17 July 2006

Are We Called to Be Nice?

There is something going on right now that really has me torn. I know of a fulltime paid pastor who is on the verge of losing their job. On a personal level, this person is great to be around. If there were more hours in the day, I'm that there could actually be a good friendship there. The problem is ministry. This person just can't seem to stop doing things wrong. I don't mean the subjective, "I don't like how they do this" type of wrong. I'm talking about stuff that has to be done a certain way by a certain time and things that are just non-negotiable.

I've worked with this person in the past and have become extremely frustrated. After a few failed attempts, I tried to change my approach. I tried be understanding of this person's situation and not get so uptight about stuff.

One area was music in the context of worship. I admit, I used to be really hard on people who weren't totally prepared for rehearsal, service, etc. Then I started to look at the leader who was supposed to provide the direction and resources and saw that they just constantly dropped the ball. So i offered my help in preparation and they refused. Other people involved took some leadership responsibilities and even devised ways of keeping things more organized. A website was created some time ago that was to serve as a place for people to get the song lists and sheet music for the week. However, the leader (fulltime, paid pastor), who had tons of help offered from unpaid, stressed out volunteers, refused the help and wouldn't get the songs out until people showed up to practice an hour or so before the service. Then the person would have the audacity to not even know how to play songs, asking others how it's played. And on, and on, and on...

Other relatively minor things are also constant irritants. NEVER on time for anything. NEVER prepared for anything. Flat out missing dates and times for important things. Just complete chaos surrounds this person and they are oblivious. They have no idea the stress they cause others by their actions. Then there is the big one. The thing that makes everything pale in comparison. Discipling young people.

I can't even (and won't) get into how much more harm than good this person has done to the high school students around them. Some junior kids, too. But, this person is actually great with junior high kids. So much so, that our high school kids are starving for real discipleship. There have many many times where this individual has almost been fired. Too many times. When is enough, enough? Where do we draw the line?

The kingdom of God is not (only) about numbers, but numbers do matter because numbers represent people. In over five years, our congregation has grown significantly while the youth ministry has barely budged. Spiritual growth may be cited, but I credit the parents of the particular kids with that; they are growing in spite of what is (or isn't) going on in youth ministry. Over five years. That's an entire "generation" of high school students.

Grace? Yes. Love? Yes. Mercy? Yes. Plenty of those things have been given to this individual. What about the Grace, love, and mercy for the kids? When do we stop being nice and trying to save face and realize that this person needs to go? For the sake of these kids and the kids that won't come anymore because of it?

Call me "divisive" or whatever else you want. It's the truth and it hurts. And I have to get it out (again) before I explode.

10 July 2006

Everybody Wake Up

There's a song by Dave Matthews called, "Everybody Wake Up" that has the following lines:

And our finest hour arrives
See the pig dressed in his finest fine
And believers stand behind him and smile
As the day lights up with fire

Now, I know that he is most likely referring to our president, but the first thought that came to mind was "Is he talking about preachers?" Notice I didn't say pastors, but preachers.

Today, there are far too many preachers and not enough pastors. These morons on TBN, Daystar, and The WORD Network aren't pastors (most of them, not all). They preach for selfish gain and to be noticed. But, I'm not even going there today.

What about pastors of local congregations who fall into the trap of asthetics? What about worrying to much about the delivery of the sermon? Imagine staying up late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and practicing your sermon. I don't mean running through it outloud pacing back and forth in your living room. I mean actually in the pulpit, rehearsing every word, hand gesture, joke, even down to which side of the congregation you will look to after a certain comment. Rehearsed exortations, and repetitions (repeating yourself so you can get an amen; also known as an ego boost).

Then there is the other end of the spectrum. Ripping off someone else's sermons so you don't have to do your own work. Personal communication with God and drawing from your own experience will always be more effective than the most well-rehearsed and polished piece of plagiarism. That's why testimonies are so powerful; they are about as tangible as you can get when it comes to proof of God's work among his people.

Yet the pigs continue to dress in their finest fine while people go to hell and fall away from God.

28 June 2006

Ministry Multiplicity

There was a movie with Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell that came out in 1996 called "Multiplicity". The basic idea, was that the main character, Doug, just didn't have enough time. There were work responsibilities, family responsibilities. personal responsibilities, you name it. So, he had a clone made of himself. And then another. Finally, things started to get a bit easier; more Doug Time" and less stress. Then the two clones got the bright idea that they needed more Doug Time". So, they made a clone of Clone #1. A copy of a copy. You can only imagine how bad that turned out. Funny movie, worth a watch.

We all have an idea of how a copy of a copy works out. Ever make a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy? Not very effective, is it? So why is it that we do this so often for ministry? "Hey, if it works for Saddleback/Willow Creek/Brooklyn Tabernacle, then it can work for us."

Maybe.

Even if it does work a little or even very well, is it what you are supposed to do with the ministry/church? How many pastors download sermons and tweak to their personal taste? With no research or personal devotional time becasue they are jus too busy? What about ministry programs, mission statements, and entire paradigm shifts totally dependent upon a template designed by a church or ministry whose demographical profile doesn't event remotely resemble yours?

These Mega Churches and large parachurch ministries usually start by someone taking inventory of where they're at, who they are called to reach, and where God wants to take them. Then they allow God to lead them in the particular way to get it done; the way that is most effective for that local area or country. After all the variables are considered and prayed about, the devise a plan. It sounds complicated, but that's what we should be doing everyday on a personal level anyway. Just upscale that concept and super-impose it onto your ministry.

When all these things come together in the right way, it works for growing the kingdom of God. "Great! I'll just take that and make it work here!"

Um. No.

There is something very unique that God wants to do in your area. Sure, it's ultimately the same end as every other Christ-centered ministry - wins souls for Jesus. But, the means are going to be unique to where you are and who you are called to reach. Don't copy the Purpose Driven Church or the Purpose Driven Youth Ministry. Sure great concepts for who they were intended for, but not necessarily for you. Get ideas, but don't mimic so closely it's impossible to see God's unique creation at work in your ministry. If you do that, you get a copy of a copy of a copy; not the real deal.

God's Word should be your ministry manual and planning guide. Prayer should be your brainstorming session initially. Don't plagiarize; you'll just end up with a watered-down, dummied-down version of what could really be. Sure, you may see growth in numbers and in the spiritual life of each believer. But, is it the kind of growth that God had in mind, or are you short-changing the Kingdom because you won't sacrifice some other (even good) things in order to do it the right way (usually harder)?

What works in sunny California or Texas will be counterproductive in New York and Boston. Slow down, read, pray, and listen. God wants to do something big, but not in the way that it has already been done. Just think about something as silly as Super Bowl commercials. What if they showed the same commercials every year? Look at different TV stations and who their target audience is. Watch how they advertise. You'll see the same product promoted on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon that you see promoted on ESPN or Fox, but the approach totally different. Do kids care that their toys are made out of ABS plastic and are safe for kids over 3? No. But parents do. Do parents care so much that you can changes the rims and tires out on that cool remote control car? No. But kids do.

Who are you reaching and what do they respond to? The product (Jesus) remains the same. The means for making people aware of the product and then opening their minds enough for them to realize that they need the product will vary depending on what you are called to do.

Seems like we're back to creativity and and doing what God would have us do in His image rather than relying on past successes for three or more generations ago.

27 June 2006

You think I'm a good fit for this job?

As you might expect from the nation’s leading music technology retailer, Sweetwater’s sales team is comprised of a diverse group of expert salespeople, each with a unique style of selling, and all with proven track records of excellence. A successful salesperson must apply a number of skills every day. We look for a range of characteristics when selecting a new member of our talented team.

You have both technical savvy and street smarts. You know how to qualify the customer, understand his or her needs, determine the best mix of products, put together a comprehensive solution, and close the deal. You achieve a balance of performance and principle while maximizing customer satisfaction. You are passionate about your work and are always thinking about the next sale and who to discuss it with. You work hard, are always prepared, and have earned the customer's trust. You also stay engaged, even after the deal is done.

Skills We Look For

• A firm understanding of all aspects of music and audio technology
• A passion for the gear, with the ability to turn that passion into sales
• Motivated, results-driven personality with a strong desire to succeed
• Articulate communicator, both verbally and in writing
• Highest level of ethics
• Strong competitor
• Excellent negotiator
• Account management skills
• Qualification skills
• Enjoy working on your own as well as on a dynamic team
• Are comfortable thinking analytically, solving problems, and taking ownership
• Seek challenges and enjoy finding answers
• Have a high level of attention to detail and are a perfectionist

26 June 2006

On the heels of (non) creativity...

Anyone else sick of "Contemporary Christian Music" (CCM)? Don't get me wrong, there are some great songs being written with the heart of God in mind and with the purpose of helping people express their worship to God. That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm thinking more along the lines of the bands who are just clones of so-called secular bands. I mean, how many versions of U2 and Cold Play can you possibly need? When will the falsetto fad die out?

I don't like the idea of designating bands Christian or Secular. They are bands, period. The distinction should be Band or Worship Musicians. If you need help discerning what is what, if you have to buy a ticket, you are going to a concert to see a band. Sure, you may worship there, but that's not the goal. The price for admission to enter into God's throne room has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Should these bands be supported financially? Absolutely! Just don't call it a time of worship if it's off limits to those who can't afford a ticket.

The other fad I notice, is musical relevance over biblical content. Oh, there can be both, but I rarely see it. I will not mention any names, but I'm sure you can figure out who they are. Any band/music that causes the focus to be on the band or the music is ineffective for leading people in worship. If it's all about being high-energy and interacting with those around you, then it is not worship. Is jumping around and yelling wrong? Not at all. If it is genuine worship from you to the Creator, go for it! I've seen it, and I love it. However, that vast majority I see first hand spend more time goofing off than worshipping.

Another gripe I have with CCM is all the cheerleaders it produces. Getting people all hyped up by yelling and jumping around is a bit much.

I love loud and fast music, even for worship. But not 90% of the time. Mix it up, and let the music allow people to go on a journey from beginning to end. When a setlist is made, you should have the end in mind, "Where does God want this to go?"

Constant looking around while "leading worship" in order to see who's watching you, or to gain a nod of approval is wrong. Rehearsed, canned movements and actions need to go; please, please, please, don't copy what you see on a DVD. Just because Matt Redman goes to his knees at a particular point during "Facedown" doesn't mean you have to do it, too. Every time. Rehearse the music, people. Then, your worship can be spontaneous. Funny how we have all the cool rock star moves down, but can't play a song from our hearts. We can't remember two verses, a chorus, a bridge, and the 5 chords that are repeated throughout the whole song. We can spit out the words to "Gold Digger", but need a lyrics chart for "Better Is One Day". Sad.

Churches need to start writing their own songs. Songs about what God is doing in their congregations and communities. A good example would be Hillsong Australia/Hillsong United. United especially, has their own unique sound that works. Unfortunately, there are too many Hillsong United "cover bands" out there. Just like there are too many Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman wannabes. Crowder is another great example of creativity, along with Charlie Hall. Now, take your cue from that and be original; stop bitin' off others creativity. God didn't make you to be like them. First, find out who you are, then get comfortable with that. Then get creative and let God use you how He wants to use you. Don't try to be what God created someone else to be.

I need coffee.