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.

 

Why Serve? pt. 2

For the past 2 weeks we have been talking about Christian service and why as Believers we should be serving in our local church.

For some reason the idea of Christian service has flown out the window in our “cultured” view of church. The question, “What can I do to serve the church?” has suddenly turned into, “What is the church doing to serve me?”

In most churches, there are many people who just show up on Sunday morning.  They are busy during the week and truly have no interest in serving at the church.  Showing up on Sunday is enough time and energy for them. They feel as if they have done their part and checked church off the list of things to do.

Have you been there? Maybe, you didn’t think those exact thoughts but you were right there in the boat with them? Many of us have been.

Some of us even now sit in church recognizing skills that we have and how they could serve the church well. But, instead we act like the church is there to serve us on Sundays and stay out of our lives the rest of the week.

So… what has to change?

Like I mentioned in both of the previous blog posts, I believe that we first have to realize that God has blessed each of us with gifts and talents and that we are should be using them for His glory.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

We were given gifts not for our own benefit, but rather to serve Christ. God always make time for us, so why it is so hard for us to make to the serve Him and His people. Christ came to serve yet we sometimes say we don’t have the time use the gifts He gave us to serve Him. As Christians, we should strive to be more like Christ, and in doing so we must serve.

Mark 10:45 says,

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Catch this, our salvation isn’t the finish line… instead it is the sound of the starting pistol. 

Ephesians 2:8-10 says,

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

We have been saved and created in Christ Jesus FOR good works. We have been created and redeemed by the work of Jesus so that we can use our gifts and work for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom! In fact James 2:26 puts it this way,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Let’s not allow ourselves to believe the lie that we have been saved to be served. Let’s serve and see what a difference it makes. Below are some more thoughts as to why we should be serving the local church.

(If you haven’t read the first two parts of this series be sure to go back and read those!)


  • The Commission is great and the Laborers are few.

We all know what the Great Commission says. What I find interesting is that Jesus didn’t just tell us to do it… instead Jesus commissioned us and then demonstrated the action Himself time and again in His personal ministry here on earth.

Until we relate everything we do to the gospel and our salvation we will be missing out on a big part of the reason why we’re even here on this planet. You’ll notice that we don’t get saved and immediately vanish up to Heaven.

We get saved for a task! Our salvation verifies our purpose!

If we are to carry out the Great Commission then we must by using our gifts in service to the Lord. We must serve! If 10% of the people in our churches do 90% of the work then we have reason to be concerned about the way we as Believers are living and what we are teaching both by words and actions. I personally believe those percentages to be true… and because of that I urge all of us to strive to be the 10%. If you aren’t serving… then you are the 90%. Shame on you.

If you don’t want to serve then do so anyways! Our serving isn’t for our own self-fulfillment. Serve for the benefit of the Body. The harvest is great and ready to be collected… but the laborers are few.

  • Children tend to emulate what they see, not what they hear.

“Do it for the children” used to be a fairly popular quote or thing to say. In all actuality it is a good saying! We know that kids are always watching and they emulate what they see. Most people have funny stories from their childhood of them doing or saying something that they weren’t taught to do or say… most of the time it isn’t a positive thing either!

How does that happen?

In my opinion that happens because the best teaching doesn’t come by being taught, instead it comes by being caught. You can tell a child what to do a thousand times until you are blue in the face… but sometimes they have to see someone doing it to truly comprehend. My Dad has always been someone who could “fix” things or solve problems… sometimes as a kid he would ask me to do a task and I truly could not understand what it was that he wanted me to do or how to do it, but I always loved when he would show me how. It was by example that I learned!

I don’t think it would be false of me to say that most parents who bring their kids to church in hopes of their children finding Jesus for themselves and one day serving the Lord. In my own area of ministry I have noticed an interesting trend… the parents who serve often have children who serve. The parents that don’t often have children that don’t. This goes along perfectly with what we just discussed.

How can we expect our children to do something that the aren’t being shown?

In fact, if our kids aren’t serving we should evaluate our own level of service… maybe they are just following our example.

What are our children learning about positive, heart-motivated ministry by watching us? Do you want children that want to serve the Lord?

Then show them what it looks like.

  • I will forge long-lasting and valuable friendships.

One of the major benefits of working for the Lord is the genuine friendships that are forged through serving alongside others. Those to whom we feel the closest in life are typically those with whom we work. One time I was taking a family ministry class and the professor said that he had a groundbreaking idea as to how to start a healthy men’s ministry and that it was as simple as giving them a task to do. At first I thought he was trying to be humorous until I recognized the truth in that statement. The close connection we have with our coworkers often surpasses even that which we share with our own neighbors. We unite around a task, a goal, or a purpose. Service often goes beyond barriers that cannot be crossed in conversation alone.

Romans 16 is a odd chapter that many skip over in Paul’s writings. In Romans 16 we see Paul address others who were serving in ministry alongside him or for the same purpose. He calls them each by name and provides encouragement and direction. Why is that even included for us to read today? I think part of the reason is so we can observe the interconnection and relationship strengthening that comes along with serving the Lord. Paul genuinely dresses and cares for those whom serve alongside him for the Lord.

Ministry partners are the best lifetime friends and great sources of encouragement.

Do you need better friends? Then find a ministry to get involved in within your church.

  • Our service shows our love for the Bride.

Love for Christ is accompanied by love for His Bride. Our church family is just that… it is our spiritual family.Imagine having the task of cooking dinner and your spouse and kids are waiting to eat. Could you ever look at them and say, “I don’t feel like cooking tonight so you are just going to have to go hungry”?

I doubt it. We serve those whom we love… even if sometimes it is an inconvenience. Love for the church means a heart that desires to give. The Bible speaks strongly about the church being our family, even more than our flesh and blood families. Sunday is not a chance to take a break from family—it’s a chance to serve our true family.

When you’re part of a body that loves and serves and gives, a beautiful bond forms. You see people serving in the background, and you praise God for them. You see the joy of service in others, and you want to follow suit. You see a need, and you long to meet it. Serving in our local church is not meant to meet our needs for self-fulfillment or self-worth; it’s about the joy found through self-denial.

Christ loved the Bride enough to die… what are you willing to sacrifice? 

Your time is a good place to start.


Mother Teresa said,

Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service. Try to give unconditionally whatever a person needs in the moment. The point is to do something, however small, and show you care through your actions by giving your time … We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts. Do not worry about why problems exist in the world – just respond to people’s needs … We feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be less without that drop.

Why Serve? pt. 1

Last week we began our series on service within the local congregation. We established a few over-arching reasons why we should be serving… the most important being that Jesus served while He was here on earth.

serve

Our world defines success or “greatness” in terms of tangible things like possessions, position, and power. In other words… if you have power over others, you’ve arrived. The art of service has been lost and has been mistakenly attributed to weakness, insecurity, inability, or poverty. In our me-first culture, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.

Jesus, however, measured a man’s greatness in terms of service, not status. In Mark 10:43 He says,

Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.

Unlike the world we live in, God determines our greatness by how many people we serve, not how many people serve us. Oswald Chambers, one of my favorite theologians, once said this,

Have you ever realized that you can give things to God that are of value to Him? Or are you just sitting around daydreaming about the greatness of His redemption, while neglecting all the things you could be doing for Him? I’m not referring to works which could be regarded as divine and miraculous, but ordinary, simple human things – things which would be evidence to God that you are totally surrendered to Him.

The following list will provide some practical reasons for serving. In no particular exhaustive order, here are some reasons why we should be involving ourselves in ministry:


  • Glorifying God by serving in my local church ministry is the purpose of my salvation.

Ephesians 2:10 says,

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are quick to emphasize that salvation is not by works…. as we should be! In fact we can clarify that by backing up a couple verses to Ephesians 2:8-9 where it says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But sometimes in our emphasis of that fact we fail to communicate and fully grasp that we have been saved so that we may do good works! We haven’t been saved by our works… we have been saved so that we can work! We haven’t been saved so that we may sit on our hands and be served.

We as believers are quick to be “watchdogs” and hesitant to be servants. 

Since I have been young I have liked pirates and nautical things. Back in the day of pirates, and on most ships today, there is a dedicated officer position to be on “watch” or look out over the sea to discover and report potential problems to the Captain. But… the sole role of this person isn’t just to “watch” the sea. In fact, if they just watch the sea they are only doing half of their job and it can be perilous for everyone on board. The other part of this officer’s duty is to act upon what they have observed!

In the same way, we as Christians must act.

James 2:14- 26 is sobering when it says,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

We have faith so that we may serve.

God has placed us in our individual local churches in order that we might be edified, and so that we might be able to work for and serve Him. To remain sedentary is to neglect God’s very purpose for our salvation. By serving, we behave like Jesus and glorify Him.

  • I have been gifted and called to serve.

Several Bible passages help us to understand the concept of spiritual gifts. Romans 12:4-5 is one of those passages. It says,

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.

Throughout the Bible we learn about how God has given us each the privilege of a gift.  These gifts aren’t meant for collecting dust! A Christmas present might look all pretty and nice when dressed up with wrapping paper… but the true life of that gift begins after it has been unwrapped.

Our gifts are meant to serve God. Peter addresses this in 1 Peter 4:10-11 where it says,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter makes it clear that we have received our gifts from God for two purposes— to serve others and to bring praise to God. Serving isn’t about us receiving attention or glory; it is for directing all glory to Him.

Don’t allow your life as a Believer to remain in the “wrapped” stage. Like a child opens presents on Christmas, we too are to utilize, or unwrap, our gifts because of the coming of Christ Jesus.

  • Ministry service will demonstrate the reality of my faith.

Above, we saw in James that our faith isn’t just demonstrated by what we know or say… but rather it is demonstrated by what we do and how we act.

Romans 12:1-2 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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Our faith should transform us and make us stick out! But… we know that a faith without works is dead (as we found in James), so I would say that our works should also make us stick out as a believer. People should know what we believe by what we do.

We have all seen someone who can talk the talk, but fails to walk the walk. The other day I was at an outdoor basketball court and a guy showed up wearing all the gear. You can probably imagine what he looked like before I even have to describe him to you. His socks matched his short and jersey combo. He had on the sweatbands and the newest NBA All-Star high-tops, but the one thing he didn’t have was the game to back up the look. I actually got embarrassed for him at one point. But… how similar is our faith to that guy’s game? Do we say all the right things? Look the right way? Go to the right places? The point I am trying to make is that we might fool some people from a distance, but once we are forced to step out on the court our actions, or lack thereof, will reveal us for what we really are.

Fake Christianity or dead faith may temporarily move people, but upon close inspection will do nothing to impact their behavior or their life.

The transforming power of Jesus Christ is on display in the lives of those who have traded selfishness for selflessness. Who have sought the towel instead of the position. Our actions and service will validate our faith in front of others.


To avoid writing a novel this week we will leave the conversation there and pick it up in next week’s blog. Let me encourage you to evaluate the level at which you are involved in serving the Lord at your local church.

Rick Warren says,

Faithful servants never retire. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.

Do You want the Position or the Towel?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

This past Sunday I had to make the dreaded and sad announcement that we have ministries within the church that are in desperate need of volunteers in order to remain operational. Due to that… I am dedicating the next 3 weeks of blogging to tackle the subject of service within the local congregation.

There is a saying that says in every church 10% of the people do 90% of the work. I believe that is the case most of the time.

I haven’t fooled myself for a second in thinking that we are the only church around with this issue. In fact, I believe that the church as a whole is in this boat together. We have many routes for Christian servanthood, but very few people willing to take those routes. The idea of serving others has been put off in our minds as something that other people are called to do.

Think about it… we have all heard an announcement asking for volunteers at some point in our lives. If you are like me you immediately put it off thinking that the announcement was meant for someone else, or that it was someone else’s responsibility to meet that need. What I have now come to realize is that those announcements are for ME. In fact, those announcements are for my benefit!

John 12:26 establishes that through my service I am in fact drawing near to Christ and I will be honored. That scripture says,

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Now obviously we aren’t serving to be honored… but rather to be obedient and to follow Jesus!

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It is sad that in our church today we have many “celebrities” or spotlight hogs wanting a position or attention, but very few servants. We have many aspiring leaders and many who want to “exercise authority” over others, but few who want to take the towel and basin and wash feet. Jesus came not to be served… but to serve!

In Philippians 2:3-8 Paul reminds us what is to be like Christ. That passage says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Personal responsibility is at the heart of the problem with service. If every individual within the church would determine to stop pointing to someone else and simply embrace the call to serve, then the church would more easily be all that God intended. Personal responsibility is quickly becoming a negative concept within our culture. We want to evaluate someone else… we want to pass the blame or change the topic.

I personally believe that the reason that servanthood is so difficult for a believer is that it begins with dying to self. Scripture emphasizes that “dying to self” is a believer’s responsibility.

Luke 9:23-24 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. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

In John 13 we see Jesus exemplify the heart and action of a true servant. He provides for us a flesh and bone example of what we are called to do! Hours before His arrest and crucifixion Jesus humbles Himself in service to His disciples.

John 13:1-4 says,

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

To put this action in context we must understand that in those days they did not have paved roads or cars… instead they had dirt roads and mules. They also didn’t have fuel emissions to do with… instead they had other “vehicle” issues and emissions to worry about. The disciples would have wondered in with sweaty feet that had been in open sandals all day as they walked about. Dirty roads and open sandals make for nasty feet! Typically in a household a servant would have the responsibility of washing off a visitors feet as they entered the house… Jesus became that servant.

I find it funny that in a room full of followers of Christ nobody offered to wash the feet of the Son of God! But… we shun our responsibility just the same.

We file in and out of the Lord’s house expecting to be fed… but we bring nothing to the table.

Now don’t get me wrong! We have nothing of value to offer Christ; we do nothing to save ourselves. But, we are called to serve.

Mark 9:33-35 takes us to the real root issue. It says,

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

At the Last Supper, no disciple volunteered to wash feet. The room was filled with men of God that were more willing to fight for a throne or position and not willing to fight for a towel.

Luke 22:27 says,

For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

So… what do you want? A position or a towel?

If we, as believers in Christ, are serious about placing Christ at the head as the Lord of our lives, our commitment to Him will be readily demonstrated by an eagerness to obey His word. In His word we are told to serve.

Romans 12:11 says,

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Galatians 5:13 says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

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.

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.

We must stop basing our decisions to serve others on what we think, how we “feel,” or how convenient it is for us, and, instead start basing our decisions for serving on obedience to Scripture and following the example of Christ.

In fact, Our service is a demonstration of our devotion, love, and faith.

John 14:15 says,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

James 2:26 says,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.


So… I’ll leave you with this thought.

Don’t sit the bench and allow others to “play the game” and be involved in service to the Lord. Lace up your shoes and get out there… it may be more rewarding than you think.

A wise man by the name of C.G. Jung once said,

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

Get out there and do it. Show the world what you believe.

Colossians 3:17,

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.

Let’s Check Out Our Motives

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

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

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

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

Let’s think together.


  • Look at God’s Expectations

Romans 12:1 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:17 says exactly that,

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

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

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

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

  • Selfless instead of Selfish

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

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

Matthew 6:1-6 says,

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

Mark 12:38-40 says,

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

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

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

We see another in Luke 22:24-30,

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

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

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

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

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

  • It’s not a Competition

1 Peter 4:10 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Turn off the “Applause- Meter”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below many “green pastures” lies a septic tank.

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


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

The Power of Silence

Silence. It’s rare. It can be uncomfortable.

One of the definitions for silence in Merriam-Webster is:

A situation, state, or period of time in which a person does not talk in order that they may hear.

In fact, the word “silent” and the word “listen” have the same letters interchanged. They go hand-in-hand. I like the statement,

When I am silent, then I can listen, when I can listen then I can learn.

Lamentations 3:26 says,

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

There is nothing worse than being in the very presence of God and having that trampled out by noise. Hear me out… we have all been there, think about a time in church where you were “connected” and pouring your heart out in a song and when it ended the silence was stomped out by awkward applause. I have been there. I have been the culprit.

Sometimes silence is uncomfortable as a Worship Pastor. I have made many a victim to meaningless theological “fluff” off the cuff at the end of a song just to escape the effects of silence.

How does silence play a part in our worship and our communication with God? There is a place for singing and shouting and a place for silence. Why should we seek out silence and participate in it during our worship? Let’s think together below.


  • Silence speaks when we have no words to say.

Revelation 8:1 is a small passage that reveals one of the most powerful moments that will exist in all of creation. That passage says,

When the Lamb ripped off the seventh seal, Heaven fell quiet—complete silence for about half an hour.

All of Heaven fell quiet. Can you imagine that? In that moment of significance there was nothing to say…

Such a small verse that is often read over relays a huge truth: sometimes when we encounter the awesome power of God, all we can do is be silent. Silence is the appropriate response.

This concept of silence isn’t new to us. I believe that everyone has had a moment in their life that has left them speechless. Think about at the end of a powerful film… the movie theatre is silent as the credits roll. What about when you have witnessed an incredibly powerful moment, whether it was an act of compassion or recognition for a humanitarian hero, sometimes applause and cheering isn’t the appropriate or natural response. I even think about when I have encountered someone that I admire or look up to. All I can do is stand in silence and observe.

On the same note, I have been in worship services that have left me at a loss for words… but yet the hardest thing for me to do was just to be silent. Why is it that we always feel the urge to speak? To clap? To cheer and yell?

Victory doesn’t only come in the midst of applause and cheers. In fact, in Psalm 62 David writes,

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

Sometimes when we are left speechless it is better for us to stay that way than scramble for something “theological” to say. 

Habakkuk 2:20 says,

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.

Let’s not be so quick to speak “into” a situation that we miss out on experiencing the awesome presence of God.

  • Silence confronts.

Nothing is silent anymore.

Last summer I went on a tour of Mammoth Cave here in Kentucky and at one of the deepest points of the trek the guide turned out all the lights and said that when the cave was empty and dark someone would quickly lose sanity because of the lack of auditory stimulus.

It’s a noisy world we live in! Everything around us makes noise. Think about the evolution of personal music devices. You used to have to have a record player and quite a large setup to listen to music. Over the years the devices have gotten smaller and smaller and now there isn’t a place we can go that is out of reach of our personal listening pleasure.

We now have constant auditory stimuli from our iPods, phone conversations, busy streets, and everyday life. Genuine silence is nearly impossible to come by these days, but yet silence has a power that we should use more often. Silence confronts.

That last statement may have thrown you off…

Let me say it this way… it is easy to ignore what’s going on inside of you when there are so many things demanding your attention. But when left with only silence, we have a much harder time ignoring the things deep down in our souls that we have tucked away for so long. Silence can reveal things that make us uncomfortable and strip away the things we have used to shield us away from facing them. Silence confronts us with ourselves.

Silence also confronts us with God.

God sometimes yells, but more often He whispers. With all the noise around us, sometimes it can be hard to hear and recognize His voice.

Psalm 46:10 provides the antidote to our “hearing” problem. It says,

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

Let’s make time in our worship services to be confronted with the voice of God speaking into our souls.

  • Silence allows room for us to hear.

I Kings 19-9-13 says,

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

It is no coincidence that in 1 Kings 19, when God speaks to Elijah, it is in a “gentle whisper” and not in the fire, the wind or the earthquake like we would expect our all-powerful God to do.

What I have seen displayed in my own life of ministry is that God rarely, if ever has forced His will on me. Instead, He shows me and waits for me to make the move. He speaks and waits for me to listen. He promises and allows me to find Him. Isn’t that how faith works? It would be easy to have follow God if He was always blatantly pointing things out to us and screaming directions into our ears. We would be puppets or marionettes on a string being pulled in whatever direction He willed.

Romans 10:17 says,

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

So… are we hearing?

If God sometimes speaks in whispers then we must create time and space in our lives to hear His whispers and follow His gentle nudging.

Have you ever had a relationship with someone who never hears you because they are always either talking or thinking about how they are going to respond when you are done speaking? I personally catch myself doing that to God. I pray and respond… sometimes I just don’t listen.

If our relationship with God is like that of any other relationship then we know that communication is key. Communication isn’t only talking. Sometimes we need to just shut up and listen.

When we encounter the Spirit of God I believe that we should be quiet and let Him speak, and get out of the way so He can move.

Exodus 14:14 says,

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”


Let’s commit ourselves to learning when to be silent.

Psalm 62:5 says,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

How to be an Impactful and Effective Volunteer

One thing that no church is lacking for in the need category is volunteers. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the congregation… there is always a need.

I have heard it said that in 100% of churches 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work. How does that math work out?

Honestly, there are so many things within the church that are almost entirely dependent on volunteers and so often many of those things go unnoticed by those who aren’t made aware of the task.

Imagine a Sunday without volunteers. It would be a train wreck, and many of us would probably be quick to be negative or complain… well, to be honest, we have no room to talk if we aren’t part of the solution. Complaints go nowhere in fixing the problem at hand.

Where are all the volunteers?

Think about it… who runs the sound that we all tend to enjoy while the band is playing or the pastor is speaking on Sunday morning? It sure would be interesting without it. What about the camera for the churches that broadcast or live stream? Most of us would agree that first impressions are vital when it comes to welcoming newcomers… well, who welcomes guests and passes out bulletins to people as they enter your church? Who watches your kids? Who teaches your classes?

The list could really go on and on… but I think you are getting the point.

At New Hope Community Church (where I serve) we have the hardest time recruiting dedicated media volunteers to run the computer that projects our lyrics on Sunday mornings. But… interestingly enough I get more complaints about words being messed up, delayed, or jumbled from people than anything else.

So… you may be reading this and asking yourself, “where do we go from here?” To that I would like to answer with a challenge: Serve your congregation out of worship to God.

Don’t become involved merely just to build an organization or program, or because you think you are expected to. Become involved out of a desire to influence, change, and help your friends, family, and neighbors.

Ministry is important… and you don’t have to be a “minister” to do it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-25 says,

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

You see, the church functions as a body. Each part, no matter how small, is equally valuable to the health of the whole body. Each part performs different duties in relationship to its contribution to the body. God has equipped each individual differently, with different spiritual gifts, backgrounds, talents, personalities, and abilities… but all have an important role to play.

There are a few ways to get off on the right foot as far as your volunteering goes. Below I will outline a few ways to be an impactful and effective volunteer because a person without a strategy often stumbles and struggles.


  • Dedicate your time.

This may seem obvious… but service takes time. Nothing is more irritating to an organizer than volunteers who are consistently late to their commitments. As a Worship Pastor it definitely makes my job more stressful when I don’t have my media team or sound engineers on time to rehearsals or services. As volunteers we should aim to take the stress and workload off of those around us. Weight is more easily distributed among several different carriers than if it is placed all on one.

Be a servant and carry some weight!

  • Practice your responsibilities.

Everyone expects the music and preaching to be polished and ready to go on Sundays and that requirement carries over to volunteers as well.

Believe it or not… your service is your worship and should be done with excellence.

As volunteers we should be “well-rehearsed” in the same way a musician would be before stepping in front of people. There are several things we can do to become better in our volunteer services…

If we are greeters we can dedicate time to learning the names and faces of those within our congregation so that we can more easily connect and assist when we see them. This also makes it easier to visibly find guests and make them feel welcomed with a personalized greeting.

If we are serving with children or in Sunday School classes or groups we can look over our material and prepare our rooms, areas, or spaces before hand. We can also find material to read and invest our time in to make us better in our service.

If we are musicians, media teamers, or sound engineers we can practice our craft alone so that we are ready to go on a Sunday. Time invested into service beforehand will always make things run smoother when the time comes to perform our duties in front of others. This can also mean getting familiar with the songs and communicating beforehand so everyone is one the same page on Sunday (as far as lights, sound, and projected lyrics go).

  • Develop a proper attitude of service.

A major attribute in becoming a successful worker or volunteer is developing an attitude of willingness and sacrifice. Many times it is easier to believe in something and aggressively pursue it as long as it doesn’t cost us anything…. but the most effective workers are those who willingly sacrifice for the good of the body.

We hear of the sacrifices of following Jesus in Luke 9:57-62,

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I find it hard to believe that in light of this passage many of us don’t have it in us to sacrifice a single service a month to serving in some aspect within our churches.

Work to develop an attitude of service. At first it might not be easy… but I promise that the more you serve to glorify the Father the easier it will become.

  • Commit yourself to being flexible and reliable.

Want to make it easier on those around you or those “in charge?” Well you are in luck! Reliability is an organizers best friend.

Let me ask you a question… how long would we stay employed if we were late every other day and sometimes just didn’t show up to work at all without notice. Probably not very long. What about if we came in every following day with a sob story or excuse? It wouldn’t matter.

If we can dedicate ourselves to working reliably in the world and for the world why is it like pulling teeth getting reliable and diligent workers to work in the church for God?

How many of us would drop everything instantly if our boss called us in for a special favor? I would say many of us would because of the possibility of rewards that could come along with that sacrifice of time or plans. Well… what about the rewards that Christ promises?

Be flexible and reliable!

Tardiness, last minute cancellations, and “no shows” ARE a hindrance to your “ministers” spiritual preparation and focus. This carries us into our last point…

  • Communicate.

Just like in every other aspect of life… communication is key! As ministerial staff we understand that life gets busy and hard at times… we aren’t exempt to that. But with a little help and communication we can make or churches and ministries more efficient and effective. Be willing to communicate in times good and bad. It is never too late to ask for help or to learn something new… all you have to do is ask.


Volunteering is WAY underrated and under-appreciated. Remember who and why you are serving and know that you are valued even when it seems otherwise.

Be a volunteer that is impactful and effective.

Colossians 3:22-24 says,

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.