In the story of God, we have creation, fall, redemption and re-creation. Redemption is the cross. It is the broken flesh and shed blood of Jesus. Having a cross in worship is a reminder of the price paid for us to even think of gathering in the presence of God.Read More
There is a time and a place for the critic. Simply dismissing him is not the best choice when we want something that be the best reflection of who we are and make the biggest impact on our tribe.Read More
I’ve seen a lot of change in 17 years of ministry: Change in ministry focus, style, music, age, my personal point of view and so much more. I’ve led a lot of change as well. My first official ministry role was creating a worship team in a fledgling young adults ministry. When I came to Clarendon Hills I was charged with leading our worship to the next level of artistic expression and excellence. I led our church to move off-site for a season when it wasn’t particularly necessary. I led our worship team from serving in a 180-seat (in pews) sanctuary to a 400-seat portable-church/gym to a 720-seat auditorium where our platform was the same size as our former sanctuary.
I’ve heard the only constant in life is change. It is important to know how to lead change well. What I’ve learned can be distilled to three words: Inform, Integrity, Influence.
Inform: As a leader of your home, your carpool, your little league, a civic organization, business or church, information is key if you want to change. You need to be able to paint an accurate picture of where we are at, where the world is at and where we need to go.
- The truth about where we are at can be brutal. It can mean being honest with the realities that what we’re doing now will not work when we get where we’re going. It can mean being real about processes that are limping along and need revamping or are in need of new leadership and oversight.
- Speaking about the world outside of the tribe you lead gives you a foundation for how your group is going to make a difference. Making a difference, creating change, is why your tribe exists.
- Being able to speak vividly and with passion about where you are going is more than just dreaming. Your ideas have to be actionable and even quantifiable. How will you know you’ve arrived? What will you do when you get where you are going? What will you look like? What will it feel like? What will you accomplish?
Integrity: When I started at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills, I was encouraged to build leadership credibility. Leading is not just words and cheerleading. It is living out the change you want to see. Integrity is letting your yes be yes and your no be no. It is keeping the vision in front of your tribe and living in the reality you want to see. When you paint that picture with actions in your own life, it is easier for the fire of your vision to consume those looking to you for leadership. When you do this, your leadership credibility increases, people trust you with their time, talent and treasure and they are more likely to join you on the front lines of change.
Influence: One of the few books I’ve read and re-read is Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. While the content of that book is not necessarily applicable here, the title is. Stick to the fight. Have the hard discussions. Realize that you impact people. Don’t change course. Correct if necessary, but follow the call to its completion. Speak about it. Show it. Get people living it out. Tell their stories. Celebrate the milestones. Repeat.
Fostering a mind for fresh vision is important. Some goals are short-term blasts that move you forward quickly. Others goals, like a change in culture and identity, mean having habits in place to foster new and fresh visions for your tribe so as one goal comes to a completion, the next milestone is in place and the process of change starts again.
Andy Stanley says ‘vision leaks’. I couldn’t agree more. People are busy. From different personalities to competing values to hiccups that can put your forward progress on pause, the dynamics of an organization are complex. Keeping your vision fresh in their minds and on repeat is essential to leading successful change.
My greatest takeaway from seminary was not a certain thread of theology or knowledge to wow the masses. My greatest takeaway was the ability to see the lens by which I view the world. The idea that I could be viewing the world through only one possible filter never crossed my mind before my first semester in seminary. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see other perspectives as valid, but I could not validate them because I could not appreciate the lens by which someone else was seeing the world.
For instance, I am a worship pastor. I listen to a lot of music from mainstream, to worship to straight-up Christian pop. I have learned that I have a lens by which I listen to and judge music.
- Is it singable in a congregation?
- Would it work for my congregation?
- Does it say ‘something’?
- Does it have a beat I prefer?
- Is it instrumentally complex or interesting?
- Is it popular (not a big turn-on for me)?
When I get into conversations with others about music, I have to remember (and regularly fail to do so) my lens. I listen to music for a specific purpose. Is it fun to play? Does it excite me? Does it shift my mood? Does it fit my mood? I have a lens.
The most prominent lens right now is a political one. What shapes my view of America; what is it and what should it be? The answers to those questions shape the lens by which I view political candidates.
All of this is fueled by my Christian worldview lens. It differs from the lens of an evolutionist (survival of the fittest) or an existentialist (the world is absurd and each individual is to give it his/her own meaning) or any other of a myriad of worldview. I come at the world from the lens of God as Creator, who sees the world as good simply because he created it and, through Christ, has redeemed it. My lens to view the world is different and this lens shapes who I am and what I believe.
Explore your lens and appreciate that it is yours. It is developed through your own set of experiences and garnered knowledge. When we understand our own lens we are able to navigate the world with more grace and courage as we build relationships with people whose lens differs from our own.
This weekend, we will introduce a new song to our congregational worship called Our God Reigns Forever by Israel and New Breed.
Our God is great and Glorious
We put our trust in Your Name, Jesus
Able to save and deliver us
We put our hope in Your Name, Jesus
It is important for the church to recall its testimony. What it believes and the truth that is the foundation of why it exists. These words echo the heart of the Apostle Peter in the book of Matthew. When the church says things like this, it re-presents God's truth in a powerful that testifies to His work being alive and present not just in the past, but in our lives today and into the future.
Blessing and honor, glory and power
Unto our God forever and ever
All of the honor,
All of the praise is Yours,
These words from John's revelation of what worship looks like in Heaven gives our imagination a picture of something greater than the worship space we've created for our gatherings. It reminds us that our worship does not start or end with us. We are invited into this opportunity to commune with God through Christ every time we answer the call of the Spirit and turn our eyes and hearts toward Him in worship.
Some trust in the powers of this world: Fame, money, politics, possessions. But as the church, we declare that our trust is in Father, Son and Spirit: the creator of Heaven and Earth.
I remember being made aware of my words when I was a kid. Not just the words that make teachers gasp, but important words, useful words. Words like love, awesome, amazing and beautiful.
The essence of worship is that when we leave the sacred space of sanctuary or home or wherever we gather for worship as the Church, our language remains the same. If I say "You are amazing God" and then walk out and say "WOW! That car color is amazing" then I've essentially equated God with someone who mixes paint. While that person is talented and, whether they realize it or not, their talent is God-breathed, a car color does not equal the Creator of color and the light and eyes that allow us to see it.
I remember explaining our service development process to one of my seminary professors. When I told him about our 'Programming' meetings, he stopped me and challenged me to rethink the name of that team. The name sets a precedent, an image of what we were accomplishing. Worship is a prayer, not a program. From seeker to high church, if we call it a church gathering of any kind (Worship, Experience, Service, etc.) it is more than just a series of events tied together to be seen. It is a place of conversation between worshippers and the Father, Son and Spirit. I changed the name to 'Storyboarding'. While I'll admit, its not perfect, it gets a bit more at what we're going for: we're enacting the story of God and our lives entwined through Christ's sacrifice.
Scripture tells us that God see's us as his children. So I imagine sometimes He sees our exuberance over a taste experience or hears our jubilation over a visual experience and laughs. He gave us the ability to experience His creation in a visceral and exciting way. Our joy is his joy. But He's also given us incredible minds to discern every word's proper place. Just as we can slander His name through misuse, we can demean our worship by flippantly using words in our day-to-day lives that we use in such awe-filled ways as when we speak of our Father.