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!

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Does your life reflect Thankfulness?

As a rollercoaster holiday season approaches one word gets tossed around quite a bit… thankfulness. What does it mean to be thankful? How does one live life thankfully? Is it a natural response or a choice? What are we thankful for?

Often times we dumb down a life of thankfulness to simply giving “thanks.” When in reality it’s so much more… a life of thankfulness is a behavioral style, a thought pattern and mindset, an attitude, and a choice most of all.

Psalm 107:8-9 says,

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Being thankful is something that’s always within our control.

Nothing turns us into bitter dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. We see it all around us! We live in an ungrateful dissatisfied society and unfortunately that spirit has made its way in and is prevalent in our churches. Nothing robs us of the joy of Christ and our salvation faster than neglecting to recognize and be thankful for the things around us.

We see in Romans 1:21 that when humanity rebels we neglect to recognize and give thanks to God. It says,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Have we forgotten how dependent we are on God for everything?

Let’s not be foolish or ungrateful. Let’s give thanks.

Below I will offer some thoughts and applications on how we can develop, maintain, and nurture a thankful heart which is then exhibited through a thankful lifestyle.


  • Focus on Christ.

Psalm 103:1-6 says,

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

When we read this thankful Psalm it is necessary to notice that the first thing we must do is focus mind and heart on God! Looking at the passage we can see the priority that the Psalmist David places on recognizing that all we have to be thankful for comes from Christ. Everything within the Psalmist David, and hopefully us, should rejoice and say “Bless the Lord” first in all situations.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:19-20,

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

Let’s open our eyes to the glory of God! But, if that alone isn’t enough to spark your flame just count up the numerous undeserved gifts God spreads before each of us every day!

  • Remember how far we’ve been Brought.

This lengthy section out Psalms 107:13-32 recalls the numerous deliverances the Lord has provided His people,

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

We can also look into the Old Testament at the story of Moses and see how God used him to accomplish His task of delivering the Israelites out of Egypt. Even when Pharaoh and his army pursued they were crushed by the sea at the hand of God.

So… let me ask…

How has the Lord delivered you?

What is your testimony? What did the Lord bring you out of? We all have a story, because we are all undeserving of anything expect a sinful, pitiful life that ends with us being in Hell.

But… God ransomed us while we were still undeserving sinners.

Isaiah 53:4-6 says,

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

We all have plenty to be thankful for. Give thanks.

  • Make the Choice.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:15,

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

A spirit of thanksgiving is always the mark of a joyous Christian.

Colossians 3:15-17 goes on to say,

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

As believers we are called to be a thankful people! We have the most to be thankful for out of anyone… think about it, the riches of the earth are temporal but the gift of Heaven is eternal. So… we don’t have to be the richest, most successful, or popular people on earth to have a thankful Spirit. In Christ we have more than enough to rejoice over!

2 Corinthians 9:15 says,

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thankfulness is a choice.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says,

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is the will of God that we live in a constant thankful attitude!

Choose thankfulness. There will always be hardships and trials but because of Christ we have hope and that is enough to be thankful for.


Psalm 106:1 says,

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

We Do What It Takes.

When the projectors aren’t working, when the sanctuary is too cold, when drama breaks out who are they gonna call? Unfortunately not Ghostbusters…

No job description can truly summarize the duties of a minister.

In John 6 we see a very familiar and well-known Bible story unfold. John 6:1-5 says,

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Most of us recognize this story as one of the miraculous works of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and it is, but I also see this as a description of the life of a minister or disciple. Jesus, the Son of God, the miracle worker, the God incarnate feeds the crowd that was following Him! We know that the crowd obviously needed more than earthly bread and fish, but Jesus recognized a need and fulfilled it.

The job description of one in ministry is exactly that. The work is never ending, and the demands of ministry don’t conveniently fall into a 9-5 schedule. Like a doctor who is on call, ministers are merely between tasks… never really “off the job.”

Ministry is a 24/7 job because the needs of church or ministry remain constant.

We do what it takes to get the job done… regardless of what the job description may say. So… how do we maintain this lifestyle? We obviously aren’t superhuman. Below we will think together on how to be an effective minister, get the tasks done, and not kill ourselves in the process.


  • When possible leave work at work.

In some fields of work when you go home you are free from the duties that come with your job. You can’t really take a piece of machinery home or hold face-to-face meetings from the comfort of your bedroom. Ministry cannot be described in this manner. People have needs that arise at all times of the day and night and need your help “on-the-spot” without warning.

That is exactly what we signed up for.

Pastoral ministry is relational, and relationships are developed in and grown in times of need… and we all know that needs don’t arise according to our convenience or schedule.

However, some things just aren’t that urgent. Some things can be left at work until tomorrow. That bulletin can be printed 12 hours from now, and those lights can be adjusted and programmed another time. When possible leave work at work and allow yourself to rest and be refreshed.

Even Jesus needed some “time-off.” In Matthew 14:23 it says,

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.

  • Family first.

It is pretty well known that the families of a minister are often the one’s sacrificing the most. Often the needs of a minister’s family are the last to be taken care of. They usually receive the leftovers… however little that is.

But… we must work diligently to see that our family is prioritized correctly and not deserted for the church. In fact, we see in 1 Timothy 3:12 that part of the qualifications for a minister is to have a healthy household.

Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

All throughout Scripture we see the importance of family in ministry. In 1 Peter 3:7 Paul calls us to live in “understanding” with our families and to care for each other’s needs in more than just physical ways. 1 Peter 3:7 says,

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

For those of us who are married we are called to love our wives/ spouses like Christ loved the church! Ephesians 5:25 says,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Lastly, Matthew 19:4-6 says,

He said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The ESV Study Bible commentary is very beneficial when interpreting this passage. It says,

From the moment they are married, they are unified in a mysterious way that belongs to no other human relationship, having all the God-given rights and responsibilities of marriage that they did not have before. Being “one flesh” includes the sexual union of a husband and wife … but it is more than that because it means that they have left their parents’ household … and have established a new family, such that their primary human loyalty is now to each other, before anyone else.

Our loyalty to our families is unlike loyalty shared with any other mortal being. We must place priority on those who help hold us up, who we come home to, who understand us, and care deeply for us.

We cannot forsake our families.

  • Do not over-commit.

This is a category than I myself struggle with in a very real way. How many times have you over-committed yourself to the point of breakdown? I have over and over again… in fact; I am over-committed at this very moment.

It never happens on purpose! We have an opportunity that arises that really is a good thing and we hop on board eagerly to offer our assistance. Boom! We have too much going on and things get neglected… for me the thing that usually gets neglected is my own physical health/ rest and my poor wife.

Busyness is a real issue!

The devil would love to take us “out of the game” by bogging us down and making it impossible for us to do exceptionally well in any area of our ministry.

This is where priorities are key… we must learn the art of saying “no.”

In ministry sometimes I think we are scared of saying “no” for the fear of letting someone down or missing an opportunity to further the Kingdom of God. But what we often forget is that we are meant to equip… not do ALL the work alone!

Ephesians 4:12 actually says what our ministry is…

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

If we are spending our time equipping others then we should be able to share the workload! It is important for us to remember that it isn’t us that builds the church… it is Christ.

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says exactly that to Simon Peter,

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

  • Make time to care for your own spiritual needs.

This should seem obvious, but unfortunately it is easier said than done. As ministers we are constantly pouring ourselves out and into others and if we don’t take time to be refilled then the supply is going to run dry. It’s not a matter or IF… but rather WHEN.

Even Jesus separated Himself from others to pray and refuel.

Mark 1:35 says,

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Matthew 14:23 says,

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.

We must not sacrifice our own relationship with the Father to get a job “done.” In reality our congregations NEED us to be ever connected to the Lord. Take time. Get alone. Allow God’s Word to speak to you.

It is through the Father alone that we have the strength to handle the tasks of ministry. Rely on Him.

Does your Demeanor encourage Worship?

Think back to an awkward moment you’ve experienced where you watched a person speak and through their actions, attitude, or demeanor you could even tell from your perspective that they didn’t truly believe what they were saying. Maybe you are thinking of a politician or a public speaker… but how many of us thought of believers? Do people see that we believe what we say, sing, and preach?

Take a moment and think about it.

What is weirder than a joyless Christian leader? How is the way that we carry ourselves in front of others impacting the way they look at our beliefs? We may believe everything we say and stand for, but if our demeanor doesn’t reflect that belief then we are fighting an uphill battle when evangelizing or speaking about Christ. We certainly aren’t going to kindle a fire or joy inside others while our hearts remain cold and our attitude and faces remain joyless.

How amazing is Christ? We’ve ben given the gift of grace and we have the privilege to sing about the good news!

How can we remain stone-faced?

Philippians 4:4 says,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Are we expressing joy? I dare to say that we live in a narcissistic culture, and we often fall into the temptation of placing the emphasis on ourselves and because of that our worship has the tendency of turning inwards. How many selfies are posted on social media everyday? What is worse is then people will turn around and check back on their own picture to see how many people have liked or complimented it!

There are many obvious problems with this inward focused attitude that we have developed, including the fact that an inward focus in worship cannot provide pure genuine joy because we are placing our joy in the hands of our culture and circumstances.

Where do you gather your self-worth? The world? Your friends and family? Or Jesus?

Matthew 6:21 says,

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where does your joy come from or what does it depend on?

Does your demeanor from stage properly reflect the fullness of joy which you have in Christ? How can we show it?


  • Truly develop a heart for Worship

I fully believe that we sometimes get too bound up with the technical aspects of worship and forget the relational side of it. Technology is a great thing! Providing an atmosphere for our worship is a good thing too! But… when we allow our focus to shift or our emphasis to waver from why we are doing what we do then our joy becomes dependent on the execution of the technical aspects of our worship. When things don’t go as planned or we feel like something wasn’t “up to par” then our joy suffers.

Then what are we truly worshipping? Are we worshipping the way we do worship? Or are we worshiping God who is worthy of our worship?

We may admonish our praise teams to hit all the right notes and say, “Don’t forget to smile while your doing it.” But often times the emphasis is still on the execution and not the hearts of the worshipper. I believe that genuine worship truly begins when we get our hearts right and because of that we can sing, play, dance, etc.

There is a difference between great worship and a great concert. We leave great concerts unchanged… but worship calls us to move.

  • Have a Joyous and Worshipful Attitude

When it comes to a worshippers attitude it is important to understand who we are worshipping and why.

Acts 17:24-25 tells us exactly who we are worshiping and puts God in perspective to us when it says,

God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life, breath, and all things.

The purpose of our worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God our Creator who is in need of nothing we can give, but who delights in our praise. The fact that our God delights in anything that we do should provide enough reasoning and joy to worship continually. If that alone isn’t enough we must remember that our worship is a way that we can show our adoration and loyalty to God for His wonderful undeserved gift of grace in which He provides us with the way to escape the bondage of our sin.

Our worship should occur with a joyous attitude because it should cause us to reflect on the majesty and graciousness of God and Christ, in contrast to our own unworthiness.

God does not have to have our worship, but we should be joyful that He gives us the fact to worship Him.

  • Express your Joy through your Face

This should be a given. When we are joyful we smile, and it is through that smile that our joy becomes contagious.

Have you ever seen a person and just felt that there was something different about them? Maybe they were just positive all the time? Maybe you’ve never seen them without a smile on their face?

I guarantee you that their life isn’t perfect… so why are they smiling? Through Christ we have much to be thankful and joyful over, and we should place those things above our circumstances.

Let’s face it… people don’t want to sing along with a worship leader about the joy of salvation while the worship leader remains unexpressive. How is that believable? An even better question is: How is that possible?

Don’t be afraid to show your emotion.

Keep your circumstances in perspective and smile on! It will be beneficial for not just you… but also for your congregation.

  • Make sure your Joy is Genuine

Worship comes from deep within. We simply cannot fake authentic worship. When we worship our God it appears on our faces, in our voices, and is evident in our demeanor. As worship leaders it should be our goal every time we lead to truly worship our God.

Did you catch that? We should truly worship God. It is personal.

When we can truly worship our God while leading, others around us will benefit. Our worship isn’t about us. It is about God, and in the end we are nothing more than “lead worshippers.” We can’t make people worship… but we can provide the opportunity and a God-honoring Biblical example.


I will leave you with the words of John 15:9-11,

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Have you received the love of the Father? If you believe that you have then your face and demeanor will show it.

Check the Ego at the Door

Everyone has dealt with someone who is a “know-it-all” before. Large egos are easy pretty easy to spot and are typically pretty difficult to deal with. Problems with the human ego or an inflated “self-worth” or importance have been around a long time… in fact, I would argue that ego problems go back nearly almost to the beginning of creation. I think we can find our first ego issue in Genesis 3:1-7 where it says,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

I find it quite interesting that one of the very devices (ego) manipulated to deceive Eve in the Garden was the very thing that caused Lucifer to fall in the first place. Isaiah 14:12-15 paints us a picture of a self-absorbed Lucifer with an ever growing ego who desired to be seen as more than he really was.

Isaiah 14:12-15 says,

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Obviously we can see by the end of that verse what the outcome of that thinking was… A man named King Solomon, who people say could be the wisest man to have ever lived, said in proverbs 16:18 that,

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Now obviously we have a lot more at play here with the fall of both Lucifer and man than just a human ego issue… but I think we can see a self-importance or self-inflation issue displayed in the Garden of Eden when Eve is deceived by Satan into believing that she could “be like God.” So… we have our very first example of an ego problem.

So… what is the problem with a little confidence? Nothing… if found in Christ.

But… an ego is an entirely different monster. We see in Scripture that the Biblical model for Believers is actually quite opposite to having an ego or inflated sense of confidence in self. The Biblical model or Christ standard is one of humility and of dying to oneself.

Luke 9:23 says,

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

So… for those like myself who like to be involved and love to serve within the Body of Christ and may struggle with pride, ego, or over inflated confidence… what do we do? How can we continue to serve and make sure that the attention is being directed in the right place and that we are staying “in-check?”


  • Check your motives.

Where is our focus? Ourselves? Or others? Matthew 22:37-39 says,

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself

In this verse Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandments were to love God with all we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we truly strive to keep these commandments it is impossible to have an ego issue because we are essentially removing all the focus from ourselves and placing it where it should be… Jesus and others. That’s what it’s all about in the end anyways right?

Our insecurities are often manifested as excess confidence and the desires of the flesh and this world scream out for attention, acknowledgement, and praise but for those of us who have been reborn in Christ we no longer are enslaved to those desires and we no longer must give them dominion over us.

Galatians 2:20 says,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 5:24 says,

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

  • Live humbly.

Lets face it… none of us are the best thing since sliced bread or two-ply toilet paper. Without Jesus we are worthless because it is in Him that our only worth is found.

A humble heart has no room for an ego because it recognizes that all we have and all we are comes solely from God. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul gives us a very serious reminder that all we have: our talents, successes, wealth, knowledge, gifts and abilities, etc… come from God and because of that we have nothing of our own to boast of.

1 Corinthians 4:7,

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

It is reassuring to know that all we have we have been given and that the Lord’s work isn’t dependent on our talent, skill, or anything else other than our obedience. God hasn’t called us to be the best, most adorned, highly skilled and praise worthy leaders… He has called us to be humble servants.

Micah 6:8 says,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

1 Peter 5:5-6 says,

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you

Indeed, Jesus Christ is to be the example for how we should live and He Himself lived humbly. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus says,

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 51:17 says,

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

We aren’t called to be experts. We are called to be humble servants.

Romans 12:3-5 says,

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

If the answer to your problems is yourself then you haven’t addressed the biggest problem of all. Don’t let your ego be your idol… check it at the door.

How are we to use our Authority?

Many of us have been given a position of authority. What’s yours? Are you a pastor? Supervisor? Sunday School teacher? Politician? Parent? Etc… You’d be surprised how many of us have been given some amount of authority that we brush off, don’t think about, or don’t even realize we have. Some of us may feel qualified… others maybe not so much. So… what do we do with this authority? We recognize that without leaders and without authority the world around us would be in shambles and chaos, but there is harm if we use our authority incorrectly or for the wrong reasons as well.

I find it interesting that in 2 Corinthians 10 while Paul is both describing himself and defending his ministry he says what we find in verse 8:

Authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you.

Wow. As much as I have loved and read the letters of Paul this one verse never has stood out to me as much as it does in light of having been entrusted with some authority. Let’s take a second to evaluate… how often do we use our authority as a weapon to get things done the way we “want them” or to make things fit our preferences? Do we find it necessary to win every argument or to make our opinion or say known? Is it our way or the highway? Do we lord over people with our authority or do we use our authority to enable them, to build them up, and to create growth in other’s lives?

Let’s take a second to evaluate our authority and how we can use it for the building up of others and the success and growth of the Kingdom of God.


  • Have a humble spirit.

All of us have known a “know it all” and I would be willing to bet that all of us detested that very thought or attitude. How do we carry ourselves as leaders? Do we know it all or are we open to admitting that we don’t know all the answers and maybe there are other ways of accomplishing tasks other than our own?

Philippians 2:3-4 says,

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

I believe there is a difference between an authority figure and a leader. I also believe that we as believers should strive to be the latter of the two. A leader understands that they don’t possess all the answers and uses the people around them to collectively achieve success. A leader empowers and enables the people around them to help them reach their full potential in a task, position, or job. There is a whole lot more to leadership than simply providing the tools necessary to complete a job.

When asked what the qualifications for becoming a “leader” were John Quincy Adams said this,

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

  • Celebrate the successes of the team.

Have you ever worked for someone who only noticed when you fell short on a task or didn’t complete it in the way they had envisioned? They only noticed the negative when you are faithful and diligent one hundred percent of the time. It stinks.

A good leader uses their authority wisely by recognizing those around them for what they do for the “team.” In every application it is easy to feel “under-appreciated” or not needed, but when a leader “brings to the light” or raises awareness of what others are doing it in turn reminds every team member that they are an important.

We are well aware that 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says,

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Using your authority for the benefit of those around you will go a long way to encouraging your team and achieving excellence, and when we do receive praise as the “leader” it is important to acknowledge the contributions of the team.

A solid leader needs no other praise than that of achieving, encouraging, enabling, and inspiring.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower was asked to define leadership he did so like this,

Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

  • Replicate yourself.

Proverbs 11:14 says,

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Good leaders or authority figures aren’t afraid to train up replacements for themselves! That may seem crazy but a successful leader uses authority as an opportunity to help others gain insight and abilities.

If you aren’t replicating yourself by pouring into others around you then you need to evaluate what your motives behind leadership and authority are.

An effective leader doesn’t worry about team members around them surpassing them in knowledge, skill, or ability. Instead they recognize that the success and enablement of others is what creates overall success. If we aren’t working to build our kingdom, but rather the kingdom of God, then it shouldn’t be a concern anyways.

John Buchan said,

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.


So… we all have a choice to make. Will we use our authority to our advantage, or will we humble ourselves and use our experiences, intelligence, and position to encourage, enable, and build up those around us?

Will you use your authority to build others up or destroy them? The choice is yours.

Proverbs 29:2

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.

What is your Platform: Using our Opportunities Wisely

Many of us would say that we have been blessed with many opportunities. Do you recognize those opportunities? In what ways do those around you receive blessing through the opportunities that you are given?

Some of us are full-time ministers. Some are students. Others of us interact with people each and every day… maybe you are a: police officer, school teacher, mechanic, maintenance man, waiter or waitress, etc. We all have different talents and abilities and different ministry fields that we have been given the opportunity to serve in.

On a side note: If you aren’t a minister then I would say to you that you have a a wonderful opportunity to live as Christ in front of others! People expect “holiness” from clergy… and unfortunately many expect hypocrisy from “average” church-goers. I would challenge you to not be “average.” Use your opportunities wisely!

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.

What part(s) of yourself can you give? What part(s) are you holding back? What opportunities have you been given? What is your sacrifice? Opportunities sometimes can be hidden, misconceived, or unidentified… but I promise they are there. How are you serving?

If you’re a Christian, God has given you at least one spiritual gift. And those gifts aren’t just for your own benefit; their purposes are to bless the entire Body of Christ. When you discover your spiritual gift(s) and use them everyday in your particular ministry field and in your local church, you’ll see amazing growth take place in your life, ministry, and in your congregation.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

You see… your gifts aren’t really for you at all. They are for God and others. If you think your talents or gifts are simply ways in which you can be successful, make a lot of money, and please yourself then you’ve missed the point of your life… and I am afraid many of us have missed it and we don’t even realize it. God has given us talents to benefit others, not ourselves, and believe it or not, it will recipricate because God has given other people talents that benefit us.

We all have different opportunities and gifts and each part matters. There are no insignificant people in the family of God. You were created, formed , and placed to serve God and bless others.

Your gifts, talents, and opportunities matter to God.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 says,

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

Are you using what God has given you for the benefit of others and your congregation and to make the world a better place? Or are you just wasting them or using those talents to benefit yourself?

Below I will outline a few steps to finding and using your opportunities and gifts to honor and glorify God.


  • Being willing

The first step in discovering and using our opportiunities and gifts to glorify God is to be willing to do so. This sounds simple, but it might not be as easy as you think. What is our reaction going to be when God presents an opportunity for us to scrub toilets, visit a nursing home, or do maintainence work around an elderly person’s home? Many of us might shrink away form the idea of serving “behind the scenes” in inconspicuous ways. We might think that God has got more “in-store” for us than that. I would tell you that no job is too lowly for a servant of Christ, and maybe that this service is a test form God to see how we will handle a forefront job or position. Don’t just look fort the glorifying jobs… because they are all glorifying in God’s eyes. Hopefully it’s the Father that you are trying to please and bring glory to anyways right?

Serve. Use your opportunity.

  • Being available

I don’t know about you, but I consistently find myself wondering where my day has gone. Time is precious… and SO many of us over-commit ourselves and get busy with things that we shouldn’t be so concerned with. It is because if that point that I think one of Satan’s best fiery darts is busyness.

Ephesians 5:15-20 says,

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see Paul here in Ephesians calling us as believers to see the way in which we use our time as important. Paul says to us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” God urges us to use our time wisely and to take advantage of our every opportunity to serve, honor, and glorify Him before those opportunities disappear.

We can use our time wisely when we put God’s will into action in our lives, caring for one another, spreading the good news of salvation, and anything else that gives glory to God.. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to glorify my Savior Jesus Christ?”

Therefore… time is a precious commodity that runs out.

  • Being prepared

Anyone who has read any of my blogs previously knows that I am huge on preparedness. I think that in any task, no matter how medial, we should be prepared and equipped to do the job at hand with excellence. , I have noticed that in my particular area, corporate worship, we can too easily develop or encourage a mindset that if we are not “worship leader” we can kick back and place the our weight on someone else in “leadership.” But, let me clarify one thing, as servants of the Lord we are all “worship leaders” in different areas. How are you leading?

Being prepared can make a world of difference. Being early to practice running sound, projected lyrics, or lights can make services run smoother and more effectively. Spending time preparing in prayer can wage war against the spirits that fight for our souls on Sundays and every other day. Preparing by training and investing time into others can keep someone struggling anchored to a Christian body of believers or help reveal a personal spiritual gift to someone who may be unaware of it.

Every time you serve, whether it is in the front or back, interior or exterior of the church, you have the privilege and opportunity to encourage and lead others to worship God. So use everything you have to point people to Jesus.

Prepare yourself. Prepare others.


How are you using your opportunities and gifts? What are you holding back?

Common Misconceptions Regarding Emotions and Worship

 

In my last blog I began discussing a topic that has been a center point of discussion in the area of worship for centuries. That topic is emotions. Let’s face it… emotions are part of who we are. Emotions are part of what makes us what we are… human. Emotions provide us assistance as we interact with others and our environment. Without emotions our world would be rather bleak.

But… with all of that being said, we need to be aware of how our emotions are interacting with the things around us, and what they are doing within us in different situations. When we allow our emotions to go “unchecked” and have free reign to make us feel and act in any way they please we will begin to encounter problems. A “balancing” of our emotions is crucial to a healthy lifestyle of worship. Below I will discuss several common misconceptions regarding emotions and how they influence us in worship.


  • Emotions during worship are misleading.

Many are under the idea that if you feel anything at all during worship then it must be “fleshly” or misleading. But, in reality we are called to use all aspects of our human nature to worship God. We are to worship in “spirit” and “truth” with both our hearts and minds. Therefore, emotions are not of the devil because they were and are given by God Himself. All too often we rush to throw the theoretical “baby” out with the bath water. We have seen emotions used and manipulated inappropriately and because of that we tend to push emotions as far away from our worship of God as possible for fear of “messing” up again or going “overboard.” But, when emotions are authentic and directed toward God alone then I believe that they ultimately honor God. Use what God has given you to pour back out towards Him!

  • If I don’t “feel something” in worship then something is wrong or it wasn’t good or beneficial.

I don’t know how many times I have heard statements that express this exact feeling. It can be somewhat frustrating as a worship leader at times to have to be judged by the external feelings of others. This idea of “spectator” worship is driven by an entertainment saturated church. I hate to break it to you… but worship isn’t about how YOU feel. Worship is our service to God, not His service to us, and any benefit we receive from worship is a by-product and not the end goal. True and authentic worship won’t always provide you with a “good” emotional feeling. Sometimes worship calls us to reverence, sorrow over our own sinfulness, love and overwhelming thankfulness at the foot of the cross, anticipation of what is to come, etc… Worship calls us to evaluate ourselves and our own character in light of our Savior and many times that won’t leave us feeling “satisfied” or “happy.” But, our worship should evoke some response from us individually… we see throughout Scripture that when mortals encounter the presence of God something special happens and they don’t leave unchanged. Seek to encounter and dwell in the presence of God continually!

  • I leave my emotions or response at the door.

Emotions are expressions of our hearts, but without action or change they equate to nothing at the end of the day or service. Our emotions should motivate us to action in worshiping and praising God. Simply weeping during a Samaritan’s Purse commercial at the way children are living in third world countries does nothing, and ultimately everything remains the same when that emotion passes. But… weeping at that reality and then donating money or adopting a child makes a difference! The emotion is merely the beginning… the start of a response or change. Let your emotions push you into action that glorifies Christ. If worship breaks your heart because of your sinfulness in comparison to God’s holiness then make a change! Strive to be holy! Don’t leave your emotions at the door or the altar as you leave church, rather let them transform you into a better disciple for His name’s sake!

  • All emotional responses look the same.

It is true that every person experiences emotions at some point in their life, but it is not true that we all reflect those varying emotions in the same way. Not every person experiences or displays emotions in the same way as you may. Something that may draw you to tears may not affect another in the same fashion. We can attribute some of these differences to things like upbringing, environment, and context, but the reality remains the same… our emotions may be shared but our reactions or responses may differ. In the end, the response isn’t what should be judged because it is outward, it is what is inside that truly matters.

Our role as worship leaders is to actively engage and lead into worship and allow the people to respond in whatever way the feel is necessary. It is not our role to judge others for appearances that may or may not be indicative of their hearts. We must not allow our perceptions of how things should be displayed to reflect onto others and hold them to unrealistic standards based on their personalities and mannerisms.


So… in conclusion, it is necessary that we understand that God created us, and all we are, to fulfill the purposes of worshipping Him. We must not be fearful of our emotions, but rather work to point them towards Christ and the honoring and praising of Him. It is not about us, or our responses. It is all about Him.