Thinking Out Loud

July 28, 2014

“and now it’s time to dismiss the seniors for their service…”

In today’s worship-team driven, seeker sensitive, multi-site, mega-churches, participation is increasingly a young man’s game. Relevance is achieved through having relevant communicators, so those of us who’ve been around a bit longer are often forced to listen to sermons being taught by speakers who seem to be barely out of high school; speakers whose primary qualification seems to be that they are standing at the front of the room.*

Three years ago, I wrote about supporting the youth in your church in their various endeavors. Days later, I wrote what you’re now reading; about supporting the middle aged in your church; the people who have suddenly become excluded from any ministry that is high profile simply because one week they forgot to touch up the single gray hair that has emerged just above the temple on their right side.

For Logan, 30 was the cutoff year. A crystal system like this was proposed for church worship leaders, but it interfered with guitar chording

In many of today’s modern churches, those in their mid-forties are senior citizens, at least in terms of public ministry. Which is a real shame on so many levels; but mostly because, given the chance, many of these people have something to say. I really applaud some of the next generation people who are stepping up and demonstrating real spiritual maturity when thrust into a teaching or worship-leading role. But for each one of those, there are just as many who, while they can wear the clothes, assemble the accompanying slides, and open with the right stories; they simply don’t have the necessary content to justify the 30-35 minutes they are usually given.

So what can your church do to keep middle aged people active? In the item I wrote two days ago about empowering your youth in ministry, it was a simple matter of looking at a problem and throwing some money at it. In other words; the greatest need of teenagers for mission projects — either global or domestic — is for financial underwriting. That’s not the solution needed to affirm your middle-aged leaders.

You need to be intentionally multi-generational.

Robert Webber had it half right when he wrote of “blended worship.” But beyond the what of a given church service, the blendedness (a word I just made up) must also involve who is at the front of the room as well as who is at the back of the room giving direction. In fact, I would argue that you can’t achieve Webber’s blended ideal unless you have people representing different constituencies in the church providing input to the worship team.

Today’s church is so totally youth cultured, that it’s not hard to imagine the following:

“As we sing the next verse, we’ll invite everyone over 55 to come to the front; we have a special story for you; and then we’ll have a word of prayer and dismiss you to your own service in the church basement, where we have milk and cookies just for you.”

High fiber cookies, presumably.

No, that would be wrong. The capital-C Church of Jesus Christ is an equalizer. Rich and poor. Male and female. Labor class and management class. AND: Old and young. The target demographic should be defined as “anyone with a pulse.” The message of the gospel is a call to each and everyone.

Because the pastors and leaders who operate under a youth culture paradigm are going to find themselves — in just a year or two — suddenly out of a job. In fact the crystal on the inside palm of their hands is getting ready to turn red right now.




*For any of my local readers; this was written quite some time ago. The young man who spoke at our church on Sunday was amazing; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the sermon.  Sometimes the timing of an article is awkward!!

June 25, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Church Organ - Air Conditioner Combo

While this is list number two-hundred-and-something at Thinking Out Loud — and probably about the 400th link list over all, it’s list #52 at PARSE. A year! Time flies when you’re having links. Since Leadership Journal owns this weekly piece, clicking anything below takes you to PARSE where you can then link to the item you wish to read first.

Thursday through Tuesday, Paul blogs at Thinking Out Loud, both writes and steals devotional material at Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

 

It's not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it's a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

It’s not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it’s a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

May 28, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared everything up for me.

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared up everything for me.

It appears that all my news gathering algorithms were no match for the slow news cycle of a Memorial Day weekend. Nonetheless, we have a great list for you, but our deal with PARSE is that you need to click through to their site and then select the story you want to see. Click anything below to link.

Got a suggestion for next week’s links? Find the contact page at Paul’s blog, Thinking Out Loud or via @PaulW1lk1nson and make some noise by noon on Monday.

Roger Bucklesby

May 18, 2014

Modern Worship Movement Dead-Ended

Filed under: ministry, music, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm

worship_tshirt

As of today, I have seen the future of the modern worship movement, and even now, I am convinced that we are not being well-served.  Today I got to observe the height of performance-oriented worship formatting; songs that were completely unfamiliar pitched in keys that rendered them completely un-singable. I also saw the approach toward casual dress of platform/stage personnel at its worst. I also observed song lyrics that simply cannot be supported theologically. Throughout it all, I was expected to remain standing.

Oddly enough, part of the reason we decided to take our free Sunday at this church was because of its history and reputation for outstanding worship. I really don’t want to be a curmudgeon, but I honestly feel that worship leaders to need to rethink some basics before assembling a worship set.

  • At least one hymn (yes, mostly for demographic reasons, but also for theological ones)
  • At least one modern hymn (as in Townend, Kendrick, Gettys, Sovereign Grace)
  • At least one modern worship composition that proved itself in the ’80s, ’90s or early ’00s.
  • For another two songs, you can have your recent modern worship songs, but try to go with something of substance. (Doerksen or Baloche for at least one would be nice)

There’s a five song worship song list I could live with.

In the meantime, if I were in leadership at the church we attending this morning, I would be convening an emergency meeting early in the week.

Just because your church has achieved success numerically is no reason to assume you’re doing everything right.

May 14, 2014

Wednesday Link List

not entirely dead to sin cartoon

from Church is Stranger Than Fiction by Mary Chambers an IVP book from 1990

If it’s Wednesday, it’s time for another list of things you may have missed from the Christian corner of the web.  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE where the list officially resides. Then click the story you wish to read.

From CBD, for women who don’t have the joy of the Lord:

Joy of the Lord Lipstick

 

May 5, 2014

I’ve Landed a Role as an Understudy

In theory at least, you should get to know a little about the people whose blogs you read and follow, and I hope that’s the case here. I realized yesterday I’d never shared here a particular song from the 1980s which had a huge impact on me when I considered its ramifications. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t on either blog. So if you’re in a hurry, skip down to the horizontal line and read the explanation, listen to the song and follow the lyrics. But I decided to include the entire setup here for those who want the context of how I got searching for the song yesterday at C201…

Part of our goal as Christians should be that we grow in our imitation of Christ.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. ~ Ephesians 5:1-2

In another book, the principle is the same, but Paul adds another dimension:

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
~I Corinthians 11:1

The thing that struck me is that there are examples where the writers of New Testament scriptures take on the God-characteristics in relation to the the people they lead.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ~ I John 2:1

I find it amazing that the apostle John refers to his audience here as my little children. He is taking on the heart of a father for his readers. This is not a prophetic word, because in the second part of the verse the Father (with a capital F) is distinct. Just as God regards us as his children, John feels that way toward the people to whom the epistle was written. Just a chapter later he again reminds us that we are God’s children:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. ~ I John 3:2

so he is affirming that we are all God’s children, but also, as a leader in the newly emerging Church, he takes a fatherly role of the people under his leadership.

The second similar passage is:

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; I Peter 5:2

Remember, Jesus himself says, “I am the good shepherd…” but Peter writes to leaders in the emerging church to themselves be shepherds of the flock. So yes, there is one Great Shepherd of the sheep, but Peter invites his co-laborers in ministry to live as shepherds also, and thereby defines pastoral ministry and eldership.


I also wanted to share something here only because I thought I had covered this already either here or on Thinking Out Loud, but it turns out I hadn’t. Stephen Crumbacher grew up around Hollywood, California and because of the proximity of the stage, film and television industry, he took the idea of being an imitator of Christ, and expressed it in terms of someone who is part of a theatrical or movie production as an understudy. This song has stayed with me since I first heard it in the mid-80s. This may not be your music style, but if it isn’t, just turn down the volume, read the lyrics and enjoy the brilliance of this appropriate analogy:

Well, I really have a shot
So I’m giving it all I’ve got
This is the break I’ve been waiting for.
Some say it isn’t so great
That it was hardly worth the wait
But at least I finally have one foot in the door.

I’m an understudy, got a long way to go.
I was once a nobody not a name you would know.
Now I’m an understudy to the star of the show.

I’ve memorized my part
Learned my lines by heart
Gonna walk the script through page by page
Always do my best
And pray that I can stand the test
‘Cause I never know when I’ll be asked to take center stage

I’m an understudy, got a long way to go.
I was once a nobody not a name you would know.
Now I’m an understudy to the star of the show.

None of know when we will be asked to take center stage, but hopefully we are prepared when God calls us to be his stand-in in someone else’s journey.

 

March 22, 2014

Servants and Leaders

This is the third time around for this particular article, but it seems especially fitting for the current spiritual climate. The author is Brant Hansen who wrote this when he was working for WAY-FM, and now works for Air1 Radio.

LeaderMan vs. Servant Leader

I’ve had some people say, effectively, “Dude, you critique leadership, but don’t you think you’re leading people, too? Aren’t you worried about that?”

Nah. Not really. Shoot, I’m honored if I’m allowed to lead somebody, if I have an influential role in someone’s life. We need leadership — properly understood, the Jesus-type of “leadership” — like crazy. What we don’t need is the type of leadership I satirize.

We don’t need any more of “LeaderMan”. What we need are servant leaders, men and women who are gifted for leadership, whom people naturally follow, who point those people toward Jesus alone, our Teacher.

Granted, as always, I may not know what I’m talking about. But below are some off-the-top-of-the-head attempts at distinguishing one from the other.


———–

Servant Leader: Has something to say

LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something

———–

LeaderMan: You almost feel you know his family, because he’s your Leader

Servant Leader: You allow him to influence you, because you know his family

———–

LeaderMan: Wants you to know he’s a Leader

Servant Leader: You’re not sure he knows he’s a leader

———–

LeaderMan: Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church

Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path

———–

LeaderMan: A great speaker, but self-described as, “Not really a people person.”

Servant Leader: Makes himself a people person

———–

LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization

Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you

———–

LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision

Servant Leader: Just gets together with you

———–

LeaderMan: Resents “sheep stealing”

Servant Leader: Doesn’t get the “stealing” part, since he doesn’t own anyone to begin with

———–

LeaderMan: Wants the right people on the bus

Servant Leader: Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it

———–

Servant Leader: Shows you his whole heart

LeaderMan: Shows you a flow chart

———–

LeaderMan: A visionary who knows what the future looks like

Servant Leader: Knows what your kitchen looks like

———–

LeaderMan: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with excellence

Servant Leader: Not exactly sure how to even calculate “worth doing”

———–

LeaderMan: Talks about confronting one another in love

Servant Leader: Actually confronts you in love

———–

LeaderMan: Impressed by success and successful people

Servant Leader: Impressed by faithfulness

———–

LeaderMan: Invests time in you, if you are “key people”

Servant Leader: Wastes time with you

———–

LeaderMan: Reveals sins of his past

Servant Leader: Reveals sins of his present

———-

LeaderMan: Gives you things to do

Servant Leader: Gives you freedom

———–

LeaderMan: Leads because of official position

Servant Leader: Leads in spite of position

———–

LeaderMan: Deep down, threatened by other Leaders

Servant Leader: Has nothing to lose

March 4, 2014

Churches Feed on Fresh Blood

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:37 am

The title of today’s piece may seem a bit dark and that’s not the intention. What I want to do here is make an observation that I believe applies more in the small(er) church environment, but may also manifest itself if you worship with a greater number of people.

Local church volunteersChurches love new people.

That’s not a bad thing. Especially if somehow, despite the potential obstacles and blockages, people who have no previous church background, or have been away from God for a long time suddenly show up on Sunday morning. Without smothering them, we should certainly let them know that we’re glad they came and do everything we can to retain them as attendees.

But churches can be especially affectionate toward people who transfer from other congregations, especially if they have a gift-set they bring with them. They are quickly fast-tracked to the front of the line for service opportunities like Disney tourists with a Fast Pass.

I say this not out of resentment, because my wife and I have been that fresh blood several times; mostly together but sometimes one and not the other and vice versa. At one church’s annual meeting, a woman stood up and asked, “So, can anyone just walk in off the street and get a job here?” She was referring to me. The chairman wisely called for the coffee break to convene at that exact moment.

(After the break I was then asked to explain my previous experience and detail the eight-page questionnaire that the denomination required; a form which establishes personal testimony and doctrinal beliefs.)

But I’ve also seen it happen where senior church leadership is quite happy to fawn all over people who arrive from other assemblies with the requisite pedigree to be thrust immediately into high-profile positions. And I’ve seen those same people decide, six months in, that this wasn’t the right church after all and disappear as quickly as they arrived. They might have decided this sooner had they not been put to work so quickly.

The bottom line here is to know that this phenomenon exists and, insofar as it depends on you, try not to promote the feeding frenzy to extremes. It’s great to work with new people and allow them to get involved and share their gifts, but it’s also important to give newcomers time to settle in and get to know the tenor of a local church’s ministry.


February 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Chocolate Pope - NBC News Photo

The link list knows no borders, so you won’t find any gloating about Canada’s Olympic hockey wins here. Click anything below and you’ll be redirected to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a ministry of Christianity Today; then click each link there.

If you’re not busy this week snapping up Son of God movie tickets, you can check out Paul Wilkinson’s other writing at Thinking Out Loud.

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

January 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

link-list-basic

So, if you’re following the saga, sometime in late June we agreed to make the Wednesday Link List part of Out of Ur, which is part of Leadership Journal, which is part of Christianity Today, which was founded by Carl F. Henry, who was not related to Buck Henry. But then, last weekend, Leadership Journal officially rolled out PARSE which is where each of the links below takes you… you can click through from there.

To celebrate our first official PARSE column, we bring you both quality and quantity this week…

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available to DJ your next youth group meeting or help you herd your cats. He writes these little disclaimers at the end of the list for CT/PARSE readers and sometimes forgets to remove them here.

Trouble reading this? We’re experimenting with leaving out the “<big>” tag on each line for the first time; but if it’s small for ya, we’ll update midday. This classic blog theme has a default that’s somewhat miniscule.

Our closing graphic is from a collection of 30 mean letters written by kids.

Dear Uncle Bryan

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