Stop Pretending.

One of my favorite stories from pastoral sermons I’ve heard goes like this:

A man was drowning out in the middle of the ocean. Fearful for his life, he cried out to God, “God! Please save me!” Shortly after, a small boat came upon him, and the captain reached out his hand to save the man. Waving him on, the drowning man said, “No, thank you. God is going to save me.” The captain shrugged and went on about his business. The drowning man once again cried out, “Please, God! Save me!” and once again, another boat happened upon him. The drowning man again denied the help of the boat, claiming God would save him. This happened once more before the drowning man fell victim to the sea. When he reached the gates of Heaven and saw God, he asked, “God, why didn’t you save me? I cried out for you to help me, and save me from drowning. Why did you never come?” God looked at him for a long moment before answering, “I sent you three boats, didn’t I?”

More and more, I’m finding the relevance to this story in my own life. So often we get caught up in waiting for God to save us, when the whole time He’s been sending boat after boat trying to help us, but every time we deny the help and claim that in God’s time, our problem will magically be solved and we’ll be saved.

Stop pretending that the boats coming to your life, or even your work, aren’t the tools God has placed before you to do the work yourself.

Stop pretending that God will wave a hand over your situation and your problem will disappear on it’s own every single time.

Stop pretending that God isn’t speaking to you.

There are situations and circumstances in your life right now that God has given you the tools, passion, or abilities to overcome yourself. Right now, there’s something in your life that is frustrating you, upsetting you, or demeaning you and you have the power to fix it yourself. Why then, are you waiting on God to make the situation disappear?

Maybe for you, it’s the opposite. Maybe there is a goal you have been desperately trying to attain, and you have every tool in your toolbox necessary to do it. Why then, are you waiting for God to bestow upon you the gift of whatever comes from that situation to you without you putting in the effort?

God is indeed the mightiest and most wonderful power to ever exist, and He can do far more than we could ever ask or imagine, and He doesn’t NEED us to do anything. Still, time and time again He calls us to a situation, whether it be to grow ourselves or help another, and places everything in your hand for you to do it yourself and to glorify Him, but still, you feel the need to “wait for God” to hold your hand and walk you through it.

Because of the very nature of our sinful selves, we justly deserve death. We don’t deserve 1/10 of the gifts and blessings that God bestows upon us. Why would God, knowing the sins that even you overlook, call you to do something for His glory? Because even after we fall short of His glory time and time again, He seeks us with passion that if physically quantifiable would outnumber any human numerical scale, and forgives you of the countless offenses against Him without thinking twice about it.

Why then, after knowing all this, would you not pour your heart and soul into what He has called you to do? Why do you wait for Him to do it for you? Why do you not get into the boat?

Stop pretending. Start acting.


Passion in Ministry

I’ve been thinking quite a bit on a conversation I had with a worship director on the importance of creativity in worship, and it really got me thinking on a few issues that I hope to get around to blogging about in the next couple of weeks.

Breaking Traditions
He made several comments about how difficult it’s become to break away from the normal routine of worship, and at least in the Lutheran Church, I know even I’ve found it easier to please our large audience by playing it safe and not taking the risks necessary to innovate, and in return I’ve found myself displeased by the results. If you have found yourself on like situations, know this:

You were not created to play it safe.

You are not in a position to lack risk-taking.

The thoughts you have in your head about where you should be taking you and your church– they’re what you need to start doing.

We are each called to our creative positions, and God doesn’t call us to maintain the status quo. You’re an essential part of the Great Commission and it is your duty to tell the Story in the greatest way possible in your church, so do it. Innovate. Bring God the glory by breaking the chains of safety and pushing your creative limits. He isn’t going to put you or your team into a situation that you can’t handle, so take every new project or idea and take it to the fullest possible capability. People are going to hate you, but if people hate you, someone will love you, and the worst thing you can do as a creative or a church leader is to become invisible or to become bland. Kill any sort of comfort in maintaining your routines, because with every routine you create in your ministry, you remove the excitement and buzz surrounding it. Break it! Shake things up on a consistent basis, and you’re going to find consistent excitement with what you do.

Creativity in Worship

I referenced in one of my previous posts the importance of creativity in worship, that same night, I came up with a few creative ways to create some buzz with our “Do Something” campaign. A thought I had was to have congregational members offer their creativity as an offering, and since then, I’ve been thinking of ways to enhance that. It’s not enough that we’re offering up our ideas to God, we should be offering everything we have, talent-wise. So how do we do that? And how do we do that in worship?

Offering our ideas is a great start. By doing this, we’re requiring that congregational members don’t just go through the motions, as so many do. They have to think, and they can’t use the Jesus answer. We as creatives must do this to consistently provide a worship experience each week, so doing creative things like this doesn’t mean the same things as it might mean to the congregation, so it’s important to highlight this.

One problem I feel is conflicting the Church is that too many worship leaders are trying to entertain the guests to boost numbers, get bigger budgets, only to focus on entertaining the congregation again. While there are ethical issues wrapped up in this, Colossians 3:23 states “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, and do it for the Lord, not for man.” Creatives must strive to create for God, not for the entertainment or awe of man. When we create for God, the desired result with man will come naturally. For whatever is good and pleasing to the Lord is beautiful and lovely to mankind.

Another concept I’ve been thinking about is changing up the way we worship. What if instead of creating a set and having a rigid timetable of the worship service, we allow God to move through us in worship? This may not be all that foreign for some churches, but this is something I’ve found the majority of churches that I’ve seen doing. Here’s one quick idea– What if for one service, you try getting your members/guests to take off their shoes before entering the sanctuary? This ends the stuffy “we’re at church, we have to act perfect” attitude that I can guarantee at least one of your members feel. People used to take off their shoes before entering the temple as a sign of respect and to show that this is holy ground. You will face resistance, especially if you have older members in your congregation, and I know that in my congregation, elderly make up a rather large portion of our member-base, so this would be a concept that we would have to use in our contemporary service.

Here’s another idea– Turn off your house lights, light candles instead. Bring the retro liturgical service back. There WAS a time that electricity didn’t exist, and there were Christians long before that, so how else did the get together? They lit candles. Those societies were definitely closer-knit than ours. While I am one of the biggest fans of using social media, I do believe that too much of a good thing is dangerous, and today’s society, especially Americans, are used to becoming stuffed to the point of discomfort with most of anything. When you take away the technology, you make your congregants rely on each other during the service. Grab an acoustic guitar, a Bible, and you can lead one of the most impacting services you’ve ever had. The biggest moments I’ve had in my spiritual life were not when I was awed by the technology and the delivery of the service, it was youth retreats that required limited resources and community. Emulate this in your normal church service, you’ll be glad you did.

I challenge you to strive to find ways to break the structure of your service. Don’t let your church become routine, make it an experience that will challenge and grow your congregants each and every week.

Contemporary Worship

It’s been one of my greatest dreams that the Church would find a way to make the way we worship the most creative possible. Sure, there’s singing a few new Christian songs, maybe moving when we read the scripture, but what does it mean to be contemporary?

When we think of what it means to be contemporary, it’s imperative that we recognize and applaud the liturgical service. These were the pioneers in Contemporary worship, and without them, we wouldn’t be as progressive as we are now. We must recognize the flaws and beauties in both services, or we’ll never know how to progress.

Liturgical services by nature require a rigid formulaic strategy. If you’re like me, routines kinda bug me, and it’s not because I’m ADD or anything, it’s just I think switching it up a bit every now and then wouldn’t hurt. If I were an extremist contemp, I’d think that the liturgical service NEVER changes and it’s ridiculous to come to church every week if you know exactly what you’re going to do, however, I believe that the way lits can combat this belief is matins! Lits, use your matins! You switch things up every 6-ish months, you change a hymn every once in a while! 😉

It’s not about singing hymns, and I think most contemps(contemporary followers) get this crazy mindset that it’s all about the organ with the lits(liturgical followers), and that the louder the organ, the better the service, and the problem with this mindset lies in that there are a few contemps that don’t think this is a problem, and use this strategy with the typical worship band and then the lits just assume that the contemps are typical teenagers who want to “put the speakers on 11 and shake their bodies left and right”(Nerdy Kelly Clarkson reference…. ignore me!) However, it’s not about how loud you can get.

Those are just a couple of differences in the contemporary v. liturgical debate that I’m sure has been around for ages, and extends far beyond the guitar v. organ debate.

Something I’d like to touch on, and something I believe is one of the most important in contemporary worship, is creative means of worshiping. We are not all made equally, and everyone has different means of learning, of believing, and of thinking, so why isn’t the Church doing more to stimulate a larger audience? There are so many different ways to worship God, and I think so often we get caught up in the belief that you have to sing, and you have to give an offering of monetary value, and you have to give a 15 minute sermon. What if worshiping isn’t about that? Would God be angry if we praised him a little differently? I highly doubt that, and therefore, I challenge the Church, let’s find the craziest, most insane ways to worship God, because God loves the creative soul, and we’re capable of so much more than sitting in the pew and going through the motions every Sunday. Give everything to God, even your creativity, and He will bless you bountifully!