Friday, October 24, 2008

A Tough Week

Some weeks it seems like we tread in deeper water and for longer and extended periods of time continuing to believe and hope that the life-line will bounce up against us any moment now, but it doesn't.... so we keep treading.

Deep levels of very real pain and grief surround many of my friends this week.

We have had 20 funerals in 43 weeks at our church, and it's not just death that has made for a tough week.

I think of Matt Redmon's song, "Blessed Be Your Name".
"You give and take away, Lord, blessed be Your name"

Yesterday, I had to submit a report for basically what I have done this past year - along with reports from those who work with me in my area. As I reviewed my co-workers reports and then prepared my own, one word came to mind. Exhausted.

Shouldn't other words have come to mind? Satisfied, Excited, Hopeful, Fulfilled, Joyful, Grateful........

Truly, at most times, I am all of the above, but this week - nope.....just not there.

I met a young, energetic worship leader this week who made the comment to me, "shouldn't the church be a hospital?" Among other things, it certainly is, and this week for whatever reasons, we are seeing our share of hurting people who are in need of healing.

I can't help but think of part of yet another song lyric that describes this in great detail -

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?

(thank you Phill McHugh and Greg Nelson for writing this)

I think the "private pain" part of that is what gets to me. People simply do not know what to do with the stuff they carry around with them. They feel afraid, they feel alone, they feel ashamed, they feel sorry for themselves, they feel anger towards others, they feel as if they have no hope, they can't be real with anyone for fear of revealing their private pain.

I think my new friend is right about the church being a hospital except for this one huge difference - when a person goes to the hospital, their pain is no longer private. Doctors, nurses, specialists, surgeons, etc. can't treat pain they don't know about. When we go to church, our pain most often remains private. We know God knows our pain, and we desperately want Him to help us - heal us, but we can't let the person seated next to us know we are hurting.

That makes me sad - I have to wonder if this is the way it is supposed to be?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pirates Reign!

OK - if you can't get a good laugh at yourself, then what's the point?

This photo is completely ridiculous! Please allow me to explain.

I have been asked to speak at a conference this summer, and the people who asked me asked for a photo of me for their promotional piece.

I did not have one readily available, so I asked our graphics guys at church if they could "crop" a recent photo of my family and make it work.

One of our guys sent this photo to me today with the caption, "is THIS the photo you want me to send?" What he didn't know was how "timely" this "photo-shoppedversion" is!!

1. Ben has spent alot of his time this week re-programming (for fun) one of the main songs from "Pirates Of The Caribbean" - you should hear it!

2. My grandson's first birthday is the day after Halloween, and his party will be at my house and it will involve - you guessed it - pirates!

So, as much as I would love to send this photo to the folks who have asked me to speak at their conference this summer - I will refrain - even though I REALLY do want to send it!

(man - what I wouldn't give for this head of hair!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Mystery Worshipper

I can't believe I read THIS in the Wall Street Journal this past Friday!

What's next - Personal Seat Licenses and Parking Passes?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Worship Survey - May God Help Us All!

Our church's mission statement is "Connecting People To Jesus Christ through Worship, Discipleship, and Service."

This year, we decided to conduct church-wide surveys with our Sunday worship service congregation for each of these (3) areas of ministry. We started with Discipleship, then we had a survey for Service, and finally, on September 14, we conducted a survey on Worship.

The Worship Survey had the following questions:

Worship has to do with the style of music.
Worship happens only on Sundays.
Worship is the #1 priority of a follower of Christ.
Worship includes tithing.
Worship is demonstrated by the way I spend my time and resources.

(all of the above offered answer choices including strongly agree, somewhat agree, agree, not sure, disagree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree)

then, on the back of the survey, in addition to the age range and gender box to check, you could write your name (optional) and then there were two really interesting questions with space to write in your answer:



I am now in possession of 468 pages of answers to the above two questions. That's right - 468 pages. (I feel like Congress!)

I have perused these pages over the past 24 hours. I am quite frankly stunned....actually, kind of numb even.

I told a friend today that God is working overtime with me right now because I don't know what to do with what I am reading.

Please understand - I don't for even a brief moment believe that the efforts of the ministry that God has called me to lead, and the magnificent people with whom I serve on a weekly basis are incapable of messing up or even being misunderstood, but
I have never for a moment questioned our motive - NEVER.

And now - after reading many, many of these comments, I guess I just didn't have any idea that there were:

1. people seated in the congregation each Sunday who felt as strongly as they do about things I/we should and should not do as we attempt to lead people to worship and honor God each Sunday and beyond the walls of Sunday services

2. so many who when given the opportunity to "voice their opinion" were so blunt in "voicing it" - while at the same time remaining for the most part - anonymous in their comments.

Me blogging about this is not some lame attempt on my part to solicit pathetic responses of "I am so sorry for you" or "I can't believe this" or "don't let that get to you", etc.....

I am blogging about this because I am deeply disturbed by what I am reading.

And don't begin to tell me I am overreacting.

We are talking about the worship of God Almighty here. The Creator of everything there is. Don't you dare minimize His greatness by telling me in a survey what YOU think we should or should not be doing so that you can feel better about yourself and YOUR church.

Worship is not about us - never has been - never will be. Worship is not about whether we sing your favorite hymn or your favorite chorus. Worship is not about the temperature in the Worship Center on Sunday mornings. Worship is not about whether you got a "rush" out of Sunday or not. Worship is not about how many times the choir sings or the orchestra plays.

I am grateful for many in our congregation whose response to how genuine worship transforms them gave answers and evidence of their true understanding of why we gather each week in that room.

We gather to boldly, respectfully, and reverently proclaim that God is greater than me and therefore worth everything I can offer to Him. That means that I come regardless of the songs, regardless of the leader, regardless of the "presentation" to find a way to make sure God knows that I love Him and choose to serve Him above any other god in my life. I come to confess that I mess up everyday in my attempt to live my life for Him, but that does not change what I bring to Him - even in my brokenness, I come before Him to make more of Him than me, my circumstances, and my feelings.

Maybe this survey is a wake-up call for me. Maybe this survey is of the devil.

May God help me sort this out as I stay the course in leading people to encounter the greatness of God.