Thinking Out Loud

March 31, 2015

How Evangelicals Lose the Plot on Good Friday

good-friday

If, by someone coming here via a search engine, I can help even one church make their Good Friday service more meaningful, this will have been worth the effort.

Maybe you heard the phrase, “At that point, they lost the plot.” Or, “That’s where it went off the rails.”

…I’ve always found it interesting that no matter how contemporary or how alternative some churches are, many of them often begin their communion service with the “words of institution” from I Corinthians 11. It’s like a little, tiny slice of liturgy in an unexpected place.

Today, I want to propose we add another little slice of formality, namely the construction of the Good Friday service, if indeed your church or community has one. If this were a song by Jamie Grace the line would be, “We need to get our Anglican on.”

I wrote about this three years ago:

Evangelicals don’t know how to do Good Friday…

Good Friday is a big deal here. All the churches come together… Right there, I think the thing has become somewhat unmanageable. Each church’s pastor has a role to play, one introduces the service, another prays, another takes the offering, yet another reads the scripture, one preaches the sermon and so on. It’s all rather random and uncoordinated. They really need a producer…

In Evangelicalism, nothing is really planned. I love extemporaneous prayers, as long as some thought went into them, but the tendency is to just “wing it.” Like the pastor a few years ago who opened the Good Friday service by talking at length about what a beautiful spring day it was; “…And I think I saw a robin.”

Fail.

This is Good Friday, the day we remember Christ’s suffering, bleeding, dying. Evangelicals don’t understand lament. We don’t know how to do it, we don’t know what to say.

My wife says we tend to ‘skip ahead” to Easter Sunday. We give away the plot and lose the plot all at the same time. We place the giant spoiler in the middle of the part of the story to which we haven’t yet arrived; diminishing the part where we are supposed to be contemplating the full impact of what Jesus did for us. We rush to the resurrection like a bad writer who doesn’t take the time to develop his story, and then wonders why the impact of the ending is not as great.

I learned this year that in a number of traditions, once the season of Lent begins, you are not supposed to say or sing ‘Hallelujah.’ Then, on that day that recalls that triumphant day, the Hallelujahs can gush force with tremendous energy. But we Evangelicals spoil that by missing the moment of Good Friday entirely. Can’t have church making us feel sad, can we?

My concern now as then is that we are rushing toward Easter, rushing toward celebration, wanting to scream out at the top of our lungs, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”

But the disciples didn’t know from Sunday. Their memory, etched so clearly, was of the life draining out of Jesus’ broken and bloodied body. At worst, rejected Messiah’s were supposed to fade into obscurity, not die a criminal’s death at the hand of the Romans. One by one they disappeared…

We need to feel that.

We need to feel what it meant for him to (a) enter into the human condition, (b) always give preference to others, (c) experience physical death, and (d) have that death be the most excruciating ever devised.

In another essay here I talked about the equally concerning practice of losing the plot on Easter Sunday.

My own thoughts that day included a study of songs churches in the U.S. had used:

[I]t’s amazing to see the difference between the worship leaders who really focused on the death and resurrection of Christ, and those who simply did the songs that are currently popular, or the songs they were going to do anyway before Easter “got in the way.”

…there seems little room for critical evaluation here.

The one that really got me was the church that went ahead with a sermon series acknowledging that it had nothing to do with Easter.

So returning to Good Friday, here is my manifesto:

  1. We need to set a tone at the very beginning of the service; allow a ‘holy hush’ to come over the crowd.
  2. We should then incorporate other silences throughout the service.
  3. As far as possible, every word spoken should be planned. We need to borrow from our Episcopalian friends for this service.
  4. We need agreement from participants on what we will not do. No, “It’s good to see everyone;” no “It’s finally warming up outside;” no “We do this in anticipation of Sunday;” or the worst, “I hope you all found a place to park.”
  5. If your service is interdenominational or has many participants, do not introduce people at all, i.e. “And now Delores Jones from Central Methodist will favor us with a solo accompanied by her husband Derek.” Don’t waste words.
  6. We need to skip the final verses of some hymns or modern worship songs if they resolve with resurrection. We need to immerse ourselves in the moment.
  7. If your church uses a printed program, consider the idea of the congregation whose Good Friday bulletin cover was simply a folded piece of black construction paper. In other words, use other media to reinforce what is taking place at the front, and remove things hanging in the sanctuary that might be a distraction.
  8. No matter how big the crowd, and how tempting this makes it, don’t use Good Friday as a fundraiser for a church or community project.
  9. Preaching needs to be Christological. This would seem obvious, but sometimes it’s not. It’s not about us, except insofar as he suffered and died for us.
  10. That said, we also need to be Evangelical. What a wonderful day for someone to stand at the level ground of the cross and look into the eyes of a loving Savior who says, ‘I do this for you;’ and then have an opportunity to respond to the finished work on the cross.

Finally, if your church doesn’t do Good Friday, consider starting it. I worship between two small towns which both have an annual interdenominational morning service, but several years ago, my wife’s worship ministry did a Good Friday evening service and over a hundred people attended. She assembled worship songs, solos, video clips, readings and had a local pastor do a ten minute homily. It will forever be one of my favorite, most cross-focused Good Friday events, even though I was busied with the planning and running of it.

 

 



March 16, 2015

The Sound of Keys: Modern Worship Instrumentation

The new Nord Lead A1 analog modeling synthesizer joins brands such as Moog, Korg, Novation, Studio Logic, Akai, Access, Yamaha and Roland.

The new Nord Lead A1 analog modeling synthesizer joins brands such as Moog, Korg, Novation, Studio Logic, Akai, Access, Yamaha and Roland.

If you track the worship sections of church service podcasts, you can’t help but notice a couple of subtle shifts taking place in what instruments are on stage. Some churches are manifesting one of these, others have both:

  1. The influence of Roots music or even Appalachian music, in particular the use of banjos, ukeleles and mandolins and compositions by bands such as All Sons and Daughters, Rend Collective and I Am They.
  2. The re-introduction of more keyboards, not just the use of what is called pads or textures, nor synthesizers which are being used for their digital samples of existing instruments or variants; but rather, the more raw synthesizer sound itself being used to drive the melody or create linear counter melodies or lines between verses.

For this writer, the second situation can’t happen soon enough. After three or four decades of having both Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and modern worship dominated by Nashville — most of the major record and publishing companies are physically based there as well — it’s time to refresh things by changing it up a bit, and allowing the UK or European sound to influence the sound of weekend church services. To date, both CCM and church worship in North America has had Tennessee’s country music looking over its shoulders.

That doesn’t mean the guitarist is done. Watching services this weekend at North Point Community Church as well as the ‘release party’ church service at City Church for Judah Smith’s new book Life Is _____, it was apparent that even though the sound was revised in several songs and very much keyboard-driven, the guitar player is still front and center providing leadership.

Where Christianity meets culture and worship meets the arts, there are always going to be opinions and counter-opinions, but trying new things is not harmful. If anything, keyboard players who were excluded from the team roster now have an extra instrument — a second digital keyboard of synthesizer — which can be included.

The resultant sound is bright, crisp and certainly inspiring.

March 1, 2015

5 Perspectives for Power Point People

While it’s not listed in the New Testament, assisting the worship leader or worship team by being the computer graphics or Power Point person is definitely a gift, if not a spiritual gift. Here are some things on choosing who serves in this area, or if you are that person, the qualities needed:

1. You need to be really comfortable around a computer.

The goal is to minimize distraction and allow people the freedom to enter wholeheartedly into expressing their worship to God. The last thing you want is for the computer to decide to run updates in the middle of the service, and you need to know how to make sure none of that happens, or what to do if something goes wrong.

2. You don’t get to sing along.

Unfortunately, as much as you may love musical worship, you will eventually run into problems if you decide to sing along with the congregation. While playing various instruments with a worship band there are times I get to sing along, but there are also times I need to focus entirely on a particular instrumental part. Sorry, but you need a certain level of detachment or you get distracted.

3. You need to know the songs.

Most worship leaders I’ve worked with have their weekend set(s) established by noon on Thursday at the latest. Make sure you have the list and then give the songs — especially the new(er) ones — a listen on YouTube, playing each one several times.

4. You need to see yourself as part of the worship team.

That means attending relevant practices and being on time for the sound check. As much as you can track each song fully during the rehearsal process, you’re less likely to make errors during the actual service.

5. People need to form the next word before they sing it.

Your changes between slides need to occur slightly before people actually sing, because the brain needs to be able to tell the mouth to shape the words coming next. You can’t wait for the band to move on to that next line, you need to know exactly where they’re going so that you can get there ahead of time.

Again, this is not everyone’s gift. Placing someone in a position of trust here when they don’t have the necessary aptitude results in a messy slide presentation. I believe God wants excellence in worship. Band practices and rehearsals are a great opportunity for interested volunteers to see if this is a good fit. Otherwise, perhaps there are other areas of service for which they are more suited.

Bonus item:

6. People who do a great job with the worship slides might not do a great job with the sermon slides.

And vice-versa. Furthermore, in most churches the pastor’s sermon notes are often prepared in a different program than the program that runs the worship lyrics. They may even originate from different computers. The person doing the sermon notes need to focus on the sermon and intuit where the pastor is going next, even if the preacher stays somewhat close to a fixed manuscript. At this point in the service, a change in personnel may be the best way to avoid errors. This means your weekly schedule may mean you’ve got two different people working each service. But don’t change people in the case of multiple services; any issues arising in the first service — i.e. worship leaders spontaneously adds an extra chorus — are better resolved in the second service.

Writing about people needing time to form the lyrics reminded me of this video, where guitarists can see the chord that’s coming next.

February 11, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The classic photo archive, Shorpy.com called this photo "Church of Meteorology." Here's why: "Going to church to pray for rain. Grassy Butte, North Dakota; July 1936."

The classic photo archive, Shorpy.com called this photo “Church of Meteorology.” Here’s why: “Going to church to pray for rain. Grassy Butte, North Dakota; July 1936.”  Click the image to view at source.

Each week we begin with a blank slate, never knowing what direction the week’s links are going to take.

  • When Bible Superficials are not Superficial – How words and paragraphs are set out on the page can affect the meaning we take away from the passage, so Bible typography — especially punctuation, paragraphing and chapter divisions — actually matters.  48 minutes; some of it quite humorous; and most of it is translation-neutral.
  • Taking the Plus-One Approach – Kevin DeYoung: “Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the ‘Plus One’ program of church involvement…In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.”
  • Praying Together as a Couple – Last week the Stand to Reason blog had an excerpt from Tim Keller’s book on prayer, in which Keller, in turn quotes his wife on the necessity of prayer: “Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine—a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No—it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”
  • When God is Silent – Tony Woodlief at InTouch Ministries: “[O]ver the years I have buried a child, ruined a marriage, and disappointed so very many people. In the midst of this life’s wreckage, there have been many long, dark nights when I scarcely had breath for prayer, let alone presence of mind to formulate the right words. Some nights I have lain across my bed, or on the floor, and I have wept, and hoped that tears suffice where words won’t come.” Tony at his blog: “I’ve talked about saudade, a Portuguese word meaning the presence of absence, which is how you feel, every day for the rest of your life, when you have lost someone you love. Their absence is a weight, it is a presence… This weighty nothing is also what you feel when you cannot discern God’s response.”
  • Saturday Morning at the Inter-Faith Service – This may resonate with some of you: “I am weary from a full and demanding week, and…to say that Sunday’s sermon is “unfinished” would be the height of understatement… I usually feel a little out-of-place at these ecumenical services, standing amidst all of my more impressive-looking clergypersons with their beautiful robes and vestments. I can only imagine how it looks from the pew. Who’s that guy with the scruffy sports coat who forgot to shave?  What’s he doing up there? Who let him sit amongst the real pastors and priests?”
  • Women in the Bible: Entirely New Metrics – “There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. These women speak a total of 14,056 words collectively — roughly 1.1 percent of the total words in the holy book. These are the findings of the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an Episcopal priest who three years ago embarked on an unprecedented project: to count all the words spoken by women in the Bible. With the help of three other women in her church community — as well as highlighters, sticky notes and spreadsheets — Freeman painstakingly dissected the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version.”
  • Religious Freedom in Canada – Television journalist Lorna Dueck devotes her half-hour program Context to the background story on the accreditation of the Law School at Trinity Western University by the various law societies in each of the Canadian provinces. At broadcast time, the legal battle was being fought on five separate fronts.
  • Is Christian Music Worth Listening To? – Is it worshiptainment? Jonny Diaz, a popular Christian recording artist, John Thompson, an executive with Capitol CMG Publishing, and Dr. T. David Gordon, a professor of religion joined host Julie Roys on the weekend for a sometimes heated discussion at Up For Debate, a program at Moody Radio. 48 minute audio. Which leads us to…
  • Where They Are Now – Jesus music and modern worship pioneer Kelly Willard talks about her battle with Bipolar Disorder and how it intersected life circumstances: “I KNOW that if I had not been on the correct medication(s) for my Bipolar Disorder, I would’ve ended up somewhere in a padded cell wearing a straight-jacket indefinitely. For you see, in 2004, my father died, my daughter committed suicide, my mother died, my 29 year marriage died (we divorced), and my stepmother took my inheritance from my father away from me.”
  • Finally, Just in Case You Need It – A directory of American churches — no doubt incomplete — where the lead or senior pastor is a woman. “I sense that some people would really prefer to have a woman in the senior pastoral role and the directory can help them find such a church.”

Short takes:

  • Vice.com gets into an in-depth article on Christians and pornography, including a focus on the ministry XXXChurch.com
  • Ten reasons why Jesus probably would be an outcast in today’s church.
  • A mission agency focused on Bible translation is using new methods to get the job done more efficiently as donor dollars decline.
  • David Platt talks to PARSE about his new book, Church and Culture.
  • InterVarsity has won a pivotal sex discrimination court case over hiring practices, with ramifications for other churches and Christian charities.
  • Pentecostal prayer gangs in prison: An interview with the creator of the documentary I Give My Soul.
  • K-LOVE goes video: “K-LOVE, the national Christian music radio chain, is launching a multi-platform video channel through a partnership with TAPP TV. ‘We are thrilled about K-LOVE TV creating another avenue for fans to connect and go deeper with K-LOVE, their faith and the artists they love,’ said Mike Novak, K-LOVE President and CEO. The service costs $9.95 per month.”
  • The band I Am They — named after passages in the New Testament — formed somewhat by accident.
  • And speaking of bands, our video of the week is the song My God by new Canadian band Caves featuring Amanda Cook.
  • If you’re having trouble beating the February blahs, why not relax and enjoy some lighter side reading from author/speaker Phil Callaway. (Though my pick was the more serious items in the interviews section.)

Leonard Sweet tweeted this on Tuesday, calling it “a different kind of last supper.”  The artist is Johan Andersson. Click the image for more information.

A Different Kind of Last Supper

February 8, 2015

At Your Name

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:50 am

Phil 2:9 (NIV) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
   and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.

In the early days of this blog, a majority of readers did not have high-speed internet, and we never embedded videos.  But, over the years at C201 we’ve built up a collection of worship songs that I believe are rich lyrically, but we’ve only shared a limited number here. (Scroll down C201’s right margin for song titles.) I want to move a few more over here where they will be seen by different readers. But today, we’ll start with one that is new, At Your Name by Phil Wickham.

Of course, we can’t talk about music which reflects on God’s very name without including this song by Krissy Nordhoff, Your Great Name.

And since some people think things come in threes, here is the song Your Name by one of my favorite worship writers, Paul Baloche.

February 4, 2015

Wednesday Link List

 

I think this guy is late for the evening service. He may not have his Bible, but he remembered his cross.

I think this guy is late for the evening service. He may not have his Bible, but he remembered to take up his cross.

  • Living Ministry Life Backwards – From The Washington Post: “For most of his career, Joshua Harris was the kind of evangelical pastor who chuckled at the joke that ‘seminary’ should really be called ‘cemetery…’ That is, until Sunday [1/25], when the 40-year-old announced that he is leaving to go to seminary, saying he needs formal education and training and more exposure and connection to other parts of Christianity… Harris said he expects that studying at Regent College, a graduate school of theology, will broaden his perspective, including on accountability.” (Links to full sermon/announcement video.)
  • Getting Back on the Horse You Fell Off – After battling the Ebola virus in the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Rick Sacra is back in Liberia. “Thomas Curtis is senior pastor at the Sacra’s church, Holden Chapel, and a long-time friend and prayer partner. He said watching Sacra battle Ebola this last year helped to grow the congregation’s faith and united several area churches in prayer. He said members at Holden Chapel are excited that Sacra has returned to serve in Liberia. ‘It wouldn’t make sense to us if he didn’t because he’s not that kind of person…'”
  • Church Planting in Sin City – “The [San Francisco] Bay Area has never been perceived as religious: a 2012 Gallup poll found that fewer than a quarter of residents identify as “very religious” (defined as going to church weekly), as opposed to 40% of the nation as a whole. High salaries have drawn droves of well-educated millennials to the booming tech sector, which correlates with lower religious sentiment. So far afield from the Bible belt, the region is in fact seen as hospitable to all forms of old testament abominations: fornication, paganism – even sodomy. If you look around, however, you’ll notice a bumper crop of newer Christian ministries…
  • The Danger of ‘Winging It’ in the Pulpit – While the Perry Noble Christmas sermon on God’s “Big Ten” brought some major doctrinal concerns, perhaps a greater problem was the backstory on how the sermon happened at all: “Sometimes you are put on the spot and have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you. This was not one of those occasions. Perry Noble got caught up in excitement and interrupted a program to deliver a message that he was in no way prepared to give. Preaching is not just some form of spiritual motivational speaking, it’s declaring the word of God. Even the goofiest sermon is a sacred act of worship that is meant to call those who hear to a deeper relationship with God. It’s just irresponsible to take that lightly. There is a real danger that can come from misrepresenting God’s word. I have no doubt that had Perry Noble spent a few hours preparing this message (instead of 10 minutes) that a lot of the controversy surrounding it would be almost non-existent.”<
  • Gideons Face Roadblocks in Georgia – Did the framers of the constitution intend this? For most Christians, clearly not, but it doesn’t stop secularists from continuing to marginalize Christianity in public places. “Some board members are in favor of the proposal. However, school board attorney Tommy Coleman says it’s unconstitutional for them to allow the Bibles to be distributed on school grounds. Glenn Phelps, with the Gideons, presented board members with a map showing many other South Georgia counties that allow Gideon Bibles to be distributed. But Coleman held that if it was happening, those school boards were not obeying the law…He said he doesn’t believe there’s any practical way to legally distribute Bibles to students at school.”
  • Podcast of the Week – Steve Brown talks to CCM singer Jennifer Knapp about coming out (which he thinks might lose him a radio station or two).  “I had people writing…the worst is the anonymous stuff… I’ve had people disagree with me in public spaces and come to shows and say they’re disappointed in me, but those are pretty tame in comparison to the anonymous kind of stuff that you get… The thing I didn’t anticipate that absolutely happened was an overwhelming responsive of positivity.” 43-minute audio.
  • The Worship Article That’s Got Everyone Talking – Perhaps it’s just the fact that articles that begin with a number (6 Tips, 5 Principles, 7 Ways) always get traction; but it seemed that everywhere I turned last week, someone was including this in their own internet roundup. Check out 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret Later. (Sample #10 – Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship.)
  • Micro-Church Planting – “There are 60-some beds at the Kings Motor Inn, but it doesn’t seem like our friends find much rest here. People bounce from room to room, cars come and go, kids play in the parking lot. Everyone looking to escape, to feel some peace, but nobody really finding it.” They call it Dope Church. Fife, Washington is on the I-5 corridor, which is also a corridor for drug and sex traffic. Some snapshots of ministry life at the motel.
  • Moody Press Offers To Trade Books – The conservative Evangelical publisher is inviting readers an opportunity to mail in their copy of 50 Shades of Grey and receive in exchange a copy of Pulling Back the Shades by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery. The latter book helps undo the damage done by the former. (You can also read a sample chapter at the site.) Related article: How 50 Shades of Grey Harms Women & Jesus Saves Them.
  • The Angst Your Church Sound-Tech Faces – “The stage was set.  The equipment checked and double-checked.  The band was plugged in and ready.  Everything was as expected until they played the first song…They sounded horrible.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the musicians were horrible.  The house mix sounded atrocious…” I’ve probably never seen an article that so well exposes the heart of that guy at the back who is under-appreciated and dealing with his own self-doubts.

Short links and things that got cut from Parse!:

  • A different kind of Baptism invitation: Don’t come forward, go out the door.
  • Everywhere I went online this week, people were talking about the band I Am They. Check out the song From The Day. (Also posted here yesterday as it turns out!)
  • Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada continues to its battle to see the school represented by various law schools on a province-by-province basis including this recent victory in Nova Scotia.
  • The Hour of Power with Bobby Schuller TV show is getting a makeover with a new producer who has done similar work for Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer; as well as a host of denominations and organizations.
  • On the wearing of leggings as pants, there is no end of media coverage. Read the original story with the ABC News video clip. And coverage here. And here. And…
  • As we’ve said before, there are no cats in the Bible, but dogs do not fare well in its pages.
  • is this transcription correct? if so, it’s the only time that e. e. cummings used a capital letter… see what may have occasioned this exception.
  • I can see using this “service countdown” video at youth group, or even mid-week, but I’m not sure it would work in even an informal Sunday morning. Then again, churches are changing right.  Step away from the computer and enjoy 5 minutes of exercise.

February 3, 2015

Introducing I Am They

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:06 am

This video was posted back in September, but this band has been generating a lot of interest lately, probably because the album is releasing now.  Enjoy From The Day from the band I Am They.

From the day You saved my soul
‘Til the very moment when I come home
I’ll sing, I’ll dance, my heart will overflow
From the day You saved my soul

January 14, 2015

Wednesday Link List

God Told Me T-shirt

It’s that time of the week. If you also follow the links at PARSE, the Friday installment will be moving to Saturday starting this week. I guess we’ll be giving the Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk some competition.

  • Distinguishing Between Values and Faith – “Strong societies are held together by shared values, and shared conversation is a vital part of that community cohesion. I derive my values from my Christian faith, but in saying that, I’m not claiming that Christianity has an exclusive on human goodness. I believe that we all derive our values from our personal beliefs; I also believe that a shared conversation about our different beliefs leads to more understanding, not less. And in situations like 9/11, 7/7 and Charlie Hebdo, it’s often in the context of faith that people try to find answers to the question ‘Why?’” UK writer Gill Robins writes frequently on values-based education.
  • Discovering the Bible’s Bonus Tracks – “…[I]n 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter. Should the church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast… So, what criteria did the early church use as a guide? [Craig] Blomberg notes three predominant requirements: apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy.”
  • When Our Theology of Suffering is Tested in Reality – “Two months ago we were shocked by the diagnosis of our thirteen-year old grandson’s extreme headaches. Yes, we heard the dreaded “C” word; he has brain cancer. Overnight our lives were turned inside out and upside down, and the once-in-a-lifetime Christmas on the island of Maui with our children and grandchildren was out the window. By God’s grace we have enjoyed a relatively tranquil life, at least so far as health issues are concerned. No one warned us of this, and we certainly did not ask for it, but suddenly the theories we had espoused in trying to help others were put to a test at home.” A Wheaton College professor offers five takeaways from this experience.
  • The Problems of Great Speakers Who Try to be Writers –  The writer begins with a jargon-laden introduction, then “This turgid, cliche-ridden paragraph is my own attempt to capture the flavor of much that passes for written communication in Christian circles these days. The style is quirky; topsy-turvy is the word order; and the passive voice is clung to for dear life. It defies the reader to read on… Most of us are speakers first and writers second. And it is natural, therefore, that some of the patterns and habits of spoken English should creep into our writing. This is especially true of those who speak for a living (like preachers). Very often, good preaching is characterized by elaboration, illustration, and a general ‘padding out’ of the material so that the audience can take it in. Good writing is quite different. It is sharp and economical.”
  • What Francis Chan Teaches His Kids – “My daughter did bring home a guy a few months ago from college and some of my friends asked her, they said ‘hey how serious are you with him’ and they told me her answer was so weird. They said her answer was ‘I just want to hang out with him long enough to see if God answers his prayers.’ That’s a weird answer but in her mind that was her gauge.” The California preacher went on tell listeners to John Piper’s podcast how in their home, answered prayer is the measure of strong relationship with God.
  • Worship Service Down-Time During Announcements – Thom Rainer offers 9 observations about that not so special time in the service: “Most church leaders believe that the retention rate of announcements by members is low. If retention is indeed low, it would indicate that most times of announcements are done due to pressure or tradition or both.”
  • Was this Board’s Action Discriminatory? – So there was a teacher fired, and there is the element in the story that ‘the student was asking for it.’ It’s hard not to let your mind make up the missing pieces, but in this case: “The Phillipsburg [PA] School Board fired [teacher Walter] Tutka after district officials said he refused to meet with them to discuss his giving a middle school student a copy of the Bible. Tutka handed the boy, who had been asking about a passage from the book of Matthew, a copy of the Gideon’s New Testament in October 2012.” The teacher was suspended in January, 2013.
  • We Take You Live to Our Reporter in the Field – I know some of you have heard stories from the missions front lines before, but I know this guy. He gave up a comfy career as a dentist to do something he and his wife believe in, and now he describes his work in Rwanda: “I walk in to see (as my first case ever in Africa) a sedated child with a massive hole in the side of his jaw. The hole was not caused by a object, no, it was caused by perhaps a simple ulcer or infection that kept spreading. Because the child is malnourished, and was also battling malaria, and also likely was not getting clean water, and was likely a low birth weight baby, and was also not easily accessible to health care… the list goes on, he developed one of two conditions. Osteomyelitis – which is an infection of bone… or NOMA – described as a disease of the poor, where this uncontrolled bacterial infection knows no limit and literally destroys one’s face… Oh I forgot to say that he is also an orphan. But you probably saw that coming.”
  • Those Problematic Worship Lyrics – We’ve seen articles before on songs like this one: “‘I want to touch you, I want to see your face, I want to know you more.’ It’s tough to sing lines like these when the song never mentions who you’re singing to, and this one never does. The vague lyrics could easily suggest a plan to sneak around and make out in the bushes or a desire to encounter Jesus.” But this was the first time we’d seen this one mentioned: “‘Yahweh, Yahweh, we love to shout your name, oh Lord.’ Jewish people don’t write or say Yahweh to refer to God out of respect — instead writing the name without its vowels, YHWH, or using the alternate Adonai, meaning ‘Lord.’ So, to sing a song that not only uses the name Yahweh, but emphasizes the shouting of it seems . . . odd. The Vatican agrees — in 2008, it removed/replaced the name in all of its songs and prayers, and the Christian Reformed Church removed every occurrence of Yahweh and Jehovah from its Psalter Hymnal.”
  • Short Story Department – An accusation of plagiarism against Christian author and possible Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson ended very differently than another high profile plagiarism case with which readers here are familiar. The source copied refuted the idea saying that the 16 attributions that did appear reflected Carson’s honest intentions.
  • Parting Shot – Okay, this is totally superficial, but I think this church has the coolest menu for searching sermon series archives.

 

Well Done

 

 

January 10, 2015

Remembering Andraé Crouch

So I thank God for the mountains
And I thank him for the valleys
And I thank him for the storms he’s brought me through
‘Cause if I never had a problem
I ‘d never know that God could solve ’em
I wouldn’t know what faith in God can do.

I owe so much of who I am today to Contemporary Christian Music in general, and Andraé Crouch in particular. His passing this week leaves a huge gap in the music world, even if he had not recorded and toured so much in the last decade.

He had influence. His music was around at the birth of CCM and also prefigured today’s modern worship. That’s why you’re seeing such an outpouring on Twitter.

He was known both inside and outside the church at large, winning seven Grammy awards. The list of television and movie credits would be very, very long.

He mentored many Christian artists. I remember one telling me a long time ago how he sat down with Andraé and showed him a song that he’d composed. Andraé liked the song enough, but told him he had too many strong elements in it, that really he had three distinct songs and should take the time to run with each element separately.

Andrae CrouchHe loved his sister. Because he and Sandra were twins, he never told anyone his age, since that would have revealed her age, too; and women don’t like that!

His songs are in your hymnbook, if your church still uses them. Songs like The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, My Tribute (To God Be the Glory) and Soon and Very Soon. And if your church hasn’t purged all the old choir anthems from that room at the back, I’ll bet you’ll find his name on a more than a few songs like Through It All and Bless His Holy Name.

He overcame stuttering through singing. He had great difficulty getting a sentence out in his younger days, but once he sat down at the piano, the words flowed.

His music transcended racial boundaries. The 1970s saw Andraé at Christian music festivals belting out youth anthems like Jesus is the Answer, with white kids singing at the top of their lungs. His band, The Disciples, was mixed race.

He wasn’t perfect. He found himself in a bad place in the early 1980s, but ten years later he was pastoring the COGIC church founded by his father.

He was planning a tour for this month. He wanted to keep going.

His music made you smile. Bob Darden wrote in CT, that he “combined Saturday night with Sunday morning.”

Bye for now, Andraé. Looking forward to that day when all of us will jam again at the great big gig in the sky.


 

Vintage video of the band at Explo 72, the event that put the Jesus People on the map:

Audio-only of Andraé ‘doin’ church’ with Jesus is the Answer. For a few hours, at his concerts, everybody was Pentecostal:

The greats of Contemporary Christian Music — each one a star in their own right — comes together to sing backup on My Tribute (To God Be The Glory):

The way I first heard his music: The crackle and pop of vinyl records. The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power:

This last one is a Gaither video, he’s singing with Jessy Dixon. Soon and Very Soon We are Going to See the King. A reality for Andraé today:


  Related at Relevant: 7 Pop Hits You Didn’t Know Andraé Crouch Helped Create

Great Minds Think Alike: Long after I formatted this, I found a similar tribute at New Small Church.

January 7, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Cathedral Repurposed as Skateboard ParkThe above is taken from a Wall Street Journal article about European Cathedrals being sold off, this one in Holland was re-purposed as a skateboard park. The story reads, “Two dozen scruffy skateboarders launched perilous jumps in a soaring old church building here on a recent night, watched over by a mosaic likeness of Jesus and a solemn array of stone saints.”

Cathedral Repurposed II


We’ll flip the order this week and start with some fun things, and then go for the PARSE links second…


Church Gro

For your own supply of Church Gro, click this link.


Here’s what we posted at PARSE today:

  • What One Woman Thinks of Women’s Ministry – “If I wanted to learn how to decorate cupcakes, I would take a class in it. If I wanted to be educated on strategies for decorating my home inexpensively from Winners, I would just, you know, go to Winners. Or Pinterest. But I’m here with you now because I want what the world cannot give me. We’re choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics, and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community.”
  • Pastoring Grief – “When we sit with someone who has encountered devastation it can be scary… This is one place I am helped by the Quaker tradition. In fact, I believe – if not always practice – that my role is not to have the answers, give good advice, or “heal” another person at all. All I am to do is create a safe space where he or she can begin – or continue – to listen to the Inward Teacher. My work is to create a space where their soul can be honored and held. This type of listening comes in the form of seeing each meeting as a divine “Opportunity.” In Quaker parlance, an Opporunity – with a capital O – is where both people sit, listen and discover where the Spirit is moving in another. Being comfortable with silence is essential, allowing the wounded person to be the focus of the conversation and to carry it where they will.”
  • Missing the Text Because We Know it So Well – “Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are… the unfamiliar-but-wildly-curious folks see things I’ve never seen… My familiarity tricked me into thinking I knew the story, but I had missed the point.”
  • Time Travel: Before the Megachurch Set the Agenda – “I grew up in small churches that my father pastored, but when I moved into full-time ministry I was involved in mega-churches as an associate pastor. I have spent my adult life attending large churches, and it had been many years since I had not been in a church service where the crowd outnumbered a Friday night high school football game. Stepping away from the big-church scene and stopping by to visit a small church turned out to be a greater blessing than I ever expected. My memories had forgotten the close bond and camaraderie that one feels in a smaller group of people.”
  • Lament for a Closing Bible College – “I am sad for the broader trends that this decision reflects for Christian higher education. Sad that theological education is no longer the priority for young adults and their parents that it once was… I am sad for how the news of Bethany’s closing is, in many ways, symptomatic of far broader church trends… I am sad that more effort is often put into hyper-pragmatic church-planting techniques than the preserving of spaces for theological education that has as its goal the forming of Christian character and the training of Christian leaders. But most of all, I think, I am sad that the world will now have one less good place where young women and men can encounter Jesus and learn to love each other in the context of community.”
  • Inside Female Thought Processes – “Am I enough? Sometimes, I don’t feel like there is enough of me to go around, and it can be exhausting.  When I was teaching, I would wake up and pour into my husband and kiddos and spend some time in prayer.  Once I arrived at school, I would pour into my students.  Once I got back home, I would make dinner for my family, run my kids to their various activities, and end the day by pouring into my husband and kids once again.  I was honestly a shell of a person.  I had been pouring out all day into the ones I love and doing  something I loved to do, but I was completely spent.”
  • Rethinking the Bible College Degree– “From early on in my academic life, I was confused. I knew that a Bible college would prepare you to do the work of the Lord; I knew I wanted to be a missionary in post-communist Russia. I was prepared to be poor for the rest of my life, but I didn’t understand that one could live in deficit, that dreams could be deferred by the crushing realities of student debt. When the financial aid office of my Bible college draped their offers of loans in front of me, I confronted them. Do you really think you should be pushing debt onto missionaries and pastors? I asked them… While this might be a workable financial constraint for many, it can prove crippling to the very students that Bible colleges cater to—those who want to minister, either as pastors or teachers or overseas missionaries.”
  • Making the Case for The Local Church as Dating Site – The same week the Christian Mingle movie releases on DVD, we’re offered a different view: “Every year, between Christmas and Valentine’s Day, online dating registrations soar. There are a myriad of reasons for this: the difficulty of holidays spent single; New Year resolutions; desire to not be by themselves in dark, winter nights; pressure from family; and more. One thing is clear, it is written on the heart of every man and woman that it is not good for them to be alone.” A call for the church to prayerfully set up potential couples.
  • Moving Forward by Looking Back – “I set goals for every conceivable arena of life: spiritual, fitness, education, ministry, publishing, financial, language acquisition, and even reading speed. These give me items for which to pray, plan, and pursue. Holding the goal in mind helps me know when to decline otherwise enticing opportunities and when to apply for those that are not forthcoming. But equally important—a discipline I am less faithful in—is pausing to reflect on past accomplishments…” Take the time to raise your Ebenezer.
  • Question of the Week – “Instead of asking ‘What does this passage mean to you?’ we should ask, ‘What does this passage mean if you never existed?'” You’ll find this somewhere on Julie Roys’ radio program said by either Michael Rydelnik or Michael Vanlaningham.
  • One for the Road – While other Christian news items were more pressing, this was definitely the year of Christian cinema, making this year’s list of the Top 100 films looked up at the Christian Film database all the more important.

From Daniel Jepsen’s blog Sliced Soup (click image to link):

Sketchy Church

 

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