Tag Archives: church

The Good of the Church

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:9

David sought the good of Jerusalem because within it was the tabernacle, the place which the presence of God Himself inhabited.

We should seek the good of the Church because God Himself inhabits her. We should seek the good of our communities because the Church – God’s people and the very vessel of His presence – resides in them.

God cares about peace and unity within His church and within our cities. He expects from His children reverence for the Church because it is the body and bride of Christ. It is the instrument of His redemption and authority in the world.

The Church should be a source of gladness for us because it is the gathering of His people for His glory.

For the sake of God, we must seek the peace, unity, prosperity of the Church. For the sake of the church, we should seek the peace and prosperity of our community and the world.

Sometimes, we struggle to respect and love the Church. We forget, because of her many shortcomings – and because of our many shortcomings – that she is the instrument of God’s work, power, glory, authority, and redemption in this world. She is the vessel in which His presence resides.

She belongs to Christ and should be loved and respected as His body and bride.

We resent the church when we are hurt by her. We lose hope for her when she or a part of her (especially her human leadership) fails. We separate her completely from the world, though she exists in it for its good.
I should remember, too, that as a member and leader in the Church, I have a need for all her members to seek the peace, unity, and prosperity of the Church.

Let’s pray this way:

God renew my love for the universal Church and for my church, because Your presence resides in her. Give me a love for my community because Your church resides in her. Give me a love for the world because You love the world and placed Your Church in it for its good.

Imagine if there were no resentment, anger, hatred toward the Church in your heart or mine ever again. Because she is the body of Christ, we’d work tirelessly for her good and the good of the communities and the world in which our churches reside.

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Relevant Worship

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.” (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

God is no longer concerned about the place where you worship because worship is about more than location and prescribed rituals. God seeks worshipers who will worship Him from the heart under the initiation and guidance of the Spirit as informed by Scripture. This is the only real worship.

God seeks worshipers who will genuinely worship Him in a way that is initiated, guided, and empowered by the spirit and informed by His truth, His Word. He is not concerned about worship happening in a particular location. He is not interested in worship that is simply a rote reenactment of prescribed rituals that is not done in spirit and truth. In fact, because God is spirit, there is no other way to worship Him but in spirit and truth.

God seeks worshipers. Therefore, He initiates worship. He has allowed us the honor of worshiping Him.

But many of the things that concern us in worship are not important, not even relevant. What is relevant? The Spirit, His guidance, and the Word of God as it informs our worship. We must focus on these things.

When we forget these things, we go through the motions in our worship. Those of us who are worship leaders are sometimes just trying to get through a Sunday. We get overly concerned about all the details.

But what each of us needs, regardless of our role in corporate worship – whether leader or participant – is to focus our hearts on God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we worship privately, we must begin with a focus on God’s Word and His Spirit. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we are.

It is not in our nature to be this kind of worshiper, but His grace can change our nature.

Father, let us be the kind of worshipers You seek.

Love Covers All Transgressions

Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all transgressions.

Proverbs‬ ‭10‬:‭12‬ NASB

We need love, and we need to give love. God has shown us love, and He has shown us how to love through Christ, His Son. He wants us to love as He has loved us.

God doesn’t want us to stir up strife, but to love one another, forgiving sins, preserving peace. Sadly, though we have seen His love for us through the blood of Christ spilled on the cross, we must be reminded to love rather than hate.

When fellow believers sin, we often look for ways to expose their sins, to bring them to justice. (Now, there comes a time when – if a believer refuses to repent – sins must be exposed in the course of biblical church discipline. We have not reached that point – we’re talking here about beginning this process from a place of love.) Instead, let’s ask God to change our desires. Ask for the desire to love them, forgive their transgressions, and keep peace.

Love. Don’t hate.

Forgive. Don’t condemn.

Visual Worship, Part 3 | Imagery

Lighting and visual media are incredibly useful tools in the hands of the worship leader, producer, and planner.  In part 1 of this blog series, I discussed whether or not these tools are necessary, and in part 2, I wrote about the use of lighting.  Today, I want to talk about the use of imagery in worship – both videos and stills.

For most of us (unless we’re pastoring or leading in larger facilities with a lot of projection capability), this really means presentation backgrounds – the imagery that you show behind song lyrics – with the occasional stand-alone video or still image.

Here are some best practices I’d suggest for backgrounds:

  1. Think about colors. Your service should have a color palette that is established with the use of your stage lighting and graphics. This makes for a visually cohesive whole. Here’s what I don’t mean: everything the same color. Talk about overwhelmingly monotonous! Two to three colors is best – ones that work together well.*  If it looks obnoxious to you, there’s a good chance it will look obnoxious to your congregation.  Learn about color theory if you don’t know it already.  Here’s a great article on the subject by Camron Ware of visualworshiper.com. For sermon series, I’d suggest an ongoing graphical and lighting theme to tie the whole thing together.
  2. Think simple. Stills or motion backgrounds with lots of colors can be garish and can backfire on you if you’re trying to create a cohesive theme.  Too much motion (too fast, too big) can be distracting to say the least.  Simple motion gives the feeling of energy without pulling the congregant away from the lyrics.
  3. Think abstract. With a few exceptions, I generally stay away from recognizable imagery – especially photos or live-action video.  There’s a certain cheese factor to a lot of these type of images, and something easily recognizable can be distracting. Abstract imagery gives a sense of something, a mood, without presenting an object or place to latch on to.  You really only want your congregation to latch onto the words. Close up shots of waving grass, a somewhat blurry sunset through the trees, rippling water – videos like these can be the exceptions because, though they are real things, they are presented in an abstract fashion that makes them better for background use.  A wide shot of a landscape distracts because it’s so easily recognizable.
  4. Think in stages. There are natural phases to your worship service. Use the imagery to help define those stages.** Let’s say the “gathering” (or opening or call to worship) portion of your service consists of an opening song, a welcome, and an opening prayer.  You might use the same background imagery for each of those elements, or at least stay with the same color, then shift to another color or imagery selection with the next stage of the service. Typically in our services, there will be an unbroken string of two to three songs that we will tie together visually in this way.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s helpful to you. Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. I look forward to them!

*Regarding lighting, the folks I’m addressing here are those who have very basic lighting systems. The smaller to mid-size church with a simple setup and one person overseeing the musical and visual parts of the worship ministry. Hopefully, if you have a more elaborate lighting system, you have people who really know what to do with it and can move beyond these simple uses.

*Check out Constance Cherry’s book The Worship Architect for more info on this.

A Little Sad. And Really Happy.

I’m a little sad today.

I left a job at NASA’s Johnson Space Center today for the third time. I started work with the Public Affairs Office Web Team in May of 1999. I left in 2003 to pursue ministry in Florida, and I returned to the web team in 2008. I was laid off last September and returned to a different position at JSC in November.

As I head to my exit interview in a few minutes, I can’t help but think how big a part of my life the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been, how much I’ve learned there, how many great people I’ve gotten to know.

I’m a little sad today. But I’m also incredibly excited.

Monday, the movers come. In a little over a week, Kacy, the girls, and I head to Maryland to begin a new adventure. I’ll be serving as Pastor of Worship and Media at Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury. This is a move orchestrated by God – no one involved in the process has any doubt about that. There are fears, questions, concerns as there always are with a move of this magnitude. (We’re leaving family, friends, and church for an opportunity 1,500 miles away.)

But I’m excited about the challenge and the joy of doing ministry full time, of embarking on the journey God has for me and my family.

I’m a little sad today. But I’m really happy.

To My Magnolia Creek Baptist Church Family

The past five years as part of your fellowship have been a blessing to me, Kacy, and our girls. We will miss you, and we pray that God blesses you greatly as you reach up in worship and prayer, reach in in fellowship, and reach out to impact your community.

It’s been a joy to serve with Brett Dutton, my friend, brother, and pastor. I’ve had a blast leading worship alongside Karen Flachman, Dianne Cook, Mike Daniher, Reid McLelland, Will Shivers, Trice Ham, Steve Shivers, and Thomas Circenis, as well as others who’ve served in the worship ministry like Christian Capdeville and Taylor Lonsford. God has built a great worship ministry at Magnolia Creek due in large part to your service and sacrifice.

We have made so many good friends that I don’t want to try to name them all because I will mess it up. Please know that we love you, and we will miss you. MCBC has been our church home and will continue to be part of us. Think of this: the DNA of Magnolia Creek Baptist Church will help shape the future of Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland. How cool is that?!

God bless you, my church.
Jud

Redeemer

As I read Leviticus 25 this morning, I was reminded that God did not become Redeemer when Jesus died on the cross.  Here we see the redemption of land, slaves, and the poor.  We are reminded of the kinsman redeemer.

We see that, even in the beginnings of His relationship with the newly freed nation of Israel, as He formed a covenant with them at Sinai, God was Redeemer.  He was concerned with the redemption of those who could not redeem themselves, with the freedom of those who were powerless to free themselves.  God had freed His people from Egypt, and it was His intention to keep them free.

It was their own refusal to abide by the covenant that kept the Israelites from being free as God desired.

As followers of Christ – the Church – we are that nation’s successors, in that we are God’s people.  Like Israel, we sometimes stubbornly refuse to obey.  But God’s intention in the death and resurrection of His Son is that we would be free.

He didn’t simply make rules allowing for our physical redemption as He did in Leviticus.  He gave Himself that we would be redeemed effective, spiritually, eternally.  Jesus was and is the ultimate kinsman redeemer, who gave His life that we might be free from sin, free to live lives that glorify Him.

Not only did He give us the opportunity, but He empowers us to be free.  The very Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is in us (Romans 8:11), giving us what we need to live as the people of God.

We are redeemed!