Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Do You Do "Church?"

After serving at a UMC in Virginia Beach as Worship Leader for the last 10+ years I found myself in a situation where, for financial and other reasons, I had to leave. I went into a job that I had done, and been very successful with, before I started working for that local church.

I'm now in Anchorage, Alaska doing that job and was able to attend a worship service at First UMC, Anchorage this past Sunday. I now find myself sitting in my hotel room listening to worship music on Youtube (Steve Fee, Jesus Culture, David Crowder Band, etc.) and reflecting on what worship has become within our denominational structure. And I really have to question who it's about and for.

The worship "experience" I had Sunday was structured in a traditional style, which is fine as that was how I was raised, but it didn't feel worshipful. The few people attending were very welcoming and the pastor made it a point to greet me, but it felt as though they were going through the motions without the commitment.

There has become a disconnect somehow. We've fallen in love with intellectual Christianity and have forgotten the emotional aspect. Jesus spoke two simple words, "Follow me." It didn't require a Bible study or a task force or committee to say, "Yes," drop everything and walk after Him. It required a heart open to hearing the Word and responding emotionally.

We, as Christ followers, need to make that same appeal. It's from the heart. It's one that requires us to create a relationship with the people in our lives, and to include them into our faith community with love and acceptance. It's an emotional point of connection. Once they feel safe (again emotional) they can be moved toward discipleship via teaching and making the intellectual connection.

So the question must be asked, how emotional are you in worship? Do you allow the Spirit to flow into the worship space and create those emotional responses we sometimes fight so hard to suppress? Or are we afraid to truly express that emotional aspect of worship for fear of being ridiculed by other folks? Will you give it ALL to God in worship? Every part of your being; head, heart, and spirit?

Or will you continue to live a disconnected worship life that cheats God?


Saturday, June 4, 2011


Is next Sunday. The birth of the church. The time when the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit descended upon the upper room where the disciples were meeting. Tongues of fire appeared over their heads, and they went out into the streets of Jerusalem declaring the Word of the Lord.

And the first "revival service" in history happened.

My question for the church today is this: Where are the Holy Spirit great revivals happening today?
Surely not in Europe, the birthplace of the Reformation. Nor for that matter in the USA, where people refer to themselves as being "spiritual" but not really having any root in the belief of Jesus as Savior for the world. So, where are they?

In Africa, where orthodoxy is embraced and the Holy Spirit is sweeping the land.
In Korea, where literally thousands will attend worship services and then go into the world declaring that Christ is Lord.
In China, where the believers are imprisoned for just meeting together but still the church grows in numbers.
We, the church in America, have had it too good for too long. We've grown fat, dumb, and happy. We'd rather fight over what type of worship style is used or how the offering is to be spent than do what we've been called by Christ to do- make disciples.

Methodism was once the largest non-Catholic body in America. What has happened to us over the last 150 years to make this no longer true?
For one thing, we stopped going into the world. We decided that buildings and bureaucracy were the ways to spread the Gospel with the result that we ceased making an impact on the culture of this country and have, over the last few decades, come to be known among religious circles as an apostate church. We do have a "big tent," but it is filled with a lot of non-orthodox beliefs.

Question 2: How do we solve this morass we've gotten ourselves into?
I truly think we should close down a lot of worship spaces that are no longer fulfilling the mission of the church, merge those congregations with other UMC's in their community which are, and use the funds from the sell off of these properties for mission works INSIDE the USA. It's time for us to become the body of believers that John Wesley created. Going into the places where the lost and hurting are located. Being the face, feet, and hands of Jesus to the world once more.

Offering them Christ.

Wesley once said something along the lines of 'if you set yourself on fire people will come from miles around to watch you burn.'

This Pentecost may we all set ourselves on fire once more, as the Church of the Book of Acts did, and make a difference in our world.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

On the Road Again

Well, something I really never thought I'd say again.

I'm currently out on the road with the North American tour of "Fiddler on the Roof." I was contacted last week and flew out of Virginia on Friday to the west coast where I joined the company. Their leading player (whom I'm contracted to be the standby for) has been dealing with some health issues lately. As a result the producers became concerned and sent me on the road- right as Lent was winding down and before Holy Week was to begin.

I look at this as a chance to witness about God's grace to a group of folks who might not really know anything about it. Plus the added opportunity to worship with folks on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday I might not otherwise be able to. I made it a point last Sunday to find the closest UMC and join them for worship. While the basics were there, it was still different, which was a good thing.

So, I ask that you keep me in your prayers until this adventure is over. I believe I should be back home the first week of May.
Who knows, maybe someone who doesn't know Christ will come to learn of Him.


Monday, April 4, 2011

What have you done?

As the season of Lent winds down it's a simple question, what have you done?

Have you done as many do, give up something such as that daily trip to Starbucks or that piece of chocolate?
Or have you decided to do something you wouldn't do, such as serve at a homeless shelter?

We often equate Lent with a time of personal sacrifice, but then "suffer" that sacrifice by giving up things in our lives that truly make no difference. How much more effective might it be to sacrifice by actually putting ourselves out there as the face of Christ? To step out in faith and give sacrificially to those who have no idea who Jesus is.

As we move toward the Passion Week of Christ, may we resolve to make a difference in the lives of others... just as Jesus did for us.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Odds n' Ends

Ever wonder why February, the shortest month, takes the longest to get through?

Did you know that the Methodist Church was once the largest Protestant church in the USA?

Ever notice how churches will fight like crazy to keep things from changing from the "inside" of the body (worship styles, pastors, mission focus, etc.) but quickly embrace the latest "fad" from a nationally recognized church leader on how to "fix the church?"

Ever wonder why people will show up in large numbers on Christmas and Easter, be willing to sit on folding chairs in the aisle because the pews are full, but not wander into the church building the rest of the year when they could have their pick of the empty spaces?

Ever get the feeling that the only way to restore what we had as Methodists is to close all the buildings and return to the original Wesleyan concept of going where the people are?

Whatever happened to "offering them Christ?"

If Father John were to come back today, would he recognize what we've done with his movement of restoration?

Why is it that the older members of our congregations, the ones who built the foundation that is now crumbling, are the most vocal in opposition to trying to rebuild it with a younger generation?

And lastly, how many folks that take the time to read these thoughts will realize that I'm not talking about "another church but not mine?"

If we continue to lose members/attendees of our churches at the current rate, there won't be a Methodist church much longer. The latest information I have at hand states that 55% of the UM churches in the country have less than 50 people in attendance any given Sunday. That means that once we exclude Palm Sunday, Easter, etc. the true number is probably much lower still. What's happened to us?

Find and read the book "Restoring Methodism," it's excellent and calls us to return to the Wesleyan movement that was started a little more than 200 years ago.


Thursday, December 30, 2010


Can you feel it? That special feeling one gets at Christmastide?

What? You don't know what Christmastide is? You think that since December 25 has come and gone that Christmas is over? No my friends, the 25th of December is just the beginning of what we call Christmas.

The four Sundays prior to that day are the period we call Advent, the expectation of the coming of the Christ Child. Christmas actually begins on the 25th, continues through the next 12 days (the 12 days of Christmas, get it?), and ends with Epiphany on January 6.

There's a lot of folks now-a-days who decorate their houses for Christmas on Thanksgiving Day, and then take them down Christmas afternoon. What a shame, for they truly don't know that the season of Christmas doesn't start at the end of November. For those of us in church work we, too, can get caught up in the secular rush of getting to December 25, and then letting the wonderful season of Christmastide go after the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. When was the last time you stepped into a church after December 25 and greeted someone with a hearty "Merry Christmas?" Or even heard it mentioned that Christmas was still going on?

The TV specials (Rudolph, Frosty, etc.) are all done. Families have returned from visiting relatives. The decorations are starting to sag a bit. The tree (if you've a live one) is turning brown and the needles are falling off in ever greater clumps. And we find ourselves being dragged back into the hum drum existence of day to day life.

Let me encourage you to make this year different. To make Christmastide 2010 one of rest, reflection, and joy. To remember that Emmanuel, God with us, has come down to share in our life.

And to communicate the message that there's hope in this dreary world.
Merry Christmas.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving to Advent

It's that time of year when church workers, especially music makers, find themselves up to their eyeballs with stuff to do. Cantatas, special music, Christmas Eve services, etc. demand their attention. And as a result they tend to suffer burnout quickly and find themselves unable to enjoy the holiday season that begins on Thanksgiving Day.

And that's not how it should be.

What can the church do to help these selfless servants? Is there a way to take some of the stress off of them as they go into one of the busiest seasons of the church year? Or does anyone not involved with the music ministry truly understand what it takes to prepare the music offering for this special time of year?

Most, if not all, church choirs prepare their music 4-6 weeks out from when they offer it on Sunday, and with a cantata it takes even longer. It's not a "happy coincidence that the music matches the Scripture or the message the preacher gives. It's all planned out, weeks in advance. And this planning doesn't just involve the rehearsal time with the choir. The director often spends countless hours prior to that time listening to music, reading Scripture, talking with the pastor, and coordinating with the organist (if there is one) for each week's music. Add into this mix any special music offering, or a choral cantata, and the time required becomes even greater. And unless the director is a full time employee of the local church (not very often- usually part time or a volunteer) they also have an outside job that has its own requirements.

So this year ask your director of music if there's anything you can do to help take the strain off of them. Even if it's something as simple as helping set up chairs for a rehearsal. Be a servant to the music servants.