It has been an interesting two months since I left pastoring. During the last few weeks I have not preached, taught, spoken, or otherwise engaged in anything close to ministry with the exception of taking a shut-in to the grocery store and visiting a few sick people in the hospital and nursing homes. I must say, it has been an interesting time. I am working through various emotions such as hurt, anger, disappointment, and bewilderment. I am not one to hold a grudge but I do get angry from time to time. I find that prayer helps a lot when I am angry and I pray best when I am busy at mundane tasks such as mowing the grass. I have the best lawn in Buffalo Creek! I have also learned that the value of friendship is priceless. Even the Bildad, Elephad, and Zophar type of friends have their value.
During this time my family has had the opportunity to visit several churches in our area. I have enjoyed this time of refreshing and it is always interesting to see how others engage in worship. I have enjoyed some great preaching and some wonderful music. I have also watched a lot of churches and great messages on YouTube. Here are some things that I have observed:
- Music can be great no matter what style. I have seen large church choirs and small worship teams over the last few weeks. When it is done well, the style is of little consequence and more of a matter of personal taste.
- Music ministers and preachers should always try to “get over themselves.” We did not come to see/hear you but the message from God that you have been working on all week.
- Humor is a great aid to worship. Worship is by its very nature emotional and intellectual. Laughter reflects emotions and when music and message engage at this level, not only is it fun, it can be very healthy.
- Music ministers should limit their speaking to relevant information about the song. Don’t try to preach and keep it on point. Tell the background of Amazing Grace or It is Well if that helps, but remember that it needs to be brief. Saying nothing at all is always safe.
- Endless guitar strumming at the beginning of a song is not good. Unless you can finger-pick a guitar like Glen Campbell, limit yourself to no more than 3 chords to introduce your song.
- Sing Jesus music. By that, I mean music that reflects the name, message, majesty, or personhood of Jesus. Don’t be afraid to use the name “Jesus” either. Avoid the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs as they tend to be kind of creepy.
- Preachers – I have heard some great messages over the past few weeks. Remember that your words minister to a broad spectrum of people and all of us have issues, problems, challenges, and hurts. We are to be salt and light but don’t rub salt in the wounds!
- As we enter our worship experience, don’t worship “worship.” This is sort of hard to explain other than reminding us that when we worship anyone other than God, we are worshiping an idol.
- Preachers – Don’t preach safe messages. Galatians 1:10 reminds us that we are to seek the approval of God and not men.
- There are some churches out there who think they are way too cool. Pastors who wear skinny jeans and muscle shirts and platform shoes look ridiculous. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
- There are some churches where “anything goes.” They constantly remind us not to judge. If you find yourself in a church that approves of that which the Bible clearly condemns, run away! Be that sins of homosexuality, living together before marriage, or gossip!
- Beware of the personality cult. When a church website has more information about the preacher and his latest book, DVD, conference, Holy Land trip, or vacation slides, it makes you wonder who they are trying make famous; Jesus or the preacher.
- Church leaders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and giftedness. An extrovert and an introvert can both point people to the cross.
- Beware of the salt losing its flavor. When a church becomes more involved in Social Justice causes, Heath and Wealth, Left-wing and Right-wing politics in place of the true gospel, it has lost its purpose and has become another gospel.
Worship is more than music. I often hear a preacher talk of a “worship leader.” The preacher is a worship leader as well. Every aspect of the time spent with God’s people should be a spiritual act of worship; from the singing, the praying, the reading of scripture, the preaching, the giving, the commitment, and even the fellowship afterwards. It is all part of the worship experience and it is bigger than one person, except for the Lord Jesus.