A Liturgy of Doubt

Stage setup for REVAL: Doubt

Last night at REVEAL: A Night for Worship (hosted here at Missiongathering) we spent some time engaging with the idea of a Liturgy of Doubt. Inspired by this segment of a talk from Peter Rollins, wherein he posits that the church could potentially be the place for people not to come and express their belief, but come to express their doubts, we sought out to create such a space.

Here’s a bit of what took place last night in what is being called, “the best church service I’ve ever been to.” -Kate Martin (Yes, she’s my wife… so what!? ;) )

Open in Song

We kicked the night off with “All Creatures of Our God and King.” Great midtempo song. Good way to start off a more meditative/reflective night of worship. Not a ton of energy (which would be counter-productive), but not overly sleepy (which sets a difficult tone). Plus, it’s a great Call to Worship song…

All creatures of our God and King / Lift up your voice, and with us sing.

C’mon everybody, time to get yer praise on!

Call to Worship: Setting the Theme for the Night

After the opening song I took a few moments to explain what our time together was (hopefully) going to look like. I explained how we were going to look at the idea of Doubt and create a safe space to express those doubts. How Doubt is completely normal and natural for people who live by faith. You can’t have one without the other, regardless what Joel Osteen tries to say.

I also lamented about how difficult it was to find music for this particular theme. There are not many (g0od) congregational worship songs that give voice to our doubts. Part of this is possibly because we’ve been trained in the church, by the church, that to Doubt is a negative thing. It is to be avoided, and shame on you for not having faith. So why would we want or need songs that would lead us to say/sing things that aren’t empirically true, or don’t lift us up to a more secure place of trust and hope?

So I said that several songs we were singing tonight I actually changed the lyrics to, so that they would better give voice to our struggles and our doubts. And other songs, songs that may have been written to give voice to our doubts, unfortunately all tend to resolve by Verse 3 or the Bridge. So that, by time the song is over, you’ve come out of your place of Doubt and are expressing an attitude of faith and trust. But life doesn’t resolve so quickly… why then should our liturgy?

Worship through Song

We then sang “40” by U2. A great song inspired by the Psalm of lament found in chapter 40.

I’ve waited patiently for the Lord / He inclined and heard my cry // How long, to sing this song?

Prayer

Invited everyone to pause and to center themselves, and invite God to open our hearts a bit further to the reality that God is a secure Being. So secure, in fact, that God is not offended by our doubts. God does not get frustrated at us when we get frustrated at God. We need to let go of the destructive theology that views God as having low self esteem and gets all bent out of shape when we go through seasons of Doubt. And we would do well to live in to the reality that God actually might be inviting us to express our Doubts.

Worship through Song

When the Tears Fall,” by Tim Hughes, is a really cool song. Some strong lyrics that really fit the night well, but still opting for a blend of doubt and faith. So that we cannot fully sing about our questions and our struggles and our pain without covering it on a higher plane with a bigger umbrella of trust and hope that trumps everything else. For instance, Verse 1:

I’ve had questions, without answers

I’ve known sorrow, I have known pain

Love it. But then:

But there’s one thing, that I’ll cling to

You are faithful, Jesus you’re true

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great verse. And I believe it. But the problem is that there have been times in my life where I haven’t believed it. Where I haven’t clung to Jesus as being faithful or true. My life demonstrated just the opposite. And I’ll bet YOU have been there, too. So singing this just feels disingenuous sometimes. But, other times it’s not. Other times it’s GREAT to declare our sense of trust and hope in the midst of life’s storms. I’m all for that. That doesn’t mean, though, that we aren’t also in need of songs that just give us a chance to voice our despair and doubt.

Anyways, I chose to alter the lyrics of Verse 3 so that we could at least END the song in existential despair… ha!

When confusion, is all around me

And the darkness is my closest friend

When the laughter fails to comfort

When my heart aches, Lord are you there? (the original lyrics: Lord, you are there)

Video Clips: Peter Rollins on Doubt

Then we watched two short video clips of Peter Rollins talking about Doubt. The first video he throws out the idea of God doubting God. That Jesus, while on the cross, cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as a demonstration of despair and doubt. So he suggests that when we lean in to our doubts, and embrace our dark nights of the soul, that we are then standing in the very sight of Christ.

As a way to complement this, I set up three canvases on the right part of the stage. And throughout the evening I invited and artist to write the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” on these three canvases. First lightly in pencil, then gradually heavier and darker with a black pen, a black sharpie, and finally with black paint. So it was cool having her off on the side expressing this sentiment over and over again, getting bigger, darker and bolder.

The second video, as I mentioned above, was when Peter challenged faith communities to consider a Liturgy of Doubt.

Interactive Element

I think it’s important to provide interactive elements in our corporate worship so that it’s not all just passive/observational experiences. So I had signs printed up that were from a poem called, “An Approach to God – Losing My Religion” and posted these all around the sanctuary in groups of two. One sign would be a positive expression of faith in God. The other sign would be a negative expression, a statement of doubt.

Statement of Faith

Statement of Doubt

I also had small cards printed up and put on everyone’s chair before they got there that read “Sometimes I doubt __________________.”

So during this part of the gathering I invited people to take some time and interact with their own doubts. I invited them to get up from their chair, walk around the room, and read all seven stations. And if, while reading one of the signs, you find yourself resonating with the idea on the sign, then just sign your own name on the paper. As a way of saying, “yup, I can relate.” Then, take your card and write out three things that sometimes you doubt. It could be doubts you have now, it could be things you’ve doubted in the past, it could be things you always struggle with.

Sometimes I doubt ________

A few of the Stations of Faith/Doubt Statements

Can I just say, this part of the gathering blew me away.

I got off the stage and took part in the seven stations around the room, and it was incredibly powerful to stand there and watch people willingly and publicly sign their own names on some pretty heavy expressions of doubt.

And everybody was doing it!

Everyone was be honest and saying, “yup… I’ve had that thought before about God.” Or, “yep, I’ve doubted God in that area.” It was so powerful to be a part of this expression of both faith AND doubt on a corporate level.

Worship Through Song

The old Hymn, “Come Ye Sinners,” but without the slightly cheesy chorus that was added to the original hymn by someone else at a later time. It goes like this:

I will arise and go to Jesus / He will embrace me in his arms

And in the arms of my dear Jesus / Oh there are, 10,000 charms

What the?! Why would an armful of charms be appealing to me? Anyways… the verses to this song are golden. Especially when you go back to the original version of it and add in the few lines at the end of each verse that the “chorus” writer took off.

Scripture Reading – Psalm 44

Original Song: How Long

About 6 weeks ago I was frustrated by the lack of songs that express Doubt, so I chose to just write one. I had read Psalm 44 and was struck by how the Psalm started on a positive note (God, you’ve done all these great things for us and for our fathers…) but then takes a sharp turn at the end (But where the heck are you now? Are you sleeping? Wake up! If you really love us, then help us!”).

It’s called “How Long,” and you can hear the live performance of it here, if you’d like.
How Long (Live)


Interactive Element Cont’d

Then I invited everyone to turn their chairs and get in to groups of 3-5 people. Once in their groups, they were to go around and each share what they wrote on their “Sometimes I doubt _____________” cards. But I told them they could only read them. They could not set it up, or put it in context, or tell a bigger story. Or say, “sometimes I doubt_________, but not right now! Right now I’m good!”

Nope. Just read your doubts. Outloud. To others.

And then we put a phone number on the screens and invited people to text in some of their doubts.

Special Music

After several minutes passed, and people shared their doubts with one another, I sang the song “Silence of God,” a real gem by Andrew Peterson. Seriously, pause now and go listen to it!

During this song we put on our screens some of the doubts that had been text in.

It was a really, really cool moment.

As I’m singing this amazing song about the silence of God people are looking up and reading all these different types of Doubts. And they are discovering this: You are not alone.

You are not the only one who doubts.

You are not the only one with THIS SPECIFIC doubt.

Very cool moment.

Reading from “How (Not) to Speak of God”, by Peter Rollins

A buddy then got up and read a parable from this book. The parable imagined a small community of people who, right after Jesus was crucified, left the city and started a small faith community in a remote village. This faith community continued on and lived out the teachings and the values and principles of the Way of Christ, never knowing about any resurrection or ascension. But they viewed the Love of Jesus and the Way of Jesus as having inherent and intrinsic value that, even though it ended in death for Jesus and would end in death for them, they were committed to that way of love and peace. And then, after about 300 years, a small group of missionaries found this remote village and preached to them about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The community was elated and ecstatic and celebrated throughout the night, but no one could find the village elder. Finally, one of the missionaries found the elder alone at the outskirt of the village, clearly saddened. The missionary wondered why he wasn’t joining in the celebration, for Jesus is not dead but alive! The elder slowly got to his feet and looked the missionary compassionately in the face:

Each day we have forsaken our very lives for him because we judge him wholly worthy of the sacrifice, wholly worthy of our being. But now I am concerned that my children and my children’s children may follow him not because of the implicit value he has, but because of the value that he posses for them.’

I’m not sure why I chose to end the night with this parable, but it just seemed fitting.

What if, in a life full of sorrow and pain and suffering, we were not assured of any resolution from our doubts? What if all we had to look forward to was death?

Would we still follow Jesus? Would we still live in his love, and live out his love?

Is he worthy of our allegiance because of what he can do for us? Or because of who. He. Is.

Close in Song

And, though I partially didn’t want to, we closed the evening with “It is Well With My Soul.” It’s just such a great song, even though it semi-sort-of worked against the point of the evening. Ha!

It really was a phenomenal exercise in practicing a Liturgy of Doubt. Something I think the Church would do well to embrace, embody, and invite people to engage in.

Thanks to those of you who came out and went there with me. I hope you found it as meaningful as I did.

We’ll see you at the next REVEAL on Sunday night, November 4th at 7pm.

______________

p.s. I did a talk a few months back wherein I explored more about what it might look like to Lean in to Your Doubts. You can check that out here.

REVEAL: A Night for Worship in Urban San Diego

We are starting a new initiative here at Missiongathering Christian Church.

It is a consistently non-consistent Sunday Night Worship Gathering. (Meaning, it won’t happen every week… so you’ll just have to follow along to find out when it’s happening next!)

Beginning at 7pm, here at Missiongathering, we invite you to come and join us for a night of worship through music, prayer, meditation, reflection, etc.

Here’s a video to tell you more about it.

See you then!

REVEAL: A Night Of Worship from Missiongathering on Vimeo.

Church. For the first time in two months.

Going to Church Again

“Where are we going, daddy?” Zeke asks, as he pulls the second sleeve of his big winter coat over his left arm.

“We are going to go to church this morning,” I reply, knowing that I haven’t given him that answer in quite some time.

“Church?” He responds skeptically. “Why are we going to church? Did you get a new job?”

So went the brief conversation with Zeke, my seven year old, yesterday as my wife and I gathered up the kids while simultaneously gathering up the courage to attend church for the first time in over 2 months.

There’s a strange sort of liberation-meets-despair in not having a home church. I’ve known plenty of people in my life who have been between churches, but that’s never been a chapter in the story of my life. As a youth I went where my mom went. In college I interned at a church. Upon graduating, I got a full-time Associate Worship Pastor job and worked there for two years. Then I moved to Arizona and worked at The Grove for the last five. But now…? Nothing. Nada. Zero church activity in Kate and mine’s life for the past 9 Sundays

On one shoulder I hear a small voice say, “now that you don’t WORK at a church, you can just WORSHIP at a church… any church you like! Just go for it!”

Her name is Liberation.

But you can call her Libby.

On the other shoulder I hear another voice: “You know that thing you’ve done every Sunday for the past 544 Sundays? That thing that’s helped define you and your life? The thing that keeps you centered and grounded, renewed and fresh? That thing that all your close friends do each week, and where you feel loved and accepted and a part of something? Yeah, well, that thing is gone.”

His name is Despair.

Or Dez, if you prefer.

Overdramatic? Perhaps. But it’s where I’m at right now, so deal with it.

Dez has been winning most every battle lately. I occasionally let Libby speak her piece, but I just can’t buy yet what she’s selling.

But yesterday Libby (supported by Katie) finally tasted victory.

We went to St Paul’s Episcopal Church here in Salem, OR, and having attended an Anglican church in Arizona a while back we had a general idea of what to expect. It was fun for me (as it usually is) to visit a church, because I get to see for fresh eyes what it’s really like coming to a church for the first time. Having worked full-time in the church for the past seven years I can’t tell you the number of meetings we’ve had wherein we discuss what we want our “first impression” to be for any visitors. We talk about what sort of experience they might have, or how they might interpret this or that. Most of that is guess work, since we’ve all been AT that church for years.

But when you visit, you get to really experience what it’s like to have a “first impression.”

We were warmly greeted by multiple people and quickly assisted in finding the nursery. There wasn’t (or so we thought) a kid’s program that day, so Zeke and Tai sat with us throughout the whole service. It was fun to see the slight look of surprise on people’s faces when they saw us and we confirmed that we were “new.” Either they don’t get many visitors or perhaps just not many young married couples with kids as visitors.

The sanctuary was stunning. My world for so long has been dominated by the Evangelical, post/modern church scene, where “theater” is the new “cathedral,” and giant screens are the new hymnals, that I forgot what sort of care and intentionality and beauty went in to constructing churches of old. I don’t know how long this church has been here, but it’s architecture is both dated and timeless, standing in the current future while echoing the dreams and designs from the past. With tall, arching wooden ceilings that reminded me of what Noah’s ark might look like if turned upside down. Beautiful stained glass windows all down either side, framed by wooden carvings depicting Biblical narratives. Two long rows of pews leading up to the front of the church with an elevated altar where eventually would sit the Eucharist elements. On the floor, in front of the altar, was a place for a band, a children’s choir, and a handbell choir. Suspended high above the Eucharist table was a beautiful golden cross. Everything in the room seemed insistent that you, as the participating worshiper, knew full well that Christ was going to be the Center of whatever occurs in that space. Including the fact that the preaching “pulpit” was off to the side. (*sidenote: for anyone who’s ever attended a worship gathering I’ve led, you may recall that I never stand in the center of the stage. I am always off to the side. This is intentional, for under no circumstance should our worship gatherings be confused and think that I should be the center of attention. So I love that the Episcopal church also forces action away from the center, where the Eucharist table resides and the cross hovers.)

The worship service itself was a beautiful liturgical dance. Moving from music to scripture to prayers to a sermon to more music and more prayers and more scripture readings. And everything worked it’s way towards Communion, for that is the pinnacle for which all previous expressions of worship lent themselves toward. (My fellow Catholic brothers and sisters shout a resounding “Well, duh!”)

I loved it. I loved that a woman (Rev. Heather Wenrick, Associate Rector) led much of the service, including giving a very fantastic sermon. A young woman, at that! (My wife loved this even more than I, and I’m sure she’ll blog about it soon!) The music (while I didn’t know any of it) was well done, even if not to my stylistic likings, but it all moved and flowed and had a purpose. And the words made me pause, think, reflect. I loved that my kids were welcome (in the pews the church had cards that welcomed parents of young kids, invited them to not stress out if their kids made noise, and invited non-parents to ALSO not stress out of the kids next to them made noise. How cool is that!?). I loved that the priest, when we went forward for communion, took time to ask us if the kids were receiving communion or a blessing. When we said “a blessing” he genuinely took the time to pray over both Zeke and Tai (we first experience this at Living Faith Anglican back in Arizona, where our dear friend Father Bob Fabey resided over worship. That was our first taste of Anglicanism/Episcopalianism, and it was wonderful. Thanks Bob!)

So, after a two month separation of church and self, it was good to be with the Lord’s people again on Sunday. And it was very good to be a part of St Paul’s. I’m sure we’ll be back.

Libby, thanks for not giving up on me. And Dez, thanks for taking the morning off. I’m sure you’ll be back, but the time apart was nice.

If you’re a life-time member of modern evangelical church world, I would strongly encourage you to visit a high-church some Sunday. Be it Anglican, Episcopal, or Catholic. Don’t worry, Jesus won’t mind. In fact, you’ll probably meet him there, in ways you’d never imagine.

Reflections of a Worship Pastor: Part I

Worship Gathering at The Grove

REFLECTIONS OF A WORSHIP PASTOR

Part 1: The Burden and The Role

I periodically find myself trying to describe to people what it is exactly that I do. Generally the role of a Worship Pastor, I’ve found, is highly appreciated but greatly misunderstood. I have run in to several ideas over the years that people have of what a Worship Pastor is and does.

Here are two “pictures” of the life of a Worship Pastor I have encountered.
Continue reading

At ABC University in Yekepa, Liberia

(These blog posts are all after the fact, considering we basically ran out of internet after our first few days in Liberia. I had hoped to keep everyone up to date AS WE WERE GOING, but alas, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…)

Yekepa, Liberia

AFRICAN BIBLE COLLEGE in YEKEPA, LIBERIA

For many people in our group, I’ll bet that staying on the ABC campus was one of the highlights of our trip. It was pretty incredible to witness what God has done (and is doing) to restore their campus after laying in ruins for 15 years of civil war. We were told that when they first returned to the campus, after the war ended, the jungle had grown up so tall that they couldn’t see the buildings from the road. And whatever “buildings” WERE left, were completely destroyed and stripped of everything.

But, thanks to the Grace of God, and the generosity of others (primarily Samaritan’s Purse and The Grove), ABC in Liberia has, in crazy-fast fashion, rebuilt and restored ALL the original buildings AND are building several brand new facilities!

The New Chapel at ABC

The new Communications Building being built at ABC

However, as awesome as the campus is, and all the work that’s gone in to rebuilding it, what really stood out to us was… Continue reading

New EP Released: One Season

New EP: "One Season" by Colby Martin

I’m excited to announce that my first solo project, an EP titled “One Season,” is finally available for purchase and download!

After years of ignoring any desire to get in the studio and record some original songs, my hand was finally “forced” as I faced a need to raise money for a missions trip I was going on to Liberia, Africa. (You can read more about that here).

The EP was recorded at El Rancho studios in Chandler, AZ, by Mike Eldred of Fender Guitars. It features the accompaniment of Vanessa Bisaha, Brian Morgan, John Vice, Mike Eldred, and Janice Bailey (read more here).

I would be honored if you picked up a copy today. Right now I’m asking for donations only, with 100% going towards my Africa trip (suggested donation $5).

You can go here to donate and download the album.

Check out the lyrics of the songs here, and the stories behind the songs here.

Glad to share this with you. Thank you for your support of me and my ministry!

Using iMag in Corporate Worship

A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend Catalyst West, a conference designed to encourage, inspire, and challenge the leaders of tomorrow, those in our church who will live in and live out the Kingdom of God.

It was a brilliantly assembled (and beautifully diverse… in some ways) gathering of men (and women… although not enough, if you ask me) that I really think accomplished what it set out to.

I may post further observations and thoughts in later posts, but for right now I want to talk about what is commonly referred to as “iMag”, or Image Magnification.

iMag is essentially the process of using cameras to project on to large screens what is happening on the main stage. Such as the below pic of Chris Tomlin leading worship.

Chris Tomlin leading at CatWest

You can see, above and behind Chris, a large screen projecting shots of the band.

Many churches use this technique, iMag, during their services, and if I may I’d like to give my thoughts on it. What’s that? You didn’t really ask me for my thoughts? Oh that’s okay… I tend to give unsolicited opinions often…

5 Reasons I Like iMag

1) It Connects You to What is Happening on the Stage. If you are in a large auditorium, and you get stuck in the way back (or way top), then you can feel disconnected from what’s going on. You also miss facial expressions and other non-verbals. Making a 10-foot face is a simple solution. Imagine sitting in the below auditorium, in the nosebleeds. Without iMag, you just might get frustrated enough to show up earlier next week for a better seat.

Rob Bell speaking at Catalyst '09

2) It Looks Cool: C’mon, admit it. When you’ve got cameras sweeping across the room on giant booms, and camera guys running around the stage, you think: wow, this is something really special! Haven’t you always wondered how that lead guitar part goes? Bam! Solo shot on the stud guitarist, extreme close up of his hands flying across the fretboard. Feel sad that the drummer is always in the back, blocked by cymbals and stands? Bam! Solo shot on the drummer’s face as he sweats and bobs to the music. Wonder how you too can have awesome emo/metro hair like the worship leader? Bam! Solo shot on the leader!

3) It Provides Service Opportunities for Techies in Your Congregation. I run in to a lot of people who are frustrated because they love to zoom in on stuff, but their church doesn’t have a place for them. Now, just keep adding camera shots, and more and more people can serve!

4) It Gives You Something to Watch if You Don’t Like Singing: Not everyone likes to sing, or always feels like singing, but with iMag you at least provide them with something to watch if they want. If you just have graphic backgrounds behind your lyrics, that gets boring fast. And if you can’t ‘see the preacher, you’ll easily tune out. But if you can watch the constant panning and zooming, the cutting and fading of the worship band, that’s like being at home watching t.v.! I can just tap my feet to the music and watch the show without feeling like I have to sing along!

5) It Forces Hygiene: Gone are the days when the bassist can just roll out of bed, slumber on to the stage, and do his thing. Now, he’s got to be ready should he get a close up. Ladies can’t skip the make-up in the morning, cause their face could be the balance on whether people engage in worship that morning, or grimace and disengage. Speakers must be well shaved and clothes well pressed. You can’t hide anything in 20 feet of high definition.

5 Reasons I Do Not Like iMag

1) It Can Be A Distraction: This really applies to the music section of a service. If my only opportunity to follow along with the lyrics is to look at a large screen showing me everything the band is doing, for me that is a negative.  If I know the song, I’ll close my eyes and sing along. If I don’t, I’m forced to read them from a screen, which is fine and good. But I don’t want to have to watch a music-video while I’m doing it.

2) It Can Confuse the Focus: Worship, I think we can all agree, is about the King and for the King. Obviously churches and people who utilize iMag for worship know and believe this as well, I’m not saying they don’t. But doesn’t it send mixed messages? To quote Shane Hipps: the media IS the message. If we show lead guitar guy shredding the lick, or zoom in on singer-lady’s face as she belts that high-C, aren’t we, in a sense, saying that these people and what they are doing is the focus? Not intentionally, maybe, but unintentionally absolutely. “Just ignore me… pretend it’s just you and God right now… let me and my voice just fade to the background,” says the worship leader WITH THE GIANT HEAD. It’s hard enough to empower our congregations to focus on Jesus as they worship, but aren’t we compounding the issue by asking them to ignore the show we’re broadcasting on the screen? It’s like telling our kids they have to eat dinner before they get dessert, WHILE WE OURSELVES are chomping on a chocolate chip cookie with our broccoli untouched.

3) It Puts Weird Pressure on the People on Stage: Some of the camera guys I was watching at Catalyst were getting so close to the guitar players, I felt nervous FOR them. How in the world do we expect the musicians to be worshiping themselves when they are constantly thinking “uh-oh, am I on the screen for this one? I better not screw up… and I better make sure my face looks really worshipful…” Certainly people can get used to this, to where they don’t really think about it anymore, but is that really a good thing in the end? It’s already enough of an issue to fight against the complex of feeling like a rock-star while on stage, performing for thousands of people, but you put my face on a giant screen, and now I feel even more important!

Aaron Keyes leading worship at CatWest

4) It Feeds the Entertain-me Machine: One of the major criticisms of the modern, western, evangelical church is that it has become too consumeristic. Rather than asking church-goers “how can YOU serve people,” we ask “how can WE serve you?” We create a environment where people come to be entertained. We put on a show for them, hoping they’ll come back next week with a friend. We don’t require anything from them, just that they sit back and enjoy the show. I feel like using iMag in worship does nothing to combat this notion, and more likely does much to convey it.

5) It Doesn’t Feel Right: Okay, so this is pretty vague, and sort of a lame 5th reason. But there’s just something about iMag that I can’t quite put my finger on (other than the previous 4 reasons, of course) that just makes me cringe a bit. While the motives of those using iMag are undoubtedly noble, the final product looks, well, like that: a product. I don’t feel invited in to engage in worship, I feel invited to join a concert, to watch a performance, to see how good looking and talented other people are. I end up feeling bad for the people on stage, wishing they didn’t have to have themselves projected on large screens. I find myself desperate to look elsewhere, even if it means I cannot sing-a-long because I don’t know the words. And in the end, I realize that all I’m really thinking about is the use of iMag itself, and not Jesus and His worship.

Conclusion: I don’t totally hate iMag. My first “reason to like” iMag remains true, however I would apply that only to the Preacher/Speaker. I just think the game changes too much when it comes to the music and worship. Yes, use iMag to blow up the head of the preacher so we can follow along and be engaged. But leave it off when the band plays. So what if I can’t see the singers face, I’m not here to watch him. I don’t want to condemn or judge those of my friends and comrades who utilize iMag (or are at a church that forces them to use iMag), for I know that much of this is preference and personal conviction. But I do think there is enough inherent to the medium itself that should cause us to question “why” we use it, and what messages are we conveying when we do.

What about you?

Does your church use iMag? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, how would you feel if they started this week?

Or have you been to events where they used iMag? How did you feel about it?

As always, I welcome your comments…

Are We Really Out of Exile?

Sunday, March 14th 2010, I got the honor of preaching at The Grove.

We were in a series on the minor prophets, and I was fortunate enough to get the 14 chapter long Zechariah (less a “minor,” if you ask me… more of a “mid-major”).

It was a blast prepping for this message. Thinking through, “What did God want to say to Israel through the ‘words’ of Zechariah, and what does God want to say to US through the ‘words’ of Zechariah and the ‘works’ of Jesus?”

(I apologize for the strange audio artifacts in the first few minutes… It’s annoying, but it does go away)

Watch it large screen here at Vimeo

Or head to my “Media” page and watch it on a smaller screen.

A Leader Being Led

Photo courtesy of Claire Deliman: http://www.clairedeliman.com

My official title is “Pastor of Worship & Arts.”

My primary function, and maybe my more common title, is “Worship Leader.”

I’m supposed to “Lead” people in worship.

I’m supposed to create moments where people from all walks of life can engage with the Creator.

I’m supposed to be the tool that the Spirit uses to guide God’s people into humbled hearts and authentic worship.

But yesterday, at The Grove, it was I who was led.

During our 3rd and final gathering of the morning, as the band powerfully played out “Glorious” by Paul Baloche, I looked out at the more than 350 people gathered together to see if they were “feeling what I was feeling,” if they were “going where I was going,” to see if “worship” was happening.

And as hundreds of voices belted out, “Oh – oh – oh – oh… You are Glorious!” this is what I saw:

  • I saw a man who left a comfortable job to start his own business, but is struggling to make ends meet because of this decision, bowed in humble adoration, declaring that “God is Glorious.”
  • I saw a woman who’s marriage is crumbling beneath her very feet, a world preparing for possible destruction, declaring that “God is Glorious”
  • I saw people who I know are dealing with the loss of loved ones, worshiping their faces off, declaring that “God is Glorious.”
  • I saw people who had just gotten back from Haiti, who’d seen destruction, death, chaos, fear, and brokenness firsthand, with their hands in the air declaring “God is Glorious.”
  • I saw a man who doesn’t know what he believes, isn’t sure if Jesus is who he says he is, and can’t decide if “church” is for him, declaring “God is Glorious.”
  • I saw a person who’s life has been forever altered because of a car wreck, never to return to the “way things were,” declaring “God is Glorious.”

And in that moment, as I was supposed to be “leading” the people in worship, I discovered that in reality THEY were leading ME.

I took inventory of my life and discovered that singing this lyric, “YOU are GLORIOUS” is relatively easy for me. What might stand in my way from acknowledging and proclaiming that God is a Glorious Being? Currently… not much.

But for these people, of whom I knew their stories, there is a lot standing in their way. Or at least, a lot that COULD stand in their way. And yet here they were, declaring “God is Glorious.”

And it didn’t make sense to me. And in some ways, it still doesn’t… and might not ever.

For that song, for that moment, the people of The Grove were showing ME what it meant to worship. What it means to realign our stories with God’s story. What it means to know that all of life might be screaming at you that God is most certainly NOT glorious, or at least not worthy of being CALLED glorious, but to do it and sing it anyways.

Through tears and a choked throat, I quietly thanked those in attendance at the 3rd gathering yesterday. I thanked them for leading me to the King. For showing me that our God is indeed Glorious.

I should say it more often, because it’s often true: Thank you people of The Grove for not only letting me lead you in worship each week, but for also leading me.

Blessings.

Colby

Fixing Christian Radio: Part Deux

Fixing Christian Radio

Fixing Christian Radio

Allright, so a few days ago I posted a blog about an idea I had to fix “Christian Radio.” You can read the blog in it’s entirety here, but the gist of it is that I propose we separate music made by Christians into two general purposes: one station plays solely music written and designed for corporate worship, while another station plays solely music written by Christian artists “not” designed for corporate worship.

I received quite a bit of interesting feedback, and so I thought it merited some followup thoughts on my part. Here are 2 primary reasons, in more detail, WHY I wish Christian Radio would separate their music.

REASON # 1: Works Against Proper Understanding of Worship

I’ll use some excerpts from people’s responses to get started:

Brian writes: “I don’t see how Christian music can be separate from worship, though. What’s the point?? If as a Christian you are not bringing worship 100% there is no point, whether you are a worship leader or a “Christian artist”

You bring up a good point, here Brian, and on one level I agree with you. But I think Logan is correct when he offered this:

I believe that when Colby is talking about “worship” he is being very specific to what would be considered “corporate worship,” or actual music that you would find in a church being sung by a congregation.

In my original post, I was trying to make that distinction, and when using the term “worship music,” was doing so in the context of music specifically designed for use in a corporate worship environment. The word “worship” is so multi-faceted and has so many dimensions and layers to it, that it really does require a note about how the author is using it. Most certainly, one way to talk about worship is like what cnhutch wrote:

It’s true that all music, indeed all of life, is worship. When we understand that worship is a bowing down or submitting oneself in attitude and in action toward another, then it’s true that everything we do in life as believers should have this bent.

So this would be where I agree with your overall sentiment, Brian, that all Christian music could effectively be labeled as “worship” music. It might be

  • a) written as an act of worship by the author
  • b) listened to as an tool for worship by the listener
  • c) sung as a demonstration of worship by an individual and/or congregation

In this sense, you could use a very broad definition of ‘worship’ and apply most (hopefully all) music written by Christians as worship itself (the product) or able to assist in worship (as a performance).

But I think you can, (and as I argue, maybe “should”) separate the music as best as you can. This is one thing that bothers me now about going to a Christian Rock concert where there is a section of “corporate worship” stuck right in the middle of the rock show (which is the inverse of what bothers Janice:

There is a time and place for special music, but not smack dab in the middle of deep and meaningful vertical worship (I, Colby, might agree with this as a general principle, but I do believe that if well chosen and well executed, you can have a very meaningful, powerful, and impacting moment of worship with a special music stuck “smack dab” in the middle)

Back in the day, I used to love going to Third Day shows for this very reason; fantastic “corporate worship” time in the middle of the show. But now, I think I take issue with it. I don’t think we are training people well to separate these two moments, these two realities.

Third Day Concert - Entertainment? Worship? Both?

Third Day Concert - Entertainment? Worship? Both?

One says, “come, be entertained… observe but don’t participate… watch and enjoy.” The other says, “come, be engaged… enter in and participate… join the hosts of heaven and earth.” Is it possible that we are, indirectly, cutting off the branch we sit upon by blending these two realities so closely? Are we just to assume that people are able to cognitively flip off the “observe” switch and enter in to “participation?” Is there too much in common between these two that it makes it hard to distinguish one from the other? This same distortion of distinctions between these two realities is happening on Christian Radio, and that’s a big part of why I wish they could be separated.

It’s not unlike a principle my wife and I share in our house with our kids. We try and teach them that some words are okay for grown-ups but NOT for kids. And if certain words find there way into a general conversation, we pause and remind our kids that these are “grow-up” words, not suitable or acceptable for their vocabulary. It would be unfair for us to expect them to know the difference and separate the two if we didn’t teach them about the differences. How could we hold them to a certain standard if they didn’t know where the boundaries were?

In the same way, maybe Christian Artists need to take more responsibility to understand their influence on people, and “teach” them in their concerts that they’re shifting gears from performance to corporate worship. Maybe the DJ’s on the radio could assume the same responsibility?

REASON #2: Waters Down Good Christian Music

Okay, I get that this is totally subjective, and I’m not asking you to completely agree with me, but I DO think that mixing “songs made for corporate worship” and “songs made for general enjoyment” are crafted differently. And a lot of people’s critique that “Christian music” is lame comes from a set of expectations and standards that “songs made for corporate worship” are never intended to meet. But again, throwing them all together on the radio makes it impossible to separate this.

I’m not saying that “songs written for worship” are NEVER creative, unique, or good art. But I may offer that “most” songs of this nature are not written with those goals necessarily in mind. There is a LOT of really good music being made by Christian artists out there (most of it you can’t find on the radio, but that’s a different story) that I believe could really turn a person from a place of, “man, Christian music is lame” to a place of, “wow, I didn’t know there was GOOD music in the Christian industry!”

So if there was a designated station where songs of this nature could be played, and not be “watered-down” in a sense by songs written for a different purpose, I think the Christian Music Industry would get a lot more respect and credibility from the outside world, and they might actually give it a listen!

What do you think?
Have you ever found yourself with mixed feelings about corporate worship? (is this “entertainment” or “engagement?” Do I “observe” or “participate?”)
Do those lines get blurred sometimes at church? Have you been to a concert where this has happened, and how did you feel?
Have you ever made the comment, “Christian music is lame,” or something similar?
Why do you think that is?

I welcome your responses and thoughts…