Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Stupid Church Sign

So, who are they trying to encourage to come with this one? The unbeliever driving by will have no idea what this sign means, and as a believer, this sermon title really doesn't appeal to me. I mean, why would I want to come listen to a preacher talk about how bad and "worldly" believers can be. I already know, because I often am one, and I serve at a church full of people who struggle with this as well!

Posting sermon titles on a church sign is never really a good idea. Sermon titles often sound ridiculous to unbelievers, and believers don't really care what the title of the sermon is. Usually, the only people who really care are the preacher and his secretary who assembles the bulletin. For sure, people driving by really don't care what the title of the sermon is. Churches ought to just stick to posting service times and the church's web site address on their sign. Or better yet, they should put a passage of Scripture on the sign and let God's Word speak for itself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vacation Music Indulgence

I'm on vacation this week, and in addition to sleeping in, playing golf, and painting a room, I've been getting caught up on music downloading and listening. This is something that often gets pushed aside when I'm busy, but I finally made some time this week to do it. Here's what I've been downloading and listening to this week. Take a look at the list and then tell me what I'm missing. What would you be listening to if you had a week off?

Adele, 19
Adele has a very unique voice and is considered a pop artist, although I would consider her a mix between pop, jazz, blues, and lounge music. Very good. Relaxing.

Barren Cross,
Rattle Your Cage
You probably wouldn't understand, nor would you like it! Early 90's Christian metal. Sounds a lot like Iron Maiden. This was their last album, and I've been looking for it for quite some time. Finally found it!

Bruce Springsteen,
Greatest Hits
You can't beat "The Boss" when it comes to needing motivation for painting! I'm listening to it right now, and mostly enjoy his stuff from the 80's: Born In the USA, Glory Days, Dancing in the Dark.

Burlap to Cashmere,
Anybody Out There?
"One album wonders" from the 90's. Christian band best known for their song, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. There's a lot of salsa/flamenco style on the album. Good stuff.

Viva La Vida
Hard not to like these guys. I just downloaded the entire album this week after over-playing the songs, Viva La Vida and Lost! for weeks. Good album.

Daniel Band,
Rise Up and Running Out of Time
Again...old school 80's Christian rock band. Loved them when I was a kid and only had these albums on cassette. Finally found them on-line. Alright!

David Cook,
David Cook
Ok. Stop laughing! As far as American Idol rockers go, Daughtry is better, but this is a pretty good rock album.

Def Leppard,
Best of their many albums. My brother played it constantly when I was a kid, and this was the only "secular" band t-shirt I ever owned. I wore it once in junior high, got convicted about it, and threw it away. Buying this album as an adult serves as redemption for my legalistic upbringing!

Delirious?, Mezzamorphis and The Mission Bell

I really like these guys but these two albums have been holes in my collection of their stuff. I've heard a lot of the songs from these albums, but have not owned them until now. I still like their debut double-worship album the best.

Dido, Safe Trip Home

I just really like her stuff. Smooth, cool, and edgy.

James Newton Howard, Soundtracks to Lady in the Water and Defiance

Both were good movies, and after familiarizing myself with his style on Lady in the Water, I immediately identified that he was the composer while watching the movie, Defiance, last week. I love his mysterious, almost haunting, style.

Jimmy Needham, Not Without Love

My older girls recently saw him open up for Barlow Girl. The really like his stuff, particularly a love song he wrote for his wife called, Unfailing Love. They squeal every time it comes on, and if they're around, it comes on a lot!

Luciano Pavarotti,
The Duets: Best Of Pavarotti & Friends
I love a good tenor and along with Andrea Bocelli, Pavarotti is my favorite. The duets are with friends like Bono, Sheryl Crow, Sting, Bon Jovi, Bocelli, and others. It makes for some great dinner music and goes down as smooth as a glass of red wine!

Norah Jones,
Feels Like Home and Not Too Late
Talk about smooth! Is there anything smoother than Norah Jones singing at the piano? Great light jazz from a woman with an incredible jazz voice.

Metallica, Death Magnetic
I know what you're thinking. Not very pastoral of me to listen to these guys, but have you heard the guitar work on this album? Probably not...but it's awesome. If I'm in a grind-it-out mood, I may throw these guys on. I do have to commend them for at least becoming a bit nicer and bit more civilized in their old age!

No Line on the Horizon
Still enjoying this one. Great music and thoughtful lyrics, although I have to admit that sometimes I don't understand what Bono is trying to communicate! However, the more I listen, the clearer it becomes...and the more profound I find it to be.

So, that's my vacation listening list. What's missing? What would you have on your vacation listening list? Let me know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stupid Church Signs

The Bible tells Christians to be the "salt and light" of the world. Unfortunately, when it comes to church signs, some Christians mistaken "salt and light" for "stupid and lame." I absolutely hate it when a church puts some ridiculous saying on their sign for the whole world to see, and believe me, the world is watching...and what they're seeing in front of many churches is shameful. No wonder we Christians are often seen as irrelevant, out-of-touch weirdos. Just take a look at some of the more popular - and idiotic - church sign slogans:

"Baskin Robbins isn't the only place with good Sundays"
"CH__CH: What's Missing? U R!!
"Dusty bibles lead to dirty lives"
"Forecast for heaven: reign forever"
"God answers knee-mail"
"Looking for a sign from God? This is it!"
"Stop, drop, and roll doesn't work in hell."
"The best vitamin for Christians is B1"
"Think it's hot here..."
"This church is prayer conditioned"
"Walmart isn't the only savings place"

When will these churches understand that people are not as stupid as they think they are? When will they realize that people are turned off and angered by their ridiculous slogans and insincere efforts to "save sinners" in their communities? When will they realize that hurting people don't want or need a "witty" slogan or a lame attempt at a "community outreach" event. When will they realize that what people need is to be loved for who they are and cared for right where they're at?

It's interesting that the churches that display these stupid sayings on their church signs often wonder why they're so ineffective at reaching out to those in their community. They need to look no further than their front lawn for the answer.

Do stupid church signs make your skin crawl like they do mine? Have you seen any that you'd like to share? Join me in exposing them by sharing them here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Magnificent Life; Magnificent Worship

I'm always on the lookout for fresh, new worship music. I have over 5,000 songs on my iPod, with a wide variety of musical styles: from heavy metal to classical; from Seattle grunge to club techno. I even have a couple (as in 2 or 3) country music songs on my iPod, but that's a secret meant to be kept just between you and me! In the midst of it all, the music I find myself listening to the most is music that creatively and passionately exalts the Lord Jesus Christ: worship music. Recently, I found such a song in a pretty unlikely place.

It's not on the latest Chris Tomlin or David Crowder album. It's on U2's latest album, No Line on the Horizon,with a song simply titled, Magnificent. Although U2 has been known over the years for writing songs that talk about the Lord, this song is the most blatant "worship" song I've ever heard from them. Here's a sample of the lyrics from the song:

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise…

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

And the song is pretty magnificent as well, by the way!

Over the years, I've been very intrigued by Bono - the lead singer of U2, in case you've been living under a rock the last 20 years. I've been trying to figure out exactly who he is. U2 is one of the top selling live bands in the world, and they've sold millions and millions of albums. Some would say that they're the best rock band of all time. But in the midst of all the accolades and the millions upon millions of dollars made, Bono has consistently professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Lately, he's become better known for his work fighting against AIDS in Africa than for his music. He meets with world leaders and generates billions of dollars in relief for those suffering from AIDS and for the millions of children who have lost parents to AIDS. He's not doing this as a "side-gig" to his U2 involvement, but he sees the fame and fortune he's garnered from U2 as a platform to do what he feels God has called him to do. His efforts in Africa has even landed him on a short list for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I recently read the book, Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2, and I'm more convinced than ever that Bono is the real deal. He's a man living a "missional life," (more missional living) understanding that God has blessed him in order to be a blessing to others. His goal is to bring an end to AIDS in Africa. Pretty lofty goal, but if there's someone who might be able to use his influence to pull it off, it's Bono.

Bono lives his life as worship to the Lord...and he writes a mean worship song as well!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Courage in the Public Schools

I witnessed a pretty incredible act of courage this week at the middle school that my two youngest children attend. My son, Taylor, wrote a paper on courage where he described what courage is and then gave a couple examples of it. Here's what he wrote in his final paragraph:
The last example of courage is the greatest example. It is when Christ died for our sins. I believe this saves us from our sins. Christ is the real picture of courage.
There's no doubt that this took a lot of courage for Taylor to write, but he really believes this. Michelle and I didn't know he wrote this, so this was something he wrote all on his own. He writes this kind of stuff all the time, because he loves the Lord and looks for opportunities to share his love for Him whenever he can. I am impressed - to say the least - at Taylor's boldness, and I am both proud and thankful for his courage in talking about the Lord to others.

It was the response of his teacher, however, that blew me away. In a day and age where revealing one's Christian beliefs can bring about a lot of trouble, I was incredibly impressed at the courage of Taylor's teacher. Here's what he wrote in response to Taylor's paper.
I couldn't agree more, Taylor! You keep this mentality up and God will do amazing things through you. The simple fact that you wrote this comment shows your courage! Never be afraid to tell anyone about the love of Christ. You are one of my best students, and now I know why. Keep being the salt and light to this cold and dark world that doesn't know the One who saved us from our sins.
Wow! Talk about courage! It took a lot of courage for Taylor's teacher to write this on his paper, and it shows that the Lord has His people strategically placed even in the dark halls of our public schools. I could tell that Taylor was pretty pumped about all of this, and so were Michelle and I. Oh, and by the way, Taylor got an A on the paper!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Please Pray

It's been a pretty sober day for me after learning of the murder of Pastor Fred Winters of First Baptist Church in Maryville, IL. Evidently, while Pastor Winters was preaching yesterday morning, a 27-year-old man walked right up the center isle and shot him at point blank range, killing him in front of 150 of his parishioners. As a pastor who preaches each Sunday, this is surely a concern for me, but more concerning is how this will affect his congregation, his wife, and his two precious daughters. My heart goes out to them, and I would ask you to pray along with me for them.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Difference Between Hymns and Praise Choruses

What's the difference between a hymn and a praise chorus, and why do so many people in the church make such a big deal about it? Should the church today sing more hymns, or should they sing more praise choruses? I came across this explanation on a Puritan web site and thought it would be good to pass it along to you.

And old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the farmer. "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The farmer said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, 'Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, in the CORN, CORN, CORN, COOOOORRRRRNNNNN,' then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus."

As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"They're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The young man said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you,

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn,

Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Missional Perspective on Church Worship

I've been involved in several discussions lately about worship style, and at the same time, I've been reading a book called, The Present Future by Reggie McNeal. In it, he challenges the church to become more intentional about focusing their ministries and energies on those outside the church rather than on the "club members" inside the church. He (along with many others) calls this kind of church a "missional church" - where people are exploring and discovering what it means to be Jesus' sent people as their identity and vocation. Obviously, this mentality and focus has far-reaching implications on all areas of life, like family, work, and church, but what he says about how a missional focus ought to impact a church's worship style is worth noting. Here's what he says...
I am proposing that missiology come into prominence, both as a theological pursuit and as a guiding operational paradigm. Even the issues that have captured the church’s attention should be framed against the backdrop or under the overarching theme of missiology. For instance, the discussion of worship unfortunately often occurs without a missiological perspective. Witness the church worship wars. These are the result of club members discussing their worship style preferences as stockholders and stake holders, not as missionaries.

The usual goal is to find something that club members like. We’ve all heard discussions among church leaders involving questions such as, “Can nonbelievers really worship God?” or “Should our worship be seeker-sensitive or seeker-driven?” as though worship is not a powerful evangelistic tool to express the church’s mission in the world! Nonbelievers are already worshiping, because people are built to worship something. Our challenge is to upgrade their worship to worship of the true God.
This "missional" perspective must be included in the discussion of what music should be played on a Sunday morning during the worship service. The worship music cannot just be targeted toward the likes and preferences of the "club members." We must take into consideration the evangelistic power of the songs we sing.

On any given Sunday, there are scores of people that attend churches all across America who have not placed their faith and trust in Christ. These are not just the random people who stop in one Sunday a year, but these are also people who attend church every week and faithfully serve. As church leaders consider what songs to sing, what prayers to pray, and what sermons to preach, this reality must be taken into consideration.

Some may call this approach "seeker-sensitive" and may react negatively to it. But if we understand that God has called us to live like missionaries 24/7 among our neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends, then making sure that even our Sunday morning worship service has a missional flavor to it is essential.