Saturday, August 23, 2008

What Makes People Run?

I visit the website Church Marketing Sucks from time to time. Contrary to how it sounds, they've got some real insightful articles over there about how the church needs to be the Church.

In a recent article here, guest writer Bob Lotich writes about what makes people run from a church. Here are his top five with my comments:
  1. When everything is mediocre – The word "Christian" is often used by some non-Christians as a word that means "mediocre." That is sad and it is wrong. If there is anything I know about God, He is not mediocre nor does He do anything that is not excellent. Simply take a look at this universe, this planet, or your very intricate, beautifully formed body - it is His excellent creation. He would not be glorified by anything less. The church should not settle for mediocre either.
  2. When a place is full of strife – I recently heard it said that of all places, the Church should be a safe place. Whether that is true or not, I can say that many churches are not safe. I have experienced more (or at least the same amount of) self-agendas, back-biting, hardship in churches than I have in many secular workplaces. Certainly the Church is called to be different.
  3. When there is an unwillingness to adapt – I'm not talking about the unchanging truths of the Gospel, I'm talking about wineskins here. In a world where most organizations are just barely keeping relevant to the world around them, many churches actually take pride in being irrelevant.
  4. When the goal is to tickle ears – While this conjures up thoughts of a watered-down Gospel, it is really much more than that. People need to be challenged in their faith journey. As Mark Batterson says, Jesus didn't die on the cross to make us safe, He died to make us dangerous. We are each meant to live a life of spiritual adventure planned for us by God. But many times, churches are too busy tickling the ears of the congregates, the tithers, the elders, or the established church-goers - when we should be listening to and following the vision of God Himself.
  5. When there is no passion in leadership — Having passion gets a bad rap sometimes. It can get you into trouble - and without spiritual discernment, it should. But we must remember that Jesus was passionate. He was passionate when He cried for Jerusalem. He was passionate when He overturned tables in the temple. His obedience upon the cross is even called "the passion of Jesus Christ." At the same time, there are leaders who repeat the truths of God as though they were just words off a page. When God's truth rocks your world and changes your life, it births true passion in your soul that is like a fire that cannot be contained.
When I see things like this in our churches, my heart breaks. I want to tell people to run as far and as fast as they can to a life-giving, Christ-centered community.

So, let me ask you. What has Bob left out? Are there some other things that should make people run? Why don't you add to the conversation here and leave a comment...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What It's All About

Sometimes when I have friends or family that don't understand why I do what I do, why I am sold out to Jesus, I wish I could clearly explain this...

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 - NLT)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Downpour Festival Pics

At the Downpour Festival in Great Falls. Rush of Fools!

Jeremy Camp on the stage.

Here are some more photos, courtesy of Mike!!! (click on the album below)
Downpour Festival Pics 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

This Messed Me Up!

I read this on Matt Tulios' blog and it messed me up. How about you?

"i have been given a truly amazing gift. placed in a time of lavish luxury, comfortable couches, and tremendous technology. i don't have to worry about what to feed my children or whether my children will have to beg. my family has three cars, two tvs, climate controls and i live in a region where don't really fear. my trials don't include lack of clean water, religious persecution, false imprisonment, and fear of oppression and slavery.

And there will come a day when i will have to take account of what I did with all this freedom and extravagance. I will be asked how I used these gifts to feed, show mercy, create reconciliation and blessing for others.

Was I outraged by the hurt around the globe?
Did I sleep through times of opportunities?
Was I silent when I should have spoken?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NWLC Notes: Day 4 (2 of 2)

"Creating a Culture of Worship" Workshop by Buddy Owens - Thursday afternoon July 24, 2008. My friend Buddy Owens led this workshop. Aside from contributing to my graduate classes at Hope International University, Owens is also the author of The Way of a Worshiper, and the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. As usual, Buddy had some great stuff, but here just a portion specifically about the role of music:

  • How do I create a culture that values worship?
  • You can tell what a person worships by the way they love. People value what they worship.
  • How is the value we place on God reflected in our worship?
  • If you are bored with the music in your church, chances are God is too.
Music is Cohesive
  • Music has a "stick-together" quality to it. Think about before a baseball game. When the national anthem plays, people stand and hats come off. They've gone from being a crowd to being a congregation. They have one purpose. They are focused.
  • It is the same with music in worship. The way we start our services is important. It brings people together, unifies them, creates focus.
Music Captures Memories
  • Music takes us back to a memory. Songs have become sacred moments to people - they remind people of "God moments" in their life.
Music is Attached to People
  • You can tell what kind of audience you are trying to attract by the music you choose. People feel like we are devaluing them when we don't like their songs. A young person will say "that place isn't for me." An older person will say "this is no longer my home."
Music Documents God's Work Among His People
  • Whenever God moves throughout history, his poets and songwriters document His work. Therefore, look for and expect new songs if God is doing something in our midst.
  • We need to "repristinate" some things in the church. It means to take old things and make them look new again. Like the white post that has been in front of the church for 125 years. If you leave it alone, it turns grey. You've got to paint it from time to time to keep it looking like a white post.
  • We need to "repristinate" our music as well. It helps people understand why our songs were valuable in the first place. Then new people will discover the song's value for the first time.
Music is Sacramental
  • Music helps people experience God in a way that we cannot encounter Him when we are alone.
  • It puts words in our mouths - a common language of response. Much like a greeting card - we have a feeling, but the card give us the words to express what we're feeling.
  • After a great sermon, the right closing song is crucial to getting the point across. It reminds people of the truth. It gives people a common language to respond to the truth. People won't quote the sermon, but they will remember a song.
Music Teaches Doctrine
  • Songs of faith are as important as words of faith. Are our songs theologically sound? Are they true? We believe what we sing about.
Music is Enchanting
  • This can be good or bad. Music can blind us to truth. Think of the secular world - music can turn our eyes from a bad message or character.
  • Never confuse talent with annointing. Talent never set anyone free. It is the Spirit of God upon a man of God who speaks/sings words of God through the Spirit of God that brings Jesus transformation.

NWLC Notes: Day 4 (1 of 2)

"Above and Beyond the Common: Pastoring With Guts in the 21st Century" Workshop by Steve Berger - Thursday morning July 24, 2008. Steve Berger, is a church planter and lead pastor of Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, Tennessee. His workshop focused on the courage that pastors in 21st century need to have. His workshop was outstanding and worth the whole conference. Here are my notes:
  • Being a pastor is getting more difficult. The life of a pastor is not for wimps. We are loosing 5,000 pastors a month in America. They're quitting, stopping, retiring. It takes backbone in the face of the furnace to stand up and be a pastor.
  • Caleb pastored people in difficult times. God says two things about Caleb in Numbers 14:24. God says "He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately." This is important, because God continues to repeat it up to 6 times. Caleb followed God fully, passionately. He had a different spirit about him.
  • In Numbers 13-15, it is the account of the Israelites coming upon the promised land. But as we know, most of the leaders sent in to survey the promised land while it was still inhabited by its native peoples - they were discouraged and convinced they couldn't take the land.
  • The others WERE in positions of leadership, yet they were negative, doubtful, and fearful. They had no guts in their leadership. They had a spirit of minimizing themselves and maximizing the enemy. They minimized their trust in God and maximized the challenge before them. If you surround yourself with negative, complaining people, it will destroy your ministry.
  • But God had promised the land. And Caleb knew this. He quieted the people and reminded them, "we are well able to take the land." Unlike the other leaders, Caleb had a different spirit about him. He believed God.
  • Pastors - believe the dream that God has placed in your heart that people have stolen. Believe in God. Don't worry what you will look like if things don't come through. There must be risk - it cannot be done without it. God has no problem putting you in the position where if you don't have Him, you are going to fail.
  • It's going to cost us something and we need to count the cost. We are called to something higher.
  1. Caleb was a TRUE leader.
    When Joshua and Caleb surveyed the promised land, they brought people that were known as leaders, but they were only leaders in title. Caleb had a different spirit about him. It showed up in his actions and lifestyle, as well as his title. The church doesn't need leaders in TITLE only, it needs leaders in ACTION. Leaders that are willing to step out and go for it.
  2. Caleb was a man of faith.
    In the midst of opposition, Caleb quieted the doubts of the people. He inspired action - not hype, but real faith. He displayed true leadership from vision and calling. He got peoples sight right. With the Spirit, we are able to hold on when everything is in chaos. If you are leading people, you have to give them opportunities to see God come through. If you are starting a church, you must do so with a serious faith DNA. Believe God for financial needs, giving people opportunities to give. Trusting God to come through unlocks faith.
  3. Caleb was a man of holy frustration.
    Numbers 14:6. They tore their clothes. God has trusted you to make the call that a common person would not. Sometime you need to make a whip and drive people out. You need backbone to do the right thing. Be a man of passion. Say the right thing. Speak the word that brings life.
  4. Caleb was a man of persistence.
    Numbers 14: 7-9. Caleb spoke to the congregation over and over. "The land is ours. The Lord is with us. Do not fear." We often say, "but I've said that before." But we need to continue to communicate the vision over and over. Do not get weary in well doing. Keep people's eyes on the prize, not the problem. Challenge people to greater heights.
  5. Caleb was a man of passion.
    Numbers 14:8-12. "I wholly followed the Lord, my God." At 85 years old, Caleb is ready to go in and take the mountain. It was a Braveheart moment. Who knows what might happen, what God might do, if we start passionately believing Him? Who knows what might happen if God moves? Believe! The church goes as the pastor goes! If the people don't see passion in you, they are not going to have it.
  6. Caleb was a man who left deposits in others.
    Numbers 15:14-20. Caleb left an inheritance for the next generation. He left a KINGDOM IMPRINT on others and helped them fulfill their destinies in Christ. He was a mentor.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

NWLC Notes: Day 3 (3 of 3)

NWLC General Session - Wednesday afternoon July 23, 2008 at 3:30pm. Worship was led by Rita Springer. I've seen Springer lead worship about five years ago at a SoulSurvivor event in Anaheim, California. I do believe she is anointed to lead worship, but I just don't connect with her - go figure :-)

The afternoon speaker was Gordon MacDonald, pastor and author of the book Who Stole My Church? I've been checking out his book at the bookstore and thinking about reading it. Most of his message was on multi-generational worship. Here are some of my notes:
  • Worship leaders have a pastoral ministry. (I would include all leaders of worship in that statement.) When we lead people into the presence of God, we better know where we're leading them. (In other words, we have to have been there ourselves.)
  • We suffer from inaccurate eyesight - it's all changed when we gather in worship.
  • When we truly enter into worship, when we come into the presence of God, it removes all the distortions of our vision. Our perspective in renewed.
  • We help people gain strength for going back into a dark world. (I would argue with, or perhaps clarify this statement - because I don't wholly agree with it because it is incomplete. Our worship is much more than an "us" time to prepare us for the "them" times.)
  • We need to make sure that no one ever leaves a sanctuary without hope (and I would add, without Jesus).
  • Know your congregation. What questions are people asking?

NWLC Notes: Day 3 (2 of 3)

"Narrative Teaching to Postmoderns" Workshop by Frank Couch - Wednesday afternoon July 23, 2008. Frank Couch led a great workshop, but it was not necessarily what spoke to me. Consequently, I have just a little takeaway from the first ten minutes of the session. Here are my notes:
  • The term "Postmodern" is borrowed from architecture. It really refers to a borrowing from or combination of other styles or influences.
  • With a modern mindset, the world revolves around linear, rational thought. It is birthed from the enlightenment of science (physics, chemistry, etc.).
  • With a postmodern mindset, the world is emotional, spiritual, and holistic. It is more than physical - it is also spirit. It is birthed from relationship.
  • Stop saying postmoderns don't believe in truth. There is a common misunderstanding about postmoderns, that they do not believe in truth. Many postmoderns do fully believe in absolute truth. However, they see the common processes of pointing out others' non-belief as self-righteous, disrespectful. Relationship is more important than it ever was in the modern mindset. There is suspicion toward anyone with all the answers - they want to find truth their own way.
  • Many postmoderns believe the Bible and Biblical doctrines are true (virgin birth, Jesus' resurrection). They don't care when you try to convince them that it is. The questions have changed. People want to know about people and relationships. How do these truths relate to our relationships with others?
  • For moderns, the church was about "celebrity." It is no longer about that, it is about the Spirit.
  • Postmoderns are intimidated and put-off by our religiosity, but they love our story.
Five Key Words for Postmoderns
  1. MISSION is everything. And the mission of the Church is the mission of Jesus - the Kingdom of God. (The modern church find its mission in "doctrine" based on denomination)
  2. AUTHENTICITY is about being real to yourself and the mission. Being transparent.
  3. ENGAGING involves moving our core - our true self. It also involves engaging, listening to, respecting, and understanding others' viewpoints and thoughts. We don't have to endorse, but we do have to listen.
  4. INCARNATIONAL. How is Jesus living in us?
  5. NARRATIVE is the opposite of logical, reasoned facts. It is more about story and relationship. Relationship with God and others.

NWLC Notes: Day 3 (1 of 3)

NWLC General Session - Wednesday morning July 23, 2008 at 9:30am. Worship was led by Calvin Nowell, Drew Cline, and Nia Allen. They were awesome! The morning speaker was Bishop Joseph Garlington. I've heard much about Garlington, one of my favorite quotes is attributed to him, but never heard him speak in person. Amazing!

Garlington recounted the story of the angel coming to Mary in Luke. It was a message about the times when God speaks into our lives leading us to times in the "hallway of hell."

I have to to say that his presentation was unlike any message I have heard. As a very musical person himself, Garlington's entire message was "underscored" by a band - and primarily his keyboard player Clarence (props to his amazing skills). Here are some of my notes, but I am also posting the entire mp3 below:
  • Words create worlds. Nothing happens in God's Kingdom without a spoken word.
  • Heroes (leaders) are not born, they are cornered.
  • When God speaks to you, it always sounds so good in the presentation - but it's hell in the hallway.
  • When you say yes to God, He can take you anywhere.
  • Nothing shall be impossible with God - No word that comes from God shall be impossible for it's fulfillment.
  • When God tells you something, it will come to pass.
  • If you have a miracle in your life, don't talk to people who don't believe in miracles (listen to this in context).
  • Every word of God is tried ... in the hallway.
I'm serious, you've got to listen to this to get the full effect. Download the mp3 here or listen in the player below.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

NWLC Notes: Day 2 (4 of 4)

NWLC General Session - Tuesday afternoon July 22, 2008 at 3:30pm. Rush of Fools led worship and Marcos Witt spoke about 6 things people said about David behind his back (see 1 Samuel 1). And then challenged us as leaders of worship to aspire to those same things.

I've heard Marcos Witt two-years ago at the Purpose-Driven Worship Conference. Witt is the son of missionaries and although American, grew up in Latin America. He is a worship leader and pastor having won Grammys for his Latin American Worship songs.

As a fellow musician, Marcos is always fun to listen to (definitely ADD) and he understand musicians and worship leaders well. Instead of giving you my notes I decided to post the session online - it's 45 minutes and worth it!! You can download the mp3 here.

BTW, one of my favorite parts is about playing the heck out of "G."

Friday, August 01, 2008

NWLC Notes: Day 2 (3 of 4)

"Assessing Your Worship Service" Workshop by David M. Edwards - Tuesday afternoon July 22, 2008. In his workshop, songwriter and worship leader David M. Edwards spoke mostly about whether there is life-change happening in your congregation. Here are just a few key nuggets:
  • God has given us a platform, not a stage.
  • If you're going to lead someone into the presence of God, you need to know the way in yourself.
  • Are people engaging God? Can you sense the power of God and the moving of the Holy Spirit in the room?
  • Too often, we in the church get caught up in the "sin" of personal preference.
  • People rarely rise above what the senior pastor is doing experientially. People in your congregation will rarely go beyond where he goes in worship. His depth of worship, his participation level gives permission to the congregation. It doesn't matter what you as a worship leader do if your senior pastor is not engaging in worship as a worshiper.
  • You have to teach people about worship. Biblical expressions of worship. An extended worship times like worship nights are good.
  • Music, art, and nature are vehicles God uses to help us worship.
  • It is the anointing of God that breaks the chains of bondage.
  • People are desperately hungry to be touched by God.
  • As a worship leader, here are some tips to assess your worship:
  1. Once in a while, get off the platform and among the people. Blend in. How are they responding?
  2. If there is something wrong in your church or leadership? If so, have the courage to stand up and speak up.
  3. Stop assuming what God wants in a worship service. Ask Him!
  4. Be willing to try something new. If we do something different, are we doing it to bring deeper meaning and to help people see truth?
  5. Are lives being changed in your church? It's a reflection of your worship.
  6. It's not just about the "worship," but the entire "message" of your services.

NWLC Notes: Day 2 (2 of 4)

"Summoned To Lead" Workshop by Dr. Leonard Sweet - Tuesday morning July 22, 2008. In his workshop, Len Sweet spoke about leadership (or really followership) based on the voice of God. Here are my notes:
  • About his book "Summoned to Lead," Sweet wanted to call it "Forget About the Vision Thing, It's all About Voice." His point? You don't see vision, you hear vision. Righteousness comes by faith, and faith comes by hearing (see Romans). Our ears are the primary gateway to the soul.
  • Picture the scene from Jurassic Park where the lawyer is in the outhouse. Before the dinosaur comes, he hears the vibrations. This is the perfect image for today's churches. You hear it before you see it. By the time you see it, it's too late!
  • Picture God's revelation to Elijah in 1 Kings 19. There was a powerful blowing, an earthquake, and a fire, but God was not in them. Then a gentle wind, the sound of a gentle blowing, a still small voice. A voice came to Elijah - God revealed His vision to Elijah.
  • God spoke - He "voiced" the phrase "Let there be light" and the earth was created.
  • Moses first heard and then he saw the burning bush - before God revealed His vision to Moses.
  • What we are missing in the church is that matter doesn't matter, spirit matters. Culture is trying to tune everyone's heart to the wrong gospel - that "the trees move the wind." We need to see the truth that "the wind moves the trees." We need to tune our hearts to Jesus.
  • People were already follow the Golden Rule - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Jesus came to restore us to a love-right relationship. He gave us the Platinum rule. - Love others as God loves you. That's much harder. It's sacrificial love. What are you willing to sacrifice?
  • Ask grandparents, "do you love your grandchildren?" They'll reply yes. "Would you give your life for them?" They'll reply yes. But ask them, "Would you give up your musical preference in church for them?" ... True sacrificial love is hard.
  • Peter proved that it's not the big things, it's the little things. Peter said, "Let me wash your feet." Peter cut off the soldier's ear defending Jesus. But when a peasant girl said, aren't you one of them, Peter denied Jesus. It's the little things that catch us up.
  • New Testament worship is sacrificial love. How do you know if you're reaching someone for Jesus? Do you like it? Are you comfortable? If it pleases you, it's probably not for the other person. It's not sacrificial.
  • The church needs to remember that Jesus is the draw - not the church, not the programs, not the preaching, not the music, but Jesus. "If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Myself." - John 12:32
  • As worship leaders you are not performance artists, you are participation artists. You are in the "moment" business - helping people have "God-moments."
  • Postmoderns are more right-brained: experiential, participatory, Image-rich, connective. More like wind. Moderns are more left-brained: rational, logical, linear, word-driven, individualistic, performance-oriented. More like trees. We need both. We need more harmony. We need to bring the extremes together, like a battery. Real power with a battery is when you bring the extremes together.
  • We are called to create harmony. The key to good harmony is a common tuning fork. You must constantly re-tune using the tuning fork. Jesus is the tuning fork. (See number 7 from this post.)