Category Archives: worship

Sharing thoughts and music for Easter and Good Friday from Paul Burkhart

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

\

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

Relationships, strength, encouragement, shared joy, on and on, only come through the smaller, Bible believing Christian church

Another blogger opined that since the millenials (ages from about 18 years old to 30 years old), don’t go to church and use their computers, almost exclusively, for socializing, that we should have “on-line” church.

I’m not opposed to putting worship on-line. We have plans for doing that here at First St Johns. Sure there are people out there who we should be reaching and need to be included in church and, for whatever reason, cannot attend brick and mortar churches. I get it.

The problem is this, how much do you really encourage this growing dependence on using a computer for “fellowship”. A great deal of being in church is to fellowship, is to show support and be a part of something bigger. We already have way too many people who huddle away in some part of their house, all by themselves and genuinely think they have a lot of “friends”, that is the Face Book, Twitter, Snapchat, type friends. Sorry but this is, in no way, shape or form a healthy trend. How do you baptize someone on line? How do they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus? On-line confession and absolution? No, that’s just a phoney way out. How do you really build relationships on line? You don’t!

Being a part of the Body of Christ is being with a group of people who have shared beliefs and shared doctrine in Jesus. Please don’t hand me the lame line that it’s all about “love”, first off, how do you really “love” on-line? Ya, there are those who do. Look me in the face and tell me that’s healthy.

You need that contact with people, we encourage each other, strengthen each other, learn from each other, often help in material ways. Sorry, but I’m not going to jump through hoops for someone who can’t even schlep down to worship on a regular basis, who could otherwise. I’ve had people try it on me. Ya, no! Go to the big-box churches, if you will settle for the illusion of worship and fellowship. Otherwise drag yourself down to First St Johns.

In some ways it’s like saying that it’s the same as being at Fenway Park, being part of the crowd, having it all in front of you, being able to personally booh the Yankees. You can sit at home and listen on the radio, but who you going to fuss at when Papi grounds out in the shift?

But really, being in, sharing with, showing support of worship has always been what is a fundamental part of being a Christian. It’s not just what you benefit from, but often what you do in order to help others. How about the elderly man or woman in the pew in front of you. Quite often, their only genuine human contact is church. To those of you who are children, young man or woman, the 20 something family with the little boy and girl. I really want you to realize that you give real joy and encouragement to others around you who have very little contact with younger people, who often only see people in their own age group. Are you away from your family, but you’d still like your children to have a whole bunch of spiritual grandparents, aunts, uncles? Take ’em to church, your cup will overfloweth.

The person who is going through some kind of crisis and who comes to church to share, maybe he’s led there by the Holy Spirit in order to be in front of you who can readily help. Seriously where is that in the rest of our society?

It’s tough enough being a Christian in today’s world. For the people who are out in the work force and hardly ever encounter a fellow Christian. For the mom at home who often has little adult contact and also, not often with another Christian. Children who need real contact with other kids their age who are Christians. The world is not a friendly place to Christians. Where are you going to get that contact, that encouragement, that strength to carry on? On-line? No! You’re just not and you know it. It’s truly sad to imagine how many people thought they could see the world through their computer and because they had no one else, no other Christian to be there for them that they lost hope in the Holy Spirit which is only truly efficacious when they share with other Christians.They forgot about the promise of Jesus, because the guy who stands with them at the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper, isn’t beside you, because you’re not there.

The writer of Hebrews directs: “ESV Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Bibleworks) Certainly we see “the Day drawing near.” How can you show brotherly love over the computer, really? How can you show Christian hospitality. All the virtues that are being lived out in Christian worship, will simply not be obvious.

I have this posted on First St Johns FB page: “WORSHIP – Rekindles our hope, reenlists us for service, renews our confidence, restores our perspective, restores our joy, releases our anxieties, reconnects us with God.”  I would add that sitting at home, simply reminds us how sad our life has become and not only does not equip us with those benefits, but reminds us how far away we are. That is not going to give us the hope and promise of Jesus, but sink us into further despair and make us feel even more distant from Jesus.

And since I’m riding this hobby horse, I would also like to point out that the opposite is true. You can sit at home and be isolated, and you can also sit in a big crowd and be isolated. Want to talk to the pastor? Yea, good luck with that. These “big box” pastors have more important things to do than make house calls or hospital calls to give you personal attention. Everybody around you, they’re there for the same reason you are, to hide in the open. They’re not interested in you, they’re only interested in what they want. Jesus did the first two plus years of ministry among groups and very much in the public. He didn’t hide away, he was right there in the middle of people. Not some new-age big screen television, talk about “Big Brother”. In a smaller congregation you build those relationships, I’ve only been a pastor for just less than five years. In my first twenty or so years as a Christian I probably have, at least, a half dozen each spiritual mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and pastors that I have had the opportunity to grow in Christian love with. Ya, tell me you’re going to get that at home on the computer or at the “big box”. Find a smaller, vibrant, liturgical, Bible believing, truly Christian church. You want growth, encouragement, strength for the journey, joy, service, confidence, connections, being in God’s presence with serious believers. It’s churches like First St Johns that will provide it. The “millenials” are all hung up on authenticity, being genuine and then hide at home instead of being where it’s at? And that goes for more than just the twenty-somethings. Try really being genuine and authentic. Put the phones and ipads etc away and get with real people. Otherwise, you should just put a cork in it, because you have no clue what genuine authenticity it.

Liturgical worship, music, chanting, does stir the emotions, the right ones.

Once in awhile God blesses me with a “eureka” moment and you, dear reader, are about to share that with me, or well at least I’m about to lay it on you. Groovey, huh baby?

The hit on liturgical music/worship is that there is no depth of emotion, it doesn’t lift the spirit, the emotion.

Ya, well there’s a technical term, that’s “bupkus” or as Charles Dickens wrote, “bah humbug”.

The truth of the matter is that it  most certainly does! The problem is that the past few generations are so superficial, so motivated by “eros” love, that it’s all about me, give me, give me. Liturgical worship is much deeper, it gives to God who gives back to me. Yea, well we want to cut out the middle-man and, as always, gimme, gimme. If we would really shut-up and listen we might realize how much more comforting and strengthening liturgy is, how it reaches down to your soul, because it’s the Holy Spirit who is reaching. We can stay with the shallow/superficial or we can really build that relationship with God the way that man has been doing it, which would date back to at least the time of King David, King Solomon and Solomon’s Temple.

Now, I will concede this. Because liturgical worship is difficult, and for those who lead worship and really don’t get it, they will do a lousy job. Sure there are many young pastors who can do it, but they really don’t get it and after awhile it does seem to be going through the motions. For me, who is much less talented, but who has gotten it and is better able to articulate it, but still no talent, you know what, have a little patience with me and my lack of talent won’t matter. What will matter is the depth of emotion and love that we convey to the Father in the liturgy. If you just go through the motions meaning will not come out and again, there are too many who should do it well, but just don’t get it. Sorry, but seems there are far too many of the following mindsets: “Here I am going through the motions, I don’t really know what I’m doing or how I’m doing it or why and, frankly, don’t really care. Right, wrong or indifferent and, frankly, I don’t even think there’s a “right”.”

Well yea, there is a “right” and let’s talk about it.

I have opined before, that the difference between “happy-clappy” and real worship is the emotional content. God the Holy Spirit has finally helped me to articulate the case for the liturgy much better.

We have become an “eros” society. Everything has to appeal to the superficial, emotional, put on a big show – please me, it’s all about me, feed me, sex me, give me this superficial comfort, love me in this adolescent, it’s all about me, wah, wah!!!

Liturgical worship is about agape love. I give to You (God), I lift You up, I know it’s all about You (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). It’s only through You and because of You that I even exist, no less have any meaning at all. I is all about You, when I acknowledge that and praise You, You make it all about me. You make me something I could never be, Your child! You give me something that I could never get – everlasting eternal life in the resurrection. Real worship is always about completing that connection. Not me just sitting back and just taking, again that adolescent attitude.

Of course another reason we like the “eros”, is because it’s easier. It does just go to our base instincts and we don’t have to work at it. One hit that I’ve taken about being more liturgical is that in some way it’s not pleasing, doesn’t resonate well. Yea, well, get over it. Does everything have to be The Gaither Family? No in fact, that’s just another generation’s superficial “please me-please me” with no more depth of true worship. One of my past pastors, United Methodist, but definitely not of the wishy-washy liberal. If anything much more Father Flannagan. He was a military chaplain in Italy during World War II. The man couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but didn’t matter. If he had to belt it out a little louder to prod us to sing louder, he had no compunction about that and we frankly loved him for it. He was actually kind of a little prickly, nothing prissy sentimental about him, and when he started singing we’d just smile. Not a mocking smile, but a “there’s our pastor and we really do love him.” An attitude of pride, of it really doesn’t matter how we sing, just sing and lift up God in worship. That’s the way it should be done. For those prissy little perfectionists, get over yourselves and focus on worshiping God in the hymn and what the hymn is teaching and don’t worry your self about the quality. You ain’t no Pavarotti either. I have a much bigger problem with the guy who has much more talent and goes through the motions then the guy (me) who has no talent, but truly wants to lift up God in worship. I mean really, doesn’t that make sense? (I’m sitting here listening to Bob Seger and going on about hymns and liturgical worship, go figure. God surely does mix it up on you!)

The impetus that God used for what is going to be awhile longer (strap in) is an article in Christianity Today by Steven R. Guthrie Love the Lord with All your Voice (June 2013 pp 44- 47)

CT is not a high liturgy kind of publication and yet Mr Guthrie uses as the focus of his article Athanasius who lived from 293-376. Definitely not happy-clappy. “In the fourth century, the church father Athanasius articulated a different understanding of singing . It includes self-expression, but Athanasius believed singing is centrally a spiritual discipline – an important practice in Christian spiritual formation and a means of growing in the life of faith.” Now that would be for everyone, the Don Paiges, the Gaithers, Martin Luther, Me. Those who are great to listen to and those who, let’s just say can be challenging to listen to.

“In a letter to his friend Marcellinus, Athanasius enthusiastically commends the Book of Psalms and provides guidance for reading the Psalms devotionally, (B N – We are pretty sure that most, if not all, the Psalms were set to some kind of musical scoring. We don’t know how, but the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches have all taken a run at putting the Psalms to melody and most of these are what we chant during worship.) … The Book of Psalms, however, has a unique place in Christian devotions, somethiat the was true in Athanasius’ time and remained so across centuries of monastic practice and worship. Athanasius suggests that the Psalms are so spiritually significant precisely because they are not simply read or spoken but sung…

Now I am going to quote the article at length, because it is just so right on. So I may be breaking rules and I’m sorry and will happily do what I can to make up for it, but this just has to be repeated.

“…In singing, the truth of the Psalms is drawn into the depths of one’s being rather than out of the depths of one’s being…” [this is in contrast to where music today is drawn to, which is much more on the surface, definitely not the soul. This is the difference between agape and eros. Agape reaches down to give you strength, being, connection that you could never do on your own vs. Eros which is entirely about your superficial appetites, more personal titillation than truly moving your soul.- JD].

What Guthrie talks about next applies to Scripture readings also. When we read Scripture with some genuine human emotion, versus the flat/rote manner most people read it, Scripture does come alive. It gives us a sense of what is really going on in the real world. So much of other beliefs are sort of unreal, pretension, than genuine “this is the human condition” ideas. Christianity can be very mystical, it is very deep, it is right where we live because God the Son, Jesus, did live among us and did experience everything we did. So it is real versus this phoney Eastern stuff or gnosticism, that tries to deny the reality of the world.

“We might ask again why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life but something of its posture, inflection and emotional disposition.”

“When we sing, we learn not simply what to say but how and why to say it. What Athanasius recognizes (and what we might forget) is that inflection, rhythm, and tone of voice matter deeply. They are not aural decoration. For example, after someone offends us we might say, ‘It’s not so much what he said, it’s the way he said it.'”

Chanting is difficult, I keep trying to do better, make it more aesthetically pleasing. But it drives in me the opportunity to express the ideas in a deeper more meaningful way, an expression of the different emotions instead of it being some kind of rote incantation. Because of that, I hope that the hearer hears, the depth of what the writer was expressing 3,000 years ago. That the human condition has not changed a bit since the time of Solomon until now. When we get over ourselves and understand this connection that the church has had going back to the beginning, we can start to live genuine lives instead of this goofy idea that we are somehow so much smarter now than ever before. It’s not true and in some ways it should reassure you that you’re not the first one and won’t be the last. Shut-up and listen, instead of trying to convince us how brilliant you are. If you do, you might find some true comfort and connection to those who have been connected and inspired by God to live their lives in Him. The claim is that the liturgy, chanting has no depth of emotion. That is, as we say in the Greek, baloney. Most chanting is based on the Psalms, mostly written by King David. You do not know anyone who has gone through the range of emotions that David has. Shepherd, then king, great man, great sinner, hunted, hunter. This was a man after God’s own heart. When he loused up, he loused up big-time. But he took it back to God, he took the consequences, he dealt with the rubble, then came back and lived for God. He was a brilliant man, brilliant composer, brilliant king, brilliant soldier, diplomat, builder, on and on. To you guys who think that anything in the Bible is sort of silly and prissy, you need to snap out of it. David is more “man”, than any man I can think of before or since. He truly lived (omitting the really bad stuff), the way men should live. That is why the Psalms are so important, especially to guys.

“Music, Athanasius believes, is a sounding image of a soul that is no longer at odds with itself, nor at odds with itself, nor at odds with the Holy Spirit. Melody models an inner life in which the many different elements and impulses of the person are drawn together in a pleasing chorus.”

“Athanasius goes even further. Not only is this singing of Psalms an image of the well-ordered soul; it is also a means by which God brings about this order. As the Christian goes about ‘beautifully singing praises, he brings rhythm to his soul and leads it, so to speak, from disproportion to proportion.’ This proportioned, harmonized self is not our normal state of being. Apart from Christ, the ordinary state of affairs is for the various members and impulses of our person to jostle for control, battling with one another (Rom 7: 22-23). But when one sings, body, reason, emotion, physical sense and desire come alongside one another, each enlisted together in the praise of God. As we sing, we become a harmony.”

“…Athanasius’ point, however, is that specifically by singing our praises, all the diverse elements our our humanity are drawn together and then together lifted to God in worship.”

“Athanasius portrays the Christian life as a sort of richly broadened harmony, ringing out in praise of God…”

Part of what this means? Quit the non-sense about well you can’t sing, I don’t like hearing that. If you were focused on your singing and what it truly means in respect to the guy next to you and to God, you’d realize it doesn’t matter how good/bad the other person is. What matters is how the Holy Spirit is bringing what you are doing, what he’s doing, what every Christian who is at worship at that moment anywhere in the world is doing, making it a “richly broadened harmony”. Just saying, but I get the feeling you’re going to feel pretty petty in heaven, when you truly understand how the Holy Spirit does bring all that together. And yes that includes my still in much need of improvement chanting.

I am probably not doing Mr Guthrie’s article justice, but I think that I’ve made the point. God has been using liturgical music for at least 3,000 years. It does bring us together, it does reach down to our soul in a sacrificial, it’s all about the other person, it’s all about Jesus way. Can we do it better? Absolutely. But you want genuine emotion and content in your worship? All due respect to the David Crowder Band and all Christian music going back to who knows when, but the eros emotion that music evokes, is OK, believe me, I’ve got all the albums. But when it comes to what is truly from the soul, what reaches back through three millineium, what God uses to tie together Christians around the world, is the liturgy, based on, mostly, Psalms, but also the Gospels. When we truly take this form and truly lift up God in worship and make it all about Him, then He does respond and make it truly about us. In stark contrast to eros, which is all about me and what appeals to my senses and doesn’t go deep enough to impact our soul. Only God does when we truly lift Him up in worship that’s about Him and not about us. And if Athanasius is right and singing is a spiritual discipline, then it doesn’t matter if you do it well or not so well. We worship, we take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we hear the preached word, we’re baptized, we study Scripture, we journal, we confess and absolve, and yes we should sing, in a way that is truly a spiritual discipline and not another worldly indulgence.

When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . .

Posted on | 45 Comments

. . . please consider sharing this post.Children in church 1

Almost every church I’ve ever known has wanted to Attract Young Families.  The reasoning behind this includes the following:

  • If we don’t regenerate, everyone will eventually get old and die.
  • It’s energizing to have young people around.
  • Younger members can do the work that older members can’t/won’t do anymore.
  • Older members tend to be on fixed incomes and younger working members are needed for their pledges.
  • Young families (i.e. mom, dad, and kids) remind us of church when we were (or wish we were) part of young families.

There are a few things wrong with this reasoning, including the fact that “attracting” people in general feels manipulative – as if people are “targets” to be used for our own purposes.  Yuck.

Let’s be honest about the “why.  Are we saying that we want these rare and valuable Young Families for what they can give to us?

What if  – instead – the “why” of this demographic quest was about feeding souls and sharing authentic community?  I always hoped – as a young mom – that church would provide adults that could help me nurture my children.  I always wanted to know that – if my kids couldn’t come to me or HH with a problem – they would have other trustworthy adults to whom they could go (and they did.)

Young families are great.  Old families are great.  Families made up of child-free couples are great.  Families of single people are great.  Imagine if every church simply wanted A Pastor Who Could Bring In Broken People.  Now that’sa church.

Also, the days are gone when Young Families were present in worship every Sunday.  The statistics are in about how the definition of “regular worship” has changed since the 1950s.  (“Regular” used to mean weekly.  Now it means once or twice a month.)

Instead of seeking a Pastor who can bring in those vaunted Young Families, we need to call a Pastor who knows how to shift congregational culture.  The culture in which we live and move and have our being has changed, but we are killing ourselves trying to maintain a dated congregational culture.

News flash:  Most pastors will fail at “Bringing in Young Families.” Families of every kind are drawn to communities that are in touch with real life.  For example, check out Carey Nieuwhof’s recent post about why even committed Christians do not worship as regularly as they did in previous decades.  At least two of his “10 Reasons” specifically impact cultural changes connected to Young Families.

So how can we be the kind of congregation that welcomes Young Families for more than their energy and wallets?  We can:

  1. Be real.  Deal with real issues in sermons, classes, retreats, conversations, prayers.
  2. Listen to parents’ concerns.  Listen to children’s concerns.
  3. Ask how we can pray for them.  And then pray for them.
  4. Allow/encourage messiness.  Noses will run and squirming will ensue.  There might be running.  There will definitely be noise.
  5. Check our personal Stink Eye Quotient.  Do we grimace when a baby cries?  Do we frown when the kids are wearing soccer uniforms?
  6. Refrain from expecting everyone to be the church like we have always been the church.
  7. Help parents, grandparents, and all adults become equipped to minister to children and youth.  How can we learn to offer such loving hospitality to the younger people in our midst that they will always experience church as home?
  8. Do not use children as cute props.  Yes they say the darndest things during children’s stories, but they are not there to entertain us.
  9. Give parents a break.  Really.  Help struggling parents get coats and hats on their kids.  Hold an umbrella.  Assist in wiping spills.
  10. Give parents a break administratively.  Make it easy to participate. Minimize the unnecessary.

It’s also okay not to have Young Families in our congregations depending on the context.  Some neighborhoods have very few young ones living nearby.  But there are still people who crave some Good News.

I want a Pastor who can minister to whomever lives in the neighborhood in the thick of these cruel and beautiful times.

Image is a popular one that shows up in lots of random blog posts.