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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?

The Pastor and the Prostitute May 20, 2013

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, Church, Leadership, ministry.
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A woman approached her pastor one day, concerned with theological inconsistencies in the church. After several moments explaining where her heart was and her love of learning and living the Word, the pastor, showing a slight irritation at perceived resistance to his visioning, explained that the church was a business, and that the marketing and casting lots of young adults into high profile and high visibility positions such as youth, hospitality, and music ministries was all part of the business to attract their own kind, and that sometimes it is necessary to bend lessons in order to not offend people, such as stating that the Word consistently says something but Jesus never actually said it. The woman replied, “But the Word became flesh, Jesus is the Word. It isn’t like the drinking issue, where some of the Bible says not to drink at all while parts say to not drink to the point of drunkenness, and Jesus turned water in to wine, so the latter has to be considered the Word. If you can say the Word consistently says something, Jesus’ existence is simply the period at the end of the statement.”

The pastor looked on with discontent. “But we can’t say this, modern society doesn’t see it that way. Its better for business to keep the numbers up and doing it as you say might scare people away.”

The woman, seeing the pastor’s steadfastness toward his visioning, asked the pastor, “How much do you charge for sex?”

The pastor had to contain his outrage at such a distasteful question. He responded, “That’s a little out of line. Prostitution isn’t something to talk of lightly or so brashly.”

“That doesn’t really answer the question,” the woman said, “is there a price, monetary or otherwise, that would convince you have sex with someone other than your wife?”

The pastor curtly stated through a clenched jaw, “No.”

The woman wrapped up her concern in one statement, “The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ is a temple, and temples are not to be turned in to businesses. So, pastor, if you would not turn your body in to a business, why are you turning His in to one?”

Matters of the Heart December 21, 2010

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, devotional, personal.
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…the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God. – 1 Peter 3:4 NCV

We all go through phases of worthlessness, feeling unappreciated and even told we don’t matter or that our word means less than a dirty joke. Those who live with God in their heart also live in His heart, as often as we can forget it. If you’re in His heart, you matter!