When we Rest

Have you ever seen a kid that is fighting sleep so hard that it is funny? My wife might say that she has seen me do that. A typical weeknight for us consists of her studying her medical schoolbooks while I watch YouTube videos on the couch. Almost nightly she wakes me up on the couch to tell me to go to bed, and almost nightly I reply, “I wasn’t asleep.”

Rest is necessary and important physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We know that’s true. We know we need rest… but like that kid we often fight it.

Why do we resist rest?

When athletes are training for competition, one of the most important aspects of training that must be remembered is this; rest is what actually builds muscle and improves our performance. The training breaks them down and leaves them weak. That is why the rest is so important. While this is true in the realm of athletics, it seems that it is also true in God’s eyes.

The fourth commandment given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai reads as follows in Exodus 20:8,

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

The Lord continues saying in verses 9-11,

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Lord rested… so why do we resist rest. There are a couple of things that happen when we rest. Let’s think together.


  • When we Rest, We Trust

The fourth commandment directs us to observe the Sabbath, to rest one day a week. The nation of Israel regularly got themselves into trouble because they refused to honor the Sabbath. It was an issue for them the same as it most likely is for many of us!

The first use of the term Sabbath in the Old Testament is in Exodus when God was instructing the Israelites about rules for gathering manna. Six days they were to collect manna, but the day before Sabbath they were told to gather twice as much. When they took in too much manna on other days it rotted, but the day before Sabbath it remained perfectly edible.

But… did they follow God’s clear instructions? Exodus 16:27-30 says,

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

Some of the people didn’t believe God. They didn’t believe he had given them Sabbath, that he would provide for them, or that he would allow them to truly rest.

I wonder if that’s our biggest problem with rest… we simply don’t believe God.

Rest is an opportunity for us as believers to exercise our trust in God for our daily lives and needs as it was for the Israelites in the desert. The Israelites risked being hungry for a day if God didn’t come through on His word, but they put themselves in a situation in which they would see God’s faithfulness, provision, and the truth of his Word at work.

So, when we resist rest we must ask ourselves: Do I trust God to meet my needs, or do I feel like I had better work a little more to make sure my needs are met? To be honest, sometimes I claim the former but live the latter.

By resting we trust God to provide for our material and physical needs like the Israelites did in the wilderness, but while writing this I am reminded that my most desperate need is for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and no matter how frantically I work, I will never achieve that by my own effort. Work alone cannot earn grace! But thankfully, I don’t have to, work for those things. Jesus took care of them for me through his death and resurrection. In faith, I can rest in the truth that I am forgiven and reconciled. If Jesus Christ willingly died for me, why would he not also meet my daily needs?

God does not say, “Wait until all your enemies have been destroyed, until every problem in your life has been resolved, then you can rest.” Instead He says in Psalm 110:1-2,

Rest first until I make all your enemies your footstool.

Joseph Prince wrote,

What do you see when it comes to healing for a condition in your sick body or breakthroughs for your financial challenges? Do you see lack and say, “Let me get out of this situation first. Let me hear the doctors’ reports say that everything is clear, and then I can rest”?

We find it hard to rest because our human nature is inclined toward worry and restlessness. The devil loves to see human nature reign in the church and to have you believe that you can only rest when things go well or when you see your breakthroughs. Stop saying, “When my child finishes primary school, I will stop worrying and rest.” You know what? After primary school, there is secondary school. Then, after your child completes secondary school, you will say, “I think when my child finishes university, then I will rest.” And you will never rest!

God wants us to find rest in the midst of the storm. And when you rest in Him, things will go well. This doesn’t mean that there is no storm… but, it does mean that He will see us through the storm (Psalm 46).


  • When we Rest, He Works 

What happens when we become make a concentrated effort to rest? Let’s look at this secret hidden in the story of how Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from an infirmity for 38 years.

John 5:8–9 says,

Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take
up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Why did Jesus ask the man to take up his bed? Why not just ask him to stand up and walk? I think the question Jesus asks paints a picture of what Christ is saying to each of us. That command Jesus gave to take up the bed paints a picture for us of a command to rest in Him and to allow Him to do the work. For this man the work Jesus accomplished was a work of healing. What work are you needing Jesus to accomplish? So, in this story what Jesus was actually saying to the man was, “Rise, take up your rest and walk!”

Notice that the day this story occurs day was the Sabbath, the day of rest. Therefore, what God is saying is that when you rest, He works! Isn’t this amazing?

On the day that man rests, God is able to work!

Matthew 11:28 says,

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

We’re not used to handing control over to anyone else. We want to do it our way, on our timing. We don’t trust other people to do things exactly the way we want them, and we have a hard time trusting God too.

But can you think of anyone more competent than God? Can’t the all-powerful being who created the universe and who keeps it running take care of your problems?

When you rest in God, you don’t tell him what to do or how to do it. You take a break from your troubles and allow Him to work!


Remember that your time of rest is also a time to remember and to thank God for all that He has done for you. It’s not simply a time to stop doing all things… it is a time to stop your busywork and to focus on Christ.

I encourage each of you, and myself, to try and slow down and take the time to rest. We are all so rushed and so busy.  God commands us to rest because He loves us and He knows what’s best for us! What might happen if we put a little trust in Him?  Let’s be encouraged to show a little faith and find out.

May God give us the strength to rest!

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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.

 

Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

Several times in college some friends and I went to explore a nearby train tunnel that was carved through a hill and was a little over a mile long. You have never experienced total darkness until you are half a mile back in a train tunnel and you drop your flashlight into the knee-deep water you are wading through! In times like those the sight of the bit of light poking through the exit of the tunnel in the distance means a whole lot! Not only does it give you hope, but it provides a sense of direction and the ability to persevere just a little longer.

Does your prayer life ever feel like that dark train tunnel? How welcome would just a little light at the end be?

I know some people who have been praying over the same circumstances for extended periods of time. How do they persevere? What about when you have prayed and prayed and just don’t see an answer or end in sight? What do we do? As I pondered this I came up with some thoughts to keep in mind. Let’s think together!


His timing is not ours.

Have you ever felt like something you were believing for and expecting God to do was taking longer than you had hoped for? I don’t think I’m alone for having, at one time or another, thought, “God… this seems like it is taking an awfully long time” or, “Hello? Did you hear me up there?

You know, I used to beat myself up for having those thoughts. Almost punishing myself for “doubting God” or questioning His plan. But… in reality the big question isn’t what you might say, question, or think, but it comes down to “what do you DO when something you are believing for, or expecting, takes longer than you had imagined or planned for?”

In Exodus 32 we get a clear picture from Aaron and the Israelites of what NOT to do in this situation. It says in verse 1,

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

The Israelites freaked out when Moses didn’t immediately return from the mountain that God had commanded him onto, as if the God who brought them out of Egypt wasn’t strong or good enough to see them through the end and accomplish His purposes! Obviously it wasn’t enough for the Israelites to see and experience the parting of the Red Sea and the miraculous provision of food along their journey, because when they were not experiencing the immediate provision of God, and their leader Moses had gone temporarily absent, they decided to go around God and settle for a counterfeit.

It seems ridiculous now… but how are we like the Israelites in this story out of Exodus?

I wonder how long we are willing to wait on God? Are we willing to trust him in every step of our journey, through the mountaintops and valleys, or are we like the Israelites seeking the instant provision of God in our every need and circumstance? How has God proven Himself faithful to you? What provisions has He provided?

Psalm 37:7 says,

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

This is not just a good verse to burn into a fancy little board and place on your mantle. It’s not just a catchy phrase or motto to stick on your wall with those fancy interior designer letters. This verse is great advice from David that we can apply to our real life circumstances and everyday prayers! Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him! Don’t go after a counterfeit and miss God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Maybe you’re believing for your lost friends and family to encounter Jesus in a life changing way. You know what I would tell you? Keep praying for them, don’t give up, trust God and… be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Maybe there is a job or specific destination that you are believing God for… well trust in His perfect plan and purpose for your life and… be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Maybe you’re stuck in a rut and you just can’t seem to achieve breakthrough… well just keep pushing and persevering and above all… be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Just like the Israelites, it’s amazing how we want the “now solution” or the “quick fix” and are happy to settle for a counterfeit and even talk ourselves into believing the counterfeit is God’s will for our lives. As far as my life goes… I don’t want to “settle” for the “second best,” because that means that I am missing out! I’ve been walking with the Lord for what seems to be a long time now, and sometimes along the way I have felt like God’s will for my life was on hold, but now I look back and see that God’s “not now’s” were developing maturity and character in me that helped position me and ready me for what I’m doing now. God’s plan, and my waiting for it, has far exceeded what I could have dreamt up in my wildest hopes or dreams.

Don’t settle for second best… God’s timing is greater than yours.


Stay persistent.

“Are we there yet?”

That question plagues the backseat of every summer vacation vehicle in the world! Many of us grow up with a distinct memory of our parents demanding that we stop annoying them, stop pestering them, and stop going on and on about whatever it was that was stuck in our childlike heads. Even now I take a particular type of joy from pestering my wife to see how far I can get before she snaps. It’s like a game of how annoying we can be before the victim reaches a state of annoyance that they just can’t take anymore.

Sometimes I feel like my repeated prayers might annoy God. I can’t be alone here! Do you ask, beg, and plead for the same breakthroughs, provisions, and signs repeatedly? Well… here is a newsflash.

God’s not annoyed when we are persistent with Him.

In fact, persistence is a good thing and it is something many of us aren’t driven enough to do. Sometimes it’s just easier to give up. I recently read a story about a South Korean woman named Cha Sa-soon who lived alone in the tiny mountain village of Sinchon in South Korea. From an early age she wanted to learn to drive, but didn’t begin the process of trying to get a license until she was in her 60’s. Needless to say she was behind the eight ball and the road was going to be difficult… no pun intended. Cha failed the written portion of the drivers test 949 times; the concept of many of the questions was confusing to her, being an elderly woman living in a remote village. Finally, on the 950th attempt she got a passing grade and moved on to the actual driver’s test, which she only failed 4 times before getting passing marks. By this time all of South Korea knew of her persistence and she became a national hero. Upon her passing the exam she was awarded a Kia Soul and even appeared in a Kia commercial!

Persistence is key in both earthly and heavenly things!

Jesus tells a story about a widow lacking justice in her circumstances and illustrated how persistent she was in her faith in Luke 18:8, it says,

I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?

Is your faith persistent? Do you keep asking God for His help in every situation? Or have you somehow just traded persistent faith for contentment?


Short Cuts are often Dead Ends.

The back roads of Kentucky are beautiful places to drive and just take in the green grass and rolling hills. What the back roads of Kentucky aren’t good for is… getting anywhere fast! Have you ever taken a short cut or back road in order to save time only to realize later that it’s a dead end?

By attempting a shortcut you have taken longer than you would have by just staying the course!

Anyone who has played Mario Kart understands the inherent risk that comes along with a shortcut. On one of my least favorite levels, Koopa Troopa Beach, there are several opportunities to use a boost and hit a ramp that takes you through a tunnel carved in the side of the mountain instead of having to drive around it. This shortcut has the potential to save TONS of time… but it comes with the high risk of disappointment and, if you are like me, intense rage when you miss the hole of the tunnel and smack into the mountain face immediately going from first place to last!

In Luke we see a story where Jesus was tempted by Satan to take a shortcut. Luke 4:5-8 says,

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Jesus was tempted to take a short cut here by Satan. In this story Satan said he had the authority of all the kingdoms and he could give it to Jesus in an instant. But this was a dead end and an empty short cut and Jesus knew it!

The Son of God didn’t want the “cheap” option. He didn’t want to settle for a counterfeit by taking the easy way. Jesus was not about to circumnavigate the process of time that He set up for us all in the first place. Jesus waited for His time and didn’t rush it. Jesus was not even willing to take a short cut from pain and suffering. Instead He endured the cross and encourages us to pick up ours and keep walking. Jesus was raised at the proper time and given the name above every name!

Psalm 31:15 says,

My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

Our time is in God’s hands! 

Our moments, our seasons, our durations are all in the strength of God’s capability to hold all things together, so be careful of short cuts & dead ends!

In 1968 on Yosemite’s El Capitan rock formation Jim Madsen, a veteran and skilled climber, rappelled from the top of the cliff face to rescue some stranded friends. In his haste to reach them, he apparently neglected to check his rope, which just happened to not be knotted at the end. In his hurry to take a shorter route he rappelled right off the end of his own rope falling 2500 feet to his death. He did not take the time to establish a belay, which would have prevented his fall.

Taking shortcuts can lead to trouble. Cutting corners can kill you.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

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

We face decisions everyday. In our day we are tempted to make our decisions, to choose our path, based on our own understanding and neglecting the advice of God. How often do we fail to involve or include God? When we do this, we take spiritual shortcuts, and they can lead to dead ends.

Ask yourself… where are you being tempted to take a short cut? What decision are you making? What situation are you facing where you might just cut a corner that could be deadly?

Maybe it’s a career decision? A relationship? A living situation that you know isn’t right? A financial decision or purchase?

If you are making these kinds of decisions without leaning on God, you are liable to take a shortcut that leads to a dead end. Sometimes we just have to know when to turn around. If you find yourself on a dead-end, instead of stubbornly pushing on, you only have to turn around and ask God for directions.


Choose to Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4 says,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

I’ll be honest… sometimes this verse seems like a joke. When things just aren’t going the way you’ve planned, when the odds are stacked against you, when all your “allies” have fled. How are we supposed to rejoice in that?

Every time I get the opportunity to stand before people and worship I get pumped up! I still can’t fully comprehend that I get to do that everyday and make a living doing so! But… sometimes things just don’t seem to go right. It never fails that whenever we are preparing for a big event anything and everything that can go wrong will go wrong. It always seems like a whole lot of circumstances are working against you… against what God is wanting to do. Now, I know the devil is not too happy about the church gathering and people’s lives being positively changed. And we can get all worked up about what he is trying to do, but I have discovered that the best thing to do is to focus on what God can and is doing; He’s never caught by surprise. He always has a plan and His promise for us is this:

Jeremiah 29:11 says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sometimes we can’t choose the circumstances… but one thing we can do however is choose our attitude and our response to the things that work against us.

We have the choice to stay in faith and make sure that we put our trust in a BIG God who has it all under control. In fact, that God makes a promise in Romans 8:28 that He takes very seriously. That promise 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.

So, choose to rejoice!

There is a lot about our society that creates circumstantial Christianity. Our beliefs and values get influenced and adjusted depending on how we experience the situations around us. Sometimes we act as if God is good only when good things happen to us. But the reality is sometimes things we don’t like happen, sometimes things just don’t work out, sometimes we don’t get to understand. But… He is still Lord regardless of how the situation pans out… we must worship Him for who He is before we worship Him for what He does.

2 Samuel 22:4 says,

I called to the lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.

In this passage Samuel is saying the Lord is worthy of praise regardless of the outcome! Notice that the praise was not dependent on the outcome, which is why the praising is attached to His name and not to the circumstance.

If we only wait for circumstances to go our way before praising our God, we will be in danger of living by sight and not by faith. Don’t attach praise to the situation.


Keep on praying. Live by faith. Take the route before you and trust the navigator… the light is coming.

Becoming a Better Leader

Pubilius Syrus once said,

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.

Say the word leadership in any circle of “influencers” and gifted leaders and chances are the conversation will immediately turn to the subject of leading others. That’s what leadership is… right? We as church leaders, pastors, servants, and volunteers spend most of our week leading others. As Christians and leaders, we are quick to look at our role of leadership as our influence and impact on those around us! Yet sometimes, in our effort to become better leaders, we often overlook the biggest leadership challenge we will ever face… leading ourselves. We tend to neglect managing ourselves because self-leadership is much more difficult than leading others. It’s much more personal and sometimes messier.

In my opinion the most important ingredient of becoming an exceptional leader is the ability to lead yourself. This is the ability to make the right calls for your own life, not just for those that may consider you a leader. These decisions shape you as a leader and preserve your “ministry” and leadership platform. Andy Stanley said,

We are always one decision, one word, one reaction away from damaging what has taken years to develop.

Self-leadership is crucial, one of the most difficult leadership characteristics to grow, and one of the most difficult character traits to find in a growing leader. We leaders need to spend just as much time, if not more time, caring for our own growth as leaders as we do with “leading the masses.” We need to spend time wrestling with that which needs to be wrestled, time and time again, so that our teams, families, and organizations can be rewarded for our private victories.

The first person you lead is yourself. In truth, any failure to lead yourself well will cripple your chances of leading, helping, or discipling others.

In his book Leading From the Inside Out, Samuel Rima states,

The way in which a leader conducts his personal life does, in fact, have a profound impact on his ability to exercise effective public leadership. There is a direct correlation between self-leadership and public leadership.

So, here are a few quick thoughts I have about self-leadership. Let’s think together!


Define success. 

What does success look like to you?

We often let other people define what success looks like. Too often we live by the desires of our parents, bosses, professors, and peers. In actuality what you were designed for is unique! What I was designed for is also unique and probably entirely different than your purpose. The fact that we each have an individual calling should mean that we also each have an individual definition of what success is and looks like.

For example… success for a stockbroker will look entirely different than success for a missionary. To define both individuals success by money, net worth, accolades would do one or both an injustice.

In the same spirit each individual pastors definition of success may look different. I surely hope that our ideas of success for a rural church and an inner city church have differences! Obviously they will have similarities… but they should also have differences.

Define your success and pursue it. Target your leading in the proper direction… I was once told,

Being busy isn’t the same as being fulfilled.

If we continually live by other peoples definitions of success then we will stay busy… but we may not ever be fulfilled. Be unique…. don’t let those around you decide what a good life should look like!


Set a course.

As a millennial that can’t navigate using a map with much success I believe one of the best technological advances in the last 50 years has got to be portable navigational tools like a GPS or even an app built into your phone! Nothing is simpler and more satisfying than speaking where you want to go into your cell phone and getting step by step instructions spoken back to you as you drive. The days of needing a competent navigator are over!

One of the things that was lost with this advance though has got to be the ability to navigate alternate routes and understand what avenue or obstacles stand between point A and point B. We are a direct route people now because of the invention of the GPS. Scenic routes are outdated and a waste of time… right?

One of the things every self-leader needs is a sense of direction. Where are you headed and what route are you going to take to get there?

Unlike the physical realm we live in, unfortunately we can’t just punch in the destination into our GPS and get the most direct route to it. God is like a map… and we are used to GPS. Sometimes the route may seem unconventional… so we need to ask for our direction and trust our navigator and his tools to get us there.

It is critical to make sure you are headed in a direction that will accomplish your purpose and glorify your Savior, not just pacify your feelings, wants, or lack of drive… hear me out when I say that a bad day or a bad week does not require a knee jerk reaction that could ultimately knock you off course just because you’re not where you want to be right now! Don’t just look at how today has gone, look at the bigger picture. Is your trajectory correct? Are you on course? Then stay the path, keep the faith in spite of a setback… our discipline in this area will lead to growth in other areas!

On August 5, 2001 major league baseball witnessed its greatest comeback in history as the Cleveland Indians rallied from a 12-run deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in 11 innings.

Just like a baseball game isn’t won or lost in the 1st inning… we too must play the long game in life. 

Be patient. In every action, moment, and self-conversation. Remember why you’re here. Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now. Embrace the call to give everything to see the Kingdom advance; for that is its own reward.


Engage the old. Put on the new.

An important part of the self-leadership process is highlighted in Ephesians 4:20-24 where it says,

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

That verse says to put “off” our old self. Do you sometimes feel like your “old self” just won’t let go? Like it lays in wait to catch you at your weakest… whether it’s an attack in the mind or an attack in the flesh, they are all the same. But… as leaders we must fight it!

You can’t transform what you don’t engage.

As leaders, we must decide who we want to be and then align our lives so we become just that. This is not easy because the person you do not want to be is the person you will most naturally become if left to your own devices. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said,

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Self-leaders must die to the natural tendencies inside them to become who God is calling them to be. God is calling us to become inside-out leaders… leaders who are defined more by who we are on the inside than by who we seem to be on the outside.

Our culture has developed us into people who are quick to adopt new habits, vocabulary, styles, and behaviors. We learn these things and add them to our repertoire, put them up on a shelf to pull down when and if we ever need them. We add them to the life we have built and carry on. But as leaders and as Christians who are pursuing holiness we must take off the old before we put on the new. We need to deal with the junk that comes to cling to our heart along the way. We need to remove the old ways of thinking; bad habits, attitudes, and prejudices that will hold us back. We can sweep the old behavior under a new rug, but if we don’t address and engage it, rest assured, it will come back to bite.

You wouldn’t deal with a mold colony by merely covering it up with a rug or some wallpaper, because although it might seem good for a while the problem is still just under the surface waiting for its opportunity to return. In the same sense we can’t just “cover up” the old and smelly we must fight the old before becoming the new.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


Spend time outside your comfort zone.

A comfort zone is defined as:

A psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control, and experiences low anxiety. A person in this state uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.

Your comfort zone is a psychological place where you feel safe and in control. You experience low-anxiety and you’re using a limited set of behaviors. This means you’re not growing or developing any new skills. Essentially you’re stuck on autopilot, you’re just going through the motions. Clearly this is not the place from which to lead.

Will Rogers said,

You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.

It’s in our comfort zone that we feel safe and secure. It’s the zone of routine, the place where we do those things we find safe, comfortable, easy and familiar. The comfort zone is a place where nothing particularly challenging happens.

Denis Waitley says,

Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.

Successful leaders know that they must get out of their comfort zone to succeed. Leadership begins at the end of your comfort zone, and starts in the learning zone. Great leaders from history are those who have spent a large amount of their time outside their comfort zone such as Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Henry Ford, Elon Musk, and many, many more. These are leaders who have dared to step out their comfort zone. History has shown that life rewards the risk-takers.

Leaders who take risks and step outside their comfort zone and into their “learning zone” are those that succeed. It’s only when you can give up what’s safe and familiar that you create opportunities and develop new capabilities. As you do, you expand your influence and gain the skills required to take on bigger and bigger challenges.

Leaders are self-made and not born, they are developed, not promoted. Leadership is a learned skill that is developed as you step out of your comfort zone. You only grow when you are at the edge of yourself.

I talk about this a lot. Getting out of your comfort zone is remarkably good for you at every level. When was the last time you got uncomfortable in order to grow? Can you even remember? Leaving the comfort zone broadens your horizons, sharpens your senses, and most importantly it causes you to pay attention. Are you paying attention to the path God has put before you? How about the one that leaves your area of comfort

Don’t limit yourself! Don’t limit what God can do through you by being fearful of the unknown and the uncomfortable! Our purposes may demand that we grow to see them through. Our purposes demand the courage to take risks, to step out on faith! You will never discover your full potential unless you step outside your comfort zone. To grow you must put yourself in a place where more is demanded of you.

Joshua 1:9 says,

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

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

I believe that the biggest danger of living in a comfort zone is that after a while you begin to think that average is acceptable, because comfort zones encourage mediocrity.

It’s like going to gym for the first time. The exercises are difficult and you struggle. They take a lot of energy motivation to complete. However, each week you grow stronger, the exercises become easier and they require less energy to complete. However, as the exercises become easier, you get less physical benefit. Soon you find yourself becoming used to your exercise routine, your heart rate no longer rises and you’re not sore in the mornings. When this happens you’re no longer growing stronger. You’re in a comfort zone. The solution? You need to change your exercise routine. You need to switch to a new set of exercises. The same principle holds for other areas in our lives.

Brian Tracy said,

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.

Unless you spend time out of your comfort zone and in your learning zone you’ll fail to grow. You can go to gym every day, doing the same exercises for months and months without and benefit. If what you’re doing is comfortable and easy, you’re not in the learning zone. And if you’re not in your learning zone you’re not growing.


Ask for help.

John Wooden once said,

We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing.

Asking for help is something that has taken me a long time to do… and I still do not like to do it! I hate the idea of being dependent on someone else or troubling someone else when I was raised to be confident, strong, and independent.

For a long time I thought that asking for help meant I was dependent, weak, uncertain of what do to. To me it meant I was not smart enough, strong enough, determined enough, good enough, or worthy enough. I say all of that because I know that I am not alone. Many leaders never ask for help! Instead of asking for support, we try to do everything ourselves. We do whatever it takes to get the job done on our own, and in the end, we feel a sense of accomplishment for achieving the feat that was deemed impossible.

But… the truth is, we never do anything on our own.

God is there to answer the call and as leaders we have many around us who are also willing and ready to answer the call and help carry the torch.

We must be willing to grow, and involve others in that growth. As leaders we aren’t alone…we have a team. Your strongpoint may not be mine and that is okay as long as we lean on each other in those areas! A basketball game isn’t won or lost because of one player. Involve others. Ask for and listen to outside counsel. Seek out wisdom on areas you need to grow in, and never be afraid to ask for help.


So… what other self-leadership strategies must we put into place?

Asking the Right Question

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about asking the necessary questions in ministry. You can find it here: Asking the Necessary Questions

Today I am going to talk specifically about the number one question worship leaders should be asking themselves. The reason this is necessary is I personally feel the tug to be concerned with many areas in a “creative” ministry. Sometimes we get stuck asking: What songs should I do? What creative elements can I add? How can we improve as a team or ministry? Etc.

All of these questions are good and at some point need to be asked… but if you lead worship, there’s a question you should be asking first and on a constant basis.

You see… we can be so caught in our worship subcultures and the idea that our worship has to “fit” in certain boxes, remain relevant, and/or look attractive from the outside that we don’t see clearly enough to ask the most important question.

What is God doing in my church?

Think about how obvious that is but how often we totally miss it! If you are anything at all like me then you understand the struggle it is not to get so caught up in what we are doing, our music and all things that accompany it, that we disconnect ourselves unintentionally from the life of the church.

It’s easy to get stuck on the “how” and neglect the “why.”

Depending on your leadership style this may be a side effect of organization and always looking ahead. I know that is the case for myself, so in order to combat that I have to look ahead but remember to seize every moment for what it is… an opportunity.

We can too easily chase the “doing” of worship ministry, rather than loving and serving God’s people.

The simple but necessary question gets overlooked… “What is God doing in my church?”

Let’s talk about worship, at its essence. If you think about it, worship is about transformation. We need to worship God more than God needs our worship! He is self sufficient, all satisfying and all satisfied. He has no needs, no beginning, no end, no ego problems that cause Him to demand worship. We worship because it transforms us. Worship can transform our churches.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says,

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

God desires transformational worship.

Let me ask you for a second to set down your instrument, turn off your Spotify worship playlist, and for a moment, stop brainstorming ways to make your ministry more “cutting edge” or relevant. What would change if you looked at your congregation through this lens? What if rather than it being about our music and our creativity, we were more focused on seeing what God was doing in our midst and partnering with that?

What is God doing in your local church? What season are you walking through? What breakthroughs are on the horizon? Because, fellow worship leaders, this is be the most important question you can ask this week regarding your ministry. You will serve God’s people better in worship when you know what God is doing.

First Impressions

Welcoming people to your church is the first step in growth and opening the possibility to continued discipleship. We’re called to share the gospel with our neighbors and we throw the doors open on Sunday morning. But too often when church visitors come, our churches, or even the people within it, are less than welcoming.

Think about a time when you went to an unfamiliar church. What hesitations did you have? Walking into a church for the first time can be scary. Are we making our first-time guests feel welcome? Or are we driving them away unintentionally by the things we do or say, the state of our buildings/ ministries, etc.?

There is an old saying that is absolutely true,

You never have a second chance to make a first impression.

It may seem silly to dedicate a blog post to this arbitrary topic… but the reality is that if we don’t have a welcoming environment to keep people around then we are making our job of sharing the Gospel with them harder! All of us have visited churches where our first impression was less than positive. First impressions matter, and sometimes no amount of work on the backside can make up for a poor first impression. A statistic I recently read stated that, on average, people make eleven decisions about things in the first seven seconds! Think about that; inside the first minute of coming in contact with your church, people are making decisions about it whether good or bad.

How are we helping ourselves out and how are we hindering our possibilities? Let’s talk below how we can make better first impressions.


  • Pray and accept.

The first step for us in making a good first impression is to throw off our preconceived notion of what kind of people God will send us. Not every person who staggers into church is going to look like us, sound like us, smell like us, or even have the same interests as us! Does it make them any more or less needy of Jesus. Nope!

How many of us “church-folk” pray for an abundance of people to pour into our churches so that we can effectively minister and expand the Kingdom of God, but then turn our backs on accepting them as they come because they “mix things up” a bit.

Heath Mullikin says,

Lots of people pray for God to send new people to their church. Few accept the folks God actually sends.

Let’s consider how our churches can welcome teenagers, 20-somethings, 30- somethings, working professionals, high and low income, elderly, etc… What types of things are we scared of? Tattoos? Piercings? Non-traditional church attire? Cultural differences? Musical tastes? Reality check… there is nothing Non-Christian about these things! What kind of things are we desperately holding onto that aren’t the Gospel that serve as roadblocks against our community, a community that is drastically changing? What if we could change the way we look in order to more effectively reach them? What if we could change the way we sound? What if we could lose our “religious” and theological vocabulary in order that they might hear and understand?

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul says this,

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

I like the New Living Translation version where it put it this way,

When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.

Is this statement by Paul something we should imitate, or is this just something for special people to do like missionaries in other cultures?

In fact, Paul himself answers that question in the next chapter(s). 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1 says,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

I love the freedom we as Believers are given in that verse. It says, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” In other words, adapt as much as you can in non-sinful ways!

Then Paul confirms we have the freedom to take this approach where he says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Ask how you, in your own life, can use your freedom the way Paul and Jesus did, if by any means you might save some. Are we accepting the people we are praying for?

  • Do the prep.

First impressions are no longer physical but often they are virtual! Potential visitors will check out your website before they walk into your worship service. We all have done some “research” or “snooping” before visiting a place of business or church.

Statistics say that the first visit that folks make to your church is virtual! Prospects and potential members are starting their quest on the internet first! They are checking us out in the comfort of their homes and deciding whether or not they’re going to physically make the visit based on what they find. We have to make sure our online presence is attractive. We must push our LiveStream (if we have one) and make our websites/ social media sites easy to navigate and overall simple for anyone to use.

Most of you have spent a little time online already just by reading this. Imagine if we all took a moment every time we were online to promote our church and the activities that are coming up. I know where I work we have a pretty extensive video collection on YouTube. We have songs of worship, full-length sermons, and even sub-2 minute “post-able” clips. By simply posting church content we might open a door for a visitor to have their interests peaked by something we do or offer.

  • Do the “small” things well.

Have you ever watched America’s Got Talent? Many of the acts are great… but do you know what stands out to me? The preparation! They have all kinds of artistic needs ranging anywhere from trapeze equipment, musical equipment, etc… They have staff prepared to do quick changeovers, the sound is good, the lighting is on-point, and the announcers/ judges/ hosts know what to say and how to say it. They have planned commentary and entertaining in-between segments to constantly be “pulling in” the viewers attention. They do even the “small” things well!

If you are like me (production minded/ artistic) a whole program can be dismantled by a small oversight or disruption, and unfortunately many of our churches make these “small mistakes” every Sunday!

It could be a dead microphone battery or an inexperienced operator. It could be the “announcement-giver” going off the cuff in a painful way. Maybe the sound is bad or the lighting is distracting? There have been times as a church staffer that I have even been unsure what is going on during a service and who is supposed to be doing what!

These issues honestly aren’t a big deal to us who can look past them because of our reasoning for being at church… but to someone who is a first time guest and may not be sold on the whole “church-thing” they can be a HUGE deal.

If we take what we do on Sundays seriously then we should be seeking excellence and professionalism alongside our authenticity. In order to be trusted with the “big” things we must first excel in the “small” things.

  • Use “fresh” eyes.

Many church members, pastors, and volunteers have forgotten what it’s like to be a church visitor. I fall into this category.

Have you ever been in a room that was a mess? Maybe if you are a parent it was one of your children’s? Maybe you had a college roommate that was a slob? It never ceases to amaze me when you ask that person where something is and they can tell you exactly where it is within the mess. They have become comfortable at navigating their own mess! Sometimes us “regulars” get comfortable navigating our own mess! We spend countless hours in the church and can probably navigate the facilities with our eyes closed.

Any good realtor understands this approach. When they first enter your home, they will take a quick tour. They will notice things that we don’t because of their “fresh eyes” and direct our attention to them.

Whether it is a lack of church directional signs, disorganization, or uncleanliness… we just might not notice it! As Andy Stanley says,

Your sermon starts in the parking lot.

Once guests decide to visit your church, what do they see when they drive up? Are the church grounds maintained? Are we offering a professional, inviting, and prideful atmosphere? Is it clear to guest which door they should enter and are our directional signs guest-friendly? Are there parking lot greeters there to assist and welcome? If it’s true that most impressions are made within the first 30 seconds, we’d better pay attention to what’s going on in the parking lot.

Once in your building, what do visitors see? Is it obvious that your church is prepared and is expecting guests, or are people surprised that a guest would show up and are operating “as-normal?”

We see our church on an ongoing basis, so we don’t have the benefit of outside eyes. We only have one time to make a first impression, so we must go out of our way to make it a good one!

  • Communicate well.

“You want me to do what?”

confusing-road-signs

Like we talked about above… we are accustomed to ourselves, our church, and our way of doing things, but others certainly are not! For some people going to church might feel just like going to a foreign country where you don’t speak the native language. Because of that all of our directions and everything we say must be intentional, easy to understand, and clear.

Let’s face it… church can be weird, so sometimes we need to explain what’s happening.

We need to make directional signs clear, go out of our way to direct and escort guests to where they need to go. Remember that members know where to go; guests don’t.

Another important note is that we need to pay attention to and watch our language. The words we use and how we say them can make church visitors feel like outsiders or make us look outdated or ill informed. Not everyone speaks “theologian” and things that seem obvious to us are cryptic to others.

  • Enthusiastically welcome, but don’t enthusiastically overwhelm.

Visitors please stand up!

That is always my worst-case scenario at a church I am visiting. It happens to all of us… Pastor or not. Let’s put it out there… first-time church visitors don’t want to embarrass themselves or be spotlighted!

Every person is different, and that can be a challenge. One person’s welcome is another person’s too much. Sometimes we have to give people space. Most of us want to make people feel welcome, but we don’t want to scare them away by being creepy or overwhelming. There is a delicate balance that has to happen in this area, and what works for the ministry I serve in may not work for you.

I think that one of the hardest things for churches to do is understand what it’s like to be a newcomer. Sometimes we forget, because we are ritualistic or “routine” people. We go to the same places, park in the same spots, enter in the same entrances, talk to the same people, and sit in the same seats.

Make the life of a visitor easy and make their first time a pleasurable experience.

  • Create a “safe” space.

No… we aren’t talking about the “political” and cultural safe spaces we hear about on the news and through the media. We will preach the Gospel truth whether it is agreeable or not. What I am talking about here is a place that someone can feel “comfortable” in.

I personally am not going to get into what your security policies should be…that’s another post by itself, but I will say that you need to have some. It is better to be prepared for any type of emergency and not need to ever implement any of the preparation than to need it and not have it.

This “safe” place also implies that visitors feel safe from what they are used to in the world… harshness, rumors, backstabbing, etc… Sometimes us church folk can be ruthless to each other and I will be the first to say that when a visitor picks up on that they won’t come back. Visitors want to feel “secure” in a new environment because that new environment itself is probably making them uncomfortable.


So… with all that in mind, how bad do we really want to grow? Let’s put some work in and watch God move.

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

 

Our Focus

Sometimes on Sundays I wonder how people perceive the structure of the services they take part in. There have been times on stage where I think to myself, “I hope this is translating and being understood.” The unfortunate fact is that sometimes it isn’t. I have been in services that seemed to have no distinct structure or coherent theme/ message. Maybe there was one intended and I just didn’t pick up on it… but nonetheless it didn’t come across to me.

The truth is that each and every Sunday should start with a plan… a message, theme, or thought that we are going to expound upon. Obviously our plans are just that… “plans” and we all know that sometimes plans change. A statement I once heard fits that thought perfectly. It goes,

Every battle plan seems perfect until the first bullet flies.

But I personally would rather have a plan and have it altered than not have a plan at all and miss an opportunity. We should understand that we have a great foundation or starting point and that it is demonstrated for us in the Bible. Worship isn’t a new thing! In the Old Testament much of the worship that took place centered upon the Exodus event where God called His people out of slavery in Epypt and delivered them to the Promised Land to be His chosen People.

But… we are new covenant Believers and worshippers. Hebrews 9:15 says,

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

We worship on this side of the cross, so our New Testaments worship is centered on Christ. On this side of the cross God has called us out of our own “Egpyt.” Through Jesus God called us out of slavery to sin and has provided us an avenue to Heaven through the work of Christ. We are His chosen people! 1 Peter 2:9-10 says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

So… why should our focus be on Christ? Below we will sift through just a few ideas.


  • Christ is our mediator before the Throne.

I almost feel like that point should have ended with an exclamation point! Take a second and think about that… there is no such thing as unmediated worship! In the Old Testament Christians had to have a priest act as their mediator before God to offer sacrifices to atone for their sin. We no longer have to do that because of the ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus… the Son of God!

John 14:6 establishes the route to the Father through Jesus. In that verse Jesus says,

I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.

1 Timothy 2:5 says,

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

Have you ever bought a product because you had the assurance of a warranty? I believe we all have. More than once I have been on the phone for hours jumping from person to person to arrange an exchange or refund only to be told I wasn’t eligible because of some small print or loophole found somewhere. The good thing for us is that in Christ we have full access to God. No hoops to jump through or loopholes to get caught up in! Ephesians 3:10-13 says,

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

We can be assured as leaders and worshippers that Worship Pastors, bands, environments, atmospheres, specific songs, or creative worship planning cannot bring us any closer to God or provide us a more direct or expedient route than the one Jesus already has established!

  • All of heaven worships the Risen Lamb.

We serve a risen King! What other prophet or “god” has claimed to have been resurrected from the dead? Not only did Jesus defeat death and the grave… but He called His shot!

Hosea 6:2: says,

After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up.

On October 1, 1932, during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago New York Yankee Babe Ruth pointed his bat towards the center field bleachers during his at-bat. On the next pitch, Ruth hit a home run to the same spot in center field. Babe Ruth’s called shot is said to be one of the greatest home runs in history. Babe Ruth has been forever concreted on baseball history partially because of this event and story. But… the death and resurrection of Jesus and the prophecies that came before are so much more impressive!

The most significant prophecy in the Bible concerning the resurrection of Jesus is known as “the prophecy of Jonah.” It is a symbolic prophecy represented by the three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the stomach of a great fish as found in Jonah 1:17. Jesus himself explained the prophetic symbolism of this unique event on an occasion when He rebuked the Pharisees for seeking a “sign” from Him. We see this in Matthew 12:38-40 where it says,

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus clearly and distinctly prophesies here, using the example of Jonah, that He will spend three days and three nights in the tomb before His resurrection will occur. Jesus called His shot! That is worth praising! In fact, we know that here on earth we aren’t the only ones lifting up the name of Christ.

Revelation 5:9-14 shows us a glimpse of this. It says,

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

We should join in this worship when we gather to worship as His Body on the earth!

  • Focusing on Christ in our worship helps us keep the proper perspective.

The world today is very caught up in itself. What other explanation would we have for the drastic things people do in order to attain a certain “model image” or the attention and affection of others? We as worshippers need to take specific measures and precautions to ensure that we make our worship about God and that our worship times do not become man-centered. We live in a self-centered culture where everything is centered on us… our wants, preferences, opinions, etc. The church is even like this! There is a church for everyone! If you like loud music there is a church for you! If you like soft music there is a church for you! If you want to drink coffee in the sanctuary in a seat that semi-reclines there is a church for you! This may seem ridiculous… but deep down we all know it is true.

Some of us leave a worship service thinking that if we did not get anything out of the service the preacher, worship team, or staff did not “fill our cup” or have somehow let us down. I propose that instead we should be asking ourselves how we did in honoring and serving the Lord in our worship. Is Christ our focus or has our focus shifted to include us?


The Gospel of Jesus Christ should always be at the center of all we do in the church including our worship times. We need to be constantly reminded of the cross of Christ and reminded of what Christ has done for us, but we must move past the cross to the resurrection and the power that it provided us to live and worship as Christ has designed for us to live and worship. Let’s focus on Christ and make Him the direction that our worship points!

 

The Value of Presentation

 


From the onset of this article many of you non-musicians or Pastors may feel a little left out. But… in reality this way of thinking can be applied across the board to ALL things done for God by ALL Believers. So read on and apply!


When it comes to church worship one topic that seems to be a tricky one is the issue of excellence. What qualifies as good enough? If the person has the right heart are they automatically eligible to lead? There is an obvious tension that exists between balancing heart and skill.

On one hand, we all know that worship is undoubtedly an act of the heart. But does that mean that we shouldn’t bother putting effort into our craft and offer forth a subpar offering? Colossians 3:23 says,

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

So the often-heard statement, “Well… it’s good enough for church” holds no water when held in light of the verse above, and the old saying, “It’s the heart that counts” is only partially correct. God is excellent and His desire for us is excellence. Psalm 33:3 says,

Sing to Him a new song. Play skillfully and shout for joy.

As leaders and musicians, we are instructed to do everything we do with excellence and with “skill.” A good question we should ask ourselves is: Why is our need to pursue excellence, and the often lack of such a pursuit, even an issue? In fact, you’d think that Christians would widely embrace the fact that because God is excellent, he has called us to excellence as well, and so we ought to strive to be excellent in everything we are and in everything that we do. But you only have to look at people in our churches and our presentation or “offering” to know that this is not necessarily the case.

But… all of you non-musicians hang in there with me! This is for you too… this exact thought, or pursuit of excellence, can be applied to anything you do in the Lord’s name! What is your offering? What is our method of worship? Maybe it is teaching, working with kids, being a missionary to your community or workplace, sitting with the sick, crying with the broken? The opportunities are limitless!

I believe a major problem we run into with regard to excellence in church is a theological problem that is best interpreted as an underlying “cheap” understanding of grace. People like to embrace the notion that because we are saved by grace, we can just sort of kick back and relax and not be overly concerned about anything. Now of course we would never admit to having that mentality… but the complacency we talked about a couple of weeks ago is a sure sign of it. It seems as if in many ministries laziness, mediocrity, and complacency have become the “norm” and not just accepted… but also expected! Somehow, I believe, we have come to think the pursuit of excellence is incompatible with salvation by grace. Excellence is suddenly not a “spiritually correct” word because we automatically assume that we are seeking excellence for ourselves or to earn/ payback God for our salvation, when in actuality our pursuit of excellence is out of response to a deep-felt conviction of God’s grace that spurs us on to grateful service and a pursuit of true personal excellence for His glory alone!

As Christians saved by grace, we ought to try harder, because we want to bring honor and glory to God through the things he has enabled us to do!

Hebrews 13:16 says,

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

It’s a delicate balancing act between heart and skill… but it is one that we MUST balance. Our offering matters! Our presentation matters!

For example, imagine that your anniversary is coming up and you know that your wife has been admiring a new shiny $300 necklace. You scrounge up all the change you can by flipping over couch cushions and rummaging through the dryer and are somehow able to afford that $300 necklace.

The day of your anniversary comes and goes and two days later you realize that after all the prep work you have forgotten all about it! So… to save face you go to the closet where you hid the necklace and bring it out in the original shopping bag you brought it home from the store in… maybe the receipt is still attached. You hand it to her and say, “Sorry I forgot our anniversary… I got you this.”

What’s the necklace worth? Well, $300! The receipt can prove it.

But imagine if, rather than forgetting that you bought the necklace, you also bought the finest gift-wrap you could find. You carefully and perfectly wrapped the box and topped it off with a beautiful bow, and you give it to your wife with some well thought out words and a smile.

What’s the necklace worth? Well, still $300! The receipt can prove it.

The point is that the wrapping and appearance doesn’t change what the gift is worth. The value is on the inside. But what the wrapping does is communicate to her that you understand what the gift, and the recipient of the gift, is truly worth.

I believe the same is true in our worship services. John chapter 4 makes clear to us the kind of worship that pleases God. John 4:23-24 says,

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

God is after our hearts. This means that real worship of truly reverent hearts doesn’t depend on the quality of music, lights, stage sets, lasers, smoke machines, song selections, or any of the other trivial things we tag along with it. It never has and it never will.

The value of your worship is found in your sincerity.

But… if we view our worship as an offering or gift to God then what kind of picture does the above example paint? What challenge does it present? I believe with all my heart that my unceasing efforts of excellence in my craft, not just settling for “good enough” serves to demonstrate both to myself, God, and my church community, that I understand that very value of worship and excellence. The presentation matters.

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This passage talks about our proper act of worship: taking our whole selves, everything that we can possible offer, and placing it before God as an offering. My love for Jesus should inspire and push me to work exceptionally hard to excel at my craft so that what I bring is the absolute best that it can be… because He deserves it and the presentation matters. When a laborer has a conviction that what they do isn’t just a hobby, but that they are being faithful with what God has put in their hand, then to them that labor is an act of worship!

Our sincerity can be found in our response.

I want to challenge us all to be Worship Pastors who are not willing to focus on skill at the expense of people’s hearts, but not brush off skill for the attitude of “good enough.” Worship Pastors, Christians in general, must know both must be addressed but ultimately realize that worship is fundamentally a function of the heart, and when a heart is transformed in worship, everything else follows including skill and excellence. The more experience I have gained, the more I have realized that my leadership has to become an act of worship that inspires others to worship, my skill has to be at a level high enough to allow me to worship with my presence and leadership without distraction. We become “lead worshippers” when we blend these two functions into one, so that people cannot tell the difference. Psalm 78:72 describes David as a man who led Israel with integrity of heart and with skillful hands. Heart and skill are two primary issues that every worship pastor wrestles with, not just for themselves but also for the people they lead. Both are part of the Biblical mandates that take a central role in the job description of a Worship Pastor.

In all of this it’s important to note that excellence is not perfection. Excellence is an attitude or mindset that drives us to do the best we can with what we have within our ability. Misappropriated excellence creates an environment that is harsh, restraining, and ultimately discouraging. But an appropriate understanding of excellence creates an environment that is fundamentally encouraging as it calls out the full potential of every individual that comes from the Father.

James 1:17 says,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Aren’t you glad that when God created the universe, He took a step back and “saw that it was good,” not “saw that it was good enough.” Our pursuit of excellence is purely a reflection of an excellent God.

So, what is it that matters in our worship? Is it heart or skill? What actually matters is that Jesus is honored in all that we do and in our displayed love for Him.

Psalm 96:7-9 says,

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

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.