Dear Salvation Army, Is It Just ‘Busy’ Work?

It is a question I have often asked myself.
Something I’ve pondered.
Waged war with.
Chewed on until my jaws ache.

Have I (personally speaking) focused too much on the ‘busy’ work instead of the priorities of salvation? Am I spending so much time doing the mundane, the time consuming, soul-sucking tasks that offer no vital substance to life?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not viewing certain tasks as beneath me. I am, instead, uncovering something that I feel has been convicting to me…and perhaps it has been revealed to you as well by the Holy Spirit.

We, as an Army, have grown far beyond a movement birthed out of the ashes and smoke the industrial era. This movement has grown arms and legs in order to meet human needs in Jesus’ name. But with that growth, it becomes inevitable that we develop not so good traits as well. Over working ourselves. Demanding more and more income to support bloating projects. Straining for every ounce of local and federal funding sources. Funds are, of course vital to our cause, but there is a danger here: We might become tempted, in our busyness to trust less in the provision of God and trust more in our own efforts, our own donors, our own coffers.

Have we allowed busy work to shape our faith?
Have we entered into simply trusting in the next financial campaign instead of diligently seeking out what God would have us do? I pray this is never the case!

I am certainly not negating hard work, I am simply pondering whether in the midst of our hard work we have stopped looking to the Author of all things in exchange for the things He has created? Instead of commanding time, time is commanding us. In a very real sense have we lost our first love and replaced it with busy work?

I understand that we mustn’t grow tired of doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
But there should be moments of reflect that we do in order to be brought back to our first love and first priority – Loving God. THEN we are able to reach out and offer our soup, soap and salvation.

So how do we avoid making what we do just ‘Busy Work’?

3 Ways to Avoid The Trap of Busy Work:

1) Practicing the Presence of God Daily (Even moment by moment)
Brother Lawrence was right – we need to get into the practice of communing with the presence of God moment by moment. We need to fellowship with our Creator during the most trying of tasks to the most mundane of them. When we open up our lives and everything in them to God, we begin to share our experiences with Him. We are inviting Him to participate in them with us. Just because we have to do required mundane tasks doesn’t mean that it is busy work. ‘Busy work’ is done when we have no purpose, no mission or no aim. Busy work leads no one to Christ, consumes all our time and offers nothing in spiritual nourishment. When we enter into God’s presence throughout our day, we begin to eliminate the busy work. When we ask Him to commune with us, we begin to see what truly matters and life (and tasks) are given purpose once again. Why? We because we are not living for ourselves, our own hard work, our own ambitions, our own understanding…we are now dying to self, dying to corporate ladder climbing, dying to the search for approval and acceptance of others. Instead, we are living a new created life born out of holiness and the desire to be selfless.

2) Asking the question “Why”?
When we find ourselves caught in the busyness trap, we need to begin to asked questions. Like, “why am I doing what I am currently doing”. “Is this task or habit really what I should be doing?” “What is this contributing to the Kingdom building process?” Why do I catch myself falling into this ‘busyness’ trap again and again?

Habits are hard to break, and I believe busy work can be one of these bad habits that needs to be broken. We all are given time to do the necessary reports, chores, tasks…yet how often do we catch ourselves staring blankly at a computer screen? How often do we labor away at things that don’t really matter? I’m not saying we don’t do them, I am saying that perhaps we place too much emphasis on them. We give them too much importance and so our time gets eaten up in the non-Kingdom building habits.

There comes a point where we must look up.
Where we see where God desires us to go. Perhaps it is to talk to that person in the Social Services waiting room. Maybe it is to go and visit corps members, sit with a person that needs a friend, or spend a few solitary moments in the chapel praying. Are we looking up? Or do we go about our day with our heads down and buried in our computers, meanwhile making all of our tasks and duties “busy work”?
Why?

3) Connect with others.
I have mentioned this already in the second point…but it begs saying again: we MUST connect with other people (and not just on social media). Look people in the eyes. Really listen to their needs. Hear the hurt. See the longing for fellowship. Be a light to someone in need. Winning the world of Jesus begins with one or two people. If we aren’t reaching people for Christ what is the point of calling our selves an army of salvation?

When we realign ourselves with our first love and, in turn, pour that love out on others, we will have eliminated all ‘busy work’? How?
By turning each moment and each task into an opportunity to serve God. When we change our perspective and our priorities, we reorient our mission and purpose to the place it should have been all along.

Dear Salvation Army…is there ‘busy work’ taking place in your ministry right now?
Do you find yourself missing the mark and feeling unfulfilled in your calling?
Perhaps you must look up.
Perhaps a reprioritizing of life needs to take place.
Perhaps a rededication, a recommitment, a reigniting of the heart is in order.

Busy work happens to all of us…but we mustn’t remain there, we need to get up and move.

Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Fear the Walking Faith…It’s a journey!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Oh how our faith can waver sometimes.
It seems that the gusting of a slight breeze of discord or worry can shake our quivering feet of faith.

Have you ever come to a moment of realization that your faith is not as deep as you once thought it was? We all encounter times, while on this journey, where the feel as though we have entered into the desert and we are found lacking in our resolve and fortitude. This journey will take us into places that require us to dig a little deeper and to endure the dry and thirsty places – where we find ourselves questioning everything and reaching further for God…who seems to have gone silent.

Have you been to this place?

I remember when I first learned to swim.
My parents would take me into the deeper part of the waters where my feet couldn’t touch and then let go of me, and as they let go of me they step back out of my reach. I remember there was a momentary panic. The saving hands were no longer on me and I found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters. I remember having to reach out my arms while kicking my feet so that I could reach the safety again. As I did this, without realizing, I began to swim by myself for the first time.

My intentions were not to swim. My intention was to reach the safe arms of my parents who were just out of reach.

There is growth within the tension and fear.
Growth that can only take place when we are left to our own devices.
Growth that can only transpire within the turmoil and desert places of our faith journey.

It is as if God steps back from us, and we are faced with the seemingly terrifying notion that we must step into the deep alone. The truth is that we are most certainly not alone, but rather there is growth that is only found in desert. And so we step out, unsure of ourselves…unsure if we can reach those safe arms of Christ again.

Remember Peter on the waters before Jesus?
He is asked to step out into a turbulent, uncertain space.
Peter takes a couple of steps, loses sight of the arms of Christ and begins to sink.
He takes his eyes off of Jesus.
He considers the impossibilities of such a journey.
He must have recalled his inability to do this feat, and as the doubt sinks in so does Peter.

We often chastise Peter for his lack of faith.
We often sermonize this passage to implicate the lack of resolve that ‘the Rock’ had…
But where were the other disciples?
Do we read about their steps of faith on the waters? No.
They were still in the boat watching it all go down.

We have to get out of our boats.
We will encounter dry and thirsty times in our faith journey.
It will feel as if we are all alone out in the wilderness, but we are not alone.
God steps back and watches us within the tension of deeper waters.
And it is within those deeper spaces that we grow.
It is through perseverance that our character and the very image of Christ becomes clearer in us.

Some have turned back and returned to the safe places.
Some have given up because they have felt abandoned.
Others have persevered and they have grown.
The Lord desires all of us to deepen our faith, and so these times of dryness should be seen as opportunities to grow up into this amazing faith.

Being like Jesus isn’t easy.
It takes determination and desire on our part.
Are you prepared to allow God to deepen your faith?
Is it your desire to get off of spiritual baby formula and begin to feast on more sustainable spiritual nourishment?

Take that next step…don’t be afraid, He’s got you, and He isn’t far from you right now!

Something more to ponder today.

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.
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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, The Fish-Bowl Effect…

Dear Salvation Army, are we fooling ourselves?
Are we seeing one thing within our ivory towers while the reality looks quite different?

Please don’t take offense.
I mean no disrespect.
I just wonder if there are times that we are disconnected from how things truly are as opposed to how we perceive them to be.

It’s like the notion of missing the mark of evangelism & missions…It is like aiming for the lost with a harpoon when what you needed was a loving hug and a warm cup of coffee. Or perhaps, there is this grandiose idea of what success will look like (we envision a mega church with people all neatly lined up trying to get in) when in reality it is meeting with that single mother and ensuring she has enough to feed her family and she takes the leap of coming to church on a Sunday morning.

Do we miss the mark because our notion of successful mission has been aligned with a faulty or unrealistic sense of who we are serving and what they need? It can become that illustration of insanity, ever endeavoring to do the same thing over and over again, only to realize that it hasn’t worked in thirty years.

Perhaps we need to wake up.
I fear we have become too insulated in our own fishbowls, be it the corps, divisional headquarters, territorial headquarters or beyond. We cannot sit in our offices and expect the people to come to us. Yes, our branding is recognizable, but that doesn’t mean that we become lazy in our planning and in the reaching for the lost, hurting and oppressed. We cannot afford to sit in our fishbowls. We cannot become complacent, overly busy with interior paperwork, when outside in our communities families and individuals need to see the hope that the Holy Spirit is prodding us to give because we serve more than just an Army, we serve the Lord first and foremost.

Dear Salvation Army,
I am fearful that we have lost our way, because of mission drift.
I am fearful that leaders from every rank have forgotten what it means to have a heart to God and a hand to man. This is a broad brushstroke, not aimed at offending, but perhaps prodding those who need it. There are many, many saints in our Army. I wish to recognize that as fact, may we ever endeavor to emulate their great faith!

Lastly, we cannot program our army to death.
We cannot course correct without first dispelling the faulty realities that have gotten us to this point.

Questions to Ponder:
What fishbowls do we need to get out of today?
Do we truly know the communities and people that we have been commissioned to minister to?
Have we prayed about our mission and vision for the lost in our areas of influence? (Not all of these places will look the same, or require the same kinds of ministry tools to reach the lost and disciple the faithful).
How can we (I) encourage 1 person today (maybe more, but start with just one)?
Can we pray that God would reveal to us the hindrances and hang ups in our lives right now that prevent us from having a greater impact on the Kingdom in His name?

As I sit here and write this, I admittedly have first considered the fishbowls that I have placed myself in. No, this has nothing to do with appointments or rank, but as a follower of Christ there are walls that I have constructed that have not been ordained by Him. Constructs that insulate my selfish heart and profit nothing for the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps you can relate, dear Soldier. I believe that if we do not first dispel these walls and climb out of our fishbowls, so too will our impact for the Kingdom be limited.

Can we identify these fishbowls?
Are we prepared to climb out of them?

Something more for our Army 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.* 

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!

THIS should be our ONE aim and desire!

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Psalm 103:1

Conversational Statement:
spiritual
There is no such thing as a “spiritual life”.
You might ask yourself; “What, no spiritual life?  How can that be? Why would you say such a thing?  Of course there is a spiritual life!
Let me ask you this; is there a separation from what we do in Church to what we do at home?
How often do we compartmentalize what we do with God and what we do in our everyday life?

QUESTION:
Was this life ever intended to be compartmentalized and separated?  No.
In the Jewish culture there was no such thing as a spiritual life, because everything was considered spiritual.  Everything they did; everything they discussed; everything they thought was considered spiritual.
Life, as a whole = IS SPIRITUAL!

Is it no wonder that David, a man after God’s own heart, says “ALL my inmost being” praises His holy name?!  What does God require from us?  What sort of relationship does He want from us?  Is it a part-time relationship – where we come to Him once or twice a week while at church?  Is this relationship that is just a friendship type of deal?  We just sort of pick up where we left off after some time apart while we do our own thing?  NO!  This relationship is either all-in or nothing at all!

That might sound like such a committed thing…BECAUSE IT IS!  I’m not saying I’m even there yet, but I’m saying that we need to get to the point where we either say “Lord I’m all-in” or “I’m out!”.

Which will it be for us?
Can we honestly say right now that ALL our inmost being praises His holy name?
Can we boldly say – “Lord come with me, I invite you to go wherever I go today…”?
Can we cast aside the “part-time” relationship deal that we have sort of conveniently worked out in our minds?

God wants all there is of us.
God desires a relationship that goes far beyond some sort of surfaced thing.
He wants to walk beside us.
-To commune with us.
-To journey along with us wherever we go.

Is your everyday life currently segmented and separated from your “spiritual” life?
Perhaps it’s time to realign them and put it all back together again.
Perhaps it’s time for us to declare (and mean it) ALL my inmost being – praise His holy name!

You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.” -Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

It’s either ALL or NOTHING.
Something more for us to ponder today.

“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!

“Pressing on or Drop it like it’s hot”

We are adding a new addition to Pastorsponderings, podcasts!
Today, we’re going to add our first podcast offering – “Pressing on or drop it like it’s hot”.

Click on the link below to listen to today’s podcast –
http://scottstrissel.podomatic.com/entry/2015-04-22T09_49_30-07_00

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phillippians 3:7-14

Questions to consider: 
Do we do that in our service to others?
Do we do that in our service to God?
Do we go through the motions, but inside it’s just real work without passion?
Do we sometimes struggle with this commission God has given to us?

Prayer:
Dear Lord, help me to serve you with everything that I’ve got!
I don’t want to grudgingly serve you.
I don’t want to throw my services on the floor because I have to.
I want to serve you because I love you.
I want to serve others because of your love!
Teach me.
Fill me.
Renew me.
Give me your eyes for those around me.
Help me see where your love abounds and where I must go to share that love with others today.
In your name I pray.
-Amen.

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