Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Interactive Worship

I've been reading a lot of stuff over the past couple of years saying that our Sunday mornings have become a good stage act, with everything planned out: good music, good preaching, good presentations, etc. More and more I am hearing that as worship leaders we need to create an environment that invites all people to participate in worship, contrasted by the megachurch rock concert that happens in so many churches across the country.

What I want to do is begin a list of things that happen on sunday that allow as many people as possible to "do something" during worship. What things can we do to invite people to participate? Here are some of the things I have come up with, which also includes some verbs and adjectives that might describe some of the emotions and things going on during these sacrificial activities.

• creeds (recited)
• Communion
• Lord's Prayer reciting
• kneeling in prayer (physical positions)
• responsive or unison readings
• baptism
• art (created during worship or displayed/used)
• music
• whole room use (design, activity)
• externalizing internal feelings (verbal, physical)
• what can they do this week?
• testimonies (video or live)
• worship/prayer stations
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• praise
• adoration
• thanksgiving
• contrition
• commitment
• petition
• intercession
• lament
• introspection
• edification
I am asking everyone to help me add to this list to create more ways that we can participate in glorifying our God and creating an atmosphere that keeps us from becoming the audience, instead giving everyone more opportunity to be the ones giving the sacrifice, with God as the recipient.

Monday, July 25, 2005

In The Sports World Today...

I know it's been a long time since I have posted anything. I could say I've been busy, but you probably wouldn't believe me. I haven't been watching much television, but I have been keeping up with all my favorite sports teams. I won't bore you with everything, so here's just a couple of interesting things happening right now:

If you watch baseball at all, you know that the Oakland Athletics are on a winning streak. You might wonder how big a streak? They've won 6 games in a row, 22 of the last 27, are now 8 games over .500, and are now tied for the AL Wild Card. Seven weeks ago, they were 12 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. They're doing so well that if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs and the Yankees would be sitting at home in the Bronx with an early vacation.

On the basketball front, although the Blazers aren't exactly my favorite team, local fans will be glad to know that yet another good player is slipping away in the form of Shareef Abdur-Rahim to the New Jersey Nets. It is rumored that he will go with whatever it takes, whether as a free agent or as a sign-and-trade. Speaking of my favorite team, it is now said that Bonzi Wells (remember him Portland?) will be going to the Sacramento Kings from Memphis for Bobby Jackson, and the Kings are also sending Greg Ostertag back to Utah. I'll reserve my comments for this until I see them in action.

Don't forget the seventh Tour de France win in a row for Lance Armstrong. Now that he's retired he'll have to find something else to do, like go on tour with Sheryl Crow or become a politician. Whatever it is, what a story he has of willpower and overcoming obstacles.

This has been the review in sports. Back to you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New Worship Songs

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am a music-oriented guy. Anything that I do I'm usually looking for the music aspect in it. It's probably why I'm a sucker for the CDs in Starbucks. I always have to see what they've got selling, and whatever is playing over the speakers I usually have to say what it's from, try to figure it out, or tap along with the beat. In movies, I look at specific songs on the soundtrack and what they mean for the movie as far as setting mood or marketing. I will hear songs on the radio and know that they were used in a movie and try to guess which movie they came from.

I've been saying for a short while that more worship leaders need to start writing new music. I've been bugging Church of Christ friends to write new stuff, but I think it goes for every other leader out there; we need new songs. This is probably a backlash to the pre-packaged contrived shallow tripe that I see on the shelves of the local retail store and on the radio thanks to the money machine record labels. I wish this didn't include Christian music, but the truth hurts that it isn't immune to the innane.

I've also said I'm tired of thoughtlessly singing songs in church that I know are Scripturally flawed or just plain wrong. I don't know how many kids I had to tell at camp that I just don't want to sing "Does He Still Feel The Nails" because I think it's bad theology, even though they want to sing it because it makes them confront their sin and besides, they just like the tune.

I've found a couple of articles on writing music that resound with what I have been thinking over the past year or so about worship music. There are many old and new songs that I like musically which are just as bad theologically as the aforementioned song, and those that are so much about my own edification that God is merely an afterthought. Hopefully these articles will spur more songwriters to write for God, maybe even specifically to meet the need of their own congregations than those of the American public. Perhaps we will be more thoughtful about what we sing and how it glorifies God and calls our hearts to Him.

Open Letter to Worship Songwriters by Brian McLaren
Postscript to "Open Letter to Worship Songwriters" by John Mortensen

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Professional Wrestling and Fast Food

If you knew me several years ago, you would know that I was a huge professional wrestling fan. I'm not talking about the greco-roman olympic type either, I mean the over-oiled, screaming into a microphone, cage match type of wrestling. I even went to Wrestlemania when it was at Safeco Field a couple of years ago. I think it was there that my affinty toward it died completely. Probably the reason I liked it was the same enjoyment I got from watching other shows such as G.I.Joe and Transformers, because I could buy the action figures and use my imagination in the huge battles that would take place, and I could choose my favorite characters to win every time. For high school and college it was probably for the storyline/soap opera it gave and because I got to laugh at the juiced up men pretending to fight while I was eating snacks and hanging out with friends.

I said all that to say this: On my trip to Sierra Bible Camp at the end of this June, we passed through the small town of Cottonwood, CA. On the side of the road there was a sign for a fast food restaurant called Mean Gene's Burgers:

“Mean Gene” Okerlund was an announcer for professional wrestling for like 30 years and pretty much if you watched wrestling you know who he is. The funny thing about it is the obvious use of name recognition and desperate need for better marketing directors. Cottonwood isn't exactly the place I would go to in order to start a business, let alone one that requires many customers in order to stay afloat.

The moral of the story is, just because you are famous doesn't mean you should start a restaurant.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Living Stones

Are we living stones or giant barriers?

The stone covering Jesus' tomb was rolled away, revealing the Resurrection and the power of God. It did not cover the tomb. It could no longer cover the tomb, for God's power moved it aside. Are we revealing the Good News or covering it?

Exclusive religion afraid of mixing the gospel of Christ with those it seeks to reach in the form of pre-Christians is effectively attempting to shut the Kingdom gates in people's faces. Jesus has something to say about this:

"How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you won't let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won't go in yourselves."
~Matthew 23:14
Quoting Sally Morgenthaler:
"Are we insulating ourselves in our multimillion-dollar sanctuaries only to offer up vacuous, counterfiet praise with hearts that have been inoculated against the real thing?"
~Morgenthaler, Worship Evangelism, Zondervan Publishing House, p.29
Her words may seem harsh, but I believe she is reiterating what Jesus warns religious leaders against in making our services and religious lives about what pleases us instead of what pleases God and His call for our lives. I have seen too many times people walk into church buildings searching for faith only to be shown hypocrisy by those claiming to have it. Why would anyone want to come back to something like that? Why else do we think that people are so jaded against organized religion?

I pray we can all become living stones of faith, revealing the empty tomb and the great gift of life it gives us. I pray we stop being walls and barriers to people searching for faith and love and step aside our own desires and let God's will be done.