Archive for November, 2009

Relevance in worship. Is it Biblical?

November 23, 2009

When I hear people talking about relevance in worship, I mostly hear people talking about music styles: “we worship this way because this is the audience we have” or “we worship this way because this is the audience we want to reach.”  For youth worship we worship one way and we worship another way with old people in the name of relevance.

Is there a Biblical command for this way of thinking?

Doug Goins in his article titled “Relevance and Irrelevance in Worship” says:


“Jesus addresses this issue in the Gospels, and it is central to the passage we are studying. What is important and unimportant in corporate worship? John 4:16-26 deals with relevance and irrelevance in worship.”

The passage:

John 4:16-26 NIV:

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

I’m not convinced that this is at all about relevance in worship, though, you might disagree if you read his article.

What is the Biblical precedent for making our worship offering relevant to the people in our congregations?  I have some ideas here, but most of them are philosophical applications and observations and not anything real concrete.

Christmas Commercialism FTW?

November 16, 2009

The funniest thing about Christmas is that the people who complain about how popular Christmas is tend to be the people who should be happiest that Christmas is such a big deal.  While the rest of the world is out there promoting Christ, many of our brothers and sisters are decrying the commercialism that comes with Jesus’ birthday.

Why? What a great mechanism for getting the word out about Jesus!  Heck, a big part about evangelism practically takes care of itself this time of year!  We just need to be out there seizing the moments and making a good impression on people!

Now, I know that people are reading this are still grumbling about commercialism, greed, and whatever else they can come up with.  After all, this is just my opinion right?  I don’t know.  I read Paul in Philippians 1:15-18 where he acknowledges that there are going to be some who preach Christ for their own gain (v17).  Paul asks “But what does it matter?” then answers by saying motives don’t matter.  What matters is that Christ is preached.  I think that Paul, the ultimate evangelist would shout “Christmas commercialism FTW!” then put himself in a position to do his job while somebody else takes care of the promotion part.

So while there is a lot of noise at Christmas, one thing cannot be denied: eventually somebody is going to be confronted with the Jesus side of Christmas.  A seed has to be planted before it can grow.

So I wonder, are you going to be doing your part to make sure that they are able to get good answers?  Or are you going to hide at home and bemoan this season for its supposed folly?

Christmas Commercialism FTW!

Ineffective Outreach: Pt 3/3. What About the Old Guard?

November 9, 2009

So what about the old guard?

It is important to recognize who the old guard is.  I believe that when we think “old guard” we think about the select group of saints who have figured out a way to turn white hair purple, the most senior in age among us.  That is a stereotype that has a grain of truth but only defines a small percentage of “old guards”.  In my opinion, the old guard is anybody who can be seen as a church’s core membership and or loyal servants to the kingdom and people who step up to defend or protect a method or way that they favor.  These people can be young (perhaps even high school young) these people can be middle age (like I am), these people can be my grandma (nearing the three digit age).  Yes, at 33 I am the old guard.  Yes, I have to be careful about protecting and idolizing my ways at the expense of my neighbor’s worship offering.

I think when we contemplate the old guard; it is good to recognize that they are not always in error.  We have to apply critical thought and consider what it is that they are protecting.  I think the important question here is to root out whether or not they are protecting something for their sake, or because it actually has some valuable contribution to the growth kingdom.  Do they defend hymns because they believe that hymns enhance or make our worship offering better?  Or do they defend hymns because hymns are actually spiritually better? (Hint: hymns are not actually spiritually better.)

It is important to realize that it is the leadership’s responsibility to continually grow everybody in the congregation, including those who are “old guard.”  Even more important, it is good to grow everybody where they are the weakest.  The church has a strong contingent of people who constantly push for what they want in our worship offering, insisting that what they want is the better thing to have.  Those of us who are in leadership positions tend to just give them what they want, or if we deny them what they want, we and then don’t take the time to explain to them what real worship is.  Consequently we have a body of people who don’t really understand what worship is, we have a body of people that are given to idolatry.

So what to do?  The leadership needs to find a congregation’s weakness and train in that direction.  Back in high school and shortly after, I was into weight training.  There was a weight machine that only had maybe 5-10 pounds max on it.  Naturally, I avoided it.  10 pounds is just stupid right?  On a whim I decided to get myself a trainer.  We talked and after a bit the trainer started talking up this machine.  “What is the point?” I asked.  As it turned out, the machine worked a little tiny muscle in a particular direction.  While those few extra pounds of strength on that one muscle seemed a little silly, the consequence for the other muscles was noticeable.  Strengthening in that little way helped my entire arm quite a bit!

The second thing on the to do list should revolve around creating a culture of holistic training and accountability and not letting things slide that we think are small or inconsequential.  I firmly believe that idolatry is prominent now because we continually let little things slide, especially when it comes to the “old guard”.

We tend to be worried about offending, or we think other things have more importance that we overlook little things now that might become big things later.  Many march on a mantra of peace at all costs thus compromising truth because we fear that something might be too divisive.  So when old guard Lucy says “I worship better with Hymns” we don’t council with Lucy about learning to worship without.  Instead, we hand Lucy some Hymns which tends to reaffirm to her that Hymns help her worship offering.  When old guard John establishes that he worships better with choruses, we don’t council Jon about the merits of worshiping to ones fullest no matter the music, instead we give John his choruses!

So here we have a very broad spectrum essay that encompasses a wide variety of things – all in an attempt to answer a question concerning the decline of the Church population and how technology might act as an aid in rejuvenating the body’s mission that we have when it comes to evangelism.  We are losing the lost because we are too self focused, we will not be able to use technology as effectively we can as long as we stifle innovation to keep the old guard happy.  Ultimately we need to gut up and strengthen ourselves where we are showing weakness, cleanse the church of its idols and then take advantage of the innovative and new methods that God provides for us to use for His benefit and for the benefit of those that do not know Him.

Ineffective Outreach: Pt 2/3. Technology’s Place in the Church.

November 2, 2009

Technology’s Place in the Church:

Ultimately we have to understand that technology (however you choose to define it, I tend to be very broad in my definition as I see “technology” as any means used to get to a defined end) is simply a tool to be used by the people wishing to witness.  The best technology in the world without the people behind it to make the connection will only accomplish very little.  We cannot rely on technology to do the work for us like we did (or in some cases do) with music.   I fail to see a time when technology will ever replace “boots on the ground” when it comes to the spiritual battle front.

Outreach is always about out.  We need to forget about drawing people in.  We would do good to realize that the people will come in on their own if we are out there with them.  We would also do good to realize that we can’t always be them.  My friends in Indonesia will always be Americans.  They will never be thought of as indigenous Indonesian people.  That is not a reason for them to stay home and avoid doing that which God has called them to do.  The people in the church need to adapt the same method of thinking.  I will never be able to relate too many of the people in the various communities found in our precious country.  That should not stop me from trying to commune with even the most dangerous or vile of these people when the opportunity is given.  For that matter, it should not stop me from trying to create opportunities to commune with the people of the communities where I live and where my church is.

So that should be our 1st technology strategy.  Use technology to help us get out to more people.

The 2nd technology strategy needs to be one of interaction. The days of lecture and simply reading and accepting are going away (I’m not convinced that they ever really existed on the spiritual battle ground, despite their wide deployment).  While simply accepting lecture and literature may always have its place as legitimate methods of education, interacting with information and ideas is not just becoming normal for our culture, it is also becoming very important.  This not only applies to people that we are reaching out too, but people that we are teaching and preaching to, people who are already or on their way to becoming believers.  Going back to interacting with the information that is being delivered to the audience (as was considered critical in Plato’s day) is important if we are going reach those that we don’t have and keep the ones that we do have.

The only way we are going to accomplish the task of adding and retaining is to embrace and invest in virtually every culturally important form of communication that is relevant to the audience that God has placed around us.  It should not matter to anybody how frivolous, ridiculous, or difficult we think it is or will be.  We need to be quick to pick up the new methods and quick to dump the ineffective methods.

Part of the problem here is that many new communication platforms are shunned by the experts.  Each new technology comes out and every time some expert proclaims how this only contributes to the decline of humanity.  Sometimes they tie technological innovations to our decline of intelligence; sometimes they tie technological innovations to our spiritual depravity.  What Christian wants to believe that they are using a method that contributes to humanity’s decline?  NONE!

The church needs to ignore the experts when they decry some new communications platform.  Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, texting, the internet, the computer, the telegraph, the tv, the radio, music (broken into specific genres even!) the printing press, the pencil, even writing was new at some point.  Not surprisingly, all of these items were viewed as negative contributors to the continuing downfall man’s IQ and or spiritual condition by the experts.  This is one area where the experts are always proven wrong.

Sadly, in listening to the so called “experts”, Christians are slow to adopt and adapt to new technologies (either that or we use expert opinions as an excuse or validation to prevent positive change).  We end up idolizing the past by believing that somehow the old ways are more holy, righteous, and effective than the new ways.  We neglect the fact that it isn’t the technology that is contributing to our sinful nature; it is the content being delivered.  In our constant insistence on sticking with the old ways we ensure that today’s communications platforms are saturated with the ways of Satan and not the ways of God.  In essence, our own negligence to adopt and adapt to the new contributes to the reality that we don’t want to contribute to.

In the end, each church needs to look at what it has been given in its resource pool.  Then every church needs to turn around and give 100% of those things back to God.  Not doing something because Granny Smith isn’t favorable to the idea is a bad idea.  Moses tried this, whacked a rock, and got in trouble.  King Saul caved to the people’s desires and held onto some things and was going to give God a worship offering that that he wasn’t supposed to do and got busted.  Those of us who have been given leadership positions in the church need to be willing to be bold and stop worrying about the “old guard” so much and start worrying more about the person who may spend eternity in Hell because the church down the street ignored them.  We have a vast tool box for finding the lost.  We just need to unlock it and let those tools do their thing.

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What are your views of technology in the church?

How can we (you) employ technology to get the word out?

How do you employ technology in your ministry?

What creative and unique ideas have you seen others employ that you would like to try with your ministry?

 

Next Monday:  Who exactly is the “old guard”?  You might be surprised!