Tag Archives: worship

Church Diversity

I only know Scott Williams from a distance but due to the wonders of the internet I feel like I’ve known him for years. He has a great story – one that continues to be written. In Church Diversity Scott shares much of his story with his readers. Central to that story are the complexities of the lack of diversity in the vast number of American churches. It is a point that is worth making and worth fighting to change.

I serve on a denominational board (Converge Worldwide) where we have worked hard to address the lack of diversity among our ranks. The makeup of our current board may be its most diverse ever. But with only one notable exception all of our upper level leaders are white males. The same holds true for regional directors. I’m also on a sub-committee that is planning our next national event. We are deeply committed to highlighting the diversity that exists in our churches throughout the event. But while this will celebrate diversity on one level it will not directly increase the diversity in our member churches. That is where Church Diversity comes in  –  or could.

Scott Williams very intentionally and methodically pokes a stick in the eye of the church on this topic. And he doesn’t just call out churches that are predominately white in their make-up. In chapter 3 Williams writes: “This is a wake-up call for the traditional ethnic churches, such as black, Indian, Asian, and Hispanic. The arguments that “we must remain separate because it’s about the community” or “it’s the only piece of culture that we have left” are not valid arguments. They are incongruent with who Jesus is and what the gospel is all about. Is your church preserving culture of some people or presenting the gospel to all people?”

Later Williams asks why churches use the Great Commission to justify international missions but so often fail to pursue the Great Commission (especially the ‘all nations’ part) in their own churches. He refers to this as the Great Omission.

Throughout his book Williams quotes heavily from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and for good reason. Dr. King addressed the racial disparity in the church decades ago. And while we would like to believe that the ethnic diversity within our churches has changed dramatically over the past 60 years, Williams argues that it has not. To make his point he re-prints a letter written in 1954 by Dr. King and provides commentary along the way. It is a letter worth reading and re-reading.

One of the primary strengths of Williams’ book are the challenges that he presents at the end of each chapter. They  are a kind of gut-check for personal diversity that takes the information in each chapter and asks, “So what are you going to do about this?” Another strength are the video links with each chapter that would enable the book to be used for a group study.

This book is not going to be for everyone. There will be some who see diversity as a non-issue, or a cultural issue, or even as a liberal issue that doesn’t apply to the church. There are those who may still cling to a “separate but equal” approach to church. “They have their church and we have our church. What’s the problem?” To that comment I would have to reply that if that’s your position then you are the problem. When it comes to diversity in the church we can do better. We must do better.

Second chair leaders can advance diversity within the church by advocating for and championing this cause with the rest of the staff and church. When you are looking for additional paid or volunteer staff be intentional about contacting people who are not members of the majority ethnic group in your church. Some key, high visibility positions like usher, greeter, or choir member are a good place to start. But your church leadership (pastors, staff, elders, deacons) should also reflect diversity. This may be harder to achieve but be persistent. Nominate those who will bring diversity to your leadership team. Make sure your website and publications include photos that reflect the diversity in your church – or the diversity that you want to see.

What specific, intentional steps are you taking to bring diversity to your church?

San Diego’s Citywalk Church

I had the amazing opportunity last week to spend 8 days in San Diego, CA with my wonderful wife of 32 years. What made this trip so amazing was that it was really the first time we have ever been away together for an entire week with no agenda – no meetings, conferences, family obligations, etc. – it was just us. On the first day back at my desk I can tell you that it was long overdue and I can’t wait until the next time we can get away for a week or more.

We are urban travelers. We’ve never done the camping thing or stayed in the wilderness. Instead, we like to find a good downtown location where we can leave the car at home and go everywhere either on foot or by public transit. That was easy to do in San Diego. We made it to Seaport Village, Old Town, the Midway museum, Petco Park, the Gas Lamp Quarter, Little Italy, Coronado, and Balboa Park easily – on foot, by train, or by ferry.

In later posts I’ll highlight some of the notable restaurants and destinations, but today I wanted to tell you about the church we attended. Citywalk meets in rented space next to Petco Park. It’s a smaller church plant that is making a mark for the Gospel in urban San Diego. We found it to be a friendly and authentic group of people with God-centered worship and Christ-saturated teaching. We’re glad we made the trek across town to worship with the people at Citywalk and would recommend it to you if you live near San Diego or might be in town in the future.

When was the last time you got away with your spouse for an entire week? No kids, no seminars, no family, just the two of you? Having just had this experience I know that we will begin planning for our next week-long get-away right away. Make those decisions that you need in order to make such a trip a reality. Start saving today. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and you don’t have to travel far – just far enough to be away. (We didn’t pay any big-ticket admissions.)And if possible, we would recommend choosing a destination where you leave the car behind. There’s something about being on foot that slows the pace and gives you more time together. And isn’t that why we take vacations in the first place?

Transformational Experiences – Yours, Mine, or Ours?

I first noticed it several years ago. I brought my high school youth group to a weekend conference. One of the musicians from the band talked about his spiritual journey and how at age 30 he had come to realize some things about his relationship with Jesus that weren’t right. Later the speaker talked about that moment in his life where he realized he was pursing things – other than Jesus – that nearly cost him his marriage and his ministry.

It dawned on me that the leaders of this event were telling 15, 16, & 17 year olds that need to have the same spiritual experience that they had. But these leaders were considerably older than our kids. They didn’t have these transformational experiences as teenagers but as full-on adults. I wondered if it was reasonable for us to expect kids to have the same experience or at least the same depth of experience. I began to wonder what a transformational encounter with Jesus would look like for the kids in my youth group and how it might differ from the experiences that these adults had.

Over the years I have noticed it again and again. People expect others to have the same spiritual experience that they had. Not only that, if your experience is not the same as theirs, then your experience is not legitimate! It shows up when people think you have to use the same translation of the Bible that they use, or sing the same songs that they sing, or even use the same verbiage to describe your spiritual journey.

It is spiritual arrogance.

I’ve seen it all too often where preferences and style become deeply imbedded in one’s definition of the essence of Christianity. You’ve seen it, too, when tradition trumps everything so that a not-so-subtle expectation is placed on others in terms of how they dress, what music they worship to, which instruments are used (or not used), or which foods and/or beverages they consume! At it’s core it is legalism to suggest that my tradition is better than yours because I’ve been practicing my tradition longer (or shorter) than you have. You see, it does go both ways. It is just as arrogant for me to say that my experience (or translation, or musical preference) is better than yours because mine is newer!

One of the things that is true about Christianity is that the way each of us live in relationship with Jesus is different. No two of us follow Jesus in exactly the same way. We are all on a journey. And while our journey travels down the same path there are times when we are walking, running, crawling, or even skipping! Some of us cover a lot of ground rather quickly. Others take frequent rest breaks.

This is particularly true when it comes to corporate worship. For me to insist that the worship services at my church are designed to my liking seems a bit arrogant, too. When we approach worship shouldn’t it be more about yielding my likes, preferences, and traditions so that others may worship fully? I am reminded of Emerson Eggerich’s answer in Love & Respect to the question of who should go first – the husband or the wife – in being more loving (husband) or more respectful (wife)? His answer is, “Whoever is more mature should go first!”  Could that be our practice in worship, too? That those who are more mature in their faith would surrender their wills before Jesus so that those who are ‘less mature’ may be able to worship unhindered? What would it look like if we really lived out  Philippians 2.3-4  , “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

Lent – Giving Up or Adding In?

Today is Ash Wednesday. For some, it’s only significance is that it follows Fat Tuesday- an excuse for partying! But Ash Wednesday is the official beginning of  Lent – a period of time (46 days) that leads up to Easter Sunday. In some religious traditions, people will attend a service today and receive an ash smudge or ash cross (made from the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday palm branches) on their forehead as a symbol of humility and repentance. Many will also observe a day-long fast today.

Over the coming weeks many people will “give up something for Lent.” The list is quite endless. It could be coffee, or chocolate, or TV, or Facebook. Some may refrain from eating meat or smoking throughout Lent. The purpose is to enter a spiritual mindset that will allow the individual to focus on the work of Christ.

Ash Wednesday and Lent may not be part of your church’s tradition but observing Lent could be a meaningful spiritual experience for you. Instead of giving something up perhaps you might add something – a spiritual discipline to your life over these 46 days. The benefit of observing a new spiritual discipline over that time is that it will have become a spiritual habit – something you will likely continue practicing beyond the 46 days. My wife suggested that this might be a good time for couples to take the “40 Day Prayer Challenge” mentioned in a previous post and pray with your spouse for at least 5 minutes everyday for 40 (or 46) days. This could be a period where you would actually tithe 10% or more or read your Bible daily. Is there a spiritual discipline that is absent from your life that you might add?

How are you going to observe Lent this year? By giving up something or by adding something?

Monday Musings

Here are a few odds and ends that are bouncing around in my head this week:

Seattle Mariners Hire a New Manager

In the area’s worst kept secret ESPN announces that the Mariners have hired former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge. Seattle has had too may managers since Lou Pinella left. We’ll see if Wedge can turn things around for this troubled franchise.

Sermon Question

I’m stepping into the pulpit at my church this Sunday – something I get to do 3-4 times a year. This time the topic is set because we are in the middle of a series on our core purposes as a church. This week’s topic is outreach and I want to focus in on the importance of making our ministry of outreach relevant to those that we are reaching out to. To make a point I’m considering wearing jeans – something that I don’t think has ever been done in our church on a normal Sunday. Your thoughts?

Chilean Miners

Is it just me, or do you see what happened in the rescue of 33 miners as ‘miraculous’? Here’s a great article from Relevant about that phenomenal story!

Office Addition

Last week I purchased a new whiteboard for me my office. I have been asked to review, adjust, and create new systems to help us do ministry better. A white board will help me diagram issues, connect dots, and in general  just think better. Any other piece of old-technology that I should use? Any ‘systems’ pointers or advice?

Charitable Giving Down

The top 400 charities report a significant drop in charitable giving this year in this article from AP. If you work for a charitable organization have you seen this trend in your organization? (This has not been true of giving at the church I attend and am on staff at.)

Upside Down?

If you are one of the thousands of people who are “upside down” in your mortgage and are waiting for the government to fix it you might want to read this article at CNN. (Actually, even if you’re not either of those things you still should read this article.  Thanks to Bram Floria for posting the link on Facebook.)

Nice Tacoma Restaraunt

I’ve mentioned the ‘Over The Moon Cafe’ in this blog before but Julie and I dined there on a Groupon last week. This owner-operated restaurant is one of great ambiance and even better food. Always well-prepared and creatively served. It’s a smaller, unhurried, intimate fine dining establishment that we will return to – especially since we have more Groupons to redeem!

Jesus Manifesto

Len Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed-up to firmly plant the “Only Jesus” flag in the midst of a post-Christan post-modern generation. Setting aside potential differences on a variety of theological, philosophical, and political issues they…”have sought to present a vision that has captured our hearts and that we wish to impart to the body of Christ – we have said in unison, “One thing [we] know...” and that “one thing” is Jesus the Christ.” (p. 172)

If you’ve come of age in the modern church you have about had your fill of program-based ministry that reads like the course offerings at your local parks & rec. There is something for everyone! We have programs for weight-loss, parenting, finding work, improving your marriage, spending your money, charting the end times, and connecting with people with similar interests! But what have we done with Jesus? We’ve moved him out of the room and down the hall to be stored with all the other church relics.

What we’ve ended up with is a Christ-less Christianity that exists to make us feel better. Sweet & Viola quote John MacMurray: “The maxim of illusionary religion runs: ‘Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you’; that of real religion, on the contrary is: ‘Fear not, the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.'” (p. 117)

There is a new and fresh call to the Christian’s first love that permeates Jesus Manifesto. It’s a call that counters the long-standing expectation for Christians to “be like Jesus.” On page 72 they write:

But the “good news” is that Jesus doesn’t want us to be “like” Him. He wants to share His resurrection life with us. He doesn’t want us to imitate Him; instead Christ, the Unspeakable Gift, wants to live in and through us.

The Gospel is not the imitation of Christ; it is the implantation and impartation of Christ. We are called to do more than mediate truth. We are called to manifest Jesus presence.

That “we” means you.

And it means me.

Jesus Manifesto will be one book that I will come back to frequently, reading again and again, in order to absorb the full impact of its message and its implications on my life.

Jesus Manifesto is available at Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The God You Can Know – A Review

In The God You Can Know Dan Dehann sets out to help you get to know the Father as intimately as you know Jesus. Chapts 1-4 are foundational to that goal with a careful description of God’s perfections (attributes). It is from this foundation that the rest of the book is built with special emphasis on responding to God’s holiness with a heart of worship.  DeHann writes on p. 66: “How can we be so insensitive to God? How can we sing in church as though we were bored with it all? How can we have such shallow gratitude?”

Indeed! As a Christ-follower does my worship reflect the depth of God’s holiness and magnitude of his love and faithfulness given to me? Or does it have more to do with my comfort, my schedule, and my preferences? In chpt 7 DeHann describes worship as including three elements: humility, (bowing down) sacrifice (casting down your crowns), and worship (telling Jesus his worth).

The last two chapters focus on balancing the Christian life. This is the heart of the book. I was confronted by the directness of DeHann’s comments: “Many individuals today are highly qualified to be utterly useless.”  (p. 137) “We have worn ourselves out serving the one who said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (p.138) “The Christian life is not all that complicated. Let’s find the balance and then get on with it.” (p. 138).

Chpts 10-11 provide an outline to the book of Philippians that many will find quite helpful:

                Philippians 1 – Jesus must be our possession – v 6 – he who began a good work in you

                Philippians 2 – Jesus must be our pattern – vv 3-7 – being like Jesus in his humility

                Philippians 3 – Jesus must be our purpose – v 7 – count as loss; v 12– forgetting what is behind

                Philippians 4 – Jesus must be our power – v 13 – I can do all things through Christ

On the final page DeHann asks a series of questions which I will keep in front of me throughout my life:

What is the balance to your life? Is Christ your possession? Are you confident? Is Christ your pattern? Are you seeing selfishness rooted out from you? Is Christ your purpose? Are you becoming intimate with him? Is Christ your power? Are you finding peace, contentment, and joy in living for him?  Great questions to keep my life on track.

The God You Can Know is a book that takes longer to read than its 158 pages would seem to indicate. But in the end I believe that DeHann accomplishes his goal of helping the reader get to know God as intimately as you can know Jesus.