Sunday, October 10, 2010

Worship is: Thanksgiving

Why does anyone worship? What is the purpose? Some say that even if there was nothing in this Christianity for them they would still choose to worship God. That sounds so great but it isn't even a conversation worth having. Why? Because there is something in it for us, for me, for my life now and after - a better way to live, a loving Savior and communion with his Spirit. In return we are only asked to be thankful. Thankfulness, a life of gratitude, is the only thing required of me. Why do we worship? Worship is not only the highest point of thanksgiving but in the end all giving of thanks is worship. I would say if I am not creating an atmosphere of thanksgiving in corporate worship there is no point to what I am doing and I should probably do everyone a favor and find another job.
In the story of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19) it is told that only one of the Lepers came back to thank Jesus for being healed. Christ doesn't say that the others are bad for not returning but he does commend the one who come back to give thanks. On a large scale, like how Christ healed all ten, God has already blessed the world. How do we respond? The returning Leper does five things that we especially associate with contemporary worship - he saw what had been done for him / Came to the Lord / praised Jesus with a loud voice / fell on his face infront of Christ / and thanked him. What if the tenth Leper had gone through the motions of the first four actions and never got around to actually saying thank you? He might as well not have come back at all.
Thanksgiving is a paradigm shift. It is saying that nothing else compares to the gift of Christ and that I am complete in that gift alone. Thankfulness is the pinnacle of losing my self - losing my life, goals, plans, dreams and placing them in the hands of God and giving thanks for where I am.
As it turns out worship is a bit harder than I first thought. But the reward of worship and the gift of thanksgiving are new eyes and a new heart in which to see and love myself, God and the world.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Prayers of the People - Worship and Spiritual Formation

This is the meditation on prayer I gave today as our church begins exploring spiritual disciplin and formation through corporate worship.

"We have a rich tradition of prayer here at Pope UMC as seen in the Pastoral Prayer element of the service. Every week we take a moment to make our requests known to God (Phil 6:4). We are going to shift things a bit today. Your prayers are important but they aren't my prayers and they aren't Pastor Robert's prayers. We do pray together these requests as a community but these prayers are yours. Just because someone is a pastor doesn't mean God listens to them more.

We see that prayer is very important even in Jesus' ministry. Jesus initiated his ministry by going into the desert for 40 days to pray and to fast. Near the end of his ministry in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus came before the Father in prayer saying "If you can Lord, take this cup. But when it comes down to it let your will be done and not mine." Christ knew that prayer is how we align our heats with the will of God "... your will be done."

Prayer brings us to the heart of God and it also gives us a venue to listen and hear his plan for us. Prayer is not just about making requests but God's requests are also made known to us. It warms our heart to Him. Not only that but prayer is just talking to God.

So we are going to start the next few moments with silence to focus our hearts and minds on God. To clear out the busyness and really listen for His voice. After our time of silence we are going to go through the Prayers of the People as listed in the hymnal on page 877. I will start by praying "Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer. Together we pray for... the people of this congregation..." Either out loud or in your heart take a moment to pray a sentence prayer for those people. After a few moments we will move onto "...those who suffer and those in trouble..." You can see how this flows in the hymnal. After our prayers for the church universal I will close our time of prayer. Again you can choose to pray silently or openly. But I encourage you to pray a loud so that we may agree and pray with you.

Now don't think of this as a strange or odd thing. Think of this as an exercise. Like walking for heath or practice for proficiency at your job or something like that. I want to challenge with with a spiritual workout. This is also something tangible and practical you can integrate into your everyday lives as we desire to be apart of God's plan for his world and our own lives. So, let us pray together. "

Monday, August 9, 2010

503 Project Refinement

I have found that I best work on my projects in my head. The following was all in my head until last night. Actually, most of it was on bits of paper here and there, but I have been honing it down and I think I am at a good starting point. Please join in the conversation on this one. If you have any ideas or experience to share please do!

1. Address a particular ministry issue relating to postmodernism.

a. Is it possible for a traveling summer music ministry team like Wellspring plant seeds of worship renewal?

2. Point to particular theological propositions or positions under which the project is developed

a. “Moving from program worship to participatory worship.” Constance Cherry in her article Shifting from Professional Programs to Participatory Worship

i. Is it possible to move Camp worship from listener-observer (passive) and individual focused programming to active (shachah, proskuneo) and participatory-fellowship focused (koinonia) worship?

b. “Worship is doing God’s story.” Robert Webber in Ancient-Future Worship

i. How does a traveling summer music ministry team introduce worship in the context of doing God’s story?

ii. What are the challenges?

iii. What are some of the available opportunities?

3. Offer viable, concrete, and tangible solutions to issues in your context

a. Interview past Wellspring members on their experience at camps

b. Song Pairings

i. Good food is enhanced when paired with good wine, what are ways that worship song can be linked in pairings and combinations to create arcs or a flow that purposefully and intentionally tell God’s story?

c. What are ways we can introduce the idea of God’s Story into team training?

i. Emphasis on individuals coming together to join God’s Narrative.

ii. Encouraging community dialogue among team members as they create a team narrative.

1. Like tributaries into a river: Individual Narratives -> Wellspring Narrative -> God’s Narrative

4. Discuss how those solutions are more appropriate for your particular context than other solutions are—that is, how they are localized and contextualized solutions

a. Different ministries approach summer traveling music ministries in different ways.

b. I will be talking about specific camps, other camps may not have this problem.

c. Does having a Worship Arts major give us an advantage in this pursuit? If so how can we use that advantage? If not how can we benefit from the program?

5. Explain how such solutions are going to be implemented in resolving the issues.

a. Discuss the philosophy behind the “Christian Camp.”

b. Interview Wellspring team members to see if there opportunities for change.

c. I have kept track of the songs the teams have used this summer, see if there is any.

d. Present my findings

e. For the second part of my project I would put together a training service - Finding God’s story in our lives and applying that to the Wellspring Narrative. Also, show examples of participatory, corporate, God’s story focused worship song pairings. Do this in the context of a service/practicum for the team members.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Do Worship

As I talk about worship, I easily find myself thinking “what is worship and how do we go about worshiping?” I am very pleased to find that most people when asked this question will say that worship is our lives. As the corny t-shirt says, we were “Made to Worship.” Great, we made to worship, but I seem to lose people when I talk about what being made to worship implies. If I had a dollar for every time I heard an announcement guy say “wasn’t that great worship?” or a pastor say “we are going to have more worship in a minute,” or even a worship leader say “Let’s get ready for (some) worship!” I would certainly have enough money to pay someone else to write my blogs. The problem is that we have been conditioned to compartmentalize worship. Worship is something I 1) do at church for 15-20 minutes near the front half of a church service 2) do while cranking Tomlin at 11 as I cruse through town or 3) am only participating in when I feel the Lord moving. I heard a youth pastor explain worship like this “we are like lightning rods, and worship is happening when God is striking those lighting rods.” Seriously? Worship seems to have become synonymous with God responding to us or specific songs and feelings. When we feel God’s response worship has been accomplished.

In our attempts to be contemporary and unleash passion in worship we have created strict boundaries to what (and when) actions are worship. This is worship music, this is worship time, when this song plays it is the worship portion, the sermon is definitely not worship, or my favorite tweet of all time “My favorite worship music is the kind I can go nuts to.” And in a way the expectation of feeling in worship is a significant part of these boundaries. There needs to be a line drawn that says there is a difference between this false “time to do worship” and doing worship. Robert Webber says “Worship is Doing God’s Story.”(1) According to Scripture God’s story has a lot more to do with creation, redemption and recreation than it does with whether an up-beat song is better to worship to than a slow song.

Even Christ dealt with this. When talking to a Samaritan woman at a well, the woman basically asked “Isn’t our worship better than their worship?” And Christ responded “No, you say you worship on this mountain or in this temple, but there will come a time where you will worship in Spirit and in Truth.” (2) To worship in Spirit and in Truth. Wow. To worship in Spirit – to worship with the entire family of believers throughout the ages, to worship with one breath at the eternal wedding banquet, one voice to the Father, in the name of the Son, through the Holy Spirit and to do it in Truth – United and living out the Triune message in the world. This doesn’t sound like the Sunday morning “do” worship to me. Worship shouldn’t just seep into the cracks of my life; it should be what every brick of my being is made of. And it isn’t even a matter of should because it is whether we know it or not because well, we were made to worship.

Are there elements that are more conducive to a worshipful mind set? Sure. But let us not get carried away. We must continually question whether or not a worship of moods and creative resources has surpassed our worship of the Creator.

1 - Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative. Robert Webber. Baker Books, 2008.

2- From John 4:21-24

Monday, July 26, 2010

MWS503 Project - A Proposal

What we sing about God is what we know about God. This is especially true in a contemporary worship setting. The songs we sing and the way we sing them shape our view of God and the part we play in Worship and His Story. If we are looking for a renewal of worship we need to start with the songs we are singing. With purpose, intention and time contemporary songs can be used, in context, to reshape our view of who God is in a very positive and healthy way. In a contemporary setting, worship renewal really begins with a song – not just a song, but an arc or flow of songs - So, what happens to Renewal when we have to run a Summer Student music ministry team? The team is out on the road, playing in situations where Worship Renewal, God’s Story and Worship flow may not be understood. Since Worship Renewal is also relational and requires commitment and care, and the summer ministry context is short, (for example, you are at a camp for one week) is it possible for this team to convey Worship Renewal at all? I don't know if they can in the way that Worship Renewal is usually spoken of but they can plant seeds of Renewal. And everything the team does should be focused around planting those seeds. But if a team is to plant they must be willing to step into the current of God’s Story and own it themselves. If the team is on board, God’s Story will flow wherever they go.

So here is what I am thinking - In a College Music Ministry context - Shifting from Modern/Pragmatic (Emotional/Popular/Topical/Situational) music sets to a Narrative/Story driven worship flow.

This project will focus on the following areas:

-During team training help team members engage in God’s Story for possibly the first time through digging into personal context and attempting to see how our stories fit into God’s Story.

-To help exemplify God’s Story in a corporate contemporary worship music setting.

-Restructuring and critiquing common thought progressions concerning the purpose of corporate contemporary worship music.

-Apply above points in a College Music Ministry context (camp/retreat/gig) where worship may not seen in light of God’s Story and individuals vary in their own story in the worlds of Modernism and Post-Modernism (or as Weber puts it Traditional Evangelical, Pragmatic Evangelical, Younger Evangelical)

-Create song and set lists that convey God’s Story so that the Story can be told even in a 15 minute set.

I will also explore the following questions:

-How has the shift from Modernism to Post-modernism changed the way we minister to youth? (The Younger-Younger Evangelicals :) and is this change in the way worship ministry is done even necessary.

-What is God’s story and how do we fit into it?

-Why is telling God’s Story important in worship; either corporate or personal?

-What are some examples of Narrative driven worship?

-What are some common misconceptions about the purpose of corporate worship; specifically in the contemporary realm?

-Is it possible to develop a ministry team through narrative based training as opposed to text book step by step training?

-What are some of the challenges of Worship Renewal in a summer ministry context?

-How can we overcome these challenges?

I would like any help I can get with this so if anyone has experience in this area, or thoughts on any of my purposed questions please let me know!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Do you understand the words you are putting into my mouth? Part 2

As someone who has worked most of my life in the arena of Christian worship I know that one of the biggest struggles in worship planning, whether people know it or not, is song selection. Two posts ago I wrote about contemporary worship music and finding value in some of the more popular songs. So how does this fit with what I was rambling about in part one? It is easy to select songs on auto pilot, to just pick a song because it is powerful or emotional or says some nice things. Even when being intentional, song selection is a difficult task. This past Sunday I was in a service where a song contained one line that referenced something from the parable of the Prodigal Son, one line that referred to some Old Testament prophecy about Christ dying and one line that was something nice Christian people say – kind of like “Pray a hedge of protection.” (that wasn’t the line, but you know what I mean… who says hedge of protection anyway??). I felt like you needed a degree in Biblical Literature to figure out what the song was about. The point is, as lead worshipers, we cannot just pick songs on auto pilot, shove words, terms and phrases into peoples mouths and expect everything to be OK. Picking songs without considering its inherent context and then neglecting the context of your congregation is a travesty. Moving to a model where all imagery and metaphor is left out is not necessary. However what is needed is for song selection to become more of an art form rather than a "thing to do."

Every person has their own context; their own story. But that doesn’t mean we water down the message – Service content and structure is the most important thing. Songs shouldn’t just be thought of thoroughly, but I would take it a step further and suggest that everything that happens in a corporate worship service must flow from the same point.

The purpose of a corporate service should be obvious not because the pastor says so half way through, but because there is a clear focus on the content of worship. The beauty liturgy is that everything focuses around the content – living out God’s story for the world. The beauty of freedom in worship is that we can tailor the structure around that content to fit our local context and community. Even if common sense is untrustworthy we are not left to our own devices. Things like Calvin’s Five Points or the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (scripture, reason, tradition, experience) do come from men but have proven themselves through time. We can also look to the early church fathers and even Christ as our example. Even then we are one with Christ through the Holy Spirit. But as leaders in worship we need to start with self sacrifice; we lay down personal preference and truly consider the community. The truth in the message may only count in the hearts and minds of a specific community, so we must be careful – truth may end up being missed all together. I don’t think corporate worship will ever be perfect until we reached heaven, where we will no longer be corrupt and faulty. But I do think we need to consider the whole person, physically, mentally and spiritually, into account before when planned how they will meet God as a community.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Do you understand the words you're putting into my mouth? Part 1.

(Disclaimer – The following needs to be taken in the context of this blog. This Christ-centered blog about Christian worship and culture and should be considered as part of a whole. If it doesn’t seem like I am explaining enough it is because I have already or will eventually. Anyway, it is a blog so take it as seriously as you take any other form of unregulated media. Thank you.)

This is a two part post – one on common sense and personal responsibility and one on corporate worship song selection. I have been wrestling with these topics over the past few weeks and in only the last day or two have I realized that they really go together and are actually un-separable.

Let us start with my first proposition: Common Sense isn’t Common. I hear about “common sense politics,” and “common sense understandings.” Common sense is even used to bypass policy and structure. I have been a part of churches where the question has come up, “Who gets to get my kid out of Sunday school/Nursery?” and the answer is “Well, let’s just use common sense, we’re a church.” It can be seen that “Common Sense” isn’t only uncommon but almost impossible to achieve. Not only that; fully flowing with common sense can even be dangerous. What is understood as common sense is a community understanding of what is right and what is wrong. What happens when that community is entered into from the outside or broken up? The understanding is no longer common, but learned and adjusted to or recreated by the new members. I have started to see that there is some tension when “common sense” is laid out as an overarching standard – if there is true common sense, it cannot be totally lived by because everyone comes from a different culture or community. Maybe more importantly, common sense cannot be a standard to live by because there is sin in the world. Yes, there may be grace that has been revealed to us all but in light of sin we are all corrupt. As a Christian I say, “yes we are all sinners.” However we are not just the perpetrators of sin but also the victims. This victimization affects us so much that even our basic common sense based decision will be corrupt. Not just corrupt in that we do bad things, but corrupt to the point where we do not even physically and mentally function properly; even down to our common sensibility.

Here is where I start feeling tension. I identify with many people who are strong evangelical Christians. The big thing they talk about when personal problems arise is personal responsibility and common sense. You have this problem? Well, it is because of sin. Be a responsible person, follow the common sense rules revealed in the Bible and you are good to go. We have grace but as long as you follow the logical path of personal responsibility and common sense you are good to go; if you slip up that means you are falling back into sin. It is almost like Jesus is the Jiminy Cricket of common sense. This sounds great, but this is where things get tricky. These particular evangelicals don’t seem to take seriously issues like the diseases of addiction, depression, mental illness or cultural/community driven differences. Even though our bodies can be healed by medicine and therapy, for some there is no room for these kinds of treatments when it comes to the brain. In these circles the brain, actions and decision are all spiritual and personal and have nothing to do with a possible physical flaw. Psychological study may have neglected the spiritual side of humanity, but great segments of Christianity have neglected scientific understandings of the brain.

What does any of this have to do with leading corporate worship…. To Be Continued.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Results are In

I am now posting the long awaited results to the project I was working on earlier this year. My last two posts entitled "Picking the Best" were mainly thoughts and ideas on corporate worship song selection and from those thoughts this project was born.

This project was twofold –

1) The first mission of this project was to gain some perspective on CCLI’s top 15 Hot 100 songs. I really wanted to dig into the content of the most popular contemporary worship songs and find out what makes them tick. Why are they popular? Are they fertile soil for the growth and renewal? Do they foster an understanding of worship essentials? This was a very humbling experience as I had to take an honest look at songs I liked and didn’t like.

2) As someone who would like to teach Worship Studies, I thought this project would be a great place to test the waters of worship renewal facilitation. In this project I lead some of my friends through a similar journey of critique. Not only did I gain perspective by doing this project with others but I was able to educate those around my by giving them a venue where they could think and grow as they studied these songs. Through this group aspect I gained experience helping lead a worship renewal project.

We ran all of the songs through the criteria mentioned above. The list of questions is not perfect but was intended to be a starting point for song critique. The criteria come about originally when Dr. Brian Walrath and I wanted to put together a filter for our college's summer worship ministry teams. Instead of having the student leaders pick whatever songs they liked we really wanted them to think about the content – they aren’t there to just lead kids and kill time, they are shaping the spiritual understanding of thousands. I applied this same idea as I led my friends through this project.

As I went all through all fifteen songs the group members went through three songs each. The data I collected came to two reviews of each song. “Picking the Best,” wasn’t meant to be the end all for a song but a flexible magnifying glass where we could ask specific questions and come to our own, educated, conclusions on a song’s value. I didn’t really know what I would find in this project. But I did come to a few overarching yet important conclusions about contemporary worship songs in general:

1) The way a song is used can make or break a song. These songs were written for specific purposes and with specific ideas in mind. Scripture should not be used out of context for our own ends, the same goes for songs for worship.

2) Very few of these songs can stand on their own. For a song to be used appropriately it needs to be paired with scripture or strung together with other songs to tell a story. It need to be put into context.

3) Popular worship songs are just that, Pop-Worship. The music is catchy but weak, the content is weak, but they say nice things that are hardly disagreeable on first listen.

4) If we desire worship education through renewal, many of these songs are poor selections because they do not pursue renewal. I found more worship renewal through education in my group’s dissection of these songs than I have ever seen in people actually singing them.

5) If it is true that what we sing about God is what we know about God, then we are in trouble. Much of the content of these songs focuses on an extremely personal God who seems to owe us blessings.

6) These songs have become traditional standers for churches without traditions. In the contemporary church we criticize liturgical congregations for not being free and authentic. We mock their memorized prayers and creeds by saying “you don’t even know what is coming out of your mouth.” But at the same time, we are singing these songs that have less meaning and we never ask why.

7) There is still hope. While I will probably toss many of these songs right out of my repertoire, some of the songs are very solid. Songs like “How Great is our God,” and “Jesus Messiah,” may have a there faults, but they are Biblically solid and theologically true – however, as always, context is important.

8) Any person in a position of leadership over corporate worship needs to build a team whose sole purpose is to examine the content of every song that is sung. Prior to this project I already had some biases for and against a few songs. Through the eyes of others some of my speculations were confirmed. But in many cases things were pointed out that I hadn’t even thought of.

All in all, this project was extremely edifying. It was a challenge coordinating five others in this project. It was also difficult seeing the diet of the typical American contemporary congregation. But I learned a lot and I got to see my friends gain an understanding of worship renewal and see what I am doing at the Institute for Worship Studies. I felt like I really got to put my new found knowledge to practical use. At the same time I was able to include others on my journey and see them grow. If nothing else I am very glad for that.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Best of the Best: cont'

As it turns out, my last post really planted a seed in my heart and gave me direction for my MWS 501 final project. With the help of five other individuals we are analyzing the top 15 CCLI Hot 100 songs. CCLI is the licencing body of all Christian music recorded for "worship." If you want to legally use that (insert totally awesome new worship song here) you have to go through CCLI. They also keep track of all of these songs. So if you want to use that (insert same totally awesome new worship song) song, CCLI will either keep track of how many pages or charts of the song you downloaded or you have to keep track yourself and report to CCLI monthly. It all sounds kind of bizzar, but it goes with the whole getting recording artists their pay check and doing everything in a legit fashion. We won't get into what I think of the philosophy of CCLI, that is a post for another day. Mostly I respect CCLI and would encourage all churches to sign up. If we are going to be Christlike we might as well make our praises legal, right?

Sooo... CCLI has a top 100 of the most sung songs for worship and the 6 of us are going over the top 15. I have been learning a lot about Christianity, (specifically Evangelical American Christianity), church culture, worship culture and theology from this exercise. Honestly my findings aren't encouraging. What I am learning most of all is that no matter how "good" or "bad" a song is most of these songs for worship are valuable in the proper context. No matter what you feel, "Come, Now is the time to Worship" has it's place. On the other hand even a good song like "Jesus Messiah," can be used inappropriately. The issue is that most songs, worship, Christian or otherwise were written with a context in mind and these context specific songs are being sung all of the time (lets be honest, these are the top 15 sung songs for worship). This over-saturation of general content is causing a very shallow understanding of the story of Christ, the implications a Trinitarian godhead and what God is really all about. Sometimes I just want to sit these song writers down and ask"tell me, what do you REALLY think about God."
I will always say this; what we sing about God is what we think about God. For spiritual growth and worship renewal songs need to be selected for content and context and not for popularity.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Picking the Best

A few posts back we wrote on why the process for picking good songs for worship is important.
The next question is, "well, how do you go about picking good songs, and what is a good song anyway?"

A good friend of mine took some time to put together a sound criteria for what makes a good song for worship. The first thing to think about when looking at a song is that songs for worship need to be functional art. when I pick out a couch or a chair, I want it to be completely useful and be able to fulfill the purpose of me sitting on it every day, but it also needs to have some aesthetic value. I want it to look nice. I could just use a log to sit on that I pulled out of a forest, and in a way that might have its own artistic value, but it does not serve the intended purpose. The same goes with songs for worship. They need to be functional/culturally relevant/situationally applicable as well as aesthetically valuable and relevant to the body that it is serving. They have a dual purpose - education and edification. And yes... we could talk long hours and go way more in depth with this...but maybe later. .

So, with all of that said.. here is the list - now this list isn't set in stone, nor are they rigid rules. Rather they are points to seriously take in to account when looking at using a new song or reviewing a song that you already use. None of these points are end-alls for a song, but if you find your self wondering "mmm...well..." all to often after reviewing a song be confident in following the axiom: "when in doubt, throw it out."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Celebration Banquet

My final paper for MWS 501 "Theology of Christian Worship" is due.

If you would like to read, enjoy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Circle of Our Words & Our Hearts

Luke 6:45- "For out of the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks."

This seems to go both ways. What our heart says/feels/experiences is shown by our words. But, our words (even those not spoken out loud) can change or effect our hearts.

If someone tells themselves enough times that they are awesome at something, their heart eventually begins to believe it. We see this on American Idol all the time with those terrible singers who are positive that the judges are wrong and that they are the next Whitney. The person has told themselves they can sing and their hearts now believe it.

This is why song selection is so important as a Worship Leader. We are setting people up to sing songs that their heart will believe. This is an amazing and dangerous power that the Worship Leader holds. We help shape the hearts of people just by picking (insert overdone 90s worship song here).

I have always been caught up with the lyrics in worship songs. (Just ask my husband. I drove him crazy refusing to do certain "great" worship songs because the words didn't make sense, were stupid, or I just didn't think it was saying much.) I never completely understood why it got to me so much until I recently re-read that passage from Luke.

Personally- sometimes I don't say (or think) the greatest things and in turn my heart starts to feel bitter. Once I make myself aware of just how much my words effect my heart, I can begin to turn it around. I've started to make more of an effort with my words, which in turn makes my heart purer. Once my heart is purer, the words automatically become purer. This passage, to me, is really a big circle. A circle I want to strive to make complete in my everyday life of worship and in church services.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reflection: Touching the Alter – The Old Testament for Christian Worship

Reading Touching the Alter, brought to mind that whole “Kid in a candy store,” image! My first thoughts on how to reflect on this book was to pick a few of the essays I like and expand upon them. However, I was so impressed with all of the writers; I didn’t know what to do! Everything was so excellently written and offered academic takes with such practical application. After reviewing my notes and trying to figure out where in the world to start in such a deep work, something hit me. It was a pattern that I began to see over and over and over again. I began to realize that everything that I had been doing pertaining to scripture, personal discipleship, my prayer life, and this reading, were all pointing in the same direction. I remember saying when this class started that I felt like Eric was putting my brain through a series of un-wirings, wirings and re-wirings; it was like my old lens was being slowly torn off. I now know for a fact that that is exactly what was happening. How do I know? I am starting to feel and literally see the delicate new lens that has begun to grow around my heart and mind. It was the collective work of Touching the Alter that helped me to finally realize this new beginning in my life, this realization of how we fit, and how we can show others the way, into God’s story.

The following is the result of the last few months of prayer, reading and discussion amongst family, friends and “ya’ll.” I know that there are going to be some very broad strokes taken here, but I do not apologize for them. After this reading, and the pile of prior readings, I feel this is the only way to reflect.

Worship is honoring and loving God and all people; in spirit and in truth; in word and in deed; no matter the circumstance. We are God’s divine dwelling place and that alone should compel us to worship. Justice is a direct result of worship and evangelism will be a by-product of social justice. How so? Well, how do you say “God loves you and has a good plan for you,” or even “I love God,” to someone? Words are nice, but who cares? A loving, just and sovereign God? God may be loving, just and sovereign, but how can we expect those who have not experience Triune communion, or even ourselves, to believe that? Yes, the Spirit can move in someone’s life before a word is spoken to them, but no evangelistic words should be spoken without a correlating lifestyle. Humanity experiences God through the actions of his people in the name of Christ through the power of his Spirit.

The Old Testament is God’s story of plan and preparation in bringing his communion to the world. And while God is bringing his communion to the world, in a way he already has. Those who believe in the Father are the places where the spiritual and the physical meet. That alone should compel us to worship. Worship alone should compel us to justice; and it is justice that directs the river of our life into the ocean of God’s story.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reflections on "Engaging With God" by David Peterson

Engaging with God was a bit of a struggle for me. It was thick in places and revealed some deep issues I have been harboring for quite some time. Honestly, it was a bit scary coming to terms with this issues that have been stored up in my heart. But now on the other end, I feel like my heart has been set free!

For such a long time I have been frustrated with the Church especially when it comes to the mainstream “consumer” idea of corporate worship. My biggest beef with the church was that they were doing worship all wrong. The quote on page 188 really put my thoughts and feelings into a statement: “…Indeed, congregational worship in some contexts can be like a narcotic trip into another world to escape the ethical responsibilities of living a Christian life in this world.

Now, there wouldn’t be an IWS if there wasn’t something wrong in the world of Christian worship. However, I came to realize that I don’t have to have worship “figured out enough” for God to work and be glorified – I can only come to worship through Jesus, whose worship is perfect, anyway! According to Peterson, worship is living a life of service to God in our everyday lives. With that in mind I shouldn’t go to church to “go to worship.” If worship is supposed to be as normal as each breath I take, corporate gatherings need to be something more: “…If the focus of the meeting is on the edification of the church, this should enable God’s people individually to engage with Him afresh and to offer themselves to him in the way that he requires and himself makes possible through the Holy Spirit.” Pg. 220.

According to Peterson, corporate gatherings need to focus on the edification of the church: encouraging each other for the glory of God! We are one body, and when we gather, the body can rest and take nourishment and acknowledge of our purpose in something greater – that we are instruments in the story of God’s love for the world.

My take away from Engaging with God, and what I learned to be an essential to worship, is this: We gather corporately for the purpose of edification – in the world (as temples where heaven and earth meet. Oh, I just love that imagery!) we are meant to individually pursue and further God’s story – since we aren’t meant to only live as individuals, we come back to our corporate community to build each other up for the glory of the Lord! I guess to sum it up: Engaging with God taught me that worship is beautifully vertical, horizontal and circular with no specific beginning and with absolutely no end! Worship is a communal engagement with God at all angles!

How does this fit with the first part of my story; my beef with the church? I realized that God is served when we serve each other. Yes, if we institute four-fold structure, we may be able to engage with God at a deeper level, but if that isn’t happening I shouldn’t be mad about it, or mad at the person who is leading. That isn’t very edifying. In Christ, I worship God with every move I make. Seeing this, I know that I can transcend my likes and dislikes in a corporate setting and serve my brothers and sisters. This is what God wants – the worship isn’t the service, but this service is the worship.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Essentials of Worship

My MWS 501 week intensive at the Institute for Worship Studies has come to an end. Part of my final project for the class is a paper entitled "Essential of Worship." Basically, we have to take all that we will read/have read, learned and discussed, and synthesize it into what we believe to be the essential points of Christian worship. This small outline is nowhere near finalization. There is a lot going through my heart, soul and mind right now. However, I feel that this outline is going to be a good place to start – we shall see what develops…oooooo….How exciting

Worship must be:

-A Narrative

-Corporate worship must bring us into, and help tell, God's Story. The corporate worship experience should be a narrative that represents God's meta-narrative in a four-fold pattern. God's story can be defined as Creation, Fall, Redemption – or – Orientation, Disorientation, New Orientation (Unfettered Praise). The four-fold pattern is a holistic worship structure defined by: Gathering, Word, Thanksgiving, and Sending.


-We worship one God – But, what is the difference between Christian worship and Jewish worship?

-We worship a Triune God: 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.

-We worship the Father, in the Spirit through the Son (The difference between Christian worship and Jewish worship?

-We worship in community when we live in community with the one who fulfills community with himself. (Basically, God doesn't need us. He doesn't need our worship to be God. However, he wants us to be a part of his story ((meta-narrative)) for the world.

-Ceremonial Celebration

-Reverence for a Holy Lord

-Joyous in what our Holy Lord has done.


-We cannot worship in a vacuum

-As lead worshipers, we have a duty to draw upon the rich heritage of Christian history - (Robert Webber's Ancient/Future worship)

– We need to be culturally relevant as well as relevantly cultural.

-An outpouring of thanks for what God not just for what he has done, but for who he is.

-Not for blessing in return but because of who he is.

Again, these are just some thoughts in a loose outline.. more to come... be sure of that!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


One of the great aspects of my MWS 501 class is that at the end of every day, each student gets a chance to lead the class in a time of worship and reflection. It is a time where we can put our individual spin on and put into practice some of the concepts that we are learning. We have 6 students in class, so it really works out for each of us to have a chance to lead. Tomorrow is my turn!

Honestly, IWS has given me new eyes. I am looking at everything in a more sensitive and clearer light. It's like scales are slowly being peeled away from my eyes, one thin layer at a time.

A main theme across campus this winter session is the Psalms. So, for part of my worship project, I decided to integrate a Psalm and a song (say that 10x fast…). After some reading and thinking… this combination came to mind: the classic/renewed hymn, All Creatures of our God and King, and Psalm 148.

Take a look, and if you feel like using it, please do! Or even better, contemplate on the Psalms and write your own!

(p.s. It is important that we don't start with a song and read our interpretation into a Psalm. The Psalms are so rich on their own, read the Psalms, pray the Psalms – and see where God leads you.)(p.p.s – during the Psalm readings, the chords that are played are basically what you would play during the verses.)

And for copy writing sake - Words: Francis of Assisi, 1225. Music: 17th Century German. Revised melody and new chords: David Crowder Band. Arrangement: Me.

All Creatures/Psalm 148

All creatures of our God and King Lift up your voice and hear us sing

O Praise Him Alleluia

Thou burning sun with golden beam Thou silver moon with softer gleam

O Praise Him O Praise Him

Alleluiah Alleluia Alleluia

1 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above.

2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.

4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.

Thou rushing wind that art so strong Ye clouds that sail in heaven along

O Praise Him Alleluia

Thou rising moon in praise rejoice Ye lights of evening find a voice

O Praise Him O Praise Him

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created,

6 and he established them forever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away.

7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,

9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,

Let all things their Creator bless And worship Him in humbleness

O Praise Him Alleluia

Praise, Praise the Father Praise the Son And Praise the Spirit Three-in-One

O Praise Him O Praise Him

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,

11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth,

12 men and women and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

Praise, Praise the Father Praise the Son And Praise the Spirit Three-in-One

O Praise Him O Praise Him

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

14 And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.

ALL: Praise the LORD.

Alleluia (repeat)

Friday, January 8, 2010


I wish I could just comprehend what is going on right now. My body is tired, my brain is in a state at the cross roads of melting and enlightenment, I have come to moments of anger, fits of discouragement, and times of tremendous, overwhelming, joy. I guess that is the best way to describe it: overwhelming joy.

I am beginning a journey that has been planned for almost three years now. I am beginning my Masters of Worship Studies (MWS) at The Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies. After two and a half years of trying and coming short, I am finally here.

Robert Webber was one of the greatest thinkers in the world of Worship. He was an expert in theology, sociology, culture and the forerunner of Ancient-Future worship. He fought at Wheaton College for many years, saying that Worship should be taught along side Theological Studies. His point being, that the way we worship and our view of worship affects everything else.

But they said no.

Robert Webber wrote many books on culture, worship, theology and such, and in 1999 started the Institute for Worship Studies where people could come and learn about worship – not music, but worship.

It was a bit surprised (but at the same time, not really surprised) to find out that most all of the staff is lacking in the areas of musical education. In fact, while much of the faculty members are accomplished musicians, former pastors and worship pastors, none of them have high degrees in music.

These people are theologians, historians, cultural critics, people who have seen that when it comes to who we are, they see that we are a part of a grand story, a story beginning with God's desire for us to enjoy and take part in his love. This is worship; communing with the one who communes with himself. If you can believe it, in my class MWS 501: Biblical Theology of Worship, in two days of in class lectures (6 hours a day…) we have covered as much as Gen. 1:1, and Gen. 1:2. But I am learning that these two verses are so critical to the story, the narrative, of scripture. I would go into it, but not tonight… as I have said before my brain has gone through many states in the last few days and right now it is more on the side of melting.

I am learning about community, love, culture, experience, relationship, history, the story of the world – these are the ingredients that make up the stock of worship soup (if you will…).

I have met wonderful people from all over the world. My small cohort made up of Thom, Jennifer, Maggie, Dan and Bret has become my family, and we will continue this little family in each class until graduation. What an amazing way to build up and encourage one another while we take on the stretching information and the challenging implication it brings.

Honestly, I can't type anymore today (sorry for the randomness). Honestly, IWS is an amazing place. You should be here: