Thursday, February 26, 2009

Church, Inc. Part 3 - Money???

The Bible says "The love of money is the root of all evil." This is often misquoted, somehow making money itself evil, but we know this to be untrue. But I'd be hard-pressed to find a subject so widely varied in it's views than the Church's teaching on money. The issues are confused and sometimes contradicting. This often leaves believers and non-believers alike in a stupor, causing most Christians to decide for themselves what they think is right.

Tithing: Some cling to the practice as God's command for today, others denounce it entirely as a part of the Law that could not be kept. I'm in the middle on this. I think there's a strong enough argument to reason that while we are not "law-bound" to the standard of 10%, it is a fair "guide" for those of us who give consistently. Especially taking into account that there are actually 4 different tithes mentioned in the OT, and they usually ended up being closer to 30% of the faithful Israelite's income, not to mention that most didn't tithe with cash, but instead the fruits of their harvest or occupation (material items). But, I humbly submit to my church's teaching in favor of Tithing as God favors obedience over sacrifice.

Personal Finance: Does God want us to be insanely wealthy? Or would he rather we completely forsake material things for the cause of the Kingdom? Obviously, some unscrupulous preachers have taken the "health and wealth" doctrines over the top and led many astray in the pursuit of material things. However, I'm not sure the Kingdom would benefit if everyone lived like a pauper, but I do believe the Word when God says He will supply all of my needs....

Selling in the Church: This particular issue is full of contradictions, inconsistencies, and misinterpretations. So on one side there are people who would sell the pews and auction off the Holy Ghost if it would make them a buck. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who roundly denounce any type of selling by or for the church, including food, CDs, books, etc. My question to those people is "How did you get your hands on a printed Bible? Oh yeah, you PAID for it. In fact, you probably paid some secular ungodly corporation for it."

So obviously, I didn't write this to provide any solid answers. Someone would just debate them anyway. But I am pleading for us to avoid extremes, and carefully consider the Word of God in it's proper context before we make snap judgments and make irresponsible claims concerning God and HIS money.
elder todd

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Old Time Way

"Ain't no harm done, calling on Jesus...... calling on the name of the Lord."

"There's storm out on the ocean, and it's moving this old way, if your soul's not anchored in Jesus, you will surely drift away"

"What do you want the Lord to say?.......'Well done, good and faithful servant.' That's what I want the Lord to say!"

Sound familiar? Maybe. Maybe not.

Those aren't just verses, they're a way of life. These congregational or testimony songs are identified with the old-fashioned sanctified, holiness, and black pentecostal churches (you pick the label), and for good reason...because those people sang often and boldly of their identity in Christ and their desire to live holy and righteous before the Lord in the most plain spoken, sometimes broken, language possible. In fact, what appears to be a simple, uneducated refrain actually speaks volumes unto the saints and unto God, filled with personal significance and theological meaning.

"I'm a soldier in the army of the Lord" - A Declaration of identity and purpose, as well as personal encouragement to endure and press through the trials of life, both natural and spiritual.

"I'm gonna live so God can use me anywhere..anytime".- Both a vow of commitment and a recognition that there's always need for improvement in our lives.

"My soul loves Jesus" - Deep beyond the exterior, far beyond my faults and shortcomings is soul that continuously cries out for God.

"Something on the inside, working on the outside. Oh what change in my life" - "If any man be in Christ" know the rest.

"Oh Oh Oh Lord, I just wanna thank You" - Need I explain?

Contrary to popular belief, these songs are not obsolete or irrelevant, but they are direct precursors to the more contemporary forms of worship, providing an appropriate response from the believer who both recognizes who God is and all that He has done for them.

Unfortunately, modern observers erroneously perceive that the saints of old had no real concept of what it meant to be sanctified, that those individuals were more concerned with style than substance. I've heard it said: "They think being sanctified is a beat or a shout". Yes, most of those songs were sung with great exuberance and energy, but these distant commentators must have never took the time to actually listen to the lyrics that were sung . Because if they had, it would have been clear to see that those saints knew very well what it meant to be "set apart" and "separated".

So give the saints their due. The clean, polished worship we enjoy today is a direct result of their commitment and dedication to God and their creative use of music to honor Him and edify the Church. Truth is, it would do us good to return to that old hand-clappin', foot stompin', tongue talkin', noisy, shoutin', and hoopin' every so often. Singing those songs that remind us who we are and who we should strive to be.

elder todd

Ephesians 5:19-20
19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Song for The Unsung

I'm not afraid to admit, we had a pretty dry worship service yesterday. It happens from time to time no matter how talented the musicians, how gifted the singers, how uplifting the song lyrics, and how high-powered the sound system. But here's my gripe: Whether the service is "on" or "poppin" (or whatever the kids call it these days) or not, we can still enjoy and appreciate the gifts of those who present to us their gifts and talents in music.

So what if it's not your favorite song, or the Altos are slightly out of tune? (sorry Altos) You can stand up for the choir and clap for the musicians, anyway. We need a little recognition and appreciation more than most of you know. And yes, sometimes it does hurt when it appears that our best effort is boring the daylights out of the congregation. And the argument that says "you shouldn't look for my approval or recognition since your work is unto the Lord" is a weak one at best. It's a poor excuse to avoid Paul's command to "Know ( literally 'honor') those who labor among you". We're there when you get married, when a loved one dies, at revivals, tent services, morning service & evening service, holidays, anniversaries, conferences, and any other events church staffs can dream up.

To be a musician is akin to having the expertise of a professional tradesman and the 24/7 availability of a doctor. It is a craft, a tediously developed skill, and usually an expensive one at that, in both money and time invested. Unfortunately, the musician's trade usually doesn't enjoy the pay scale of our skilled brethren, yet we serve diligently anyway while running the risk of being labeled greedy or carnal when we broach the topic of compensation. Try hiring an electrician, plumber, or carpet layer to service your church building and offer them a "Bless you, my brother" and see how far you get. And by the way, those jobs are just as much unto the Lord (or should be) as playing the organ. So at least humor us with your attention and thank us from time to time for serving in the church.

Some churches, especially those with limited ability to compensate their musician, set aside a service each year to honor their Minister of Music. Guest churches, groups, and other musicians who have enjoyed the Minister's gift over the years are happy to participate, allowing the honoree to sit back and be ministered to. Our church has never done it, but I think it's a great idea and more churches should consider it.

So to all of my fellow minstrels and ministers out there: Thanks for sharing your wonderful gifts, for your commitment and dedication, for putting up with tone deaf singers and off beat clapping, countless complaints, last minute changes, inferior equipment, and people who just plain don't understand your gift. I know what you go through and I appreciate you as only a fellow musician can.

elder todd

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Church, Inc. Pt. 2a "I was glad when they said unto me...."

I think it's time. It's probably been about 50 years since most established churches, denominations, or traditions have taken a good look at how their ministry schedules either enhance or detract from the mission of the Church. Despite our traditions, meetings and service times are actually Biblically inconsequential and should be scheduled and designed with the needs of members and those we want to reach in mind. Perhaps the traditional schedule that our grandparents adhered to is simply not practical today for effective ministry.

We all know the formula: Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, maybe Sunday Evening worship, Tues/Wed. Bible Study, (my COGIC brethren also have Friday service.) and then other meetings/committees/fellowships/rehearsals.

But then there is reality. Society has changed drastically but our schedules have not. Work schedules now vary wildly. Parents are in need of ministry geared toward their children and not just be made to sit through a service they can not comprehend. A younger, business minded generation appreciate hearing the Word, worship, and fellowship just as much as the previous generation, but they demand that time be used wisely and effectively. And honestly, it is a fair request. Unfortunately, the Church is not listening. It's not a matter of caving to the pressure of convenience, but a desire to be effective and relevant in rapidly changing times, which is vital to the success of Kingdom work.

That said, If you could, what changes would make concerning your church's
schedule of services/meetings? Do you think you meet too much, not enough? Do you feel some services/meetings are so similar that they could be consolidated or eliminated?

elder todd

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Not So Deep Thoughts

Ok, I get the impression that some of my posts are kind of long and tedious to read. So here goes with a more concise collection of random thoughts from this past Sunday.
  • I preached a sermon this Sunday entitled "Let the Church Say Amen!" and no, it wasn't a lame attempt to get more people to shout "Amen" during my sermons.
  • I realize that for a young, unskilled preacher such as myself, having an organist back you up is the difference between hoopin' and just plain hollering. (please Lord, send me someone!)
  • Church Mothers somehow have the ability to be encouraging and intimidating at the same time.
  • We love to praise the Lord at my church, Agape Assembly, but we're about 2 good, on-beat tambourine players from being a "sanctified" church.  At least that's what the officials from the NASC (National Association of Sancitified Churches) tells me. But I've got a mother in law that can beat a tambourine for three people, so maybe we can work out a deal.......
Happy Monday!!!

elder todd

Monday, February 2, 2009

Missions Music

Missions is the calling to take the Gospel to the world, especially those least exposed to Christianity. It doesn't have to necessarily be overseas, as there are increasing numbers of people even in America who have had no personal exposure to the Gospel.

But how often do you hear songs expressing a desire to grow one's relationship with God for the purpose of developing a more sincere heart for missions and ministry to strangers? These songs perfectly describe such a sentiment and beautifully at that.

"Deeper" by Israel & New Breed (Album: A Deeper Level)
My Favorite Line: "break my heart of the things that break your heart"

"Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath (Album: n/a)
My Favorite Line (the whole chorus):

"Give me Your eyes for just one second, give me Your eyes so I can see. Everything that I keep missing, give me Your love for humanity. Give me Your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me You eyes so I can see."

"Lord Jesus Help Me (Help Somebody Else)" by Commissioned (the Reunion album with the original members)
My Favorite Line: "if you love somebody, it'll bring a smile"

Those are just 3 of my favorites. Feel free to add your own.

elder todd

Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)

19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Church, Inc. Pt. 2 "Says Who?"

Part 2 furthers the discussion on the incorporation of the church by simply asking "Says who?". So many things have become like religious dogma to us, when really, they're just tradition. Good and helpful traditions? Many times, yes, but nothing more. This perspective is vital to the natural growth of the church and assurance that are faith does not become sterile by clinging more familiar cultural relics than the freedom worship so plainly expressed by the Apostle Paul.

In fact, the New Testament is quite silent on the specifics of how worship is to be conducted as opposed to the detailed accounts of God's commands for Temple worship found in the Old Testament. As is to be expected, many elements of Temple worship have been incorporated, (at least in principle) that helps us to connect to our Jewish ancestors as children of God. But outside of the core principles of Christian worship which according to the word may include:

  • The Word preached or taught, songs of worship sung unto God,

  • Fellowship with believers,

  • The giving of gifts in support of the ministry and its efforts to care for the poor and widowed,

  • An atmosphere encouragement and uplifting fostered through testimony and praise.
Besides this there are no specifics given, yet there are a deluge of societal "rules" and expectations we've come to embrace as much, or unfortunately, more than scriptural commands concerning worship.

So let's take a look at some of these:

"Believers worship in buildings complete with padded pews, religious symbols, and fancy furniture." Says Who?

"Church starts at 11:00 am, preceded by Sunday School, and oh yeah, we're supposed to throw some type of mid-week service or Bible Study in there somewhere" Says Who?

"Sunday worship must include Praise & worship, a choir/ensemble selection, a sermon, altar call, and offering." Says Who?

"A church ( organizationally) consists of various boards, committees, fellowships, and other groups" Says Who?

.....And there are countless others. (feel free to add your own in the "comments" section)

I'm an admitted traditionalist, but I have often wondered what effects good or bad, would come of severely altering any or most of these norms?

What if Sunday was devoted solely to worship and a whole other day was reserved for the teaching/preaching of the word? Is there a need for 2 teaching ministries a week? (Sunday School & Bible Study). Do we REALLY need a choir and worship team? Why can't anyone offer a song during worship?

My answer to these questions and others is: Why Not? I believe the Bible allows for a much wider range of sincere expressions of worship than what we currently limit ourselves to.

Just keep in mind John 4:23-24

elder todd