July 25, 2017 - No Comments!

How To Choose A Worship Leader

NOTE: This post originally appeared on The Resurgence which has since closed.

Many teaching pastors talk about their worship leader the way an apologetic dad talks about their uncoordinated child at a soccer game.

“He’s got potential.”
“She’s having fun, isn’t she?”
“If we could get some better players around him, he’d really shine.”

Church leaders, and planters in particular, know all too well that you have to make the best of your situation and use what you have. Yet, when it comes to the music portion of a worship gathering this often translates into a leader getting thrown on stage that learned five chords in her dorm room last semester, or a guy that couldn’t explain the gospel if a $10,000 gift card to “Guitar Center” was on the line.

We all start somewhere, but what is an acceptable starting point? How do you pick and develop the leader that will play an integral part in your gatherings? How do you choose between a leader that is godly and one that is musically gifted?

It’s a mistake to assume that because the teaching pastor carries the primary responsibility of doctrine and vision, that the worship leader can be any guy in a plaid shirt deep v current uniform who can nail the latest worship anthem. Below you’ll read some key questions to ask yourself of any new music leader you’re looking at bringing in or developing. Note that I have not specifically devoted this to paid hires, because candidly, I don’t think it matters.

Repentant and Humble Heart Required

The scriptures repeatedly address the heart in the context of worship (John 4:23-24, Amos 5:21-24). Worship is always a heart issue. Look for leaders (and volunteers for that matter) that love who Jesus is more than their act of service to him. Do you sense an adoration of Christ in their life? Are they quick to confess? Are they teachable? What makes their heart beat faster; musical excellence or gospel transformation in people’s lives?

Challenge your worship leader in character issues, and name pride when you see it, in a loving but truthful way. While you aren’t looking for a perfect track record, you do want to see a pattern of repentance. Do they own their mistakes? Do they show a desire to grow? These are essential elements of any healthy leader, even those just starting out.

Skillful Leading is Also Important to God

Despite the common refrain of “as long as their heart is in the right place”, the idea that skill doesn’t matter to God is simply not biblical. God raises up godly and skilled artisans to serve in their craft. This doesn’t mean your worship leader needs to have his own record on iTunes, but it does mean that “sloppiness drains the vertical dimension out of gathered worship” (Keller). Skill does not make our sacrifice more acceptable to God, but it does help us serve our purpose as worship leaders more effectively. Being properly trained and prepared helps keep the focus where it belongs, on Jesus. Can your worship leader lead with an appropriate level of skill? Are they competent on their instrument of choice? Can they speak with clarity when they address the congregation?

Be Wary of Those More Eager to Lead Than Serve

Most church plants will have a few eager folks that want leadership roles out of the gates. A good worship leader will invite the elders or pastors in the church to confirm their calling. If someone approaches you and says: “God told me I am supposed to lead worship here,” you should be very cautious. It is the exception to the rule that a person making that sort of uninvited claim turns out to be a solid leader. You would be hard pressed to find a place where the “be faithful with little, before you are entrusted with much” concept is better applied than leading worship. Does your leader love to meet the needs of others or have the spotlight?

Look Up, Look Down

An essential part of selecting a worship leader is determining their chemistry with those they report to and those they’ll lead. Will they encourage and challenge (in healthy ways) those above and below them on the “org chart”? Can you see volunteer musicians following their lead? Do you picture this person being easy to work with when planning Sundays? Does your worship leader care about the people they lead? Would you want the congregation to follow their example off-stage?

“Look for leaders and volunteers that love the person Jesus more than their act of service to him.”

I’m pleading with you to not overlook character issues for the sake of coverage. Don’t assume that somehow a teaching pastor that “gets it” will balance out an incompetent or self-serving music leader. If it’s your job to hire/find a music leader, make your application and audition process robust enough to assess their understanding of the gospel, spiritual maturity, and level of skill. These all mater, and while it may take time to get there, you want to be sure you are partnering with someone with your eyes wide open.

I Don’t Have the Leader You’re Describing

You may not have the leader you’d love to have today. Look around and ask “who could be that leader with investment in a year or two?” I’ve said before, investing in your worship leader is a smart move for a variety of reasons. If you think you’re too busy, consider the following: your average church-goers will give you 54 hours of their attention annually. Depending on your liturgy, your worship leader will get roughly 18-27 of those hours. Your worship leader sounds like a wise place to invest your time, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to discuss a leadership development plan for your current leader, or want to train up a new music leader, let me know. Don’t buy the lie that placing an unqualified leader on stage is better than going without corporate worship in song for a season. If you feel unqualified to make an evaluation, reach out and I’d be happy to help. Every leader (including you and I) needs continued development. Your music leader might need theological training or a voice lesson. Mechanics can be trained more easily that character.

No matter the size of your church, don’t propagate the prevalent double-standard where other spiritual leaders are tested for competency and character, but worship leaders get a hall pass. It will take effort and time but you can have both. Aren’t the Savior and his bride worth it?

 

Resource

Here is a brief downloadable PDF of some questions to ask in the audition process of a worship leader or volunteer. It’s not fool-proof, but simply a tool to identify both red flags that may come back to bite you later, and strengths that will serve you well down the road. As always, pray for wisdom and discernment when appointing leaders, and let them be tested.

 

DOWNLOAD THE RESOURCE

Prayer

Father, guide us by your Spirit in raising up worship leaders that adore your Son and desire to serve and equip the saints you entrust to us…leaders that love you more than their gifting, more than emotional highs, and more than perfect productions. Strengthen the unity between lead/teaching pastors and worship leaders. Protect our flocks from wolves, and help us to discern between those that need coaching and those that need to be pulled out of leadership. Grow us in our love for your people as shepherds. Shape our gatherings to bring you glory.

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July 19, 2017 - No Comments!

Two Threats to Sundays – Part 2

twoTHREATS

Hopefully, you’ve read part one of this series and read a bit on why I’m taking the time to detail these powerful threats to our Sunday gatherings.

I’ve already described a bit about why we need both “pedals on the bike”. Sundays are essential but not sufficient for discipleship. Sunday gatherings do not form Christians sufficiently nor is our Christianity supposed to fit inside an hour once a week.

And before you say, “that’s obvious and everyone knows it”, I’ll bet you at least a few things in your current ministry work against this truth.

To begin, let’s look at a few symptoms of undervaluing the Sunday gathering. These are signs that you’re probably expecting too little of your 60-90 minutes together. Listen to this first symptom and ask if maybe you don’t personally fall into this camp…maybe there are ways that you yourself undervalue Sundays.

SYMPTOM #1. YOU ARE HYPER CRITICAL

From the moment we step foot on the property, many of us become “secret shoppers”, publicly privately making notes of all the imperfections, people that bother us, and what we would do different. Many of us worship leaders do this to protect ourselves from critique. Others do it because we simply have a hard time celebrating wins. The comments from the congregation often don’t help:

“That doesn’t look right. That doesn’t sound right. They aren’t living right.”

“I didn’t like that sermon, When are we going to talk about (insert favorite topic, probably an area of Christian living that by God’s grace we have never wrestled with).”

“Please tell me they aren’t doing announcements again.”

“This is not how I would do things.”

“Where’s my favorite worship leader playing my favorite songs at my favorite volume?”

Have you heard these statements between services? Have you heard these things inside your own heart?

If so, I would argue that our/their view of Sunday is too small. If Sunday is simply an event to be run smoothly, we have removed the authority and joy of our Triune God and replaced God with our own assessment and opinion. If we reduce the saints gathered to an experience for our own whims and preferences, then it would follow that we are the purpose and highest judge of the time together. The “experience” of Sunday becomes king, and execution becomes the idol. This reduces Sundays to a meeting that needs well-trained event planners instead of expectant kids awaiting their Father’s words and movement.

What is Sunday then? It’s a collision of the Triune God and the pinnacle of His creation. It’s a time and place where the Spirit is present in a unique way, and in His kindness, the Father recalibrates the hearts of believers towards ultimate joy and satisfaction. It’s a time to be reminded of grace anew, and to respond accordingly through song, communion, baptisms, prayers, and time together…and maybe a doughnut and coffee.

REMEDY #1. ASK BIGGER QUESTIONS

How do we break out of the hypercritical death-spiral? Rather than getting hung up on which parts of the gathering don’t suit you or which parts didn’t go perfect (as if that were the grand plan and intention), take a cue from Colossians 3 and think on what is above. Remember that much of God’s purpose for our time together will happen in human hearts, outside of our view.

For the person singing off key, ask, “does her voice please the father?” For the typo on the slide, ask “is Jesus disgusted by this and now distant?” When the song begins that you don’t care for, ask God, “who in this room needs to hear this, and is there something I need to hear?” Ask God to help you pray for others.

“This reduces Sundays to a meeting that needs well-trained event planners instead of expectant kids awaiting their Father’s words and movement.”

If Jesus is not hyper-critical of you but instead in his omniscience is gracious and merciful, how would that shape how we approach the gathering? If Jesus isn’t sitting with arms crossed in judgement of our mistakes and misguided attempts at throwing a good celebration, should we be?

Now, Keller has famously said that, “sloppiness in the horizontal distracts from the vertical” in corporate worship, and I couldn’t agree more. We know Sundays are in fact important. If Sunday’s do matter then, what is a godly criteria? What kind of questions should we be asking? Whatever you believe about God should help answer that question.

  • Were we a warm family?  Did I make an effort to love someone, encourage someone, welcome someone in to the community? (God is hospitable)
  • Did we preach and sing things that are true? Did we share the gospel message clearly? (God is true and worthy of praise)
  • Was the focus on Jesus? (Jesus is above all)
  • Did we pay attention to who was among us? (insider language ostracizing new people, not defining terms, etc) (God is welcoming)
  •  Did we offer hope to those in hard places? (God is comforting)

There’s certainly nothing wrong with evaluating our time together. In fact, we do that as a staff every Monday together. But we’re all a lot better off if the critical, nit-picky spirit in us dies, and instead we look for wins and ask good, thoughtful, “above” kinds of questions.

The cure for picking apart Sundays is asking bigger questions. You’ll not be able to approach Sundays the same way if you remember how God sees us and our simple times together.

Tune in for part 3 for another symptom that we (or someone you know) is making too little of our weekly times of worship together.

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June 22, 2017 - No Comments!

Get Upstream


Just east of my home, the Snoqualmie River meanders for 45 miles through homes, farmlands, two counties, and then feeds into the famous Puget Sound. The river begins in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness way up in the Cascade Mountains. It’s there in the mountains that the source waters run and collide together to form the river before it begins its push down through western Washington.

Most (but not all) of my coaching clients are bi-vocational worship leaders in churches of 500 people of less. They are neck deep in all of the challenges that come along with wearing multiple hats and leading worship while balancing a hundred other things. They want to build great teams and have fun being creative in the local church.

That said, most of them reach out after they are overwhelmed or drowning a bit. This is natural I suppose, similar to how preventative medicine has been scientifically proven to be cheaper and more effective, and yet most of us elect to avoid the doctor’s office until a problem arises with our bodies. I’m no doctor, but I have seen a parallel in the worship leaders I coach.

My favorite clients are those that are trying to prepare in advance for the challenges coming for them. One of these leaders is Sarah. Yes, that’s her real name. Sarah is a delight. Sarah isn’t on staff at a church. She isn’t even in full time vocational ministry. She’s in a small town and has no aspirations of being in a big city.

Sarah is also clear in her calling to grow as a worship leader, so we’ve worked together for the last 6 months around how she can be best equipped for that future. Sarah wanted to get upstream, and learn how to organize, lead, and care for a worship ministry. She’s already grown a ton and now has tangible skills in her pocket that she didn’t a few months ago. I don’t share this story as some kind of humble-brag, but for clarity. Many of the leaders I speak with seem surprised that someone like Sarah makes for a great client. I tell them what I’ll say again now: I’d take a dozen more Sarah’s because she’s getting upstream and preparing herself for what’s ahead. She comes prepared, asks good questions, takes feedback with humility, and follows through on her “assignments”. She’s growing because she’s putting in the work. A few thoughts from her:

“Donald makes long-distance coaching effective…He cares genuinely about my growth as a leader and my growth in my relationship with Christ, with every meeting being centered around the gospel. The coaching has played an integral part in my development as a worship leader and leader. He has helped me to understand how to apply my gifts to serving God’s people through worship and relationship. I appreciate his wisdom, creativity, and insight when it comes to working with a team. I’ve grown as a worshipper, as a worship leader, and am more confident in my identity in Christ because of our time together.”

Sarah has invested in being the leader she wants to be in the future…she’s been pro-active instead of reactive. Be like Sarah. Get ahead of what’s coming. Ask questions of those further down the road than you around how you can grow in the areas of leadership that don’t come natural to you, and how you can leverage the strengths you already have.

Some good “upstream questions”:

-What will my team (up, down, and laterally) need from me in 6-12 months?
-What do I want the worship or arts ministry to look like this time next year?
-What do I need to do in my church to make disciples in the next year?
-Do I have any life stage changes coming (engagement, birth of a child, graduating college) and how can I plan for that?
-What do I want my volunteers and congregation to experience or learn this year?

I love the local church and local church leaders. If you or someone you know would benefit from some one-on-one coaching towards leadership development, organizing and recruiting artists, or growing your worship/arts ministry, let’s chat.

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June 15, 2017 - No Comments!

Confession for Jonah

As we’ve walked through the book of Jonah at Doxa Church, we’ve clearly seen how the book is obviously about Jonah, but also about Jesus…and also about us.

Jonah is a tough book. Believing that God’s grace is big enough for us and for the people we despise is where anyone that does Christianity as a hobby, a social club, or because their parents told them to, falls off and finds an easier path. To remind our people that we can be just like Jonah, and to reinforce our liturgy movement, we participated in this confession and assurance of pardon last week. I hope it serves you well.

CONFESSION
We have believed that you don’t have enough grace for us,
 that our sin is greater than you,
 forgive us Father.

We have believed that others don’t deserve your grace, 
that we know justice better than you,
 forgive us Father.

We have believed that we can run from you that somehow we could create distance between us and an omnipresent God. Forgive us Father.

We have believed that You won’t do what’s best, that we need to protect ourselves, sometimes in lieu of you, sometimes from you. Forgive us Father.

We have believed that you won’t provide for us, and assume the things that we care about are what we need, forgive us Father.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON
We say aloud that your grace is enough for us,
and for those that have wounded us.
We acknowledge that your presence is constant
and always for our good.
You provide for our needs without exception,
but in your wisdom know what we often strive
for that which can ultimately harm us.
Thank you Father for being quick to forgive,
slow to anger, 
rich in compassion, 
and eternally constant.

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May 05, 2017 - No Comments!

Two Threats to Sundays – Part 1

twoTHREATS

Sundays are a big deal for Christians. This is no secret. But two imminent threats exist against the church gathered. I’ve watched these two threats show up unannounced and discretely, and every Christian and local church is vulnerable. Both threats are designed to dislodge one of the best rhythms God has given us, his kids. I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this, and willing to be honest, one (or both) would be true for you.

The greatest threats to Sundays are overvaluing or undervaluing the weekly gathering.

Here in part one of this three part series we’ll look at why these threats should matter to all of us.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

If you’re a Christian than you probably figured out that you’re signed up for a lifetime of Sundays. Sunday is normal and important, sure. And yet making too much or too little of them is highly dangerous to the Christian life. And no one is immune. This issue matters because it attacks an essential rhythm for all believers.

It’s a necessary message because we as believers can “fall off the horse” on both sides. incidentally if you’re not a Christian and you’re here asking questions about faith and church and Jesus, then this discussion will hopefully give you an idea of what this part of Christianity is all about.

Some of us connect with God primarily through our head-space or intellect, while others from the heart and emotion, while others through activity and the action of our hands. This issue matters because these threats detrimentally affects all types; those that learn and grow primarily through their head, heart, or hands.

 God wants us to understand, be desirous of, and participate in Sundays and we all can stray from fully engaging and receiving from the Sunday gathering.

Lastly, this issue matters because it affects the very way we do church, and the way we reach the world. A monstrous proportion of church impotency, leader frustration, and cultural irrelevance is tied to the over-estimation or neglect of our Sundays together.

“Why would that person think it’s ok to sleep around, don’t they remember that one time I talked about God’s design for sex two years ago!?!”

“How is it possible that only half the church knew about the fundraiser…we’ve announced it every Sunday for two months!”

“Why do people come 20 minutes late to the worship service every week with a coffee in hand?”

TWO PEDALS

Unsurprisingly, spiritual health is like our physical health…if we neglect, minimize, or discount the most important things to our health then our health will suffer. This is at the root of why most churches either focus on Sunday experiences or everyday discipleship. It’s not easy to do both, and most churches that claim to nail both, though well intentioned, are often unaware of how most people experience that community.

The elders and staff at Doxa have doubled down as it relates to doing SUNDAYS and life together, and doing them both well. It’s hard. Really hard. Saying yes to one thing is always a no to something else. Every dollar spent on making Sundays better can be movement away from resourcing everyday discipleship. We talk about the tension around our office in a way that I think it’s helpful.

 Picture Sundays as one of the pedals on this bike below:

2pedals

I want you to see the opposite pedal as whatever your church does to facilitate bible study, prayer, mission, and life together (for us it’s missional communities). It seems basic, but its important to point out that no one is going to get very far very fast if they only use one pedal. And from what we can see in scripture and in church history, disciples are made and the kingdom of God goes out in powerful and transformative ways when God’s people do both. What I’m saying is, we need both pedals. Keep those pedals in mind as we look at our first threat.

Part two is found here.

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March 08, 2017 - No Comments!

Lent & Joy


“Why the rules, God?”

So much is wrapped up in that one question.

Disbelief. Accusation. Condescension. Weariness. Disappointment.

This is the kind of question that often comes from an exhausted heart that is forced to face its failures. It comes from the prideful angst of wanting to script our lives differently than He has. It ‘s ammunition for prosecution against a god we’ve constructed in our minds that doesn’t even resemble the true one over all things.

I was a Christian for far too long before I heard (or perhaps more accurately, listened) that God was for me, and for my joy. This was one of a small handful of truths that changed everything for me. I believe that (on a good day) I relate differently, I speak differently, I rest differently, and I lead differently. That avoiding certain places, people, and behaviors, might be for our best. That embracing others we wouldn’t gravitate towards might be for our best. That going without something we love, for a lent season, might be for our best.

I long for my church to know God’s favor and to live in that kind of freedom. I myself desperately need the reminder that all Christian doctrine and instruction is for the purpose of God’s glory, which will always lead to my own maximum joy. In the time it takes me to read that sentence, I can forget it. Like a puff of smoke, only after realizing that it has taken shape, does it dissipate again. I need reminding. We all need reminding.

This idea that God is for us, and that joy drives obedience, is one of many that inform how we begin our Sunday gatherings together. To that end, as we recently kicked off Lent, I read this modified prayer below over our congregation as a call-to-worship:

Jesus invites us to a way of celebration,
meeting and feasting with the humble, powerless, and poor.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus beckons us to a way of risk,
letting go of our security and self-protection.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus challenges us to listen to the voices
of those who have nothing to lose.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus points us to a way of self-giving,
where power and status are overturned.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus calls us to follow the way of the cross,
where despair is transformed by the promise of new life.
Let us walk his way with joy.

May His divine joy show up in your heart and mind today.

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February 13, 2017 - 3 comments

Silence and Solitude (Part 3)

(photo credit: athena grace)

In the final installment of this three-part series, I’ll detail some practical hand-holds for how to approach a time of solitude. Following these steps is certainly not mandatory, but I believe them to be helpful for getting the most out of your time away. We’ll quickly cover four basic parts, and I recommend the order as much as the pieces. With that said, let’s dive in:

PART 1: GET MOVING

Do something active to get the blood moving (i.e. short run or hike). Once your body and mind are fully awake, find a place your body can be comfortable. Read a bit of scripture and write down your thoughts.

PART 2: LOOK BACK

Review your last season. Have you avoided compulsion? Are your identities in the right order? (Christian, spouse, parent, student, employee…etc) Are you hitting your goals? Are you enjoying life? Are you resting? How would you describe the season you’ve just walked through.

PART 3: LOOK FORWARD

Look at your upcoming season. Take time to hear what God calling you to do. What would you like to accomplish? Who would you like to invest in? Write these things down so that you’ll have them to evaluate in your next solitude.

PART 4: DREAM

Write down what you’d like the next two years to look like for you. What are the personal goals? What hopes do you have for your relationships? What opportunities do you want to pursue? (keep in mind, this is NOT a time for planning, simply dreaming) Are there activities or people that would be life-giving that you want to give more attention to?

“If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can’t afford to not practice silence and solitude.”


TRANSITIONING OUT OF SOLITUDE

Athletes know to properly “cool-down” after an event. The same concept is helpful after an extended time of solitude. Finish your day by having a tasty dinner with your friends or family and share the things that stood out to you. Ask them for feedback on your goals. Ask them what they think would be helpful for you moving forward.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

The people who get paid a lot of money to study millenials say that millenials care deeply about being authentic. If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can’t afford to not practice silence and solitude. It’ll keep you from pretending that a curated online life means anything. Pretending that digital relationships can replace eating or crying or laughing together in the same room. Pretending that sex is only a physical act and not a spiritual one. Pretending that a life in a cubicle for a product or service you don’t care about is the best you can do. You will only be able to quit pretending, to break the addiction, and to walk forward with powerful clarity if you take the time to sit and listen to God.

When I get away into silence and solitude, the volume of all my compulsions is turned down. And that is incredibly uncomfortable. Because we are addicted to our compulsions and they keep us from looking ourselves in the eyes and seeing what is chaotic and messy.
But let me tell you what else happens.

The volume of the voice of my perfect father creeps up. My calling becomes clearer. I breathe more deeply and I feel the freedom described in the Scriptures and songs that I
participate in every Sunday. There is no cheap counterfeit or shortcut for this in the life of the believer.

“God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
God wasn’t in the earthquake;
God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”

The same silence that pulls back the curtain and smoke is where the healer is found. Silence and solitude will not be given to you, you have to take it for yourself. He is not waiting for your performance, He is waiting for the quiet.

go back to part one // go to part two

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). A more detailed list of practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.

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February 07, 2017 - No Comments!

Silence and Solitude (Part 2)

Last week, I provided a brief introduction to the disciplines of silence and solitude. This week we’ll continue building on that idea, and I’ll unpack a bit of why this element of Christian discipleship is generally neglected if not completely forgone.

So why is it so difficult to get time away? Why do we only typically think to get alone with Jesus in silence when life runs us down completely? Three reasons drive our avoidance of silence and solitude, and they are all powerful deterrents from what brings us life.

WHY IS IT HARD?

1. Distractions
We are addicted to noise, on the outside and the inside. Millennials touch their phones 43 times a day on average. We don’t like to be left alone with our thoughts. The human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to about 8 seconds currently. (Interesting to think about what has happened culturally since in 2000…)

2. Compulsions
Compulsion is every time you choose something urgent over something important. It’s when you spend energy appearing a certain way, instead of being a certain person. Compulsion is the internal “oughts and shoulds”, the feelings of never enough. It’s one more hour of video games, one more unnecessary online purchase, one more hook up. Our busyness is a way to avoid ourselves, God and others. We make endless lists, spinning on what we’ll do next. Always moving, never resting.

3. Confusions
We get confused about our own limitations (namely that we can’t hold the pace most of us try to keep), and confusion about God’s disposition towards us. God is not an old bitter friend, waiting to light you up with his anger and list of wrongdoings when you finally make time to reconnect. He’s not sitting arms-crossed just waiting to let you have it. He loves you, not a future version of you, YOU. NOW. No matter how long it’s been. And so our distractions, and compulsions, and confusions lead us to have tired souls.

Tired souls look like this:
-Inner restlessness, underlying anxiety, or vague nervousness
-emotional weariness
-obsessive thinking
-inner irritability and agitation
-we can’t sit and be quiet
-relationally detached and numb
-immersed in fantasy world, dreaming of escape, or taking sexual risks
-people become tedious
-lack of enthusiasm for life/ministry/devotions
-we become depressed / hopeless
-angry, defensive, and argumentative
-decision-making feels impossible and clouded

WHY IS IT WORTH IT?

With regular silence and solitude the soul becomes refreshed and recalibrated. We begin to live out the day the way the Father intended. This can not be overstated. Below is a brief list of what I have seen happen after regular silence and solitude:

-Freedom from compulsion
-Interior space which is able to hold other spiritual disciplines
-Moving away from constantly seeing your life in reference to how others see you
-Increased clarity on the desires of your heart
-Becoming more adept at listening to and recognizing the voice of God
-Experience the supernatural and mystical side of our faith

Now, you can do silence and solitude in an hour, or a whole weekend, but
the basic elements are the same. Next week, I’ll unpack the four basic parts.

go back to part one // go to part three

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). Practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.
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January 28, 2017 - 2 comments

Silence and Solitude (Part 1)


“A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains
and shattered the rocks before God,
but God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”
-1 Kings 19

For a long time, I have worked with artists, musicians, and creatives all over the country to tell the unchanging gospel story in fresh ways. I have surrounded myself with the most talented and dedicated artists I can find. Most of them have been what sociologists call millennials.

Millennials are an interesting bunch. Considering they currently make up 25% of the American population, it’s no wonder people are paying attention. What I love about millenials is that, more than those before them, want their life to matter in substantive ways; to have a clear purpose and make a difference. They sacrifice money and power to achieve their goals faster than their predecessors. That said, one discipline matters more than all the rest in that pursuit of that kind of clarifying purpose (whether you grew up watching Boy Meets World or not). If you want to live a life of calling, and not just wander around, moving from compulsion to compulsion, you must learn and practice silence and solitude.

Silence and solitude are the foundational disciplines that provide spiritual and psychological space for all other disciplines. They are the way by which we face our real selves and enter into the presence of God. The primary means by which you will determine your calling and avoid compulsion, is in SILENCE AND SOLITUDE.

“If you want to live a life of clear calling, and not just wander around, moving from compulsion to compulsion, you must learn and practice silence and solitude.”

Much of what I’ll share in this three part series is informed and guided by spending time with two brilliant men, Jim Cofield and Rich Plass. These two men are pastors of pastors, who work full time in soul care, counseling, writing, and helping leaders around the country be healthy. They wrote the book “The Relational Soul”, and if you want to stay in ministry a long time and be wise beyond your years, read every word of that book.

WHAT IS SILENCE AND SOLITUDE?

Alright, so how are we defining this discipline? Here’s what I use to frame it up:

Silence and solitude is the act of freeing ourselves from the distraction of people and tasks and words so as to give ourselves completely to God alone with all of our being.

Solitude is an intentionally alone place, not to hide but to listen.
… it is Jesus in the solitary place (Mark 1:35)
… it is Elijah at Mt. Horeb
… it is John on the Island of Patmos, shunned by his own community
… it is Paul imprisoned wondering what to do next

Silence is where you find the real you.
Solitude distances us from the fake version of us we have made for others.
…a place where we put down our curated and filtered Instagram lives,
….a place where we are more honest before God without having to perform
…..a place where we see that our identity is a gift and not earned.

This is true of everyone, but especially those in public ministry, we’re often on display, and we become adaptive to what others expect even though that may not always be the true us. In solitude, God does deep work without any pretense of
being something other than our true selves. In solitude you ask God to be
merciful and show you the REAL condition of your soul.

You are not the fringe.
Without solitude we mistake the fringe for the center and think “that’s the real me!” We become addicted to maintaining that fringe and that image. It’s impossible to slow down in your life if you are constantly servicing that fringe version of yourself. Keeping the fringe from falling apart is an insanely tiring and consuming activity.

Silence isn’t just environmental.
it’s NOT just a condition outside of me … it’s state of my soul before God. Silence frees me from having to say something. Silence intensifies the solitude. They go hand in hand.

“Solitude doesn’t make God love you more, but it might let you see more of God’s love.”

Silence and Solitude are not…
They aren’t just daydreaming or simply emptying the mind. They aren’t an attempt to become more spiritual or the same as meeting God, but certainly an environment to do so. Solitude doesn’t make God love you more, but it might let you see more of God’s love.

Next week, we’ll look at why silence and solitude are very difficult for most of us. Three specific challenges keep us from this rhythm and knowing what they are makes a huge difference. Read part two, and have the courage to step into the silence and hear what God’s love and mercy sound like.

go to part two

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). Practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.

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January 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Jesus Is the All-Wise

 

Most worship leaders I know are balancing a lot in their lives. Working full or part-time, going to school, church activities, touring, families, kids, travel, etc. Just getting through Sunday can feel like the win. This dictates how we as leaders approach liturgy at times.

When I think through the liturgy for the upcoming Sunday each week, based on margins, I frequently reach for an established resource; a creed, a prayer, a psalm etc. On occasion, I feel like I need to spend the time to write out myself what I want our people to know and hear.

This past Sunday, we looked at God as the source of wisdom, as we walked through part two in our series in the book of James. I wrote and then read this confessional prayer with the congregation. Feel free to use it if it’s helpful in your context.

 

LEADER: When our days are darkened, and trouble surrounds us.
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When others sin against us, speaking unkindly, betraying, or minimizing us:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we grasp for what we falsely believe is rightfully ours, and attempt to control or manipulate our circumstances or relationships:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we isolate and hide from community, in an attempt to protect and defend ourselves:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we kneel before Fear, paying homage to an abusive king that robs us of life, and neglect you the True king that brings life:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we receive your blessings with entitled hearts, recognizing the gifts but not the giver:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

CLOSING:
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:6

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