Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Set Up Your Office

The What's Best Next blog recently completed a series on how to set up your office to maximize productivity. These posts provide some interesting information. Though I don't think I'll EVER be this organized, these tips can certainly help things run smoother at the office.

A New Look

I finally bit the bullet and adapted a new look for the blog. The old template was very outdated and unable to accommodate the functionality of the new blogger updates. Blog readers shouldn't have any troubles with the change, but do let me know if it causes any problems.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women Are Less Happy

Albert Mohler wrote some interesting reflections here on the latest time magazine feature which focused in particular on the failures of the modern feminist movement. Despite the advances feminism has made in gender equality within academia and the work force, men are now more happy and women less. I don't share this article because I want to start a debate on the interpretation of these results, so please don’t follow this with volatile comments in that regard, but I do want to make one observation.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only force capable of giving true meaning and purpose to humanity. People are quick to blame Christianity for the historic sins of racism, sexism, and all forms of prejudice, but the movements they are criticizing were errant aberrations of true Biblical Christianity. The reality is that Jesus ushered in an understanding of equality that was socially radical in a day where racism and sexism was at a fever pitch. The gospel was and is the grand equalizer, giving value and purpose to people of every race and gender. This is what Paul is referring to in Galatians 3:27-29:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

My point here IS NOT to argue for an egalitarian view of gender. I am a complimentarian and believe the scriptures celebrate the uniqueness of men and women both in the family and the church. The purpose of this post IS to challenge us to recognize that true human dignity requires us to recognize the “imagio dei”, the understanding that we were all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

This image of God was marred by sin (Romans 3:23). This is where the beauty of the gospel is so powerfully understood. The dividing wall of hostility between us and God (and between one another) was abolished by Christ (Ephesians 2:13-15). Our sense of worth and purpose can be strengthened by social and political movements, but it will only be truly fulfilled and fully understood through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is the true and lasting force for equality and happiness.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Participation in Worship

The programming team at Parkview recently developed a list of Biblical values for community worship. We are now taking turns as a team writing weekly devotionals on those areas that we use for our weekly team meetings and rehearsals. Below is the devotional I just wrote for our teams on the issue of participation in worship.

- - -

QUESTION: Why do you think the participation of God’s people in community worship is an important practice within the Christian church?

As we read the Old and New Testament it becomes obvious that our heritage of faith is one that highly values participation in worship. Read through the following segments which examine community worship throughout the historic Biblical narrative.

1. Following the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses and the people broke out in song.
Exodus 15:1-2 - Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
2. In the Psalms (the liturgy book of Israel) the people are encouraged to clap, shout, and sing in praise to God.
Psalm 47:1-2, 6-7 - Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth...Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
3. In the Gospels we see that Jesus finished the passover celebration by singing a song with his disciples.

Matthew 26:30 - And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
4. In the Epistles (letters) we see Paul commanding the early church to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Ephesians 5:18-21 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
5. In the prophetic book of Revelation we get a glimpse at the moments preceding the judgement of Christ when all creation is gathered around God’s throne, worshiping He and the Lamb (Jesus).
Revelation 5:13 - And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
It would be wrong to assume that there are not acceptable individual worship expressions in the Bible like believers baptism, the preaching of the word, and the sharing of testimonies. Despite this, even in these elements we must recognize that they can only be exercised and fully experienced within the context of community.

The following are a few examples of “participation killers” in worship.
  1. When songs are pitched so high that people can’t sing because it’s out of their range.
  2. When too many elements in the service involve people observing and not participating.
  3. When the singers and musicians embellish to the point that they are hard to follow.
  4. When the content of songs or teaching are overly complex or theological to the point that people don’t understand what is being said. (the same problem can happen when songs are too simple and overly repetitive)
  5. When external elements draw attention away from God and community.... like volume that is too soft or loud, intelligent lights that are too active, or people on stage who are too charismatic or stoic.
QUESTION: Can you think of any other “participation killers” that are not listed? Think specifically of “participation killers” in your own area of worship ministry.

Prioritizing participation requires worship planners and leaders to become students of their congregation, not because they are trying to meet felt needs in a consumer sense, but because they want to plan songs and other worship elements that aid people in participation. Often times this means the hip new song won’t be a good fit for our church. Once we recognize the priority of participation in worship, it will make saying no to some things and yes to others a whole lot easier. It will also remind us that, whether we play an instrument or sing, what we are doing must enable and encourage all our people to participate in worship.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Support Site for Our Church Plant

Thanks to the generous volunteerism of Dan Van Oss, our support website for our church plant in Madison is now off the ground. It will be getting some more tweaks over the next few weeks, but it is now functional. Feel free to check it out at

You can also join our fan page on Facebook by searching "The Vine Church". In case you are wondering, the support site is specifically for those who are willing to pray, provide, and participate. The blog on that site will be a source for regular progress reports and prayer requests. We will be having another website dedicated for those within the Madison community that is being designed by a generous friend of Zach's in New Mexico. That site will likely be operational in mid to late November.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Google Wave, The Future?

Google thinks they've created the next "wave" in electronic communication. Pretty crazy the level of integration going on with this thing. Is this the next step from email? Looks pretty convincing.

(HT: Dodson)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Being a Servant Leader

I am presently reading “The Heart of Evangelism” by Jerram Barrs, one of my professors at Covenant Seminary (see link in my “currently reading” tab on my blog). Here is a very stirring quote from the book that is an outstanding exhortation to any leader in the church. Certainly this principle would also apply to leaders in any organization or business.

I regularly tell our seminary students that if I happen to visit the church in which one of them serves, I will not ask first, “Is this man a good preacher?” Rather, first of all I will ask the secretaries, office staff, janitors, and cleaners what it is like to work for this pastor. I will ask, “What kind of man is he? Is he a servant? Is he demanding and harsh, or his he patient, kind, and forbearing as a man in authority?” One of our graduates may preach great sermons, but if he is a pain to work for, then you know he will cause major problems in any congregation. Leaders in the church are required by Scripture to set an example in the areas of love, kindness, gentleness, patience, and forbearance before they are appointed to preach, teach, and rule. If we obediently require these attitudes and character traits of our leaders, what will our “new community” look like?

I pray this quote is a good gut-check for those of you in leadership. This is something we should expect of ourselves and those we appoint to positions of leadership. These qualities give credibility to the messages we preach and help others to see what loving community can and should be like within the community of faith.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Limits of Creativity

Bob Kauflin just posted this video on his blog from the Worship God 09 conference, which I so happened to attend. Here we see he and C.J. Mehaney responding to a question on the role of creativity in worship. Undoubtedly, some in the creative arts ministry world will struggle with some of the sound bytes from this clip. It helps to listen to it all the way through before judging. There are certainly some very helpful nuggets worth taking to heart. It does really concern me how we are tempted to see creativity as an end and not a means to something greater. Undoubtedly, we must be creative, but it must be for the purpose of powerfully communicating a greater message that leads people to both participate in worship (in a congregational sense) and in mission (in a global sense).

If you are reading this on Facebook and can't see the video link, you can go here to view the video.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Driscoll on Nightline

I just got done watching Mark Driscoll, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church and President of the Acts 29 Network, featured in the 10 Commandments series on ABC’s Nightline. I’ve got to say that he and ABC did a fantastic job covering the issue of idols in our culture. Without a doubt idolatry is a central issue in the scriptures. To whom does our allegiance lie? Celebrities or our creator? Self or Jesus?

Here’s some info on tonight's feature segment. When the full video comes available, I’ll be sure to post it. Thanks goes to ABC for doing a great job keeping the story the story!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Adoption Conference

Be sure to check out my buddy Zach's live-blogging of the Together for Adoption conference going on in right now. You can actually watch it live at the conference website and view extra video segments and written summaries at Zach's blog here.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Family Fall Retreat

To all of my Parkview Church peeps, I'll be speaking at the upcoming Family Fall Retreat on October 24-25. We've been to the retreat ever since it started a few years ago. It is always a great time for family togetherness and fun. You can read more about it at Parkview's website. Below is a brief summary:

Join us for Parkview's 3rd Family Fall Retreat, October 24-25. Check out these photosPhotos from last year. This retreat is for families of all ages. We are designing this weekend to be a time where families are strengthened and individuals are challenged. Students whose families are unable to come are strongly encouraged to attend. Only individuals 6th grade and up may attend this retreat without parents. Tribal Games are group games with two families and a few individuals on each team. There will be fun games & competitions throughout the retreat to create unity & to have fun! Enjoy family activities for all ages!