Thinking Out Loud

January 5, 2018

The Antidote to Church and Worship Overanalysis

So on Monday we talked about the danger of falling into what is, if not a critical spirit, perhaps a critique-ical spirit when it comes to things like the worship time and sermon time at your local church. We said we would come back and discuss some solutions. Here are some things we came up with:

Celebrate the good things taking place at your church.

Try to keep a focus on the strengths, rather than the weaknesses of the people in leadership. Rehearse those things in your mind and in conversation with family and friends. Remember some moments where your church really stepped up its game and made a difference.

Develop a positive, wholesome attitude toward things in general.

Here’s how two contemporary versions translate Philippians 4:8 —

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. (The Voice)  Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (The Message)

Hang out with people new to your church, especially new believers.

What a breath of fresh air to spend your fellowship time at church with people who haven’t developed negative attitudes; people for whom everything is new, and fresh, and exciting. These people are the fresh blood which keeps the church functioning at its best. They may also have questions and answering those will keep your mind from going in other directions.

Make your comments as constructive suggestions.

The best way to do this is to ask questions. What if we did this differently? Or, What if we offered ______ an opportunity to take the lead on that segment of the service next week? Or, What if we had the youth group handle worship one week? While you don’t want to overdo this, it is less threatening than to make overt complaints and express overt dissatisfaction without offering anything as an alternative.

Visit another church.

You might just need a break. If you visit another church and find they’re doing everything perfectly, at least you’ll have a perspective or an authority to make suggestions. (Or maybe even a new church home.) Chances are however, that your church has some things it does better, and the other church has its own issues which, while different, are equally important to people there.

Put your name forward for a leadership position.

Six months of elders/deacons/board meetings might open your eyes as to why things are the way they are. You may find the issues are far more complicated than you realized. Don’t lose your idealism, but try to gain an understanding of how process works in a local church and how to bring about constructive improvement.

Avoid taking a leadership position.

Yes, I know. The opposite. It may be that you’re happier putting some distance between you and the things that tend to upset you. Perhaps changing diapers in the nursery or serving outside on the parking team would be more satisfying right now, both to you and the people who may have been caught in a rant or two.

Those are a few suggestions. Can you think of any we’ve missed?

Advertisements

January 1, 2018

Worship Analytics

You’re at a church service and one or more of the following happens:

  • You find yourself considering the theological underpinning of the opening prayer
  • You’re noticing all manner of technical things involving the worship music; everything from audio levels, to the competency of the musicians, to the song choices.
  • As the sermon progresses you find your brain, which should be absorbing the message, is more in the mode of critiquing the delivery, clarity, depth, application, etc.

Try as you may, you can’t stop analyzing everything that’s going on.

Maybe you know too much!

Here’s the question — because I already know some of you who are readers here do this — I want to ask: What percentage of people who are also among you in the congregation are also doing this?

I’d like to think in the case of music that the worship leaders (or people who actually do these things but are on a Sunday off) only number about 5% of the total congregation. Idealistic? Absolutely! Certainly the critical remarks you sometimes hear in the church lobby are based on significant numbers of people who have been treating the thing as though the pastor or worship team are contestants on a reality show.

But I might be wrong. Perhaps like Statler and Waldorf everyone has detached themselves from the prayer or worship or sermon and is filling in their scorecard.

That would be tragic, though some might argue a consequence of a consumer-focused church where the congregation is more of an audience.

I think there are ways to combat this mentality, but first, I want to hear from you how prevalent it might be.

June 3, 2010

The Difference Between Religion and Christ

At least once a week, I have the opportunity to share a simple overview of the difference between religion and Christianity with someone.   I wrote about it in September, 2008, but the essence of it is:

Q. How do you spell religion?

A. D-O — Do this, do that, do the other thing. Your standing before God is/will be based on what you do.

Q. How do you spell Christianity?

A. D-O-N-E — It’s all been done for us. There is nothing we can do to earn it, it is the gift of God.

The response I’ve had to this over the years has always been positive — it shatters many false perceptions — and I’m grateful to the former YFC staff worker who introduced it to me over a decade ago.

Justin Buzzard, who blogs from California, has taken a look at Tim Keller‘s The Gospel in Life curriculum, and has extracted more detail on the contrast between religion and the Good News, and has put it in chart form on Buzzard Blog.  (Check out the whole blog!)   Here it is for your consideration:

December 14, 2009

World of Dod’s Blog: Charismatic Cartoons

After mentioning this site in December 2nd’s link list, I finally found a couple of  ‘toons on World of Dod’s Blog that were of a size I could screen-shot them for you.   This blog is part funny, part thought-provoking, but you really need to have spent some time in the Pentecostal or Charismatic community to get all the nuances.   And that crowd isn’t known for a lot of introspection, let alone humor.   It’s a whole other world out there!   (Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt…)  So when you find a diamond in the rough…

Here’s another one:

These are just a couple of the recent ones.   Be sure to visit the site at: http://worldofdod.wordpress.com/

All cartoons are copyright of Dod Cartoonist, © 2009. www.worldofdod.wordpress.com

January 28, 2009

On Today’s Lunch Menu: Roast Preacher

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Religion — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:17 pm

roast-preacherOne of our pastor experiences was really strange.   One never knew truly what the guy was thinking, which means the drive home from the morning service was always filled with differing opinions as we tried to dissect the various points.    One time, he placed a coffee maker on the podium suggesting, “God is the water;” and concluding with, “We are the beans.”   This got us singing the chorus from  “We Are The World” all the way home, substituting “beans” for “world.”

On the other hand, we attended another church where the pastor clearly had a double portion of the gift of preaching.    Never once did we discuss anything he said in the car heading home.   He said it all.    Perfectly.   With nothing to add.

In hindsight, I’m not sure which is to be preferred.   I actually like discussing the sermon in the car on the way home, especially when there is a point of doctrine that was controversial, or the use of an analogy — such as the coffee maker one — that is a bit rough around the edges.   I  often think what I might have done with the same passage, or how a particular point might have made more clearly.    I am not ashamed of this at all, in fact I wish I had kept a journal or notebook solely for the purpose of recording when particular sermons might have served as a springboard to another idea based on the same text.

On the other hand though, on many of those drives home, there were a couple of sets of little ears in the back seat.    Little ears don’t understand the difference between a critique and a criticism.   The difference between unhelpful criticism and constructive criticism.   The difference between not liking what someone said versus not liking them as a person.   So one has to be careful.

The problem arises when adults are equally lacking in understanding the distinction.   If you are a pastor, know that I can violently disagree with something you said, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like you and it doesn’t mean I won’t love everything you say the following week.   Unfortunately, people tend to take things far too personally.   (It was once said of me, in reference to a particular pastor, “He can’t stand that guy.”   ‘Twasn’t true at all.)

Furthermore, I know some pastors who would be thrilled to think that people were discussing their sermons in the car on the way home, or over dinner.   Better that than forgetting them the minute they leave the building.   Better heated engagement of the topic or text than apathy.

But maybe not so much in the actual church building, in earshot of others.   Jon Acuff makes that quite clear in yesterday’s Stuff Christians Like post.   In keeping with the spirit of “Roast Preacher,” I wouldn’t necessarily give this particular post a “10” or even an “8,” but the set up was positively brilliant:

Two weeks ago at church, on my way to pick up my kids after service, the guy behind me said, “It was entertaining I guess, but that didn’t feel like church at all.”

I immediately turned around and was about to hit him with my copy of the English Standard Version of the Bible, which I’ve been told leaves bruises that are 14% closer to the original intent of the Hebrew, but he threw up the gang sign for “First Time Visitor.” I backed off instantly. If there’s one group of people you can’t strike with a Bible at church, it is first time visitors. Pastors really frown on that.

So instead, I just glared at him with a look that said, “You enjoy that first time visitor status, because next week, it’s gone. Soon you’ll just be a second time visitor and there’s not a gift basket that comes with that.” Then I backed away slowly, keeping my eyes on him.

It didn’t happen exactly that way, but I did hear someone complaining and it made me sad. …

Blog at WordPress.com.