Thinking Out Loud

March 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

I found this at the comics blog, Comic Curmudgeon with this caption: Hmm, Dennis’s teacher takes him aside after class, as if to gently correct him privately, but makes sure to do it while the other children are still in earshot, so that they can snicker at his ignorance! I’d say the menace has become the menaced, except that Dennis managed to get a Sunday School lesson to linger on nudity and shame, so maybe he’s playing a much deeper game here.

I found this at the comics blog, Comics Curmudgeon with this caption:
Hmm, Dennis’s teacher takes him aside after class, as if to gently correct him privately, but makes sure to do it while the other children are still in earshot, so that they can snicker at his ignorance! I’d say the menace has become the menaced, except that Dennis managed to get a Sunday School lesson to linger on nudity and shame, so maybe he’s playing a much deeper game here.

 

Featured Links

Your Church’s Management Culture – Thom Schultz looks at five models, the Family Run church, the Celebrity Centered church, the Deacon Possessed church (I loved that title), the Team Oriented church and the Democracy Weighted church. “Every congregation–and each ministry within it–takes on a style of governance that shapes its work and effectiveness…Sometimes a church’s structure becomes its very focus. People become devoted to the system, rather than to God.”

Navigating a Major Staff Departure – After 16 years of working together, Andy Stanley was so concerned with his friend Joel Thomas’ decision-making conundrum that Andy didn’t initially communicate that he didn’t want Joel to leave. And Joel broke all the rules of disclosure, bringing Andy into the discussion from day one. A 19-minute leadership podcast on what Andy calls Open-Handed staffing.

What Some Christians Think About Christians in Other Tribes – As listicles go, this collection of 10 Myths will make you think. Sample: “Interpretations differ because one party respects the Bible less… [T]his myth rests on the very shaky assumption that respect for Scripture always leads to correct interpretation and application of scripture. Too bad scripture itself doesn’t back this assumption! Apollos fervently respected the Old Testament and teachings of John the Baptist. But his own sermons were off-base enough for Priscilla and Aquila to pull him aside and give him a crash course in the gospel of Jesus.”

Preaching Christologically – Encouraged to “preach Christ in every sermon” hands go up at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with objections to the idealism of this approach because, “my sermon text is focused on a particular doctrinal truth” or “my sermon text is focused on a moral truth and not on Christ” or “my sermon text is focused on a moral truth” or “every sermon begins to sound the same.” The response to these situations is found in something published in 1801.

Confessional Accounts and the Women (and Men) Who Write Them – This precis of an article from The Hedgehog Review begins with Augustine’s Confessions and moves to modern times: “..But now …confessional literature is a consumer product and (usually) female writers are the commodifiers and the commodified… If their work has anything in common, it’s a mixture of self-consciousness and shamelessness… I too have seen Serious Literary Types raise an eyebrow at first-person narrative essays by women as though it was, by definition, evidence of vanity and triviality. When sold or produced as a genre, Women’s Confessional Literature can be a cynical enterprise that capitalizes on voyeurism.”

Parenting with Perspective – Baker Books author Emily Wierenga: “My friend tells me about a family from her neighborhood whose house burnt down in a fire – and they weren’t able to make it upstairs in time to reach their four oldest kids. Four boys. Now in heaven. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever heard. I just weep and weep. Some things are too much and this feels like one of them. No mother should have to outlive one of her children, let alone four … I want to cling to every single one of my children’s moments, good and bad, long and short, messy and smudged with kisses, because I’m never going to look back and miss that Mommy Time.”

Looking Further Down the Worship Road – Songwriter and producer Brenton Brown: “At least two significant challenges face us as worship leaders. The first is that often we become so engaged in the immediate worship needs that we delay beginning the process of developing the leaders around us. Saying ‘yes’ to developing leaders at certain points will mean saying ‘no’ to other ministry opportunities. There will always be need, but if we are to be effective in serving people in worship we need to break out of the survivalist mentality and plan for the long-haul. The second challenge that faces us, more often than not, is our artistic/perfectionist temperaments which seem to rear up at any hint of a possible drop in standards.”

Making Multi-Faith Mandatory in Medicine – Under new guidelines issued this month by the National Health Service in the UK, hospitals would be required to provide atheist chaplains. ““Chaplains already show no discrimination in dealing with patients whatever their background or belief. Providing atheist chaplains is an exercise in pointless political correctness. Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on this misguided attempt to comply with the perceived demands of equality laws, when they are already met by existing services.”

L’Arche Founder Wins Templeton Prize – Americans could be forgiven for not knowing Jean Vanier (or how to pronounce his French name) but are probably more aware of Henri Nouwen who joined L’Arche, the organization Vanier founded, after a career as a Catholic seminary professor. L’Arche, founded over 50 years ago became “an international network of communities for mentally disabled people” and last week it was announced that Vanier has “won the 2015 Templeton Prize worth $1.7 million for affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Vanier has 22 books currently in print (in English) including the popular From Brokenness to Community and the 10th anniversary edition of Becoming Human and is known for affirming the dignity of developmentally challenged adults.

Rolling in the Deeps – Why anyone would go to the trouble of crafting a religious sculpture and then placing it out of sight underwater is anyone’s guess, though in this collection of five such placements we’re told that two of them were: “placed underwater by local officials to help discourage fishing techniques that use explosives. Since fisherman know the statues are down there, they don’t use dynamite.”

One for the Road – The artist currently known as Prince has covered a 2005 song by Christian artist Nicole Nordeman. Her reaction.

And-on-the-7th-day

Short Takes

We end with long-time favorite cartoonist John McPherson:

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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.

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.

March 19, 2011

Churches Can’t Hurt People; People Hurt People

While it’s only one year old, I want to rerun this piece because there’s a lot of hurtin’ goin’ on out there. It’s a post that was a continuation of my wife’s guest post a year plus one day ago. At the time, I promised I would return to some of the issues raised to look at them objectively.

A year later, I am only beginning to realize the level of the abuse she suffered.  If she had been raped by the church elder who presided over the meeting she attended, there would be an outcry.  Because it was only spiritual abuse, her situation is ignored.  For her sake, I refuse to let these issues die…

1. How long does a person attend your church before they are considered for service?

Andy Stanley’s Fortune 500 survey company found that in the first five weeks at NorthPoint, newcomers are already trying to “discern next steps,” and possible areas of active involvement. On the other hand, when 60’s rocker Barry McGuire came to Christ, his pastor suggested the famed composer/singer should take a seat in the back row to grow and nurture his faith — for a full year! Some say that in a small town church, “Once a visitor, always a visitor.” Where’s the balance? Of course, in my wife’s case, she wasn’t exactly a newcomer, which brings us to…

2. When someone who was a former member of your church returns, does their past experience count for anything?

Clearly, some churches expect you to jump through all the hoops as though you’d never been there before. One woman who wrote us off-the-blog put it this way, “It’s when your motives are questioned and you had thought you had enough ‘capital’ in years of service to be trusted…” Churches will have “Celebration Sundays” to revel in their glorious past history, but if someone who is part of that history should return, that experience, even if it involved some tough pioneering, isn’t always respected. For my wife to be classed as a “visitor” is simply too much kommel-bonnaugery. Which brings us to…

3. Is someone who has only been part of a church for ten years truly fit to reprimand, discipline or judge someone whose history with that church goes back twenty years?

Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we really don’t know each other. But it gets even more complicated when people who have given years of service are being judged — or spiritually abused — by people who, despite their convictions otherwise, don’t know all there is to know. (Or worse, have been given short ‘debriefs’ by a departing pastor about individuals in the church, not unlike those student files kept in the school office.) Sometimes, this problem manifests itself where a church member finds themselves being rebuked by someone half their age. There may be Biblical precedent for that, but it’s still unnatural, and can be avoided by appointing a different mediator. Which brings us to…

4. Are the elders in your church really “elder,” or were they chosen by some other standard?

Some churches really need to bring back the concept of elders and deacons. (See the story in Acts 7 on the choosing of Stephen for the nuances.) Some elders are on the church board for the wrong reasons, like, for example, their wives talked them into it. Some elders truly “represent” the congregation in a democratic sense, while others see themselves as a sub-priestly class of elite members. Again, another comment received this week; “…as I think you sense, the leadership there is like a team of soldiers walking through enemy territory with the rank and file members and adherents being ‘the enemy!’ It feels as if there are the leaders and then there are the rest of us — the leaders being a select group of others who think alike and run the show.” Which brings us to…

5. What about Church leaders who will look you right in the eye and lie through their teeth? Is that ever justified?

The conversation my wife had revealed a number of statements which, at the very least, were absolute non sequiturs. They told her that she was unfit to lead because people in the congregation didn’t know her, yet just three weeks before that, I had to ask four different people to find out the name of the woman who had led worship that week. My wife was baptized there. Our children were dedicated there. Her husband served on paid staff there for four years. And nobody knows her? Maybe what this is all about is really…

6. Is the elders’ board of a church really where the heart of ministry is taking place? Or even in touch with the real ministry happening?

I doubt that. In fact, if you really want to see corporate life change (aka spiritual formation) take place and they ask you to serve on an administrative board, run as fast you can in the other direction. “Run, Forrest, run!” Just wanting to serve on one of these boards is like wanting to run for public office. And being involved in service is just as political, where you do everything you can to keep your reputation ahead of actual service. And just as in politics, these people will do everything they can to keep people off the stage who might, through raw authenticity and transparency, challenge their carefully developed status quo. People like that are, simply put, a threat. This is not where organic leadership is taking place. Which bring us to…

7. Do people in your church get hurt or wounded or abused?

My wife was told that placing herself in profile ministry meant she was leaving herself open to hurt. Was this an admission on their part that this is a church that hurts people? The church leadership should bear ultimate responsibility for any hurting, wounding or abusing that takes place within their province. Furthermore they should be strive to make their church a place of healing; a place of grace. Decisions taken at the board level which are simply leading to further hurt should be considered a worst-case scenario. But this is likely to happen because…

8. Can a church leader be doing “the Lord’s work” and at the same time be about “the Devil’s business?”

Absolutely. People are flawed. They are going to get caught up in what “may seem right,” but actually take perverse delight in stabbing someone and then twisting the knife. Any high school student who has studied Shakespeare knows enough about human nature to know that these personality types are out there. As Mark Antony says, “These are honorable men.”  It’s all about building their kingdom and especially their desire for power and control. So the obvious question is…

9. Why do we keep coming back?

Small(er) towns don’t offer people the advantage of packing up and moving to another church. The mix of evangelism, teaching, worship, doctrinal slant, demographic composition; combined with an individual’s history in a place; plus a blind optimism that someday things will improve; all these things sometimes mean that there is literally nowhere else to go. (And trust us, we’ve done the church plant thing, too; it was a great experience; but the plants died or got put on haitus for other reasons.) Besides, this church is our HOME. Figuratively, those are our kids’ height marks on the back of the door; that’s our kids’ artwork on the refrigerator; not so figuratively, that’s the corner where I prayed with that woman for a dramatic healing; that’s the song my wife taught the congregation just a few years ago; that’s the weekly group that we started.

10. Is it possible that it’s just time to step aside and let another generation have their turn?

If that’s the case, the people working so hard to evict us from active ministry have only four or five years left themselves. And they are perpetuating a system which will truly come back to haunt them. But then again, many of the people doing worship service leadership in Canada are much older than their U.S. counterparts. So while a part of me is lamenting my wife’s loss of opportunity to do the thing she loves, and the thing she’s most gifted to do, I keep watching the horizon for that young, unshaven guy with a guitar over his shoulder who is going to bounce this crowd off the stage and, with his peers, bounce this particular collection of elders out of the church boardroom.

I guess that sounds a bit mean spirited, but honestly, things can only get better. Things can only improve. Of course I’ve said that before…

The new pastor who had arrived around this time continues to distance himself from my wife’s situation by saying he doesn’t want to interfere in departmental decisions. He may have bought into the organized tainting of her reputation.  He’s never heard her speak or lead worship.

She returns for visits at my insistence — I have my own history and roots in this church — but is extremely uncomfortable, as you would expect someone to be if, using the example I started with, someone who had raped them was making the announcements or leading the worship.  The new pastor has the utmost respect for this guy.  I suppose time will tell.  No, wait; I know time will tell.

What’s worse, the hurting continues; another person, with so much to offer this church, recently left.  He’s hurting and broken over it, and I am hurting for him. He’s trying to find another church home.  You just want to grab some of these so-called church leaders and start shaking them and shaking them and shaking them…  Bastards!  Sorry.  Only word I can find right now.

On the plus side, my wife is currently on a monthly worship rotation at another church and attends there most other weeks also.  They give her the freedom of a half hour worship set to explore the depth of worship, to produce original videos, to write contemplative and sobering liturgies and to include off-the-wall fun stuff, too.  Their gain is the other church’s tragic loss.

Related post: April 4, 2008 – Growing Deep RootsSometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name… and they’re always glad you came.

Related post: May 1, 2008 – Choosing a Church – This post is where I came up with the phrase, “a place where you can be comfortable being broken.” and the footnote, “When you have true spiritual family in various places, they don’t mind it when you crash!”

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