Effective Worship

Some “e-mail updates” I just delete.

Then others, I take time to read because I know there’s something special inside.

“Notes from Terry” is one of the ones I read, because in his role as “Team Strategist” for Music and Worship Ministries office of the Florida Baptist Convention, Terry Williams always has some great stuff to share.

One of my favorite things is “A Word on Worship,” a little section at the end where Terry takes a brief passage from a book or teaching on worship from some of today’s best thinkers and practitioners.

This is one that came through the other day (9/19/12).  May the truths found in these words be truly found in our worship.  Enjoy!

-Pastor Phillip

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Elmer Towns from his book PUTTING AN END TO WORSHIP WARS

The effectiveness of worship is not measured by atmosphere, or by how fast the songs are sung, or how deeply we meditate on solitude.  It is not measured by a new Plexiglas pulpit, or using no pulpit at all.  It is not measured by raising hands, by affirming the Apostles’ Creed, or by congregational applause.  It is not measured by responsive readings, or by listening to an expositional sermon based on a proper interpretation of the text.

  • True worship is always measured by the response of the believer’s heart to God.
  • True worship is measured by the transformation of worshipers because they have been in the presence of God.
  • True worship is measured by repentance because worshipers have faced their sins and asked for forgiveness.
  • True worship is measured by new insights about God that deepen their daily walk with God.
  • True worship never allows us to remain the same person we were before we came into the presence of God.

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Special thanks to Terry Williams for sharing originally. E-mail: twilliams@flbaptist.org/em>

Sacred Space

I’m reading the story of Joseph this week and it strikes me how his life was a continuous cycle of ups and downs, ups and downs, ups and downs.

One minute he’s the favored son, the next an exiled slave in a faraway land. He’s up with Potiphar, then down in jail, favored in prison, then forgotten. Sure, God works it all out in the end but it was quite a rocky road to get there.

Sound familiar?

Every week, those of us who serve in worship gatherings have the privilege of ministering to people in all sorts of circumstances. Some are on top of the world, others feel crushed underneath. Some feel loved and accepted, others feel worthless and ignored.  The truth is, all of us come through the doors with distractions and wounds, clutter in our minds and hurts in our hearts, and each week a thousand things will try to pull our attention down and away from the one thing that matters.

So, every week we share in one mission, what I believe is the purpose of the Worship Arts: “to create sacred space for people to encounter God“. No matter what songs we sing, words we speak or ways we serve, we aren’t the ones who can change lives. Our job is to push back as many distractions as we can and help people LOOK UP to encounter the One who CAN change lives, and DOES change lives every day.

We all serve in different ways and for different seasons. Whether you’re on every week or every once in a while, up front on stage or behind the scenes, thanks for being a part of the team.

YOU make a difference.

Looking up with you,
-Pastor Phillip

Life Preservers

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

Why did I get stuck with the stupid-looking life preserver?

I’m out here in the sun, getting sweaty, giving up my time to invest in the lives of our youth from church, and they all get the cool zip-up life jackets while I get the one that looks like a throwaway prop from “Gilligan’s Island”.  Not cool!

Oh yeah, and it chafes, too.

It’s times like these that I have to stop for a moment and do some soul-searching.  I mean seriously, underneath all the fretting and justifications, what is really at the heart of my frustration?

Read moreLife Preservers

Given to You

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38

She was NOT a happy camper.

As I sat at the diner-style counter eating my eggs, it was obvious from her comments that this poor server had gone to clean her last table, only to find the prior patrons had stiffed her.  No gratitude, no thank-you, no tip.  I heard her frustrated queries to fellow servers, “Did you clean off table 17?”, “Did the people say anything?” and shared her sinking feeling as she realized her efforts give her customers an enjoyable meal had amounted to nothing.

I checked my wallet: $13.  I estimated my bill: $8.50ish, plus a couple bucks for MY server.  I knew my timing would have to be perfect, so I waited… waited… and sprang into action with a quick question.

Read moreGiven to You

Sacrifice

“But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for [the field].  I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”– 2 Samuel 24:24a

For the past few weeks I’ve been playing schedule ping-pong with some new friends who want to get my thoughts on some things.  Normally this isn’t an issue, but I have certain preferences when it comes to meeting with people, and they keep pushing back for different arrangements.

Today, as I felt the creeping tendrils of annoyance begin to attach themselves to my soul, I remembered the many examples in Scripture where Jesus shows that serving others really doesn’t count for much if we’re getting the better end of the deal.  It’s the times when we’re inconvenienced, put out, or stand to lose something that serving others reaps the most heavenly rewards.

When it comes to “worship as a lifestyle”, it’s the same thing.

Read moreSacrifice

Worship in Waiting

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.” – Psalm 130:5

In 2001, my grandfather lost his words.

He had been visiting family out of town when he had a stroke, and fortunately they were able to get him proper medical care that saved his life and prevented much long-term damage.  What they weren’t able to prevent, however, was extensive injury to the language centers of his brain.  He had spent his life preaching, teaching and sharing gifted words with thousands, and now the words simply wouldn’t come.

Experts say that in cases like this, the mind is functioning just fine.  The person understands things perfectly, knows exactly what they want to say, but just like an arm that’s fallen asleep simply won’t respond to the brain’s attempts to move it, so it is that people with damaged language centers simply cannot cause their words to come out correctly.

Read moreWorship in Waiting

Chinese Drywall (pt.2)

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

Chinese drywall could be one of the best things that ever happened to us.

That’s probably not something you’d expect to hear from someone who’s being forced to pack his things and find a new home while the place he lives is ripped apart to remove a biohazard that’s likely been compromising his immune system for months, so let me explain.

Read moreChinese Drywall (pt.2)

Chinese Drywall (pt.1)

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

I never thought it would happen to me.

Just the other day, I was thinking and thanking God that out of the dozens of houses in our neighborhood that have been gutted because of Chinese drywall, ours was safe.

“Bummer for them!” I thought, grateful that I wouldn’t have to pack my things, clear them out and wait for months while the place where I live is literally ripped apart to extract the toxic substance so many have been afflicted with.

Then I got the report from my roommate, the homeowner. “They found a few panels and we’ll know in three weeks how bad it is and what happens next.”

I never thought it would happen to me.

I have Chinese drywall.

Now begins the waiting in anticipation of the final report.  How bad is it?  How long until we have to leave so the remediation teams can do their work?  How long will it take, and above all else, how could things have looked so good on the outside but be so toxic on the inside?  Why didn’t we see it coming?

Read moreChinese Drywall (pt.1)

Religion, relationship, service and sin (pt.3)

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27

I learned something interesting about puffins the other day. You know, puffins.  Cute little birds with faces like French mimes.  Apparently, puffins have a gland near the base of their tail that produces a special oil that they coat their feathers with.  This oil helps their feathers stay waterproof and it actually helps them float. Without the oil, the water will soak in and they will simply sink.

Also the other day, I read a beautiful prayer, a prayer of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, chapter 17, Jesus prays to His Father, and in the middle of it, He says these words, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)  Jesus prays that His followers would not be removed from the culture they find themselves in, but that they would be preserved in the midst of it. In a sense, He asks that they would be unstained from the world.

Read moreReligion, relationship, service and sin (pt.3)

Religion, relationship, service and sin (pt.2)

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27

sad_personJames has been called the most practical book in the Bible, and indeed, it is full of great specifics about how to properly live out this relationship we have with God.  If worship is a lifestyle, then James is a how-to-guide for the type of lifestyle God desires for us.  In this context, look at what he says “pure” religion is: “…to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…”

Now, there are a couple of ways to look at this.  The first is to take it at face value, and conclude that if you don’t take time out of your schedule and drive to an orphanage or the home of a woman who has lost her husband, you aren’t doing a very good job of living for God.  There are multiple problems with this.

Read moreReligion, relationship, service and sin (pt.2)

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