Monday, August 31, 2009

Pastoral Patience

Some of you may know that I have been pursuing grad studies. It was "supposed to," work out right after graduation. But, here I am, 2 and a half years later and grad school just starting this December. However, not only am I in better shape to attend grad school after 2 and a half year, but so is the school. They now have national accreditation, they now have financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

These things brought to mind something so integral in ministry. Patience.

We may have heard "Low and Slow," but even before "Low and Slow," other things need to take place. Lee tell you about my friend. Let's call him Jon. . .

Jon graduated from college, majoring in ministry, hoping to get the open position of Contemporary Programing Pastor at the church he grew up in. In fact, all of the signs pointed in that direction; elders, pastors, committee members and such all giving him the green light... or a kind of greenish light of sorts. It obviously comes to Jon's great surprise when the church hired a guy from out of the blue to take the open position. To Jon, this was a shock. Were did the support go? Where was the "you being here is a God thing," talk? What happened? I spoke with Jon a few weeks after the transition, "How are things going?" Jon, never being one to talk down about anyone, replied, "...Weeeellll.... let's just say, I end up just holding my tongue a lot." Through out the conversation I learned that not only had the church passed on the Jon, but that they had hired someone (remember, Jon never says bad things about nobody..) who was totally incompetent. Every single area of the ministry was hurting. Things from song selection, service planning, musicianship, working with the church's personality and even dealing with the rest of the pastoral staff all became monumental challenges that were never there before. He painted a picture of a very fiery, downward, spiral.

And all Jon could do was watch.

I bring this up because I know these feelings. You would be fooling your self if you said you never have felt them in your chest. Twisting your heart, itching your stomach. These are struggles, feelings of inadequacy, of being unjustly looked over, disrespected, having the answers and answering to someone who doesn't...legitimate or not, we have had these thoughts and feelings. And whether God ordains these struggles or not, a direct lesson or a byproduct can always lead to patience. But not just patience, pastoral patience. Knowing in your heart what is right and just, but letting things run their course; but never letting your fire die, and speaking prayerfully when asked. In Jon's case, it was a church trying to sort out it's identity in a swiftly changing culture. The new guy only lasted some six months and since then Jon has been brought on board in one capacity or another. He has helped to guide the churches contemporary programing and has now been asked to help develop a Young Adult worship format.

Jon is still a volunteer, but he is ok with that - God has blessed him with other professional endeavors. But, through the cleansing fire of patience, his training, his passion for the church, has not gone to waste.

We are leaders of this generation, no matter our resources, no matter our situation. Proactively pray and struggle. Seek counsel and maybe sometimes, keep your mouth shut.
Some one seeking pastoral patience is a pastor in every sense of the word.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fanny Crosby

So I was looking through hymn lyrics to write a post on an observation I made recently that a lot of hymns have a general theme of "O we have to deal with these sicknesses and pain now but soon we will go to heaven." The gist of the post would have been about how it's interesting that the theme of these hymns were on this one subject and medicine's role had not come as largely into play as it has now and whether this makes these hymns somewhat harder to be relevant now.....that would have been the post however in looking at hymns I kept hitting ones by Fanny Crosby and her lyrics really struck me.

As a senior Worship Arts major at SAU I did a paper on Fanny Crosby and really enjoyed learning more about her, however, now being a few years out of school with more experience under my belt, I have an even greater appreciate for Miss Crosby's lyrics. In the majority of her songs I feel like she really got worship. For example, in Praise Him, Praise Him, verse 2 says:

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.

She goes through basically the story of Christ in one verse ( say basically because Christ rising from the grave isn't in this verse). I had a professor who once said that we should at some point in every service be hitting the story of Christ to remind us of why we are worshiping and I totally agree. The lyrics in this song go back to giving God the praise. It all goes back to God, which a lot of our worship songs now a days tend to say "I this.." or "me." Miss Crosby also hits up this theme on, To God be the Glory, the chorus says:

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father thru Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory, great things he hath done!

Giving it all back to God. There are a lot of songs out there with great lyrics now a days that I love, but I was encouraged to see the lyrics written so long ago that really bring our focus back to where it should be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity"

When I hear someone say, "I really need to work on my relationship with God," I have always felt kind of funny about it, but I never knew why. Yes, as Christians, working on different things like studying the scripture, fasting, hanging out with Jesus and what not have benefits. However, is our relationship with God really like a turbulent high school romance or any other kind of troubled relationship?

This article comes from Richard Beck's blog Experimental Theology. A very good, very true, article.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The consumer model has especially affected worship, which is the true measure of the church. Jesus has become a product to sell, and worship is the primary channel for sales. . . . The substance of worship—remembering God's saving deeds in the past, culminating in Jesus Christ, and anticipating the overthrow of all evil at Christ's coming—has been lost.

Robert E. Webber Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals.(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 18.

As a student of worship over the past few years, this topic is something that I have really struggled with. Not so much on the side of playing into this consumer, McWorship, model but more on the side of fighting it. The consumer model is the way to go and as I look into the past, it almost always has been. Worship can be synonymous with someones favorite type of music. It has official music labels, packaging, advertising and the whole nine yards. Worship has become a machine.

How do we break that machine? How do we dismantle it? Even if we go, "low and slow," bolt by bolt, gear by gear, year after year, is it worth it? We are dealing with paradigms and cultural mindsets fostered in people since birth. Where do we even start?

As fellow students of worship we start where everything starts - Christ. He is that "substance of worship." We have to understand that what we do on a Sunday, or whenever, has huge implications. Only we can stop the machine. We have the choice in our plannings and meetings and bands and projects and media - McWorship, or the narrative of Christ. Is it really that hard to chose?