Archive for the 'Worship' Category

balcony 02If you have paid any attention at all, you know full well how tumultuous has been the upheaval of the past year of my life. I’ve tried to keep my rants to a minimum, but sometimes I have failed. I have tried to learn through this experience of career change and learn I have–not always willingly, not always happily, and not always without an adult beverage to take the edge off of the process.

I’m not the only person in the world who has had to endure a career change. Some welcome it, others fear it. I’m somewhere in the middle, taking a more philosophical approach that goes something like this: “Why?”

Or maybe that’s the coward’s way out, who knows?

It’s always easy to avoid reality by asking ‘why’? Asking ‘why?’ enables us to sit and wonder all day long. Asking ‘why?’ is enabling–yes, it serves as a sort of co-dependent to all our Right-ness. Asking ‘why?’ is a way of avoiding the changes by hanging around in a fog-like stupor and questioning over and over again all the circumstances and issues that lead up to the moment when the change actually, and perhaps inevitably, took place. I guess maybe we think things will magically change if we sit around and question long enough what went wrong. So we lash out, question, regret, blame, and do all sorts of other unsavory philosophical things in the name of ‘Why?’ and never actually arrive anywhere but right back where we started: Why?

Rich Mullins sang about it in a song called ‘Hard to Get’:

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we can not get free of what we’ve left behind
I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret I can’t see how
You’re leading me unless
You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

‘Why?’ becomes a sort of soothing god; a justifier of our self-righteousness; a companion in our misery. ‘Why?’ people are quite lonely people. It’s a wonder God allowed such a wicked word to be invented or to evolve alongside the aardvarks and amoebas. It’s a wonder that God allows, or catalyzes, such events to foster the perpetuation of the ‘Why’. Mysterious ways indeed!

In the course of this journey I have been taking I have gone from the guy who stands in front of the congregation, leading, praying, preaching to the person going most out of his way to hide: the balcony person. I have gone from being Bud Selig to Bob Eucker. I’m not writing this to disparage those of you who, reading this, also identify with the balcony. On the contrary I am saying I completely understand. I have become, in a little less than a year, a full-fledged, member of this esteemed congregational clique that goes out of its way to be unnoticed, uninvolved, and unannounced. It’s easy to migrate and hibernate and remain invisible in the balcony. I’m becoming a pro.

Following are some observations I made one Sunday morning while sitting in the balcony during worship. They define my experience and perhaps yours. Everything I write in this post is, obviously, patently, personal and generalized. I make no claims here to omniscience. I only offer what I am or what I have become or, probably, what I have resorted to in order to figure out what church means at this juncture in my life and as an insulation against hatred for the Body Jesus loves.

First, as noted above, balcony people can hide. We neither want to be seen nor need to be. In fact, we prefer being unnoticed. This may be a good thing. As I reflect back on my days as ‘the guy up front’, I think to myself it may have gone better if I had been a balcony person then too. Maybe, I say this regretfully, but maybe I wanted to be seen back then and maybe that was a problem, a large problem, The Problem. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to be seen, but being seen by the right one, the One who sees all and from whom none can hide, is a far, far better reason to be in worship. Perhaps the balcony is sort of like the prayer closet; perhaps it should be.

Second, balcony people are, at best, spectators not participants. (Participation necessarily implies more than one.) I know this is not entirely true, but it has become true for me. Being a balcony person has given me the opportunity to observe the worship and avoid participation. I noticed that some Balcony People do not even sing when the words appear on the screen. What I have noticed is that Balcony People are keen to let things happen. They are fine with allowing the worship to be directed or lead or controlled by some other person. Being in the balcony gives me the opportunity to do what I want: sit when I want, stand when I want, spread out my notebook and legs when I want. I can be no one and everyone in the balcony. In the balcony I can watch what other people do, and people do not do much in worship. The reason I can get away with this is because in the worship our eyes move only in two directions: down (for example, in prayer) and forward (waiting to see the next move of the worship leader). No one looks up and no one looks back. The balcony is safe from prying eyes, but perfect for spying eyes.

Third, balcony people are, by and large, anonymous. Seriously: how many people who are downstairs are going to make a beeline to the balcony during the Passing of the Peace? In my experience none. I do not have to talk to anyone while I’m in the balcony. I do not have to shake hands with the preacher. I do not have to say hello to the annoying old lady who wants to slobber all over everyone with her hugs and ‘Jesus Never Failed Me Yet’ sort of naiveté. I do not have to have a name as long as I am in the balcony. For that matter, no one even has to know I am there. I can slip in and slip out as quietly as the proverbial church mouse and no one is the wiser.

Fourth, and finally, Balcony People can and do come and go as they please. There is no real starting time for those who sit in the balcony. They can afford this lack of punctuality because no one but other Balcony People see them arrive–and they understand all too well the reason for being unpunctual (to avoid others). On the other hand, Balcony People can also leave whenever they want. I’ve seen this phenomenon on more than one occasion and, to be sure, participated in it as well. It is a sacrament of Balcony People to leave early. We can leave during the sermon, before the offering, after the communion, but especially before the very end when we might be forced to make eye contact with other folks, those folks, the ones who sit on the lower level closer to god. I think this is the key: the freedom to avoid others, the freedom to avoid their strangling handshakes and hugs of super Christians, the freedom to avoid their questions about ‘what church we belong to’, and the freedom to avoid the other twenty questions that have nothing to do with anything but the sinister attempt to get me to belong.

Maybe the goal of conversation should not always be to get me to belong. Maybe I’m fine un-belonging for now.

What I have learned most about being a Balcony Person is that I get to be alone. Maybe that’s why balconies were invented in the first place, you know, so that people like me could hide; so that us undesirables wouldn’t have to be looked at or interacted with on Sunday mornings (we tend to bring down those on whom Jesus has painted a perpetual smile). Maybe it was created precisely to be a hiding place. Maybe the balcony has become the new ash heap, a modern pile of garbage for the Jobs among us, a Patmos for the defeated and broken, a Kedar for the struggling. (God’s people spend a lot of time in exile.) Job sat with friends in his heap while he suffered and tried to figure out the whats and wheres and whys of his trials and so do we–except it’s in a nice clean, carpeted, air conditioned building. And maybe we get to hide there for a while, kind of like David among the Philistines or Noah in his ark, until it is time to move back downstairs with all the people who have it all together, for whom Jesus contains no mystery and the Why no longer exists.

Balcony people can afford to hold hands with ‘Why?’ longer than those who sit amidst the congregation because we are in no hurry to arrive and in no hurry to leave. As a balcony person, I can take as much or little time as I need. I do not have to have it all-together in order to be a Jesus follower. I can be the run down, undone, miserable, joyful, loser that I am in the balcony because the only one who sees me there is only One whose sight matters during the worship. This doesn’t make us superheros or special or more real than anyone else. And this is not to say that all bottom-dwellers are exactly the opposite. It just means that this is my experience in becoming a wallflower in the congregation.

I think Balcony People are those who are lost enough to be led. Not all, but many. Those in the balcony are those who, to some extent, realize that sometimes God wants to know just how much we want Him. This is not to rundown the superheros among us who sit downstairs on Sundays. It’s just to say that some of us feel like we need to sit on a small hill of rubbish or in the upstairs or in the balcony so that we can get just a little closer to God. We need those extra twenty or so vertical feet. Maybe we think being higher up means he will hear our voices a little clearer or, better, that we will hear His.

Maybe we just like being invisible for a while.

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I was going to save the video, below, for the Open Thread Friday this week, but as I’ve thought about it, and discussed it with a number of folks, I think it deserves a focused post of its own.

http://www.vimeo.com/11501569

Context, Context

Before any further discussion on the video, I think it’s important to have a little bit of context around it:

  1. The video was produced by the media staff at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA (where Andy Stanley is the senior pastor).
  2. The Sunday morning worship style being lampooned is the style used by NPCC.  They are making fun of themselves (not somebody else), while making a point.
  3. The video was specifically produced for last week’s Drive Conference, which North Point sponsors for church leaders and creative teams.

Kudos

First off, I’d like to applaud NPCC for 1) being able to laugh at themselves; 2) for being aware of the dangers of church-as-entertainment; and 3) for making this video available, since it has a message that should be heard, but also because it could be misused by their armchair critics who can roll out their favorite whipping boys w/ this video and use it as a misguided indictment on style, rather than a message that could have been produced for any “worship style” used by American churches.

Style vs. Substance

I think that quite often, the critics within the church – across the spectrum of styles – like to play off of a style-versus-substance meme, creating a competition where none need exist.  As I noted above, this video could have been produced to skewer ANY Sunday morning worship style – be it hymns-hymnals-and-pews, Contempervent (I love that term), high church, or incense-and-icons.  One can have substance in any “style”, but when it becomes a show or a rote pattern – tradition for the sake of tradition – it has strayed from the path.

I believe that all forms of artistice creativity can be used for the glory of God in worship: painting, music, dance, drama, sculpture, writing.

One danger is making it the focus of worship rather than a method of worship.  This is just as true of well-done interpretive dance as it is of skillful oratory.

Another danger is making it a distraction from worship rather than an enabler of worship, which is why if something cannot reach a certain level of artistic quality, it might be best not to insert it within corporate worship settings.

Sidebar on Giving

Next, one of the tangential points they bring up is around tithing.  I’ve always found it interesting that the basic message you hear in the church is “what you give is between you and God”, but you know that your giving is being tracked – by law – by the church, for the purposes of tax reporting.  So, the question becomes – what is being done with the tracked giving data?

I know some churches who make it common knowledge that the church treasurer shares NONE of the individual giving data with the leaders of the church.  That way, there is no danger of “playing favorites”, based upon someone’s giving history.  On the flip side, though, it also has a lesser degree of community accountability.

At the other end of the spectrum, I know of churches (and a larger number of non-Christian religious groups) who ask for your pay-stubs and/or W-2’s, in order to make sure that each family is giving its 10%.  To me, this degree of accountability seems to go against the “free-will” nature of giving, and the heart of giving, itself.

Most of the churches I’m familiar with, though, have no spoken policy on who – leadership-wise – knows the details of individual giving, and how those details are used.  In some ways, this ambiguity can be good, but can also be cynically viewed (as elicited in the video).

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I’ve played in various worship bands over the last ten years or so, and because of that I find myself in the position of knowing a lot of worship songs that I don’t particularly care for.  It’s not that I find myself disagreeing with them, really, or that I think every song needs to be theological treatise.  It’s just that good songwriting is somewhat of a rarity both in the Church and outside of it.  So when I do find a worship song or album that is exceptional, I think it’s worth pointing out.

I picked up Ten Shekel Shirt’s newest album, Jubilee, this week, and I have to say it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite worship albums.  I think the thing that sets it apart from other albums is that the groups principle songwriter, Lamont Hiebert, made a choice on this album to get away from songs that are just about “me and Jesus” and focus on some larger themes of injustice, slavery, redemption, and deliverence.  It also doesn’t hurt that the instrumentation is well done.

The one song that I can’t get out my head is called “You Rescue”.

YouTube Preview Image

You Rescue
Ten Shekel Shirt

Some choices I have made brought pain
But you will never stop restoring what’s been lost
So I will boast of Your saving deeds
And I will rave of Your glory

‘Cause You rescue
You redeem
You save
You intervene
You rescue
You redeem
Our lives’ stories

Damage done to me was not Your dream
Innocence has died but is risen from the dead
So I will boast
Of your saving deeds
And I will shout of Your glory

‘Cause You rescue
You redeem
You save
You intervene
You rescue
You redeem
Our lives’ stories

Come rescue
And redeem
Come save
And intervene
Come rescue
And redeem
Our lives’ stories

I pray that this song is a blessing to you, and I pray that we will remember that our calling is to join with God as works to bring beauty, restoration, and redemption to a fallen world.

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[Disclaimer or something like it. I realize that such blog posts as the one you are about to read are fraught with danger. Being transparent and honest about our struggles in a public forum exposes one to many dangers. I'm willing to take that risk in this post because I'm convinced that most of you who visit here love me enough to bear with my periodic confessions of weakness without judging me too harshly. Grace and Peace.]

Little League and the Christian Pilgrimage

I am coaching little league this year. We have played 15 games, had two games rained out, and have three remaining on the calendar. My team was an expansion team. Last season, we had enough boys sign up to fill out two rosters of about 12 boys per team. This year, we had so many sign up to play that we filled out three rosters of 12 each. My team consists mostly of first year players, well, first year at this level which is Junior Boys Division One or 13-14 year-olds.

One of the teams in our community had, I believe, 9 returning players and the other team had 7. I have 12 boys, all first year 13 year olds. I love those boys. Managing a little league team is mostly about managing personalities (of the parents too!) and managing the numbers such as pitch count and innings played. At the Junior’s level, play becomes far more competitive. The standings mean something, the score counts, and individual play counts for tournament consideration.

I went into the season, despite what I knew, with a cautious optimism. I hate losing and I thought perhaps if I rubbed enough of that enthusiasm off on my team that they would play harder and faster. I thought, seriously, we could compete-even with the big boys. Through the first 8 games or so I was actually right. We were 5-3. The first game we played was on the road and we crushed them: 17-4. We were, all of us, in a great mood. Love abounded in the dugout that night.

After our eighth game, however, baseball became a chore. We have lost 7 straight games. We have been run-ruled 5 times and we have lost two games in the bottom of the seventh inning after tying or leading in the top of the seventh inning. Currently, in case you cannot add, we are 5-10. I love my team.

During the stretch of 7 consecutive losses things have been rather tough. We lost one player for the last 5 games to a vacation. We lost another young man when he ended up in the hospital because his hemoglobin dropped way below safe levels and needed transfusions and a bone marrow biopsy. Our latest blow was when our starting first baseman broke his finger. We only carry a roster of 12 boys; 3 are out. Things are tough all over for our team. I’m sure these three would rather be playing ball. I love these boys.

A big part of managing a little league baseball team is in managing personalities and egos. Some kids are ‘better’ than others; some are not. Some kids think they ‘deserve’ to play more than others; others are happy to be on a team. Some kids’ parents think their children’s, well, let’s just say their kids never make an error or throw the ball in the dirt or strike out with the bases loaded; most do not. Some kids are natural born pessimists (and have inherited it honestly); many have no idea what it means to quit until the umpire says ‘you’re out!’ or the sun goes down or the last inning is played or the last ball is lost over the fence. I love those kids.

I love those kids who have no quit in them, who play hard regardless of how poorly ‘we’ play. I love those kids who keep on laughing even when we are crushed by a lopsided score. I love those kids who keep on going up to bat after striking out 20 straight times. I love those kids who still think we can win even when the opposing coach has his players stealing home despite the fact that he is already winning by 8 runs. I love those boys who hustle off the field because ‘it’s our turn to bat!’ I love those boys who turn their hats inside out and believe, even though batters 7, 8, and 9 are coming up and we need 9 runs in order not to be run-ruled, that we have a shot at the win. I love those who get really angry with me when they have to sit because I need to get other players fielding time (per little league rules). I love those boys, pitchers, who want the ball when we are playing the toughest team in the league. I love those boys who hate losing even though that is all that seems to happen. I love those boys who hustle out a foul ball and don’t stop running until blue says, “Foul!” I love those boys who, after a crushing defeat, still have the nerve to run up to their teammates after the game and tackle them in the grass. I love those boys.

I love those boys who know what it means to win and never take it for granted because those are the boys who never quit. They never stop running, catching, throwing, and hitting. Nor do they stop smiling, laughing, and loving. They pick up their teammates when they’re down. They show up at the next game with a clean uniform, a glove, a smile, and a ‘where do you need me to play tonight, coach?’ I love those boys.

These are the ones who continue to believe we can win even when all external indicators point in exactly the opposition direction.

It is terribly difficult to want to show up for three more games when all outward appearances seem to be dictating that we will end our season, at best, 6-12 or 6-14 if we make up two rain-outs. It’s difficult to show up for three more games when you know you are going to be stuck in the outfield for 21-35 more innings. Baseball will break your heart, said A. Bart Giamatti. And even though I’m no fan of the late Giamatti (he banned Pete Rose from baseball), I agree with him 100%. It’s hard to find passion in something that continues to beat you down, game after game, inning after inning, pitch after pitch. How I love those boys who find a way to keep going back on that field that continues to break their hearts; those boys who continue working on their game and making every play even when the team is losing.

It’s terribly difficult to want to coach when there are some around who don’t think it even worth the effort. It’s terribly difficult to love those who are natural born pessimists, but as a manager I am called to do so anyhow. It’s easy to coach the lovable, the excitable, the manageable, the hard-worker, the player; the winners. It’s terribly difficult to coach the perpetually negative; the losers. Anyone would want to coach Derek Jeter; not too many would want to coach Barry Bonds.

And it’s like that in our pilgrimage too. It’s easy to love the lovable. Not so easy to love the unlovable.

I can love those folks who crank out an enthusiastic ‘Great sermon Pastor!’ all day long. It is much harder to love those who show up but never uncross their arms or wipe the scowl off their face or sing a song or even say hello or are more interested in where to go for lunch than they are about the call to put feet to faith.

I have to be honest: I’m not there yet. I am a complete failure in that regard. I know I should. I know the Spirit enables me. I know they need to be loved. But Oh, God it is so difficult. It is so hard to love those who know better and act worse. It’s terribly difficult to love those who show up at board meetings but won’t show up for worship. It’s hard to love those who do not love you. Seriously. It is beyond imagination hard.

Love is such a strange thing. If I love those contrary people…am I not giving up my rights? Am I not allowing my ego to be destroyed? What about my pride? I happen to know for a fact that I am right. Oh God this twisting inside me is killing me. I want so badly for God to do what is right and yet the only thing that seems to be making progress is the weakness that is pushing me closer and closer to the edge of a breakdown.

I keep telling God, “God, why won’t you do what is right?” And all I keep hearing him say in response is, “Why are you not loving my people? Those people, yes, those people.” “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4). Or, maybe it’s, “I am unwilling-why should I? I clench my teeth and harden my heart.”

Jesus could have said anything else to us; frankly I wish he had. He could have given us any other command or any other idea or any other teaching or any other way of demonstration. But he didn’t. He didn’t. He didn’t. The one he gave is the one that is killing me, killing us, killing the church because it is the one that is daily refused, especially here in the blog world, to be practiced.

“Love one another.”

He didn’t tell us to discriminate or separate the church into groups of sheep and goats and only love the lovely.

“Love one another.”

Die to your life; kill your pride. Love those he loved. Love those he died for. Feed his sheep. Lord, do you know what you are asking?

“Love one another.”

Lord, isn’t there some other way for me to show you that I love you? Can’t I memorize a book of the Bible instead? Isn’t a clanging cymbal a nice thing at times?

“Love one another.”

Lord, I can’t. They have hurt me. It’s a matter of principle. What about truth? What about right? Lord why do you seem to care more about their feelings than mine?

“Love one another.”

Lord, you are killing me. I’m dying here. I can’t breathe. I have no strength to do what you are asking.

“Love one another.”

Lord, they don’t. They make no effort. They don’t even care if I love them. They are sinning.

“Love one another.”

Lord, have mercy. Isn’t there some other way? How about if I serve poor people? Or give my body to save a dying person? How about if I preach a sermon in Greek? How about if I explain in great detail your Scriptures and defend truth?

“Love one another.”

“Love one another.”

______________________

See you at the field, thursday evening. I’ll be there. Managing. Coaching. Loving…all my boys.

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I have no idea who Paul Walker is, nor do I know anything about the church he shepherds other than it must be in the SBC. However, this post over at CR?N leads me to believe it must be an exceedingly mature and spiritual fellowship. While many pastors deal with conflicts over musical style, the ubiquitous need for more teachers in the children’s classes, finances, divorce, porn use among Christian men, real issues etc… Walker’s biggest concern within his church seems to be labyrinth walking.

Oh, that we all had such problems!

Basically Paul Walker is upset that a publication of the SBC for women endorsed both the Lectio Divina and labyrinth walking. What I found particularly fascinating was Walker’s urgency. “Red flags appeared” when he saw an article titled Reclaim Meditation. “Worse than [his] worst fears were realized” when Walker discovered that the article went straight to Lectio Divina and (horror of horrors) – “labyrinth-walking!” This is worse than his worst fears?  He can really think of nothing worse?

Walker takes the ADM Party line and follows the ADM SOP. He first belittles the practice – calling “contemplative prayer, silence or solitude” drivel. Never mind the fact that meditation is a biblical concept, never mind the fact that Jesus frequently got away from the crowds and even his own disciples for some solitude… that’s all drivel. Just the fact that an article on meditation would raise red flags is nearly comical – what next, red flags on reclaiming prayer? Probably, if said prayer is not “practiced” in the party sanctioned method.

Walker continues the ADM SOP by a) not bothering to describe the contents of the Lectio Divina, nor the steps in the labyrinth, b) failing to make a case for why either the Lectio Divina, or labyrinth walking should be repented of, and c) a condescending personal swipe at those who disagree.

I am fully aware of the standard objection of the labyrinth. Since when did our (or their) faith become so weak that anything first used by non-Christians cannot be employed by the faithful? Since when did our (or their) faith become so weak that even biblical concepts such as contemplation are now raise red flags base on some guilt by association?  Since when did we need to repent of following a set path and pondering the greatness of God?

I have no doubt that many new-agers use labyrinths in the pursuit of unbiblical spirituality… and probably some churches abuse them as well… but seriously, does this really mean that (because of their misuse) no Christian can walk a circular path and contemplate God’s greatness?

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Sometimes Guilt by Association is enough and no further comment is needed.  On CRN? the “editor” posted an excerpt of a story about Evangelicals adopting Advent.  When I followed the link, I discovered it was not an excerpt but the whole story.  The story is simply “Evangelicals are adopting and adapting Advent rituals.”  No reason is given by either the editor or the watcher why this is an issue except the tag that these are Roman Catholic rituals.  Apparently GBA stands on its own.

What both sites fail to do (as usual) is to exercise true discernment and investigate how Advent is being adopted and adapted by Evangelicals… What meanings are being taught, what practices are being adopted, how are they being adapted to take them from a Roman Catholic ritual into an evangelical experience…?  but then again, that’s probably moot – if the Catholics do it (or ever did) we should not.

When you focus on external behaviors regardless of meaning, when you assume that your way of doing things is the only true way regardless of biblical teaching, when you narrow the method of true worship to a certain time and a certain place… you are forced into a pretty narrow (and extra-biblical) definition of what is orthopraxy – acceptable practices.

It’s a shame to see the worship of God limited to the praxis developed by a Western Culture in a period after the 16th Century but before the 1960’s – anything before this period is too Roman… anything after is too everything else… What a burden they bear, to constantly lift their own cultural praxis to the level of orthpraxis while also constantly making sure the immutable God does not escape from the box they have created for him.

BTW – our thoroughly evangelical and orthodox church has been observing advent for 17 years… I guess we’re ahead of the apostasy wave… who knew?

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Since we are exegeting the recent post at SOL and their most recent display of tearing down the fellowship of Christ’s blood, I’ll join in with another observation.

As an introductory aside the author (presumably Ingrid Schlueter since no byline is given) makes this comment: “You can forward past the out of tune guitar and singer…” This statement betrays the condescending and judgmental attitude of the author. If the thesis of the post was, say… “We should honor God by singing in tune…” then an out-of-tune guitar and singer would be a relevant comment. But that was not the point.

The only conclusion we can come to is that the author was not satisfied with just condemning what is perceived as an inappropriate method of delivering God’s Word (can anyone say “Let’s all focus on the externals”?) – Nay, she had to mock a fellow believer in Christ as he worshipped.

It’s one thing if Schlueter dislikes the style of another part of the Body… it’s a shame when she fails to look past stylistically determined differences and judges them based on an external criteria of her own preferences and culture… it’s just plain immature and a sin when she mocks and insults a brother in Christ, a fellow believer who is worshipping her (and his) God through her (and his) Savior – all because she feels his abilities are not up to her standards.

P. S. I thought the song sounded fine, guess that shows far I have fallen from our Lord as well…

UPDATE: Ingrid has said the criticism of the guitar player was a joke, so I’ll take her at her word (charitable reading).

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Coat & Tie RequiredWhile on vacation, I watched a recording (NACC08-W429) of Bob Russell (retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church of Louisville, which runs about 18,000 on Sunday morning) speaking on worship styles at the North American Christian Convention a few weeks ago. In it, he had a lot of good things to say to folks on all sides of “worship debates” – style, dress, etc.

One quote I absolutely loved.

Russell was orienting a new pastor to the SCC staff -

New pastor: I don’t think I can wear a suit and tie – it’s not authentic, and it feels somewhat hypocritical

BR: If you were going to meet President Bush, wouldn’t you wear a suit and tie?

NP: (pause for thought) Not if he was my father…

Russell commented that he’s still not come up with a good response to this. Needless to say, the point was made.

He did go on to say that, while you aren’t likely to find suits & ties on stage at SCC on Sunday morning, you also won’t find folks looking like they just rolled out of bed or in anything risque or suggestive. He had a number of excellent points and suggestions for leading churches through the waters of “worship wars” within minimal disruption to the body – finding a way to be respectful of the old and young, alike.

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For someone who complains about churches being man-centered, this rant certainly seems like it’s putting the author’s wants and needs first and foremost in the selection of a church.

Maybe this is why they get so ticked off when Rick Warren says it’s not about them…

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Here’s an idea. Let’s go back through historical church eras and glean from such time periods those issues deemed to be of value in the development of the Christian faith. Let’s review the first-century church, the church between A.D. 100 and 600, then consider the medieval era (A.D. 700 to 1500), followed by the Reformation period (A.D. 1500 and later), and so on. To be effective in this endeavor, it’s important to have a good understanding of the cultural context in which the Christians of each era practiced their faithT. A. McMahon

It started with such promise, a suggestion to study history and glean what is of value.  McMahon even proposes making sure we understand the cultural context so the gleaning can be more accurate.  Here’s an idea… and it’s a good one: Learn from the past.

But then, after a brief history of the recent upsurge in interest in the ancient church, the article takes an unfortunate but certainly predestined twist.  Apparently learning from the past is not a good idea.

First to be assaulted is Richard Foster who “wrote Celebration of Discipline. His book, which introduced Catholic and occult meditative techniques to evangelicals” – problem #1… gba assertions without foundation or support.  Just what did/does Foster promote that is of the occult?  And techniques must be bad if they were used by Catholics?

Problem #2 follows shortly thereafter… false dichotomies.

Let’s both reason from the Scriptures, and simply be reasonable (Isaiah 1:18). The Ancient-Future search to discover gems from “Classic Christianity” comes up short by a century — the century in which the New Testament was written. The critical difference should be obvious. The writers of the New Testament were inspired by the Holy Spirit as they penned God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21, 22). What writings from A.D. 100 and later can claim such inspiration? None

McMahon is right, there is a critical difference between the inspired writings of the Apostles and those who followed.  Problem is, no one is saying that the Church Fathers are on par with the Apostles.  I pondered this a bit trying to decide if it is a straw-man, or a false dichotomy.  I chose the latter since McMahon argues against a point no one is making.

The bulk of the rest of the article is a series of mostly ad hominem attacks against ancient church celebrities.  How did the Gospel ever survive until Luther?

 The summation lies in his final question: “Will this soon pass? No. It’s all part of related agendas that are building the end-times apostate church (Revelation 13:8).” I guess it only goes to show that you will indeed see what you are looking for.

P.S. – I found the McMahon article through Ingrid’s link here - though she fails to give any substantial reasoning, she does a much better job at listing the heretics

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