God's Rhythms of Grace During Constant Change - A Drum Solo For An Offertory (ThinkJump Journal #88 with Kim Gentes)
Music serves as a metaphor for life. This was the thought I had recently as I observed a drum solo being played as worship during an offertory. Let me explain further.The Local Church: The Intersection of Past and Future
One of the interesting things about our local churches is that they are often the intersection point of activities for our lives and faith communities in which history meets the future in the developing narrative of God's work among us. What has happened in the church's past, its traditions, often meets in various ways with what God is doing in the present as the presence of God's kingdom invades the culture and people of today. Forty years ago, you would be thought of as a radical to consider letting guitars into the church's music ensembles. Twenty years ago, while the praise bands had been infiltrating many of America's churches, there was still a cautious attitude about the use of solo instruments and more. Today, it seems hardly abnormal to have stylistic rock/pop music as the sound bed for our musical times of worship.The Local Church: A Backdrop of Constant Change
In 1990, I couldn't have imagined walking into a church where the offering was done to the backdrop of a drum solo, with everyone both enjoying it, considering it praise, and at the same time giving their literal offerings. So, it may not seem at all unusual to you to hear a drum solo for an offertory. But consider, for a moment, how far our musical and liturgical traditions have changed in the short time of just 40 years. This kind of transformation is the tip of the iceberg of various kinds of changes we have seen in churches at every level, not just musical styles. From structure to liturgy to leadership to buildings to attire to speaking to technology to ministries to almost every aspect of community church life- things have changed. I created a historical timeline of some of those changes in this visual graph taken from my recent book "Ultimate Worship Resource Guide".
Yes, the church has been hit with a flood of change in the past 40 years. And things will continue to change. Progress, is ironically, the one thing that will not change its course. And it bears down on the context and culture of the local church just as much as it has on the rest of society.
Because of the vast sweep of change the local church has been enduring, there are times when I think we just need to take a breather once in a while. Sit back, and realize that all this change is tough. Yet, in many ways, it is very worth it. We must follow God's desires and cling to those, while at the same time embracing the people He has died for and allow the backdrop of their sounds and styles not to be deemed "evil" simply because they are not what we grew up with. Hold everything up to the light of God's word and keep the good. Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father.God's Delight At Our Joy
In that light, I wanted to share a spontaneous moment at a local church in Franklin, TN. This was on a recent Sunday morning, during the offering time. As this was happening, I reflected on the changes in church musical styles in the last 40 years and smiled as I sensed God's grace on each style, not as a "holy approval", but as a blessing from a Father who is joyful at all the expressions of love given from His children out of pure hearts.
We know that God's love and grace are at work, reaching towards us. We also know that the tumultuous churning of society has paced our culture into a constant state of a change- an ongoing revolution. God has not left us to be disillusioned and lost. He has called us into his life and to embrace Him, despite our fears. Yes, change is difficult. And the only way we can live through it is to embrace the reality of God's love as the one true anchor for our souls. Out of His love, He will build the values and character that come from a life given way to the rhythms of His grace- a constant ebb and flow that teach us to trust, to hope and to love. And to do so, even when we do not feel much faith, hope and love in our circumstances.
Here, then, is a token of that joy, that rhythm, that hope- in musical form. Enjoy!
Brokenness and Restoration in the Last Century (ThinkJump Journal #87 with Kim Gentes)
Defining and understanding brokenness requires us to first articulate its inverse state- health. In North American culture, it seems a foreign and fantastic fiction to believe in the idea of a healthy person. Modernity with its inhuman, scientific collectivism and post-modernism with its cynical self-loathing have left us lacking a clear understanding of what a "whole person" is. My definition is simply this- a healthy person is one who grows and thrives on a holistic (body, emotions and soul) path which benefits themselves and those around them. There are examples of holistic cultures that produced generations of largely "healthy" individuals in their past or present- several North American native tribes, Amish communities, Japan(1) and some other strongly collectivist societies are clear models of this.
Conversely, a broken person is someone who is disabled from thriving in some sense, not allowing for holistic growth, and / or negatively impacting those around them. Hedonistic late 20th century America, Nazi Germany(2), and the declining Roman empire of the 5th century produced such torrid results as entire classes of slaves (such as the Romans), genocide (such as Nazi Germany) , and even large portions of the population which were personally broken (such as late 20th century US).
Historically, collectivism and individuality have been counter-weights on an ever tepid scale, helping to keep the human race in a complex balance of personal and social health. In languishing times for either scope (societal or personal) survival was made possible through the strength of the other.
When individual vitality in a given culture was under attack, the strength of the collective would protect and eventually re-tip the balance back to the individual over time. The societies of the European monastics were an example of community protecting individuals and core values of our civilization through the dark ages, when individuals had little power, crushed under the weight of barbarism and the later feudal systems. Similarly, the society of AA became a collective conscience and community that proved (and still does) to be an effective cure for millions of individuals who might have thought themselves as hopeless(3). In both cases, constructs of community became vanguards to heal and "save" the individual. These are beautiful examples of the positive power of collectivism.
Conversely, when societal structure and collectivism became a cancer, individual heroes rose up and rallied their contemporaries to a sense of living for the greater good. Iconic historical figures such as Jesus, Joan of Arc, apostle Paul (the first person to write significantly in a historical document about equality between different classes, races and genders), William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King stood up against entire societies to wrench freedom from the collective cultures of their day in hopes of dispersing its benefits to individuals, oppressed and broken as they were. These heroes showed us a new way of living rightly as individuals, even in the face of oppressive societies.
Turning our particular attention to the late 20th century and early 21st century in North America, there is a strain of brokenness that has become all but epidemic. The 20th century began to wobble off it's axis through a series of devastating world events. World war I began the first time modern man engaged in a global conflict, ending millions of lives and shocking a generation. On the immediate heals of that, the Great Depression impaled North America of its optimism and drove economic ruin across the globe. Germany fell prey to Hitler and his promises to bring economic, political and social vitality back to Europe. As we know, this eventually led to World War II and the subsequent generational devastation in terms of both deaths and emotional stunting of hundreds of thousands of war-time survivors. WWII alone had such tragic global deathtolls- 55 million according to D. Myers(4) – that its impact on the emotional health of the generation of children born to those surviving parents was a ten-fold increase of depression(5).
Bringing these three great tragedies into perspective, WWI, the Great Depression and WWII was a triad of death and economic destruction for nearly 30 years (1917-1946). With that foundation of trauma embedded in American society, the impact came first in a devastating flood of divorce. In the time immediately proceeding WWII, the divorce rate quadrupled(6) in the US- a horrific, though sadly understandable aftershock of emotional blunting to the American homeland. Though the divorce rate fell in half from its height in the mid-1940's till it receded in 1960, it "leveled-off" nearly 50% higher than than its pre-WWII values. This same phenomena appeared in microcosm around the WWI era as well- a sharp spike, then somewhat of an easing until it troughed out around 1935, before climbing gradually through the early 40's until WWII began another jump.
But beginning at 1960, we saw a sharp, and long-lasting incline in the divorce rate. Beginning with the 60's sexual revolution, partnered with quickly rising divorce rate the result was the first generation of "broken" families. From that nexus, Myers argues in his book "American Paradox" that a series of unrelenting destruction engulfed US society, leaving it virtually incapable of recovery without serious change.
My belief is that once the core of society (the family unit) was torn apart, the balance between collectivism and individualism was lost in American culture. No longer would the strength of community be counted on to rescue or recover the broken individual. Similarly, with so many individuals effected by the years of traumatic war, depression and now family brokenness, the ability to provide individuals with "prophetic" voice who call a society back to its collectivist strength was severely muted.
Our society has become a breeding ground for illness in both individual brokenness and community wholeness. The symbiotic nature of the two, and their current states of illness, have led to a spiralling collapse of the overall superstructure of morality and common good. Brokenness is pandemic and pervasive at every level.
Is there hope? I think so. Alcoholics Anonymous is a beautiful example of human and spiritual life using the very brokenness of a society and individuals to be the healing agent to others caught in sickness. We have some individual voices of hope as well, though they are faint. Mother Teresa was one such voice. There is hope for America, but it will not come from the strong. It will come, as we have seen, via AA and Mother Teresa, from the very ones who struggle with and work through brokenness. In this vacuum of hope and spirituality, the voice of hope will be one man saying to another "know the Lord".
For many, this will seem odd and even incorrect. But this phrase is taken from the following scripture, which has much to teach us about healing brokenness:
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord,"
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."(7)
This passage is commonly interpreted as requiring man to somehow put God's law in their hearts, wherein we will gain heavenly wisdom, know God (from the least to the greatest) and to which God will forgive sins and wickedness. But this interpretation is deeply flawed. What the scripture promises is that God himself will write His law on our hearts. That is clearly not the state of American culture and people today. If it was, our current epidemic of brokenness would not pervade. Knowing this, we must wait for God to write his law on our hearts. We cannot pretend to do this ourselves.
What must we do in the intervening time? I believe the statement "No longer" provides us with a time-tense in which to understand this verse:
No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord,"
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.(8)
When will it be that we "no longer" need to teach one another or say "know the Lord"? The answer seems clear- when the preceding condition has been met. In other words, when God has written his law on our hearts and in our minds, then we will no longer need to teach one another about the Lord, as though each of us didn't know him.
What AA discovered in the foundational starting point of its tenants was the core truth that men and women are powerless to heal themselves.(9) This bedrock leads to literally every other tenant of the AA program- allowing all the powerlessness of self to be handed over to the power of God. In their proven plan, He becomes the control of all decisions personal and interpersonal – guiding the actions, thoughts and the recovery of the self. But the recovery is not a selfish ascent into human mastery. No, it is a selfless surrender to both God's will and the righting of relationship with others we have harmed. The AA creed is a profound restating of the command Jesus left us with regarding loving God and loving others.
Jesus answered, "The foremost is, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord;
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."
The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these." (10)
We cannot heal the brokenness of the country on our own strength. But we can heed the rediscovery that AA has made, that originates on the words of Jesus. Love God. Love others. As we do this, we will see one person, one community at a time come back to health. This kind of change may take generations to effect a city, decades to effect a region, perhaps a century to impact a nation. But this is the path we can take, must take, if we are to consider seriously acting to bring health to the brokenness that plagues our society.
The challenges we face cannot be tackled by the remedies of the past. As much as AA was a help to the 20th century, we must believe and pursue God's help for our time. By looking at these ungirding truths we can find the essentials of love within Jesus teaching (and the rest of the Bible as well) that can lead us back to the way of living as the image-bearing creation God intended for us.
Researched & Written by Kim Gentes
(1) Myers, David G., The American Paradox:Spiritual Hunger In An Age of Plenty (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000). Page 164.
(2) Ibid, Page 233.
(3) Alcoholics Anonymous (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc, 2001). Page xxiii.
(4) Myers, David G., The American Paradox:Spiritual Hunger In An Age of Plenty (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000). Page 141.
(5) Ibid, Page 137.
(6) Ibid, Page 41.
(7) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Hebrews 8:10-12.
(8) Ibid., Hebrews 8:11
(9) Alcoholics Anonymous (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc, 2001). Page 59.
(10)Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Mark 12:29-31.
I Dream of A Church: That Doesn't Demonize Itself to Serve The World (ThinkJump Journal #86 with Kim Gentes)
The last 20 years has seen an explosion of post-modernity pushing a healthy self-criticism into the pews and leadership of the church. For the most part, I think this has actually been good for us. Not always painless, but in ways, making us revisit who we are, what we are doing, and whether we are still connected to the true origins of Christ's call to this enigmatic organism and organization we call the church. The truth is, this paradigm shift has forced us to re-look at ourselves, to admit some of our brokenness and to ask God for guidance. Even for us to see that brokenness, we must invite Him to reveal these things to us, if we are ever to be put us back together in a proper functioning configuration. We are the puzzle here, not God. We are the ones needing to be refit for the task, not the Maker. To be sure, God isn't confused about the church. But as His stewards on this celestial ball, we have the opportunity to partner with Him (in surrender, no less) to stand still long enough for His work of refitting to be done to and through us.
There are times, though, that I think we allow these criticisms to fly by without offering some reflectory responses that are worthwhile. I recently saw on such comment, that I felt was both well meaning, and thoughtful. The problem I had was, well, like many things- I didn't agree. Now, that doesn't make me right- but it does mean we probably have a topic worth discussing. This quote and my response is not meant to single out someone whom I think is particularly wrong, but a statement that is often (at first glance) widely accepted, and hence often unchallenged -- and in my opinion, leads to longer term problems because it is based on a well-meaning but flawed premise. That said, here we go.
This post was as follows:
I DREAM of a CHURCH that invests more money in local and global humanitarian causes than in staffing and buildings. What do you dream of?1
I dream of a church that doesn't pit these things against one another, but recognizes and cares for both. Like many, I want the local church committed to reaching out as its primary work in the world. But the constancy of doing so requires a long term approach that builds a community into the kind of people who care and act with Christ-like character. There is no defense for extravagant staffs and buildings, like there is no excuse for failing to reach out to your community and the world. But the Christian leadership "critique" that continues to simplify the issue as one or the other shows a lack of attending to the future or the past.
Like the proverbial man on the ledge, the "American" church didn't get to the ledge in an instant. It walked up several stories of stairs, using its privilege and luxury as a means that turned into an end. The blessed stopped being the blessers, and just kept asking for more blessings. However, the way down from the ledge is not to jump, but to walk back down the stairs. When faced with a serious issue, it is the one who decides to live and face living in a new way that is the truly courageous one. To live is courageous. To jump is simply the way out that seems less painful at the time. But few would think it is the wisest or bravest.
History shows us that the greatest help to reach out to the world has come from visions that could expand and be re-engaged through long term dedication not one time sacrificial displays. I tire of people juxtaposing these two things simply to try to win an audience for the latest campaign, crusade, book or cause. Saying things in short, pithy, sentences might make them simple, but it rarely makes them effective. Answers to serious issues are often complex, require long term planning and commitment, and must go beyond the hope of momentary "humanitarian glory".
This does not absolve local churches from ignoring loving the world by seriously engaging Christ's call to love the world He died for. We must do that, without ignoring care for the body of Christ, its gathered local expressions and the leaders that God has called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
The fact that we (by proxy I associate "we" as the broader Christian community who accepts such a posts as the one I am challenging here) are comparing how much money is spent in for church or humanitarian efforts belies a desire to truly find a solution, but instead raises a compartmentalism that always pits agendas as competing rather complimentary towards finding a solution. For 2000 years Jesus words have been a caution against such divisiveness, when he said..
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices‚ mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law‚ justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former" Matthew 23:23
Christ took the Pharisees to task for neglecting the spirit of justice, mercy and faithfulness while still giving. The clear intent of the text was to make sure true mercy happened, while the "duty" of caring for the tithe was not neglected.
We can dream all sorts of things, but the greatest dreams require great thought, which in turn requires faithfulness and planning over generations if necessary. I dream of a church with courage enough to face its challenges and not cannibalise its past, present or future as a way to try to absolve itself of its mistakes, faults or shortcomings. We already have a Savior, and the church needn't try to step in and become one itself, even for its own sins. No one is saying the church is perfect, but we must look at the errors and address them without chopping off the feet to serve the hands.
Are leaders, organizations and buildings needed? Yes they are. As long as we live in a real world with physical needs, we must address the issues in physical, real world contexts. Of course, there must be goal resetting and expunging of the evils of extravagance. Should we be giving and reaching out to those broken, hurting and other real humanitarian needs? Yes, with the joy and message of Christ we should. But let's stop pitting one against the other, when we need to address both and move forward.
Following Christ with you,
1. Trotter, David, (2013) "I DREAM OF A CHURCH...", post on Facebook.com 1 March 2013. http://www.facebook.com/dtrotter/posts/10151477572344419 (1 March 2013).…
Worthwhile to God - Carl Tuttle (ThinkJump Journal #85 with Kim Gentes)
In the last 13 years, I've had the priviledge of becoming friends with Carl Tuttle. I have always appreciated his candor, his experience and his heart. None of us has "done it all", but Carl's experiences have helped me (and a lot of others) understand some truths deeper because he has been through some difficult times and after each of them found himself falling towards Jesus each time. Today, Carl lives in Southern California and attends Southlands church.
In this video, Carl shares some of his story. I am thankful, it has encouraged me in my journey, and I wanted to shared it with you. I hope it encourages you in your journey as well.
Carl Tuttle shares some of his journey and what he has learned.
Carl is one of those guys who becomes your friend and you feel like he's the real deal. I hope you enjoy the video. If you want to get in touch with Carl, you can connect with him at his website at :
Carol's Enchiladas That Saved My Soul - (ThinkJump Journal #84 with Kim Gentes)
One of the favorite teachings I've heard is by Professor Peter Fitch. The sermon is called "Fat Souls". It is a great teaching about how ancient voices from church history can feed us with good things and deepen our relationship with God. You can find Pete's teaching on this in both a book format (Catching God's Heart, Destiny Image 2010) and online at the website of his home church, SCV (audio teaching and PowerPoint). I needed just this type of wildly obscure reference to spirituality and food to bring together a topic near and dear to my heart and stomach. My wife's enchiladas!My wife, Carol, has some truly great dishes that she makes. One of the best is the recipe for her giant enchiladas-- they can literally fill you up on a single serving. They are amazing. They didn't technically "save my soul", but they saved my body from hunger and made my soul happy! Really these are truly amazing. If you cook, or know someone who cooks (and you can convince them to cook you this)- you must try these. For the rest of you, these pictures are provided just to make you jealous!
Monster Delicious Enchiladas Sauce ingredients 1 can Rosarita mild enchilada sauce, 28ozs. 1 can cream of chicken soup 1 can tomato soup 2 tsp. vinegar Filling ingredients 3 lbs. ground beef - lightly browned 4 cups grated cheddar cheese (mild) + extra 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top Tortillas 8 Large Size Mission Flour tortillas Oil Toppings 1/2 a bunch of green onions cut up Sour cream The way it's done Step 1 - Mix and heat the sauce ingredients. Step 2 - For the filling- Cook the meat until browned. Once the meat is cooked, drain the fat, then add the cheese and melt it into the ground beef, mixing it together. This helps the ground beef stick together nicely. Step 3 - Fry tortillas quickly on both sides in a fry pan/skillet on medium heat. Be sure the pan is lightly greased with oil. Step 4 - pre-spray a 10x14 inch glass pan with a non-stick spray, such as Pam. Pour a little of the enchilada sauce mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. Step 5 - For each of the 8 tortillas you have just fried, place a generous helping of the meat filling (ground beef & cheese mixture) on the tortilla. Once the filling is on tortilla, sprinkle with an additional amount of cheddar cheese. Roll, and arrange in glass dish, seam side down. Step 6 - Pour on remaining sauce over the wrapped tortillas, completely covering them. Sprinkle with the additional grated cheese. Then top with green onions. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
OK, now the most important instructions---
Eat it. And enjoy something like this.
If you feel you need one more highly inspirational thought because you are reading my blog, then offer up this nice one from the quote-master himself, Mark Twain--
Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
God bless & happy eatin!
Why Worship Means Nothing (ThinkJump Journal #83 with Kim Gentes)
SECTION 1- Why Worship Means Nothing.
One of my best friends and a wonderful teacher on worship recently posed this quote to the online social media world--
It is a small view of worship that confines it to the space of music and services. No grander term can be found for what it means to be animate, human, and oriented to the meaning behind life. #worship
- Dan Wilt
I love the essence of what Dan is saying here. Our devotional concepts are often confined to the church space, even to the music space during the meeting that happens inside of our church buildings. This is a limiting and God-shrinking idea that places our lives in jeopardy of living far too small for the universe-holding Creator who made us and watches over us. But Dan, and many others, are using the wrong word for the focus of all this reformational activity (trying to redefine terms that are central to Christianity was one of the marks of the reformation). The problem with reusing a word for multiple meanings (that it never originally had or intended) is that it is like taking a picture and trying to reuse it in thousands of different frames. Each time, we shave a little here or there, until the core distinction of the unique definition is lost in the ubiquity of an overwhelming number of definitions- a homograph is born. And a little bit of truth is lost each time.
For a moment, let's roll back the clock 40 years. If you were to ask a linguist, scholar and Bible translator what the word "worship" meant, according to the Biblical usage of it, you would get something akin to "pointed acts and moments of submission, sacrifice and obeisance". But today, the worship word has become almost a euphemism for "everything". This has happened not because the Bible changed, but because we stopped using it as the central text to define the word. And with the popular worship movement of the last 30 years, we have co-opted the "worship" term for almost everything and anything to which that movement was associated. I have done it, others have done, we've all done it. But we were wrong.
This term "worship" has its original roots in the translation that Tyndale made of original Hebrew andGreek (depending on text source) sources that didn't have the connotation of the "everything" that has become the pop-modern definition of worship. As we see it in the scripture, the use of the worship verb (verb only) is reserved for specific punctual acts of submission, reverence, obeisance, surrender and offering. We get no "grand" worship term in the Biblical context, though, there is obviously deep truth in the fact that our lives should be lived in such devotion. For more explanation and detail on how original Greek words are translated into "worship" in the New Testament, see my second section in this article. Those who aren't interested in a word study can feel free to ignore section 2 of this post. It has always bothered me that we went from the "praise" word in the 70's/80's to the "worship" word in the 90's and beyond with no explanation of the scriptural distinctions that translated those terms into the liturgy of our activities in the Christian community. And in the latter case, there is only cultural redefinition that has reformed our use of the word.
Even a favored verse (Rom 12:1) that gives us a poorly translated use of "worship" (though the use of this word is intended as the temple act of service, as Paul is using it in solidifying his allusion to presenting bodies- instead of presenting animal sacrifices- before the altar)-- even that use, is a punctual, pointed act of surrender, sacrifice and offering. Worship in the bible is very rarely (in fact, almost only ever incidentally) about music, but it always about a responsive act by the one who encounters the greatness of God and the default (nearly involuntary) bodily response is falling, bowing, humbling and submitting in absolute surrender. DAN IS RIGHT-- in that our lives should be lived as a wholly devotional and surrendered existence that constantly relates its position in deference to the Creator by every interaction we have with Him and His creation. Dan is ALSO right when he doesn't confine "worship" word and definition to a Sunday morning functionality. In fact, part of my premise is that so doing is another way of incorrectly reforming the meaning of the worship word.
However, using the "worship" word to define that life-style devotion has recast a specific word into an almost useless term. We all (all of us involved in the last 30 years), should have picked a term that meant "life lived in complete devotion, as a broader meta-narrative that we can see exampled in the specific activity of biblical worship". When we overloaded the "worship" term with this new definition we made it mean just about everything, and hence, just about nothing. I LIKE Dan's post because what we do when we limit our devotion (I will use that term, instead) to just the activities of Sunday morning is a sad and ironic redefinition (in our minds, not in reality) of God into a "mini-me". That is tragic. But using the "worship" term to hang that definition onto is unfortunate and misplaced.
That is my opinion.
For those that want to look into more the details about the translation aspect of this particular issue with the "worship" word, I have now appended a more comprehensive explanation to this post. I had preferred not to do this before, assuming that the word studies were a given across most people who would care about the details of such. To help clarify my approach and backdrop, however, I don't want to leave this information to the wild imaginings of those who might disagree (insert a smirk here).
Loving God? Guilty as charged!
Again, those who want the details of the word translations that provide the backdrop to some of the article- those are given below. The original article did not include this, but I wanted to provide it for those who were asking. Ed.--Kim Gentes.SECTION 2- New Testament Greek words that Led to Worship Translations.
There are two words primarily used in the New Testament that are translated into the english word "worship". Their greek transliterations are "proskuneo" (Strongs#4352) and "latreia" (Strongs#2999).
I will explain only the NT context here for brevity, but you find something similar in the Old Testament Hebrew as well, albeit with more words being used and translated into the "worship" verb. Most notably, "shachah", seems to reflect the same sense as proskuneo in the NT - see Strongs #7812 for the full definition and text listings for its occurrence (http://www.studylight.org/lex/heb/hwview.cgi?n=7812). Almost every significant definition and use of the "worship" word in the OT, including the commandments, Abraham's offering of Isaac, uses in much of the Psalms, and extensive uses throughout the prophets. It should be noted that the Hebrew word "segid" is used more thoroughly throughout the book of Daniel, but its use is confined to the context of the demand of Nebuchadnezzar to require the idolatrous worship from his subjects, as well as Daniel and his companions. Secondarily, the OT "abad" seems to be a similar word to the connotation of "latreia" used primarily as "service" in the NT. But, note that whenever "worship" is translated in the context of worshiping YHWH, it is almost always from the "shachah" root. The uses of other words most often (especially in the "segid" case) refer to idolatrous or heathen worship.Proskuneo -- Translations as Worship
The first word, proskuneo, in the New Testament is always translated as "worship". Almost every text you find the New Testament is using that word underneath.
According to Thayer's Greek lexicon the word specifically means,
proskuneoto kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
a. used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank
1. to the Jewish high priests
2. to God
3. to Christ
4. to heavenly beings
5. to demons
This word covers the vast majority of uses of the "worship" that we find in the New Testament. For clarity, I list all of them below.
"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me."
Then Jesus *said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.' "
And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean
While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live."
And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"
But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"
"So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.
And behold, Jesus met them and greeted * them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;
They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling * and bowing before Him.
"Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours."
Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.' "
And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
"Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
Jesus *said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
"You worship what you do not know ; we worship what we know , for salvation is from the Jews.
"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him.
Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast;
'YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA , THE IMAGES WHICH YOU MADE TO WORSHIP. I ALSO WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND BABYLON.'
So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship,
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him.
since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship.
1 Corinthians 14:25
the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP
By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
'Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie --I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.
the twenty-four * elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;
Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.
And the twenty-four * elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,
they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?"
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
Then another angel, a third one followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,
"And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever * receives the mark of his name."
"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED."
So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.
And the twenty-four * elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!"
Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things
But he *said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."
Now let's look at the instances of "latreia" in the NT:
"They will make you outcasts from the synagogue but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering //service// to God.
who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple //service// and the promises,
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual //service of worship//
Now even the first covenant had regulations of //divine worship// and the earthly sanctuary.
Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the //divine worship//
(my uses of the // marks are used for identification because the word isn't translated as "worship" in instances) I have used the translation of NAS to keep it consistent across the quotations here.
Further Thoughts on Latreia and its Worship Word Translations
Greek translation of "latreia" to worship in Romans 12:1, in my opinion, lacks consistency with the use of worship in both the Old Testament (shachah) and New Testament (proskuneo) uses.
This is why both the original translation into English by William Tyndale (the first person to actually employ the term- then, worthscipe- that would eventually morph into "worship") and most of the noted more literal translations do not use Romans 12:1 as a translation into worship. Instead they translate it as "reasonable service" because the context and word provide this to be a better choice.
You can see this in more detailed lexography in the details shown here
Much of my backdrop to this understanding has been helped by John Hubley, ThD, whose book "Running the River of Praise, Wading in Pools of Worship" ( http://amzn.to/Z7MB8S ) explores literally every word and translation of the worship lexicon and helps to sift through the understandings of their uses.
In a separate piece, Hubley summates the Romans passage translation as a misconception, but a misconception that is often used as a pivot point to apply back its singular meaning onto the vast majority of "worship" translated texts in the NT (which I have listed above). Hubley says,
The Greek word translated "reasonable" was logikos meaning "rational." The word rendered "service" was latreia referring to the activities of the priests in taking care of their temple duties. Therefore, "reasonable service" identified the obedient posture of believers as their rational response to the Lord's incredible mercy and grace. To translate "latreia" with "worship" is a very bad rendering. 1
The problem is that this one text is often used as the singular launch point for people defining the "worship" word. Yet the translation is textually more accurate as "service". Let me emphasize- that the idea that life long and powerfully sacrificial surrender of ourselves is a concept I agree with! I am not arguing with Paul here, but agreeing with him. However, Paul used the word "latreia" here, rather than "proskuneo" and it is highly unlikely that he did it unintentionally or ignorantly. In the broad sense, Paul was indeed trying to redefine the "devotional" life and approach of the Christian church (from the Hebrew system of sacrifices and offerings to the new Christian concept of surrendered lives and bodies to God's will through Christ). But Paul didn't call this "worship". He called it our "reasonable service".
The fact that we are trying to force the "prokuneo" (worship) and the "latreia" (service) into our own 21st Century "worship" definition is a modernism that hasn't existed for almost 2000 years. Words matter, and this definition of worship has almost completely been lost to our misuse and not giving care to such things.
1. John Hubley, "Should Feelings Drive Our Devotion To God? Romans 12:1ff.", Mindheart Foundation, May 2003. All rights reserved.…
I'm A Fool For Christ: Who's Fool Are You? - John Wimber (ThinkJump Journal #82 with Kim Gentes)
One of the most encouraging, thoughtful, kind-hearted and humble men I have ever heard is John Wimber. While he wasn't a personal friend, I had the opportunity to talk with him three times and each time I found his insights and demeanor to be unique and impactive. No doubt many of you would have heard of John. He was the leader who grew and led the group of Vineyard churches from just a handful of fellowships in Southern California to several hundred congregations around the world. He also was a pivotal force in the development of modern worship music around the entire world, both as a profound shift in musical style and in lyrical focus (John was never ashamed to admit that he felt Vineyard was called to write "love songs" to God). John was also an international leader whose scope and influence reached far beyond the Vineyard by his teaching and healing ministry. These are things many of you may already know.
But what many do not know is the humble and honest origins in which John first encountered God, encountered the church and began his journey into ministry. This remains one of remarkable poignancy, not just because of its authenticity, but because of its relevancy even to this day. We are always searching for ways to bring the gospel to those around us. John explores, via his testimony, how the trappings of Christian sub-culture and language are strange to the outsider. It remains an insightful, even humorous, testimony of the great love of God and His invitation to call each of us to to be a "fool for Christ".
In my opinion, it is one of the most inspiring testimonies you'll ever hear.
For those interested in a full DVD version of this testimony, you can find it online at Amazon.
Amazon link: http://amzn.to/Y7Qy8Z
Get The Valentine Monkey Off Your Back (ThinkJump Journal #81 with Kim Gentes)
Listen guys. This is just a bit of simple, clear advice. Your wife will be expecting something on Valentine's Day. I know, if you've forgotten and it seems too late now. But it's not. If you planned it out and got her some flowers or chocolates or romantic dinner planned- congrats. Maybe your wife doesn't even like those things and you know specifically what makes her feel like she has been on your mind and in your heart. Awesome.
But if she tells you that she doesn't care and it really doesn't matter to her- don't believe it. The truth is, she might be saying that to let you off the hook. But in fact, she does care. She wants to be remembered on the day that the whole world is shouting about who their special valentine is. Is it "authentic" or "real" if you are giving her something on a day you are "supposed" to? That doesn't matter. That isn't even the real question. The real question is- did you think of her, and express that care and thought in a manifest way?
Some wives love the traditional gifts, others have a specific thing they might hope for that they know you already have been told. Some will drop hints.
The Yearly Plan
Normally, I'd give you some sage advice throughout the year. For example, whenever she tells you something she really likes (especially small things you'd easily forget), use your smart phone and add it to your calendar as a private event on your phone calendar (not the office one that you share). Set the reminder to a month a head of time (Jan 14). Add small items (and big ones) as she mentions them throughout the year. Once January roles around and you are reminded, decide what you can spend and collect the best items off the list that fit your budget. If you can, add something that is your surprise, not from the list. Also, check the items I list below for the Johnny-come-lately-list to see if there are good things there to consider for bigger surprises for your sweetheart. You planners will be less stressed and ready for it. You are set for the day!
The Day Before Plan
But, it's late in the game now, and you have squat. What to do? Here are some last minute suggestions.
1. First, flowers are often unable to be delivered on busy holidays, on just a day advance. Calling your florist the day before is like shooting into the sky and hoping to hit a bird. However, some websites know guys are like this. I found FTD's site to cater to this fact. If you go to http://www.ftd.com/ put in the holiday occasion (Valentine's Day), and the date of delivery (Feb 14). It will display any items that it's florist affiliates can actually deliver the day-of. I mention this because I often here people say that all the florists are out of stock or booked on deliveries. But since FTD draws from all the stores in its network, you can know in a jiffy if there is a chance to have delivery on that day. You can check other sites too, but from one guy to another- don't order something from the boxed flower delivery websites. The reason being- the flowers come looking lame. This may not be terrible, but if you can get fresh flowers that look great when they arrive (and don't require her to do the assembly), I think that looks much better.
2. Chocolates. I know, flowers and chocolates are standard, but like the man said "there's a reason its a cliche". The reason is- they like them. The best bet here is to know what she likes and go to the local See's or Godiva outlet and get her some quality collection of chocolates. The drug store brand might seem like a deal until she opens the box that has been on the shelf for months and its stale and powdery.
3. A truly unique meal. Again, you might think that making a reservation the day before is impossible, but it's often not. Call up Mortons, Ruth's Chris, J. Alexander's, Benihana's, or some great little local place. In Nashville we have a couple of great little places that I think are perfect for Valentines day (one called "The Yellow Porch" and "Caffe Noona"). But you will have to call restaurants to ask about reservations. Do NOT just show up hoping to get a table. Spend time today calling and you will find something. Ask colleagues that eat out a lot and you can probably find something with space that will be nice.
4. Jewelry. This one is the toughest to do mainly because it is all about her taste. There is a good chance that even if you know what she likes, the sizing or color might not be perfect. Don't be afraid, if this is your last option it can be very good. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to get something nice, but you need to have at least been listening to her throughout the year to know the brand, style, color and pieces that she is interested in. There are plenty of stores for jewelry, so I won't guide you there. I would only choose this option if you have a very good idea, maybe even a previous hint from her on a specific piece.
5. A night/weekend away. If you have young kids, this can be tough to pull off the day before. But if kids aren't an issue and you can take her away for a night or two, this is a nice home run. There are, like jewelry stores, a lot of options you can choose from here. Most hotels and resorts will not be having capacity problems for Valentine's Day, so anything you are interested in is likely as quick as a search on Expedia, or your favorite hotel brand website. There are always some packages in the larger hotels and these can be a nice touch. Again, the internet is your friend. Use it!
I used to be a big fan of going to the movie with my sweetheart, and of course, choosing the romantic movie to fit the bill. I still will do this, if she wants to, but generally, the movies are so hit-and-miss you are leaving the fate of your affection in the hands of a Hollywood director. I'd make sure to have things covered on another level and let this be an "and one" to your activities for the day.
The most important thing to remember is this- she wants to know you thought about her, and did something about it. Gifts are the way this is ritualized on Valentine's Day, so don't get all pretentious about it. I hear guys all the time talking about its commercialism and such. Ya. So what? Eating is commercialised too- but you probably aren't missing a lot of meals because other people are charging you for groceries or food. Businesses will always pop up where there is a possibility for revenue. Don't ignore doing something kind for her. There are plenty of other ways to plan and make her feel special. I don't get into home solutions like baths and such. You'll have to check other web sites for more intimate suggestions.
The point is- just do something. If you haven't got a clue, call your sister (if applicable), or even a friend.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Below is a picture of a Valentine's monkey that my wife got me in 2012. It was one of those helium filled balloons. A year later, the thing still has air! It's just a picture to remind you guys to get that Valentine's Day monkey- off your back!
Go get 'em!
Access the "Ultimate Worship Resource Guide" for Free! (ThinkJump Journal #80 with Kim Gentes)
There are TWO ways you can get the "Ultimate Worship Resource Guide" for free. This means literally millions of people have access to read the book for free through their memberships with either of a couple of great sources. By simply being a member of either WorshipTraining.com (a service that thousands of worship leaders, pastors, musicians and pastors subscribe to) or Amazon Prime (a membership service of Amazon that has millions of users) you can download and read the book with no cost.
Here are the details on accessing the book for each of those membership programs.
Source #1: WorshipTraining.com Users get Ultimate Worship Resource Guide free!
Are you a member of WorshipTraining.com? It has quickly become the premier online site for churches around the world to gather training resources, teachings, seminars, courses and expertise in an online community. We are proud to partner with WorshipTraining.com to allow access to their members of our book "Ultimate Worship Resource Guide: Songs & Media Edition". It is available now as a downloadable eBook for members of WorshipTraining.com! Here is what WorshipTraining.com is saying about the book-
Kim Gentes founded one of the largest internet worship resourcing stores in the world (WorshipMusic.com), develops tools that simply work for worship leaders (WorshipTeam.com), and is probably the world's most esteemed industry expert when it comes to reviewing worship resources. This Guide is fair, honest, and laced with the kind of practical insight only a fellow worship ministry leader could have. Kim's broad knowledge of the resources available, excellent research, and careful evaluation make this guide indispensable...Again, full members of WorshipTraining.com can access this complete book for free! Download your own copy of the guide in WorshipTraining.com now!
Source #2: Amazon Prime Users get "Ultimate Worship Resource Guide" free!
The recently released Ultimate Worship Resource Guide has been lauded by worship leaders, teachers and pastors such as Don Moen, Tom Kraeuter, Dan Wilt and others as a "must have" handbook for worship resources for worshiping churches. Here is what Tom Kraeuter, worship leader, author, pastor and conference speaker said about the book:
"...The day I finished reading the book I told the worship leader at our church that he needed to get a copy. I don’t recommend things to him very often. This one, though, is definitely worth it. You probably ought to get one, too… Don’t miss out. This book will save you tons of time and effort!"
Now Ultimate Worship Resource Guide is available for free for all Amazon.com Prime memberships. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can download the book for free right now! NOTE: you must be a Kindle owner to access the free lending library inside of Amazon.com Prime. The Ultimate Worship Resource Guide is inside of the Amazon Prime kindle lending library.
We hope you enjoy the guide!
The Love of Brothers - Conner & Caden Long / 2012 Sports Illustrated Kids Winner (ThinkJump Journal #79 with Kim Gentes)
As a blogger and writer I have never felt it appropriate to appeal to emotion as the primary reason to discuss a topic, highlight an individual or issue. And that hasn't changed. The primary reason I don't do this is that emotions are so often used as the target for manipulating people to get something from them. For that reason, when a story comes up that is highly emotional I ask myself "is this powerful because it manipulates people?" Or is it powerful because of the truth it provides, even though that truth is charged with deep emotion?
Today, I saw a story that was one of those rare stories that speaks a powerful truth. It is emotional, but it is also a life changing truth. If you are like me, and hate emotionally manipulative stories, I understand and agree with you. The story you are about to watch is definitely emotional, but it is not manipulative. It is the story of the kind of love, innocence and true brotherly care that we are all asked to carry for one another.
What else is there to say. Now, go. In the words of Jesus, love your brother as yourself.
Are We Staging Sex-Appeal in Worship? (ThinkJump Journal #78 with Kim Gentes)
As Leonardo DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man" reminds us, for thousands of years society has searched for what they consider the perfect person- the ultimate physical shape and representation of humanity. Do we search for these qualities in our worship leaders as well?
As our churches have adopted more modern styled music and instruments that reflect a semblance of popular culture, we can also see that we are beginning to expect something different of our leaders who stand up on the stages in our local churches. But even while these changes are happening, we rarely talk about them openly.
Should leaders be "attractive"? Should worship leaders be trim? What if they are overweight? As strange as these questions might seem, if we do not talk about them we risk letting our unspoken actions become what guides us for the future. Indeed, it is our actions (and not our words) that ultimately attest to what we truly believe. Some would say that our actions in churches across America show that we are copying the modern music culture by trying to present leaders who look the role of pop musicians/artists. Is this true? Let me start with a couple of stories.
Sunday Morning: Weight and See
Several years ago I was leading worship for a special event. Myself and three other (more well-known) leaders were providing the leadership for a worship conference. During a break in the conference a person came up to me and introduced themselves. In the course of conversation, they said,
...I was glad to see (leader's name) leading at this conference. It's been a while since I've seen them on a stage. They've really put on the pounds! Probably why they aren't as popular these days. It's a shame to see leaders in God's church let themselves go like that...
After the initial shock of their statement left me, I realized that this sentiment was one I'd heard and even felt before. I looked down at my own stomach, and realized the extra 40lbs of weight I'd put on in the last 15 years had probably not endeared me to a "stage" either.
Sometime that same year, I was talking with a well-known and well-travelled worship leader. He spoke candidly about his attention to staying thin and trim, believing that it was important to maintain his credibility as an "on-stage" personality.
Fast forward 6 years. I was at another event in another location across the country. After a good time of corporate worship, several people commented to leader on almost exactly the same two points- what a "great" time of worship it was; and how the person looked "good". Person after person said almost the same precise thing:
"That was a great time of worship. Man, you are looking real good these days."
What struck me about this last example was how many people said the same thing, and how they chose to say those two specific things.
The Big Question: Are Ugly Leaders Allowed On Stage?
The reason I am bringing this up is precisely this- what does worship leadership have to do with how a person looks? If I am overweight, should that be a consideration or qualification of "stage" leadership? Think about this in two ways-
First, what is your philosophical response. In other words, what should be the position we take about how a person looks that gets on a stage. Taken from Biblical, theological, value-based perspective what should be our position on this.
Second, what is your practical response. In other words, what is the pragmatic position that you or church actually do take? Do you ask leaders to stay in shape, thin or look a certain way? Is there spoken or unspoken expectations about what is acceptable on-stage in terms of weight, style and attractiveness?
The Modern Church: No, Not on Stage.
Philosophically, I don't know of too many churches that would say overtly that a worship leader should be disqualified for leading from a "stage" because of their weight or appearance. There are some that argue (and I have heard this often) that leaders should show by example that they are people of moderation and control, and this includes their weight. Of people who say this, I have never heard anyone say the primary concern is the health of the individual leader, but rather it is the image they are portraying that reflects poorly on "God's best".
Practically speaking, modern churches seem to be gravitating more and more towards an emulation of their worship leaders as "music artists". I believe this is because the "worship leaders" as we have known them have become a group that is highlighted by a few successful/popular commercial artists. Those worship-leaders-turned-artists (such as Chris Tomlin, Hillsongs, Jesus Culture, Gateway Church, New Life Church, Paul Baloche, Lincoln Brewster etc) become emulated by the leaders in the huge number of churches that love and appreciate their music. As a practical result of that, it is human nature to emulate those we admire. We see those people who are "successful" as "worship artists" and in churches across America we see worship bands and leaders trying to emulate the look as well as the music and style of their "heroes".
Let me say a few things here.
First, I have worked with literally thousands of churches in the last 15 years through various work related contexts. In that, I've had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of leaders personally. My statements and summarizations that I am giving here is a reflection of those connections, discussions and communities. Certainly, I did not take a scientific poll to come to the characterizations I have come to in this article. But it does reflect a broad number of churches in a varied number of settings.
Second, I know some, and have personally talked to many, of the people who are prominent "worship artists" (such as Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin and others). These are genuine folks who desire to follow God, to equip His church, and see God receive all the glory due to Him. The vast majority personalities that have become successful "worship artists", that I had the opportunity to get to know, are truly worship leaders whose one desire is to see God magnified.
Third, as in almost all things in life, most people learn to do things by imitation. Carpenters, lawyers, police officers, speakers, cooks, writers, engineers and musicians all learn to do their craft well as they see what others do and take the best by imitation, incorporating that into their skill set. We would be silly to think that this would not be the case in worship leadership as well. Mentors and gifted leaders in every facet of life provide us with living "lessons" from which we can learn what practically works and what doesn't. I say this because I do not know of any worship leader who consciously set out to simply copy the image and techniques of a popular "worship artist" with the hopes of duplicating their success by using those attributes.
But what do we actually see in churches?
Today's Worship Leader: Mimicking the Professional Artist.
What one actually encounters in many contemporary churches is a reflection of years of transformation of popular artist image being mimicked by local worship leaders. The results of this show up in very practical terms:Be fit and trim. Wear appropriately cool, but not too dressy clothing (depending on the worship artist being emulated). I've even heard the occasional accent and voice inflections of popular artists being mimicked. Often times there is unspoken desire that if they play all their "cards" right, some day they will make it on a released worship recording, write a song sung by the nations, or become a worship leader in a large church.
Of course, this is usually not said explicitly. But the culture of the local church and pervasiveness of this trend seems to go on almost unquestioned. Some might say "Not fair, you are stereo-typing people". That might be true. But stereotypes appear because of real commonalities. I've heard this and seen this from so many places and people that I've come to believe it is at least as common (if not far more) as the stereo-typed angry church lady playing the same tired hymns on a dusty old organ in the dieing rural church.
And this brings me to a personal confession as well- as a worship leader, I've felt and heard the pressure to follow these kinds of expectations as well. I've asked myself the questions "do I need to lose weight to be on stage" and "am I wearing something appropriately cool enough to lead worship today"? Thankfully, over the years, I've had some encouraging mentors and friends who have reminded me of the important values related to worship and leadership that reoriented me to help answer these questions for my life and in my local church responsibilities.
My question is not about the people who are, in effect, emulating the image of their heroes (with or without knowing it) as a way to envision their own success for the future. My question is about the people (the rest of us) who do not meet those expectations of stage sex-appeal.
What About Joe Normal and Jane Average?
What if you are overweight? What if you aren't attractive? What if you don't dress like a successful/hip/cool musician or artist?
Do we have a place for those people in church leadership? Or has sex-appeal become such an important consideration in our "stage" presence that we need to make sure our "up front" people represent something attractive about our churches?
I realize that I am asking questions that seem rhetorical to some.
Some will outright demand that spiritual and leadership qualities are all that matter- but is this what is truly being practiced in your church?
Others will say that we must show "God's best" and this might mean asking people to hold to certain appearance standards when it comes to weight or even looks- but is this truly about glorifying God, or more about wanting to draw a crowd, and build a church through what marketers call "sex appeal"?
The goal of this article is to get leaders and churches to think about the issue here of "image" of our stage leaders. Are we creating cultures in our local churches that intentionally rely on sex-appeal to attract visitors? If so, is this ok? We must talk about these things with our church staffs. If we do not the unspoken values of pop-culture (in this case, the values of the successful musician/artist) will continue to be duplicated without honest, Biblical and Christ-like thinking helping us to direct our church communities.
Look forward to hearing others thoughts on this...
p.s. be sure to post your thoughts or comments below..
Webinar Video: "How To Stream Your Worship Services Online" by Dan Wilt & Kevin Weimer (ThinkJump Journal #77 with Kim Gentes)
Editors Note: I have received a number of requests from people asking about video streaming of their worship services, and I am so happy that I got permission from these fine folks to include some helpful resources on the details of doing this for your church. Below is a 3-part resource (video, audio and PDF) that should help any church get an idea of how to get started in this area. Thanks Dan & Kevin! - Kim Gentes
How To Stream Your Worship Services Online
With Dan Wilt (WorshipTraining) and Special Guest Kevin Weimer (WorshipStream)
Description: Every church can benefit from streaming their services online. In this webinar we will talk about why churches stream, should it be live or on-demand, one camera versus multiple cameras, and what do you need to get started. There are literally countless options on how to implement a system for streaming, but we will focus on the basics of what you need to know to begin. This is a very practical (non-super-technical) look at how easy it can be to start streaming your services and events online.
THREE (3) RESOURCES: The video, audio and PDF resources that were presented in this webinar are available below in full form below.
Resource 1: Webinar Video
Resource 2 and 3: Audio & PDF Downloads
Free Resource Downloads for "How To Stream Your Worship Services Online"
by Dan Wilt & Kevin Weimer
How To Stream Your Worship Services Online
by Dan Wilt & Kevin Weimer
Listening Audio (Download MP3) Visual Presentation (Download PDF)
Note: To save the PDF or MP3 files
above [Right-Mouse] click the links.
Editors Post-Logue: If you have further questions about streaming your worship or church services online, you can contact Kevin Weimer directly via http://www.worshipstream.com . He is very knowledgeable in this area and will help answer your questions. I have personally used WorshipStream.com services before and highly recommend them. Sincerely, Kim Gentes
Statistically Speaking, Is There a Formula for Good Songwriting? (ThinkJump Journal #76 with Kim Gentes)
I’m a geek! There you go, I said it out loud. I enjoy a wide variety of information and details from history to computer programming, from economics to statistics. And while I know this kind of information doesn’t tickle everyone’s fancy, I’ve learned that hidden inside some of those “geeky details” are some things that songwriters can’t afford to miss.
Over the last several years, I have been working in the world of church music resources with much focus on songs and their use in churches. Having founded WorshipMusic.com and WorshipTeam.com, I’ve had access to many thousands of songs and how they are used, accepted, and adopted into churches. Recently, I decided to see if anything can be learned from gathering statistics on a broad sample of praise and worship songs. I was eager to find if there were any details in the statistical information about songs and lyrics that could give us hints about effective songwriting- specifically in the church/worship context. In my research, I used a baseline of over 6500 published songs including all of the most popular songs used in churches. I studied things such as lyric phrases, writing voice, theme, number of authors and more.
More details of the study will be published later, but I thought it might be good to release some initial thoughts to those of you who are songwriters, since a great deal of “mystique” is often attributed to the craft. This article will focus just on lyrics, since this is a good place to start for lyric writers. The foundation of lyrics is the individual words we use (vocabulary), the kinds of words they are (verb, nouns, adjectives, etc.) and the effectiveness of the words we choose in our songs.
Terse Vocabulary - Focused on Subject
Across 6500 songs in our study, we saw a total of 9,332 different words used. This isn’t extensive, and rates within the scope of what a normal high school graduate might hold as a vocabulary. This tells us, however, that vocabulary development is not happening through worship songs. We are not learning new words (most likely) by listening or singing worship music. I don’t think this is a surprise for anyone. The language of songs in worship and praise has been historically founded on Biblical texts and the language used there (because it was translated) maybe less verbose and articulate in English than if we were writing a new work (say a novel) using the entire breadth of the English language.
Beyond how many words are used I looked at what words are used most often, and what words actually were most effective in being used in songs that were used in churches. First, the most popular words used in those songs (with the number of occurrences):God (2575) heart (2082) life (2053) come (1965) Jesus (1954) praise (1673) name (1618) glory (1561) sing (1546) king (1275) grace (1232)
None of this is likely a surprise, because these words are the common vocabulary of the subject matter (God, hearts, life, Jesus, king, grace). The point is this: the vocabulary of our songs is terse because we have a focused subject matter. This isn’t necessarily bad, as we need certain words to explain our subject (God, Jesus, King, Lord) and those words are very common throughout the Bible, media and our speech.
Effective Words - Vibrant Descriptors and Verbs
But when you take and look at what words are most effective in songs that become popular, the attention moves away from nouns and moves to adverbs, verbs and adjectives. Here is the ranking of the most effective words used across the 6500 songs (effectiveness ranking in parenthesis):mention (155.1) trembles (129.4) rolls (119.3) seat (107.0) motion (103.1) tries (102.9) wretch (98.7) affections (97.3) confident (93.7) stirring (87.3)
What the statistics say is that the uniqueness of these words occurring in popular songs is inordinately disproportionate to the norm. These words are unique in their effectiveness at being included in songs that became popular. What does this mean?
As a writer, I can’t help but notice the vibrancy of this second list of words. Can you see how different this list is from the prior list? Instead of being dull nouns (as the prior list was), many of these words are descriptors or verbs. The main point: effective words are full of action, intensity and emotion.
The Final Word
While statistics can’t teach us how to write a great song, they can teach us what word elements contained in those songs prove to be effective for broad adoption in the church. Is there a formula for great lyrics? Perhaps not. But the statistics show thatTalk the talk- to write an effective song, you can’t avoid using the nouns of our faith matter. We have to talk about God, heart, Jesus, grace and such- if we are to talk about our subject matter accurately. Vibrant descriptors- use language of action, intensity and emotion to help your descriptions come alive to the listeners.
Writing with you!
Kim Gentes is the CEO of WorshipTeam.com in Nashville (http://www.worshipteam.com), and is at the center of both the 21st century church and industry conversations about the future of worship expression - the music that opens us to the God who meets us where we are. As Founder of WORSHIPMUSIC.com (one of the earliest and largest online distributors of worship music in the world), and as a worship leader, songwriter, recording artist and freelance writer, Kim has been a featured speaker and worship leader at events across the US and Canada. He holds a Bachelors of Science in CIS and a Master of Ministry in Classic Christianity. Kim lives in Franklin TN with his wife Carol and their teenage sons, Jared and Cody.
 According to Dr. Sebastian Wren, the average adult may know about 50,000 words- although the reality is most of those are duplicates that can be culled away as “word families” duplicates- such that the real vocabulary may be as small as 17000 or even 5000 words. Source: Wren, Sebastian PhD "Developing Research-Based Resources for the Balanced Reading Teacher" BalancedReading.com, Aug 7, 2003. http://www.balancedreading.com/vocabulary.html (17 Sep 2012).
 Excluded from this list are determiners, conjunctions and pronouns.
 The formula used to determine “effective” is a weighted result of songs that ranked more popular across churches and the particular identifiable attributes of those songs, such as words, themes, authors, etc. Any ranking above 20 is a statistical anomaly and worth considering, since it is beyond the standard deviation of the mean. The words above are extreme statistical outliers.…
Finding The Best Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich! (ThinkJump Journal #75 with Kim Gentes)
There are times when you have to attend to the important things in life. Today is just one of those days! Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Canada to be with family. The occasion was for somber reasons (my step dad was having cancer surgery) and family went to help and support him and my mom during the tough time. Thankfully, the surgery went very well and he was able to come home in about a week after surgery.
Since mom had a bunch of people visiting and a great reason to be thankful, she decided to make a turkey dinner (a-la thanksgiving style). We were all delighted and tried to help out, including helping eat our portion of the wonderful dinner that resulted. While giving thanks was a big part of the evening, the food was great and the next few days we had plenty of wonderful leftovers to enjoy.
One of my favorite things to eat is left over turkey, in the form of dinner roll sandwiches with white meat turkey inside. For me, my traditional sense of eating that simple sandwich is fairly basic- turkey, mustard, pepper and a basic dinner roll. That said, when I mentioned my post-thanksgiving turkey sandwich delights to friends on Facebook, I got officially "chopped" from a few turkey sandwich connoisseurs.
Actually, what I found out was that everyone has their own ideas about great turkey sandwiches. The post thanksgiving tradition seems to have spun off many varied flavors of these tryptophan treats. People began posting their favorite turkey sandwich recipes. I decided to take a walk on the wild-side and made a few of the variations to test their theories.
As you can see from the picture, I decided to test 3 different types of turkey sandwiches. One suggestion was a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce from the turkey dinner. Another suggestion was stuffing and gravy on turkey in a sandwich. I still liked my standard turkey fare and wanted to add it to the list of possible contestants if I was to compare these.
I prepared the three sandwiches slightly differently. All of them included warmed turkey and buttered dinner rolls (unheated). The sandwich with stuffing and gravy also had the stuffing/gravy ingredients heated up. I then took a bite out of each. Guess what? I learned something. Try different things :) .... Here is my final rankings of the sandwich contestants.Stuffing & Gravy Turkey Sandwich- it was hard to admit, but this little sandwich is pretty freaking great. Like a thanksgiving on a bun, it really is delicious. While it's easily the most calories, there is a price to be paid for that luscious taste. Of course, heating things really is what gives it that over the top win for first place. Turkey, Pepper & Mustard Sandwich- My traditional simple turkey and mustard still holds to second place in my taste test. This will vary with your taste of course, but I love it this way. Cranberries and Turkey Sandwich- this one actually tasted better than I thought it would. The coolness of the cranberries is nice and sweet/tart combination of flavors go well with the turkey and bread base. But in the end, for me, it lands at three in this contest.
So what about you? How do you make those post-thanksgiving turkey sandwiches? Post your recipes/stories and tell us what we should try.
And remember, this food tastes best with a lot of thanks and a lot of giving spread liberally across friends and family!
Thankful with you,
Systems Not Made for Love (ThinkJump Journal #74 with Kim Gentes)
Occasionally, I put some short statements out there. They are meant not only to invoke other people to think, but to force me to take stock of what is truly important. This is one of those days.
We live in a broken world, whose systems aren't made for love.
In this statement, I am summarizing a realization, that as I look around, live and work- the kinds of human systems we set up are not normally built to inspire and encourage love towards one another. Business, civics/government, entertainment, commerce, humanitarian groups and even religious organizations all contain systems that seem to drive us away from putting flesh and blood coverings on our care for one another. Even when something is a noble cause, the machinery built around such causes becomes a twisted irony that demands more servitude to the machine than to the people which it is meant to serve.
The state of most organizations often seems to swing towards the painful eroding of our humanity, even in its efforts to achieve efficiency. This is counter to the state in which we find true community which seeks to build love toward one another in our humanity, often at the expense of efficiency in organizational, measured ways. Hence, our thesis- our broken, sin-invaded world offers no systems which are made to foster community and encourage love. God, however, not only had community before creation (the fellowship, love and unity the Father had through Himself with the Son and Spirit before creation), but He calls us with an invitation into community with Himself by calling us His children.
You didn't receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15)
Community it not a system of this world- it came before creation. The community and love of the Trinity is the divine example from which our human lives and relationships take its model. Jesus explores the Triune understanding of community as he prays:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:20-25) [emphasis mine]
Community is a central foundation which God gave to us to bring life, and encourage love. It is out of the grace of community that we see God manifesting the institutes of marriage, family and the local church. To call those systems would be a cold comparison to worldly archetypes that hold no hope for Kingdom reality.
Does this mean that these institutes operate in perfect harmony with God's intentions? Clearly, no. Marriages fail, families are torn apart and local churches can be places of of pain rather than redemption and grace. But this is not God's intention. God's intention is that our marriages, families and churches would be the earthly echos of His heavenly community. Our task is not to try to create new institutes, simply because some of our marriages, families and churches have succumbed to the pain and destruction of our sin-filled world. No.
If we are to be agents of God's grace on earth, we must do so in the vehicles he has called into being in our planet. We must instill our marriages, families and churches with the things that have been squeezed out of them by the systems of this world. Those things are simply- community and love. How can we breathe these sacred elements into our world? We must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us bring that love and community into our situations.
Paul put it this way in talking about how foundational love and community are to our marriages- First, he says "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" and then later "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:21,25). Paul gave us hints on how our families could be strengthened to be places of love and community when he instructed parents and children on how to treat one another by saying (among other things) "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
Finally, the writer of Hebrews compels us to continue in the local church by remaining consistent in our commitment to our gathered family of God:
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-26)
Let's pause for a moment and consider who Paul and the Hebrews write is talking to here. Why would these authors need to warn the early church not to "give up meeting together"? Wasn't this the archtype of Christian community? This was the first century church of whom the following entry is written in the book of Acts:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
It might have been the early church, but it apparently still suffered from the effects of a broken, sin-filled world. We find a church that (much like ours today) can occasionally become a place where people who meet together might hurt one another and might (whether intentional or not) be more of a source of pain than healing from time to time. So Hebrews points us back to activities that would require love as their root- "encouraging one another".
This "encouraging one another" is, of course, an echo of the only new command that Jesus brought to earth in all of His teaching:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
In this breif statement Jesus links love and community- true disciples (followers) will be seen as those who take the love God has given them and bring it to their community. Love one another.
Every relationship, family and organization can have its failures and successes. But at the core of real life you will always find the duo of love and community. The world we live in leans away from these because it is neither efficient nor easy to place love and community ahead of the needs of the organizations in which we contain our efforts. So while this statement is true:
We live in a broken world, whose systems aren't made for love.
But there is hope, and we need not be afraid or despair. We can invoke the grace of God following the life of Jesus, laying down our lives for one another in love. By doing this we are bringing heaven down to earth, through fostering community and loving one another.
Can You Ask For Help? How Pride, Community and Shame Shape Our Thinking (ThinkJump Journal #73 with Kim Gentes)
Times of disorientation are often precipitated by some form of change. And it is change that seems to find us at a point of weakness, one which we hadn't anticipated on being tested. A sense of entitlement comes with past successes and we are surprised by discouraging results, feeling as though it isn't fair to be challenged in our area or moment of vulnerability. I have begun to believe (through the teachings of historical writings from church leaders) that much of our facing of such troubles is, in fact, a holy fire sent from God. Not all times, but even those which are sent from the enemy are ultimately forces which God's watchful eye has allowed to come and challenge us (He works all things together for the good of those who love him).
But you know all of that. Here is my single thought.
Call out to your community.
What I often find of many local churches in US/Canada is that, at its leadership, are some of the most humble and gifted people on planet Earth. I would say, though, that there might be a danger in our attempts to develop a humble ethos in an organization if we mistake North American/European social etiquette as good Christian manners or worse, Christian community. What am I saying? Ask your community for help. No doubt you've done this in some forms, but I'd encourage you to sound the call louder. There can be no possible greater ally to your vision, mission and people than your current community. Those whose lives have been transformed through your love and ministry will be personally interested in seeing the agent of such growth continue to impact others in their family, community and faith.
Perhaps you are not at the point of asking directly. Get to that point. Engage your community. Ask.
I am saying this, and in effect talking to myself. The last 1.5 years I have been personally in a situation which has had me languishing, using up most of my personal resources, and still asking God what is next. Through pride and personality, I have the most difficult time asking anyone for help. I feel personally obliged to pray, but unable to request help from friends and community. God has been teaching me that this is nothing more than self-centered pride mixed with some fear and shame. Gregory the Great, Francis of Assisi, Thomas à Kempis, Teresa of Ávila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others understood that there were layers of truth and disclosure to the human soul and its actions. Their writings expose to us the presumptions we live with and in which we often decieve ourselves from both our real needs and our shadowy pride, which always seeks to hide. But God has been teaching me this- to ask my brother for help is an admission of my engagement, need, and place in a community. Perhaps my reticence to ask reflects my misunderstanding of community, or worse, my rejection of involvement in it.
The point is this- engage your community, ask them for help. Who knows what God has prepared in the heart of a brother, sister or family that is part of the family of your community. Perhaps God has prepared in them a gift of grace for just such a time as this.
There are many other issues and considerations for times when we need help, but I want to leave this with just this one point of asking for help from your community. We often splinter and fragment our efforts across so many areas we neglect simply asking the church family for support. I hope this helps some to reconsider that.
Part of the community of Jesus,
Is Timeliness Next To Godliness? (ThinkJump Journal #72 with Kim Gentes)
Western society has been fascinated with time since complex geared water clocks first appeared in 1st century BC in Athens (primitive water clocks are dated from 4000BC Egypt and older). We've incorporated some of this attention to time into our corporate gatherings as church communities. Some churches handle this with great care and attention, since it is an important part of their culture. Other churches are less concerned with time.
The following very brief 4 questions are just a way to look at how our congregations and leaders approach timeliness in their gatherings. Once you click an answer for the questions (choose your answer and hit submit), be sure to click the link to view the results of the survey once you have answered the questions. Please feel free to comment below, and add to the discussion.
How the Church Has Always Been a Social Network (ThinkJump Journal #71 with Kim Gentes)
In a another article, we included a video post from a Ted talk presentation about social technology and its possible negative effects on the human psychology. In this blog entry, we want to cover a more hopeful look at social networking from the perspective of the church, based on an article we wrote in May, 2011 for Worship Leader Magazine. We hope you find this helpful. K. Gentes
It was Monday morning. Jake Johnson had just started work. Aaron walked by, declaring his customary “good morning” and smile. Only this morning, the smile was gone. Aaron said quickly, “Could you come to my office please Jake.” Jake liked working for Aaron. He was sometimes intense, but never over-demanding and always honest. Jake stepped into Aaron’s office.
Aaron closed the door behind Jake and walked around the desk. Before he sat down he had already started his sentence, “I’m sorry Jake, but we’re going to have to let you go.”
In an instant, Jake’s mind washed with numbness. Somewhere in the background Aaron was talking about sales, financials and corporate cutbacks. But Jake was already moving from numbness to questions and panic. Soon he walked back to his desk, took out his cell phone and called his wife, Kara. Having relocated just 18 months before, Kara’s heart sank as Jake told her the news.
Kara immediately logged on to Facebook and sent a message to her mom in another state. She also sent a text to her friend, Alyssa. Kara’s mom, Sarah, called the rest of the family. Alyssa told the church secretary and an email quickly went out to the prayer group. Over the next 24 hours, friends and family began looking for possible job openings at their places of employment. Over the next weeks, encouragement, prayers and support helped, as Jake would eventually find a job through a contact in their small group. Thank you Lord!
What happened to Jake and Kara is a powerful reminder that community has an important place in our lives. It also shows us how technology can be a tool to help connect to our real social networks for communication and support. When change comes, it is often the community that provides a supportive safety net in our languishing situations. Over the last two thousand years, the church has been God’s family on earth meant to support and encourage one another – a living, breathing example of Christ, as we love one another.
Tweets in the Early Church
From the earliest church found in the book of Acts, social networks of care have been integral to church life, even survival. When we hear the words “social network” today, we often think of it as synonymous with Internet technologies and websites. However, long before LOL, BFF, Twitter or Facebook, Christians were using coded abbreviations, communications and relationships as supportive social networks to help the community of God survive and thrive.
We know that early persecution drove Christians to gather in secrecy in many parts of the ancient Mediterranean world, and for the first four hundred years the tight-knit bonds of faith in the church could mean the difference between life and death. During that time, the use of the word Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ – which literally meant “fish” in Greek) was used as a code word (often times along with a symbol of a fish) to identify Christian tombs, meetings and even Christians themselves. This code word was an acrostic in the Greek language that represented the words “Jesus Christ God’s son Savior.”
But Ichthus (also known as Ixthus and Ichthys) is only a small part of early church social networks. Networks, by definition, are associations comprised of two things: a) members and b) relationships between members. True social networks are simply associations based on human relationships, allowing for interaction and communication. Relationship and community were hallmarks of the early church.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:44-47 (NIV)
For the early church, social networks were formed from the relationships of trust that bound them in faith, gathered them together, prompted them to give sacrificially to one another, and resulted not only in praise for God but attracted the attention of people seeking to live in such a community.
Blogging and the Reformation
Over the centuries, relationships, community and communication continued to be integral components of ever changing social networks among Christians. Long before email and blogging exploded on the Internet, Martin Luther and John Calvin’s voices of reformation were propelled into wide spread conversation by the advent of another technology- the printing press. While early versions of the printing press had been developed around 1440 by Gutenberg, it was the explosive topic of church reform that allowed Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (and other writings) to spread like wildfire on the wings of the new technology. This mechanical movable type made Martin Luther one of the first profoundly impacting “bloggers.”
While social media tools have changed from the printing press to online tools, clearly technology remains a powerful ally for spreading both knowledge and opinion, as we saw recently with the controversial blogging surrounding author Rob Bell’s recent book on heaven and hell, “Love Wins.” Blogs, tweets and Facebook all became part of a global, interactive conversation that expressed opinions from different viewpoints.
Using Social Network Technologies Wisely
Social networks have always been a part of the Christian community. Our networks and communication have relied on the relationships and technologies of the time to bring us together, protect us, and even create controversy and change. Today’s online social networks are simply digital expressions of human patterns of relationship, thought, and interaction. They offer the ability to extend our engagement with one another. But like so many tools, they are amoral- providing neither good nor bad weight to the communication.
The danger of online social networking (as opposed to face-to-face interaction) is that Internet communications provide for anonymity and/or instant electronic distribution, which ultimately allows for relationships in which we have contact without a corresponding accountability. But like the Ichthus and printing press, online tools can also support the best of what social networking has to offer. For Jake and Kara these same social networking systems were important tools that allowed them to connect to the support and love of the Body of Christ. Social networks will always be part of our Christian communities. The social network technologies and our use of them remain helpful tools for us, if we choose to apply them with God’s wisdom.
Use the tools – but remember that human beings were made for direct communication. Tools were made for man; not man for the tools.
Kim Gentes is a worship leader, pastor, writer and technologist. Aside from serving as CTO of a Christian media company, he was the founder of Worshipmusic.com and WorshipTeam.com and is the author of the new book “2011 Ultimate Worship Resource Guide: Songs & Media Edition.” He can be found online at www.kimgentes.com.
[Copyright © 2011 by Worship Leader Media. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]
NOTE: Article originally published in Worship Leader Magazine, May 2011 edition. Please visit http://www.worshipleader.com for more information or to subscribe
Why Do People Do Karaoke? (ThinkJump Journal #70 with Kim Gentes)
OK, time out from the seriousness of the blog for a lighter question on strange human behavior.
This is the question that has plagued humanity since the 70's-
Why Do People Do Karaoke?
Please, help me out, and answer this! Doing so may just save the galaxy from imploding!! Well maybe not, but then again, it is one of the strangest human behaviors brought on with the advent of technology in music.
Check out the poll below. Answer the question and see the current survey results graph. NOTE: YOU CAN VIEW THE SURVEY RESULTS ONCE YOU answer the question.
Thanks all! Have FUN!
Social Technology And Connection (ThinkJump Journal #69 with Kim Gentes)
In 1998 I was asked to present a teaching on technology and media, from a Christian perspective. From 1999 through 2003, I presented that teaching at conferences in the US and Canada. It was nothing ground breaking, but it did scratch the surface of what would later become an increasingly powerful force in our society- the role of technology in our personal lives. One of the key themes that arose from this study was a concern that we do not allow technology to supplant our real relationships for information and connection that has no accountability. I summarized it this way:
Technology and media have increasingly become tools allowing us to communicate without the demands of real relationship. We are in constant danger of allowing ourselves to connect and engage without accountability.
This last week, I discovered an excellent TED talk on this same subject (thanks to Vicki Beeching's great blog!). Sherry Turkle's presentation is a poignant and well thought out consideration of how social technology is redefining the actual psychology of people and changing the otherwise normal development of conversation and self-reflection in the human personality. I found the points and conclusions she arrives at to be very profound. I felt that rather than bringing my points to bear on this, I would rather point to this TED talk, where Turkle does a great job of articulating the salient points.
From the viewpoint of this worship leader, pastor and Christian, I think she is touching some of the questions that our faith communities are meant to address (though, obviously through her perspective as a psychologist). I am not saying this presentation is from a "Christian" perspective (I don't know Turkle's influences or religious beliefs). But I am saying that she is pointing to the heart of what conversation, identity and relationship mean to the human psyche. At one point she even refers to the physical place in which we escape from technology as "sacred space"- very telling!
I don't expect everyone will agree with me in my admiration of Turkle's thesis in this video, but I think she has found wisdom in her study and it is simply a reflection of the wisdom we already see in God's word- that some of our core human needs are companionship, community and conversation.
I encourage you to watch this video and give your thoughts as it relates to your own faith journey, your local communities and expressions of ministry.
The Road Home: Learning from the Prodigal's Journey Back to the Father (ThinkJump Journal #68 with Kim Gentes)
Life is often referred to analogously as a journey. This imagery has held true in great literature from "The Pilgrim's Progress" to "The Road Not Taken" (Poem by Robert Frost) to Psalm 23 ("though I walk through the valley...") and even to Jesus parable of "The Good Samaritan". The path we take in life is a marker of both the choices we will come to, and the history of choices we have made. Among all the great works of art and literature that reflect life's journey on a path, none is as riveting and poignant as Jesus parable we often call "The Prodigal Son".
In the deepest sense, this parable speaks to all people. It is God the Father's call to humanity to return to him. But in a very personal sense, this parable reminds us that the way back from any broken relationship has two primary elements - contrition and humility. Let's read the portion of the parable that deals with the road home for this prodigal.
"That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father. "When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.' "But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' And they began to have a wonderful time. (Luke 15:17-24 - The Message)
Countless teachings have been done on this parable, but I simply want to highlight one element of the process of reconciliation that was squarely within the prodigal son's realm of responsibility. The son had to come to the point of contrition about his own lostness, his own lack, and his offense against both God and others (his father, in this case). On doing that, he also made a conscious decision to consider himself less than he truly was in order to find his way back to his father. This is an obvious reversal of the pride that led him away from home in the first place.
This teaches us two things about reconciling with others.
Contrition - First, if we are not yet ready to admit our own error and wrong relatedness to a relationship, there is little chance of reconciliation. The son saw this and responded with admission and contrition.
Humility - Second, we must be willing to humble ourselves if we hope to actually restore relationship. Contrition will be little more than a verbal apology if it is not followed by humility. Humility is an action that re-engages the possibility of relationship by saying "your friendship is more important than my rights".
Are you wondering how to start the journey to reconciliation with someone? I encourage you to consider reading the parable of the Prodigal Son. Ask God to reveal practical steps for you to take that you see in the parable. I pray that you will find not only revelation and encouragement from the scriptures, but guidance as you look for restoration in relationships. May God grant you his love and wisdom in all your relationships as you endeavor to find your road home.
In the spirit journeying, I have included a video of a scenic drive, accompanied by a musical soundscape that you may find encouraging as you think and pray about your own road home with relationships in your life. I hope you enjoy it. (I encourage you to watch this in "Original" or 1080HD mode, and in full screen- or if you have a triple monitor system to watch it in 3 screen mode- 720p for each screen x 3)
Journeying with you
Father God. Dangerously Near. (ThinkJump Journal #51 with Kim Gentes)
Father God. Dangerously Near.
[This edition of ThinkJump includes an MP3 with audio narration with sound-bed attached to this entry. Click the mp3 below to hear this.]
A psalm of thanks. A prayer to draw near. To my God.
I am watched1 by my Father, God2. No matter where I walk around the earth3, as a son, I am kept under the wings of the great King4. He is friend5 and father to me6. The air shivers with his nearness. His gaze is horizontal, when all things say it should be from above7. He treats me with grace, when I deserve shame8. I have no place to argue with him9, though I would surely ask Him when he will leave, and why he has put up with me. Yet, he contends that I am his10 child. It basks me in light and washes me in joy, when I think of his nearness11. Not just a knowledge of love, but the presence of it12, actually occupying the space near my heart, my mind and my very body. The vulnerability of the flesh of my beating heart, all my emotions wrapped in it, is at the touch of his surgeon hand13. The closeness of my thoughts he presses against his wisdom, inside, near the top of my head, where my thoughts collect to confer with one another14. The hairs on my arms and the twitching muscles surrounding my elbows and shoulders are reacting with minute pressure that comes from his closeness to the physicality of the air around my body extremities15. He is near16. Too near, yet delight is flowing from it being so17. Do not leave, oh God. But do not be so close18. Be near, please19. But heal me as you burn away the dross20. Be, please, comforting as you cut the sickness from my being21. Reveal yourself, and yet, shade me from being slain in the shadow of your holiness22.
Exo 3:16; Psalm 121:5; Micah 5:4; Psalm 91:4; John 15:15; Gal 4:6; Job 16:19-21; James 4:6; Job 13:8; John 1:12; Psalm 16:11; 1 John 4:16; Ezek 11:19; Ecc 2:11-13; Deut. 4:7; Acts 17:27; Psalm 36:8; Luke 5:8; Psalm 84:2; Zech 13:9; Ezek 36:26; Zeph 2:3
"You Are" St. Francis of Assisi ~1224 (ThinkJump Journal #48 with Kim Gentes)
[This edition of ThinkJump includes an MP3 with audio nar…
ThinkJump Journal from Kim Gentes
The blog of Kim Gentes. A place where you will find articles on worship, family, technology, church, music, and art. We promise nothing. But try to never deliver.