Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Well I just finished my second last class for my Masters of Divinity in Creative Ministry. I have one class left to do and then I get to jump into the part I have been most looking forward to, writing my thesis. The thing is I don’t want to just write a dry academic piece that no one will read. I want to write something that I can hopefully use to help churches to grow and expand their congregations and their effectiveness by embracing creativity and creative ministry. The title’s been going through my mind for a long time. I’ve done a workshop on it before and I have a lot of ideas for it. But today I am going to get started. I am hoping you’ll join me on the journey.

What I’m hoping to explore is the background and need for imaginative ministry, as well as imaginative preaching, teaching and reaching (evangelism) and of course worship. we’ll also explore how the church can embrace creativity and minister to creative people. Now to be sure I will be writing an academic paper, for the process, but I also want to be sure to create stuff along the way that will be of help to all of you.

It all started a long time ago, when I was invited to speak to a church planting conference on the subject of imagination. I decided to start my study by looking up the word imagination in the Bible. I was surprised to find that almost without exception the word was used in a negative context—namely people imagining things that were not true, dealing with false beliefs. Needless to say that’s not where I’m going. I can almost hear people cringing even as I write the words “imaginative preaching.” I’ve heard some of that recently and to be honest, it angered me to the point where I needed to go into prayer. That’s not where I’m going either. No, instead I want to inspire people to embrace the kind of imagination that makes a childless nonagenarian able to see a nation of people being born from him. Rather than moving to disbelief, Abraham trusted God to be bigger than the seeming impossibility of his situation. We serve the same God. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. I believe He still desires to work through people who will look past the seeming impossibility of our situations and trusting in God to seed our imaginations with infinite possibilities. I invite you to join me in this journey.

Imagine the possibilities.

It started with a question between a father and a son,the son asking why the church needed smoke machines in worship. This question led to one of the most honest explorations of worship I have read. Manuel Luz is a true artist, musician, worship leader, etc. and he delves deep into what it means to worship from the depth of one’s soul. He’s not advocating for a style of worship, nor does he denigrate any type of worship. Rather, Luz looks at the heart of the worshipper connecting with the heart of God in ways that are both God-honoring and authentic. This is a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone involved in worship, from the worshippers in the pews to those responsible for leading people into worship. I have read quite a few books on worship and this one is the best by far. Go out and pick this one up. You will not be disappointed.

I’m reading Manuel Luz’ new book called Honest Worship and it is so good. He has a really thought provoking idea from Soren Kirkegaard on worship in there that we all need to consider.

[Kirkegaard] is said to have likened the worship service to the theater. He posited that most people believe that the pastors and worship leaders are the performers, God is the director and the congregation is the audience. But this is an incorrect paradigm. In truth the pastors and worship leaders are the directors, the congregation are the performers, and God is rightfully the audience.

He is 100 per cent right and I pray I never get it wrong. Whatever we do in the ministry of worship, must always be done to please an audience of one. This further reminded me of a quote attributed to Francis Chan. A worshipper came up to him and basically said he didn’t like worship today. Chan reportedly said, “That’s okay, we weren’t worshipping you.”

A project that has been on my mind for years, and it’s time. I call it The Imaginative Church. The idea is pretty simple. I want to see the church embrace their imagination to find new ways to communicate the unchanging truth of God’s Word. I already have worked up a lot of this material in various forms, but I am finally going to curate it into a compendium of (hopefully) useful information. Stay tuned, and in the mean time, which cover do you like better?


or B.

Share your vote in the comments.

At the moment I am taking an Old Testament class as I work on my Masters. The most recent session I completed was on the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles. It was telling. One of the questions I had to answer for my paper was What is the relationship between reflection on the past and the worship of Yahweh?

Here is my reply:

In the books of Chronicles we see evidence of a disappointed people and a theology of hope. The people have returned from exile to see a city and a temple that are in ruins and a pale shadow of what once was and, to put it mildly, they have questions for God. The Chronicler works to cure this by taking them to the past, reminding them of God and his faithfulness, great victories and all His work on their behalf. This in many ways is the essence of worship.

Our circumstances may be such that they make us lose hope, but worship draws our hearts back to the One who saves us and sets us free. Worship reminds us of the One who has been faithful throughout history, to remind us He is still in control. Worship is essential to our lives as believers. I often remind my congregation that the times we feel like worshipping the least are when we need to worship the most. The Chronicler is trying to draw the people back to hope in God. He is showing them that throughout time God has kept up the covenant regardless of our faithfulness. In the same hand, the blessings and curses still apply. The people in Chronicles are living in the remnants of a curse that they, or their ancestors, brought on themselves. The Chronicler is reminding them that they can live in the blessing again. The answer is to return to the right worship of the one true God. It is as true for us as it was for them. Worship turns our hearts to God, and that is where they need to be.

When you feel like worshipping the least is usually when you need to worship God the most. Let Him remind you of His faithfulness, power and grace. He has come through before, He will come through again. Lift your heart in worship, read of His faithfulness in His Word and be comforted. Where there is God there is hope, and God is Here!

Worship Him, whether you feel like it or not.

I am watching a young man worship the Lord right now and I am blown away. Not by his technical ability. Not by the way he is leading, he’s essentially alone. He is raising his voice in an empty room. No one will ever buy a ticket to see what he is doing, though perhaps we should. He’s off key, out of tune, and he doesn’t know all the words, but the authenticity is beyond anything I have seen in a long time. This guy just flat out loves Jesus and is praising with all His might. I know his Heavenly Father is smiling, because the Spirit within me is bearing witness. Every time the word victorious is said in the song, he screams it. This guy at least in his heart, soul and Spirit understands worship and the authenticity touches my heart.

Not long ago, I overheard a person talking about their church. I have to admit I was taken aback. As this person spoke, they related how no one preaches at the church and there are times where they just sit in silence for a whole service. “No one tells us what to do or what to believe.” They seemed to think this was Panacea, almost paradise. The faith is a fairly old tradition, but I have to tell you the truth… I don’t get it.

See I know my own tendency to go my own way. “There’s a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” That’s what Scripture says, and I’m pretty sure I have demonstrated it in my own life. Left to my own devices, even after all these years as a Christian, it’s still pretty easy for me to talk myself into doing what I want to do and putting God’s seal of approval on it. Thankfully I have a few things that help me to stay on the right path.

First I have God’s Word. I have the Bible, I can look at it, read it, study it and take it to heart. I read the Word and the Holy Spirit convicts me to stay on the right path.

Next I have the church. When I come together with other believers around the Word of God, I receive the blessing of conviction and accountability. If I am honest enough to be open about what I am thinking, someone will take me to task and take me back to the Word of God and show me the error of my ways.

Finally I have a pastor. He comes and preaches the Word of God to me. He studies the Word. He prays and He brings messages that are often exactly what I need to hear. Not always what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. He declares the Word of God. He does tell me what to believe and sometimes even what to do, based not on his whim but on what the Word of God says. His messages sometimes step on my toes. That is a blessing, called conviction that God gives us to turn us around before we make things much worse. No one telling us what to do or what to believe may sound like a wonderful thing… but it isn’t. In the grand scheme of things, if the Scriptures are true, and by the way, THEY ARE, then someone who doesn’t tell you what to do or what to believe is showing you they don’t care about you at all.

I think it is far better for someone to go to the Word, seek the Lord and preach it, speaking the truth in love and saying…

Thus sayeth the Lord…

From there the choice is mine, but at least I’ve heard the truth. What I do with that is up to me.

(c) Balliol College, University of Oxford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Balliol College, University of Oxford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

William Temple was the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury, of the Church of England. He was a theologian and scholar and his definition of worship is one of the best I have ever seen. People seem to assume that worship is music, it isn’t. Music is a tool used in worship. It is an element of worship and it can be used to draw us into worship. I spend so much time calling this out, not because I dislike music. I love music, but I have seen so many churches splinter over style of worship and specifically style of music, that I feel the need to call this out. Worship is not about our preferences, it’s for an audience of One. Worship is for God. Yes it draws us to God. Yes there are styles that we enjoy more than others, but we should never let what we do for God to divide us. That strips away all the Worship in it and I believe breaks the heart of God. Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another.” There’s no room for worship wars in that.

Instead, we should see worship as Temple defined it. I broke it down into bullet points to help us absorb it.

  • Worship is the submission of all nature to God.
  • It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness;
  • the nourishment of mind with His truth;
  • the purifying of imagination by his holiness;
  • the opening of the heart to His love;
  • the surrender of will to His purpose—
  • and all of this gathered up in adoration,
  • the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable,
  • and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.

Did you notice the final element of that related to self-centeredness? Demanding our preferences would qualify. Instead let’s return our focus to the true object of our worship. Matt Redman wrote a song called Heart of Worship about this very thing. Here is the background of the song.

By the way, this definition came from my reading of Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland

swimmingpondI was speaking at a wonderful Christian Camp over the weekend. The schedule was a little unusual for me. Rather than speaking morning and evening, I spoke in the morning and the middle of the afternoon. I’m not complaining. It was really great. It left me free in the late afternoon and evening to do a little exploring, and a lot of socializing with the folks I was speaking to. In the late afternoon, I mentioned to the camp director that I was going to take a little walk to the swimming pond. She responded jokingly, “Don’t get lost.” Well, never being one to respond well to authority (lol) that’s exactly what I did. I got lost.

Now I wasn’t massively lost, I just grabbed the wrong trail back to my lodging. The new trail was a little longer, but much better marked and easier to find, which played well into the rest of the story.

You see, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of busyness. I’ve been so busy that my thoughts and especially my prayers have been pretty easily side tracked, which is never a good thing. I awoke the morning after having been momentarily lost, well before sun rise. Part of me wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I was being nudged. Next thing I know I found myself walking down the longer but better marked trail in the dark. Before long I was on a bench by the swimming pond looking at an amazing starlit and moonlit sky, sitting, listening to the sounds of nature and having a conversation and a time of praise with my heavenly Father watching for the Sunrise. In the silence of that early morning, I got a chance to rest in His presence and reconnect in a meaningful way with the source of my strength.

Sometimes it pays to get lost.

Yes, yes, I did. I ministered at the Liberty Raymond Tavern over the weekend. I know what you might be thinking so I better explain myself. This is no longer a working bar, though for the record I would minister in a bar if God gave the opportunity. If it was good enough for Billy Sunday, it’s good enough for me, but I digress. The Liberty Raymond Tavern is a great place.
liberty raymond
It’s a bed and breakfast, owned and run by my friends Bill and Brenda Weiss (no relation, except for the best kind brother and sister in Christ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful, historic place. It was build in the 1800s as a stagecoach stop and many of the marks of it’s history are still there. It was also a stop on the Underground railroad. In one of the closets there is a small hidden panel in the back wall that opens to a small room under the stairs and a hatch into the basement where runaway slaves could hide as they rested, on their way to freedom. It still feels like a place of refuge, rest and peace.
underground railroad
Aside from their wonderful hospitality, they also have these intimate, Spirit filled worship gatherings in the barn. I was privileged to speak and paint at these for several nights. You can really feel the presence of God in this place.
Liberty barn
So yes I ministered in a tavern, (no alcohol flowed but God did) and I hope to do it again, soon.