May 20, 2017

Show Them Jesus

Pastors - look at your churches. Churches - look at your communities - the town, the city, the area in which you live and work.

You might really like them - your church or your community - or you might not like them at all, whether it’s the way they do things or their history or their dress code or if they’re just not really listening to God (or you) at the moment. Chances are it’s a bit of everything at different times or even all at once. But these are the people - your church or your community - whom God has entrusted to you.

So show them Jesus.

In every word, in every action, show them Jesus. In every hour of every day of every year, show them Jesus. Whether it’s a moment when you like them or you can’t stand them, show them Jesus.

For this is your Calling.

The means by which you do this - however you do this - will not fill you up or feed your soul, not all the way, nor will your relationship with them, and it is not meant to. In fact, for many of you it will probably drain you more than it fills you. The greatest satisfaction in life only comes from a solid relationship with Jesus; indeed, it is only from such a relationship that you can share Jesus with your church and with your community.

But you were not Called to your church or your community because of your skills or your desires or your preferences. Those things may have gotten you there, whether it’s for your job at a church or elsewhere. No, you were Called there to serve the people; to show them Jesus.

So pastors, look at your churches, and churches, look at your communities. They are filled with weird and wonderful people who will make you sad and happy and angry and exuberant all at once. 

Show them Jesus.

May 9, 2017

Epilogue: Posture Helps Us Sing on Sunday (Part 9)

Other Things That Help People Sing on Sunday (Part 7)
Make Room for Singing on Sunday (Part 8)

I was stuck in traffic the other day and since left-turn arrows take FOREVER here in Omaha, I got to looking around me to see whatever there was to see. And the first thing I noticed was a huge argument going on in the car behind me.

How did I know?

Though I obviously couldn't hear anything, and though their eyes were obscured by sunglasses (seriously, what is with the ever-increasing size of women’s sunglasses?), body language told me a lot. She was extremely animated. Her arms flailed all over the place in large, exaggerated gestures, making herself bigger. The way her shoulders moved up and down in rhythm with her wide-open mouth made me think she was probably yelling. He, on the other hand, was quite obviously tense; his arms were crossed and he kept shifting in his seat while folding and re-folding a newspaper - anything to avoid her eye contact. If his mouth ever moved to say anything, I never noticed. She was angry. He was in trouble.

Our postures give us away.

When leading worship, I notice things like this too. I can tell when my congregation doesn't know a song (or doesn’t like it / resonate with it / understand it) by their posture: folded arms, eyes wandering the room, and oh yeah, closed mouths, usually with a slight (or not so slight) frown. Likewise, I can tell when they DO know a song and resonate with it: open postures (arms at their sides or raised), heads up, and open mouths - OR - bowed heads, the hint of a smile (if they’re not singing), and closed, slightly crinkled eyes. The posture of our congregations can be a strong indicator for us as worship leaders to know when things are going well (when people are able to use the environment we’re creating to respond to God), and when things aren’t (when they’re focused on us, for whatever reason).

The question is, are we paying attention?

The funny thing about posture is that it works the other way too. We all know that our physical posture reflects our mental posture, but our mental posture can also be influenced by our physical posture. The two can become a self-reinforcing loop, and while this can be problematic at times (like when we’re angry or upset), we can also use this to our advantage. Just like closed postures reinforce our anger, teaching your congregation to be intentionally open-postured can help them engage, whether in song, prayer, or silence.

May 1, 2017

With Gratitude

I am a “jack of all trades, master of none” sort of guy. I honestly think it’s one of the main reasons God pointed me towards worship ministry, because I know just enough about a lot of different things to be able to talk to those who actually do those things WELL. To the sound people, I become like a sound tech; to the drummer, I speak drummer; to the choir, I flap my arms (very deliberately, and more or less in tempo). But of course, because I can basically play electric, or basically play keys, I’m the designated backup for the team on those instruments. And many weeks, after I’ve led worship and done something different than usual (say, played my horn), someone will come to me and say “wow, what a great morning, is there anything you can’t do??” Now, obviously there are lots of things, and I’d rather have the people who are best at those things doing them, so I try to redirect with humor a little and say “definitely yes: I cannot play bagpipes” or “I cannot play harp” or “I definitely cannot play drums, are you interested?” But what I really mean - what I really want to say each time is this:

I cannot do it alone.

I can’t, I don’t, and I don’t want to.

I’m a worship pastor, which means my role and my gift is to bring a team of people around me and take the focus off of ALL of us to point people towards God. But people who talk to me about such things know I’m the leader, so that generally means their compliments come towards me. But a compliment for me, as a leader, is always - always - a compliment for the whole team. We always do this together, and so a compliment for one of us is a compliment for all of us. And I feel like I don't really get a chance to pass on the many kind words that our congregation and our guests have about my teams.

So: to the teams with whom I have the privilege of serving leading - the worship team, the tech team, the choir, the creative design team, the chorale, the bells, the brass ensembles, the ushers, the greeters, the hospitality team, and SO MANY OTHERS here in our church that make everything work on a Sunday and throughout the week -

thank you. 

I am so, so grateful for all you bring to our ministries here. More importantly, I’m grateful that each week you take a ton of time and energy and effort to point the attention of people away from yourselves and onto the One who deserves all praise and honor and glory: the Risen King, Jesus. Week after week I hear all manner of compliments about the space we create for people to experience the risen Lord and respond to His offered mercy together. These compliments are really for you, and I wish you could hear each of them directly and personally. But since it's not possible right now, know this: to you who consistently offer yourselves as living sacrifices - with sacrifices of time, talents, and resources - know today that you are loved and appreciated beyond these insufficient words.