Archive for August, 2010

Worship Wars

Thought I would repost this – it was sent to me by a preacher friend in Georgia. It is
certainly gris for the worshipers mill!

Worship Wars Erupt When We Put Style Over Substance

Posted on 2009/09/06 by Tim Jeske

By Guest Writer: Alexandra Armstrong

This article was featured in the Saturday (9/5) edition of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. The author is a featured writer for the Religion column. I say, “Kudos Alexandra!”. She graciously provided permission to post this here.

Have the worship wars come to your church? My husband and I don’t have to go to church to disagree about music — we can argue about it at home.

Gary and I are six years apart in age but a generation apart in our musical tastes. There’s not a Gaither Homecoming CD Gary doesn’t own, a Homecoming friend he doesn’t love or a Gaither song he doesn’t know. Saturday nights are a Gaither-fest at our house since they come on three channels consecutively. When Gary drives us to church, there’s no discussion about what we’ll be listening to in his car. It’s all Gaither, all the time.

I think of Bill Gaither as Christianity’s Lawrence Welk. I like more contemporary Christian music. I listen to Travis Cottrell for taking walks and Mandisa for driving. I can clean my whole house in 30 minutes listening to Toby Mac because his music hits my happy-mood button. Gary says Toby Mac hits his headache button after 30 seconds.

The one thing Gary and I agree on is that neither of us expects our style preferences to play a role in the congregational worship music of our church. We have 167 hours each week to listen to the music we’re partial to. For one hour a week we can manage to forget ourselves. Church worship wars exist when God’s people refuse to do that.

Worship is about focus. Our singular focus as a gathering of God’s people is to magnify him and bless his heart. Period. The moment we institute a policy of catering to the style preferences of a particular generation (whether young or old) or we use worship music to lure potential converts, we’ve put our worship focus on the creature rather than the Creator.

That’s the very definition of idolatry. Good intentions are no defense for idolatry.

I fear the evangelical church has missed the point of worship by focusing on style over substance. One generation builds a doctrine that drums are tossed up to Earth from hell. Another generation deludes itself that God is honored when their elder’s sensitivities are dishonored. Neither generation is tripping over themselves to prefer one another in Christ as Scripture commands.

I used to believe the solution to the generational worship divide was to have a separate service for each style. Now I believe this only reinforces a burger mentality in God’s people — who expect to have worship their way. It might give God the impression we don’t think the unity he thinks so much of is worth our effort.

We need to move the discussion past the style of worship music and on to the substance of it. Has anyone noticed how self-exulting our songs have gotten? We’ve moved from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to “I Am a Friend of God” and from “I Know Whom I Have Believed” to “I Know Who I Am.” Yikes.

Worship is to be selfless. Ditto for marriage — which is why I’ll be with Gary at the Gaither concert at Five Flags next Saturday.

Wherever you are at this Sunday – no matter what you sing – I pray it is with a heart directed towards Him and that the songs you sing are not only inspirational – but also biblical!

…following…

Revival and Me

Beginning on September 26th our church will host 4 days of revival meetings.

We will be blessed to have leading us Dr. Jim Richards, the executive director of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Dr. Richards is also our former associational missionary here in NWABA and known by many of us. As we approach these series of meetings God has placed on my heart our real need for corporate revival. I sense a hunger and longing for greater intimacy with the Lord and a profound desire for His manifested presence in our corporate gatherings.

It is my understanding of revival history and church history that corporate revival is something that takes place when we as individuals seek a great move of God in our own personal lives. The culmination of our doing this as individuals finds fruition in what God is seemingly doing in our congregational meetings. Certainly we all long to see many saved, but revival is more about you and me getting our hearts and lives in alignment with the heart of God and the life of His dear Son.When this takes place people are drawn in greater numbers to the cross and salvation. When revival comes people get right with one another, they pray more, they fast, they witness, they give more, not only of their finances but also of their time and talent. When revival comes people love more – they love Jesus and others in a greater capacity!

What is a good definition of revival? The following definitions serves a great purpose in teaching us what revival really is and perhaps what it is not:

“Revival is that sovereign work of God in which He visits His own
people, restoring and releasing them into the fullness of His
blessing.” – Robert Coleman

“Revival is a return to spiritual health after a period of decline
into sin and broken fellowship with God… Revival is for God’s people
when they need to be forgiven and restored to life, spiritual health,
and vitality” -Blackaby & King (Fresh Encounter, Lifeway, 1993)

“Revival is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit producing
extraordinary results.” – Richard Owen Roberts

My own definition is this – “Revival is God working in and through me
in a fresh and powerful way in which the joy and purpose of my
salvation is made fully known, not only to me, yet to those around me”

Look in the Bible. Notice how many times it says, “me” or “us” when
speaking of revival. Here are some examples:

Psalm 119:156: “Great are Thy mercies, O Lord; Revive me according to
Thine ordinances”

Psalm 119:37: “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me
in Thy ways.”

Psalm 119:88: “Revive me according to Thy lovingkindness, So that I
may keep the testimony of Thy mouth”

Psalm 85:6: “Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, That Thy people
may rejoice in Thee?”

Habbakuk 3:2: “Lord, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O
Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the
years make it known; In wrath remember mercy”

Like the old song says, “It’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need
of prayer.”

Revival begins with and ends with me. Would you join me this month in
praying for and seeking revival in your own life and the life of
your church. These are desperate times and the need is as great as it
has ever been – Lord send REVIVAL – and let it begin in me!

…following…

“Radical” by David Platt – A Review

I have been changed and challenged by David Platt’s book “Radical” In our church not only is our staff reading it, but we are calling our people to read it also as our staff shares it with individuals and asks them to return it when they are done so that we can continue to share it with others. It is an approach to discipleship with the end in mind of likewise challenging our folks and key leaders in our church to abandon the American dream for the glory of God and the embrace of the gospel! I have included Frank Gantz’s review of Radical for your information and with the hope that you will grab a copy and read it for yourself!

When I picked up this book to begin reading it, I half expected to glance through a book with some of the typical Christian talk about being all you can be. Instead I found myself being challenged to my core and desiring to follow Jesus like never before.

David Platt is the young pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. I have been hearing much about him and his ministry, but have not had any direct connection to his work. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt strikingly contrasts the choice that American Christians have to make. Either we pursue the American Dream or we pursue Following Jesus. Too often we have mingled these competing visions. This union of the two naturally leans toward the American dream.

Platt does not merely provide preachy exhortation. He lays a solid foundation of the gospel and what it means to believe the gospel. In fact, if you want to understand what the gospel is, then this book is worth whatever price you might pay.

Platt also provides fantastic anecdotal accounts of the gospel being lived by people in the United States and throughout the world. At the end of the book he spells out a 5 step one-year challenge. The steps are both simple but profound. I have definitely been impacted, and believe that in a year I will be changed for the better.

Without question, this is the most moving and the best book I have read in years. To get your copy from Amazon, click on one of the titles (Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream) or on the book image above.

Pick up a copy of ‘Radical’ and be changed!

…following…

Vacation Bible School, Children, and the Gospel

I love Vacation Bible School! There, I said it! I readily admit that I am one that believes that if our church’s would have VBS every week we would experience God in a fresh new way. Of course we would…we would die from exhaustion and would be with him in the big VBS in the sky!!! Seriously though, I really do believe that VBS is an essential ministry in our church’s today and the wise Pastor will lead his church not only to participate in VBS, but he will be a part of it himself. This past week our church has been holding VBS during the evening hours. We have had a record number of children and workers and God has been so good to us by allowing us to minister to them and have a blast while doing it. VBS has changed over the years. In the past VBS was held in the morning hours, involved a minimum amount of curriculum, was taught and led by moms and ladies who were stay at home workers (the majority of the community) was heavy on crafts and was rabidly evangelistic! Today, we have kept our evangelistic edge, however the majority of schools are held in the evening due to working moms, it is theme driven, music is the driving force, decorations and thematically converting ones church into the theme of the week is the norm, and much organization and effort is required. Although the look and time of VBS has changed through the years, one thing remains the same … VBS is committed to telling children about Jesus Christ and the difference He makes in your life.

The bible expressively teaches that we are to reach out and minister to children. Jesus repeatedly spoke to the issue of childlike faith and the stewardship we have towards children. This comes form the Jewish tradition and worldview that it is the responsibility of adults and indeed parents to instill spiritual truth in their little lives. I have had well intentioned folks say to me “Are we not ‘indoctrinating’ these children?” “Should we not let them discover these things on their own?” The answer is yes and no. Yes we are indoctrinating them. We are called to indoctrinate them. God would have us to pour our doctrine and teachings into their little lives so that they may make a responsible informed decision when God begins to draw them. We are not to let them simply stumble upon truth. We are to do do all we can, any way we can, every way we can to get the truth to children and instruct them in the ways of God and His plan for their life.

6And(G) these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7(H) You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8(I) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9(J) You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Duet 6:6-9

but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Now children and their world can be messy. They break things, they redesign walls, The often times push all the stress buttons and they are ALWAYS loud! However, they are joyful, fun, full of laughter and they have the ability to make us feel very young and very old all at the same time! At the end of the day, we love children and thank God for the opportunity to serve the Lord through serving them.

One thing I must stress however. When we are sharing the gospel with children, we must always be careful to share the whole gospel. It is so easy to present a watered down version of the gospel because we think children are to young to grasp or comprehend the words of Jesus. When presenting the gospel to children we must remember to teach them that salvation does not come because we raise our hand, repeat a prayer or “go down front’ with our friends. Salvation is Gods free gift to us when we respond by faith to Him in believing on His son and trusting Him and Him alone to forgive us. They must know that Jesus bore their sins on the cross. They must know that repentance and faith are necessary. They must know that when Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to a life of abandonment and that we are to walk in the steps of the master all of our days. They need to know that their righteousness is that of Jesus and Jesus alone and nothing of their own merit. They need to know that the indwelling Spirit of God will transform their lives into the likeness of Christ and the life of a believer is a different life, a holy life, a life that is like Jesus! The ability to live this life comes form our understanding that we cannot live it on our own accord or effort, but that the grace of God compels us to a higher standard and that Jesus has taken on himself the punishment of when we fall short of it. In other words, they must know that being a Christ follower means following Christ. That forgiveness is not based on just a decision, but it is trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross and our relationship with God through His Son. Simply put…if we are going to teach children the gospel…teach them the whole gospel. Singing the “ABC” song will not get you to heaven…but union with Christ will!

Will they understand it you may ask? Jesus said they would…and we are to teach it to them until they are old enough to comprehend it and apply it to their own lives. Perhaps one of the reasons we are loosing 8 out 10 teenagers once they reach the age of 18 is because we have, although well intentioned, presented a half gospel to them as children. May we reclaim the simplicity and power of the gospel and teach it to young and old alike!

Read the following rendition of a familiar story and be blessed. Love your children, enjoy your children, teach your children the wonderful, life changing gospel!

Everyone in the small town by the lake was excited. Everyone was talking about Jesus, the Messiah. They had heard about the marvelous stories that He told, He taught about God’s Love, and preformed wonderful miracles. Jesus was going to Jerusalem and He was stopping here in their little town. Everyone wanted to see the miracles with their own eyes. They wanted to hear His stories first hand. Everyone wanted just to be in His presence.
When the mothers heard that Jesus was in their town they stopped their cooking. When the fathers heard, they stopped working in their fields or put down their fishing nets. A large group of parents decided to bring their children with them. They wanted Jesus to bless their children.

When they finally reached the place where Jesus was a dreadful thing happened. They could not get near Jesus! Everyone from town was there. Finally the parents and children managed to get close to Jesus, but Jesus’ disciples stopped them. “What are you doing here with all of those children?” asked a disciple. “We came in hopes that Jesus will bless our children,” replied a father. “You must go away now,” insisted the disciple. “Jesus does not have time for children. He is very busy talking with important people.” The parents sadly turned away, and started to leave.

But suddenly a gentle voice could be heard saying “DO NOT TURN THE CHILDREN AWAY.” It was the voice of Jesus. He had heard what the disciple had told the parents. Jesus heard everything even when a big crowd of people were around Him. “Bring the children to Me,” Jesus continued. The crowd moved back to let the children through to Jesus. The parents followed behind. Jesus held out His arms and hugged each one of the little children. He gently touched each one, from the youngest to the oldest child. The children made Jesus smile and laugh. “I wish everyone were like little children, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these,” Jesus said, and then He placed His hands on each child and blessed them.

(This story was inspired from the Bible Story in Matthew 19:13;
Mark 10:13-16; and Luke 18:15-17)

The Little Children and Jesus ~ Luke 18:15-17

15People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

…following…