Thinking Out Loud

February 4, 2019

People in Your Church — Not Just the Staff — Have Gifts

This concerns a topic that is recurring around our supper table. It was many years in the making, and something that both of us had been thinking and talking about for a long, long time before she wrote it all out. Not the first time presenting it here, but I believe it’s still relevant, if not more so than when all this happened.


• • • by Ruth Wilkinson

A number of years ago, a terrible thing happened.

Our local Christian school had just celebrated their Grade 8 graduation. Excited 14-year-olds, proud parents and grandparents, a ceremony, a party.

That was Friday evening.

One of the students, a girl, went home that evening, full of life and fun and hope, said good night to her parents, went to sleep, fell into a diabetic coma and died in the night.

The next day, phone lines burned up as the word spread and the Christian community prayed together for this family and for the girl’s friends.

Sunday morning during the service, the then pastor of #thechurchiusedtogoto mentioned the terrible thing in his ‘pastoral prayer’ before the sermon and the congregation prayed together for the comfort and healing of us all.

Over the next week, it started to sink in as these things will do, and a lot of people, solid believers who love Jesus, began asking hard questions. People deeply wounded by the fact that God could allow this to happen.

We own the local Christian bookstore, and some of these folks came in looking for answers. The best we could do was share their questions and their pain. Because there are no answers, besides the trite ones that don’t work.

The next Sunday, I was scheduled to lead worship. I chose songs that were familiar and simple, songs that spoke only of who God is and always had been and avoided “I will worship you” and “Thank you” types of lyrics.

On the platform, in my allotted one minute of speech, I said that a terrible thing had happened last week. That a lot of us were still hurting and questioning and angry. That it can be difficult to sing praises at a time like this, out of our woundedness. But that God was still God and though we don’t understand, we can trust him.

And we sang.

The next day, I got an email. From the (P)astor. Telling me off.

Apparently I had crossed a line. I’d been “too pastoral”. He said that I had no right to address the need in the congregation that week because he had “mentioned it” in his prayer the week before. And that was his job, not mine.

This was in the days before I was liberated enough to allow myself to ask, “What the hell?” so I went with the sanctified version of same, “What on earth?”. How could I possibly have been wrong to acknowledge what we were all thinking, and to act accordingly?

But, knowing from long experience that there was no point in arguing, I acquiesced and he was mollified.

However.

That episode stuck with me. Like a piece of shrapnel the surgeons couldn’t quite get.

“Too pastoral”.

Ephesians 4:11 speaks about gifts given to “each one of us”. The writer lists 5. Widely accepted interpretation of this verse sees each of the 5 as a broad category of Spirit-borne inclination and ability, with every one of us falling into one or another.

Apostles – those whose role it is to be sent. To go beyond the comfort zone and get things started that others would find too intimidating or difficult. Trailblazers.

Prophets – those whose role it is to speak God’s heart. To remind us all why we do what we do, and, whether it’s comfortable or not, to set apart truth from expediency. Truth-speakers.

Evangelists – those whose role it is to tell others about Jesus. To naturally find the paths of conversation that lead non-believers to consider who Christ is. Challengers.

Pastors – those whose role it is to come alongside people, to meet them where they are and to guide them in a good direction. To protect, to direct, to listen and love. Shepherds.

Teachers – those whose role it is to study and understand the written word of God, and to unfold it to the rest of us so we can put it into practice. Instructors.

I’ll be the first to point out that “worship leader” isn’t included in the list. Which means that those of us who take that place in ecclesial gatherings must fall into the “each one of us” who have been given these gifts.

Every time a worship leader (or song leader or whatever) stands on the platform of your church and picks up the mic, you are looking at a person to whom has been given one of the 5-fold gifts.

But can you tell?

Don’t know about you, sunshine, but I want to.

I think that, after a week or two, you should be able to tell. From their song choices, from the short spoken word they’re given 60 seconds for on the spreadsheet, from what makes them cry, smile, jump up and down – you should be able to tell that:

  • This woman has the gift of an evangelist. She challenges us to speak about Jesus to the world because he died for us.
  • That guy has the gift of a teacher. He chooses songs with substance and depth of lyric. He doesn’t just read 6 verses from the Psalms, he explains things.
  • That kid is totally a prophet. He reminds us of what’s important and what’s not.
  • This dude is an apostle. He comes back to us from where he’s been all week and tells us what’s going on out there.
  • This woman is a pastor. Her heart bleeds when yours does. She comes alongside and walks with you through the good and the bad and encourages you to keep going.

A worship leader who is free to express their giftedness in the congregation is, himself, a gift to the congregation.

A worship leader who is bound by rules and by “what we do” is a time filler.

Church “leadership” who restrict the use of Christ-given gifts are, in my humble opinion, sinning against the Spirit and the congregation.

Those gifts are there for a reason.

Let us use them.


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February 22, 2018

Thank You, Billy Graham

“The closest thing America has ever had to a national pastor.” – NBC-TV’s Lester Holt 

Last night I watched the full hour of the Canadian daily Christian talk show 100 Huntley Street which was a tribute to the late Rev. Billy Graham. They ended the program with a video I had never seen before and was unaware of — it’s had less than 40,00 views — titled Thank You, Billy Graham.

A number of top entertainers came together to produce this “sung biography” of Billy Graham containing some great documentary film footage. The song was written and produced by motion picture actor and recording artist Pat Boone, Grammy-winning Rock artist David Pack from Ambrosia, and Country star Billy Dean. You’ll recognize Kenny Rogers, even Larry King has a role. So basically, this isn’t your usual CCM artist project — though you’ll recognize the input of DCTalk — which in itself shows the clout Graham had in the wider marketplace.

After an intro from Bono, the song itself begins at the :44 mark. Even if you aren’t crazy about the finished result, it’s worth watching for the film footage which was incorporated throughout.

•Watch a background 4-minute video on the making of the song at this link.

 

January 30, 2016

When Worship Leaders Actually Minister

This week, we had much discussion about a pivotal event in my wife’s worship leading career, that came about after I rediscovered this blog post in the archives. Even then, it was many years in the making, and something that both of us had been thinking and talking about for a long, long time before she wrote it.


• • • by Ruth Wilkinson

A number of years ago, a terrible thing happened.

Our local Christian school had just celebrated their Grade 8 graduation. Excited 14-year-olds, proud parents and grandparents, a ceremony, a party.

That was Friday evening.

One of the students, a girl, went home that evening, full of life and fun and hope, said good night to her parents, went to sleep, fell into a diabetic coma and died in the night.

The next day, phone lines burned up as the word spread and the Christian community prayed together for this family and for the girl’s friends.

Sunday morning during the service, the then pastor of #thechurchiusedtogoto mentioned the terrible thing in his ‘pastoral prayer’ before the sermon and the congregation prayed together for the comfort and healing of us all.

Over the next week, it started to sink in as these things will do, and a lot of people, solid believers who love Jesus, began asking hard questions. People deeply wounded by the fact that God could allow this to happen.

We own the local Christian bookstore, and some of these folks came in looking for answers. The best we could do was share their questions and their pain. Because there are no answers, besides the trite ones that don’t work.

The next Sunday, I was scheduled to lead worship. I chose songs that were familiar and simple, songs that spoke only of who God is and always had been and avoided “I will worship you” and “Thank you” types of lyrics.

On the platform, in my allotted one minute of speech, I said that a terrible thing had happened last week. That a lot of us were still hurting and questioning and angry. That it can be difficult to sing praises at a time like this, out of our woundedness. But that God was still God and though we don’t understand, we can trust him.

And we sang.

The next day, I got an email. From the (P)astor. Telling me off.

Apparently I had crossed a line. I’d been “too pastoral”. He said that I had no right to address the need in the congregation that week because he had “mentioned it” in his prayer the week before. And that was his job, not mine.

This was in the days before I was liberated enough to allow myself to ask, “What the hell?” so I went with the sanctified version of same, “What on earth?”. How could I possibly have been wrong to acknowledge what we were all thinking, and to act accordingly?

But, knowing from long experience that there was no point in arguing, I acquiesced and he was mollified.

However.

That episode stuck with me. Like a piece of shrapnel the surgeons couldn’t quite get.

“Too pastoral”.

Ephesians 4:11 speaks about gifts given to “each one of us”. The writer lists 5. Widely accepted interpretation of this verse sees each of the 5 as a broad category of Spirit-borne inclination and ability, with every one of us falling into one or another.

Apostles – those whose role it is to be sent. To go beyond the comfort zone and get things started that others would find too intimidating or difficult. Trailblazers.

Prophets – those whose role it is to speak God’s heart. To remind us all why we do what we do, and, whether it’s comfortable or not, to set apart truth from expediency. Truth-speakers.

Evangelists – those whose role it is to tell others about Jesus. To naturally find the paths of conversation that lead non-believers to consider who Christ is. Challengers.

Pastors – those whose role it is to come alongside people, to meet them where they are and to guide them in a good direction. To protect, to direct, to listen and love. Shepherds.

Teachers – those whose role it is to study and understand the written word of God, and to unfold it to the rest of us so we can put it into practice. Instructors.

I’ll be the first to point out that “worship leader” isn’t included in the list. Which means that those of us who take that place in ecclesial gatherings must fall into the “each one of us” who have been given these gifts.

Every time a worship leader (or song leader or whatever) stands on the platform of your church and picks up the mic, you are looking at a person to whom has been given one of the 5-fold gifts.

But can you tell?

Don’t know about you, sunshine, but I want to.

I think that, after a week or two, you should be able to tell. From their song choices, from the short spoken word they’re given 60 seconds for on the spreadsheet, from what makes them cry, smile, jump up and down – you should be able to tell that:

  • This woman has the gift of an evangelist. She challenges us to speak about Jesus to the world because he died for us.
  • That guy has the gift of a teacher. He chooses songs with substance and depth of lyric. He doesn’t just read 6 verses from the Psalms, he explains things.
  • That kid is totally a prophet. He reminds us of what’s important and what’s not.
  • This dude is an apostle. He comes back to us from where he’s been all week and tells us what’s going on out there.
  • This woman is a pastor. Her heart bleeds when yours does. She comes alongside and walks with you through the good and the bad and encourages you to keep going.

A worship leader who is free to express their giftedness in the congregation is, himself, a gift to the congregation.

A worship leader who is bound by rules and by “what we do” is a time filler.

Church “leadership” who restrict the use of Christ-given gifts are, in my humble opinion, sinning against the Spirit and the congregation.

Those gifts are there for a reason.

Let us use them.


June 7, 2012

Post 2,000: Of the Writing of Blog Posts There is No End

340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Solomon would probably have had a lot to say about social media.  The verse alluded today is Eccl. 12:12

New Living Translation (©2007)
But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.

Living at a time when there was no word for “million” — and no need for one for many centuries to follow — Solomon, the man of many words, would be at a loss for some on encountering the number undecillion which means “trillion trillion trillion.”  Pardon me while I update my spell-check.

CNN reports:

One of the crucial mechanisms powering the Internet got a giant, years-in-the-making overhaul on Wednesday.

When we say “giant,” we’re not kidding. Silly-sounding huge number alert: The Internet’s address book grew from “just” 4.3 billion unique addresses to 340 undecillion (that’s 340 trillion trillion trillion)…

The Internet is running out of addresses, and if nothing were done, you certainly would notice. New devices simply wouldn’t be able to connect.

To prevent that from happening, the Internet Society, a global standards-setting organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland; and Reston, Va., has been working for years to launch a new Internet Protocol (IP) standard called IPv6.

IP is a global communications standard used for linking connected devices together. Every networked device — your PC, smartphone, laptop, tablet and other gizmos — needs a unique IP address.

With IPv6, there are now enough IP combinations for everyone in the world to have a billion billion IP addresses for every second of their life

That sounds unimaginably vast, but it’s necessary, because the number of connected devices is exploding. By 2016, Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) predicts there will be three networked devices per person on earth. We’re not just talking about your smartphone and tablet; your washing machine, wristwatch and car will be connected too. Each of those connected things needs an IP address.

Then there’s all the items that won’t necessarily connect to the Internet themselves, but will be communicating with other wired gadgets. Developers are putting chips into eyeglasses, clothes and pill bottles. Each one of those items needs an IP address as well.

The current IP standard, IPv4, was structured like this: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, with each “xxx” able to go from 0 to 255. IPv6 expands that so each “x” can be a 0 through 9 or “a” through “f,” and it’s structured like this: xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx.

[continue reading at CNN Money]

Running out of addresses?  That sounds familiar.  The way things are going, next thing they’ll be making us use ten digit dialing to reach a local phone number.

But washing machines and pill bottles aside, there are a lot voices competing for you attention.  The conversation table is getting larger and larger and technically everyone has a seat at every conversation.

One minute you have something you want to share with a handful of friends, and the next thing you know, you’ve written 2,000 blog posts.

I write about faith-focused issues, but nothing stops me from dropping by a site devoted to organic gardening, Formula One racing, or Spanish literature and leaving a comment, even if I have no idea what on earth — or woe?, as the kids say — I am talking about.  And nothing stops the biblically illiterate and the theologically challenged from dropping by here and pontificating about the state of affairs at the Crystal Cathedral, Max Lucado’s latest book, or something quoted from Augustine.

The only option is that the ‘open’ internet suddenly starts to have closed doors.  A few minutes ago an online acquaintance suggested I visit a particular web page where I was met with:

“But wait a minute;” I said to no one in particular, “This is me. I belong here.”

Is this the future?

Another generation of hip Christians once sat around campfires singing,

I’ll shout it from the mountain tops
I want my world to know
The Lord of love, has come to me
I want to pass it on.

Well, they (we?) thought they (we?) were hip. But the desire to share a message, to bring good news, to evangelize was implicit in faith.

And I’ve always been part of that.  Just weeks ago, I realized that so much of what I have done in my life has revolved around wanting to spread the word on something.  To let people know about something.  To network.  To connect individuals with resources.  To introduce people to new ideas.

The internet is the perfect medium for shouting a message.  Blogging is one of many ideal platforms.  You can indeed make your message heard even among the gazillion — or maybe that should be undecillion — writers screaming for attention.  Just recently this blog rated #7 in a top 50 list of Christian blogs ranked by the number of Google indexed pages.  Yeah, really; little old me just sitting next to the wood stove in my log cabin high up on a mountain surrounded by pine trees.  (Actually, that would be quite nice.)

But you have to shout really loud to make yourself heard because there are

So. Many. Voices.

Several undecillion of them.  (But not that one, that’s a coffee pot in New Jersey.)

May 25, 2010

Five-Fold Worship Leaders

Today’s blog post is a guest post from my wife, Ruth Wilkinson, who, as you’ll notice, writes even longer posts than I do.  But I really hope you’ll take the time.

This is actually a blog post that’s been many years in the making, and something that both of us have been thinking and talking about for a long, long time.


A number of years ago, a terrible thing happened.

Our local Christian school had just celebrated their Grade 8 graduation.  Excited 14-year-olds, proud parents and grandparents, a ceremony, a party.

That was Friday evening.

One of the students, a girl, went home that evening, full of life and fun and hope, said good night to her parents, went to sleep, fell into a diabetic coma and died in the night.

The next day, phone lines burned up as the word spread and the Christian community prayed together for this family and for the girl’s friends.

Sunday morning during the service, the then pastor of thechurchiusedtogoto mentioned the terrible thing in his ‘pastoral prayer’ before the sermon and the congregation prayed together for the comfort and healing of us all.

Over the next week, it started to sink in as these things will do, and a lot of people, solid believers who love Jesus, began asking hard questions.  People deeply wounded by the fact that God could allow this to happen.

We own the local Christian bookstore, and some of these folks came in looking for answers.  The best we could do was share their questions and their pain.  Because there are no answers, besides the trite ones that don’t work.

The next Sunday, I was scheduled to lead worship.  I chose songs that were familiar and simple, songs that spoke only of who God is and always had been and avoided “I will worship you” and “Thank you” types of lyrics.

On the platform, in my allotted one minute of speech, I said that a terrible thing had happened last week.  That a lot of us were still hurting and questioning and angry.  That it can be difficult to sing praises at a time like this, out of our woundedness.  But that God was still God and though we don’t understand, we can trust him. (more…)

February 16, 2010

Confronting Todd Bentley

Todd Bentley announced his separation from his wife, Shonnah, in August 2008,  and resigned from the Board of Fresh Fire. A statement released by the remaining Board members said ‘Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff’, and that he will ‘refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life’. ~Wikipedia entry on Todd Bentley

Several months ago, this blog crossed paths with the blog, Bene Diction Blogs On (BDBO) because of my personal history with the individual behind the Ponzi scheme that affected several of the staff at Crossroads Christian Communications.

For awhile, I had BDBO on the blogroll here, but was reminded by a reader that just as many bloggers won’t post anonymous comments, so also is it difficult when a blog host is an unknown commodity.   I shared a number of off-blog e-mails with Bene at the time, but if I’ve ever actually known who Bene is, the name now escapes me.   I have no idea who I’m dealing with when we correspond.

Not so anonymous however are a series of copyrighted posts on BDBO by reporterRick Hiebert.

Rick has been following the career of charismatic (in more ways than one) evangelist and faith-healer Todd Bentley.   Rick’s posts are lengthy, and I don’t read them all, but a recent one led me to the website Confronting Todd Bentley, which in turn led me to a series of videos posted on YouTube.

The videos consisted of a number of scriptural rebukes made during one of Bentley’s meetings at Morningstar in Charlotte, NC.    Yes, this interrupted the meeting, and yes, that’s not the ideal way to bring confrontation; but given what these men have come to learn, they could not be silent.   Because of this, many more of Bentley’s followers have an opportunity to hear the other side of the story online.

But will they?   Probably not.   In Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, the person who occupies the stage, who holds the microphone, whose name is on the marquee; that person owns all the marbles and  commands all the respect.  “Touch not the Lord’s anointed;” is an oft-repeated phrase in this particular church culture.    Even in small, rural churches, the Pentecostal minister can be revered in a way that rivals Catholicism’s papacy.

So it was no surprise that the many rebukes against Todd did nothing to sway the people in the audience.    The website also carries the text of a pamphlet the protesters distributed that day.    Even if only half of their allegations are true,  all of this raises the question of Bentley’s mentor, author Rick Joyner.

Joyner purchased the former Heritage Village (PTL Club) property in Charlotte once operated by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.    A number of apologetics ministries such as Apologetics Index find theological problems with his various writings.   But his endorsement of a “restored” Todd Bentley certainly clouds his credibility further.

In a recent, lengthy “Special Bulletin” from Morningstar Ministries, Rick Joyner gives reasons why he felt it was right to release Bentley back into limited “Local Church” ministry prior to the end of the restoration process.   Much of his argument makes a razor sharp distinction which separates the qualifications for “being an elder” from the manifestations of  “having a ministry.”

The oldest post by Hiebert at BDBO is 19 months ago (BDBO posts are sadly undated) and is a reprint from a publication, The Report Magazine supposedly dated April 30th, 2001.   If this dating is correct, Hiebert has been following Bentley’s career for a long, long time.

In the Bible we’re instructed to worship God with the Spirit and with understanding.   Our faith is at times emotional, and there are things in the realm of the Kingdom of God that — as the Apostle Paul, a superb intellectual said so clearly — are seen by the world as foolishness.   But our faith also has to be grounded in the Word of God and our lives have to maintain an internal cohesiveness to give credibility to the work of Christ in our lives.

My personal belief is that Todd Bentley represents the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements at their worst.   Like the ones who disrupted Bentley’s recent North Carolina meetings, I find there are times when one simply cannot be silent.

You’re invited to follow Rick Hiebert’s writings at BDBO, and can also find some of the earlier posts at The Shotgun Blog at WesternStandard.ca You may also wish to read a recent article (with video link) wherein Bentley’s current wife, Jessa, claims to have communicated with the deceased, in particular one Oral Roberts.

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 3, 2009

Dream Flight – What Christian Author, Pastor or Leader Would You Most Like To Meet

Filed under: Christianity, Religion — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:00 am

? Of the Week:

airline-seatsYou’re on a four-hour flight, up for conversation and you think the person in the next seat is also.  You turn and find yourself sitting next to ________________!

What person in the “Christian world” would you most like to find yourself sitting next to for that flight?   You can name up to three

  1. .
  2. .
  3. .

or just name one.   But let us know some reasons, and if we don’t know this person, explain who they are.

And yes, I know it would be more productive if you were sitting next to a stranger who simply needed to hear about Jesus from you, but we’ll take that as a given, okay?

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