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What Message Does Your Flagship Send? September 24, 2014

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity.
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Travis walks in to worship service at your church for the first time. By the end of service, he’s resolved to come back, and he does so every week for several months while progressively becoming more involved with Sunday School and bible studies. Then one Sunday as he’s observing the band, he notices that with a rare exception it’s always the same people. He finds it a little odd, because the pastors and teachers have been telling the church that it’s all about relationships. They’ve told of how we’re to love each other as we love ourselves, and that the goal is to build relational ministries because God is a relational god. Travis thinks to himself, I’ve been here this long and haven’t heard or seen anything about joining the band. Maybe they don’t think there are any other musicians or singers here. So Travis starts asking around and discovers there are many musicians and singers in the church, and when he inquires as to why it’s always the same people the response is along the lines of, “The worship band is exclusive. They audition fill-ins as needed, but mostly the rest of us aren’t welcome. Some of us don’t fit the leadership’s visual vision because of our age, others aren’t viewed as good enough because they don’t play flashy, and a few are simply victims of being disliked by leadership members. And that’s just the ones who play the contemporary appropriate instruments.” Travis, not wanting to believe this, and being a bass player himself, approaches the band leader. “Hey, I’m Travis. I’ve been coming here a few months, slowly getting familiar with things here, you know? Anyway, I’ve been wondering what the process is for auditions or whatever it is you do here to get involved in worship ministry.” The band leader’s response is very much along the lines of what other musicians told him, “Well, we aren’t an open group, there is a very specific set of requirements and other than an occasional stand in we don’t take new players or singers. The pastors are really set on providing continuity from week to week. Also, we’re really focused on being the tightest we can be musically, so there’s not a lot of room for new people without disturbing the climate.” Disheartened, Travis seeks a new church.

While the above is not exactly how it would go in a church, it is what the modern church has come to. While it is spoken on a regular basis to focus on loving each other as we want to be loved and build relationships, the fact is that the flagship event of most churches each week has a non-relational ministry. Music directors, though under the vision of relational community, turn away people seeking Christ-centered artistic community. They’ll cite scriptures about skill, excellence, offering God the best of their flock, and the like, but what it comes down to is that they want a Hollywood or Nashville or New York City entertainment experience in Our Town, USA. Years ago, I had the unfortunate displeasure of watching a band member and teammate go from a stance of, “Churches shouldn’t audition volunteers, if people want to participate they should be allowed to participate,” to beginning an audition process because she didn’t want people on stage making her look bad. Read that again. She went from loving fellow musicians and singers enough to let them be and belong and build relationships with her and other musicians, to turning people away for fear of her own reputation.

Scripture states that if we are not loving each other, and above ourselves at that, we aren’t loving God. There is an exercise used by youth directors in which they tell their students to draw a picture of some person they don’t like or have a problem with, then the director places that picture on a dart board and allows the student to throw darts at their enemy. Afterward, the picture gets pulled away, revealing a picture of Jesus behind it full of holes and tears because what we do to each other we do to Him also. How many times has a church leader thrown darts of inferiority at Jesus, cut Him, impaled Him, broken His heart because someone He called out on the water wasn’t good enough in a human’s eyes or ears? In as few as the past fifteen years, I’d guess it’s a number we can’t comprehend.

Some churches will go to the trouble of developing a small group (cell group, life group) aimed at musicians and singers, in order to side step the issue of closed worship arts ministries. In these cases, few if any of the Sunday Morning Players participate in the small group. Most likely there are “scouts” checking out the skill in the church to see if they really are fulfilling their desire to have “the best of the best” on stage. Unfortunately, it happens sometimes, that the leaders will find someone, a drummer perhaps, who has the credentials to bring more credibility to the band in the eyes of the business world. In the not-so-distant future, the existing drummer receives a call out of the blue that he or she is being let go from the team because a new drummer, possibly with a music degree, who plays faster, and therefore more skillfully by the leader’s standards, has been selected to take his or her place, and not temporarily or on a rotating basis, permanently. Relationships can’t be a means to an end, relationships must BE the end, the goal. But some ministries act like a woman finding a husband and thinking you’ll do, for now, until someone better comes along. Relationships do not exist for the purpose of trophies to display for our own glory, but for the championing of Love that saved us.

Whether you’re a leader or follower, a player or a face in the crowd, there’s a message being received that’s tucked in a bottle of worship washing ashore every time your local assembly gathers. What message is it? It’s not one you hear spoken, or read in the Good Book. It’s a message that’s felt. It’s an experience that whispers “You’re not welcome.” It’s an example set week after week. It’s a rolled up hand drawn picture of someone, but is it intact or full of holes and tears? Is it a message of relationships or disconnecting businesspersons fearing their own reputation?

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Happy Anniversary! November 14, 2012

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity.
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One year ago today, after nearly three and a half years of mistreatment, I left the church whose lead pastor:

  • took a sexual joke more seriously than my word;

  • lied to me about expectations for my staff position, causing me to fail so she could make a change without being perceived as the villain;

  • lied to me about my position’s interaction with another staff position and responded to the confrontation of the lie with, to paraphrase, “If you don’t like it, quit;”

  • held me to double standards by telling me I wasn’t the right choice for my staff position because I didn’t do certain things, and then hiring someone who didn’t do those things and informing this person publicly that she didn’t have to do those things and could delegate however she wanted;

  • told multiple people that the, now former, church business manager was responsible for the maintenance department, then on multiple occasions stripped the business manager of authority to fulfill that responsibility to the extent that when the she tried to report the head custodian for consistently not working, the pastor wouldn’t let the manager turn in the report to the church elders;

  • told the, now former, technology coordinator his workload was going to be nearly doubled for no additional pay, then in the same meeting stated that a new staff position could be created (and funds allocated) to pay someone else to do the same work;

  • overloaded, seemingly intentionally, the, now former, hospitality director and refused her the assistance to make the workload more manageable, (kind of a “this is the job, if you can’t do it all maybe you shouldn’t do any of it” kind of mentality) yet less than two months after the director resigned that one staff position had been split into 3 positions and the two new ones were given to people who were already on staff and could have been delegated to;

  • took sides against a staff member when one congregation member accused him of bad-mouthing another staff member, telling the accused – who wasn’t allowed to defend himself, that he was not to mingle with or talk to the congregation anymore;

  • Manipulated another pastor out of applying for a pastoral position by telling him there wasn’t a need for the church to have a third pastor so the church’s anti-nepotism policy wouldn’t have to be enforced on the person the leadership wanted to hire: the husband of a woman who’d been hired ten months earlier.

 

And that’s just the ones who were willing to give their experiences, albeit unofficial in the eyes of the elders. God told Joshua after the battle of Ai that as long as there is sin in your camp, He is not. Trespasses of the leadership are many, repentances are condescending or faked. To those whose exit preceded mine as well as those who’ve left since – well done, good and faithful servants! To those who haven’t followed God out yet, there’s still time! Don’t stay, tethered, to friends or family who won’t leave, the name of the church, a position of power or influence, or anything else. Don’t be afraid to get out. Don’t just pray for the corruption to leave you, you have the power to walk by God. You could be celebrating your anniversary of following the Shepherd instead of staying with the wolves.