Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Our Empowering Connection

What I'm listening to: Switchfoot's Legend of Chin

You know, I hope Fleming Rose is pleased with himself.

24 killed in Nigeria religious violence

He defended himself in the Washington Post last week and while he has every right to, and some of his argument is perfectly logical (albeit morally reprehensible) this appears to be simply another way our society manages to distance itself from each other. The rules for free press are different, he argues, and in doing so places him in a bubble free of accountability. Here's the problem I have in using that as your defense: We cannot live our lives as though we aren't connected. Because we are. This violent reactions to what the Danish newspaper did proves that.

Here are some pull-outs from his defense:

Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.


I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologized for that. But we cannot apologize for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralyzed by worries about every possible insult.

I am offended by things in the paper every day: transcripts of speeches by Osama bin Laden, photos from Abu Ghraib, people insisting that Israel should be erased from the face of the Earth, people saying the Holocaust never happened. But that does not mean that I would refrain from printing them as long as they fell within the limits of the law and of the newspaper's ethical code. That other editors would make different choices is the essence of pluralism.


Still, I think the cartoons now have a place in two separate narratives, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe. The narrative in the Middle East is more complex, but that has very little to do with the cartoons.


I refuse to blame him for the violence that continues to occur, but where is social responsibility in this debate? Buried in the determination to simply do what we want? It's frightening to think that it probably is.

What we choose to do and choose not to do will always affect someone. That shouldn't paralyze us, in fact, it should empower us. Humans are connected despite race, religion and culture, and instead of fearing that we should embrace it and think twice about our actions.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Worship Leader's Responsibility


Over the last several months I've been specifically thinking about the responsibility of a worship leader. Beyond the physical aspects of choosing music, organizing teams, planning the projection of songs, leading devotions at rehearsals, etc. I've been slightly erratic in my thought process - it seems to always be in the back of my mind, but I have yet to really sit down, write and think in a logical way. So this post is the beginning of that for me.

Beyond all that I mentioned above, I've been concerned that there aren't clear, established perimeters for me in the position I'm in- when I stand up front on Sunday mornings with my guitar and lead the worship part of our service. I posted a little bit about it here and looking back I'm wondering if I haven't been taking my position a little too lightly.

What is my responsibility? And the nagging question that popped into my head tonight: Is the lack of spiritual growth in a worship leader at all reflected on the lack of spiritual growth in the congregation?

I have no desire to elevate the level or a worship leader position to take on that kind of responsibility. We have to place a large portion of it on the individual person. But if I'm considered to be a leader in the church and I have no spiritual growth, is the congregation stagnant because of that? And likewise, with the others leaders of the church - elder, chairmen, sunday school teachers, etc.

I haven't been able to pinpoint the exact reason for a fear of moving forward in my church. It's there. Maybe not in everyone, but it's there. I think it might be because moving forward means vulnerability. And like the song I'm listening to now, it asks Are we happy plastic people/Under shiny plastic steeples/With walls around our weakness/And smiles to hide our pain? Is my church afraid to show who they really are for fear of judgment and behind-their-back whispering?

I'm so afraid that it is. And I don't know how I can fix it. Because I feel this way, I'm worried that it's in some way my responsibility to do so.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Yuck

What I'm listening to:
Charlie Peacock's Everything That's On My Mind






I hate packing. Next week I'm outta here!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Colson missed the mark on this one

What I'm listening to: A mixed tape I found in the process of packing from 2001. Hee. I haven't listened to a tape in years.

I came across this article:
Musical Mush

I've always respected Church Colson - his work, his teaching, his books, his amazing ministry work. But I disagree with him.

First of all, I am infuriated with anyone who feels to need to blame a decline in intelligence on something just to blame it on something. He has no scientific fact to base his theories. Just speculation. While I wouldn’t be surprised if the decline on intelligence didn’t have something to do with media in general (after all, it’s much easier to turn the TV on and be entertained without using your mind than it is to open a book and do so). But to point to contemporary worship music as the culprit? Ridiculous. And it's ridiculous because all music at one point in time was contemporary.

Second of all, I will stand with Rick Warren’s view on worship music. The simple fact is this: the bible tells us to "Sing to the Lord" "Shout to the Lord" not "Sing about the Lord" or "Shout about the Lord". Biblical worship has lyrics sung to God, not about him. And if you take a long look at the hymns Colson says he prefers, the majority of them are about God, not to him. Lyrics that are written to God - that's biblical worship.

I’m in no way saying that any song written about God isn’t a good song. I’m saying you’ll be hard pressed to find biblical support saying a song about God is better than one meant to be sung to God.

He admits he prefers hymns – but follows that with saying today’s church music (and radio too) is in danger of crossing over into entertainment. What did he think the first singing in church was even about? Has he researched it? The fact is, Benjamin Keath saw how people enjoyed music in other venues and after 20 some years of trying, was able to implement it into the regular church service. This was back in the 17th century and was considered heretical. The line between worship/entertainment is not always plain for us to see. The reason? It’s an issue of the heart.

If we allow music to replace solid teaching, how it that the fault of the music itself? It’s not. It’s the fault of the person who made that choice. And as it talks about in the article, it’s the fault of the Christian broadcasters who are changing platforms to make their audience happy. (Which takes us into a whole other argument about ministry vs. business that I have no desire to get into now). Show me where in scripture it says that music is meant for teaching. It’s not. It’s about praising God for who he is and what he’s done. To replace one for the other is wrong. I absolutely agree with him there.

To that end, I say he’s simply pointing the blame in the wrong direction. It’s not just the songs. (Because I do believe that some of it is the songs). I believe it’s our responsibility as worship leaders to show the congregation biblical worship. We help shape their heart of worship. But it’s up to them to change. They must be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change their hearts. It’s not the fault of the songs themselves.

So if I were writting a commentary on this topic? I would say this: let's examine our hearts first. Then the right music will follow.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Effective and Intentional

What I've listening to: My Restoration Mix

Our pastor is asking all the leaders in the church to comes to the next ministry team meeting with these two words in mind: Effective and Intentional.He's asked us to examine the effectiveness and intentionality of the ministry we lead.

All I have to say is: finally. I cannot wait to sit down and talk about this! I hope this meeting brings up some incredibly important issues that face the church today. How we tend to see "service to God" as a replacement for a "relationship with God". How sometimes we have no idea why a ministry exsists in a church, but we do it becasue it's always been done (whether or not it's effective or intentional.)

Here's my list of comments (so far) about the worship ministry:

Effective

-Worship can only be effective (I.e. honorable to God and draws us closer to him) if the content is biblical

-It’s difficult for worship to be effective for everyone because of each generation’s preference of musical style. Where does the heart come into play here?

-I struggle with this issue “If the worship in this church is not effective, how do I know it because of what we’re doing (or not doing) or because of the hearts in this congregation?” And if it’s because of the hearts, what can I do to facilitate change?


Intentional

-Worship is an intentional response to who God is and what he does

-Our ministry exists to intentionally give God the praise he deserves (“to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Christ”)

-Our ministry exists to intentionally draws us closer to God

- We are intentionally quarterbacks not the coaches

-More than anything else, intentional and purposeful worship starts with the heart

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Out With the Old

What I'm listening to: In the Name of Love: Artist United for Africa (which has a great cover of "40")

I'm in the process of packing - I'm moving at the end of the month and last night I came across my old journals. And wasn't that a trip.

Those of you who know me pretty well know that I'm a writer, but not really. I write copy nearly everyday at my job - press releases, ad copy and whatnot. I'm hardly a professional, nor do I aspire to be. I like to write, but I'm not great at it. The discipline it takes to be a great creative writer is something I've never taken much time with. And one of those disciplines is journal writing. But I have a few filled up from over the years. And I uncovered some I'd forgotten even existed.

I've never been very regular with writing in a journal, but from 2000-2004 (missing most of 2003) I had one journal I wrote in quite a bit. Some of the entries I read now and can hardly recognize that person. Nor can I understand why I write what I wrote or felt what I felt. I seemed so naive. So young. And honestly? So defeated.

I'm incredibly emotional creature (yes, I heard those of you that just blurted out "no, really?" in sarcasm) and when I write in my journals it truly is off-the-cuff, like my writing is here. And I really needed to remind myself of that as I looked through my old writing. I was crazy. My mind was spinning back to those years, wondering what in the world I was thinking. I wondered why I was so hurt over something so small, why I was so worried about nothing, and why I ignored the big picture.

Process is very important to me. When I need to respond to something that’s affected me, I need days, even weeks, to respond thoughtfully and clearly. I love that process. Not in the sense that I seek it out - I don’t, because it can be awful. But I’m not an emotional reactor - I’m just an emotional thinker. I need that time to formulate the best words possible to express myself. And those old journal entries often reflected the process, not the end result. So it’s no wonder I read them and shook my head at my behavior.

I'm ashamed to say the lessons I learned back them - well, not all of the stuck with me. I've repeated some of the same mistakes I made years ago with the same consequences. The same results. Should I expect anything less? No, but I should expect more of myself. I'm awfully good at self-introspection. So I'm proud to say I'm know myself better than I ever have. What I want to move towards is being the best child of God I can be in this moment he's given me. Which I don't believe will be accomplished by looking back.