the baby and the bathwater


Blogging Off
December 2, 2009, 6:36 pm
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I have decided to stop blogging for a season.

Not because I don’t enjoy it, or find the blogging world beneficial, but because I want to focus my efforts on other things. I am writing a book with a friend at the moment, and want to avoid being distracted from that. Also I am trying to slim down some of the ‘stuff’ I do.

I may be back next year….



Very Funny
November 28, 2009, 11:40 am
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I don’t claim the intellectual rights to this…but it is very funny.



Self Promotion
November 21, 2009, 6:51 pm
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My friend and co-worship leader Dave Gate has written an interesting article on self-promotion. You can read it here.

But rather than clutter up his blog – yet again – with my rants, here is my response.

Kingdom life works on the twin foundations of faith and action. We give ourselves to prayer and worship and spiritual disciplines, and we give ourselves to applying our intellect, physical and emotional strengths to working out God’s call on our lives: loving God with all our hearts, souls, mind and strength.

I am struck by some charity organisations who champion the needs to the poor or marginalised. They will put effort into political aspects, practical aspects, operational aspects of their organisation to raise money, activate projects and initiate change. And in all of these, their accounts are closely audited and published and they are accountable to boards of directors, and they don’t ever make profit. Churches tend to operate in a similar fashion. OK, so some churches and leaders screw up badly, but essentially, no one intends to get really rich. Any marketing, advertising or promotion essentially only benefits the people the organisation is set up to help.

Worship leaders, especially those who’s main governance comes from a record company, is in a very different place. Success in album sales and the number of people singing their songs has a direct financial impact – both the record company and the worship leader benefit. So the legitimate reason for promoting songs – that people and churches will be blessed by them – is indistinguishable from the commercial impact – making more money – at least from those looking in from the outside.

So a worship leader – if they so wished to do so – can pursue financial gain from worship whilst hiding behind an intention to bless the church. A cynical view maybe, but it’s easily done, or perceived to be done.

Let’s be honest about the amounts potentially involved too. CCLI say that they have some 236,000 licenses worldwide. If the average license was for £250 (my guess…don’t know if it is accurate), then the total royalty income they administer is £60m.

Every year.

That doesn’t include royalties earned from cd sales.

I am not a major player in all of this. But I am the worship leader from one of the UK’s largest churches, and I have some national profile, and I have written a few songs that are sung around the place. But my share of this is under 0.000025%. So my conclusion is that some of the big international players must be getting a huge chunk of the £60m.

Every year.

And some songs can remain at the top of the CCLI charts for many, many years. Far longer than any legitimate claim from the songwriter that they are getting money ‘in return for the time they spent writing the song’. Not sure that ‘a fair wage for a fair days work’ stands up eventually.

So whilst so much money is on offer, and whilst there is a confusion of legitimate aims and purely financial ones, there will always be a black cloud hanging over any worship promotion – self or otherwise.



Would the real me please step forward
November 12, 2009, 1:07 pm
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In Christian leadership and ministry, there is often a huge amount of pressure to be someone you are not.

At various times we are told we should be more intellectual, more adventurous, more sensitive, more of a dreamer, more of a thinker, more of a pioneer, more of an athlete, more of a barbarian, more easy-going….the list goes on.

Then we are told we need to be part of a Joshua Generation, a Joseph Generation, a David Generation, a Paul Generation….and so the comparisons go on. Introverts are told they should be more extrovert…thinkers are told they should be more feeling….at the end of which we all collapse in a heap of mis-understood identity.

You know the sort of thing.

And as I have thought about all of these things, I have come to this conclusion: Wouldn’t it be better if we all had a little more confidence in the way that God made us?

Wouldn’t it be better if I personally had more confidence in the way that God made me?

Now don’t get me wrong: I totally understand that I need to grow more Christlike. I know I need to pursue holiness, act justly, be more gentle, kind, patient and so on (Galations 5). But also I know that I was knitted together in my mothers womb by a creative, loving, knowledgeable heavenly Father who knew what he was He was doing (Psalm 139).

He knew what He was doing when He made me an introvert.

He knew what He was doing when He made me both musical and mathematical.

He knew what He was doing when He made we a worship leader but didn’t give me a very good singing voice.

He knew what He was doing when He made me a lover of football and a despiser of rugby.

He knew what He was doing when He made me with hair that disappears more rapidly every day.

And so shouldn’t I have a little more confidence in that?

So whereas I know I need to take on the character of Jesus, I also need to honour the personality that God gave me, and not pursue a personality that I was never created to take on. Surely that is just idolatry?  And idolatry is destructive.

The world is full of people who, for one reason or another, are trying to take on a  persona, or a media image, that is not God’s intention for them, and so often they end up destroying themselves.

That’s not for me.

What about you?



Individualism
November 6, 2009, 5:22 pm
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We talk much about consumerism and worship in the church at the moment. And rightly so. Our churches are increasingly full of people who expect their worship served up in the same way as their coffee. It’s a demand problem. Good people expecting a certain standard of music, a certain mix of songs, a certain quality of voice.

All these things are important.

But not that important in the big scheme of things.

The main thing that will always make the worship flow, rock, lift – or whatever the ‘in’ word is at the moment – is the desire of the congregation to sing out. Take that away and we are just re-arranging deck chairs…Once our congregations stop demanding something of their worship leader and start to demand something of their own soul, then worship will change – forever. (this isn’t a disgruntled worship leader whinge though…)

But if consumerism is the greatest danger to the continuation of the passionate corporate worship IN the church, then individualism is the greatest threat to the continuation of the vibrant, creative community OF the church.

I was at a conference in our church this week, and the one main thing I came away with was a renewed commitment to being CORPORATE at every level in my leadership, ministry, work (or whatever is the in word at the moment).

Gary Best – from the vineyard in Canada – talked alot about how we all tend to call out for more of God for ourselves (as individuals) and pull back on calling out for more of God for our community (as church). At first I sort of didn’t get that. But after a while I sort of did.

I was reminded again of some of the main things that I have always tried to operate in as a worship pastor: the desire to gather lots of people into worship ministry alongside me; the desire to see new worship leaders rise up and grow in leadership themselves; the desire to share the stage I have been given with other leaders through co-leading, through co-writing, through joint recording projects. I’m not sure I do them very well, but they are at the core of the way I want to operate.

In short, the desire to retreat from individualism in ministry.

And in a season of extreme busyness and pressure as I have been through recently, I know that such things are the first to be laid aside. And this last week has reminded me of the need to keep pursuing them.

Unfortunately, individualism is as rife in the wider church today as consumerism. And it stops people growing in ministry. It’s a supply problem. Individuals control supply by controlling what is ‘creative’, by controlling what is ‘authentic’, controlling what is ‘right’ and above all, controlling what is ‘God’. It’s not normally intentional. It just kind of creeps up on us when we’re not expecting it.

And the main thing to counteract it I think is this: always point people to Jesus. If we are always pointing people towards Jesus then we will move away from individualism and move towards community.

Who are you pointing people towards?



The New iMac
November 1, 2009, 10:49 am
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It’s amazing.

Just as soon as I can I’m going to get one.

And one of these.

Getting a Mac doesn’t make you creative, but it does allow your God-given creativity to be used properly. In fact, you could argue that Mac’s are very close to the heart of God in this respect.

Maybe even if the tabernacle was being refurbished today, it would have iMac’s all over the place.

Maybe even if Moses was receiveing the ten commandments today he would put them on a Mac. Of course if he had used a PC then by the time he had got back off Sinai, not only would all the people have turned to worship other gods, but his PC would have crashed, and the holy commandments would have been lost for all time. He may have saved a few bob, but at the same time he would have lost something precious in the process.

The fact is that Mac serves the creative world.

PC’s don’t.

Get over it.



History or Hope
October 20, 2009, 8:08 am
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I love reading church history. The fact that I didn’t do a theology degree means I missed out on all of that, and am now only beginning to catch up.

But whereas I want to read it, and understand it, and learn from it, I will run into trouble if I ever start to live in it.

I want to learn from History, but more than that I want to live in Hope.

I want to learn from the way Acts 2 church happened, but more than that I want to live in the hope of Revelation 21 church. I want to learn from the historic traditions of church worship down the centuries, but I want to sing the songs of  New Creation worship.

One of our interns recounted a dream that one of her friends had recently. In that dream, her friend – a worship leader and songwriter – found himself in heaven worshipping, and as they worshipped they began to sing a song he had composed some time before.  Incredibly excited, the worship leader went up to one of the angels and said ‘wow – you are singing one of my songs – that’s amazing’.

To which the angel replied, ‘No – that song you wrote – that was one of our songs that we let you use on Earth’

So what drives you – history, or hope?



Acts 2 Church
October 15, 2009, 8:35 pm
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Acts 2 church

It’s one of those buzz-phrases isn’t it?

An Acts 2 church.

We hear it all the time.

It’s the basis for home groups, small groups, meeting-in-homes-church, doing-church-the-down-to-earth-and-real-way-type-of-church.

Loads of churches around the world call themselves it.

An Acts 2 church.

“The big gathering is dead. Old. Pre-modern in a post-modern world” we hear the emerging church voices cry.

“Mega church models are dead”, say the prophets of big-church-doom in loud-voiced-boom.

‘Small’ is the new ‘big’ they say.

Acts 2 church is where it’s at.

But hang on a minute.

Yes, the people of God had central worship times, in the big gathering, in the temple, in the synagogue before Acts 2. But the new Christians continue to meet in the Temple after Act 2, and only stopped when the persecution starts (understandably). Then in Paul’s travels he goes to the Synagogs, the meeting places, to preach and teach and share the Gospel. Then in his teaching in his letters to the churches that were the truly emerging churches, he speaks about worship primarily in terms of bigger church gatherings.

And when we get to Revelation we find our eternal destiny is in the company of people from all tribes and all nations.

Angels.

Loads of them.

Nations.

Every one.

Tribes.

None missing.

So really, shouldn’t the new ‘big’ really be ‘bigger’?

In fact isn’t there more evidence Biblically for the big church gathering than the small group gathering?

Of course I totally believe in the concept of relationship, and smaller groups of people who support and care for each other, and who cook meals for each other, and who are accountable to each other.

Totally understand all of that.

It’s crucial to life.

But my question is this: do we really want church to stay in Acts 2 when it’s Revelation 21 that we’re heading for?

Shouldn’t we pause before we belittle big.

Because if John’s dream is anything to go by, it seems that big is beautiful and big is here to stay.



Stewardship (2)
October 10, 2009, 6:28 pm
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The last post on stewardship obviously resonated with many people – both on-line and off-line. Thanks to those who pointed out my error in that stewardship does exists in the King James Version in Luke 16. I stand corrected (and corrected my original post as such). However, this does refer to purposeful theft.

I want to follow up that post with some more thoughts.

First – on Language
Language is so very important, and language changes over time. For example, not so many years ago, the word gay meant ‘bright and happy’, whereas now it almost always refers to sexual orientation. The word stewardship, whilst may have one day meant a lot more, has become pretty much synonymous with finances in recent years – so we have ‘stewardship Sunday’ which tends to be about giving money, or saving money, or cost control, and so on.

This means that when I challenge the use of the word stewardship, it is not me just trying to be clever. It is recognising that, in order to re-establish the core values behind a subject, we either need to reclaim the language that has been lost, or try and use other language. So when I want to stop using the word stewardship and instead talk about my desire to treasure the things that God gives us, I am merely trying to use different language that doesn’t bring with it a whole lot of unhelpful baggage.

Second – on Perspective
The Bible talks a lot about money, and of course it talks a lot about the love of money, and the dangers that brings. It talks about being honest in financial dealings. It talks about the need for contentment in what we have or don’t have, and it talks about the need to trust God for what we need. I am sure you know such passages off by heart.

The Bible also talks about investment in the things of the Kingdom (Matthew 25). Many quote this passage when they talk finances, but for me the issues here are far, far more profound and deep than purely finances. They involve everything that we give ourselves to in the Kingdom.

The Bible talks about us looking after the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4). Again people quote this on finances, but this seems to be about the things of the Kingdom that we have been entrusted with and not being arrogant or boastful because of it.

The Bible also talks about the dangers of being accurate with giving, whilst missing the bigger issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23). WOW. I haven’t really thought about this before. It says that we could be getting money ‘right’ and still be missing out on the real issues!

I don’t know if you know that illustration about the ‘big stones’ and the ‘little stones’. You know, the one where you have this empty jar, and put the little stones in first, and then find that you can’t get the big stones in – whereas if you put the big stones in first, the little stones tend to fit all around them and everything fits in the jar together.

Well I think of it like this: the things of the Kingdom – The Honour of God, the People of God, the Reputation of the Church, The Vision/Mission of God, the Earth we live in. These are the big stones.

Finance is a little stone.  We need to keep our perspective.

Thirdly – on Values
Our family is currently trying to move. And as we consider where we will move to  (incidentally we are staying on the same estate…no big news here!) we are considering what will best make this our home above what will get us a better asset. Of course we need to be fully aware of the financial implications of what we are doing as much as we can. But we value home above asset.

And do you remember the story of David bringing the ark to Jerusalem. He valued the honour of God and obedience to God above financial prudence and personal reputation.

Comments always appreciated.  But please don’t show me any more pictures of iPhones. It will only rub in my current sence of inferiority.



Get a Grip
October 8, 2009, 9:24 am
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Apparently soon there will be a dumbing down of comedy on our TV’s. In an attempt to eradicate  genuinely distasteful episodes like the Ross/Brand phone calls, it seems that political correctness has kicked in again at the BBC. New rules would mean that comedy scenes like ‘The Germans’ from Fawlty Towers would not be allowed any more, and shows like Have I got News for You would all have their wings clipped to such an extent that they would not be worth making. Characters like Basil Fawlty would cease to exist and people like Ian Hislop would be banished from providing all of us who are bored and frustrated with the political correctness of our nation with a well needed bout of laughter at the weekend. Stephen Fry wouldn’t even get a look in.

In another report today, a teacher with 38 years experience took a child by the scruff of the neck and put him in a cupboard for apparently telling a racist joke repeatedly in class. Good on him (the teacher) I say. However, the teacher has now been convicted of assault. When I was young, bad behaviour was treated with a ruler rapped across the knuckles, or a slipper whacked across the backside. I wonder what treatment that would have got in the courts these days.

It’s crazy.

In fact, maybe it’s the BBC that should be in the dock, not the teacher.

Rather than curtail all our fun and stop great comedians providing colour and richness and laughter to our world, maybe the best thing would be that if they do occasionally cross the line, we should just take them by the scruff of the neck and chuck them in a cupboard for a few hours. The thought of Basil Fawlty and Stephen Fry having ‘cupboard time’ is quite amusing in itself. Maybe they would come up with a few more jokes whilst they were in there.

Come on the UK. Get a grip.