Worship Plotting

I read this post yesterday:

Disney’s chief technical officer Andy Hendrickson argued that the studios need to focus almost exclusively on the sort of “tentpole” films that can attract as broad an audience as possible—the sort of film, in other words, that succeeds almost exclusively thanks to brand recognition or CGI gimmickry. “People say ‘It’s all about the story,’” Hendrickson said. “When you’re making tentpole films, [nonsense].”

Although I am a big movie buff and am unhappy about this, my mind and heart started drawing ties from this post to the current worship leading condition in many churches. I feel like many worship leaders, especially those younger or ones trying to be more cool or relevant, are trying to enforce a worship formula based on results from “tentpole” churches. Here’s how the situation usually goes:

  • A worship leader will encounter an amazing worship experience (usually from one of the 10-12 “tentpole” churches) either by conference, album or DVD. Usually this experience is from a large venue with thousands singing, shouting and going crazy for Jesus.
  • The worship leader will see how people are responding, engaging and being ministered to by a certain song or moment in the service.
  • The worship leader will then decide to copy the experience as close as possible to recreate that moment for his/her church. This could mean doing a certain song, adjusting sound and lighting, changing the stage design or changing the worship team’s attire.
  • When the new song is sung at church, it falls flat leaving the worship leader trying to hype (or “encourage”) the congregation to worship and respond like the other church did.

I feel we are throwing away the uniqueness, diversity and the story/plot of our churches and replacing them with a formula based on exciting “tentpole” churches, thinking that it’s what the Lord desires. We end up “plotting” worship services but throw away the “plot” of our own churches, replacing it with another church’s plot. The Lord desires something real, something true. The story/plot in worship is the realness and trueness of worship. It’s teaching the congregation to worship and engage with God with deep emotions during the most simple and stripped down times.

If your congregation can’t worship without the “gimmicks” such as the new songs, the driving beat, the crazy lights or the energetic motions — then your congregation doesn’t know how to worship. You’re manipulating them into a frenzy, but even if they respond, it’s not true worship. It’s just hype. Likewise, if you’re congregation can’t worship with newer songs made in the last 5-10 years or worship when there are no words at all (spontaneous instrumental times), there are still things to teach your people regarding worshiping. Worship isn’t just about engaging with songs/styles that you’re comfortable with. It’s about worshiping God like He deserves, regardless of anything else.

Worship is taught and then it is caught. If you congregation isn’t worshiping like they ought, it’s not a programming issue. It’s a teaching issue. It’s a revelation issue.

I challenge younger worship leaders to sometimes take a break from the new, exciting concert worship songs and begin cultivating and teaching worship that is unique to your church, not just a copy of anothers. If every church only sung “I Love You Lord” truly and deeply, it would be a different and unique experience in each church. it’s the beauty of the body of Christ and its individual members. Churches don’t need manipulation or the right setting to worship, they just need Jesus. As leaders, let’s stop plotting how to make our worship experiences like another church’s and instead let’s teach them about Jesus and how to encounter Him.

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Serve To Be Trusted, Trusted To Serve More

I don’t know what it is about sectional pastors’ meetings, but it seems like every time I go I end up with some challenging thoughts regarding servanthood and my life. This time, as I was playing keyboard for worship, I realized a reason why we serve. We serve to build trust. This is neither the ultimate reason nor the ultimate temporal goal. The ultimate reason is because He’s God and He has shown us His love and serving Him in any and every capacity is the least He deserves. Another reason is because we realize who we truly are without Him and His grace (“Serving God & Two Steps Away“). But another reason we serve is to build trust…with both man and God.

Luke 16:10-12 states:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much and whoever is dishonest with very little will be dishonest with very much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Now some people may say that passage is completely about money (and I do believe it concerns earthly finances), but the context and reality of those scriptures is all about serving and faithfulness. This is evident by what Jesus declares next – “no man can serve two masters”.

Jesus declares to the multitudes that we must show ourselves faithful in the earthly realm in order to inherit true eternal treasures. By living our lives now in the place of consistent faithfulness, we store up for ourselves glory and honor on that day. We gain our position (not salvation) in the end-time kingdom by making our lives like Christ’s – following the Sermon on the Mount, following the way of complete servanthood. The rewards we will receive in those days completely depend on our faithfulness now.

Likewise, we must show ourselves faithful in order to be trusted now. But the reward for our faithfulness now is not the same reward that we will receive from Him when He returns. The way God has set up His kingdom, both now and forever, is this: we serve to be trusted, and we’re trusted to serve more.

Jesus declares in Matthew 20:25-28:

…you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Even as I was typing that scripture I realized that Jesus never said “before you become a leader or become known as great, first you must become a slave and serve for a little while”. No, Jesus declared that if one wants to be great in His kingdom, both in the temporal and eternal, they must sell themselves as a slave and serve others completely, for the rest of our lives.

In the western church, we have followed the ways of the world by believing that we start off serving in the lower positions and then we move up the corporate ladder where we can stop doing those things and do more “honorable” things. That is the complete opposite of what Jesus talks about. The greater you become in the kingdom, the more you serve and the harder you work. The more authority you are trusted with, the more you are trusted to serve and lose your life for those you are over. Jesus’ example in John 13 is that the greatest among us wash the most feet.

This is the reason He declares that in the end, when it’s all said and done, the meek (not the strong and forceful but the humble and serving) will inherit the earth. The highest positions in heaven will not be given to famous people who traveled the world showing their ministry. The highest positions (like kings of actual nations in the millennial kingdom) will be given to those who didn’t blow their own horn but instead gave their lives and rights up to serve others.

God is looking for those who will embrace the way of the cross, the way of servanthood and death, the way of unselfish devotion to God and others. He will reward them with eternal treasures and positions when He comes. In the meantime, He offers them greater ways to die and serve. That is why I serve. So that He can trust me more so that I can serve more, even unto death, knowing that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Supporting Missionaries

God has been dealing with me about supporting people and ministries these last few weeks. Tonight we had a missionary from Ezra International in to speak. I love any person who talks about, supports and serves Israel. After he spoke our pastor came up to take an offering. That’s when God started speaking to me again.

He has been challenging me to “put my money (also life and heart) where my mouth has been”. I say I support Israel and missionaries in word, but how much do I give and really pray for them? The answer: very little.

I’m thankful that God is changing that in my life. He has started burdening me for those in the mission field. I know they covet my prayers and desire my financial support. In the past I made a lot of excuses, but now He’s helping me say “yes”, especially in a small ways. No one starts out giving a large portion of their income to missions (which is my desire). No one starts out devoting hours of their day to prayer on behalf of those serving in the mission field. God works in us over the months and years; conquering greed, selfishness and stinginess in our lives until He brings us to that place of humility, love and giving.

I know that if I say yes to support missionaries in small ways, that one day God will help me reach my desire.

How To Bless Your Pastor

I went to a youth leader’s conference last weekend. They had several awesome main sessions and a bunch of good breakout sessions. On the list I saw that they had a breakout session called “How To Bless Your Pastor”. I was really glad to see a breakout session taking time to teach how to do this. Even though I didn’t go to the session, thoughts of how to bless my pastor have been circling in my head for a few days and I wanted to post some of them.

Pray for him

This is the most important and, if I am honest, the one I do least. There are things that pastors face that only God can help and resolve. By praying, I am petitioning God to do what only He can do. I also try to make sure that I pray positively. I pray for wisdom, strength and grace for my leadership and as a result I am helping cut through the demonic attack against them and helping God encourage their souls.

God has been challenging me to pray for them instead of criticizing them. I used to say I pray for my pastor, but then God challenged me track how much I prayed versus how much I spoke negatively against him. The result shocked me. He reminded me that in James 3:10 the Bible states that “blessing and cursing flow from the same mouth…this should not be”.

Stand up and defend him in times of criticism

What pastors need are people who will shield, guard and defend them. They need people who will speak out for them and be their voice when they hear someone criticizing them especially since the majority of criticism comes from behind the back of a pastor). They need people around them who believe and trust them. In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan’s armor bearer believed, followed and protected his leader in whatever his leader wanted to do. Abishai was one of David’s “mighty men” and he was constantly defending and protecting David. He went so far to ask David if he could kill those who slandered him (David said no.). Where are the people who long to protect and defend their leaders in every way possible?

I try to do my best to defend my leadership, sometimes to a fault. One of the reasons I think I do it is because of how I was raised. At the church I grew up in, the senior pastor fell into a serious scandal, yet my family would not participate in any rumors or criticisms of the pastor. Why? Cause it’s a principle in the Bible. David would not speak against anyone the Lord had anointed, no matter how deceived they were or how much sin they were in. God doesn’t approve of all of His anointed ones’ actions, but He requires us not to speak ill of them, or “touch” them (in a harmful or negative manner) in any way.

Help, love and support his family

One of the most encouraging things for a pastor to know is that you not only support them but you also support and love their family. Pastors are blessed when people not only help out the pastor, but do whatever they can to help out the entire family, especially when hard times come.

Please understand, many pastors don’t get to spend Christmas or other special days with their families. They respond to church family emergencies and many times their own family suffers for it. People who come along side the pastor and help them in whatever way they can to make sure their family is taken care of and loved  is truly a blessing for anyone in leadership. Sometimes it’s you taking the hospital visit, fixing dinner for their family or taking their kids out to the beach for a day of fun.

Serve, serve, serve (and don’t argue or complain about it)

Words without action do very little in life. I may say I support my pastor, but what am I actually doing to prove it? I try to do everything I possibly can to help my pastors out. This sometimes can be taxing and frustrating, but showing love and support often is. That’s the hardest part about serving. It calls you to deny your flesh, take up the towel and wash another’s feet, whether they are a stranger, friend or leader.

I remember one time that I did not have any desire to serve (for whatever reason) but then I read in Luke 16:12 where Jesus asked His disciples:

And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

I realized that even when I have no desire to serve, by serving today I am investing in my own ministry and life one day. I want people who will help me one day fulfill the call of God on my life, so according to that scripture I must help others fulfill theirs.

Speak words of encouragement (this will benefit both parties)

This is very easy and practical to do. Saying how much you’re thankful to a pastor or how well of a job they’re doing in a particular area encourages a pastor to keep going. Even if they’re doing a lot wrong, everyone does something right so try to focus on that. One of the tricks of the enemy is to make a pastor feel that they’re not being effective. Another way to combat this (after prayer and defending) is to verbal tell them what God has done in your life through them. The testimonies that you give them with help them wage war with the “accuser of the brethren”. It will bring hope and cheer to his soul, and when your pastor is encouraged and he is happy and joyous, it will benefit the entire church, including you.

Serving God & Two Steps Away

I started off my day a little different today. Normally I go to work in the morning but this morning I got to help play for our church’s sectional pastor’s meeting. It was great! I had a blast playing. But in the middle of it, I heard what my co-workers would say later on that day:

“Why are you always at church? Why do you take off to do church stuff? We need you here.”

You see, I don’t get paid for playing, even on a non-church day. I technically don’t have to agree to help. Our new worship leader plays keyboard. He just asks me to play with him cause it makes him feel a little more comfortable and it frees him up to worship a little bit more. So why do I serve so much at church? Why do I pour my life SO MUCH into something when I seem to get nothing out of it?

I realized one of the big reasons (the main one is “cause I love Jesus”) that I do all I can to serve my church and leadership is that I am two steps away from being homeless or in serious trouble in my life. Why you ask? It would seem when people look at me, they think that I have my life mostly in order. The truth of the matter though is that if my parents were dead and if I didn’t have the job I have now, I would be on the street or down and out in my life. Could I push past those things and remain successful? Yes, but there is a significant chance for failure in life due to those two things being removed in my life.

So why does this make me serve my heart out in church? Because God promises that if I take care of His ministry, He will take care of my life. He promises that I’ll never be begging for bread. He promises that He will supply my needs. He promises that He will not be a debtor to man. These promises are conditional on me “seeking first the kingdom of God”. Also, when you are into the end times and you really believe that you’ll go through it all yourself, having those promises is a really good thing.

I have realized that my trust can’t be in my job or my family or anything else. My trust has to be in the Lord. I have met too many people that stuff happened in their lives and it ruined everything. If I really want to be wise and invest in my future then I’m going to sow in to the Kingdom with everything I got because there is a promise of return there!