Showing posts from 2011

The Pastoral Role of a Worship Planner

...and now, by request...
I received one of those notes the other day.The kind that worship pastors or leaders receive from time to time but on a regular basis: “Please, please, may we have more hymns!” I received almost the same anonymous note in the same handwriting nearly six months ago.Only this time, the author mailed it to me; again, anonymously. My policy has always been to ignore anonymous notes because they are often intentionally hurtful and I have no way of interpreting (not knowing the context) or responding to them.The intent of this older lady (I know the approximate age and gender because of the style of the handwriting) was certainly not hurtful.But she is frustrated and persistent!I only wish I had her name so that I could respond personally.Lacking that opening, I have taken the note as an opportunity to share my sense of calling as a worship designer/leader/pastor. In direct response to her, I would have asked, “What do you mean by ‘hymns’?”I’m almost certain that she at…

The Transformational Power of Corporate Worship

God’s people have always assembled together on a weekly basis as a corporate spiritual discipline.Post-exilic Jews met on the Sabbath to read and discuss their Scriptures in the synagogue.The early church continued the weekly pattern but gathered on the first day of the week – the day of Resurrection – the Eighth Day.The writer of Hebrews specifically warned us to “forsake not the assembling together as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25). Why?
Consider these facts about corporate worship:
·For over 1500 years most Christians did not have a personal copy of the Bible.How did they grow spiritually and how did the Church expand?
·At the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, those who believed Christ was fully divine were virtually at an impasse with those who believed that Christ was less than fully divine.The reality that the Church was already worshipping Christ as fully divine was the deciding factor in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity.
·At the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the doctrine …

Modulating from Corporate to Personal Discernment

The last sermon that I preached is posted on my blog.The topic was cultivating conditions for hearing the Holy Spirit in the corporate church.In my reflection on the development of the Church in the opening chapters of Acts through chapter 13, I observed five conditions that were present when the leaders in Antioch clearly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit (13:2): 1.Believe that God still speaks today. 2.Purity in the church.No known sin is tolerated. 3.Unity of the church. 4.An expectancy that God was going to move; or better put, knowing that God is always working and seeking to join Him there.(This idea was well developed by Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God.) 5.Corporate spiritual disciplines that positioned the people to receive the grace that God is always pouring out. The message has stayed with me and I’ve had several people let me know what they heard God saying to them (or us) that morning.I mentioned several times in the sermon that it could be applied personally as well as co…

Thoughts on Hearing God's Voice in Community

I am convinced that God still speaks today.How could a God who spoke the cosmos into being and whose very essence in human form was referred to as “the Word” (John 1:1-12) clam up after the New Testament was written? After all, Jesus clearly said, “my sheep recognize my voice” (John 10:27). Asserting that God no longer speaks today doesn’t make good theological sense.It’s not Jewish or Christian.It’s deist. But Scripture does hold a unique place in the revelation of God.What is it that makes the New Testament of a qualitatively higher order than a word that we might hear from God today?Well, it’s complicated and I’m certain that I don’t know all the nuances.But in my understanding, the trump card of the New Testament (that is, what makes it Scripture) is that it carries apostolic authority.The writers of the New Testament were either apostles (part of the original band of twelve – plus Paul who was recognized by the early church as an apostle) or they were closely associated with an ap…

A New Mission: Catch the Wave - Sermon from 8/14/2011

I’m a sailor.Not a very good one and I don’t do it very often.But it’s in my blood. I was born on Long Island, New York and some of my relatives were boatman as far back as the Colonial Period.Sailboats are a lot different than powerboats.When I’m in my fishing boat and I want to go from point A to point B, I just pull the cord on my outboard motor, point the bow of the boat in the direction I want to go and head there.Most of us would like our lives to be like motor boats.Set a goal, make your plans and off you go – you’re sure to arrive in time.Problem is:life is more like sailing.We’ve got economic boom or bust, relational blessings or break-ups, good health or bad, and the simple realities of growing up and growing older.In sailing terms, we have to deal with the variance of wind speed and direction, the intensity of tidal flow and the size of the waves.To reach our destination in life we have to be able to navigate through conditions that are constantly changing.What is true for …

Communion as “Trans-Participation”

The church staff attended “Pastor’s Day” at the Okoboji Bible Conference yesterday.Good stuff and good company.Many times pastor’s gatherings are rather stuffy and just a bit boring.We had three fabulous speakers. Skye Jethani, senior editor for Leadership Journal began the day with provocative challenges to contemporary ministry.A lot of his comments were push-back from some of the stuff I’ve heard in ministry methodology for the last twenty years.Refreshing.Bob Thune, brother of Sen. John from SD and previously the pastor of Christ Community Church in Omaha, shared his stunning story of being released from his position as lead pastor in a very large church in California.It was sobering but also encouraging as he recounted the affirmation of ministry that he received from many individuals in his church.We never really see what is going on underneath the surface.Occasionally, God allows a peek.We’re probably having more impact than we’ll ever know this side of eternity. Ross Hastings …

What Are the Presbyterians Missing?

The gay issue is not going away anytime soon. For Christians who are open to gay people - as Jesus certainly would have been, but not affirming - as all of Scripture and Church Tradition have taught, the issue must be faced squarely and courageously. We are salmon swimming against the flood of cultural opinion and change. Our President proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month for the third year in a row. This does not bode well for us. I can easily imagine churches that will not bend on this issue facing significant cultural and governmental persecution within the next few decades.

I’ve engaged the debate over whether or not a homosexual lifestyle is compatible with the Christian faith. The affirming side does not lack for stories of homosexuals who are otherwise morally and ethically commendable. Many are in long-term committed relationships. Of course, the same can be sai…

Is the Church a Movement or an Institution?

We recently held a renewal conference at our church called “Fresh Winds.” The leaders of the Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries converged in Sioux Falls to plan their summer conference at Green Lake, WI. Since they were in town, they blessed us with their ministry gifts from Friday night through Sunday. They are great people and we had a refreshing time together. Personally, I made some spiritual progress with issues I had been wrestling with.

In at least two of the sessions, the speaker asserted several times that the church was a movement rather than an Institution. I agree with the intention and the point that was being made. We are a Spirit-formed people. We are alive with the Breath of God. The church is an organism, not a building or a business. But it is also an institution.

Institutionalism in missional communities is an axiom of the human experience. Missional communities are groups of people who are united by the work they do to fulfill their purpose. As enterprises grow and b…

Tribute to Bob Webber

I missed the anniversary of Bob Webber's death by a few days. It was Wednesday, April 27. For some reason, I was confused and thought it was today. Truth is, I thought about Bob throughout the day on Wednesday.

Though I was only a student at his school in Florida for a few years and I never had the privilege of interacting with him at any length in person, he always acted like he was genuinely interested in me and what I was doing. He was both brilliant and accessible. His humor was delightful. He was taken from us far too early. I miss him very much.

Bob built a school of prophets in Orange Park, Florida that continues to thrive even after his passing. It is the Robert E Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Student and graduates (of which I am one) have cultivated a fire in the belly for worship renewal. Worship renewal, like any prophetic ministry, is both richly rewarding and deeply discouraging. I have and continue to experience both. There are times, like the prophet Jerem…