Safety in Numbers

Do you like scary or suspenseful movies? I do… but my wife just can’t watch them. I always try to convince her to watch them by telling her why they aren’t scary and how you can predict everything that is going to happen from the start. How predictable are they? A group of young adults venture off into the woods… maybe they find a cabin? They begin to do their own things… breaking off in groups, making poor decisions, etc. Then like clockwork one ventures off alone because they have to go to the restroom or they heard a mysterious noise and BLAM they are got.

Like in a scary movie there are times when being alone is dangerous. We as human beings are the most vulnerable physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually when we are isolated and alone. Statistics back this up! Most people who are victims of a violent attack or encounter were singled out because they were vulnerable and alone.

You are most vulnerable when you are alone.

I chuckle every time I think back to a story a friend of mine told me about when he first moved out of his parents house and into his own home. He was excited to be out on his own and to begin to set up the place where he would start his family. Shortly after moving in by himself he had a scary moment where he began to choke on a piece of food that he had scarfed down. The panic truly began to set in when he started struggling to breathe and then realized where he was… in his own house… all alone! What a way to go! He ran around the home desperately trying to cough up the food and finally had to resort to hurling himself down on a kitchen chair in a makeshift Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the food from his throat.

As funny as that situation is now, it definitely wasn’t then and it could’ve been even more serious if he had lost consciousness.

How much easier would that whole situation have been if there had been someone else there to help my friend? A person he could trust to take care of him in times of weakness or distress. Not only were we as humans, and Christians, created to be in community but we also need community. There is safety in numbers.

This week we continue our discussion on the importance of developing and maintaining a faith community to be part of and invested in.

I like to hike, and a few of the places I enjoy hiking have the potential of putting you in the same area of a bear or two. I never worry about it too much because I have a partner, my wife, that I typically hike with. When we are together we make more noise and allow more time for a bear to avoid being startled by us… therefore making us safer together.

Though there aren’t bears out there in everyday life, there are other things that pull at us and seek to destroy us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. False theology abounds at every turn. Satan and his legions try to distract us with temptations. Our own sin leads us astray. We need Godly brothers and sisters to watch our back. Like a “band of brothers” that collide in a war zone and are tasked with completing a mission and keeping each other alive, we too need to be connected in community where we can all be on alert together for the dangers that are all around us. Now we know we are never entirely “safe” form sin… but safety does come with accountability to another. Safety is greater in numbers.

The truth is, we need each other. We need to trust, rely on, and depend upon other believers. God gave us each other to walk alongside, encourage, and spur one another one in the faith. The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:24-25,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

James 5:16 says,

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

So… despite the fact that running into a bear could be a possibility I hike anyways. I am safer with my wife by my side… watching my back while I watch hers. The same can be said about Christians as well, we are safer together in the community of the Body of Christ than we are out there trying to “hike” on our own. Though society might tell us that we can do life on our own, God’s word tells us that we simply can’t function without each other (just read 1 Corinthians 12). We need each other and we need community!

Don’t allow yourself to be the soldier lost behind enemy lines all alone!

Instead live out Galatians 6:2 where it says,

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Join a community that fights for each other, protects each other, and takes care of each other. Romans 12:13 says,

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Hebrews 13:16 says,

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Like a battle buddy or hiking partner your community can warn you of dangers ahead… or even better, of dangers within. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says,

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Are you safe? Could you be safer? If you aren’t currently in community with other Believers then you definitely aren’t as safe as you could be. Don’t open yourself up to attacks from the evil one; instead surround yourself with soldiers fighting for the same army as you!

There is safety in numbers.

The Importance of a Faith Community

This week we are beginning a look at Christian community and why it is vital to our lives as Believers. We will continue on with several installments in the weeks to come.

We once were a society that centered around family. Multiple generations often lived together under one roof, and when families did live separately they never moved very far. Small town living was real and kids moved in just down the street from the homes they grew up in. In my head I visualize the fictional community of Mayberry, North Carolina, where the 60’s TV show Andy Griffith was set.

Unfortunately, the day and age of Mayberry are gone. These days, we are more of an individualistic culture. We rely on ourselves. We live far away from where we were raised. Our connections with other people take place most often in the workplace, and deep sincere lasting friendships are pushed aside by fickle, and short-lived online connections and social media followers.

In the church, we see this sense of individualism and disconnectedness as well. Many people “date” churches, never staying in one place very long. Whether it’s a commitment issue or something else… who’s to say? Some may claim a “home church” but are rarely seen outside of an occasional Sunday morning worship service when they don’t have something “better” going on. And then there are those who may indeed have a committed relationship with a particular church but they are not “sold out” or all in. They are involved but withholding. They don’t rely on the Body when they are struggling or in need. Instead, they wear masks that cover the pain of their lives, pretending that everything’s okay, even though it’s not. They like the idea of community but maybe not the application so much.

Yet individualism and doing life on our own is not part of God’s design. After all, God is a community in himself. Existing for all of eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have enjoyed the love and fellowship of their perfect triune community. In creating mankind, God desired for us to participate in that community.

In the book “Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy” Paul Tripp says,

We weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources God has given us.

But God didn’t create man to be in community with him alone. After he created the world and Adam, God created human community or personal human relationships. In Genesis 2:18 God said,

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.

God created man and woman to be in community together, to create families and live together, bearing the image of and reflecting the three-in-one God. Scripture is all about community. God chose the Israelites to be his people. We see that in Leviticus 26:12,

And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.

They lived and worshipped him together in community. Following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God then instituted the church, the Body of Christ as a community of believers.

1 Corinthians 12:27 says,

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The biblical ideal of community challenges us to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God. Christian community is the place of our continuing conversion. Its goal is that, individually and together, we should become mature, able to stand tall and straight, embodying the very “fullness of Christ” talked about in Ephesians 4:11-16,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We know all too well that maturity takes time. We know less well that it also takes our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a process that is revealed throughout the language of the New Testament. We see this process described in the “each other” language… Love one another, forgive each other, regard each other more highly than yourselves, teach and correct each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and bear each other’s burdens, be friends with one another, be kind to each other, compassionate, and generous in hospitality, serve one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Get the idea? This list just scratches the surface, but it is enough to remind us that we need a faith community in our lives.

To disconnect oneself from faith community is like a leaf believing it would thrive better off the branch that is rooted to the earth were it ultimately draws sustenance from.

What does your faith community look like? Next week we will continue our series on “community” by looking at some specific aspects and advantages to living in a healthy faith community.

Christian Character

We’ve all heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true…” That same thing can be said about an experience I read about recently. A young couple were in the market for a house in the Southern California area but were on a fixed budget. If you know anything about southern California you’ll know that buying a house and “fixed budget” don’t really go hand-in-hand when you are shopping for the home in which you will hopefully one day start your family.

One day the husband stumbled across an ad for one that seemed like an excellent deal for half the normal price. In Southern California that is a rare find! The reason for the great price was because its foundation was cracked. It did not seem to be a big deal; after all, it could just be filled in with some kind of filler or cement, right?

Wrong! Anyone that is experienced in this area or has had a similar experience knows how essential it was to have a good foundation… a solid foundation free of weaknesses and completely intact. So, reluctantly, with a lot of pouting and moping, the young couple had to pass up the great deal.

A few months later, upon driving by that house and talking to the new owners who were quite beside themselves in frustration, it seems as if the right decision was made to pass on the purchase. The new owners were having a lot of problems with water leaking into the house all of the time, even when it was not raining. Inevitably it will cost them more to fix the house’s foundation then it would be to tear it down and rebuild.

How is this is like character? Character is foundational to a person’s life and faith. Skipping character, or foundation, for convenience may seem okay at the time, but it will catch up with you. Sometimes we desire to go and find the easy way out of the hard and time-consuming things of life to get to the point of our day and accomplish the things we have set before ourselves. This happens even in ministry. Even if it cuts the corners off Character, we strive to shortcut our way though spiritual growth and serving God. So, let us look at God’s Word and find out why Godly character is important.

Character is defined as strength of moral fiber. A.W. Tozer once described character as,

The excellence of moral beings.

Character is often defined as a collection of personality traits within our behavior that shows who we are. This is shown in our integrity, attitude, moral fiber, disposition, and this shapes how we treat one another, good or bad. This is mostly true, but it goes much deeper than that. Character is who we are and it can be learned and built when we are in Christ. Moreover, real authentic Christian Character is not just a personality or our disposition; it is a description of who we are as a Christian. A persons character encapsulates the “Fruits of the Spirit” from God’s love and work within us.

A person’s character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions. It is good to remember that character is gauged by general tendencies, not on the basis of a few isolated actions. We must look at the whole life. For example, King David was a man of good character, but like you and I he sinned on occasion. For example, 2 Samuel 11:2-4 and the rest of the story that follows,

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.

On the other hand, King Ahab may have acted nobly and honorably once in the battle that took his life in 1 Kings 22:35, he was still a man of overall bad character. 1 Kings 16:33 makes that clear,

And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

Several people in the Bible are described as having noble character. Ruth is described that way ion Ruth 3:11 where it says,

And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.

Hanani in Nehemiah 7:2,

I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.

David in Psalm 78:72,

With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

And we cannot forget Job in Job 2:3,

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”

All of these individuals’ lives were distinguished by a persistent moral virtue and Christ-like mindset.

Our character is influenced and developed by our choices. Daniel “resolved not to defile himself” in Babylon (Daniel 1:8), and that Godly choice was an important step in formulating the integrity that guided the young man’s life. Character, in turn, influences our choices.

Proverbs 11:3a says,

The integrity of the upright guides them.

And character will help us weather the storms of life and keep us from sin. Proverbs 10:9 says,

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

We all have the ability to be good or be bad, to take what Christ has given us and use it, and it is the Lord’s purpose to develop character within us. Proverbs 17:3 says,

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

Godly character is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification, and Christian character is a consistent manifestation of Jesus in a persons life. It is the purity of heart that God gives each and every one of us becoming purity in action and being displayed through us!

God sometimes uses trials to strengthen character like we read in Romans 5:3-4,

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

The Lord is pleased when His children grow in character.  1 Chronicles 29:17 says,

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

Psalm 15:1-2 says,

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.

Our character is the most profound in our hard times!

Godly character is the springboard from which all we do and say in life comes. Developing Biblical character in the face of our daily life and even in adversity is essential to our witness and proof that we have a growing relationship with Christ! Character is not just having integrity or honesty or doing the right thing, it is not one aspect or even a few, it is a living, growing relationship in Christ which produces a synergistic combination of the Fruits of the Spirit that is apparent to those around you.

A few years back the internet and national news sources exploded over the story of Ryan Lochte and three other American swimmers allegedly getting robbed at a gas station in Rio while there for the Olympic games. That was the initial report, at least. Over time, however, it became clear that the initial story was not the true story. As facts would have it, it appears Lochte was not entirely truthful in his initial account, and as the story developed, sponsors of Lochte dropped their contracts with him.

Despite winning 12 medals in his Olympic career, these companies wanted to distance themselves from the perception he has created of a young man with flawed character.

In other words, his achievements are being outshined by his character flaws.

I’m not here to throw stones or even to focus on this story, instead, I want to focus on one thing we can take away from that event: the need to develop our character. Let’s look at how we can develop and train Godly character together!

Love God

The first foundation for Godly character is a love for God. That may seem obvious as it is the first and greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:37-38,

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.

Our love for God includes more than just an emotional “fuzzy” feeling. Instead it captures the affections of our soul, our mind, and our heart! We should put all of our intellectual and physical effort into guarding and fueling our hearts, never giving in to the emotionalism which neglects thinking or the intellectualism which neglects the heart.

How do you keep from losing your first love for God? We’ve all felt distant from God at one point or another… maybe you are there now! Think back to when you first came to know Christ and put your faith in Him, Jesus changed your life and you were excited about Him! But over the long haul, how do you keep that motivation going? How do you sustain a Christ-centered life?

I think the answer to that is really how you sustain a relationship with any person. If you are married think back to when you first met and started dating your spouse, there was an excitement to your relationship when the love was new a fresh. Sound like your relationship with Christ? But over time certain things will change, and the “newness” wears off and the tendency to start taking each other for granted steps in.

What do you do about that? You make sure to cultivate your relationship by spending regular time with that person. Intentional time… with no distractions and no end goal other than just cherishing each other.

Some people have the idea that knowing God should be easy. That developing a relationship with the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe should require nothing more strenuous than listening to an occasional sermon or reading a book or two. Why is that? Why is it that we will study for years in college to get a degree, we’ll labor nights and weekends to get ahead in our careers, and yet we think that knowing God should be effortless? We’ll exercise for hours to improve our physical health. We’ll eat right and sacrifice junk food, and torture ourselves on the treadmill.

In other areas of life, we understand that having things of value require work and dedication. Yet in the realm of the spirit, we expect good things just to drop into our laps. But that’s not the way it works! Like anything else of great worth, knowing God requires diligence and sustained effort. Is it worth it? Yes, the reward of seeking God far exceeds the cost. But there is a cost.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 says,

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

You see, “knowing” God isn’t something that just happens. It requires that we “train ourselves” or as other translations put it, “discipline ourselves.”

The Christian life is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s not just some kind of self-improvement motivational program. Nor is it a set of rules and regulations. The essence of the Christian life is truly knowing God and having a vital, living and intimate relationship with Him; experiencing His presence and activity in our daily lives.

Loving God is the great essence of why the universe was created. Treasuring God over all things. That is what loving God means. The mind and the body are the servants of the heart. They should work together to increase our love for God daily.

As our love for God increases our desire to please and serve Him with a Godly character will as well!

Saturate Yourself in the Word

Ten minutes a day in the Bible will not cut it in this world. This is the very Word of God. Read it. Meditate on it.

Our world is rising against and shaking it’s fist at the Word of God. Our culture likes to bring doubt to what they would call an “archaic book” or a “masterful conspiracy” each and every day all while chipping away at morals and character. Just think about how the world has changed and people have “flip-flopped” on issues even in the last ten years! I doubt that anyone will be an effective Christian in our day standing against the culture, and for the culture, without much Bible intake.

Do yourself a favor and create new habits! Do a daily devotional with some spiritual depth to it. Take in all of the Word that you can so you can put a little “spiritual meat” on your bones!

Developing long-term habits is important to maintaining your faith. A daily devotional will keep you in the Word and enhance your prayer life. It will also keep you closer to God even when you struggle in your faith.

Philippians 2:12-13 says,

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

You have one life here on earth to live, and it is not a good thing to experiment with it. What will make life work? What will make a difference for you eternally? God did not give you life and no instructions… He gave you life and he gave you a Book. God has spoken. It is not a matter of experimentation. It is a matter of application of God’s word to everything. He knows all things. He knows what will make you happy in the moment. He knows what will make your life count for the here and now. So trust him.

Know his word. Test all things. Obey above all.

Die to Self

In John 15:5 Jesus says,

Apart from me you can do nothing.

Do we truly believe that? Do we live like it?

Part of developing Christian character is dying to ourselves and our fallen nature desires and relying on Jesus for the strength needed to live a God honoring life. Proverbs 3:5–6, says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

The strength to live a God honoring life is void of us and our involvement! The strength comes only after death… death to self. If we consider Christ’s death to be all important, and it is, then we need to realize its effect on our lives. When Jesus died, He not only bore our sins, but He also was, in a final way, saying “no” to sin. It was His victory! After death, sin had no part of His life and no way of influencing His decisions or character. We know that Jesus never sinned so often this final denial a “door-shutting” to sin is overlooked. Yes He died to bear our sin… but also to deny His own!

So we, as His disciples, must also identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. We must say “no” to our former allegiance to sin through our faith and “yes” to our allegiance to Christ. We now have a new focus on life. Because of this new allegiance, we are not to sin as our formal fallen selves, but instead we are to live for God through dying to self.

Romans 6:10-12 says,

For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.

Let me put it this way, if you have accepted Jesus into your life you are not your own. You live in the strength of another. He bought you for a purpose. So live like 1 Peter 4:11,

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Genuine Christian character involves sacrifice, and that is something that the culture will not require of us. That is something that only faith will bring us to. We are called to be servants. Not just honest people, but servants. Jesus cast it in the most severe terms. He said in Luke 17:10,

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

We will never be able to die to ourselves unless we are convinced that serving the our former flesh is totally unprofitable. We have to see that it has absolutely no worth. Guard yourself from craving what the world craves. If you find that hanging out with unbelievers is making you love what they love rather than helping them love what you love, then back off and fill yourself with the love and truth of God and wait to be a light to them in another way. The same with media. If the computer, the phone, the tablet, or game system is making you crave what is destructive to your soul, lay it down. Sell it. Give it away. Smash it! Do what you have to do to be radically devoted to Jesus and his holiness.

Belong to a Church

Lastly, one of the best things you can do to develop and nurture a God honoring character is to surround yourself with others who desire the same thing.

Belong to a Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting, God-centered church that preaches the whole counsel of God, and be connected there with God’s people. Don’t wait until the time seems to be “just right” or the “stars align” to be a mature, responsible church member. Break the mold and stop playing the church game! Your relationship with God is not a game.

Get involved!

Many people become apathetic over time because they do not feel connected to a church body. Some churches do not offer ways to connect, but you can be the catalyst. Join small group. Start a small group. Find like-minded people within the local body to commune with, to study, pray, and worship with, and draw your encouragement to live like Jesus from them! The more connected you are to the body of Christ, the more likely it is that you will maintain your faith.

Romans 12:5 says,

So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

How are you forming your foundation? What things can we be doing to develop a Godly character?




Resolutions and Reminders for a New Year

Each and every year about this time I look back on the previous year and determine what progress was made, what progress needs to be made, and to set helpful guidelines and goals for myself in order to better serve the church in which I serve. Below I have copied over some of my own thinking about last year and how it impacts the way I do things this year. I hope if you are in a leadership position of any type in any place that you take time to evaluate and make this next year a more successful and meaningful year than last.

There is always room for improvement, and I’m always in need of a reminder. When it comes to being a Pastor that leads people and leads music sometimes I get pulled in many directions. What did we learn from last year and what are we going to do this year? Let’s think together!

Pull from the Well

We have all been at a concert or show where we only knew one of the many songs that was played. It just turns awkward… a bunch of people trying to sing along and making up words whilst looking around to make sure they aren’t failing alone. Sounds like late night college town karaoke to me!

Church shouldn’t be like that setting I described above. We will do a variety of music, some new and some old, but as a church family we’d like to collectively “own” only a certain number of songs from which we regularly draw.

We’d like for these to be “our” songs. Whether for a year or just for a season these songs can help shape worship services and speak to your congregation where they are and in the season that they currently find themselves in. These are songs that we love, that resonate with who we are, and that we enthusiastically engage as a church body. Worship Leaders, musicians, and Pastors almost always know far more songs than the churches they serve and are tempted to constantly introduce new ones. We need to throttle that down. I currently have an active list of about100 songs that I’d like to keep in rotation. I regularly add new songs at the pace of about one a month and rotate songs off the list, as needed.

Reminder… this isn’t YOUR list. It is your church’s list. You don’t get to head into a church and bring your list of songs while recycling theirs. Know your people!

Maybe you hate this idea of a list because it feels like you are always singing the same songs. However, remember, you constantly think about music. You listen to and write new music regularly, both of which are great things. The rest of the church, however, is not like you in that way. By the time you get to worship on Sunday, you’ve practiced at home, sung the songs as you prepared charts for the band, practiced with the band, and made changes in your head throughout the week. You know these songs well. The congregation, on the other hand, may sing them two or three times a year. Thus, it is important that we focus on our list of songs and shape it slowly and thoughtfully from there.

The music we play can shape the Gospel for our churches, so we must make sure they know what they are singing and proclaiming on Sunday!

Not everyone is a Musician

This may be one of the most important principles I constantly remind myself of, because it is not our desire that people just “see” us sing and the band “perform” with excellence. We want the church to join in and sing with one voice in worship.

Congregational singing requires that the congregation be able to sing the songs. That means that there are a lot of songs out there that, though they may be wonderful songs, are just not appropriate for corporate worship… at least not in their original form. That does not mean that you can’t use the occasional performance song (that is up to your discretion and context as a church), but the vast majority of what you choose needs to be singable by the average non musician.

Congregational singing requires that the congregation be able to sing the songs.

In that same vein, we must be sure to sing the singable songs we choose in singable ways. As a tenor sometimes that is difficult! There may be a lot of songs in the key of Tomlin that are solid and that might work, but they all need to be in a key that is reasonable for the vast majority to sing along with!

The congregation needs to be able to find and follow the prescribed melody. There is often a temptation for us as worship leaders who are gifted vocally to sing the “unwritten” parts and draw much more emphasis to them than the written song. Don’t get me wrong… we ad lib when led and sing spontaneously as the Lord leads, but we have to be aware that discernment is key and often these portions of our singing can leave the, primarily untrained, congregation without direction as to what they are meant to sing.

When people don’t sing they become disengaged and watch. We aren’t called to lead songs… we are called to lead people.

So be creative, but make sure the people know what they should sing. None of this is said to try to to stifle our creativity, but exactly the opposite. I am a HUGE proponent of Christian creativity and leading with beautiful Biblical excellence, and this inclusion of people in all contexts should actually drive our creativity to a new level.

Our primary concern should be for the whole congregation to be able to sing along. That means we tend to maximize congregational singing and minimize guitar solos, special arrangements, and even performances. It’s not that they are bad, it is that we have a limited time and want to focus on the congregation worshipping the Savior during the time we do have. A little of several of these things goes a very long way.

Recruit, Train, and Build

What does your team look like? What and who is it made up of? Are you raising up, equipping, and engaging your own people as volunteers to lead worship in your church?

I understand this always means more work for us. It’s easy for us to be content with what we have and close ourselves off to new comers, but who are we raising up to take our place? New volunteers will require a lot more time and energy to train and lead. I know we will have to work hard to build them up, but this is the direction we as a church need to move in order to truly “pastor” our people.

This year let’s commit ourselves to “expanding our net” in order to catch up more people for the Kingdom cause of Christ.

So what resolutions and reminders do you need for this next year?