Archive Page 2

09
Feb
10

How to be a Worship Leader – Part 2

In part one of this study I defined being a worship leader in these terms:

To be respected, and therefore to influence others for the advancement of the Kingdom via your daily display of heart-felt humble adoration and reverence of God in all you do.

Or to put it more simply: acting out your total love, praise, and thankfulness to God the Father, in every action you take and through this example, inspiring others to do the same.

You may think this sounds intimidating and therefore might wonder, “Do I have a responsibility to others?”

Jesus was once asked the greatest commandment of all and in responding he gave us two. In that second commandment he commits us all to acts of service to others. In Matthew 22:39 Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The logical result of this order of things that God has put before us is simple; you are not the priority, God is #1 and the service of others follows. God didn’t tell us to love ourselves first, then treat others in a similar way. No, he directs that the capacity we have to exalt ourselves needs to be spent in exalting others. Put plainly, it is to be God first and others second.

So how do we do this? A systematic Bible study reveals a 4-part doctrine, or foundation of worship:
Biblical worship must be done in love. No love – no worship (1 Corinthians 13)
Biblical worship is always accompanied by humility and reverent fear (Isaiah 66:2)
Biblical worship is commanded by God (Luke 10:27/Matthew 22)
Biblical worship involves surrendering your entire life as an offering to God (Romans 12:1)

Love, humility and reverence, obedience, surrender…

This begs the question, so how in fact do we lead others with our worship of God? The four foundations of worship is a lot to handle, and I will admit that I do not always feel capable of being a worship leader. Most of us feel handicapped in our ability to influence others, especially when it comes to relationships. In her job my wife works with disabled children every day. To put the concept of being handicapped in perspective for all of us, here is a revelation that she discovered:

My life is forever changed because of what I have learned about the power that He {God} really did create us all equally! I remember when I asked God what makes handicapped people different from me or the all the other people, Why did He create them so different? And He spoke to me very clearly and said, “The difference between them and you is that their handicaps are on the outside in plan view for everyone to see and yours are on the inside and can be camouflaged so there is really no difference”…So I learned we are equal!

We all have the similar levels of deficiency; some people just have the ability to mask theirs a little better than others. So I say, get over it, don’t be intimidated by people’s camouflage and begin to see yourself as a leader from the position that God has planted you in. Yes that’s right, no matter where you sit in the sanctuary for a worship service, no matter what chair you find yourself at during the work week, no matter what group of people you find yourself in relationship with inside or outside the church, all of us are to be leaders from whatever position we hold. God gave us a beautiful picture of how the Body of Christ works together in Paul’s epistle 1 Corinthians chapter 12. In part he says, “in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Since we have been given a responsibility to lead, and God placed us where we are at, it seems we all must step up and claim our position of authority in Christ and how we interact with the world and others. And yet you still may not think of yourself as a leader. The next time we will cover the idea of being a lead worshipper vs. being a worship leader.

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02
Feb
10

How to be a Worship Leader

When you hear the term “worship leader” what comes to mind? Likely it is this: a man or woman who is a musician, typically one who plays the guitar or piano, standing in front of a group of people singing songs that you are invited to follow along with, and in following this person’s lead, you will hopefully connect with God.

That is not an inaccurate picture since the official definition of “worship leader” is: a musician or singer who leads a congregation in musical expression of worship. Most people do not consider themselves worship leaders and additionally, they believe they never will be. This is based in the notion that to be a worship leader you must be a vocalist or instrumentalist. I challenge that today, and suggest that being a worship leader is not predicated on whether or not you can lead people in song with your voice or with an instrument. Stick with me and I think you will find that not only can you be a worship leader in your own right, but that you actually have a responsibility to be a worship leader.

Let’s start with a breakdown of what the term worship leader actually means. This may seem obvious, but to be a worship leader, you must first be a leader.

A “leader” is defined as a person who “leads or exhibits leadership.” Leadership can have a formal aspect, as in most political or business leadership, or an informal one, as in most friendships. Speaking of “leadership” usually implies that the persons doing the leading have some leadership skills or competencies. Several types of people may provide or exhibit leadership, including:

– A person in the position of authority
– A person in a position associated with expertise, skill, or experience
– A group of respected people

You can see that leadership implies a relationship of power — the power to guide others. Better put, it is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members. All of us have been the benfactors of leaders and leadership in one form or another.

Second, and hopefully just as obvious, to be a worship leader you must also be a worshipper.

The English definition of worship is: honor and adoration, admiration and respect, directed to God. Now while the English Bible uses one word for Worship, the Hebrew and Greek texts use 10 different words to define it. In the New Testament, two of them particularly are noteworthy:

Proskuneo (e.g. Matthew 2:2, John 4:24): it means “to kiss the hand,” or “to bow down,” it is the word used to signify humble adoration and reverence. And second, Latreuo (e.g. Philippians 3:3): used 21 times in the NT, it means “to serve” or “to minister” it suggests rendering honor, or paying homage.

The act of worshiping is fundamental to who we are as people. Christian theologians have defined humanity as “homo adorans,” which means, the “worshipping man,” and thus the worship of God is at the very core of what it means to be human. Rick Warren puts it this way, “Worship is any expression of our love to God – for who he is, for what he said, and what he’s doing.”

Rick suggests that “any” expression is valid as an act of worship. I agree with him. You see, as Christians, we are instructed that everything we do on a daily basis needs to be offered up to the Lord as worship: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Thus, we can conclude that worship involves offering ALL we have to God: “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” Romans 12:1

Therefore, I define being a worship leader in these terms:

To be respected, and therefore to influence others for the advancement of the Kingdom via your daily display of heart-felt humble adoration and reverence of God in all you do.

Or to put it more simply: acting out your total love, praise, and thankfulness to God, in every action you take and through this example, inspiring others to do the same.

You may think this sounds intimidating. Next time, I will provide some insight into understanding our responsibility to lead.

26
Jan
10

Break the Religious Boundary (“The Look”)

Religious boundaries are everywhere and they usually manifest from a place of fear and/or control. When something happens that shakes a religious paradigm, religion responds by seeking to control it. This often spills over into relationship. I pray that the following experience of mine will nudge you to risk a little in reputation, and reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ who may have gone through difficult transitions that caused them to step outside of your immediate circle of relationships.

Today in Mardel (a Christian bookstore ) I saw some old acquaintances I knew from our former church and I moved to greet them. The response I got is what I call “the look” and they turned and walked away. “The look” is something you will only experience if you have been though something similar to what my family and I have been. I can only describe it as a look of judgment mixed with surprise and fear. I am not really sure if that is the exact recipe since I don’t think I have ever given the look to anyone, but I certainly have been on the receiving end numerous times.

A little over a year ago I had a falling out in relationship with leadership at the church I was on staff at (which happened to be a large church), and when the emotional reactions started flying, I made a commitment to take the high road. To take that difficult, narrow path of turning the other cheek and not saying anything in response to what many perceived as attacks on my character. Though it was painful, I released judgment into the Lord’s hands and forgave, and attempted to forget…and hopefully learn something from the whole mess. I did not defend myself and learned not to try and tell my side of the story. The few times I did it always backfired the relationship so I remained silent in the midst of some sad and tough times for my family.

Now I experience “the look.” To help you relate to “the look,” I suppose it may be like someone who divorces and then encounters family members from the other side. Or someone who gets fired from a company and they see former co-workers at an industry event in town. In a nutshell “the look” says: “what are you doing here?” I have received it at ministry events around town, in other churches, at Christian concerts, etc.

The look has that sense that it’s a little odd to see me in a place like Mardel. It implies that because I left their church, I also may have left the Body of Christ so in fact why am I in a Christian book store? Like the four walls of the church I used to be in comprise the whole Kingdom. Maybe they think I am a backslider or that I lost my salvation. I only suggest this because once I got a comment (as opposed to the see-and-flee reaction), “are you still going to church?”

And there is an additional humorous (to me) result of this adjustment in relationship as well. People who used to religiously refer to me as “Pastor Mike” now abandon the honorific “Pastor” as if now that I am not on staff at that church I am now no longer a pastor. (Not that I ever wanted the moniker in the first place, it was a part of that particular church’s culture. I would joke that the pastoral was odd in that when you took the position, your name actually changed, like a doctor). Today I serve as a pastor on staff in what some may call a small church. Sometimes when I get “the look” I sense a judgment of demotion. That I must be down, and in a way, out. Over the past year I have respectfully turned down positions at churches that were very much larger than the one I left and also walked away from a corporation that promised an equity payout that would likely have equaled a huge sum in just a few years time. I did this through the leading of the Holy Spirit and now I serve at a church of roughly 250 believers. Our church follows all the Biblical mandates (e.g. care of widows and orphans, spread the Gospel, etc.). We feel fulfilled in relationship, are serving the community, and are growing in our walk with the Lord. Our prevailing posture is that we want to honor the Lord through our involvement in the church. I am there because God led my family and I there. Rather than a demotion, I sense it is more like a promotion.

In closing, I encourage any of you who know people who have had a separation in relationship or a separation from a group or church, to reach out. They may have made the decision to move on, or maybe that decision was made for them. But let that person know that you validate them as people, and as Christ followers, rather than in your silence, communicating judgment. A comment, note, card or email that says “hi, I have been thinking of you.” This may be an important ministry of yours. Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Break the religious boundary and act as a true member of the Body of Christ by “lov[ing] your neighbor as yourself.”

17
Dec
09

State of the Music Biz and the Indie Artist

I spent some time today reading about the state of the music biz and it was a bit depressing and demotivating. Musicians and industry people complain and bemoan the fact that folks are downloading and sharing all sorts of music for free. I.e. there is no money in it anymore. The big rant is that the average artist can’t make any money, etc. and no one seems to know who the enemy is. There are equal parts of bashing iTunes to praising it; there is the whole P2P thing (basically if you are just a little tech savvy you can find any movie, music, video game, etc for free on some version of a peer-to-peer networking site), burning CDs, sharing files, etc.

I may be wrong but it all seems to go back to that time vs. money thing. If I want the music quickly and easily and in the format I desire (CD, mp3, iTunes, etc.), I will pay for it. If I have the time to ask my friend for a loaner, or burn a CD off my buddy’s computer, or am willing to invest the effort in some torrents software (avoiding all the viruses), well I can get it for free. People share stuff they like, so burning a CD for a friend is quite normal anymore. When I was a kid we used to make compilation tapes of our favorite songs, theming them based on things like “driving music” or “mellow stuff.” We would title our compilation tapes and then pass them about to friends. Tapes like “in your face,” “burn,” and “closers” were pretty cool stuff; you can imagine the types of songs I put on those tapes. We never felt we were stealing or ripping anyone off. In a way we were paying homage to artists we really liked and the artist got even more popular to our circle of friends. Today it’s even easier; you can make a playlist in iTunes or whatever software you use, and share it around (making a tape would take me an hour or more; making a playlist takes less than 30 seconds if you know what songs you want). Same deal I guess but it removes something crucial from the picture back in the day: relationship.

Which leads me to a thought about the ranters out there who are complaining about the state of the music biz. What’s missing here is relationship. Technology is the thing that has enabled independent and unsigned musicians to easily get their stuff out there for people to hear but now it is what they are bashing. USB drives, flash cards, cell phones, smart phones, digital downloads, etc. have all in one way or another made hard copy music (records, tapes, CDs, reel-to-reels, you name it) near obsolete except to a niche market, the exception being where the medium makes sense (see time vs. money comment above) in communicating a message that would be lost if this specific medium was not employed. So we all can share stuff for free now, which gives us exposure, but free = no money so we cannot get paid for it. Heres the scenario: I drop hard earned cash on studio time, then pay money for artwork and to have the CD replicated, and I’m don’t sell anything. Oops.

I may need to dwell on this one a bit more but for now I will say that indie artists will make money on the relationship end of the spectrum. I.e. at shows, person to person, via their website, etc. I once heard that the best musicians in the world will never be known. So even if a musicians song is the best of its kind, they cannot just toss it out there in internetland and hope they will make money. The internet is not a winning lottery ticket that requires no work. If their song is *really* popular (your goal right?), people will share it (equals free, not your goal right?). This will make that artists popularity increase within certain circles and niches, but that still doesn’t necessarily translate into money. If money is what you are after you have to have a product that people cannot get without paying for it. A product that differentiates from all others on the market. That, my musician friends is you. You, in relationship with that person. This could be face to face, could be via a social networking, could be on the web, but the bottom line is people will only pay for what they do not already have, or if they need more of something expendable, or if the perceived value is high enough. Free is the new black so music is devalued. Yet it is still a necessary part of our cultural fabric (nothing God invented will decrease) and so if you want to make money off of it you will need to add the relationship component. This usually happens at a gig.

Even artists on major labels have this issue. I read an article about someone who sold 2 million units of their song/album and ended up owing the label over $200,000. The only way the label got that many songs sold is through heavy promotion like an expensive video, etc. The only way the artist will pay them back, according to the article, is by touring.

Touring…as in gigs right? Relationship wins every time.

Want to hear some free music? Visit http://www.destinysong.com/worship/Audio.html

For an interesting, and occasionally colorful article on this subject, read this from respected veteran rocker John Mellencamp in the Huffington Post. Linking this does not suggest I agree with his political views, but if you read the article you’ll get a great look into the history of how we got to where we are today. Click here.

02
Dec
09

Free download of Julian’s Music!

Hey, check this out, go here and you can get 2 of Julian’s songs for freeeee!

https://www.noisetrade.com/julianmichael#

02
Dec
09

Losing My Religion?

Once when I was covering the pastor-on-call an email came through from a church member asking about whether or not we can lose our salvation. Here is my answer:

We believe that once saved, always saved.  This is known by the term “perseverance of the Saints.”  I.e. if someone is saved, and they persevere to the end of their life here on earth as saved, they are truly born again.  We hold to a reformed theology on this subject, that a truly born again individual cannot lose their faith.  John 6:38-40 shows that “every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Another scripture is John 10:27-29 where we read “…I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  Many more passages exist to support the view of the perseverance of the Saints including Romans 8:1 and 8:30.  Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit” and it is the “guarantee of our inheritance.”  There are so many other passages to support this perspective.  There are people who are close to the church that appear as if they have a genuine saving faith, but actually don’t. The best example I can think of is Judas who apparently exhibited saving faith but ultimately was not truly saved (Jesus called him the “devil”).  And also Jesus says in Matthew 7 “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom…”  If a person exhibits behavior that does not line up with one of a saved, and sanctified individual, it calls into question whether or not they were truly saved to begin with.  As I said, we do not believe that you can lose your salvation.  The Armenian view that you can lose your salvation often uses Hebrews 6:4-6 as the main basis for their argument: 

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away,to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned – Hebrews 6:4-8 (NKJV)

In this scriptural example (reading on through verses 7 and 8), those who receive final judgment are compared to land which bears no fruit but rather bears thorns and thistles.  It appears that the author of Hebrews is referring to fruitlessness, and in scripture we see this as a sign of someone who is not a believer (see Matt 3:8-10; 7:15-20; 12:33-35). I.e. if you bear no fruit, you are likely not saved.  In John 15 Jesus says “every branch of mine that bears no fruit…” showing that there are branches that are fruitless.  Armenians use this verse to imply that branches that bear no fruit are still true branches on the vine.  We would say they are counterfeits. The term “enlightened” in verse 4 of the Hebrews passage simply means that they understand the truth of the Gospel, not that they have entered into a saving faith.  The argument for losing your faith is just not convincing enough when we have so much overwhelming evidence to support the reformed view.

24
Nov
09

Julian in the Studio 7

Okay so this is fun, the final video blog for Julian’s new album has now posted. Sweet! Secondly, the CD is here. YES it’s true! It’s here, sitting in boxes in the studio, waiting for Julian to arrive from JBU so we can all open it together. How fun is that? If you go to www.julianmichaelmusic.com/store you can order the CD. Buy a copy to support Julian and our little recording studio in the Black Forest! Thank you.




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