Worship Is A Verb

Andy Stanley points out “Christians, and church leaders in particular, use the term worship loosely. Let’s face it: We use the term as an adjective… We have worship music, worship leaders, worship centres, and worship services.” Andy Stanley Deep & Wide.p.214

Worship isn’t an adjective.
Worship is a verb.
Worship isn’t a thing. It is something that we do.

Is it possible that the reason we have worship wars and complain about anything we can think about when it comes to communal church worship is that we treat it as something, anything, other than a verb? We to often focus on our preferences rather than the God to whom we worship.

Leonard Sweet points out, “You don’t attend worship; you attend a concert. You participate in worship. You contribute to worship.” Leonard Sweet Giving Blood.p.257

Is it possible the concert trend in worship is because we the congregation has ceased to be participants? After all, if people won’t engage, maybe, we can at least entertain. I am not saying this is what has happened, but possibly it is a contributing factor. It is also possible that the increase in performance and having lyrically cool songs, that we have inadvertently weeded out participation.

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I have a feeling that our lack of theological understanding of the purpose of communal worship has brought us to this point, but we’ll save that discussion for a later post.

Way back worship songs were Psalms and other like Scriptures. As the popular music of the time changes, so did the worship styles. Changes within church music aren’t a new phenomenon. I remember hearing a story about people complaining about a new church song in the 1800s. They said the song was too secular as well as other unchoice words. That song was Ode To Joy.

Just as the typical church song in the 1800s was a reimagining of the drinking songs of the day, so much of the current popular worship songs are on trend with today’s contemporary music. Complete with synth tracks, drum loops, guitar solos, and complex, ambiguous lyrical structures and melodies.

It may take time to teach our congregations what it means for worship to be a verb. In the meantime, maybe we need to try and meet them halfway. Perhaps we need to be a little more selective with our song choices. Reminiscent of the drinking 17century drinking song turn to church hymns we need to find songs that have a current style with easy melodies and lyrical substance that teaches them about a God whose love compels us to worship.

It is just a suggestion, but this might help us see that worship is a verb.

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We need you small church Pastor

A lot has been made these days about the size of a church. In comparison to many, I’ve only been on the scene for a minute, so I really can’t say if this is a new trend or not, but it has been around for my 15+ years in ministry. However, I talk to a lot of pastors, most of which would pastor small churches, and there is an overwhelming feeling of discouragement and a lack of confidence. It appears that their hope is dwindling

In my new book, Hidden Faces, one of the things I explore is defining ourselves as either a small church or prominent church pastor and how it has detrimental effects on our identity. The state of your church does not change how God views you.

Saying all this, I believe it is sad that we praise and honour the large and never acknowledge the sacrifice and important pastoral work of the small. I once heard Karl Vaters say that the large church is Ikea and the small church is a Starbucks. Both are great but they are different.

I think about how sad it is that there are a group of people serving God to the best of their capacity who feel as though what they do no longer matters to the broader church. These men and women have dedicated their lives to the greatest message of hope in the world, they have sacrificed and lived on little. Some have moved to communities where everyone else is running out, and many are one of the very few spiritual lights in their communities, and they feel ignored. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking about one better than the other. I believe it is about honour. We need to say thank you to the big and thank you to the small. We need to figure out how to help each other. After all, we are all doing kingdom work.

I think that instead of heaping shame (whether it be perceived or not) on why they are the size they are or offering them “advice” on how they can break the next growth barrier. Maybe, we could encourage.

Thank you for being faithful when others would have turned.

Thank you for ministering to people who would never dawn the door of the closest large church.

Thank you for standing in the gap in a community where there is very little light.

Maybe what others should do is ask, how can we help the dreams this pastor has in his heart for their community become a reality? After all, aren’t we all playing for the same team? Augustine once wrote, “…the life of bodies is superior to bodies themselves.” Though their flock maybe smaller is not the value of the people, they are serving just as vital. We need big and small in order to reach all people. Ikea and Starbucks serve different functions according to peoples needs.

I’ve heard it said, do for the one what you wish you could do for the many. It is because the smaller church pastor stands in the gap that half the worlds Christians have a someone to do for the one. The small church pastor can provide specialized care. 

Small church pastor, you are not insignificant, what you do has value.

Small church pastor, thank you. Keep the faith. Fight the good fight. You are not forgotten. God wants to change your community, and he would love to do it through your church.

Thank you, from a small church pastor.

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Augustin Confessions.p.42

Remember The People

I was so uncomfortable. Mainly because my ankle was the size of an elephant trunk! (I ruptured my Achilles Tendon. If you feel inclined you can check out a pic of my ankle that night on my Instagram feed. It’s gross, but it’s worth the peak).

Here I was at District Conference just trying to concentrate when I heard one of the most profound statements about the ministry I’ve ever heard from someone who had all the accolades.

Some context. The current District Superintendent was about to honour a man who had been a credential holder in the denomination for 50 years. It is quite an accomplishment. This man had pastored many different churches and even was the District superintendent for a substantial time. Great things were accomplished in his ministry, yet when reflecting on his fifty years, he said no great memories of ministries stood out.

Then he said something that should have led to a mic drop.

He stated, “My memories are not the positions I had or the policies I helped administer. What I remember is the people. A man whose life was turned around. A marriage that was restored. The faces of the different lives that were changed.”

What a great reminder. Ten million people could read this, but is that really what I’m going to remember after 50 years of ministry? Is it the positions I held, or the accolades I achieved? Probably not. At least it hasn’t been so far.

Thus far what I remember are the teenagers whose lives have been radically changed by God. The marriages that are stronger today that were headed for failure. I recall the person who had suffered tremendous loss who has found joy in Jesus.

I don’t know your success or failures. Big–small–significant–minute. When we long to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faith servant” (Matt 25), we must remember the commendation of Peter, “Feed my Sheep” (John 21).

It’s hard not to get sucked in achievement, advancement, and climbing the ladder. Yet, when looking at ministry we must always keep our eye on what’s important, the sheep, the people.

In the words of a wise credential holder fifty years down the road of vocational ministry:

Remember the people.

Trees and Church

Last summer I was walking through Chapters when a book caught my attention. The book was, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and it rocked my world. I’ve never been into trees. I did work in a lumber mill for two summers, but that is more like the opposite of loving trees…

Anyway, as I read this book, the parallels between life in Christ and trees began to come alive. I would talk to my wife, who would usually laugh at me.

I believe nature has a lot to teach us about life. I especially think it has a lot to teach us a lot about the church. Maybe this is why the Scriptures speak of trees so often (there’s a lot, trust me).

Tree’s can teach us a lot. Now, when I say that the Church can learn something from trees, I’m not talking about your local assembly or parish. What I am speaking about is the church as a whole. Here is a short list:

1) Unity and togetherness will make us stronger
“…it is not possible for the trees to grow too close to each other. Quite the opposite. Huddling together is desirable and the trunks are often spaced no more than 3 feet apart.”

And so it is with the church. We need each other.

2) Don’t compete
“The average tree grows its branches out until it encounters the branch tips of a neighbouring tree of the same height. It doesn’t grow any wider because the air and better light in this space are already taken.”

This ties in with unity. We are not in competition with each other. The Southern Baptist church at the entrance of my neighbourhood is going to reach people for Jesus who I will never reach and vice versa. It’s not my job to recruit people from their church into mine. We’re already on the same team. One way of looking at it is, we might be different restaurants, but we have the same owner.

3) We are in this together
“Every tree…is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover.”

We need to help each other, not try and leach off each other. The Great Commission isn’t about recruitment from within the ranks. The Great Commission is about going out to those who don’t know the glorious richness that they can find in Christ.

When a church is struggling that is our opportunity to help them fulfill their God calling. It may be different than ours. Perfect, we need all types. It’s not an opportunity to kick a church when it is down or increase our numbers through solicitation. It’s a time for prayer and support.

4) Pastors warn other pastors about the weeds
“If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical into the air that signals that a threat is at hand. As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they ‘smell’ it and are warned of the danger. Even before the giraffe reaches them, they begin producing toxic chemicals.”

The wheat is too precious for us to allow the weeds to strangle them, especially after they have done this in our own church. I’m not talking about the pastor gossiping. I am speaking of a pastoral warning that can hopefully help the redemption process of the weed and protection of the wheat that we are entrusted with. God’s grace is so amazing that it can turn even the vilest weed into the strongest wheat. However, unless we know that the weeds are there before they sprout, it could cost us much wheat (Matt 13).

5) Pray together
“Every day in summer, trees release about 29 tons of oxygen into the air per square mile of forest. A person breathes in nearly 2 pounds of oxygen a day, so that’s the daily requirement for about ten thousand people.”

Just as the trees join together in an exhale that brings life to us, what if the church could unite, putting aside theological idiosyncracies and pray together. With a joint heart, we could release something powerful into the air.

These are just a few of the lessons we can learn from the tree.

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