Showing posts from February, 2015

5 Common Worship Mistakes

During my fourteen years in the  worship leading circuit , I saw everything from fog machines and lighting boards to Church of Christ minimalism. And while there are many things I would consider mistakes, worship is a highly subjective experience and much of it boils down to personal preference. But I've come across five that seem relatively common. Singing too high Unless you live in Nashville, your congregation probably sounds terrible. Not because they're such awful singers but because they're either straining their voices like worship time with Animal or they're playing peek-a-boo with the octaves trying to land a comfortable pitch. One reason why this is so common is that traditional worship music (i.e. hymns) was initially harmonized in four parts with the melody being given to the higher, female voices. So before the advent of contemporary worship music, every vocal range had a reasonably comfortable part in which to sing. But with contemporary

An Audience of One isn't the Heart of Worship

If corporate worship was just between you and God, then it wouldn't be corporate. One word you won't often hear on a Sunday morning is "performance." In the church I grew up, a solo performance during the service was called special music. I think the special part was supposed to be the lack of congregational involvement. Unlike what the worship team did, these numbers were like separate offerings to God--they were only between him and the performer. But even though the performance wasn't meant for us, we all knew the real reasons folks made these offerings publicly: parents wanted to show off their kids, older kids wanted to show off their piety, and adults wanted the accolades hidden in phrases like "God has given you a wonderful talent" or "The Lord was pleased with your gift today." The self-righteous reek of pretense is noxious enough to make us want to call their impurely-motivated presentation sin. So we condemn their labors and r

You're Giving the Gospel Wrong

Making the good news bad news is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word "gospel" comes from a Greek word meaning "good news." Most Christians understand that to mean the good news of salvation through Jesus. Of course, it can't be good news to those who don't need salvation, so explaining why everyone does has become a crucial part of sharing it. Most people don't think they're all that bad which makes it our job to help them understand that they are. This is why many popular pastors today, like Joel Osteen, are critiqued for being "soft on sin." Their gospel presentations focus so much on God's love that the imminence of his judgment gets lost in the fray of happy feelings. It's an ear-scratching message that exposes a desire for the praise of man and the riches of the world, not that the lost become found before it's too late. Because that's the priority for the Christian: trying to save as many as possibl

Losing My Faith

Sometimes the best Christian wisdom can produce the worst Christian life. If you're a Christian long enough, you're going to encounter times when everything about your faith seems pointless, God feels distant, and you just want to stop going through the motions. And one of the most common responses you'll hear from fellow Christians is "do it anyway." Don't feel like praying? Do it anyway. Don't feel like reading your Bible? Do it anyway. Don't feel like going to church? Don't forsake gathering together and do it anyway. I did my due diligence that way for years until my faith felt fake and I couldn't tell the difference between God's voice and my own. So I did what every devout Christian would warn you not to do: I stopped doing. No prayer, no Bible, no church. And it was one of the best decisions of my life. Some people might not understand how I could ever suggest that as a positive thing, but I don't understand how livi

Modesty Won't Help Lust

The reason we misunderstand modesty is because we misunderstand lust. If you grew up in the church, you were probably ingrained with two messages: men struggle with lust and women struggle with modesty. Even the joke at Moody was that the topics of the annual men's and women's chapels were always pornography and dress codes (the punchline being that most upperclassmen saved their chapel cuts for these events). Of course, it's no laughing matter that porn is so rampant, even in the church. And the reason these two things get emphasized is because together they place equal responsibility on both men and women. But what none of them seem to be addressing is whether modesty actually combats lust. Initially, it makes sense that by reducing the opportunity for temptation, we can reduce the opportunity for sin. But apart from the practical impossibility of such a task, the bigger issue is the way we've reduced our definition of the terms as the aforementioned chapel