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Controversy, Current Events, Current Events, Start Here
Last year, Worship Artist and Song Writer Vicky Beeching shocked many when she announced she was gay.  You probably sing some of Vicky’s songs in your church (like Glory to God Forever). The revelation sent shock-waves through the Christian community… some even asking if it was ok to sing Beeching’s songs anymore. But now, the shock has worn off, and Beeching sat down for her first full interview since ‘coming out’.  Here are some quotes I found interesting… keep reading
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Current Events, Current Events, Start Here
I was sad to hear this week that Gospel music legend Andre Crouch has died. As a former worship leader, and growing up in the seventies and eighties, Andre Crouch had a profound impact on my growing up.  (In fact, one of my favorite all-time songs to play was “Bless the Lord”… it was just… ‘cool’). Andre’ wrote some great classic songs like “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power”, “My Tribute”, and “Soon and Very Soon”. He also worked with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Quincy Jones; and conducted the choirs that sang during the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”. keep reading
0

Leadership
Because there are non-Christians present in corporate worship meetings, people leading those meetings need to be hospitable to non-Christians. This would include the preacher presenting the gospel to the non-Christians, someone explaining why the church meetings have certain elements such as communion or singing, and explaining Christian terms in a way that allows the non-Christian to understand what the Bible says. This does not mean that the entire service is to be seeker-sensitive and designed mainly as an evangelistic rally, but a sincere effort is made to help non-Christians understand and experience the gospel. via 6 Biblical Principles for Corporate Worship | The Resurgence. This seems pretty reasonable to me… what do you think?  Is this the way YOUR church approaches your worship services?
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Jeff Anderson writes:  For over a decade I have been talking with folks about their personal financial giving. Among the most common questions I hear is, “What do I do when my spouse and I are not on the same page about our giving?” Great question. Often tension in the area of giving can frustrate a marriage. And it’s not always as simple as one spouse is generous and the other is not. As with other issues in marriage, the root cause of this situation can be complex. Here are five ways couples can untangle their giving wires and grow together in generosity. #1 – Connect as a Couple Often the problem has less to do with giving… or even money. It has to do with the marriage. From my own experience, a marriage can build layers of unresolved issues – poor communication, busy schedules, parenting challenges, unmet needs, financial stress, work stress, etc. (Shall I go on? Sure is getting quiet!) Anyway, each layer collects dust. When the issue of giving comes along, it often gets placed on a pile of unresolved issues. If one spouse tries to press into the matter of generosity, the dust starts to fly! One spouse is inspired by a new church project and desires to give a faith-stretching gift. The other spouse, feeling attention-deprived, resents the fact their spouse is feeling so charitable when their personal tank feels so empty. I remember an out-of-town conference where I had been touched by a radical giving testimony, while feasting on hotel steak. Then while enjoying a peaceful flight home with my spiritual head in the clouds, I dreamed up some noble giving plans for my family. Meanwhile my wife, Stephanie, was recovering from a rough week at home, juggling sick kids, constant carpools, and the fallout from a failed freezer. Let’s just say I learned these times are not best for giving conversations. Often what the giving conversation needs most is a relational tune-up. Whether it be a weekend retreat, marriage conference, or a simple date night, take some time to connect as a couple and to connect with each other’s core needs. As for the giving conversation, set these aside for times when relational connection is high and the distractions are low. For Stephanie and me, we address our giving with a year-end “business” meeting right after the holidays. This usually involves a date night away from the kids – a time to celebrate the passing year and look ahead to the next. In addition to enjoying a good meal and quiet conversation, we discuss a short list of items such as family vacation plans, the kid’s sports calendar, our dreams and goals as a family, etc. Included in this agenda is our financial giving plan. Enjoying a nice evening with my wife, reflecting on the God’s goodness, celebrating the previous year’s highs and setting sights on the year ahead – that’s when the giving conversation seems to flow best for us. Also, by taking time to plan our giving in advance, we have a giving plan in motion for the new year and a framework in place for reacting to giving “prompts” along the way. Take steps to connect as a couple; and address your giving when the connection is high. Your giving will flourish. #2 – Connect in Worship Often spouses bring different worship preferences to the marriage. When it comes to Christian living, we all agree the matter of generosity is more important than the matter of church size, style or song selection. Whether your church sings hymns or pop-praise, whether your pastor sports a tie or a tattoo – these considerations are not significant to the core elements of financial giving. Still, when couples struggle to find agreement with worship preferences, they struggle to find agreement with the weightier matters. Attending a church does not define a Christian. However, we are biblically instructed to be connected to a body of believers for spiritual growth, connection and protection – whether it be the downtown church or the house church. And when couples connect on the little things like church worship preferences – they’ll be better able to connect in the areas that really matter. #3 – Connect Spiritually Spouses are not always at the same level spiritually. When this is the case, there can often be a rub in the area of generosity. One spouse may be seeking to grow spiritually and connect deeper with God through new levels of giving. The other spouse can feel alienated and detached from this process because of where they are (or are not) spiritually. The more mature partner may be able to pull them along the journey for a while, but likely not forever. For the more spiritually mature spouse, think about what it would look like to be generous to your spouse. How can you invest in their spiritual development? Perhaps instead of a gift for missions, you invest in attending a Christian couples conference together to connect spiritually. Maybe instead of a special gift to the church capital campaign, you invest in an overseas trip together with the church missions group. I am not providing excuses to give less, and I know you are not looking for them either. But there’s much grace in the giving journey – especially for couples where spouses are disconnected spiritually. God knows your heart on this matter and your desire to grow together in the giving journey. Step back and consider creative ways to invest financially in connecting spiritually with your spouse so that you can advance in the giving journey together. #4 – Connect Financially Just as spouses bring different spiritual alignments to a marriage, they bring varying financial styles and experiences as well. A free-spirited, free-spending spouse will clash at times with a tightly-wound, bookkeeping spouse. Often the spouse who appears inclined to be more generous is also the one thinking about a new swimming pool or the next vacation destination. Meanwhile, the one who reacts more cautiously about giving ideas is thinking about this year’s IRA contribution or an extra month’s savings for that unforeseeable economic crisis. When the giving conversation surfaces, resentment concerning how the other spouse views money gets in the way. Couples need to find their common ground. Neither spouse is fully right or wrong in their position. Both need to be affirmed… and both need to be challenged. The bookkeeper needs to be affirmed for their helpful management skills; but they may also need to be challenged to take steps of faith and give past their comfort zone. And the free-spirited spouse needs to know their desire to give freely is admirable; but they may also need restraints on their personal spending to “earn the freedoms” to be generous that come from practicing sound stewardship. Even couples with similar money styles become disconnected. My wife and I graduated with accounting degrees and view money similarly. In the past when I gave my wife the “time to cut back” speech, that was my signal to tighten our spending. Then weeks or days later I might come home with a grand giving idea. She’d call “foul” on my mixed signals (rightfully so) and I’d have explain my cryptic thinking. Since then I’ve worked harder to keep her in the loop with the financial picture and how possible giving sacrifices might affect our overall situation. To connect financially, consider taking a financial stewardship course together. If scheduling seems problematic for you, consider going through a self-study as a couple. Early in our marriage, my wife and I went through a financial bible study together as a couple. For stewardship resources, check out Crown Financial Ministries or Compass – Finances God’s Way or Financial Peace. For generosity-specific resources, consider our Plastic Donuts materials at www.AcceptableGift.org For many couples, a budget coach or counselor may be helpful to press into some of the more difficult areas. Often financial stress and difficult circumstances stand in the way and require a third party help to resolve. For a couple to advance together in the giving journey there must be togetherness in the financial journey. #5 – Connect on God’s Blessings A Christian couple should regularly count their blessings. This stirs up a heart of gratitude together. And gratitude (not guilt) is the wellspring for generosity. Often we don’t take time to count our blessings. Instead we focus on our problems. But there will always be challenges in our lives…and in the world. Remind each other of what God has done for you – not what has happened to you. Remind each other of what you have been given – not what you are lacking. My wife and I see-saw together on this. When I am gloomy, she counts our blessings for me and helps me perk up. When she’s in the dumps, I talk about the big picture and pull her up. That’s the power of a couple working together. When news reports blare the world’s problems, we take the time to reflect on our blessings – after all, we have food, water, shelter, and the means for me to type this article on a laptop. A spirit of gratitude can be learned. Encourage each other in these areas. Also, be sure to celebrate the milestones in your marriage and your shared spiritual journey. How did God bring you together? Reflect on that story. How has God enriched your marriage? Circle back to those events. Connect on God’s blessings regularly and generosity will grow in your soul… and into your conversations together. Healthy Connecting Leads to Acceptable Giving – and Living Connect as a couple. Connect in worship. Connect spiritually. Connect financially. And connect with God’s blessings in your life. When you connect as a couple in these areas, your marriage will be fruitful. And generosity will flow out from your marriage partnership. God will notice. And God will be pleased. He will find your gifts acceptable… and your marriage acceptable, too. Jeff Anderson has worked with churches and non-profits for nearly two decades – as elder in his own church, and as Vice President of Generosity Initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries. He now leads AcceptableGift.org, helping people see living and giving from God’s perspective. Jeff continues to consult and speak, and is the author of Plastic Donuts, A Fresh Perspective on Gifts. Contact: info@acceptablegift.org
1

Worship
Agree or Disagree?
“The mature worshiper is easily edified.” When hearing lackluster (even if biblical) preaching, immatureworshipers will typically not listen to the message because they wish the messenger was more exciting. Conversely, mature worshipers eagerly receive the truth as it is proclaimed, even if it sounds like the preacher is reading a phone book.
Found here… Agree or disagree? If I got up and read from Lamentations like Ben Stine for 50 minutes, is it right for me to think that you should be edified? I certainly hope not. (OK… hearing Ben Stine read Lamentations could actually be interesting). And if you agree with the quote… why is all the burden on the worshipper?  I could be really into Jesus and worship, but if you’re reading from a phonebook, my mind is bound to wander. How immature is THAT?
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Trends
My friend Geoff Surratt is continuing his 5 Scary Trends series… Scary trend #3 is “Worship Worship”.  Geoff writes: I love corporate worship. One of my favorite aspects of working in multisite churches has been visiting multiple worship experiences every weekend. I have participated in as many as six different services in a single weekend, and I love seeing people connect with God through the leadership of a gifted team of singers, musicians and technicians. The scary trend, however, is the growing worship of the art of worship. The worship leader/pastor/director/producer has become a rock star. The need for ever-improving technology (“2K Projectors? Yes!!!”) dominates the church budget. The demand for professional musicianship squeezes out the possibility of homegrown talent. On Monday mornings we talk more about the sound quality, the experience, the arrangement than about the jaw dropping recognition of the awesome power of an omniscient God. We are in danger of worshipping the creation more than the creator. What are we trying to accomplish through musical worship at our weekend services? Is the goal to compete with secular concerts or the mega-church down the street? (Do we really think we can compete with U2? Seriously?) Is excellence the goal regardless the price? Is holding the attention of the occasional attender the aim? Or are we truly focused on worshipping in spirit and in truth? You can read more here. And be sure to check out #5 “Multisite Mania” and #4 “Reformed Revolution“.  
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Controversy
OK… so the Bishop of Lichfield told a group of pastors in London last week that church services have become too long, and that they should aim to keep the time of the service to no more than 50 minutes. Stop singing so long.  Stop praying so long.  Stop preaching so long. This article also says that some services in the UK last up to 2 hours. Another argument:  people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Actually… I think the Bishop is on to something here. I wrote a post about a year ago asking the question about why no church that I know of has begun offering a half hour service. We’ve done everything else… hip music, flashy lights, relevant messages, free coffee and donuts.  But never have we offered to budge, even a little, on our set hour format. Would more people come if we offered an ‘express’ type service?  Yeah… actually, I think if you had three services, two of them being an hour and one being 30 minutes, I bet the 30 minutes one would be pretty dang popular. “But that’s because people are shallow”. No.  That’s because pastors have not ever looked at doing things differently. Let’s face it… pastors are paid and expected to speak 30-40 minutes each Sunday.  But can we be honest?  Most of that 30-40 minutes with most pastors contains A LOT of fluff. My experience with The NINES has taught me a lot.  You absolutely can deliver a compelling point in nine minutes.  It’s clear, concise, and brief.  But it sticks with you. I think a powerful worship service could be packaged into 30 minutes. So… heads bowed and eyes closed.  Who will be the first pastor to try this?  Who will be the first one to give up his 30-40 minute sermon for a 9 minute one? Anyone? Anywhere? I’m not afraid to sing all 329 verses of Just as I am.  Been there, done that. I’m totally serious.  This would work.  In fact, I bet it would get you on FoxNews or CNN. OK… would love to hear your thoughts.  Am I totally off my rocker to think a substantial, worshipful, God-honoring service could be packaged in 30 minutes?  And am I totally insane to think that people actually would like this format? Why or why not? Todd
41

Controversy
OK… now that I have your attention. An interesting piece over at the Resurgence website this morning where Tim Keller talks about “Evangelistic Worship”. Overall, it’s a really well-written piece. But this is the ‘callout’ on the post. A quote by Tim Keller:
The only way to have non-Christians in attendance is through personal invitation by Christians.
While I know the point that Tim is making (especially about making worship ‘comprehensible to unbelievers’). His point about people not inviting non-christians to church UNLESS the worship is ‘comprehensible’ is the main takeaway of this piece for me. The importance of Christians actually inviting people to a church service that they can understand cannot be underscored. But if Tim is saying that invitation is the ONLY way that unbelievers end up in church, that MAY be overstated. We have people nearly every week that kind of wander in.  They’re new in the community.  They’re experiencing a life-crisis.  They see our sign and are curious.  They see and advertisement.  The come across our website.  Could be any number of things. So… if I have to disagree on anything with Tim Keller, I guess I’ll choose this.  He is so freakingly brilliant on everything. And… even if I’m taking Keller totally out of context, I’ll stand by my statement… Tim Keller is wrong. [waiting for lighting strike]
[facebook]
via Evangelistic Worship | The Resurgence.
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Leadership

The word “joy” shows up a lot in the Bible…

· Shout with joy!

· Clap your hands for joy!

· The joy of the Lord is your strength!

· In God’s presence is fullness of joy.

· For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.

Last time Philip and Stephanie and my grandson Jesse were here for a weekend, I was in the backyard with almost two-years-old Jesse and we were walking up and down the little hill (actually I was walking and Jesse was running).  Jesse was holding my hand really tight (that’s a good feeling!) and with that grip on my hand he was running with abandon.

As we went down the little hill for the second time, I realized that Jesse was saying, “Wheee!”  I didn’t realize anyone actually said “Wheee!”  I thought it was just from cartoons I used to see.  Jesse was, in that moment, filled with pure joy and the most naturally honest thing he could do was shout, “Wheee!”

I asked myself, “How long has it been since simple joy made me shout, “Wheee!”?”

In this season of preparation for the next chapter of my story, God has dug pretty deep through the onion-layers of the stuff of my life.  As we get closer to the core of simple faith and relationship, I am beginning to get glimpses of joy.  When I look straight ahead I feel little bursts of joy inside – dreams rekindling, possibilities popping up.  If I get distracted and look to either side the other stuff rushes in.

I’m going for the joy!  I won’t give up and I won’t give in!  Somewhere not too far around the next bend, or the next, I’m going to be so full of the joy of being who God made me to be and holding his hand so tight, that I’ll shout, “Wheee!”

Prayer:

Father, for the joy you let me taste and the hope you place before me, I will continue.  I will not give up.  I will not give in.  I will, at some soon occasion, shout “Wheee!”

Jim Stephens

www.jimastephens.com

www.facebook.com/jimastephens

www.twitter.com/jimastephens

stephens@resourceministries.org

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Tom James writes:  Yesterday in worship our choir was singing a “new” song … well I think it’s new to them anyway. It’s a 2009 Casting Crowns song entitled “If we’ve ever needed you.” There’s a place in the song where the lyrics are “If we’ve ever needed You Lord, it’s now, Lord, it’s now. We are desperate for Your hand. We’re reaching out, we’re reaching out. All our hearts, all our strength, with all our minds, we’re at Your feet. May Your kingdom come in our hearts and lives.” As I listened tears welled up in my eyes and to be honest I began to have a bit of a pity party thinking about the things in my life that I’d change if I could. Life (and I’m sure most would say this) just hasn’t turned out completely like I thought it would. So amidst my pity party the Lord decides to show up and give me some more “perspective” and to be honest I was humbled by what He showed me. While I’m sitting feeling sorry about my “issues”, He directed my attention to the choir. I began to look row by row, face by face at those in the choir singing His praise; singing “If I ever needed you Lord it’s now!” As I looked I pulled out my worship folder and found a blank spot and began to make notes about what He showed me. Singing His praise today in choir were: · A woman who not long ago battled breast cancer and the cloud of “what ifs” I’m sure is an ever present companion · A sister who’s sibling is battling severe emotional issues · A father with a daughter that is developmentally disabled · A father with a wayward daughter · A mother who is coping with the very recent tragic death of a son who died well before he should have · A mother and grandmother dealing with having a daughter and grandson as missionaries overseas and the loneliness I’m sure that at times produces · A lady with Lupus · A daughter with unchurched or lost parents · A man legally blind with many other health issues · A police officer that I’m sure must have a heavy heart at times with all the sin and heartache he sees on a regular basis · A husband and father fighting against the break-up of his family · A father with a severely handicapped son · A daughter who recently experienced the death of both parents · A daughter whose aged father was recently in the hospital · A wife who’s heart must ache for her husband as he grieves the death of his brother · A daughter grieving the death of her father (her mother died a few years back) · A lady who has lost much of her vision in one eye at a very early age · A father with a wayward son · A lady who has been battling all sorts of physical ailments · A husband and wife praying for a wayward child Now these were just the people singing in the choir, and as such were likely just a microcosm of the greater church family. My family has had some health issues as well as some struggles in finding God’s place for our lives but the point the Lord showed me is that our family is neither unique nor alone. Lamentations 3:21-24 says, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!” Psalm 33:18 states, “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.” So is your heart heavy today? Are you feeling as though you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Please know that you are not alone! Confess your belief in the Lord’s faithfulness and accept His grace to get you through this day. I have learned afresh and anew what the Apostle Paul said he learned when he prayed three times for the Lord to remove from him that painful thorn in the flesh. The Lord simply replied “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So maybe today you are like me and feeling a bit weak .. that’s a good thing because now HIS strength can be made perfect and revealed through our weakness. By: Tom James What do YOU have to be thankful for that you didn’t even think about before reading this?  How does this new perspective change the way you go about YOUR day?
3

Leadership
On the morning of Valentine’s Day, I usually wake up and thank Jesus for His great love towards me. I’m grateful that He would die to love me so I could live to love Him. John 3:16 says that God so LOVED the world that He gave his Son. I guess that means He was dying to love me. Am I living to love Him??
I was reading Ephesians 4 this morning. The five-fold ministry gifts are for “the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ”. Verse 16 specifically talks about the whole body of Christ fitly joining together until every part works perfectly together and the body increases and edifys itself in LOVE.
In the same way that blood flows through our natural body, it’s LOVE that flows through every part of the body of Christ. It’s the LOVE that makes every joint fit smoothly and perfectly into the other.
I guess LOVE has got everything to do with it!
Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! Make sure to love on Jesus and His body today!
Joey Nicholson, a Worship Leader, Minister, and Recording Artist, is also an Award-Winning Songwriter whose music is impacting people across the U.S. and abroad. Joey leads worship at churches, conferences and youth camps while ministering around the country.
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