worship, as i see it

i have often told people that for me "worship" is "taking me from the streets, to the face of God." in worship, i desire to get closer to God and feel God moving in my life. but as any good worship leader will tell you, and any good pastor will back up, there is no way anyone can do that for you, but you. worship starts with us, and our desire to go before God.

this morning at 247connection i was speaking about "what it means to worship?" part of the core of the discussion was based on the hebrew word "giyl" [gheel] which means both "to rejoice" and to "tremble in fear" [the other part was based on the hebrew word "shabach" [shaw-bakh] which means praise and be still]. how cool is that? the same word for rejoice also means tremble. but in the church we are very happy to explore the idea of "rejoice," but hey, let's be honest, "tremble in fear" is not a good marketing stance to sell to prospective followers. we have turned worship into a "worship experience" with really cool music, cool teachings [if i do say so myself], great programs and short catchy lines designed to "grab the person and get your message across." think about it, it is easy to "sell" a God with "happy, happy, joy, joy" then it is with "work out your salvation in fear and trembling." the key is to find the balance. i believe only looking at the "rejoicing" leads us to some very "bad theology" for worship [as looking at only fear and trembling will lead to bad theology]. i love the fact that both concepts are in one word.

here are a few i think are the most hurtful - and if you can think of more, please add them to in the comments:

the "i have am not being fed" worship line.
i love this one. i have often wondered how we as christians can come into a worship service, sit in the worship service and then demand to be served. what it is saying,in my mind, is "i am the most important thing in a worship experience and i must feel like i am getting something out of the experience for it to be valid" - but that is very bad theology. the reason? simply, when we worship we are to suppose to be going to God; God is the direct result of worship. the idea of "feed me" says, "i come first, God comes second." worship is not to "feed you" worship is to bring glory to God. to think "we must be fed" implies that God is not "feeding us" - because worship has nothing to do with the music, the lesson, the programs - but it has everything to do with our attitude towards worship and our desire to reach the face of God.

the "this persons actions are stopping me from worshiping" worship line.
i have heard people blame the worship leader, the pastor, children, old people, young people, poor people, black people, asian people, hispanic people and even the person sitting next to them for a "bad worship experience." but that is also bad theology - when we are in worship, the only thing that stops us from connecting to God is us and our hard heart - we are the only person to blame for not opening up to the expression of worship. it is ridiculous for us to blame another person for our heart not being open to God; but it is our culture. in our culture it is easier to blame another then to admit our faults. to even suggest that anything but our lives, our work, our baggage block us from worship is placing the "blame" on another person - but for worship to truly effect us we need to be open and ready to stand before God - we need to rid ourselves of all the garbage and baggage of life and simply open up to God.

i am certain there are more, but these two are the ones that pop into my head - if you know more, please share with us - we can use all the voices we can get :)


when does a conversation end?

at what point does a conversation breakdown? does it happen when the first insult is voiced? does it happen when one person twists what the other person says to meet a personal agenda? does it happen when one side simply refuses to even hear what the other has to say? does it happen when one person calls into question the honor of the other? at what point can we say, "this conversation is over” because we know it is going no place? which leads us to the idea that if you leave the conversation and the other person is still talking [or insulting] does that mean the conversation is still happening? if one person leaves a conversation, does that make the other person “the winner?” does there have to be a winner in a conversation? at what point does a conversation become a monolog?

i ask this, because this week i had two such experiences. both very much the same, and yet both very different. now, i will not give names because, as most know, "who" is never as important as "what" - so “who” did it, matters far less then “what” was done - so let me share the "whats” of this week.

the "what" one: a message board.
i was asked to join a message board and share my thoughts on the emerging church. to be honest, i was not overly excited about the idea but the offer was made in good faith - so i did. it was great, at first, but it soon turned into a very nasty mess - and i headed for the high country. you see, i was asked a question and i gave the answer i believed was “neither right of wrong” but was my opinion on the matter - but it seemed that was not good enough. [let me rephrase that; it was not that the answer was not “good enough” it was that the answer was not one they desired]. some, and not all, wanted me to paint myself into a corner and give a "yes or no" answer to a question i felt i had already answered. now, i tried to explain that i was unable to answer the question as they desired, and requested that my original answer stand. but, they insisted - and got rather insulting when i stuck to my answer. i was asked the same question about 30 times [no kidding] and each time i answered the same way, and they kept asking me to change my answer. finally, i left the board. not because i felt "trapped" but because if no one listens to you, i think the conversation is over.

conversations require that both sides listen; one side cannot do all the talking. for a conversation to take place, give and take must be part of the process. there does not have to be agreement on the answer, but there must be agreement on the ability to answer as one desires, with honesty and integrity.

the "what" two: an email.
i received an email a few weeks ago from a friend letting me know that there was a college professor attacking a church planter in his area. the only reason the professor was picking on the person [this was the only reason brought to my attention and the professor only mentioned it in five questions he had emailed me] was because the professor did not like the planter ordination, and he had concerns on how the planter “received his education.” which was interesting to me because the professor teaches at a small baptist college - baptists have historically ordain people who believe God is calling to ministry, and seldom, if ever, has an education requirement been attached to the ordination. this person [and it was not the planter, but a concerned member of the community who knew me and knew I would be a peaceful neutral party] asked if i would "play the middle guy" and see if i could address the issue of ordination between the professor and the planter. needless to say, my emails to the professor have fallen upon deaf ears - while in my conversations with the planter have gone in a very different direction.

the professor, for what ever reason he has, has taken to want a fight with me. i am uncomfortable with any conversation based on anger and hurtfilled speech between members of God’s kingdom. i have decided that i do not need to "fight" others in the kingdom to prove my points - i just need to say what i believe God is leading me to say and let others think as they desire. the idea of debating does not make my life tingle. i would much rather have a discussion, where two [or more] people gather and simply talk about their differences. not to change minds, but to understand points of view.

to many people desire to "debate" because it gives them some kind of "kinky power jollies." some, actually think themselves important enough that others must follow their lead. i hope and pray i never get there. i pray i never get to the point where i believe my words are the “final say on the matter.” but i think this comes because people are more willing to go to “pastor perfect” for a view, but are unable to read scripture and develop a view of their own. to many people are willing to quote the words of others, and not quote the words of jesus.

just my view:
over this past year i have found that many people desire to "take us down" as if we are some kind of collective conspiracy out to destroy the church. they desire “open discussions” but quickly turn them to debates and when we say “we do not want to play” they claim victory because “we gave up.” i have a hurting heart for those kinds of people. because in that, in that “we are the victors” they lose the redemptive power of christ; they miss the open expression of grace and the idea that we live in the spirit of God.

i believe we need to reach past those who desire to cause trouble and simply walk away; it is not that we have ended the conversation, the conversation ended when confrontation became a key part of a voice. i am very willing to walk away from any debates formed around politics, hate, control, hurt, personal agendas or anything that does not belong to God. i believe a conversation ends when we no longer seek redemption in our ideas; when grace is not the guiding factor; when ones thinks their ideas are better then another persons ideas – it happens when we put ourselves in the place of christ.



what moves you to befriend a person? what moves you to not be a persons friend? what makes you take the first step in getting to know someone? looks? color? style? ethnic background? gender? what moves you to friendship? if you walked into a crowded party and it was filled with people you did not know, what would drive you to seek friends? what would make you move to one grouping and not another? what would you be looking for in that group that said "this is a group i can be friends with?"

i think we are naturally attracted to people that look like us, or act like us, or even think like us. as of late i have been watching some very interesting people interact with others, and i am wondering what they were thinking, or if they were thinking. let me share with you a few examples.

the first group of evangelists:
recently, we have had several groups of "visitors" visit us on friday nights; they seem to think we are not doing it "the right way" [which simply means we are not doing it their way]. these people are from a local "house church." there are four of them, three guys and one girl, all in their mid to late 20's, maybe older. during one of their visits, i said to a gathering of teens sitting on one of the couches, "they are back" [in my best jack nicholson impression, which is not very good] and one of the teens looked at me and said, "they won't bug me, i'm black." i smiled and said, "no way" and the teens simply said, "they only talk to the white kids, watch." as he walked out the door, he stood directly in front of one of the visiting evangelists; he was so right, and it came across like a sharp knife. as this teen stood before them, they would look past him and speak to the kids around him, but not to him. not only did i notice, but so did the teens - and they were not impressed. as they were speaking with the teens in front of the building, i noticed that they did not speak with the black teens, the asian teens, or the hispanic teens. they simply spent time talking with "the white teens." now, i will admit there is not an abundance of black, asian, or hispanic teens hanging around, but we do have a fair number. what makes us talk to one group and not another? what makes us talk to one teen and not the other? who do you invite into your house?

the second group of evangelists:
this group is the funny group, but funny in a nice way, they are our "missionary baptist group." they stand across the street and shout to the teens that they will all fry in hell because they are wearing black, color their hair, have earrings, and listen to rock music. teens being teens, will sometimes walk across the street to talk with them, and it is amazing how these grown men will act. one teen was sharing with me his experience with the men and i could not believe my ears. you see, the teen is a firm believer, this teen knows more scripture then peter and paul combined. in fact, i would say he knows fundamentalist/evangelical doctrine better then most preachers in that walk of faith. he does not have a piercing on him, but he does dye his hair and he does wear black. in principle this kid believes the guys acorss the street are right and they are doing God's work. one day, he and a friend went across the street. now the friend is an atheist, but he looks like the team captian of the football team. when they got across the street, the teen who looked "different" was condemned and the other was praised - what? what makes us accept one person over another? what causes us to think that one person thinks like we do? more so, are we ever right?

i remember once serving in a church [as a student pastor in seminary] where one of the leaders came to me and said that he and his wife were thinking of leaving the church, because we were attracting a "wrong crowd." i was not sure what he meant, but he explained that many of the new families that were coming to the church were not of the same "quality" as the founding families, or the families that "give the most money to the church." it was "suggested" that i discourage "those" people from coming to church. needless to say, i was not the popular man on campus that year. who doe we seek to be friends with? do we have friends that are different then we are? can we break walls and openly accept people for who they are?

i think we must. i believe we must welcome all people, regardless. when we start "selecting" people we think "worthy" we are not doing God's will, we are doing our own will. it is the nature of our humanity, when we sit down and decide who we will "target" they always look like us, think like us, dress like us, have our politics, have our incomes, and have our vision of what the kingdom of God looks like [an most of the time it is a gated community].

think of it like this, onesimus [the name means "useful"] was a slave to philemon [the name means "one who loves"]; for all intents and purposes onesimus was under philemon, and philemon could do what ever he desired to do with onesimus. onesimus stole from philemon and ran into the arms of paul, and soon became a values christian brother. to see it today, think of onesimus as the guy who cuts your lawn, or cleans your streets, or washed your car, or bags your groceries, or is your maid; they may not speak the same language, and they may not have a "green card" that says "welcome to this country" but they are our brothers and sisters in christ. you see, paul adds a very interesting twist to the relationship - paul calls onesimus philemon's brother. they are equals; paul even says that he values oneimus as much as philemon. this idea of being equal in christ is echoed in jame's letter [2:1-13] and speaks clear of who is seen as "high" and "low."

given this, given the fact that we are to befriend all people, accept all people, love all people, welcome all people we will still find reasons not to, and that hurts. given that God desire us to treat all people the same, we will find reasons not to, and there is pain in that action. we think we know what God desires, but do we? if we did, we would treat all people as an equal, regardless of where they were born. in the early church all followers were seen as equals, brothers and sisters in christ. today, we see class, we see color, we see ethnic background - but we should see christ; we should see friends. so, what makes a friend a friend? what can you do to extend friendship to others? when you have a gathering of friends over the house, what does that look like?



Not to long ago there was a song called “Where have all the cowboys gone?” Now, exclusive of all the Broke Back Mountain jokes that instantly came to mind when you read the word “cowboy,” the idea of the song is that there are “no more good men” around. Recently a very similar question was asked, “Where have all the martyrs gone?” While I have been taking the point that in the USAmerican culture the idea of what many understand as “martyr” cannot be seen as “giving of our lives for our faith” because of the religious freedom we have in the country. Yet, there is a very honest question that asks, “is martyr what we think it is?”

The idea had been expressed that because we are a “consumer church” the idea of being a martyr is lost to us – but I am not sure I agree with that, for many reasons. Sure, I believe that we need to be far less on our consumer nature in the church, but that truly has no effect on our desire to “die for our faith” [if that is what it means to be a martyr]. A person telling me “I am willing to die for my faith” truly has no meaning, because they know that the chances are they will never be asked to give their life for their faith. I think of it like calling Superman a “Hero.” Superman is not a hero; he can never be a hero, because he knows walking into a hail of bullets will not harm him, so by doing so does not make him a hero.

People telling me they are willing to give their life for their faith seems silly; recently I was speaking with the Pastor of a local church who was talking about having a "foot washing" service at their church, but he had to change to a "hand washing" because when people heard what was being planned, they voiced their concern did not feel comfortable washing the feet of others; they had no problem with washing their own hands - yet, this church, and it’s leaders, talks about being a "church willing to wash the feet of others.” If a church is unwilling to wash the feet of others, do you truly think they are willing to die for the faith?

The idea of a “martyr” in the USAmerican church just will not work; to have a martyr in the church we need to change some very fundamentals in USAmerica. I see it as having two possibilities, the “Islamic Approach” or the “China Approach.”

The Islamic Approach:
To truly have a idea of a “martyr” we need remove some very basic things; freedom of religion must be taken away. The State needs to approve one religion, and not Christianity, as an “official religion” of the State and force all people to follow the State Religion. The new “State approved ‘Clerics’” of that new “State Religion” faith must be given a loud voice to speak against other faiths, and cause their followers to take action. Once that action happens, we will see who is and is not willing to “die for the faith” – at that point in time we, in the USAmerica, will have martyrs.

The China Approach:
The State must make all faith illegal and go out and stop gatherings, of all churches, and kill the leadership and followers. This way, no faith is selected over another and people are killed for having any faith. Who would step-up to the plate and claim to be a Christian? Who would be willing to “die for the faith?”

The USAmerican Approach:
In a country where religion freedom is allowed, and expression is encouraged, the idea of a martyr is not one people get. Very few people die in USAmerica because of their faith. In the USAmerican culture, a martyr is the street preacher who is asked to move on because he is blocking the sidewalk; a martyr is a person is told they can not stand in the city square and pass out tracks to the passing people; a martyr is a teen who is told he can not form a “Bible Club” in his High School; a martyr is the church who is told they can not us a city park for a worship service on Sunday because of the “separation of church and state;” a martyr is the person who is shouted down as they strive to express a view of faith that is different then those shouting. We have had to lessen the idea of what it is to be a martyr because our culture allows a free expression of faith.

So what is a Martyr?
It seems silly to speak of “what is a martyr” at the end of a post about being a martyr, but the reason is simple – the word “martyr” does not mean what many think it means. The Greek word is “Martus” and is more in line with being “a witness” then the idea of being a “martyr.” For example, here are a few scripture that use the term “martus” and could not, in any way mean a person who “died for the faith:”

1 Timothy 5:19 - Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. [martus]

1 Timothy 6:12 - Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. [martus]

Luke 11:48 - "So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. [martus]

Lu 24:48 - "You are witnesses of these things. [martus]

The questions that come are many, but I think the first is the question – have we misunderstood what it means to be a martyr?



over at the porpoise diving life bill has posted the interview with me, and with some others - i think you will find them very interesting.

Charlie Wear
John O'Keefe
Rob McAlpine
Mike Brantley
Alan Hartung


props out to our buds

something very cool, we made the national council of churches "2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches" and they cite two of the 21st century trends: blogging and the Emergent Church:

wfn.org | 2006 YEARBOOK SIDEBAR: the church and blogs: "Scores of EC proponents are using blogs to advance these ideas and stimulate dialogue. Lindner says it is not possible to generalize them into a predictable demographic class, but she offers examples of prominent EC bloggers: John O'Keefe, founder of www.ginkworld.net, 'an emerging/postmodern site exploring what it means to be a follower of Jesus in today's world;' Spencer Burke, former pastor, founder of http://theooze.com Web site, 'dedicated to the emerging Church culture;' Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill Church (www.marshillchurch.org) in Seattle; Mark Pearson, founder of www.cityside.org.nz in Au[c]kland, New Zealand; and Karen Ward, founder and pastor of the Church of the Apostles, www.apostlechurch.org, in Seattle."
besides us, you can see our good bud spencer over at the ooze got props [thanks for the call to let me know about this spencer], so did our bud karen over at the church of the apostle [i love what she is doing in the kingdom] and so did our bud mark at mars hill [abrasive at times, but a great guy]. also, mark over at city side got props, i don't know him but look forward to doing so.

yes AND no; but never maybe

can something be both a yes AND a no? if something is both a yes AND no, does that make it a maybe? can something be both a yes AND a no, and not be a maybe?

i have been wondering a lot lately about the possibility of things being a yes AND a no, but never a maybe - let me see if this process out right; here goes:

rev 3:16 - "so, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." - that seems pretty solid on the maybe thing, and if we see "hot and cold" as "yes and no" then i think we have a answer - we can be yes AND no, but never maybe.

this is in process, but it is the seed of thought - feed back is welcome :)