

Let’s partner together to lay a solid foundation you can build on. Worship team retreats are a great way to get everyone on the same page.

Contact me here to talk about the possibilities for your team. You can preview some of the teaching here.

I look forward to helping you build what God has entrusted to you in your context.

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Discipleship, Leadership, Pastoral Care, Practical, Worship, 0 comments

Faithfulness or Giftedness

There is an old adage that says “That which you allow you promote”. It’s very true.

Church people will be 10 minutes late no matter what. If you start at 10:00 people will begin to walk in at 10:10. If you start at 10:30 people will begin to walk in at 10:40. If you wait until 10:10 to get started it won’t be long until people start to walk in at 10:20.

If we don’t talk to one person about inappropriate clothing very soon others will begin to think the inappropriate clothing is ok, its accepted.

The same is true when it comes to promoting people into positions of leadership. Whatever character qualities we promote will be the type of people we attract. We spend lots of time trying to make everyone a leader, which I think is a terrible waste of time and resources, instead of giving those entrusted to us opportunities to die and to serve. It is only in the context of serving together that we can discern the gifting in those entrusted to us and who is called to set vision, direction, and pace.

Justin Holcomb writes in The Resurgence Blog:

Scripture focuses more on character than it does on methods, more on faithfulness than it does on fruitfulness, and more on making disciples of Christ than it does on developing leaders. The Bible is not the least bit shy about pointing out the failures of even the best leaders.

When we promote giftedness over faithfulness we will get giftedness over faithfulness and all the problems that go along with that. We must always only promote faithfulness, character, and equipping over everything else. Everything we do communicates something make sure you are communicating the right things.

We so often think type A strong personality people are natural leaders. It’s not true. Jesus modeled what true servant leadership looks like. It looks like laying down your life.

What are your thoughts?

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Discipleship, Leadership, Pastoral Care, 0 comments

Raising Up The Next Generation?

I believe this statement comes from a completely sincere heart and is completely wrong.

We most definitely have the responsibility to pass our faith and our heritage onto the  next generation but nowhere, that I can find, in Scripture are we exhorted to “raise up” the next generation.

What Scripture does exhort us to do is raise up those entrusted to us regardless the generation. Certainly if an 18-year-old is called, gifted, and faithful they should be promoted but not just because they are 18. The same is true for a 48-year-old.

When we focus on one specific demographic whatever it may be we by definition create other very big problems. This is part of the problem of blended worship, or a multigenerational focus. These approaches create a market based, consumer driven culture and  that’s definitely not what we want.

If we will cultivate a culture of change while equipping and empowering Gods people to do what God has called and created them to do many of the problems we’re trying to fix by being “blended” or “multigenerational” will fix themselves.

I’m not naive and I’m not trying to be overly simplistic just hear my foundational premise.

The bottom line:

God has called leaders to first be equippers. Leaders are those who can recognize, call out, equip, and release gifting back into the body. Being a high-capacity doer of anything does not alone qualify a leader, and the reality is high-capacity doers are seldom the best leaders.

If we will focus our ministry on equipping the saints, as defined above, and promote calling and faithfulness over gifting and drive. We will have a very vibrant, change oriented, and multigenerational ministry by default. Because those entrusted to us are the culture and when we empower them they will represent and reflect that culture.

What are your thoughts?

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary, 2 comments

A Question

It’s been a little over a week since my last post.

Posting weekly is the goal and would love to have something new at least twice a week. There are several ideas rattling around in my head but all of them take time to research and I’ve had precious little time for that this week. So in lieu of a post I’m asking a question.

Essentially I’m asking you to help, (how lazy is that?)

Here’s the question, which is really more of a challenge.

Can you make a scriptural case for

“Raising up the next generation”?

Not commentary, though your certainly welcome to comment on your facts. I want scriptural stories, scriptural principles, or out-and-out commands from God. I won’t let the cat out of the bag on my thoughts just yet. That will come next week.

I look forward to your thoughts.

And thanks for the help.

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Discipleship, Leadership, 2 comments

How Do You Promote Leaders

Last September my wife and I began a new season of life and ministry.

When everything was still in a state of flux we were introduced to Dave Jewitt from Your One Degree. He helped us define the most important thing we should be doing for the rest of our lives and has been helping us walk in that thing at least 80% or our time. It has been a very profitable and rewarding experience.

Dave sends a daily encouragement that I highly recommend you get. Near the bottom of this main page there is a subscription form.

Recently he made an excellent point about promoting leaders. I have always said promote faithfulness and calling above gifting. He says it this way:

Daniel 2:47,48 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king placed Daniel in a high position.

Daniel had just interpreted a dream the king had recently had. The stakes were high. The king was going to kill Daniel and all the other wise men in the kingdom if no one stepped forward to interpret the dream. But there was a catch: the king could not describe the dream to anyone. God showed Daniel both the dream and the interpretation after much prayer by Daniel and his friends.

This passage provides the following guidance for a leader in promoting others:

  1. Promote those who are honest, not just articulate.
  2. Promote those who do not take the credit deserved by others.
  3. Promote those truly committed to the cause/organization, not their own.
  4. Promote those who have high-caliber friends and associates.
  5. Promote those of demonstrated character and competence, not just those who make you feel important and comfortable.

Lord, please keep me from the trap of promoting the wrong people.

In the book “Sticky Teams“, which I also highly recommend, Larry Osborne says “The best time to remove someone from the team is before they get on.

Make sure your adding and promoting for the right reasons.

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Leadership, 0 comments

8760

I love the church. I love everything about church.

From Monday to Sunday there should be a vibrant expression of the church. The Sunday gatherings are great and I think God likes Sunday morning the best as well. The Bible says He loves the gates more than the tents. The gates are where the people gather. I have this picture in my mind of an excited expectant King anticipating the gathering of His people.

I also am a fan of small groups as they relate to your context. There should be a place for us to fellowship during the week in a way that is not possible on Sunday morning. A place where we unpack the scripture and work out real life in the context of relationship.

But there must be more than this.

There are 8760 hours in a year. Listening to one 20 minute sermon each week only accounts for .002% of those hours. When you add a small group you get to .011% of the total. Both of these expressions are critical but not sufficient.

When you compare those totals to the amount of media bombardment we receive each day it’s no wonder we are a defeated church.

We are a people called and created to live life in the context of community. Walking together, encouraging one another, learning from one another. We try to systematize discipleship which can be helpful but often the relationship aspect of discipleship suffers.

It’s time to rethink every paradigm we have as it relates to church life. I’m interested in what you think.

What does authentic community look like?
If you could design the church just for you what would it look like?

Insanity is doing what you’ve always done expecting a different result. It’s time for new wine, a fresh revelation. I don’t think we need a reformation rather a return to principles placed in a modern context.

What are those from your perspective?

I will be on top of the comment moderation and hopefully we can have a lively conversation. Please weigh in. I look forward to your thoughts.

Post to Twitter

Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Discipleship, Leadership, 0 comments