Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Category

Is Blended Worship Effective?

May 7, 2010

An expert weighs in. Blended worship doesn’t work very well. An interesting take on a creative attempt to keep people happy!

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I was reading Rich Kirkpatrick’s blog post called “Contemplations & Conversations on Creative Leadership: ‘Too Good’ Part 3”.

The entire series is actually pretty good, but what really caught my attention are some of the comments he makes about “blended worship”:

“One of my favorite ‘old school’ contemporary Christian songs is Steve Taylor’s “I Want to Be A Clone.” We homogenize rather than synergize. Like a blender creating slop, we put two independently perfect items and destroy their uniqueness. This is why “blended worship” is not as effective as ministries that choose to have services with a focus. It seems far better to have a traditional service done with excellence than to mix Steve Fee on a pipe organ or Isaac Watts with a banjo. Actually, the Isaac Watts thing sounds cool, I have to admit.

“Now, I am not against blended worship, I am just concerned about the purpose some have in neutering art in their church. If you cannot pull off modern worship to sound its best or traditional worship to sound its best why try? Why not program what you can accomplish uniquely well?

“Indigenous worship is a far better choice. We use that word in global missions, but I think for worship and creativity in the local church that it makes perfect sense. The concept is that it should be important to tell our faith community’s story. While we should not be afraid to jump on trends and movements of God’s Spirit around the world, it should be our staple to make our expressions of worship flavored and colored by the stories of God’s presence and work locally.”

Perhaps this caught my attention because this is something I talk about frequently here and other places. Don’t try to do something that God didn’t equip you to do. Some churches force traditional worship styles when they don’t have the musicians / vocalists to pull it off. MANY churches try to pull off certain contemporary worship styles when they don’t have the people with the skills. The net result is a sloppy worship offering to God.

Another question that came to mind while reading this article: I know TONS of churches that do blended worship. I don’t know of a single one that I would call effective at the Great Commission. Every single one that I can think of plateaus at a relatively small number.

Honestly, until I read this, I never actually thought that forcing blended worship might actually be a bad idea.

What are your thoughts on blended worship?
What does your church do here?
Is your church growing and adding to it’s numbers?

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!

Ineffective Outreach: Pt 1/3. The problem of Idolatry and Music

October 29, 2009

Recently a friend of mine sent me an email with statistical data showing that the number of people who claim to be Christian’s in the United States is seriously on the decline.  The email claims to be a report on FOXNews.com by author and speaker Bruce Feiler and asks “Where have all the Christian’s gone?” (http://tinyurl.com/yd4xxa4) then proceeds to detail Christianity’s declining numbers.  In the discussion that followed with him the question that developed was “how do we turn this tide and what role should technology take in our renewed efforts?”  He touches on the idea that he realizes that “music can be a powerful draw” and that “we need to keep gearing it toward the younger crowd.”  But then he ultimately wonders “what we could be doing beyond that is the big question.”

The issue of ineffective outreach:

I believe that for the last 25-30 years, the problem has been that the Church has focused too much on music as a major (if not the) contributing factor in church growth.  As a youngster I remember people talking about it.  As a college student I remember professors talking about it.

These days we have tons of churches that offer some form of contemporary worship.  Many of them still don’t grow.  Or if they add to their numbers, they subtract the same amount through the plateau effect.  It seems to me that the smoking gun of church growth is not great or relevant music as has been thought for the last generation.  If it was, then every church that has relevant well performed music would be growing.

The problem with “what to do beyond that” (that being music) being a question without an answer is that the question has already been answered.  However, I believe that the church has become so engulfed in idolatry that we end up consuming too much of our limited resources (time, money, energy, talent) protecting our idols and arguing their place in the church instead of using those resources to reach out to the lost community.  The Church does a fantastic job taking care of itself.  The Church doesn’t do such a great job of taking care of the ones who are not already in our walls every Sunday morning.  The net result is that we focus on our idolatry and not the solution to our growth problem.  It boils down to this: the energy we use taking care of ourselves need to be totally redirected outward.

The churches that focus on the answer to the “beyond that” question are the churches that have figured out how to make outreach a daily and nearly 24/7 affair are the churches that grow and add to not just their numbers, but the numbers of the Kingdom.  Churches that are big have it easier as in any large pool of people, the talent, money, and time are relatively easier to find.  However in churches that are small, it takes a larger percentage of the budget, of the people, and of the time to have same effective reach.  And when I say “add to their numbers” I mean in substantial hard to miss numbers.  (I wonder: does your church think it is reaching its fullest potential here?)

So a church with a well defined and established vision for the future coupled with the people who are disciplined to give up their own ways to make it happen the way it needs to happen are the ones who are going to be baptizing and adding to their numbers on a constant and almost (is this me being faithless?) daily basis.

Up next: Technology’s place in the church!