Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“Fight fire with fire!”

I’ve always thought that was such a stupid statement.  Adding fire to fire only creates an inferno that’s even harder to put out.  No, you fight fire with water.  You fight with fire’s opposite.  You find fire’s neutralizer.  Water douses the flame.

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Several years ago, back in my college days, I had several friends who attended a campus ministry at a local church where it was discovered that the college/high school minister had been sleeping with students in his college ministry.  Seriously.  He would lead these vulnerable girls to Christ, then have sex with them.  As certain key leaders in the ministries of other organizations (myself included) found out about this, they went to the pastor of the church to inform him of his staffer’s sin and plead with him to take action.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the pastor said he already knew.  His college minister had already “confessed” the whole thing to him, and pledged to stop.  What was even more surprising is that the college minister would remain on the staff, as if the whole thing had never happened.  “We need to show him grace,” the pastor said.  Then he scolded those confronting him that they were Pharisees merely intent on spreading gossip and that even the girls involved had been instructed to remain silent and not become “divisive.”

Now, I am all for forgiveness of sins.  I’m all for the restoration of fallen leaders, whenever it’s possible.  The way that many “Christians” treat people caught in sin sickens me more often than not.  I say that to make it clear that I’m not approaching this from a point of legalism, nor do I find any solace in seeing people face the consequences of their sins.  But to see this pastor treat his college minister’s sin like it was…nothing – I was floored.  There was no discipline, no counseling, no meetings with the church’s committees or deacons, no counseling to help these now spiritually-wounded young girls.  This pastor simply allowed the guy to remain in staff position, where he would still be leading girls he had had sex with.  In short, it was a cover-up – a scandal this pastor and this minister tried to keep out of the view of their congregation, too afraid that knowledge of it would destroy their church.  The pastor continued preaching.  The college minister continued teaching/leading crowds of students – as if nothing had ever happened.

This is the point that you might be tempted to argue, “What’s the problem?  He confessed to his pastor, and he was forgiven.  Now you really ARE being a Pharisee.”  Honestly, I’d love to be able to say everything worked out, in spite of our fears.  But the truth is, there was no repentance.  There was no discipline.  The college minister committed a sin – maybe even a crime – and had to face ZERO consequences.  So what do you think happened next?

Sadly, the college minister did not cease his sin, but continued to pursue girls in his group sexually, eventually sleeping with several more.  Once more the pastor and his minister were confronted, only this time the pastor become angry enough that he practically began screaming at these community “Pharisees” to get out of his office.  “You Pharisees don’t know how to forgive people!”

Eventually – as is normally the case with any scandal – these girls whom the minister had been sleeping with (and then told to keep quiet) broke their silence and started talking about what had happened to them.  The church found out about the scandal, and overnight, a thriving community of about 300+ people dwindled to a small church of less than 20.  The reputations and future hopes of two ministers lay in ruins.  And girls who had been led to Christ – then led into a bedroom – ran away from this whole “Christianity” thing, bitterly wounded and doubting anything that had ever been told to them about Christ and what it means to be a Christ-follower.

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You can’t fight fire with fire, and you cannot fight sin with sin.  But too often I see people try.  People sin, and rather than fall on their knees in repentance, they run straight into more sin.  In the above-mentioned church, they tried to fight sin with cover-ups and angry accusations of legalism, as if by doing so the problem would eventually just disappear.  Instead, the very thing they were trying to avoid happened, and the church and their careers lay in ruins.

People who fight sin with more sin often fall into a sickening spiral, usually becoming either (1) isolated or (2) accompanied by a bunch of “yes-people” who validate their position.  There is a lesser chance of repentance.  There is often more and more cover-up and denial of wrongdoing.  Hearts become increasingly hardened.

And the scariest part?  I think it’s epidemic:

  • I’ve seen many people lie to help keep a previous lie from being exposed?
  • I’ve seen pastors and other church leaders living in adultery who, rather than face their sin, attempt the impossible task of trying to live two lives – one open, and one secret.
  • I’ve seen people privately (and publicly) bash their friends or family members (or even their church leaders) then go to an open forum like Facebook or blogs like this one and talk about how great their walk with God is that day.
  • I’ve seen people in leadership fail to be good stewards of their ministry, then blame everyone around them for their failure.
  • I’ve seen more “Christian” marriages than I can even count at this point spiral towards divorce wrapped around weird justifications like “God wants me to be with another man” or “this is the only way I can be closer to God.”
  • I’ve seen more and more Christian young people run into pre-marital sex, but instead of repenting, justify their behavior behind countless excuses like “it’s normal in today’s culture” or “but we love each other.”
  • Scariest of all:  I’ve seen Christians get so wrapped up in the web of their sin, that they begin to question – or even re-write – their entire belief system about God and scripture just so they can find a way to keep their sin a justifiable part of their lives.
And the one thing I’ve seen in virtually ALL of these circumstances is that things always get worse for the people involved.  Fighting sin with sin never ends well.  I’ve seen it divide churches, destroy leaders, wreck marriages, tarnish reputations, and tear apart friendships previously believed to be able to withstand anything.
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Let me be clear about why this troubles me so much.  Basically, it comes down to this:  When we attempt to “fix” sin through our own means – a means OTHER than repentance (the confession and turning away from our sin) – we actually deny ourselves the very real power of restoration that God’s grace provides.  Don’t miss how important this is:  In our attempt to AVOID the consequences of our sins, we are – in reality – DENYING ourselves the very power which could heal us.  Instead, we inexplicably place our faith in our own “ability” to cover and hide and justify our sin, rather than put our faith in a God who promises to forgive us if we confess our sins to him:
 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.   – 1 John 1:8-10.
You fight sin with repentance.  You’re going one direction (sin), then you choose to turn around and go in another (not sin).  There is no other way, because only the grace that comes with repentance heals the damage sin has done in our lives.  Bam!  That’s it.  Don’t be deceived by our Enemy into believing that another sin is ever the answer.  We have to hate sin as much as God hates it.  We have to confess from it, turn from it.
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.   – 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Worldly sorrow gets us nowhere.  A lack of repentance leads to spiritual death.  You cannot sin, remain unrepentant, and then go around talking about how great your walk with God is, thinking you’re just basking in his love and his “overlooking” of your sin.  That is nothing short of being delusional.  Yes, God loves you (absolutely!) – BUT have no doubt that God is weeping over unrepentant sin (after all his own Son died for it).  He wants us broken, on our knees, desperate to purge ourselves of the sin in our lives:
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.   –  Psalm 51:17
I believe He is desperate to see His people quit putting our faith in ourselves and religious platitudes and truly get on our knees and repent, so HE can restore us.  Why would we deny ourselves that kind of a restoration?!  Why would we trade the power of God that can transform us for the idol of our own power?
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One more thing:  If we want to see repentance, then we – as Christians, as leaders, as churches – need to get better at making this easier for people to do.  Throughout history, we have perverted this call for people to repent into a license to abuse them spiritually over everything from homosexuality to the consumption of alcohol to whether it’s appropriate to wear jeans to church.  No, we need to be the first people in line rejoicing when people truly repent and the first people to pick them up when they fall to help them get going again:
  “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.”      – Luke 17:3
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Repentance is not an optional component of our faith.  It is the water with which we douse the fire of sin in our lives.  It is not the act of saving ourselves.  Rather, it is the means by which we allow the saving power of God’s grace and the transforming power of His Spirit to transform us into the kinds of people he wants us to be.  Why would we settle for anything else?

Songset from Sunday, June 19

Posted: June 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Just finished up week 3 of “At the Movies,” with “True Grit.”   Here was the songset from Sunday:

  1. Salvation – Charlie Hall
  2. Jesus Saves – Carlos Whitaker
  3. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (traditional/our own arrangement)
  4. Came to My Rescue – Hillsong
  5. He Loves Us – Jesus Culture

One of the things I think God has been hammering into my brain lately is the difference between a worship leader and song leader.  While this may be oversimplified and maybe “song leader” isn’t an adequate concept, it’s a least a starting point to think about the differences:

  • A song leader leads from the stage.  A worship leader leads both onstage and off.
  • A song leader tries to get the crowd to sing.  A worship leader tries to get a crowd to worship.
  • A song leader presumes the crowd should “get into it.”  A worship leader realizes it is his/her job to engage the crowd and lead them into what worship is.
  • A song leader attends.  A worship leader serves.
  • A song leader is the star of the show.  A worship leader attempts to be transparent, so only Christ is visible.
I think the heart of this is that anyone with a modicum of talent can stand in front of a crowd, play a song, and attempt to get a crowd to respond.  But leading must be so much more than that.

First, your life offstage MUST reflect what you are attempting to convince people to do when you are onstage.  People can always spot a fake, especially if they encounter you outside of the church walls and realize that your life – your convictions, your behavior – do not line up with what you claim to believe.

Second, you have to know your crowd – personally and spiritually.  If they are not lifting their hands, if they’re not clapping, if they’re not singing along – ask the question:  Are you LEADING them to do so?  Do you ask them to?  Do you let them know what freedom to worship means?  Better yet, do YOU, as a leader, look excited to be engaged in the act of worship?  It’s too easy to blame the crowd.  It’s much harder to examine how you lead.

Finally, how is your own walk with God?  If it’s lousy, then your effectiveness as a leader often wanes because what your claiming to celebrate is actually elusive to you.

    “These people say they are mine.
   They honor me with their lips,
      but their hearts are far from me.” – Isaiah 29:13

We must begin leading in our own lives by leading ourselves into the act of worship.  If we do not make time  – on our own – to worship and pray and read the word of God, then we not only are suffering spiritually, but we are also denying ourselves the power that drives worship.

And anything less than worship is merely singing.

Songset from Sunday, June 12

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Songset from week 2 of the At the Movies series (“The Social Network”):

  1. We Stand – Lee McDerment
  2. Your Love Never Fails – Jesus Culture
  3. Change – Taylor Swift
  4. Sometimes – David Crowder Band/Passion
  5. Revelation Song – Jesus Culture

Sometimes, as worship leaders, it is far to easy to neglect the importance of the people you share the stage with. Developing a good, “serving” relationship with your team is important.

Have you ever had band members quit your team, and you’re dumbstruck by their decision to leave without warning? Yep, I thought so. Have you listened to band members’ ideas, nodded your head with a “that sounds good” comment only to forget what they said within a week? Yep, I thought so, too.

A worship team needs to be about much more than simply pulling off the worship set without a hitch. It needs to be a TEAM – even a family. Everyone onstage must embody the communal worship we are trying to lead others in – meaning, if the band is not a community that worships, how can it lead a community into worship?

Here are some things I believe God has been drilling into me lately about the dynamic of a worship team.

1. Empower your worship team. Give them a voice.

I hate to admit it, but I’m a little put off by many popular worship bands that are named after the band leader. That said, I still love the music of many of these guys and am certainly not hung up on the simple naming of a band, but it makes me think about our role as worship leaders: (1) It’s not about an individual. You are not the star; Jesus is. (2) Everyone on the team matters. So be willing to listen to how God is leading them to worship. Be willing to experiment with the kind of creativity in worship that can emerge when more than one mind is involved in planning a worship set. Doing this can build friendships and make your members feel like their actually appreciated more than just the instrument they play. Sure, as the leader of the team, you have the responsibility to “focus” the team so that ideas line up with the vision of the church or even just the specific needs of a given Sunday morning. But let your team know that their ideas – that their input – matters. And, well, that brings me to number two:

2. Your band is not doing you a favor. They are there to serve our Lord and Savior.

If your ego has grown so big that you think the band is rallying behind you – and not Christ – then, when they leave your team, don’t go whining to your lead pastor about how your band members had no “vision” for the ministry. It’s up to us to give them the vision. Obviously, sometimes those in your band might not have the right vision or right heart no matter how hard you try, BUT, make sure that doesn’t happen because you haven’t told them or modeled the vision for them. We must keep Christ out in front. We must follow him, and lead others to him. Because if we just want these guys to “help us out,” well – to be blunt – we’re just not that cool. So make sure that it’s clear to you and your team, that they’re not there to serve you, but Jesus Christ – always. Which brings me to number 3:

3. Squash language that says “I’m just a volunteer.”

First – yes, for most of us, our worship teams are made up of volunteers. They are people that have other jobs and other responsibilities. To serve on your team means that they are giving up time they used to spend doing something else. They can have wacky schedules, they can get sick, they can cringe when you throw a difficult set at them, and so on… But nothing pains me more to hear the phrase, “I’m just a volunteer.” (maybe that’s my fault – see #2).

It’s our job as leaders to be sensitive to the needs of our team members and treat our volunteers well (versus abusing their willingness to serve). But it is ALSO our responsibility to make it clear that serving is a privilege and and honor – NOT to serve with worship leader “x” in church “y” – but as people saved from death and hell by a risen Savior. It’s not, “I’m just a volunteer,” but “I’m a servant of my Savior.” There is no higher calling.

A worship team needs to be more than simply a group of musicians who share a stage together. If you want to lead the larger community of the church in worship, your team needs to be a worshipping community.

I pray that I can improve these things in how I lead my own team (who all ROCK, by the way!).

Songset – Sunday, May 16

Posted: May 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

Here’s the setlist from yesterday:

  1. “Jesus Saves” – Carlos Whittaker
  2. “From the Inside Out” – Hillsongs (with a little flair from the Seventh Day Slumber version)
  3. “Awakening” – Chris Tomlin/Passion Worship Band
  4. “I Will Rise” – Chris Tomlin

Skeletons

Posted: April 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Over the course of my years in “ministry,” I’ve come to a couple of conclusions about sin – the “skeletons in our closets” so to speak.  FIRST, sin that is not dealt with weaves a web of destruction in our lives that entangles our relationships, our drives/desires, our emotions… and does damage in ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.  SECOND, in spite of all our efforts to conceal our sins, sin is ultimately exposed.

The “web” of sin – I don’t think any of us truly can comprehend just how much our so-called “private” or “harmless” (oxymoronic) sins affect those around us.  At best, our sin just hurts our relationships.  At its worst, sin can drag others down into our sins.  And I call this a “web,” because it traps us – it’s far easier to get tangled up than to get untangled.

And it’s partly because of this “web,” that our sins are inevitably exposed.  As our sin impacts other people, what we deem “secret” is, in fact, no longer secret at all, because OTHERS are drawn into it.

Proverbs 10:9 says:  “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”  Psalm 69:5 states:  “O God, you know how foolish I am;my sins cannot be hidden from you.”

It will be exposed.  Yet, we still pursue sinful behavior, living in oblivion that sooner or later our world will be wrecked when our sins are exposed.  And worse, when it finally happens, too often we become concerned with “saving our image,” or “finding out who ratted us out.”  Embarrassed and prideful, we become more concerned with our reputation instead of our character (important difference).  We become more concerned with crucifying the EXPOSURE than crucifying the sin that needed to be exposed in the first place.

I’ve had sins exposed.  It’s embarrassing and painful, and often my first gut-reaction is to get defensive and blame anyone and everyone for dragging my sin out into the light.  But lately, my attitude has changed.  I PRAISE GOD when my sins are exposed; otherwise, I might not have dealt with them at all.

Besides, exposure – followed by confession and repentance – is the BEGINNING of rebuilding our character into the Christ-like people God wants us to be.

What scares you more?  Having your sins exposed?  Or never having them exposed?  Think long and hard about this one.  One may be embarrassing.  But the other is death.