Sunday Liturgy: November 11, 2012

In order to better prepare our congregation for worship, I will be trying to post the liturgical flow for the Sunday here so that our church (and anyone else) can familiarize themselves with the songs and other elements before the Sunday service.

Sunday Service – November 11, 2012

Big IdeaHope in the Future Healing of Christ

Opening Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

Song 1:”Forever Reign” by Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan

Song 2: “Condescending Love” by Cody Kimmel

Song 3: Cornerstone” by Edward Mote, Eric Lijero, Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan and William Batchelder Bradbury

Sermon: Acts 3:1-26

Prayer and Communion

Song 4: O Fount of Love” by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa

Song 5: Beautiful Things” by Lisa Gungor and Michael Gungor

You can join us this Sunday at White Rock Fellowship at 11 am.

Worship Pastor as Missionary

Growing up, when people talked about missionaries I typically pictured a mixture of Indiana Jones, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and Ned Flanders.

I have since met enough missionaries to know that this picture isn’t entirely true. Often times, they are being called to live a rugged life, to meet the medical and physical needs of those they are serving, and live with a higher standard of morality because of the culture surrounding them. But that doesn’t mean they are Indiana/Quinn/Flanders hybrids that could only function in some remote tribe in Africa. The only normative thing I have observed in the missionaries I’ve met is an overwhelming passion to make the gospel of Jesus known in a place that needs Him. This takes on multiple forms, from medical missions, to education, from business as missions, to indigenous leadership training and church planting and it requires all different types of people and temperaments.

As I’ve grown in my understanding of being a worship pastor over the last year, the scope of what it means to be a missionary has also expanded. In its most basic definition, a missionary is someone who goes somewhere to make disciples. Although we generally mean they are people who go to foreign countries or at least to a place radically different from what they are accustomed to, this is not the only way to see a missionary. In fact, it might not mean going anywhere new at all, but rather re-engaging the place you already are with a new gospel intentionality. Not at all to diminish the “Go Forth” missionary call, but there may be an equally pressing need for the “Stay Put” missionary call.

And this is where the overlap of worship pastor and missionary gets exciting. Whereas the preaching pastor seeks to glorify God by drawing God’s people into his redemptive history through the power of oratory, the worship pastor’s job is to do the same thing through art. This puts worship pastors in a unique position to dwell within the world of art and aesthetics.

This should be obvious, but the world of art and aesthetics is a dark world that is only getting darker. And it is a world from which the church has retreated. Instead of engaging and leading the artistic world, as it did for centuries, the church has completely disassociated with art culture and instead created a parallel culture of lesser quality, integrity, depth, and beauty. Because of our unique position as Christians living in the art world, we as worship pastors need to re-engage as missionaries to the hopeless world of aesthetic culture and act with gospel intentionality.

So how do worship pastors engage as missionaries in the art community? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Have artistic integrity - The first step is doing what you do well. Make and write good music. Create beautiful art. Be excellent in film making and be exceptional poets in the world of words. If a person was going to India as a missionary, they would learn the language, the history, and the current events and be savvy enough in the cultural values so as to garner the respect of the Indian people. Being a missionary to the artistic community is no different. We need to know what is going in music, in film, in visual media and we need to have an appreciation for its history. Ultimately, we need to be good at what we do if we want to earn a hearing with the culture we are hoping to reach.
  • Participate in local artistic community - It doesn’t matter whether you live in a booming metropolis or in a small rural community, there are artistic things happening around you. Participate. Go to festivals and concerts. Get to know other local artists and build relationships. Music and art is great common ground for relationships so use that to build friendships.
  • Reject dissociative tendencies - Because of the prevalence of disengaging and instead creating a “safe” parallel Christian artistic community, we need to be actively working against our tendency towards this. It might seem like a good thing to re-create safer versions of bands, literature, and movies for us and our kids, but its not. Don’t try to find a Christian band that sounds like Wilco; listen to Wilco. Don’t read Christian versions of Harry Potter; read Harry Potter. Show discernment with regards to age appropriate material in movies, but be intentional about seeing controversial and possibly contrary movies with your kids or friends so you can engage in the dialogue.
What other ways can worship pastors be missionaries to their artistic communities? Have you had any success stories?


Songwriting for the Church

Despite the lack of activity on the blog, I assure you this has been a busy summer. Due to some leadership transitions at our church, I’ve been preaching more frequently, I’ve been writing on the church blog, taking a summer school class at DTS, and I started a recording project with Jordan Critz of Third Orbit Studios. Oh, and we have a seven month old that has been thrown into the mix of our family.

Now that the summer’s coming to a close, along with a lot of the leadership transitions at my church, I’m excited to jump back into the blog world and share more about what’s been going on with me regarding church and worship. One of those things is the role of songwriting and worship leading. For most of my life, I have written music. This led me to form a number of bands throughout my life, record various albums (some better than others), and play what seemed an endless amount of shows at coffee houses and bars.

Even though I wrote my first song in the sixth grade, it wasn’t until this last year that I wrote my first worship song. Part of this was due to wrestling with whether or not I even wanted to be/was supposed to be a worship pastor (a story for another blog post). But I think some of it was deeper. Early on in my music career, I made a distinction between worship leading and musical performance. In essence, I think it is a good distinction. But a result of this distinction is that I began to see “non-worship” music as superior to “worship” music and poured all of my creative energy into “non-worship” music while I creatively skated by as a worship leader.

This has since changed. It started with how I distinguish between worship leading and musical performance. There should be a difference between how music is presented as a performance and how music is presented in a worship service. The main difference is that in a musical performance, the main object of people’s attention is the music, but in a worship service, music serves to draw our focus to a different main object–God. So, in methodology, worship music should always look differently than musical performance.

The shift in my thinking came when I realized that this distinction in methodology does not mean a difference in creativity with regards to the music. I love the challenge of songwriting, staring at a blank page with an infinite number of possibilities and permutations. I love taking a spark of an idea and drawing it into a fire. Unfortunately, it took me until this last year to realize that this challenge is equally true for worship songs. In fact, in some ways writing good worship music is more challenging.

There must be a blend of authenticity and accessibility, a marriage of uniqueness and familiarity in both the music and the lyrics in order to draw the congregation into a shared experience of responding to God. The goal is to write a song that can be relevant to the greater church while being rooted in the experience of the local body, all while drawing everybody into the historical and redemptive narrative of gospel renewal.

Because of all that the Spirit has been forming in me with regards to this, I’m excited to announce the release of an EP of original worship songs called Psalms and Gospels! Most of it has been recorded, so now we are working on the mixing and the artwork. All the sales will go directly back to my church and it will be streamable for free.

Keep checking back here for more updates as it gets closer to the release date this fall.

Holy Habit #3: Meditation

My initial reaction to the word meditation is to think of a Buddhist monk sitting quietly in the peaks of the Himalayas, legs folded, arms out, while he empties himself of his personality. The word meditation carries with it a connotation that just doesn’t seem very Christian. By definition, meditation is neither Christian nor secular. Meditation is just extended thought, reflection, and contemplation. It is the focused act of internalizing something so that it shapes you.

So why am I talking about meditation as a holy habit and not calling it “bible reading” or “quiet times? The main reason we need to consider our time in Scripture as time of meditation is because its not enough to only read the Bible, or even to just talk about it. We need to internalize Scripture so that it becomes a part of us. We must not only read it and talk about it, but think deeply upon it, reflect on how it changes the way we live our lives and interact with others.

Th reality of our lives is that we are busy. Regardless of where we are at in life, we are constantly bombarded by meetings, schedules, activities. Busyness is almost an addiction in our culture and if we are not intentional about taking time out of our busyness to reflect deeply on Scriptures, to apply the truth of the word of God to our every day lives, then it just won’t happen. The holy habit of meditation gives us a consistent outlet to make God’s truth real in our lives.

It always baffled me what Jesus did after feeding the five thousand. This was one of the biggest miracles he performed in his ministry. If I were his publicist, I would’ve told him to start booking more mass feedings, to talk to the press, set up meetings with key town people to get the word out. This was Jesus’ big chance to take his ministry to the next level. But what does he do? He gets on a boat, and escapes to a quiet retreat in the mountains to spend time with is Father. Jesus understood the importance of meditation. He understood that life required breaks in order to internalize what was happening.

This week, take time to meditate on God’s word and how it influences your life. Here are a few tips on how you can make meditation a holy habit:

  • Ask the right questions. When reading the Bible, constantly ask What? So what? and What now?
  • Set a consistent time. If you’re a morning person, pick a time for biblical meditation in the morning. If you’re an evening person, pick a time in the morning. It doesn’t really matter what time it happens, just make sure it happens consistently.
  • See the Bible in the real world. At some time during the week, talk about what’s going in your life and see how Scripture applies to it. If you have kids, help them see how the Bible is relevant to their lives.

What are some other ways you meditate on the Bible? What helps you make it consistent?

Holy Habit #2: Prayer and Fasting

This post has been cross posted on White Rock Fellowship’s blog.

A few days ago my wife and I were watching the Bachelorette, had the TV on in the background while studying something really important, and I overheard the Bachelorette Emily Maynard (I don’t know how I know her name) say, “I’m praying everything goes alright .” She was, of course, referring to her 3 dates/make out sessions planned for the day. Now, I do not know her personally, so I can’t speak with certainty about the sincerity of her prayer, but it seems at first glance to be a bit misguided.

To be fair, Emily’s understanding of prayer is indicative of most people’s idea of prayer, Christians included. Like a lucky pair of socks, or a worn out rabbits foot kept on a key chain, prayer is nothing more than a good luck charm we turn to in times of need. Praying is rubbing the lamp hoping our God genie will pop out and grant us our wish.

I want to be clear, when I talk about prayer and fasting as a holy habit, I DO NOT MEAN THIS. So let me define what I mean by prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting is the consistent discipline of communicating our need and dependance on God, to God, for every aspect of life. It is okay to approach God with requests. Jesus himself tells his disciples to “ask and it will be given to you.” (Luke 11:9-13) He reminds them that even evil people give good gifts, so how much more will their loving Father give his children what they ask for?

Unfortunately, many of us have confused one of the things that can occur in prayer (asking God for things) to be the only reason prayer exists. Prayer and fasting exist as a pathway for us to communicate dependance, to remember our utter need for Christ, and to rejoice in the access we have to God through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the vocal act of dependance and fasting is the symbolic action showing dependance on God.

A quick note on fasting: Historically, fasting has always meant to refrain from food, sometimes water, for a period of time to focus all of our needs on Christ. Fasting tells our soul that we need God more than food. He’s that essential. Recently, fasting has become a more general idea for giving up anything that is part of our consistent life, like listening to the radio in the car or Facebook. It is a good thing to practice self discipline with those things and if things like Facebook, watching sports, or radio is disctracting you from God or becoming more important than God, then you ought to refrain from it for a while to gain perspective. However, I don’t believe we can call that fasting! Fasting needs to be refraining from something essential, like food or water, for it to really do what it is supposed to do. Setting aside a consistent time to fast teaches the believer that God is more important than food and if we can teach ourselves that, it won’t be difficult to see him as more important than anything.

I digress…

Communicating need and dependance on a consistent basis to God through prayer and fasting is a holy habit all believers need to develop in their lives. So here’s some suggestions how to make this happen:

  • After praising God for his presence in your life and the greatness of his character, begin your prayer by telling God how much you need him.
  • Recognize places you are in over your head and communicate to God that you can’t do it and need him.
  • With your family or roommates, talk openly about where you are overwhelmed and pray for each other about those areas.
  • Set aside a consistent time to fast. If you have never fasted before, start by skipping one meal, and then progress from there. Don’t make a big deal about it to the people around you. Every time you feel hungry, (and if you’re like me, you will), say quickly to God, “I need you more than food.”
  • Last but not least, remember the gospel. We have access to God because of his grace through his Son, not because we deserve it. Our relationship with him, our ability to pray and have God hear us, is completely dependent on God’s mercy and love.

Do you make a habit of praying and fasting? What has helped you maintain this?

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