10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
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If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
2AEEA65E-713E-4DC9-8156-81B6B52CD1D6
Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Why We Should Get Rid of “Church”…

The primary purpose for our founders in creating The Salvation Army was to be a Lighthouse, a beacon to the lost.  We were founded to help the lost, the drowning the marginalized in society…those who were not welcome in Church.  We are a holiness movement, and our origin story is all about gap ministry.   We go to places that the Church has forgotten or, in some cases, refused to go.
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Why then do we make it such a focus to emulate or replicate the Church?
I do not wish to disparage any church but as a practice, many times Church (big C) gets it wrong.  The Salvation Army was created to be a “door-opener”  – a ministry in which people felt comfortable with, where lives were being touched because the physical needs were met first.  But over time, I feel that we started looking around at the explosive growth of churches and mega churches and longed to be like them…when our mission and vision is nothing like them.   It’s like this:  We are all a member of the Body of Christ, some are the hands, some are the feet…but what happens when the hands look over and see the feet and they begin to try and act like feet?  What happens is we have a polarizing body that is not functioning as it was intended to function.  This is what I believe has become our downfall as an Army.  We were called to be the hands of Christ to the unchurched, to the depraved, to the marginalized of society…but we are trying to act and look like another ministry.

Getting Rid of “Church”
1.  Stop labeling “Worship” only what we do with music…
worshipWe need to rid ourselves of the Church of the worship of music!
Worship is so much more than music on Sunday mornings.  Worship is not just your praise band or your brass band and special music.  Worship IS holistic and it encompasses every aspect of who we are as Soldiers of this Army, just as Holiness is our aim in every facet of life!  Worship is the response to God’s wondrous love for us.  We worship in the van as we pick up people for Holiness meeting.  We worship as we go to midweek bible study or other such programs.  We worship as we clean the corps bathrooms (this might sound funny, but we once had a blind janitor who could be heard singing hymns of praise while he clean the toilets and washed walls – he taught me a lot about worship).  brass

2.  Stop thinking Church as only what we do on Sunday…
This notion of “Church” really should be eliminated so that we can get on with going for souls and going for the worst!  Church is NOT what we do on Sundays!  We worship the Lord on our Sunday Sabbath day.  We collectively get together on this day and sing, pray, encourage one another and hear a message…but Church is not only a Sunday thing.  We we have this mindset that Sunday is separate from the rest of the week, and that “Church” should only occur on Sunday then we have lost our mission as an Army.  Getting rid of this notion of “Church” will open up the possibilities that our Soup Kitchen days, and our Food Pantry days, and our youth program days…IS ALL MINISTRY!!  Every facet of these vital “soup, soap, salvation” elements is another opportunity to share Christ, disciple lives and encourage the downtrodden.  This is what Church should’ve been…and what we ought to strive to BE.    Your congregation is NOT Sunday, but everyday – everyone who comes to your corps, who receives services, who asks for help, They are your congregation!

3.  Create Community Not Programs!
programsWe as an Army are so good at creating programs.
We have programs for everything – we even have programs for programs.
It is not the Army’s mission to create more programs, it is our mission to create community and save souls in Jesus’ name!  When we aren’t engaging our community with the elements we are using, perhaps it’s time to rid ourselves of the Church of Programs!!
Programs can become our Church and we are so caught up in our program bubbles that we cannot see what families and individuals are truly in need of.  We think, we’ll just start a new program to reach them, when in reality what every person craves is a place to belong and to find encouragement and feel that they are a member of the community.

4.  Create an Environment of Ownership!own
Lieutenants, Captains, Majors & perhaps a few Colonels & Commissioners – We must stop trying to run everything ourselves.  Stop micromanaging.  The Army, at times, worships at the Church of the Micromanagers and we must rid ourselves of this Church!!  What we do by micromanaging is create a corps of dependency.  By this I mean is the attitude or belief becomes “since the Officer runs keyeverything, we can sit back and watch since they don’t need me anyway.”  If you have doers in your corps, they will quickly become frustrated and perhaps seek somewhere else that they will be used.  Stop micromanaging and start delegating leadership and other duties to others in your corps!  Begin to create the environment of ownership.

Do you remember what Jesus did when they were facing a mass feeding problem of about 5,000+ people?  He didn’t immediately take charge, instead he went to his disciples and said, “feed these people”.  Of course the disciples were in shock and did not know how to proceed, the cost was too high and they only had five loaves and two fish.  But do you remember what Jesus did with their effort?  He multiplied it.  

In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit will do that in our corps too when there is an investment and ownership by others.  We as officers and leaders have to relinquish our drive for perfection and our grip on authority and allow others to be discipled and in turn they will own their shared portions of responsibility.

I know there is much more to cover on this topic.
What other Churches do we worship at that we should rid ourselves of?
We are a gap ministry, a safe harbor for hurting people to come and find a home.
The Salvation Army needs to rid itself of Church so that it can fully embrace its Holiness as a Movement of Christ.

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
What do you think?  Tell us by commenting, offering your thoughts and opinions.

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*Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are the thoughts and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.* 

Dear Salvation Army Officers: 4 Reasons Not To Leave Officership

**This blog entry is Officer specific, but this can be applied to soldiers as well! **

Dear Salvation Army Officer who is on the verge of resigning…this is for you.
Stop and consider these words before you make that phone call or write that email or letter.  I know that officership is hard.  Ministry in general is hard.  We sometimes face pressures from many different places – the corps, headquarters, a disgruntled employee or volunteer, a public figure who you don’t see eye to eye with.  It seems as if almost every area of ministry we find opposition.  There are certainly joys in ministry as well, but for a few minutes let me highlight 4 reason NOT to leave officership!  First of all, if you were called into this ministry by God these next four reasons I list below should be reasons that you stay and fight for not only This army, but for your purpose as an officer!

  1. boss Bullies
    Bullies come in all shapes and sizes.  Bullies in the community that push around people who come to your corps.  There might be bullies IN your corps.  You might encounter bullies at your headquarters by way of department heads or even the occasional leader.  Unfortunately, bullies do not discriminate, and if you are making waves for Christ in what you do, then you will most likely encounter these bullies.  Never leave the Army because you encountered a bully.  The Army isn’t just compromised of people – we don’t stay because we necessarily always like each other either, and we might not always agree with each other.   No, instead we stay because we believe in this movement as an Army despite people sometimes….even other officers or leaders who have hurt you or done things that were ungodly to you.  Do not leave these ranks because of bullies within them or in your appointment.  Stand up, unite with other like minded officers and soldiers and find your strength to fight on.I cannot stand a bully, especially a bully with any ounce of power.  Most bullies are weak minded, power hungry, insecure individuals.  I feel, even in this army we tolerate this kind of person more than we should instead of dealing with them directly.  Many an officer has either considered leaving or has left because of how a bully has treated them.  I also say this to any officer who would take up a mantel of leadership:  fight for the little guy, remember what corps were like, understand how each soldier feels when they come to you for help…don’t lose sight of the army’s mission as a mighty movement known as The Salvation Army!
  2. Politics:
    Do not leave these ranks because of church politics.  politicsEvery church has these political decisions that we may not always agree with.  At the end of the day our Army is still run by people who are imperfect.  I would say that most are here for the right reasons and that decisions made from the corps level on up to IHQ have been made with much prayer and careful thought.  Have there been instances of personal kingdom making in the army through politicing?  YES of course, but do not allow these small instances to disillusion you and make you resign your commission as an officer!  Also keep in mind that what we might perceive as bad politics, might be something that is aimed at a long range vision for our mission.  Pray for your corps.  Pray for your leaders.  Pray for those instances when church politics does not have your best interest in mind.  Ask God to help you to not only be a holy force for change in the Army, but that you might show mercy and grace in the process.  You can be a change agent in the Army if you remain and fight…so fight on!
  3. Favoritism: favoritism
    Just as politics happens in all organizations and churches, so does favoritism.  It is sometimes ugly, painful, and wrong…but it can happen.  I’m not saying that it always does happen, but when it does don’t allow this to be the deciding factor in your exit strategy as an officer!  It happened in the early church and it still happens in all levels of the Army.  There are many godly men and women who fight against this and are principled in stopping these kinds of things, but know that it may still occur from time to time.  Be aware of favoritism when it happens, but don’t be bothered by it.  Move on, remember your calling isn’t first to leadership or even the Army, it is to God…so be faithful to that, be consistent to that and do your very best for the Lord.  His favor will always shine on the faithful!  Keep on keeping on!
  4. Perceptions:
    perceptionDespite how others might “perceive” you or use the term “perception”, do not allow it to discourage you or cause you to quit.  If you are a kingdom builder, then you will face the occasional criticism or erroneous perception of you.  Use a discernment filter in your mind to filter out what is truth and what is perceived truth – these words are not mutually exclusive or even the same.   If a perception is true then perhaps the Holy Spirit is working on you through others, if the perception is not true, then do not allow it to consume you with discouragement which could lead to your early exit via a letter of resignation.
    perceptUse two measures of truth:

    Titus 1:7 – “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,”

    Micah 6:8 – “He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?”

    If we apply these two passages of truth in our lives then other people’s opinions and perceptions of us (even those within the leadership spectrum) will either be true or untrue.  If we are above reproach, if we are humble and a lover of mercy, then we will take perceptions of us with a grain of salt, and allow the untruths to roll off of our backs like water on a duck.

    Stand firm, dear Officer.  
    You are vitally important to this movement!  You have not signed your allegiance to any one person in the army, nor will you be moved by any one poor example listed above!  Know that we as an army will sometimes become more concerned with our inner struggles that we will lose sight of our mission and vision for the World.  So look up, keep your focus on the outcomes of the good that you are doing.  Work hard.  Take your days of respite and self-care.  Pray for your appointments, the people in them, those you encounter in our community, pray also for your leaders and the leadership of this global army.  We do not need more officers walking out frustrated, worn out and feeling crushed…no, we need more weathered officers who will stand firm, fight hard and not giving up or caving to the trappings of an ever growing and progressing army!

    Something more for our Army to ponder today.
    May God continue to bless you, dear Officer!

    *Disclaimer:  The opinions and thoughts expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army, but rather the opinions and thoughts of this writer.  Reader discretion is advised.*

3 Worship Songs God Hates

tredWe must tread lightly here, for to insinuate that we know the mind of God is dangerous territory.  However, what we know of Him and that of human interaction with the Almighty, there are certainly forms of worship God hates.  Do you think the term “hate” is too strong?  Does God hate?

There are many scriptures that describes the displeasure of God.
One prime example of this is Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

So with that being said, are there things that God hates?
I believe the answer is YES!

Can we then describe moments in worship and in song that could displease God?  Absolutely!  I should also clarify that the term “Worship Song” could be anything we do as we sing to God.  It can contemporary, it can be traditional, or somewhere in the middle.  Are there other things in “worship” other than song?  Of course, but just for this discussion, we are zeroing in on the topic of “Song”…

Here are 3 Worship Songs God Hates: 
Allow me to preface this with the following statement: If you were looking for specific names of songs that God possibly hates, sorry…that’s not what this particular blog post is about.  Again, sorry to disappoint you, I won’t be roasting the latest Chris Tomlin song here today.

But here is what I think are 3 Worship Songs God Hates and why…

1  Songs Sung Out Of Obligation
Have you ever gotten up on a Sunday morning to lead worship and the songs you have selected aren’t really resonating with you?  Sometimes it could be that we are just out of sync with our walk with the Lord…there are certainly seasons of life, and not everything is flowersgoing to be peachy.  But I believe God hates obligatory worship.  Imagine if I were to give flowers to my wife simply because it’s the right thing to do, not that I want to, but rather because it’s expected.  How do you think she would feel if, as I gave her the flowers, I said; “Here’s you weekly obligatory flower arrangement dear!”?  Do you think she would enjoy them and feel loved in my gift of those flowers?  Of course not!

In a way, when we sing songs of worship and adoration to God because we feel obligated, it’s like giving Him flowers that mean nothing to us and are given out of ritual not love and appreciation.  God doesn’t want our obligatory worship songs and our meaningless attempts at worship – He wants it to mean something to us, something that aren’t just meaningless utterances of lyric lines and memorized scriptures.  God hates obligatory praise!

2. Songs Sung Out Love For The Song
Which do we worship, God or our favorite song?
I’m not saying this happens all of the time, but sometimes those worship songs (or even hymns) we sing can become a false idol of our worship.  We just don’t “feel” it when we aren’t singing just the right songs…but if that all time “fav” comes up – we are rockin’ and rollin’ with our hands raised high.  hands

Let me ask a question – is it God that we worship or the song that we sing?
I would hope our answer would be “God”, but there is a danger of placing our favorite song on a place of worship instead of God himself.  God hates the worship of idols – He is truly jealous for our worship and that of us.  He wants all there is of us, not a portion – but our EVERYTHING!  I fear at times, we place the love for a song over the love for God.  Our worship cannot simply revolve around our emotions and how WE feel…We are to worship Him REGARDLESS of how we feel.  Perhaps that is the toughest thing to do, yet through discipline and perseverance, we can!

3. Songs Sung To Display Talent (The Concert Performance)
worshipWorship leader – beware!  Worship was never about how good YOU sing or how Awesome your Guitaring or Piano-ing is… Seriously, if all we do in worship is try to emulate a Hillsong or Jesus culture/David Crowder concert, then we’re going about it all wrong and we need to stop!

Jesus called the Pharisees praying loudly in the streets so that everyone could hear and see them – Hypocrites or Actors.  He certainly had a lot of harsh words to say to those kinds of people – people who knew better.  He even went so far as to call them a brood of vipers.  God abhors actors, fakers and hypocrites.  hypocriteOur worship of God ought not to be a circus displaying our vast array of talents for the world to see.  Real worship isn’t about a concert or our aspirations to be the next big thing in the Top Ten CCLI Worship Leaders.  All these things are earthly desires – as we strive for human accolades and praise.

Such things do not attempt to elevate the name of Jesus, but rather promote our name to the masses.  In the words of U2 “Then they put Jesus in show business, now it’s hard to get in the door…” (God Would Send His Angels, U2)

God hates performances by actors and hypocrites that should have been about who He is, not who the performers are.  Where is the depth of worship here?  I’ll tell you – it’s about an inch deep and a yard wide.  Do our best?  Absolutely!  But if what we do is called “Worship” but it’s not God we are adoring but rather the music and our abilities on stage, then perhaps it’s time to reassess and realign our motivation and goals once again.

Well, we have strolled lightly here today.
The Bottom line, God doesn’t want any substitutes or consolation prizes – He wants our hearts and our attention.  Are there times when we worship with a divided heart or mind?  Are our motivators God honoring or human praise seeking?

What do YOU think?
Something more to ponder today.
God Bless You!

“Undoing Church” 4 Ways We Miss The Mark

Sometimes I wonder if Church, the way it is right now, is the way Christ intended it to be.  What I mean is, over time the early “Christians” met in houses and broke bread together, sang some songs of praise and prayed together…but soon the incorporation of “things” and “elements” within those worship settings were added.  These things and elements aren’t a bad thing, but what if those things and elements begin to shape our worship so much so that now we have actually lost some of what “Church” was supposed to be in the first place?  What if  Church has become so mainstream and so institutionalized that we have lost some of its initial significance and power?

Ear Phones, Tangles & Church
If you’re anything like me you probably have some of these:earlying around your home.
They are really pesky to keep straightened out.
They can become easily tangled by just putting them down on the kitchen counter or in the dreaded pocket of your jeans.  Undoing the tangles on these earbuds is a necessity in order to use them properly.  If we allow them to remain tangled or if we yank them apart in frustration we will most likely break them.

This simple illustration is kind of how I see the Church today.
We’re often times just a big, frustrating tangled mess.
We have allowed some elements and even the institutionalization of the Church to become so embroiled in complications, rituals and non-biblical traditions that these sacred cows have entangled us and restrained us from experiencing what true “Church” is all about.

We think that everything points to what we do on Sunday morning in our very rigid “bulletin” format.
We think that what we do in these elements is what matters most…but if nothing translates from ritual to spiritual disciplines and real life application in our lives, then it is all for naught.

So…perhaps instead of tightening our rigid formats in worship we need to undo them.
Perhaps part of the dwindling attendances on Sundays has less to do with “worship styles” and “cultural distractions” and more to do with our complicated worship practices and formats.

I am not saying that we toss the baby out with the bath water…but perhaps the bath water is tired, dirty and cold, if you know what I mean.  Why do we do what we do on Sundays?  Is it because that’s the way we’ve always done it?  Is it because this is what feels comfortable to us?  Is it because we’re mandated by the powers that be to conduct our services this way?  Are we so tangled up in complicated knots that we wouldn’t even want our families who don’t go to church to come to our services?
mark
4 Ways we miss the mark: 
1.  Beating the same, tired, broken drum.  drum
I won’t beat up on traditional music, there is still a place for it.
Music is vital, but it is not our focal point in worship.  It ought to lead the worshiper towards what God is saying…it should never be a performance to show off the talents of the few.  The drum we beat that is tired and old actually lies in our format of worship.  There is this sort of rigid format that we follow every Sunday where we always have the message at the end, and before that we sing a song, and before that we have the bible reading…and so on.  It’s a worn and beaten path.  It gets old.  It’s a tired and broken drum.  Sometimes I believe we lose the significance of our worship if we don’t change things up.  I believe that we can lose new comers, not because of the content of our service, but because of how we – the long timers – respond to it in our own hearts and expression.  If the drum is broken, if worship is mundane and uninteresting, if we just keep plodding along like a tired mule on a familiar path, then, perhaps it’s time to change.

We also miss the mark many times because –
change2.  We fear change so we lag behind
We don’t want to upset the apple cart.
We don’t want to “break with tradition” even when “tradition” has nothing to do with the true origins of Christian worship.  So, because of this fear of changing, we drag our feet for as long as possible.  This is just one more rung in the clumpy, tangled mess of the church.  Sometimes it’s not so much culture that is prodding us to change and adapt, but it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the prodding.  Even then, the steeped traditions and tired drums keep being played without so much as a cadence change.  Our fear of change as a body of believers might be the death of us.  I might receive some negative criticism for this, but I believe it doesn’t make it less true.  I have said it before and I will say it again that I despise the phrase “We have never done it that way before” …which sometimes translates as “We’re not about to try either!
Perhaps, in the undoing of church, we ought to be less fearful of change and more fearful of not changing and adapting as the Lord leads us.

3. We fear change in our church because of what denominational leaders might think leaders
Dare I say that “undoing the church” isn’t only about addressing the fear of change, but it is also about addressing this misguided notion about fear of what institutional and denominational leadership might think.  I am not advocating anarchy or rebellion against leadership, in fact, for the most part, God has placed leaders in those positions for specific tasks and they should be honored and respected…but…if we spend so much time pleasing our leaders and worrying about what THEY will think or say, I believe we will have lost our way and will have only added to the tangled mess that is the church today.   Yes, denominational leaders set the vision and motivation for the churches but we in those churches must meet the communities in which we live.  We must be innovators of the Word of God.  We must please God and fear Him above all else.  We must move when He asks us to move.  We must change when He prods us to adjust.

bubble4.  Our focus is inward instead of outward
Another way in which we miss the mark is the internal focus of our mission.
We, as a church, can become so internally focused that we lose the great commission unless it means the “lost” come to our doors.  I find this inward focus to be extremely entangling and detrimental to our mission as a church!  We must be welcoming of new comers to our worship services, while at the same time be community focused and attempting to serve the needs of others.   Sometimes, when our church has been a long-time established we can have this air about us…that we are “amazing” and think “why wouldn’t people want to come to us?“; or even ask condescendingly (God forbid we ever say this) “well those people really wouldn’t fit in here!”  Do cliques occur in church?  I wish I could say “no” but as sure as they exist in schools, they are in church as well!  Sometimes these cliques are inclusive of new members and many times (without saying so) they are not.  We miss the mark of true “Church” when we lose the love of the “outsiders” and instead insulate ourselves inside our own glass bubbles.

If we are to “undo” Church, we will need to adjust these issues, and untangle our hearts.
Perhaps we must revamp our worship services even though we fear change.
Perhaps we must question why we do the things we do and what real significance they actually play in leading others to Christ and into a deeper relationship with Him!  If we beat the same drum and refuse to undo church, we could face church extinction…I don’t say that as a threat, it’s just simply the truth…and sometimes the truth hurts.

Something more to ponder today!
God bless you!

Dear Salvation Army, Has Music Become Our Idol?

brassIt is iconic.
The brass bands playing music on the street corner, reminiscent of the bygone era of open air meetings.
We gather together for territorial and even international events and the brass band is there also.
I am not disparaging the usage of music in ministry, but could such a use become an idol?
It almost sounds absurd doesn’t it?  …but could it?  is it?
Every denomination has its sacred cows of sorts…The Salvation Army is no exception.

Question:
How do we prevent possible sacred cows from overshadowing its real intend and purpose?

Truth be told ANYTHING can become an idol if it becomes the focal point, and in essence becomes the thing which is worshiped.  If your corps were to worship its tithing process on a Sunday morning (as crazy as that sounds) the focal point or the reason for giving would take a back seat while the process of “giving” becomes THE MAIN THING.   It has then become your idol.

Music:  band
No matter if your corps’ Holiness/Salvation Meeting is modern and thrives upon the usage of a praise band or if your corps  has a brass band for worship – these tools of the sacred, used improperly, can become our idols of worship if we are not careful.  Use them wisely!  Don’t use them haphazardly.  Remember that music is not about the performance (it’s not a concert) it is about ushering people into the presence of God!!

All of the elements within a worship setting ought to be mere conduits pointing to the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  If they do not point to Him, but instead take His place (either by accident or on purpose) these elements should be re-evaluated and carefully retooled.

news
Worship is NOT about playing the appropriate amount of songs from the tune book on Sunday morning.
Worship is NOT about having the best brass band in the division.
Worship is NOT about having all of the right musicians on your praise team…and playing all the right modern worship songs.
Worship is NOT about the elements…it is about Christ – and secondly leading soldiers and other members into deeper relationship with Him.  If we lose focus of this, we run the risk of making the elements of worship our idol.

Questions:
Is this a present issue in your corps?
Have you ever witnessed this “Idol worship”?
How might educating worshipers, worship leaders, bandsmen help prevent this from happening?
Are we intentionally using music ministry to lead people into a deeper sense of worship with God?

I must tell you that I absolutely love music and I have nothing against Army music or modern contemporary worship.
These can be wonderful ministry tools if used correctly…but utilized incorrectly could lead to abuse and idols of worship.   God forbid that we make it into something it was never intended to be.

Something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Finding the Melodies of Life (a metaphor of holiness) – Chapter 4 “Blaring for Jesus”

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Chapter 4

Anything Blaring for Jesus”

(Corporate Holiness)

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.” -Halford E. Luccock

 

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”  -Andrew Carnegie

 

There’s an old saying about playing music that goes like this; “If you can’t hear the person next to you, then you’re probably playing too loudly.”  This applies in life under so many different categories as well.  There is a vast difference between hearing something and listening to something.  We can hear background noise, but hearing something does not mean that we are actively applying our sensory perception to that sound.  We hear a multitude of sounds every day all around us, yet we seldom apply our ears to actually listen to these sounds and noises, they are just background noise. 

 

When I was first able to play my cornet in a band setting, I was so proud of myself!  The practices alone in that little chapel had been paying off, and I was getting better at playing that brass instrument.  I could now play my “C” scale with very few mistakes, and my embouchure on that small metallic mouth piece was getting stronger with more confidence.  But there was a real danger in this overconfidence of mine; I wanted everyone to hear how good I was sounding.  I had these dreams of people standing up and applauding my amazing musical abilities, and so when we began to play our first song, “Anything for Jesus” in that little beginner band, I played as loudly as I possibly could.
 
too loud

I don’t think that the musical terminology “triple forte” could even begin to describe how loudly I played that song.  Perhaps a more appropriate description of that moment would be that I blasted the song “Anything for Jesus”…it should have been renamed “blaring for Jesus” right then and there.  The bandmaster stopped the song midway through a measure, and I thought to myself “he’s going to congratulate me on my performance, I hit every note and it sounded great!”  Instead of congratulating me, however, the bandmaster looked at me and said quite solemnly, “Scott, you are playing too loudly, so loudly in fact that I cannot hear anyone else!”  Then he looked at the entire band and said, “If you can’t hear the person next to you, then you are playing too loudly.”  His words stung me for a moment.  I thought I would receive a compliment for all of the hard work that could clearly be heard in the proficiency my playing, but instead I had been told to play softer.  I was so conscious of my own abilities and my own progress that I had failed to see the big picture in this beginner band.  I wanted everyone to hear ME and to say how greatly I had improved but I had failed to understand how important it was for the rest of the band to be heard as well. 

 

The disciples were arguing among themselves as they tried to figure out who would become the greatest in the kingdom.  They had been with Jesus for a while now and perhaps they felt that it was time to have some sort of “disciple midterm exam” to see how they ranked.  What I would have given to be a fly on that wall during that heated discussion, each disciple comparing their accomplishments and achievements, all the while vying for status a position, fame and recognition.  They didn’t get it.  Jesus had not selected His disciples for the purpose of notoriety and fame; instead He had selected those who were willing, those who were available and those who would serve.  Jesus interrupted their dispute because He knew what they were thinking and He responded to their shallowness and appetite for attention: “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”       (Luke 9:48)

 

Jesus still calls us to serve Him and to spread the good news of His mercy and salvation.  But our service isn’t about tooting our own horn for the sake of our glory and positional aspirations!  Corporate holiness has little room for “blaring for Jesus”, but has concert halls ready for the symphonic sounds of togetherness as we collectively strive to reflect Christ. 

 

Much Later

These same disciples, post Ascension of Jesus, were gathered TOGETHER in prayer and complete submission before God.  As they yearned to hear from Him, they were united and joined together, prepared to play a tune that would shake the very foundation of the world…and still that tune is being played.  We call this moment Pentecost, for as they gathered together and yearned and prayed the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were able to speak in the various tongues of those who had gathered in Jerusalem that day.  How were they able to do such an amazing thing that day?  The Holy Spirit did the work, of course, but how did the Holy Spirit fall upon them?  The answer is that they were together, united under one holy purpose and they had become the least of these in their humility and their service before God.  They had stopped blaring their own tune and begun to play the music of a holy calling.   

Ephesians 4:15-16 (NIV)
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

 

There is no doubt that individual holiness is crucial and should always precede corporate holiness, but without corporate holiness the band cannot improve, cannot become cohesive and cannot become synchronized.  We not only have a responsibility to play the music that God has called us play as an individual, but we have a responsibility to play the music in unity, together as a cohesive band.  When we can play the notes as a synchronized, single minded orchestra, the music then can become fuller and more pronounced as does the message of Christ. 

 

What we can learn from the Old Testament Hebrews

The people of Israel, God’s chosen set-apart people, were to exercise qadosh not just as individuals but as a corporate body.  Sometimes we miss the point of why God had called His people to be set-apart.  We often misunderstand this to mean that the Jewish people were the only ones worthy enough of this claim, yet time and again they failed to live up to their calling.  We often misunderstand that their “setting-apart” to mean that they were some sort of exclusive club in which they were to look down their noses at others nations living in that same time and space.  The truth behind God’s purpose for setting the Jews apart was to show the rest of the world how to live.  God was showing the rest of the world how to be restored to their original created intent.  Being set-apart as a corporate body isn’t so that one part of the body can be “blaring for Jesus” and be seen by the rest of the world, but instead the corporate body can properly display and reveal the Holy Christ who brings restoration to everyone seeking Him.  Jesus came for the least of these, and still He desires this reconciliation of the world to Him regardless of race or creed. 

 

How is your corporate holiness today?  Is there cohesiveness and unity in the body of Christ where you serve?  Or are there many cornets blaring for Jesus, out of sync and far too loud for anything else to be heard?  Jesus desires us to play the music He has called us to play.  He desires us to become His reflection in this world and to be joined/grafted into His body which is His mouth piece here on earth.  Unfortunately, this synchronized unity rarely remains intact in churches today.  Oh if we would just humble ourselves, become the least, ready to serve instead of being served.  Perhaps like me you need to stop playing at triple forte so that others in the band can be heard.  Remember, if you can’t hear the person next to you then perhaps you’re playing to loudly.  

 

(tune Anything for Jesus)

Jesus thou hast won us,

Saved us set us free

Now Thy hand upon us,

Bids us follow Thee.

Sin’s dark ways forsaking

Filled with new desire

We, our vows are making

‘Neath the blood and fire.

 

(chorus)

Lord our vow performing

We will fight for Thee

Hell’s dominions storming

Other souls to free

 

2.  Comrades here remind us

We are not alone,

Thou to them dost bind us,

They and we are one;

All, our vows observing,

One great Army make;

Praying, fighting, serving

For thy Kingdom’s sake.

 

3.  On to full salvation,

This shall be our goal;

Thine in consecration,

Body, mind and soul;

On to holy living,

Weakness left behind;

Perfect service giving,

Perfect joy to find.

Previous Chapters:
https://pastorsponderings.org/2014/02/06/finding-the-melodies-of-life-a-metaphor-of-holiness-introduction/
https://pastorsponderings.org/2014/02/07/finding-the-melodies-of-life-a-metaphor-of-holiness-chapter-1/
https://pastorsponderings.org/2014/02/10/finding-the-melodies-of-life-a-metaphor-of-holiness-chapter-2-finding-your-voice/
https://pastorsponderings.org/2014/02/11/finding-the-melodies-of-life-a-metaphor-of-holiness-chapter-3-practice-makes-qadosh/

“Finding the Melodies of Life” (a metaphor of holiness) – Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Orientation

(Music 101)

 “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.” -Michael Jackson

 

 I remember at the age of around seven years old, my father forced to me learn an instrument.  Now I say forced, but in his loving way, he convinced me to pick it up for the first time…but I would have to say he forced me to practice that instrument.  Before I could become a musician I had to become familiar with the instrument I was to play.  I can still recall picking up that cold metallic brass cornet for the first time.  It felt foreign in my hands.  This instrument, similar to those that I had heard great musicians play was now placed in my hands, and I had no idea how to play it.  The first thing I had to do in order to play it was to become familiar with how it felt in my hands.  I had to learn how to place my fingers over the valves in the proper manner, while sitting with correct posture, which I had a great deal of trouble learning.  These were things I had never considered to be important much less required of me in order play a musical instrument properly.  The orientation of the instrument is of the utmost importance for proper implementation for performing music.  

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:3 (NIV)

If we are to become oriented with the music that God has placed in our very souls, we have to become oriented with the very God who created that music in the first place.  But it doesn’t stop with knowing this creator God; it then becomes all important to know how God has made us.  Our personalities, our temperament, our peculiarities are all vital to the orientation process.  If our desire is to fool ourselves or convince ourselves of something that is not true then we will never learn the true music of our souls.  In Romans 12:3, Paul reminds us of how important it is to have a sober judgment of ourselves.  In other words, look carefully in the mirror, be honest with yourself.  If we ever want to grow up in our faith, then true maturity begins with becoming familiar with who we are – faults and all.  Only when we begin to take a long hard look at who we are now, will we then begin to see who God wants us to be.   God has a whole different melody for us to play; it’s a new environment to explore and to learn, and if we never learn to understand who we are and who God has intended us to be, then we will never learn to play the music of our souls. 

Turning over that cold brass instrument in my hands so many years ago…I have a confession to make, I never thought I would ever be able to learn to play it.  The task seemed too daunting, my perception of myself – too limited, and if I had refused to become familiar I would have never learned to play the music. 

Many of us are like this; too limited.   Perhaps we never had someone to cheer us on or encourage us.  Maybe, our self-confidence is so small that even imagining God wanting us to play the music for Him seems too good to be true.  Some of us even think our abilities and our gifts will never amount to much, or are so insignificant that God won’t even notice if we don’t play.  But the fact of the matter is, God will notice, He DOES want you to play the music and He has been there from the beginning encouraging you to pick up your instrument of gifts and get oriented.  This experience requires faith, faith in our performance, faith in the music we’ve been created to play, and faith in the conductor (God) that He knows what He’s doing.  This, above all else, either propels us into the ultimate performance of our lives with faith in hand; or causes us, through doubt and fear to create sounds and noises that in no way reflects true music at all. 

 

God’s purpose for all of us is to be joined together, fitting perfectly into his symphonic masterpiece and once we are oriented and understand His will for our lives, we can begin to play, but first we have to know what we’re playing.

 

Orientation begins with the instrument…and it begins with you.   If music is to be played at all, an instrument has to be selected.  God has given us so much by way of gifts, abilities and talents, but if we don’t explore them we will never be able to master them.  Exploration into the instrument is vital.  If I had, on that instrument orientation day, picked up my brand new cornet and tried to play it from the wrong end it would have looked rather foolish or even downright embarrassing.  I had to first explore, touch, feel, hold and finally position the instrument properly in my hands.  When I understood how the instrument was to be held, how each valve coincided with the fingertips on my right hand and finally how my left hand was to hold the instrument firmly for balance and posture, then I was ready to move on to actually putting the cornet to my lips.     

 

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

 

Our orientation with God and what He has done for us is the most pivotal moment in our lives.  It can become the turning point, or the moment of clarity in which we decide that God, the great conductor, has a composition of complex melodies and harmonies waiting for us to play, if only we become oriented with what He has given us.  King David knew and was familiar with the ways of God.  He also recognized and acknowledged the way that God had made him: “Fearfully and wonderfully”.  When we become familiar or know them “full well”, as David states, we too then have begun our orientation of the part we are to play in this symphonic life. 

 

So don’t hold back, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  Recognize who you are, and who God desires you to become.  It can sometimes be painful when we see our glaring failures along the way, but these pains are necessary even vital to our growth.  It’s orientation time…take a look, I dare you.  

Finding the melodies of life (a metaphor of holiness) – Introduction

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Introduction

“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.”  -Ronald Reagan

 

The band begins to play.  Moments before, the sounds of their tuning and dissonant chords filled the theatre with broken parts, and sour notes as tuning slides, timpani, and valves are oiled and adjusted.  But as the music begins to be played by each musician, the notes that were once discombobulated and disjointed become unified, harmonious and beautiful.  The auditorium is alive.  Music is ignited!  The bandmaster, with baton waving erratically in the air, guides the musicians through the movement reminding them all of accidentals, dynamics, and key changes.  His role is no less important than that of the musicians he stands before.  Slowly and melodically the masterpiece, made up of notes on a page, reaches its climactic ending; and as the last notes are played, held out and released, there is brief moment of silence.  Within that brief moment, resides all of the work, all of the practices, all of the blood sweat and tears, and just as the last notes are released so too is the passion and love that the musicians have contained for so long for this musical composition.  It reaches out from the finale on stage, ever so slightly touching the listener, caressing their hearts and in turn drives them from their seats to their feet in accolades of fervor and joy.  This…is music!

 

Music is like breathing air, one needs to keep breathing in order to survive.  That is what I know about music!  Music is a part of me; it is sewn into the very fabric of who I am.  If one were to take out the stitching of melodies, harmonies, key changes, and accidentals; one would in some way begin to take away a very intrinsic part of who God has made this person to be.  Perhaps music doesn’t resound in all of us in the same way, but let me offer you an experiment in music for just a moment.  Have you ever experienced an epic moment in your life where you heard a composition of music, in any genre, that automatically pulled you back in time to another moment within your history?  One solitary second you are driving down the road listening to the radio, then this very specific song comes on and Bam, you are transported back in time to a point in your life where this very song is tied ever so tightly to an emotional or physical response.  Have you been there?  So have I, and this is how intrinsic music is to our very heart and souls.  It speaks to us beyond our hurts, beyond our joys, and calls us to take notice, to remember and to always embrace the melodies that God has placed inside of us all.  These melodies are so much more than mere songs heard on the radio or in music videos on Television.  They are the melodies we were created to perform in our lives, conjured up in our souls and in the very fabric of our being.  God has called us to sing or play the music of our souls on the stage of this life, not only for our own amusement or enjoyment alone, but because He revels in our creativity, He celebrates with our inquisitive hearts, and He wants us to play the music that we were created to play.  But the question that begs to be answered and hangs in the air like the last resounding notes on a page is this: do we know how to play the music? 

Some say that we can learn as easy as riding a bike, but what if no one ever taught us to ride that bike?  What if that parent wasn’t behind us pushing and cheering us on?  If you have ever wondered what melody God has called you to play, then this book, these prayer thoughts are for you.  If you have not wondered what tune has been placed in your heart, perhaps this is THE moment to begin exploring and plumbing the depths of your heart.  Believe it or not, God has planted that seed in your life to perform the tune of your lifetime for the world to see and hear.   We are called to play the music.  But how do we find our tune?  Do we even know how to play? 

 

This is where it all begins…Music Orientation 101 for the soul:

 

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me
.” -Heni Nouwen

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