Book Giveaway in Appreciation of 700,000 views

The blog is quickly approaching 700k page views. When the blog hits it some time in the next week I will give away a copy of Megan’s Secrets by Mike Cope. All you have to do is be the person who was closest to hitting 700,000th view by commenting what # you saw on the stat counter on the bottom right corner of the blog.

For some thoughts on Megan’s Secrets see this post.

I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to stop in read, discuss, etc. I have been greatly encouraged by you all.

Keeping God the Center of Worship

In theory God is the center of our worship but on an individual level it is not always the case. We realize we are singing songs to God but sometimes we push God aside and place ourselves in the center of it all. That sounds harsh but it happens. It happens when we get more caught up in whether or not the song selection, tempo, or song leader met our standards. You can tell who is really at the center of worship based on how we evaluate what makes worship “good” and how we talk about that. When we say things like, “I can’t believe we sang that song today” or “why don’t we ever sing the songs I like” it shows that practically that person has put themselves in the center of what worship is all about. They have become the standard and the audience. They believe it is for them, not for God. Whether or not God was pleased is an afterthought or maybe no thought at all.

I am struck by Isaiah’s response to being in the presence of God in Isaiah 6:1-8. He was humbled. He was repentant. He wasn’t critiquing the angels’ songs, their pitch, the speed of their holies. He was blown away in reverence and awe of being in the presence of the Almighty. I love what Abraham Heschel wrote about awe,

“Awe is a sense for the transcendence, for the reference everywhere to the mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine…to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal. What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.” (I Asked for Wonder, 3). When confronted with the Holy God Isaiah fell on his face and gave himself up to his Creator and Sustainer.

What would our Sunday afternoon conversation sound like if it recognized it was all about God? What would we say? What would we emphasize? What would we tell our children as they listen to us? What would it take for us to get self out of the way and keep our focus on the Almighty? Any time you take an extraordinary thing, programize it and do it repeatedly there is a tendency to normalize it to the level of the common. We need a renewed sense of wonder, where God is at the center and all we do is give Him our best so He will be pleased! That is what worship is all about.

The Intersection of Worship and Real Life

I have been reflecting on the connection between worship and real life and I was thinking about two passages in particular. In both of these passages of scripture there is a real event that God works through that results in people singing God’s praises.

The first is in Exodus 15, the Song of the Sea. In Exodus 14 we see God part the Red Sea, the Hebrews walk through, and Pharaoh’s army get crushed by the waters. The result was thanksgiving and song. God delivered them. God worked on their behalf and rescued them. The result was praise specific to that situation. Did they come up with that song on the spot? Did it sound good? Who cares how well it rhymed or if it had a good melody! They were rescued and were expressing their joy to God!

The second is in Luke 1. An angel comes to Mary and tells her she will give birth to the messiah. The result is the Song of Mary. So much joy was flowing through her that it resulted in song.

I am afraid that too often my worship is due to the hour of the week it is and not because of extreme gratitude. I am afraid that too often I sing Thank You Lord because it is in an order of worship and not because it is part of the flow of thankfulness that is coming out of my heart to God because of how God has worked on my behalf. Worship really is connected with real life. Too often we compartmentalize it and make it too small. What is more, our worship services are usually very uplifting and joyful (and I am thankful for that) but it leaves little room for those whose most honest emotion at that time is sorrow or pain. Maybe we need more creativity, more relevance, more spontaneity from time to time so that our worship can express what is truly in our hearts and not be limited to an hour each week!

Tim Smith on Understanding Copyright in Worship

Just wanted to make anyone who needed this information aware of it. It is important that we know the laws and abide by them in our worship service – Thank God Jesus Didn’t Copyright the Gospel. This post lays out some of the laws and explains what CCLI is all about. If any of you (Shane or others) has additional information I would be glad to post it here as well.

Jennifer Knapp Comes Out of the Closet

I was disappointed to hear that Jennifer Knapp, Christian singer and song writer, is a lesbian. I love listening to her music and even have some in the car right now. Yesterday an interview appeared in Christianity Today where she talks about her decisions, relationship, and her music. There is so much I want to say about this but I will keep most of it to myself. I will just pray that she sees the truth and the incongruity of her statements, feelings, and beliefs. It is entirely possible to be “true to yourself” and be wrong. Sounds like she really is seeking the truth in this. I hope she finds it.

CCLI Top 25 Worship Songs

Here are the top 25 worship songs sung congregationally in the United States in February according to CCLI. They have a really nice tool where you can choose from different countries and see what songs are being sung the most.

Report Period 409 – United States
RANK SONG TITLE AUTHOR/S CCLI #
1 Mighty To Save Fielding, Ben\Morgan, Reuben 4591782
2 How Great Is Our God Tomlin, Chris\Reeves, Jesse\Cash, Ed 4348399
3 Blessed Be Your Name Redman, Beth\Redman, Matt 3798438
4 Here I Am To Worship Hughes, Tim 3266032
5 Everlasting God Brown, Brenton\Riley, Ken 4556538
6 Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) Tomlin, Chris\Giglio, Louie\Newton, John 4768151
7 Open The Eyes Of My Heart Baloche, Paul 2298355
8 Your Grace Is Enough Maher, Matt 4477026
9 Jesus Messiah Tomlin, Chris\Carson, Daniel\Reeves, Jesse\Cash, Ed 5183443
10 Holy Is The Lord Tomlin, Chris\Giglio, Louie 4158039
11 Shout To The Lord Zschech, Darlene 1406918
12 Forever Tomlin, Chris 3148428
13 You Are My King Foote, Billy 2456623
14 Come Now Is The Time To Worship Doerksen, Brian 2430948
15 Revelation Song Riddle, Jennie Lee 4447960
16 In Christ Alone Townend, Stuart\Getty, Keith 3350395
17 Lord I Lift Your Name On High Founds, Rick 117947
18 Hosanna (Praise Is Rising) Baloche, Paul\Brown, Brenton 4662491
19 God Of Wonders Byrd, Marc\Hindalong, Steve 3118757
20 We Fall Down Tomlin, Chris 2437367
21 Beautiful One Hughes, Tim 3915912
22 From The Inside Out Houston, Joel 4705176
23 The Heart Of Worship Redman, Matt 2296522
24 You Are My All In All Jernigan, Dennis 825356
25 Days Of Elijah Mark, Robin 1537904

How Does Your Congregation Introduce New Songs?

I am curious how the congregation where you worship introduces new songs. It is difficult to sing a brand new song on Sunday morning that no one knows. I am guessing that most either try it that way or else have a small group of people learn the song first (praise team or otherwise) that can carry the congregation through the parts on Sunday morning.

What ways has your congregation introduced new songs into worship?

Has it been effective, why or why not?

Gulfcoast Getaway 2010 in Panama City

I have been looking forward to Gulfcoast Getaway 2010 for some months now. It is starting Friday night and going through Sunday and is one of the largest Church of Christ college gatherings in the nation. With speakers like Randy Harris and Earl Lavender you can’t go wrong. The singing is great. The classes and sermons are great. But what I get the most out of this even each year is the reminder and encouragement that regardless of what the statistics say about declining numbers I am convinced our future is going to be great. Every year I am blown away by the sincerity, spiritual depth, and genuine love for God our young people have.

If you are going to Gulfcoast Getaway this year let me know and hopefully I will see you there! I hope the other 99% of you reading this have a wonderful worship this Sunday morning where God is glorified and his people are brought closer together through our shared interest and relationship with God.

In the comments section on this post write something that
encourages you about this generation of young adults.

Attractional or Distractional – Part 2

The Attractive Draw of the Cross:
When I watched the crucifixion seen in the Passion of the Christ I had to force myself to keep my eyes glued to the screen. I didn’t want to see all the blood and violence but I figured if Christ endured it, I can at least witness it. On the surface there is something repulsive about the cross. But when Paul talked about the one thing he wanted to preach on over and over again it was Christ crucified. On the surface that doesn’t sound like a very attractive message. It is messy, bloody, andgorey. Then you have Jesus who talked about what would draw all men to himself. It wasn’t plush auditoriums, hip music, or motivational speeches. Jesus himself said if he is lifted up he would draw all men to himself (John 12:32), speaking of the cross.

What makes the cross attractive in spite of everything inside of us that wants to look away? It is the same answer to the question, Why did Jesus constantly refer to his crucifixion as his glorification, which sounds quite the opposite of what we would think of the shameful cross. Because on the cross and later his exaltation from the grave and back to his throne in heaven, Jesus was demonstrating the power of God over sin and death and the ultimate objective of God for all to come to repentance and live in relationship with him forever.

The irony of the cross is it attracts those who thought dying was the only option. Through the power of the cross the door is opened to newness of life. Let us never shy away from the true and powerful message of Christ and let it attract who it will attract and drive away who it will drive away. Christ himself experienced both reactions when he lived among us, should we expect any different? He didn’t sugar coat, water down, or hold back the difficult parts. And still, against every grain of our upside down thinking on what would be attractive, his message has changed the world.

One last disclaimer – I don’t mean to make straw men out of energetic worship or anything else. I am just saying when we keep the main thing the main thing then we will draw who we will draw to something honest, worthwhile, whole, and salvific. That doesn’t mean all new methods are shallow or that all emotion is distracting. I hope I have made that clear enough in the last two posts.

Attractional or Distractional – Part 1

We hear a lot about attractional models of worship, evangelism, and all the rest “doing church.” I wonder at what point attractional becomes distractional.

Moving Away from Worship as Penance:
I don’t want you to mishear me here. I am not trying to say the duller and more irrelevant our worship services are the more pleasing they are to God. In my childhood I attended one church that almost made worship seem like a penance. If you could endure all the things that went on any given Sunday and still come back week after week then you paid your penance and God must be pleased with such a selfless endurance. That is clearly not what God wants! God wants spirit and truth AND wants us to be joyful, enthusiastic and energetic. Those two are not mutually exclusive! At the same time we can get so caught up in the form that what we intended to use to attract people becomes a distraction.

I see this happening in several ways although I am sure there are more…

1 – Worship Forms – already mentioned above and elaborated on below

2 – The Misguided “If we only…” way of thinking:
There is a strong tendency to start thinking in “If only’s” and let our dissatisfaction become a distraction from the real goal of our lives and worship – to give God honor and glory right here and now. Often our desire to make things better and improve our worship and worship experience (which is a worthy goal) can rob us of the joy of encountering God through worship in the present. In other words, longing for something new and improved can make our worship in the old way of doing things unsatisfying rather than realizing that God is just as pleased even if it is not our particular way of doing things, song selection, tempo, etc. Imagine if Moses had said, Sinai is cool and all and I know I can meet God there but first let’s put together some real rocking praise down here in order to make the experience something really special. Again, I am not knocking trying to improve what we do but I do fear that the process of improving our worship can become a real distraction if we miss the point and audience of our worship. Does God find this attractive? is more relevant than does average non-Christian Joe on the street find this attractive?.

3 – Winning Converts to Something Other Than Christ
One question we must continually ask ourselves is, “What are we winning people to?” Are we winning them to hype and energy with no substance? Are we winning them with money giveaways? Are we winning people to an attractive and easy gospel, health and wealth, forgiveness without true repentance Gospel? Or are we winning them to the message of Christ that includes tough lessons like self-sacrifice, repentance, and dying to self as well as joyful messages like forgiveness and grace (more on that in a minute).

4 – Emotion as a Coverup for Poor Content:
One of the surest ways to see something is shallow is if it is characterized by a constant barrage of emotion. The quickest way to make up for poor content is one of two extremes. You can either shout a poor sermon to make it sound good or you can cry your way through a poor sermon and hope the heart is pulled by fake tears rather than Gospel. Let’s face it, emotion is appealing to some degree. We want people to be genuine, transparent, real…It attracts. But as with any of these things, in extreme or out of the wrong motives it distracts and detracts from our real purpose. That is the whole point here. Many things are good in and of themselves but when taken to extremes or done out of the wrong motives become a distraction.

More in a bit on what God uses to attract non-believers.

5 – What would you put here?