Spiritual Exercise

I enjoy certain types of exercise. I like to go to the gym and lift weights, I like to play basketball. I don’t, however, like to run. Maybe it’s because I think it’s aimless… or maybe it’s because conditioning to run is hard and it hurts! My wife enjoys running… she does it a lot. On the other hand, I joke with people and tell them that the only thing that would make me run is a bear behind me! I go through phases though where I will jump on a treadmill and run. I particularly remember the last time because I went from not running at all to running 3.5 miles on the first go round. I felt fine the day of… but the day after was a different story all together. My body, although conditioned for other types of exercise, was not conditioned for strenuous running! The point I am trying to make is… exercise is hard. Especially if it is an exercise that we haven’t been conditioning for.

Today we will talk about conditioning our relationship with God through a different exercise plan… service.

Think about a relationship that you hold dear. Maybe it is with a lifelong friend, a husband or wife, a family member… most relationships that have proven to be lasting have experienced hard times that you have to work through. Any good relationship takes work to develop. I can remember in the early stages of dating my wife how I took the time to get to know her, what she liked and disliked, how she handled situations, her sense of humor, etc… It took time and effort to form a stronger relationship with her and a better understanding of her.

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.

The good new is that God is not hiding from us! He wants nothing more than for us to know Him. He promises good things, and rewards, to those who seek Him. But a true relationship with God is not going to be had by anyone with only a casual, passing interest. The half-hearted may as well not waste their time. The merely curious can and will eventually find something else to tickle their fancy and temporarily fulfill their curiosity. I say all of this because God is only found by those who seek Him earnestly, who seek Him with “all their heart.” God is known by those willing to persevere, those willing to keep asking, and keep knocking, and keep seeking.

Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Lamentations 3:25 says,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Imagine that you’re an actor preparing for a role, and you want to know what makes your character tick… you want to understand how they think, what they feel, how they view the world. What would you do? Heath Ledger was cast as the villainous Joker in The Dark Knight. Up until Ledger was cast in the movie he was notorious for playing more light-hearted roles. Playing the Joker required a bit more preparation, which Ledger took to an interesting level. It is said that he locked himself in a hotel room, isolating himself from everyone, and took prescription drugs in order to get into a Joker-like state of mind. Ledger slept an average of two hours a night while playing “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He put himself in that very state of mind to play the role. Ledger was reported as saying, “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”

Actors have discovered that in order to really understand and get inside the head of their characters, the best kind of research is to actually live that life. Go through a day as them. Experience for themselves what it’s like. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel.

In the same way, in order to really know someone, you have to enter their world and walk a mile in their shoes. If we as Christians want to know Christ, we have to do what He did. We have to imitate Him. Our topic today is “Seeking God through the Spiritual Exercise of Service.” I believe that we are never more like Christ than when we are serving others.

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Why did Jesus come? For two reasons. Everything He did can be summarized under these two headings. First, he came to die… to give his life in exchange for ours, to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven. The crucifixion wasn’t something bad that just happened to him; it was in his plan from the very beginning. The other thing Jesus came to do was serve. He served people by healing them, He served people by teaching them, He served people by walking with them, attending to their needs (spiritually, physically, emotionally). Jesus even displayed service by washing his disciples feet!

John 13:3-5 says,

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It continues in John 13:12-16 where it says,

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

You see, as many of you already know, at these times foot washing was a menial task, usually done by a household servant, upon a master or guest entering a household. Because of the footwear and road conditions of the time foot washing was necessary but dirty and unappreciated work.

That’s exactly the kind of service Jesus calls us to!

If you are not serving, you are not living like Christ. And to know Him, you have to be like Him. You have to follow His example. Christ came to serve, and unless we think we are greater than Him, we should be serving one another also.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Galatians 5:13 says,

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

The service that one should perform for another in Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest (lowest) service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too seriously.

True Christian service is humble service. It delights in being a blessing to others, and is not concerned with receiving praise, or recognition, or thanks. It’s only goal is the welfare of the one being served.

Finally, let me give you some quick practical principles for exercising your faith and relationship with God through service.


Plan to be Available

It is helpful for us to get in the habit of serving by planning to serve. But… we must also be available to serve on the spur of the moment. Our exercising of service needs to include both scheduled service and impromptu service. For instance, you could offer to help out one of the mothers in the church by babysitting once a week so that she can spend an hour or two without the kids. OR… you could serve in a planned and organized ministry of the church. That’s planned service. But you can also be available when a family needs help on short notice. Are you the kind of person that people call when they have a need? Do you have a history of service that would cause them to think of you?

Often, a need arises, or an opportunity to serve presents itself, but we can’t respond because we’re too busy. Part of being available to help others is simplifying your life so that you have free time to serve when you’re needed. I understand… this is hard! Life is busy! But, we must evaluate our priorities. Are we too busy for people?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps — reading the Bible. . . . . it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.


Look for Opportunities

Take initiative! Don’t wait to be asked!

Jesus responded to requests for help, but he also took the initiative to serve when he saw a need. A true servant always has their “radar” up. They stay alert for anything someone might say or do that indicates an opportunity to serve. Let’s be honest, sometimes our lack of service isn’t because people don’t want to ask… it’s because they don’t know to ask! Have you waited so long to be asked that people have no idea that you are even willing to step up to a task and possibly get your hands dirty?


Be Flexible

Don’t pigeonhole yourself and your service by having specific ideas of what your “serving” should look like.

In fact, don’t be too particular about how you serve. God has uniquely gifted each of us, but we shouldn’t be so concerned about only serving within our “specialty” that we pass up anything that doesn’t fit. I am absolutely certain that Jesus wasn’t an extraordinary “foot washer.” He saw a need and rose to fulfill that need.

We must be willing to serve in the small things as well as in the large. Don’t wait for a big project to come along, but seek out opportunities for everyday acts of generosity and helpfulness.

If there’s a genuine need, and you can meet it, don’t be too concerned with whether it’s one of your “gifts.” Just do it.


The key to a deep knowledge of Christ, and a deep experience of God, is to do the things that Christ did. The more we follow the example of Christ, by serving one another in humility and love, the more we will be like Him. The more we are like Him, the better we will know Him. And that is worth any price, any service, any sacrifice, and any suffering.

 

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To the Worship Leaders out There!

I’ve been looking for an article like this and haven’t found too many. Honestly, we as a whole should be ashamed that most of us are too busy writing about the “10 things we wish Worship Leaders would stop saying” instead of building each other up and offering resources that can possibly encourage, or help someone to avoid some of the pitfalls many of us have hit. What is the point of spending our time and energy being judgmental and standing on our soapbox while others ministries are falling apart, marriages are failing, and passion is fleeing. Come on leaders… step up!

How many of us have struggled at times? If there is no part of you that is screaming “YES” then you are the exception. I haven’t ever met a robot in ministry so I’m pretty confident in saying that all the things discussed below can help us to “stay the course” and honestly stay sane.

In the past several years at times I have felt burnt… and during the “crispy” times I wish I had some of this insight. I have had friends lose their flame and “tap out” who have needed someone to come alongside them and hold them up. Let’s go into “survival mode” together and discuss some things we need to be doing below.


  • Sharpen your Mind

Just like we study our craft… we should also study our faith. Learning new things is never a bad thing. The old adage you can’t teach a dog new tricks shouldn’t apply to us because some “old dogs” are more than willing to learn!

We can’t be content to just love music… we have to love God’s truth more.

Nothing sustains a lifetime of worship leading like an ongoing pursuit of the knowledge of God. The more you see and experience God in His Word, even the difficult parts, the more you will love Him! The Word of God was designed to keep us fascinated for our lifetimes. Have you ever felt burnt out? Me too. Anytime I lose my fuel to lead I can almost count on it coming back through nearness to the Word.

I actually believe that in the long-term our knowledge and passion for the truth of the Gospel will fuel our worship!

We need to know theology… not just for others, but also for ourselves! We are guiding people into an experience of worship, and that worship needs to be grounded in the foundations of the Word. But more importantly God desires to be known by us as He is. It honors Him, pleases Him, glorifies Him when we know and declare His truth. Through that achieved purpose we can be refreshed.

Ephesians 6:10-17 says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Back in the times of Jesus, Roman soldiers would “gird” their waists with a belt. This belt served many purposes. Their uniforms would include a helmet, shield, sword, short sword/ dagger, a breastplate, what we would consider a dress or skirt in today’s times, and a pair of boots. A soldier going into battle/ long march, or at alert position would take the bottom of their skirt and tuck it into their waistline and belt. If their waist was not girded with a belt a soldier was vulnerable because they couldn’t move as fast and their feet would become entangled in the bottom of their skirt.

The belt that “girded” the soldiers waist was what held the rest of the system together. Without it the soldier would be lucky to move and fight efficiently. This idea is similar to a police officer or soldier on today’s times. They have tons of gear and quite a bit of weight to pack around. If anybody reading this has ever carried just a holster and a gun before they will understand the importance of a good rigid belt to support the system.

The belt is their foundation. The truth is our belt. The truth is our foundation.

The belt we use to “gird ourselves” that we spoke of above was not only was used to tuck in the lower portion of a soldiers uniform, but it was also used to hold the sword at a ready draw position and to hold the shield during times when it wasn’t needed. So if a soldier was to lose their belt it would make the use of the sword (of the spirit) and shield (of faith) harder as well. So if we lose truth other parts of our walk with Christ become harder, and we become more and more vulnerable to the ways of the world and to the attacks of the devil.

Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In this verse Paul urges Believers to have the Gospel message dwell within them, and to teach and admonish each other through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Each of these three actions follow the original direction which is to “let the word of Christ dwell in” us richly, indicating that the teaching and exhortation is to occur through the action and content of the songs (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs). This passage provides a powerful incentive for theological instruction regarding the music of the church. The Scriptures show us that worship serves as a teaching function of the church and those tasked with leading the song of the people must be adequately prepared for it!

Theological training allows a worship leader to plan meaningful ways in which the revelation of God through Scripture and the liturgy become evident to the congregation.

Bob Kauflin, in his book Worship Matters said this,

If over the course of a year, the only theology people heard was from your set lists, would people really know God?

Whether we like it or not we are teaching others through the songs we instruct them to sing!


  • Sharpen your Skills

This may seem obvious, but any “seasoned” Worship Pastor can tell you that often practice is the first “to-do” item that gets pushed off for other pressing needs of the ministry. In fact I believe that I probably got to practice and play music more before it was my job!

This particular point comes natural for some and is a distant thought for others. We shouldn’t stop pursuing excellence or the betterment of ourselves as worship leaders when we find a position or job. Outstanding worship leaders value training and love learning. Feel like you’re in a “rut” or afraid that you might be developing one? My response to you would be: Don’t get complacent or content where you are… continue moving forward, learning, and becoming a better worshipper and lead worshipper. This point doesn’t mean the same thing for every person in every situation, you don’t have to go to seminary to learn… there are a variety of blogs, podcasts, books, seminars, and resources out there that you can dig into for free!

Sometimes we get lazy or the office work can overtake the practice time… trust me, I understand completely. But a good practice session can be refreshing! We need to take time to remember and reignite the passion for music that once was one of our primary drives. Study your craft.

John Bellerjeau once said,

The bottom line is that a worship band is still a band; and a bad band is distracting.

You’d be surprised at the enjoyment that comes from being able to lead a song without even thinking about what you are doing musically. It is liberating and empowering. If we want to tap into our true potential then we need to be practicing. It will both improve and preserve us.


  • Grow your Relationship

Zachary Sapp once said,

Your heart has to be in the right place before you present yourself to God and the congregation; no matter how big or how small.

How often have you told someone that you would do something for them and then forgotten down the road and not come through? I do that more than I should. I also feel like we do that to God. We got into the ministry to serve Him and to seek Him. But somewhere along the way God is the very thing that we sometimes forget or ignore.

In all of our workings we must remember to put Jesus first.

I have said before that,

We lead from our presence more so than from our position, and if we ignore our relationship with Christ then our impact may be limited or not reach the potential that is really there.

All that we do in public worship is a reflection of our private worship. We absolutely cannot lead people to where we haven’t gone ourselves. We must learn to worship God by faith. This may sound easy… but it is SO hard! That basically means that when the “spiritual” feelings aren’t there, God is still worthy to be praised. Psalm 27:8 says,

My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.

I’ve learned that if I am going to lead people in worship that I, myself need to be engaged in worship with the Lord off the stage.

Have you ever had guests? Most of us have. How much preparation goes into hosting people for a meal? I know if you are like my wife and I the prep usually begins with scrambling around the house picking up the dirty socks (hers of course… anybody that knows me knows that I don’t wear socks often) and running the vacuum cleaner. Then, when the guests are there you make sure the food looks just right and that you have enough place settings. You know the drill.

In Luke 10 we see as similar situation. In this chapter there is a story of two sisters named Mary and Martha. We all know the story. Martha is hosting Jesus at her house, and like many hosts, she busies herself with serving. To Martha’s dismay, her sister Mary does not help with the chores and all the busywork. Instead, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. When Martha confronts Jesus about Mary’s laziness, Jesus says,

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

In ministry there are many “chores” to be done. There are set ups, sound checks, planning sessions, rehearsals, leadership meetings, set lists, pro presenter problems, etc… In the midst of the chaos, we can’t forget that “one thing is necessary,” and that’s to spend time, sitting at the feet of Jesus. We must be reading the bible and praying daily. Our intake must be greater than our outpouring.

This may seem like a given, but it is far too easy to get in the flow or into a routine and to become a full-time worship leader and a part-time follower of Christ. We as human beings are very good at faking things by becoming “excellent” at what we do without even thinking about why we do it. We all have the church or spiritual mask that we can put on to make people believe we have it all together even if we don’t. Sometimes I myself can be so “task-driven” or goal oriented that I forget to be intentional with Christ. Improving our ministries and getting things done isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if we do those things while sacrificing personal devotion then what are we really working for? I lead worship a lot… but I hope that I can be a personal worshipper of Christ even more. Let’s decide right now to never become more focused on the things that we do and how we do them than the REASON behind what we do. Take time to spend with Jesus… your congregations will thank you.

When we allow things to happen naturally, the chores overtake our schedule and it is our relationship that suffers. Want to stay in ministry? Grow your faith.


  • Grow your Home

How is your home? No, I’m not talking about the yard, or that room that may need a new coat of paint. I’m talking about the inhabitants. It isn’t a house that we call a home… it’s the company.

Sometimes our church feels like our “family” and in some sense they are… but in reality we have our “real” family to go home to! We can’t ignore them. How often does our spouse our children get the raw end of the deal when we jump at every opportunity to be with our congregants? Being at the church every time the door is open is NOT a good thing! You heard me right. The reason I say that is if you are like me you have keys to the church and it is always available to be open!

Our first ministry is to our family.

Saying yes to everything is NOT a good thing, and every “good” opportunity is NOT your “good” opportunity. You have to take care of your household. 1 Timothy 3:5 says

If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

In other words, your ministry to your spouse and kids takes precedence over all other ministries.


  • Expand your Circle

Here’s a riddle for you. What is surrounded on all sides, but still stands painfully alone? A Pastor.

In the U.S. alone (in 2010), it is estimated that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. A New York Times article, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work,” confirmed that being a pastor puts one at risk for physical and mental illness. The article stated,

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Statistics, which are numerous and varied, say that 70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry. So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families. 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

The most shocking statistic I found was that 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.

So what does this mean? We cannot stand-alone. Now sure, we always have God… but we need some earthly support!

Rev. John Terpstra, pastor of Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, Colorado. After 25 years in ministry said,

You need to do ministry in community because there are a lot of demands on you, and you need places to safely say things. There are things you can’t share with your spouse or elder group. That is a very normal experience.

In fact, we as Pastors are no different than anyone else, just like we preach to others; we need to understand ourselves that we also were created by God to live in community. We need someone in our lives who accepts us completely, unconditionally, loving us for who we are and not because of our position.

Jesus was intentional about building relationships with His followers. We should follow that example in order to disciple and mentor those around us, but also in order to be encouraged and lifted up. Being intentional within a relationship is essential in developing roots that will help us stand in harsh times. Jesus walked, talked, and ate alongside His disciples. They experienced life together. It was in that way that they were able to be ministered to, and the disciples were given the strength and perseverance to lay down their lives for the ministry of the Gospel.

Chip Bell says,

Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to create a safe context for growth. They are also like family in that their focus is to offer unconditional, faithful acceptance.” There can be no discipleship without relationship… and relationships are intentional.

Don’t make yourself and island… cut off from the resources that can help keep you alive!

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Partner with other worship leaders. Sit in on jam sessions. Write together. Do unifying things for the community and the Kingdom.


  • Feed your Flame

What is it that ignites you? For me it is allowing myself to worship without responsibility. After discovering that, I have gone out of my way to attend 3 or 4 worship nights that I played no part in just so I could be fed through my favorite avenue… music!

Take time and allow yourself to be encouraged. Are there things you could be doing better? Sure. Are your efforts in vain? Of course not! Is God pleased? Absolutely.

If it is the outdoors that helps you to connect to God and escape the hustle and bustle of ministry then get outside! If it is woodwork or shooting guns then do it! There is no shame in taking a step back every now and then to breathe. Professional athletes still have to get a sub at times. Just like a fire in a stove needs oxygen to burn, we too have to, at times, catch a breath!


Hopefully this hits home for someone! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone… if you have no one to talk to I’m here.

Tanner.NHCC@gmail.com

270-735-7342

 

Diagnosing Spiritual Complacency

One of the terrible diseases of Christianity today is complacency. There is a major complacency epidemic spreading amongst the Kingdom. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

I certainly believe that Satan is a master deceiver and uses many techniques to disarm and neutralize Believers. I wholeheartedly believe that one of Satan’s strategies is to plant the seed of complacency.

I have a friend who served a tour of duty in Iraq. On that tour of duty he worked many road checkpoints and was issued, along with his other soldiers, some very particular gear. Among that gear was the normal body armor and helmet, but that gear also included padding and armor for their upper arms and thighs, as well as a groin guard. All of this gear had one mission in mind: to keep them alive and protected in the event of an IED explosion. As you can imagine all that gear made the already intense heat nearly unbearable. So for that reason many of the soldiers would remove the gear when officers were not around. One particular day there were no officers on site and a newer enlisted soldier was in the guard tower wearing his helmet causing many of the others to poke fun at him. On that particular day an enemy assailant just so happened to be taking aim with a long-range rifle and shot that soldier in the head. The helmet and his lack of complacency saved his life, whereas many of the other soldiers would have been killed. I say all of that to make this point: in combat complacency kills.

In Amos 6:1 the Lord spoke to the backslidden Israel through His prophet Amos. It says,

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!

The Lord was addressing to the people who were self-satisfied and in their comfort zone. They felt self-sufficient and strong enough in their own power. These people had little desire for God, and little hunger for His righteousness. They were self-confident and self-sufficient. Thus the Lord warned them about the impending judgment upon them.

How often do we fall into this exact attitude? We allow ourselves to grow complacent and live a self-satisfied life. Do we truly live dependent on God or do we try to maintain some independence? Remember, complacency makes us to feel secure in our job, safe in our strength, good about our knowledge, protected in our money and possessions, eventually blinding us and leading us to our downfall. Sometime the strike isn’t immediate. Like the enemy assailant in the story above, sometimes the enemy patently takes aim and waits. He allows us to grow comfortable, and complacent all the while he is disarming us without much effort.

A.W. Tozer says,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer that can ruin ministry. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

Revelation 3:14-22 says,

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We see above that lukewarmness is a spiritual condition that apparently, Jesus can’t stand. Another name for it might be “complacency.” Complacency is not contentment. Where contentment is finding joy in the blessings of walking with God, complacency is when we have stopped walking.

How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are some telltale signs.


  • Lack of Zeal

One of the most obvious and beginning stages of complacency is a diminishing presence or absence of zeal. We all can probably remember a time in our life when we were passionate about something, maybe you are like me and when you find a new interest or hobby you dive in headfirst and it is all consuming? Hopefully we can all think back to a time when we were like that with Jesus. We didn’t need complex theology or big “spiritually correct” words. Yeah… I just went there.

Too many of us have substituted zeal for knowledge!

I honestly am pretty tired of seeing Bible believing friends of mine tearing each other to shreds over theology on Facebook for the whole world to see. I have been there too! At times I myself have replaced my zeal for pursuing Christ and acting like Him for merely knowing more about Him and maybe letting others know about it. Before anyone gets all tore up please understand that I am talking to myself here! Maybe the dissection of the Word down to the last punctuation mark was just a distraction to keep you from understanding it and doing what it says? In actuality Satan, the deceiver, doesn’t care how much you know the Word if you don’t do the Word.

Please read the Word, dissect the Word, understand the Word, memorize the Word… but then go put into practice!

  • Tradition is Doctrine

Tradition entails so much more than what most people typically think of when it is mentioned. Tradition is more than robes, recited prayers, hymns, etc… Tradition is something that can invade and ultimately take over any church, regardless of its denomination, history, or style. Let’s get this straight, when we depend on tradition for our “religious” involvement, relationship, worship, or gatherings we stop depending upon something else… namely the Bible and the Spirit of God. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. In fact, our gatherings become nothing more than scripted ceremonies that we have rehearsed and polished in hopes of gaining something. We might keep ourselves happy, we might grow our church in numbers or financial security, but we aren’t truly pursuing the renewed work of Christ and the Kingdom of God here in our ever-changing ministry field.

There is nothing wrong with tradition itself. But… there is something wrong with depending on tradition!

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Security is mortals’ greatest enemy.

But what kind of “security” is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the security that comes with comfort. Maybe your comfort looks different than the blanket that Linus drags around everywhere, but it’s still serving the same purpose. Do your traditions make you feel at “home” or secure and comfortable?

Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie.

Ephesians 5:14-17 says,

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How is it that we can be told to make the most of every opportunity and still pass up so many because they didn’t fit into our idea of “church?” Let’s put it out there, we as a whole have become slothful, habitual, uninspired, secure, and complacent, often doing what we do for traditional reasons rather than because it’s best.

Why is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take such a mediocre and habitual approach to those things related to Christ and His cause? From our outreach, in-reach, preaching, worship, programs, aesthetics, etc… in almost every area of corporate church complacency has unfortunately become the norm.

The message is the same, but the messengers and avenues they take change!

The secular world has caught on to this! Look at the music industry. Songs and albums were once put out on vinyl, then tapes, then cd’s, and now everything is digital. The same songs that were once on vinyl can now be downloaded on iTunes for .99 cents! Businesses don’t always change the product or name… they just change the presentation, method of delivery, or audience. Why aren’t we who have the best “offering” putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?

Andrew Grove, a founder of Intel, is famously quoted for saying,

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

If we stay the same, for the sake of staying the same, we get left behind and we do the message an injustice! We must understand that our complacency has eternal implications, and I’m afraid that a culture of mediocrity has now become the new tradition.

  • Tolerance of Sin

Last week I asked you to imagine a trashed house full of garbage and the flies that go along with the garbage. Sometimes our lives look a lot like that house, and the natural tendency is to clear out the flies. Sometimes we are successful and manage to shoo them all away, but as long as the garbage remains we are fighting a losing battle and those flies are inevitably going to return and multiply. So, the solution is to get rid of the garbage in our lives. We need to be concerned with the flies, but we also must work to remove the garbage to keep them out! Every trashcan is going to look different… but we certainly all have one. In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as we clear our houses of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one we keep to ourselves. That room may be continual sin, it might be a relationship, bitterness, or a wound we haven’t allowed to heal. At times the door to that room full of garbage stays shut for a while and Satan allows us to have successes in other areas all the while the flies are just multiplying and building up in this little room. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flies open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.

Why does this happen? We get complacent and our complacency leads to tolerance or apathy.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a moment to consider prominent Christian leaders, celebrities, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. We all know them so there is no need at mentioning names. We might look in from the outside an ask ourselves, “how would they allow that to happen” or, “why would they do that with all the success they have?” Rest assured. That fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. Nobody begins a ministry with the goal to ultimately disgrace themselves and God by being brought to their knees by their own hand. Too often the fall comes from complacency. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal,” and when they seemed to have it all together and under control, they grew complacent in their tolerance of sin.

Sin is sin, and all sin is bad. Don’t tolerate it! The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at or bless iniquity. He sent His son to die for and erase that iniquity and sin… not cover it up. The only reason the church welcomes sinners is because by God’s grace, sinners can be reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life! Letting a few “little things” slip leads to bigger slip-ups. I recently watched a video of a poor woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk and every time she would begin to regain her balance and composure she would begin to slide and fall again until ultimately she ended up on the ground. We’ve all been on an icy sidewalk… when you begin to slip it is all over. But… you know how you avoid slipping and falling? Stay off the ice.

  • Lack of Pursuit

What is a pursuit? I would define it as an intense chase of something in order to attain it.

My parents have a German shepherd by the name of Obi and he is extremely quick. One afternoon while playing and walking Obi his leash fell off of his collar and went limp in my hand. I looked down in shock only to see him looking at me with the same look of shock in his face that I had in mine. At that point the chase was on.

Why did I pursue Obi the dog? I pursued because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t catch him, of what would happen if I stopped pursuing him!

How many of us have stopped pursuing holiness? Lost interest or will to pursue God and spiritual growth?

Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive intense pursuit of God. We desire His fellowship, His people, and His word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglects spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency and that will see little or no fruit.

Mark 11:12-14 says,

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to produce fruit in the verses above He gives us a sobering lesson. Empty religion, lacking fruit, needs to and ultimately will die. In actuality the parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse, because the very next verse says,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The spiritual complacency or “religion” of the people had reached the place where they were making a total mockery of the temple and of the message. We may not see our situations as that bleak, but if Jesus walked into our churches what things would he need to overturn or shake up?

  • Inward Focus

One of the surest signs of complacency is a church that is self-absorbed or entirely inwardly focused. You might ask, “Tanner, what does than mean?” Let me begin my answer with another question, what is the mission of the church? That question can evoke many answers like: to provide teaching for Believers, to be a place of fellowship, a place of worship. To all of those I would say yes… but what is the first and foremost mission of the church? In Matthew 28:19 it tells us about that mission. It says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is to spread the good news and make disciples. In fact we may have to get out of our comfortable and familiar zone to do it! Acts 1:8 says,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Is your church inward focused or outward focused? Are you so concerned about not “rocking the boat” that you leave it docked? We see in the book of Acts that in order to achieve our mission we have to wander outside of ourselves! Are we so overly concerned about keeping “our people” happy and content that we miss opportunities to reach those that haven’t yet been reached by Christ or the church? I will step out in an unpopular way and say that when a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent and ineffective at achieving the goal and mission.

The primary challenge, and our primary concern, should be, “how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to or even aware of this challenge. We might bank on our “friendliness” or position in the community to cut it… but the numbers show that it doesn’t! We can’t simply pray for a harvest and not plant any seeds or till any ground!

So many of us are so complacent that we fear any change or decision that might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christians, who were the insiders of the day, they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles, the outsiders of the day, to turn to God. Why is it that this many years later that problem still exists? Are we making it easy for outsiders to turn to God, or are we stuck in the busy complacent work of keeping insiders happy?

Jeremiah 10:21 says,

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Proverbs 1:32 says,

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

What is our focus as a church?


Zephaniah 1:12 says,

It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Are you complacent? Go to war with the complacency in your life.

 

Let’s Check Out Our Motives

Why are we serving in the manner in which we are? Is it for recognition? Because we are skilled in that area, or we have a passion for that method of ministry? Do we expect the praise of others? Do we feel expected to do so, or have we already set the precedent by doing it and doing it well? Do we know that if we don’t do it no one else will?

There are many different reasons for performing a single task… some we are aware of and some we aren’t. Some of our reasoning for doing particular things is subconscious and natural. Motive is the key in everything we do as disciples of Christ. What we do is important, but why we do what we do is even more important. In Matthew 6:1, Jesus gave the principle that should guide all of our service. That passage says,

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

How do we check our motives and ensure that we are doing and serving the way God wills for us to with the correct outlook, motives, mindset, and heart?

Let’s think together.


  • Look at God’s Expectations

Romans 12:1 says,

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

That passage lays out what God expects from us when it comes to service, life, and Christian living. We are to present our bodies and our service to God… not in an unworthy way, but rather, as a holy sacrifice.

Instead we are often guilty of falling into a legalistic trap or mindset when it comes to Christian service. There are two kinds of legalism that are destroying the church… the idea that service or “works” can earn your salvation, and the belief that in order to be accepted as a “good Christian” one must be active in service.

We know that Christianity is the only way to Heaven and the only hope of the world… but even knowing that we fall into legalistic traps or views that can be applied across the board to many religions. In fact, there are many people who serve different “gods” or entities in order to earn salvation or a way into the afterlife.

As believers we are told something entirely different concerning our salvation. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10 this,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We know that the grace of God is the only thing that assures salvation, and the grace of God happens apart from human effort or merit. Christians are not only saved by grace, but kept by grace. In Romans 8:28-39 we see that nothing can separate us from the power and love of God… no army, no mistake, not even our own laziness. Romans 8:28-39 says,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ultimately the belief that in order to be accepted as a “good Christian” one must be active in service presents a belief in a theology that believes that God accepts Christians not for who they are, but for what they do. But we actually know, according to Scripture, that God accepts all Christians because of their identity in Christ as God’s sons… as heirs.

Romans 8:17 says exactly that,

And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Now, I do believe that it must be said that godly living would normally involve service of some kind. However, particular circumstances may not permit a Christian to minister in a particular way for a particular season, which, with incorrect theology, may result in feelings of inadequacy or insecurity about God’s acceptance of them at that time.

Our works do matter to God. But we must never think of them as a means to earn what God freely gives: grace, mercy, love, salvation, new life. Good works come as a response to the activity of grace in our lives. Yet, we must always remember that our salvation does not come by our works. This means, among other things, that you don’t have to get it all right to be in a relationship with God. You don’t have to be perfect, or even close. You don’t have to have perfect, unfaltering faith. Rather, you need only to receive God’s grace in faith and allow it to transform your life.

Both avenues of legalism that we have discussed, and more, are unbiblical motivations for serving God. The Christian can do nothing to earn or keep God’s salvation or favor, because one is accepted in Christ if he or she has simply believed in and accepted Him.

  • Selfless instead of Selfish

Sinful selfish motives are another motivation that we have to check when we enter into or are continually serving in Christ’s name. In fact, there are many selfish reasons one might serve: financial gain, power over others, pride/ to impress others, to prove to others that one is spiritual, etc…

There are many biblical examples of those with self-seeking motives.

Matthew 6:1-6 says,

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Mark 12:38-40 says,

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Several times we also see Jesus rebuke James and John when they argued about their future position in the kingdom. This should serve as both a warning to us… and an encouragement that we aren’t the only ones who suffer from impure motives when serving God. Even those who walked beside Jesus had their motives tainted to some degree by selfishness at one point or another. We see one of those encounters in Mark 9:33-35 where it says,

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

We see another in Luke 22:24-30,

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Even our impurities aren’t that creative! Selfish and unworthy motives have been around since Jesus walked the earth or before!

One of our “Father” figures in ministry, Paul, was sensitive to ministry out of selfish motives. In 1 Timothy Paul warns Timothy and says that servants should see to it that their master receive ALL the honor. 1 Timothy 6:1 says,

Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

The ministry of the gospel was not given to advance any selfish agenda. Those who use it as such are ministering from unworthy and ungodly motives.

  • It’s not a Competition

1 Peter 4:10 says,

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

We each have received a special gift according to the Word of God. No two of us are alike.  Everybody is unique. And every person has a unique gift to be used to advance the Kingdom of God. Everyone is unique.  Every gift is unique.

Sometimes in church service we buy into a “competition” mindset that places us against everyone else we view as being competitors in our particular
“realm” of giftedness… this can be contained within our Body of Believers or can be church wide amongst several bodies who all compete.

1 Corinthians 12:4 serves as a reminder that we all may have separate gifts… but they all come from the same “gift-giver.” That passage says,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

The idea behind God giving us gifts to serve Him is that we would work together in unity to advance the Kingdom. A war can’t be singlehandedly fought on the frontlines. Someone has to keep those troops equipped, another has to keep them healthy and fed, someone else has to form a strategy. You get the idea. We all play a part in this… but our role may look different than the person next to us.

If we take a step back and look at all of 1 Corinthians 12:1-27 it paints another picture of unified service in different forms. It says,

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

A body struggles when missing a part. We must be contempt with our function and gifting and do it well. If you don’t use your gift that is ultimately a loss to the body of Christ. Let’s be satisfied in our gifting and use it for His glory. It isn’t a competition.

  • Turn off the “Applause- Meter”

Lastly, are we serving for the praise or recognition of doing so?

Let me tell you… as a musician, or someone who stands and serves in front of others, this is so hard to keep in check. The motivation when starting may be pure… but it is a gradual slope that leads to a free-fall. We begin to judge our “serving” based off the reactions and praises of others and allow that praise to drive our decisions and our service.

Praises are like a drug. Little by little we become tolerant and immune and it takes more and more to satisfy our need. Suddenly, when we aren’t getting enough the enemy can slip in and tell us that we aren’t appreciated, or that our service is overlooked or not good enough.

Be honest… has this ever happened to you? It has me.

Too often we allow the lies of the enemy to make the church look like an elementary school playground… we get upset, frustrated, disappointed, etc… and instead of handling the root issue we pack up our toys and march off.

Much of the time the “greener pastures” that we pursue are laced with deception and pride. We turn the plains in which we reside into the valleys of self-pity and loathing.

A seminary professor in a class I was taking put it this way,

Below many “green pastures” lies a septic tank.

Don’t base your serving off of what others say about you… instead look to what the Father says and your reasoning for serving. Let’s do ourselves a favor and turn off or unhook the applause meter!


So… what are your motivations for serving? Is it time to get them back in check?

The Dangers that come with Talent.

Talents. We all have one… some people have many.

We don’t have to look hard or far to see people all around us using their different abilities for all kinds of different purposes, and it making an impact on the world around them. We have talented actors and musicians who provide for us entertainment. We have talented mathematicians who keep the financial part of the world moving. We have people gifted and talented with patience who teach our children, and the list could go on and on.

The same goes for the church world. We can see people with incredible gifts making incredible advancements for the Kingdom of God. I fully believe that the church has some of the most talented artisans, speakers, and individuals in the world within it. Some of the best archeological research, art, and humanitarian efforts come out of the Body of Believers known as the church.

In fact, using our abilities for the glory of God is part of what we are called to do! Romans 12:6-8 says,

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

So… talents, we all have them.

But, with every good thing comes a temptation. What dangers come along with our assorted talents and how do we place safeguards in our lives to overcome these temptations? Let’s think together below.


  • The focus shifts.

Lets face the facts… talents have a way of drawing attention to themselves.

All of us at some point have looked up to someone and said something along the lines of, “If only I could (fill in the blank) like (whomever it is you look up to) then I could (blank).

We live in a society that places individuals and gifts on a pedestal unashamedly and unfortunately that creeps into the church without us even realizing it. Too many people use someone else’s talent and their apparent lack thereof, or shortcoming in that particular area, to make excuses as to why they can’t do something. Or, it can turn into resentment or bitterness towards a person, group of people, or ministry area just because they aren’t “part” of it or just because they aren’t necessarily gifted in that area.

All of us are aware of what Romans 12:4 says,

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function.

But, do we live with that attitude and/or mentality?

For example, I know people personally who are incredibly talented in areas but can’t move past the fact that they aren’t so talented in the ones in which they place on a pedestal. We all have met these people. They may be a great teacher, but they live in constant frustration because they want to sing and they just can’t…

Let’s embrace OUR gifts and use them, while also embracing others and their gifts and allowing them to use them!

We also must be aware of where we are placing the focus when we utilize our gifts. Sometimes it isn’t just another person’s fault when they idolize a particular gift that we may have. We must fight the danger of pride and point all of our workings and talents towards Christ the giver of all good things.

When the intentions are pure the focus will be right.

  • Preparation begins to take a back seat.

Another danger that comes along with talents is that we begin to rely on our talents alone and preparation can take a back seat to other things. Now obviously this can be preparation for the task or spiritual preparation… but we will discuss the spiritual aspect in the next point.

As a Worship Pastor there are times when I could easily “check out” and not be prepared to lead my band at all when we are playing songs that I’ve either played or heard a thousand times before. We all know that most of our church music isn’t the most “technical” stuff out there… and I must fight the urge to simply rely on my abilities to put out a mediocre product.

But… by relying on talent or gift alone who and what does that glorify?

Hebrews 13:16 says,

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

We must fight the urge to offer up our “second best” sacrifice out of convenience.

Instead we must embark on the journey past mediocrity and into “excellence” for Christ, and excellence won’t come without preparation.

  • Your giftedness can begin to overtake your spiritual maturity.

For me this is the scariest danger of all.

Each of us has the opportunity to allow our own giftedness to overtake and surpass our spiritual maturity.

We have seen this take place in our society over and over again. Think of a pastor, evangelist, or worship pastor who has fallen in their ministry. How does that happen? Up to the day their “ordeal” came out to the public they were still “ministering” and blessing others with the gifts and talents they had been given. But… what were they relying on? Obviously not God… instead their giftedness had surpassed their character. Their giftedness and overtaken their spiritual maturity.

Sure… we all mess up. But I believe we are talking about something else here.

God has given us gifts and we are to choose what we do with those abilities. In Scripture we know that David was called for a special ministry by God, and immediately following that call he returned to the field where he would shepherd sheep for years until the day that calling would come to fruition and be worked out within his life. Why? He had a gift… he was called.

I believe that God called David and then sheltered and hid him until his character was prepared for the calling in which he was made.

So… if David was sheltered until his spiritual maturity and character were ready for his gift then how are we safeguarding ourselves?

Our giftedness or success in life or ministry should never equate to our “spirituality.” They simply aren’t the same.

Guard yourself. Abide with Jesus. Your gift will work itself out in your life… but our first calling isn’t to our giftedness, instead it is to Jesus.


How are you gifted? How are you using that gift? How are you safeguarding your life?

Why so Personal?

Have you ever been offended by feedback that someone “most graciously” offered you at church?

It could be about anything… a ministry you are in charge of or involved in, the songs you pick or play, the way you approach and speak to people/ carry yourself, or even something as frivolous as the way you dress. We are a society of critics. We have game shows where we critique people. We rate performances, music, movies, athletes, etc… We all have feedback, and most of us want to share it, but none of us like to receive it!

Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians have, and offer, too much feedback on minor issues while being spineless and quick to zip our lips and stand back on major “counter-Christian” ones.

I also have come to wonder… why are we so sensitive? We treat most feedback as a personal attack against us, and sometimes we can be offended even when no offense was intended. Let’s be honest… most critiques we receive aren’t attacking us on a personal level, and most of it isn’t meant as an attack at all, but actually it is usually meant to try to aid or assist us in what we do.

I myself, being a creative person, have found that we artists can be overly sensitive. Artists can be the most stubborn people of all. I will be the first to admit that I personally have to watch myself because often times I want things my own way and become angry when I am challenged to do things a different way.

I wholeheartedly believe that because art is such a personal thing, it is difficult to separate ourselves from our work. We pour all that we are into our work, and that leaves us feeling vulnerable. Our “art” or “creation” is constantly being evaluated, and not everyone will like it! A Picasso painting doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone!

So… in a culture full of evaluation and critics how do we handle feedback from within the church? Do we let it break us down and ruin our spirit? Do we become defensive and turn people away? Do we try to please everyone and run ourselves into the ground in the impossible process? Let’s talk about handling feedback below.


  • Greet feedback as your friend.

Proverbs 27:5-6 says,

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:17 says,

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

As individuals sometimes we begin to resent feedback or criticism and treat it as an enemy rather than a friend that is “sharpening” us. We must have a teachable spirit and be open to critique… be open to “sharpening.”

It is important for us to realize that feedback can be God’s agent to bring growth in your life- spiritual growth as well as artistic growth.

It sounds easy on paper or on your screen… but it is much more difficult when you are receiving it.

  • Respond with grace.

James 1:19-21 says,

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

This passage is important for us as Believers when responding to criticism or feedback.

We must “be quick to listen” instead of being quick to justify ourselves.

We must “be slow to speak” instead of being quick to defend ourselves.

Most importantly, we must “be slow to become angry. Let’s commit ourselves to cooling down and prayerfully thinking about feedback and our response before giving it.. Proverbs 15:1-2 says,

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

When constructive criticism is given it is important for us to make an effort to respond with appreciation. If you are doing what the Lord is calling you to do then pursue that and let Him handle it.

  • Learn how to fail graciously.

No one succeeds all the time. We are going to make mistakes and we need to own up to them. If we have a teachable spirit then we commit ourselves to learning all we can from our mistakes.

By accepting feedback and criticism we are not only accepting our “mess-ups” and shortcomings… but we are also moving towards making those things better.

Don’t take yourself SO seriously. Be joyful and laugh at your mess-ups… everyone else probably is anyways!


A couple of thoughts in closing:

Forgive those who hurt you with harsh feedback or criticism. Harboring bitterness and resentment can do more damage to you than negative words ever did.

You can’t control what people are going to say… but you can control how you’re going to respond.

Fast Food Jesus

We all probably eat WAY too much fast food. It is just so convenient and enjoyable! The thing about fast food is… no matter how many people tell us that it is bad for us most of us will continue to eat it anyways.

But… here is a serious question: Do we treat our faith like a fast food drive-thru?

I think that too often we do and we don’t even realize it. Let’s make some connections below.


  • You can’t “Have it your Way.”

Too often we try to walk out our faith the “Burger King” way… we try to have it all “our way.” Unfortunately… a life touched by Jesus doesn’t work that way. As Christians we are followers” of Christ, which means we walk by His leading.

We see a prime example of this exact lesson in the story of Jonah.

Most of us know the story of Jonah and the Whale as found in the book of Jonah. This story opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

As a prophet of God Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah wanted to see them fall! Jonah wanted to see justice served up to Israel’s enemies! This “mission” of God wasn’t the mission that Jonah had “pictured” God would put him on. God commanded Jonah to help people he didn’t even like.

How many of us can relate to that?

We see Jonah react in a way that many of us have probably reacted before… he did just the opposite of what he was told just like any child who frequently tests the patience of their parents. Jonah went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible actually says that Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

We all know the outcome of this action… God sent a violent storm, the sailors tossed Jonah into the sea, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish sent by God, and then while in the belly of the whale Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer.

Jonah was in the giant fish three days until it finally vomited him out onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed, and surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented and God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Are you like the reluctant Jonah?

What is God calling you to do that you just don’t understand, or don’t want to do?

Christianity doesn’t follow the Burger King slogan… you cannot “have it your way!”

  • There is nothing “convenient” about it.

In Scripture we see a lawyer encounter Jesus and leave with something he never expected… Luke 10:25-36 says,

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

This parable contains stories of both convenience and inconvenience. The lawyer, who knew the law, attempted to put Jesus in a bind by asking him a question about the law that he already knew the “religious” answer to. Jesus in turn replied with an answer that shook the foundations of the law and what this man understood as “following” the law. The lawyer probably had a comfortable life of convenience that he simply inserted his knowledge of the law into… but the application is always the hardest and most inconvenient part.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus draws a line between those who knew the law and those who obeyed the law… even at their own inconvenience.

In this story the first person who encounters the injured man is a priest. The priest represented the religious-acting people of the time. They “talked the talk” and knew all the right answers, but rarely walked the walk unless it was for show in front of others. We can even see this in today’s society and culture. Sometimes it is too “easy” to play the religion card or to use Christianity as an out or “back-up” plan. It is a convenient “social networking” or Facebook Christianity… and it is detrimental to the cause of Christ.

Anyways, the priest in this parable went out of his way to avoid the injured man because as a priest he didn’t want to make himself unclean by associating with someone who may have had blood on them. Not to mention the fact that the man was a Samaritan and that whole group of people was deemed “unclean” by the Jews. The priest could have even been on his way to perform his priestly duties and didn’t want to undo the ritual washings on himself that he had already likely performed. Ultimately, he let his convenience get in the way of what he knew was right. He knew the law in his heart and didn’t act upon it with his hands.

The same can be said of the Levite. Levites were experts in the Law… but sadly the one in the parable ignored what Jesus had just defined as the law: to love God and then love your neighbor as yourself.

The last person to come by was the Samaritan… the Samaritan people were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. Because of that the Jews would have nothing to do with them. In this parable Jesus doesn’t specify whether the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion. The Samaritan saw past race and religion differences and saw a person in need. He didn’t just know the law… he acted upon the law. He got involved! Christianity has to get involved… even when it isn’t convenient.

A true experience with Jesus or encounter with the Lord strips us of our convenience and replaces it with a cause.

  • You can’t exchange it if it isn’t what you expected or ordered.

I always wonder if Paul knew what we know now if he would’ve just stayed blind! Think about it… shipwrecks, beatings, prison, etc… not exactly the most comfortable or convenient life. In all actuality Paul probably had it better while working for the Romans… he was an ancient government worker! Paul probably had a nice lifestyle, some recreational cash, and maybe even a couple of weeks of paid vacation days per year!

But… the road to Damascus changed everything.

In what is probably the most famous chapter in Acts we see a life unexpectedly changed after an encounter with God. Acts 9:1-19 says,

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

This Saul character who has a miraculous encounter with God and is forever changed is the last guy most people would expect! Before this passage of scripture we hear about Saul. He was the one that people were laying their coats down in front of during the stoning of Stephen, and it was mentioned previously that he was leading the persecution of Christians. But when he encounters Jesus his world is turned upside down. God changes everything.

So… that leads me back to my point… Saul/ Paul had a comfortable job, influence, and success by the worlds and governments standards, and yet gives it all up to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel. When hard times came he had the deep understanding that we don’t always get what we want or expect, but God’s will and ways are higher than ours. No returns and no exchanges.

Paul truly decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.


Let’s work together to get out of the “Fast Food Jesus” mentality. Our faith isn’t meant to be convenient, or fitted to our taste.

Where does our Creativity come From?

So last week we looked at why we as Believers should create. We looked throughout Scripture and pulled specific passages providing us with information about creativity and our purpose in having and utilizing it for God’s glory.

But… what we failed to discuss is where our creativity comes from.

When God created the world, he created man and woman in his own image. God was the first creator. He told His human creation to be fruitful and multiply and to rule over all that he had created. God also allowed Adam to name the animals. These acts, though often overlooked, are some of the first recorded creative acts of mankind.

We all know what takes place in Genesis 3… but even though both Adam and Eve fell from the perfection in which they had been created we find that mankind’s creativity continued on.

You may be asking… “Tanner, how can you know this?”

My answer to that is historically man had to advance. In the early chapters of Genesis we see the rise of agriculture, the building of cities, the forging of tools and even the beginning of music.

In the middle of the genealogies in Genesis 4 we come across a man named Jubal. Genesis 4:21 says,

Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.

Even after the fall man began to put into practice the creative gifts that God had given him to fulfill his task of ruling over creation. And so God, the creator, is the source of all creativity. And in creating man in His own image, God gave man gifts of creativity also.

Let’s discuss some important principles for us to consider while thinking about God’s gift of creativity.


  • God chooses the recipient.

We know that creativity comes from God. Most people attribute the works of the Holy Spirit with happenings in the New Testament… but a shock to most is that the first person to receive the Spirit of God was a “creative” in the Old Testament. We see this specifically in Exodus 31:1-5 where it says,

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

This passage in Exodus takes place immediately after the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses has ascended to the top of Mount Sinai where God has just given him detailed instructions concerning the tabernacle. And then in our passage God tells Moses how the building of the tabernacle is to be accomplished. Through a creative… that He has given the Spirit to in order to create exactly what God had commanded.

In the beginning of that passage we see that God chooses the recipients of His gifts… including the gift of creativity or artistry. God said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel…

We can’t make it happen on our own. God chooses each specific gift and ability that each of us has been blessed with.

I like the continuation of that story in Exodus 40 when the “creatives” have finished the Lord’s work. Exodus 40:24-28 says,

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

The Spirit of God was so thick in and on the tabernacle that Moses couldn’t even get in! Now that is thick! Miraculous things happen when we respect and utilize the Lord’s gifts and selections. Let us use the gifts of God for His glory!

  • There are a variety of gifts.

Another important thing for us to consider and remember is that God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. We even see in the above passages about Bezalel, found in Exodus, a variety of gifts mentioned.

Exodus 31:4-5 says,

To make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.

Bezalel wasn’t just given one gift. Instead God gave Bezalel a wide variety of gifts to accomplish His purposes at that time.

Romans 12:6-8 tells us that we will have gifts that “differ” and goes on to mention some gifts. That passage says,

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

So… it is important to note that even though we are specifically talking about creative gifts in this blog everything pointed out applies to other gifts of the Spirit as well! I would argue though that all that we do involves some level of creative ability, from the simple setting of a table for dinner to inventing the wheel or writing the next CCLI top hit for the church. Even simple problem solving requires some level of creativity!

So when you think about creativity, don’t just think about the arts! God gives a wide variety of creative gifts, and He has given creative gifts to you, too. And there is a reason God gave you the specific gifts that make you who you are. No single gift is greater than another and we are called to use the ones we have been given for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Kingdom.

  • Every gift has a purpose.

Why did God give Bezalel his specific skills? God had a specific purpose in mind for them. Now… I am sure that he used those skills for many other things as well, but the primary purpose is portrayed in Exodus.

God gave Bezalel all the particular skills that he needed in order to build the tabernacle, and not just to build it, but to build it according to God’s exact specifications!

God gives creative gifts for a purpose.

Christianity is all about being human, God’s creation, to the glory of God the Creator. And so that means taking all that God has created in this world, all of human culture, and all of our creativity and returning it to God in praise. 1 Timothy 4:4 Paul says,

Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.

Ephesians 2:10 says,

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Just as Bezalel’s gifts had a purpose God has also prepared specific works for each of us to do. Not only did He set us aside for these works… but he also created us with the specific gifts necessary to do those good works.

God’s gifts have a purpose, and God has a purpose for the creative gifts he has given you.

Pause.

Do you ever feel like the Energizer bunny?

Many, if not all, of us have been through a season where it seems like for every one thing we get off of our to-do list two more are added. Maybe you are in that season now.

What do we do when our work is piling up and there seems like there is no escape or plausible solution to free ourselves from the busyness? Have a breakdown? Work overtime? Well actually there really isn’t an easy solution here with a guaranteed outcome.

Below we will talk about the importance of remembering Jesus in the seasons of busyness and some important things to keep in mind when we are neck deep in piles of work.


  • Don’t get so caught up in your work that you miss His.

Psalm 37:7 says,

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Those of us who are work-driven suffer from the mentality or thought that we have to work more and harder in order to get the work that needs to be done accomplished, that somehow God’s work is dependent on our 8-hour workday. Now on a certain level we all know that we can’t be “lazy” and expect things to get done… but this idea of work-driven spiritual success can be harmful.

Psalm 46:10 says,

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

We see a command in the Psalm above: Be still. The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” This idea is true… but not always a helpful interpretation. Quietness in order to listen to and for God is certainly helpful, but the phrase also means to stop frantic activity, and to be still.

Sometimes it would actually be better if we slowed down and allowed the Lord to guide our work instead of franticly doing every project or list item that we can think of just to get them checked off our list.

A thought that helps me to remember to be still and let the Lord guide my work is: Does God’s will require this to be done at this instant… is He guiding me to do it now or is it my will that it be done?

To “know that I am God” means to acknowledge and be aware of who God is and what He does. This should impact our work because if we know God then we know that He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all-powerful), holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and surrender to His plan because we understand who He is.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let go and let God work. We must remember that we don’t have to always be in charge. Instead of trying harder, we merely need to trust more.

Whose work is more important?

  • Presence is more important than position.

In times of busyness our relationships suffer.

Our families and friends know when we are busy, because our relationship with them is strained or suffers. The same goes for our congregations if we are ministers. Have you ever been working hard and someone shows up out of the blue “just to talk?” What was your reaction? This happens to me frequently in the office at church and I have to make a conscious effort to pry myself away from the task I am working on to be intentional with them.

After all, we aren’t called to get the lights programmed, the bulletins printed, or the website looking amazing. We are called to make disciples… and with that call comes an understanding that in order to do that we have to be willing to make an intentional effort to put people first before our “tasks.”

Relationships require a certain level of commitment… but at the very least you have to be present for them to work!

I’m not just talking about being physically present. I am talking about being intentionally present with more than just your body… your heart, mind, and spirit need to be there too!

We never know what someone really needs and what opportunity God is placing in front of us. We see a prime example of this in Acts 16:24-34,

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

In the story of the Philippian jailer we see that Paul fought the human tendency or urge to flee as soon as the prison doors flung open, and that unnatural response led to a life and a family being surrendered to Christ. Paul was intentional.

Paul cared less about his position as a missionary or apostle… instead he cared about being known for his presence when interacting with people! What good is a pastor who is always at church but who is unattached and has no presence among the people? What good is a parent who holds the position of authority but has no presence about them when they are home with their children? As a worship leader it does me no good at all to pick the best songs, rehearse diligently to a level of excellence, just to ignore those God has trusted me with and display no amount of presence when leading God’s people in worship!

I promise you that you lead more from your presence than you do from your position.

Let’s commit ourselves to being intentional and present with people because it glorifies God and honors the position He has ultimately given to each one of us.

  • Take the time to hear what He is saying instead of what you want to hear.

You may be saying, “I don’t have time to get done what I feel like God has already told me to do and now you are telling me to take more time out of my schedule!”

My response… yes.

We are all going to go through seasons of “busyness,” but in these times God isn’t silent. The season is in your life for a reason… what is God showing you, telling you, or teaching you?

Often the first thing that gets cut from a busy schedule is our own personal time of ministry. The time we take to hear from and speak to the Lord. We must minister to ourselves!

The best preacher you will ever have is yourself, so preach God’s Word to yourself everyday!

I think that the best example of surrendering to self is Jesus. We see in Scripture that the very night before his crucifixion Jesus surrendered himself to God’s plan. Mark 14:35-36 shows us this,

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

We see in this passage, in this prayer, that Jesus surrendered himself to God’s will. He submitted Himself to God’s will even if it didn’t perfectly align with what He wanted. Let’s face it… we are all human and our will doesn’t always perfectly align with God’s, but way too often we get so caught up in doing our will that we neglect to hear or ignore the tender calling that accompanies God’s will.

Our time may be spent doing “good” things… but are they the things that God desires from us at this very moment? I do good things everyday in and around the church, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am being intentional in accomplishing the will of God. Sometimes we can desire good things that take work and that isn’t bad at all! We just need to be careful to not ignore God’s work in order to accomplish ours. Not to ignore his will because we desire something else.

We must surrender ourselves and take the time to hear what God is saying to us instead of what we want Him to say.


Pause.

Be still and know that He is God.

What is Guiding You?

Every successful organization has goals…

Every successful organization also has a set of guiding principles that it bases its decisions and endeavors off of. These principles are the foundation of what they do and they keep them on track to accomplish their goals. Having guidance prevents frustration, burnout, and the “side-routes” that often suck up much of our time and energy.

To any church “leaders” or ministers I would ask: What principles should guide our decisions regarding the worship ministries within our respective churches? To the average “church-goer” or layperson I would ask: What principles should you be noticing within your church’s worship ministry?

There is obviously no single “set-in-stone” list… but I believe there are four basic principles that provide for us a good foundation to build off of. I will discuss them below.


  • Exalt the Lord

Psalm 99:5 says,

Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

That same Psalm continues in verse 9 to say,

Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!

This couple of verses does well to form a foundation of where our worship ministries should begin. They set forth an obvious goal…

All of our efforts in music ministry begin with the priority of exalting the Lord.

We strive for many things within the Body of Christ. We know that we have one purpose of glorifying God, but we tend to take many routes and avenues to get there. That is fine… but in all of our goals we should have a priority of exalting the Lord. We should be continually striving for excellence in our efforts to exalt the Lord.

Psalm 96:1-13 says,

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

Psalm 95:1-11 says,

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Ultimately in our worship ministries, and services, our music is offered to glorify the Lord.

1 Peter 4:11b establishes that very line of thinking where it says,

In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

In our planning, leading, singing, and living we should be focused on helping other people to get a glimpse of the great God that we praise, so that they themselves may see that He alone is worthy of exalting.

A last side note to this point is that we should be living humbly and teaching an attitude of humility and service to our choir/ praise team members, soloists, and instrumentalists – so that God alone receives the glory.

  • Edify the Saints

Let’s acknowledge the facts…the world is a fallen place and Christians are bombarded all week with discouraging words and events. It is far too easy to live in a constant season of discontentment, discouragement, or in we need if refreshment. In our weekly congregational worship gatherings we need to intentionally be working to encourage those around us with the Gospel.

My advisor, Greg Brewton, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary once told me,

If what you are doing doesn’t encourage you personally then there is either a problem with what you are doing or with your heart.

I think as leaders in our respective churches we all must ask ourselves: is our worship encouraging the people in our church? I hope so! After all, this is the Body and Bride of Christ that we were, and are, entrusted with to care for until His final return.

1 Corinthians 14:26 says,

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

We all have been given something! This gift isn’t for ourselves… it is for Christ and for sharing with those around us to build them up!

Romans 14:19 shares this thought when it says,

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Ultimately, every song, element, and aspect should have a purpose… and that purpose is to build up the church. All things that take place when we are gathered together are to be shared by Christ and His Bride (the church). Our songs and elements should build each other up… they should teach and admonish.

In fact, Colossians 3:16-17 says exactly that,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  • Equip for Ministry

Another foundation or focus we should have within our churches and ministries is to be equipping others for ministry!

I often have said that my goal is to replicate myself… in NO way does that mean I think highly of myself or that I have it all together. I just want to know that I am pouring into someone else and that if something were to happen to me then the particular ministry I am involved in could continue on without missing a beat.

Imagine yourself away from your ministry… what happens? Does it fall apart?

That is the true test on how you have equipped others in your ministry. The leading of the music is the easy part… the equipping is the hardest part. Ultimately if all we have is a band and no leaders of the Gospel then we have done nothing more than a public school band director. That isn’t a sucker punch at band directors… but that isn’t our job! We are ministers… which means we are to be ministering!

Ephesians 4:11-14 says,

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.

This passage in Ephesians tells us that as leaders we aren’t the lone rangers of the Gospel. We aren’t to carry out ALL of the ministry. As leaders we are to be equipping others to do ministry. We are leaders who lead by example and equip those around them to live out the Gospel.

For us who are “ministers” this is a challenge because sometimes it is easier to just do the work ourselves… but our job is to equip, so we need to spend time enabling and trusting others.

As a “church-goer” or layperson this is also a challenge because it puts some of the weight back on your shoulders. Ministry isn’t just a minister’s job! You share in the responsibility… they are there to provide instruction, guidance, and support.

  • Evangelize with the Gospel

We all know the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The act of going takes priority in all other actions. If you are “going” somewhere then it is typically apparent to everyone around you. Sometimes we tend to forget that this is a commandment and not a suggestion. That commandment doesn’t exclude our worship ministries either!

The great commission is a commandment and worship ministry is not an exception to it.

Our worship services are also outreach opportunities! Our music ministries should support the overall vision and goals of the church – outreach, missions, etc. In the end, the worship ministry is a part of the church as a whole and not a separate entity. We are ALL to be evangelists in ALL things.

Let’s commit ourselves to not just focusing on our ministry or preferences!

We need to be singing and selecting songs that express the Gospel story in clear terms, and we must also be concerned with the spiritual condition of those within our music ministry – choir members, instrumentalists, children, youth, etc.

My advisor, Greg Brewton, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has also told me this,

We have failed if we have produced trained musicians and a congregation full of music lovers, but have not produced Christians growing in their walk with the Lord.


So… what principles exist and guide your worship services?