Of all the things we do in worship, singing is the most mysterious to me. That’s probably not a great statement about my theology, but it’s accurate. I understand the why of our singing less than the other elements of worship. Why do we sing? Why not just recite Scripture out loud? Or why do we sing together? Why not just let one person sing (this tempts me sometimes…)?
[Note: After a helpful conversation with a friend, I’ve edited this post to speak more clearly to the structure and organizational ministry in local congregations, realizing that “administration” is used in 1 Corinthians more to highlight the work of elders ruling in the church. Since the article was more focused on the organizational side of administration, I’ve made some word changes to reflect that.]
“I’m not gifted in organization.”
I’ve said that. Many pastors I know have said the same thing. When you hear a pastor say that, it may be an attempted excuse for why the life of the church is a muddied mess and something fell through the cracks, again. There’s often some truth to it. Not everyone is naturally gifted at organization and organizational leadership. And so, for almost a decade of pastoral ministry, I chanted the mantra in order to explain why our church calendar wasn’t up-to-date and why my expense reports were months late. It’s true that I’m not great at it. But the wider truth is that I don’t like to do administrative work, so I just don’t.
I’m writing this before the results of “Super Tuesday” (surely the highest billing any Tuesday’s ever gotten) are announced. Still, it seems fairly certain that I’ll continue to be disappointed and frustrated by the whole thing. If you want insight into my psyche, see my non-gentle-nor-reformational note over at facebook.
To right the ship of my heart, to bring my frustrations and anxieties to the proper place (i.e., God, not the internet), here are some things that make this Wednesday “Super Wednesday.”
Today, on Super Wednesday, Jesus is still on his throne, working everything out for the good of the church (Eph. 1:22). It’s up to me to decide whether to view Jesus’ kingship through the lens of my frustrations (personal or national) or vice versa: to view my frustrations through the lens of Jesus’ reign. Hopefully the choice is clear.
Today, on Super Wednesday, God still listens to the prayers of His people and is moved to action by those prayers. He loves them so much they’re like heaven’s scented candles (Rev. 5:8). And He loves you so much He wants to hear what’s on your heart, what’s keeping you up at night or eating at you from the inside out (1 Pet. 5:7)! I hope […]
Here I am staring at a blank screen. I have a blog post due today, but I don’t really have anything new to write. So let’s go with that: much of the Christian life and the Christian ministry isn’t new and doesn’t need to be.
If you’ve been a Christian for a little while, maybe you haven’t learned anything new about God or faith in quite some time. This is not usually a sign of a problem. There’s no commandment that you have to be constantly finding something new. Further and thankfully, we aren’t under any compulsion to be discovering new songs for worship or unexplored realms of theology.
Because Biblical Christianity isn’t about what’s new, but what’s old.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know by now that one of our dearest friends and mentors, Dave Long, recently died. Like Barry, I’ve been trying to not only grieve but to think and consider, to remember lessons Dave taught me by precept or example. In family worship over the past week, I tried to teach my kids some of the biggest lessons God taught me through my friend Dave.
I’d like to tell you one of those, too.
In Acts 9:26-30, the church in Jerusalem is, wisely, worried about the sincerity of the Saul’s conversion, who until recently had been “breathing threats” against the church. Were it not for Barnabas – who had seen the fruit of Saul’s conversion firsthand and put his own reputation on the line to speak up for Saul – the whole situation might have turned out very differently. Although Barnabas wasn’t at the heart of the story, he was instrumental in the success of Saul’s ministry.
Here’s the lesson Dave showed me: Work for the success of others, not your own.
It seems on almost every page the Psalms are reminding us to remember, to not forget:
“My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…” (42:6)
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord…” (77:11)
“…they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God…” (78:7)
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles…” (105:5)
To remember God’s gracious and powerful acts is to honor Him; to forget is to dishonor Him. While we seem to know this intrinsically in our relationships with others – how do you feel when someone seems to forget or ignore all that you’ve done for them? – we struggle to remember all that God has done. And so we read our Bibles, we worship weekly, never tiring of reminders, so that we might honor God rightly.
But it isn’t just the past that must be remembered.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
This verse hit hard during my personal devotions this week. As a pastor, my whole life is wrapped up in words. Turns out that’s not the safe vocation every mom wants for their little boy.
Last night our small group discussed chapter 13 (“Pray during Trouble”) from Ed Welch’s great book, Side by Side. Here are a few brief thoughts that came out of our encouraging discussion.
As the debate around refugees continues to grow, both in popularity and intensity of tone, here are some helpful articles to aid us in understanding these difficult and complex things.
First, here is Trevin Wax’s call in the Washington Post to not allow fear to drive out compassion. But be sure to read Kevin DeYoung’s more measured response, where he reminds us that wisdom and compassion don’t have to be competitive in the end.
A line from a book I recently read is sticking with me. It went something like this:
Wherever there is spiritual life, someone has died.
The point is powerful and important: in God’s economy, life is brought about through death. In the smallest sense, we find ourselves physically sustained through the death of other things in this world, whether plant or animal. Jesus told us it basically works the same way with the life we have in him:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24; see also 1 Cor. 15:36)