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What Message Does Your Flagship Send? September 24, 2014

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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?

A Sci-fi Parable March 5, 2014

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In the year 2300, society has been divided into two factions: the Yungins and the Oalfokes. Their governing body, the Delegation Of Orderly Fellowship, has been assembled to do what is in the best interest of both factions. In the early years of this societal structure, the leader of society as a whole, known as Luminary, overwhelmingly favored the Oalfokes in the decision making. A number of citizens assembled, hoping to achieve balanced favor from the Luminary. After a time, a new Luminary was selected, a Luminary who showed equal favor to both factions. For eight years there was balance, as the Yungins achieved more prosperous roles and the Oalfokes saw the same support they’d seen before this Luminary was installed. But after this eight year period, a third Luminary had to be selected, and the Kingdom wasn’t as fortunate. This Luminary revealed itself to be of the same mentality as the first, only favoring the Yungins while disrespecting, and at times, disowning the Oalfokes.

“In another Kingdom,” said the Luminary, “it was only Yungins. We treated the vocabulary of the Oalfokes as if it were swear words.” Within a year, one of the yearly Oalfoke events was turned over to the Yungins, and though that in itself wasn’t a big deal to most as there was a second event that same week, the Luminary made it known that they would only oversee the festivities of the Yungin-led event, and assigned an Emissary to oversee the Oalfoke-led event during the same week.

Some of those who were part of society long enough to remember the first Luminary tended to find themselves supporting this third Luminary despite the common discriminatory leadership, favoring one faction over the other. They’re quick to tell tale of the Luminary who wanted the Yungins’ lights out and wouldn’t attend events put on by the Yungins, but voice their support for the Luminary who wants the lights of the Oalfokes extinguished. Many of these supporters have risen to prominence as a D.O.O.F. While the D.O.O.F.’s state that they exist to do what’s in the best interest of the entirety of society, they continue to support a Luminary who doesn’t. It’s only a matter of time before society sees the discrimination and a new group assembles, hoping for balance to be restored…

Level Ground October 4, 2012

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, Church, devotional, Leadership, ministry.
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The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” I walk downhill to get to church and then navigate the mounds and pedestals mounted by the various VIP members and guests; those visiting for the first time because of some outreach event that was aimed at them. those wealthy who buy their way into priority, those 20 to 40 year-old married couples trying to have kids, who are important because according to the pastor, “a thriving church, on paper, has more christenings than funerals per year.”

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Its not supposed to matter if you’re male or female, old or young, married or single, barren or fertile, rich or poor. What does matter is that we’re supposed to belong to each other, share our burdens with each other, care for each other, lift each other up, encourage each other to live upright and righteous lives, confront and gently correct sin, deterring each other from using salvation as an excuse to do wicked things. What is not supposed to matter does, and what does matter does not.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” I am not married. I have no income. When I do its not much. And, I’ve been here before. I am not new to this place.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” I walk downhill to get to church and then navigate the mounds and pedestals mounted by the various VIP members and guests, and I realize just how far away from the cross I’ve wandered, this church has been relocated from the foot of the cross to where the ground is not level.