Friday, February 24, 2017

3 Ways to Elevate Your Worship Culture

When building a ministry, developing a dynamic worship culture can be challenging. From constructing ensembles to integrating musicians into leadership roles, no question, the ‘how to’ on facilitating ignitable liturgy is worth discussion. 

Granted, I’m more of a 'leader of worship' than a worship leader. Still, as a youth pastor going on his sixth year, I do know a thing or two on fostering the merger between passion and power.

With that said, here are three points learned through trial and error that can take your worship culture to the next level.

1. Extend the invitation. 

Regardless of where you are on the worship leading spectrum, we can agree the objective of our reverence is to encounter Jesus. But perhaps you’ve wondered how to sing about history-makers and planet-shakers in a way that convinces your audience they can be. If so, I submit there is a way to journey yourself and your audience to those deeper places of intimate belief together. 

But Cam! What if the worship atmosphere grows stale?

To be honest, there's not a one-size-fit-all solution; however, in my experience, whenever I sense a  disconnected audience, my default is to exhort a reminder as to why they’re worshiping. For starters, people often approach the throne room with distracted hearts. So by offering those hearts an invitation to dig deeper (i.e. stand up, lift hands, close eyes, etc.), you broaden the engagement potential of the room. Of course, this doesn't mean everyone will accept; 
however, by laying foundation for next level intimacy, I can carry on knowing I've done my part in inspiring surrender.
Bottom line: When in doubt, your role is to extend direction as the Spirit leads. Once you give what needs to be given, God will take it from there.
2. Prune your routines. 

Over the years, I've found “rotation” (a framework term intended to preserve a liturgy's freshness) to be one of the most commonly used words in worship circles. The problem with rotation, however, is that it often attracts routine which can hinder a worship culture if left unattended.
Thus, it's crucial we're attentive to unpruned routines (whether they involve default rehearsal times, visual aesthetics, pre-service flows, etc.) that can lead to over-reliance on external details over an inner reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Yes, musical discipline and organization are key ingredients to effective worship; however, if we're forgetting to pray before practices and services, if we’re not proactive in stewarding community with team members and congregants, then we risk tolerating our motions over God's movement.
Bottom line: Before you get too attached to certain set lists and setups, make sure you’re constantly carving out room for the Spirit to breathe his gameplan into you. 
3. Utilize your prophetic embouchure.

Being a Nashvillian, I’ve been around musicians all my life and while I can’t speak for everyone, I’ve noticed they tend to identify their value, in large part, with what they can do instrumentally; however, as discussed in last year’s devotion, since we were all created to worship, then the emphasis should be on who we are rather than what we do.

Still, for many worship leaders and musicians, the temptation is to limit identity to ability and overlook prophetic potential. Why this is…I’m not completely sure. What I am sure is while we may not all be prophets in a five-fold ministry sense, that doesn’t mean we lack a prophetic mouthpiece (see 1 Corinthians 14:1-5). Contrarily, as part of our original design to worship, we were also made to prophetically pour out.

So when it comes to facilitating engaging worship cultures, I believe it’s imperative for "spotlight leaders" to not only utilize platform opportunities to speak prophetically, but to also anticipate them in quiet times behind the scenes.

Bottom line: If we truly want to see our worship culture transform where people engage the power and presence of God in a deeper way, then we must be willing to engage it in the closet space of our heart.
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Stay tuned next time when we’ll unpack these points in greater measure, specifically knowing when and how to speak prophetically from a liturgical and bivocational perspective.
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Friday, February 17, 2017

LEGACYouth: Distress & Declare

Inspired by John Piper's John 3:30 series
What does it mean to 'distress'?

When we drill down in Hebrew and in Scripture, we find ‘to distress’ is to be tightly bound (Hebrew – “metsar”) in godly sorrow particularly to those being persecuted in Jesus' name. So it's important we note ‘distress’ not only as an emotional reaction, but a call to action...a means to proactively extend the hope of the Gospel.

Sometimes, we think: Well, the Bible says, 'Blessed are the persecuted for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven'...so what' s the point of feeling sorrow if they have a guaranteed reward? To me, this comes down to how we perceive sorrow in the context of distress. When we ponder the Beatitude, Jesus is not suggesting the persecuted don't need support. Rather, he's saying blessed are those who have the Kingdom of Heaven to bring to the dark and desolate places...who've been given the call to set people free from the prison of sin at the cost of being thrown in one themselves. Thus, we can deduce not only is there is a reward in heaven to those who bear the Gospel and are persecuted for Christ's name sake, but to those who commit themselves to distress on their behalf.

Perhaps you're sittin' there thinking this particular 'D' is one big 'Catch 22'. While I don't blame you if you think this, truth is: the Bible says the more we approach the end times, the more persecution there will be; however, with more persecution comes more opportunities to increase in distress, more specifically, to remember in sorrow, to wrestle in anguish, and to pray unceasingly for suffering saints. That, to me, is what 'distress' is all about: it’s not just lamentation; it’s determination.





What does it mean to 'declare'?

First off, it’s interesting this ‘D’ has an opening ‘decrease’ in its statement. You’d think ‘distress’ would have the ‘decrease’ with ‘declare’ having the ‘increase’; however, when we talk about declaring as God intends, it’s important we create room for boldness first – an idea the early Christians understood well in their approach to community and evangelism. While God’s grace is certainly more than the sum of our weakness, in most cases, the more fear we bear, the less boldness we declare. On the flip side, when we increase in boldness, we also increase as effective communicators of the Gospel.

Note how in Acts 28, declare is emphasized both in a proclaiming context, but also in a teaching and hospitality context. This not only reminds me how the Spirit gives different gifts for the sake of helping one another (1 Cor. 12), but also why our motto is “your life speaks” as it ties into our lives are always worshipping and declaring something as God intended. What we believe and how we live it? Again, we have that free will. All I know is that I want my free will to free others by His will. I don’t want to tolerate fear and be complacent towards boldness. I don’t want to risk my ‘distress’ being compromised with subjective faith and blinded eyes as opposed to objective faith with Christ as the prize. You following me?

My encouragement to you: use ‘distress’ to broaden your prayer horizon, then use ‘declare’ to speak into that horizon. At the same time, don’t forget to dis-stress and to surrender your fears allowing God to free you as you free others. Remember if we’re trying to advance the ball down the field, we must be willing to put our faith in motion.'

Down. Set. Hut.



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Monday, February 6, 2017

Fermented Goodness: The Truth Behind Genuine Kindness

So today, I stop by my favorite hole-in-the-wall sub shop to get my favorite hole-in-the-wall sandwich only to find my order is completely ready to go BEFORE I request it. At first, I'm confused thinking the bagged contents I'm receiving belong to someone else. But after an initial balk, the lady behind the cashier assures me, 'No, no. It's for you. I saw you through the window before you came in the door.'

As wink provoked smirk, I couldn't help but ponder the moment as I walked out. If we want to mature in our kindness, it's worth noting as spontaneous as it may occasionally seem, true generosity/compassion not only recognizes the needs of others, but anticipates the needs of others...pointing people in the direction of God who knows what we need even before we ask for it.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." ~ Matthew 6:7-8 (ESV)

Digging deeper, when we consider how kindness is addressed in Paul's letters, we can deduce inspiration from its Greek etymology, which in this case means 'choice, aged wine'.

Check out Ephesians 2:4-7...

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Note the extravagant language Paul uses to color mercy and grace in the context of kindness rooted in Christ. Basically, Paul is saying kindness...

a) as fermented goodness must be a constant rhythm in our life that gets better the more we engage it and...
b) as an extension of love must also stir up a desire for giver and receiver to go and do likewise.

Pretty cool, eh?

So next time you're tempted to view benevolence as a random act of kindness, dare instead to see it as partnering in Christ's ministry of knowing what others need before they can ask for it. Not only will such perspective help you better anticipate the needs of others, but it'll also enlarge your capacity to show the immeasurable riches of grace as you serve in love.

Selah.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Burn the Boats: The Secret to Letting Go



Have you ever been sucker punched in the gut when you’ve least expected…like a ship with the wind knocked out of its sails?

If so, then know that’s where I am as I write this. But before I continue, let me just say this is not going to be a shared post so if you’re reading this, then a) pardon the processing and b) you’re not here by accident.

That said, I think it’s important we come to terms with a key reality of life: as fallen people, we carry fallen perspective…and as much as we’d like everyone to appreciate us, truth is: that’s never going to happen.

Sure, we’d like to assume people of similar belief and faith would be immune. Sure, we’d hope people who receive grace would certainly extend it. But at the end of the day, unless we’re deliberate in responding to conviction, chances are we’ll believe whatever we please to feel like a triumphant hero vindicated against our greatest disappointment.

And I know it’s unfortunate…the idea someone, especially one who meant a lot at one point, could be so content to preserve you in the worst light…to judge you through a rusty pinhole1. But at some point we have to accept the fact in this life we’re going to be someone’s enemy no matter how much we change, no matter how well our intentions are to reconcile. Why? ‘Cause more often than not, people are going to reject what they should accept on account they want to remain a victimized protagonist cozy in their own comfort or buried underneath their shame.

Now I admit: I’m not the best at interpreting the unspoken rules of interpersonal communication. Many times I’ve gotten in trouble by believing and hoping for the best, forgetting to be human is to believe it’s too late, it’s not worth it, there’s no way…I could go on.

*Sigh*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: we may sincerely desire something good, something along the lines of Philippians 4:8-9; however, just because our hope may be pure in intention doesn’t mean it will be felt or received the way it should from one person to the next. So if you ever land on a higher plane of thought, don’t stress if you’re the only one who’s benefiting. Just surrender all trust to God who works his will outside our terms and timeline.

Bottom line: If you ever encounter someone who refuses the honor of meeting you on the viaduct of reconciliation2, don’t just burn the bridge, burn the boats as well. Sure, setting a torch to broken dreams and expectations may hurt at first; however, if you’re willing to lay the watered rag down and be at peace knowing you were ready, you can rejoice when people shun your humility…you can find rest when people label you as nothing more than a sorry footnote in their life…and you can find victory knowing their flawed opinion doesn’t define or disqualify you.

All you have to do is let go (of the good) and let God (take hold of the better). Again, not saying the transaction won’t feel awkward at first, but I guarantee you, the more you embrace this as a rhythmic reality, the stronger you allow yourself to become.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, know the best is yet to come…and you will get there.

Don’t look back now.
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Footnotes

1) Or outdated filter…take your pick
2) Speaking more so from a forgiveness standpoint than relational restoration

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