Vision 2012–Worship

August 20, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

You hear the word “worship” and you automatically think about music.  “What’s worship like in your church?” is the same question as “What is the music like in your church?”

Now, I don’t want to be “that guy.” You know the guy that lambasts you for using one definition of a word instead of his preferred definition of the word.  Example, “Only God is awesome.  Because only he is totally worthy of our awe and extreme admiration.” Well, awesome also can mean something that’s cool.  “Cool means low in temperature.”  Enough already.

Worship can mean music, but it also has other definitions.  When we get to “Grow” in our vision series, we will see the same thing.  “We want the church to grow,” has multiple meanings.  It can mean you want more people or you want the people to be more.

What do we mean by worship? Well, let’s go to the dictionary. Worship–to be devoted to and full of admiration for.  When we talk about worship, this is what we mean.  We need to be express our devotion and admiration for God.  We can and should do this through singing praise songs to God.  However, it is only worship if we mean what we say.  Otherwise it is just singing.

However, worship is much deeper than singing. Singing is but one expression of worship.  Worship is demonstrating with our lives our full devotion to God.  Paul uses worship in this way in Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Offering your bodies (lives) to God is your true and proper worship.  So as we evaluate how we are doing individually and as a church in worship, it is important to ask if we are properly pouring out our hearts with sincerity when we sing.  However, it is even more important for us to ask if our lives are fully devoted to him.

There are 3 particular areas in which God has laid on my heart for us to grow in our worship.

1. Finances–It is far and away the hardest area for many if not all people. It also causes us the most anxiety when we don’t surrender it to God. We start in our hearts by making a commitment that we will do with our money whatever God asks and a recognition that everything we have is His in the first place.

There are a couple of ways that we need to practice good stewardship of our finances (obviously there are more, but 2 that I believe are good starting points for us).  First is to be generous givers.  God calls us to take the first and best of what we have and give it to him. How much? Ask God.  The historical standard has been 10%, which is what tithe means.  That case can be made from Scripture.  A case can be made for more. It would be hard to make one for less.  Again, ask God and see what he says. That’s a great place to start if the point of this is to surrender this to him in worship.

Second, spend less than what you bring in.  No need to elaborate on that much, so how about an algebra equation?  If you bring in X, spend at most X-1.

2.Character–Too often we justify our sin.  We also minimize the effects that our sin has on us and on other people.  What is one area of sin where you most need to change?  You probably know immediately when asked.  If not, ask God. If not, ask a friend or spouse.  I assure you, they know.  Then begin to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart and give you victory.  What you will discover is more consistent victory and this area and freedom.

3. Direction–Finally, would you consider asking the question, “God what do you want me to do?” I don’t mean this in a “should I have chicken or steak for dinner” kind of way, but in a “is my life going in the right direction” kind of way.  Are you open to God leading you in a different direction, to get involved in a new ministry, to reach out to people around you?  What if God asked you move to the other side of the world? What if he asked you give sacrificially so someone else could? What if he told you to add to your family through adoption? What if…? What if…? Would you listen? Will you take the risk and ask and wait?

What would happen if we all made a decision this year to increase our giving, allow God to change our character and all followed God wherever he led?  It gets me excited just to think about it.  God would use us in ways that we can hardly imagine.  He would change the world through us.  People in NWA and all around the world would find life in Christ.  We would be living life the way God intends for us to live, with freedom, peace and hope.  We would be the church God is calling us to be.

Worship–What It Is(n’t)

August 29, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We started our (most likely to be) annual series on the vision and mission of the Grove.  (Ok, we need to decide this.  Is it the Grove? The Grove? the Grove Church? The Grove Church?  Does it matter?)

We want our church to be centered around four words:

Worship, Reach, Grow and Send

We worship God with our lives.  We reach people who are lost.  We grow deep in our relationship with God. We send people into the community and world with the love of God.

The foundation of those four words/ideas is the first one–worship.  Religious activity and doing the right thing can be empty gestures.  We want to make sure that the foundation of all that we do is our love and devotion to God.  That’s what worship is, the expression of our love and devotion to that one person or thing that we value above all else.

The question that we need to ask ourselves is what do we worship?  No, no, no.  I’m not asking what you’re supposed to say.  What do you really worship?  “But I sing to God every week at church.”

Worship isn’t singing.  Worship can involve singing if our hearts and minds are engaged with what we are singing.  My guess is that a lot of us sing along with songs in the car, but we don’t mean what we say (Think singing along to 80’s songs.  “Can’t stand the thought of you with somebody else, gotta have your tenderness, all to myself.”).

Worship on Sunday happens when we believe and feel what we are declaring to God with our songs.

Worship the rest of the week happens when we demonstrate with our lives that God is first.  How do we spend our time? What consumes our mind? Where and how do we spend our money?  Who or what is most important?

We can all agree, I’m supposing since you clicked the link to come here, that the answer should be God.  We need to take the necessary steps to make what we think should be true, actually be true.  How do I need to differently prioritize my time?  Do I need to be surrendering my finances to God?  Do I need to change what I think about during the day?

God is calling us to be used in the lives of people, but first and foremost we need to be fully devoted worshippers of God.  This is who God is calling tHe GrOvE ChurCh to be.

Sunday’s Coming Movie Trailer or “I don’t if I’m supposed to laugh or be convicted”

I don’t mean to be 2000 and late on this as I’m sure that many of you have seen this.  When I showed it to the worship team at Fellowship Cabot, they loved it and said that we have been busted.  I’m scared to show this to the good people at the Grove, because I would like to convince them that what we are going to do when I get there is both fresh and original.  Nope, we are already the subject of a spoof video.

I take comfort in the fact that North Point was making fun of themselves as well.  What do you think when you see it?  Is it funny, sad, ironic?  Let me know.  I’ve seen it 10 times and I’m still not sure.


Worship Rant (Guest Blogger–Jim Bullard)

May 4, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I figured once the worship controversy got going, we might as well keep it going.  Jim Bullard is the Worship Pastor for the Chapel Venue at Fellowship Bible Church in LR.  He is a great guy with a love for God and for people to be true worshipppers.  Here are his thoughts.  (BTW, worship rant was the title of the post he sent me.  Actually his had an exclamation point.)

Recently, I have heard positive and negative comments about our worship at the church that I serve as worship pastor and it has driven me to ask some questions to compare my own thoughts and perceptions of worship to those found in the scriptures.  Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and tells her that the Father seeks those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth”.  No style is suggested and music isn’t even mentioned.


When Jesus appears to the two on the road to Emmaus right after His resurrection, then sits down for a meal with them and opens the Scriptures…their question expresses worship in a very tangible way…they asked “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”


When was the last time our hearts burned within us for God in worship or our eyes opened to see Him for Who He truly is?  When was the last time we truly worshipped God in spirit and truth?  Or, have the drums and electric guitar been too loud…or did the use of hymns and pipe organ prevent us from really getting anything out of worship.  Why is it that many of us have become connoisseurs of worship rather than participants in it?  I love this quote from the movie “One Night with The King”…which is the story of Esther from the Bible.  She enters his presence and gives him the necklace that her mother gave her as a child.


Esther when addressing King Xerxes when he is asking who she is and why she is giving him her necklace…


“I was taught that when you visit a King, rather than expect a gift, one should bring one to lie at his feet.  This is my most valuable possession in the world…it is my past…my present and my future and all of it is yours.”  


This is what we should be doing in worship…laying our most valuable possessions at His feet…fully expecting Him to change our hearts from what we want to what He wants.  Worship is a lifestyle that we live…not songs that we sing on Sunday.  Our corporate worship when we gather should reflect that lifestyle of worship rather than it being a service station where we fill up on God and all the “things” that He has for us.  It should be a corporate expression of lifestyles that are committed to His purposes and His processes in establishing His kingdom here rather than a “holy huddle” for members of a “club” (or church) to come and hear a motivational speech and music done in the style that we prefer.


When is a lifestyle of worship going to motivate us to meet the needs of our community rather than worrying about how many more people are going to the church down the street than our church?  When is a lifestyle of worship going to cause us to care more about our neighbors than we do about losing weight, getting a nicer car or learning how deal with stress in our lives?  When is a lifestyle of worship going to turn our hearts to our children and spouses and see that how we think about them speaks volumes about our worship?  When are we going to understand that music is a tool that we use to worship our Holy and Mighty God, not the very thing THAT we worship?


Many of us understand in our heads the answers to these questions…but our culture does not even ask them.  We are so preoccupied with the consumer mentality of offering our customers what they want and selling God and church life like a product for them to purchase.  The message of the gospel is to loose your life so you can gain it…that’s not culturally cool!  The message of the gospel is to consider others better than ourselves…that’s definitely not culturally cool?  The message of the gospel is to serve, expecting nothing in return…not a very popular message in our world!  Yet, the very definition of the word gospel is good news…living the good news, imparting good news…a lifestyle of worship can be the best news our world can hear.  Don’t try harder…don’t read another self-help book…pray for God to change your paradigm so that you can worship Him the way He wants to be worshipped.

Diversity, Choirs, Guitars and Excellence

You may be surprised to hear that I wasn’t necessarily intending on opening multiple cans of worms in posting about worship.  I didn’t necessarily feel that what I said was controversial, but I certainly do not mind it.  Discussion is healthy.  Disagreement is healthy.  The pursuit of God often is found in such ways.  To catch up, read the original post here

We are going to do something a little different.  Rather than respond to my thoughts, I want to hear you respond to something someone else said.  In one of the comments, a friend of mine from St. Louis brings up one of the trends in worship music:

The musical shift in the last 10 years has been frightening to watch. Churches now focus on having the cool, young, hip guitar player as the “music minister”, and if you play any instrument that would fall outside of a standard rock band, you are no longer welcome. Only the beautiful people need apply now – young, physically attractive, professional-level talent is all that is desired. The average person no longer has a place other than in the crowd. Most choirs are gone, and your average singers can’t pass audition in most churches. Read the music forums sometime for full-time worship leaders and see the types of things they discuss – it will give you chills. A lot of it is focused on how to keep everyone but hand-selected professionals off the stage, and how to keep the few people they do allow on the stage under absolute control. There is a reason why they want it that way……music in most churches has become all about performance.

What do you think?  Does a church have an obligation to use anyone who wants to be used in the music ministry?  Should a church provide a diverse range of styles so that a classical singer can be used as well as electric guitar player?  Has the striving for excellence in the worship music made the music more about performance than worship?  What do you think?

I Hate the Worship at That Church

What an incredible thing to say, but I’m sure that many of you have heard someone say it or something like it.  Maybe they don’t say hate, maybe they just say “didn’t like.”  Regardless, it is still a strange thing to say.  Several things strike me about such a statement. 

First, how did music style preference become such a huge controversy in church?  Sure there are some styles of worship music in churches that I might find cheesy or old fashioned.  But for everyone of me that thinks that there are dozens who are connecting their hearts with God and worshipping him.  Some may find the worship at our church a little, shall we say loud? Someone once described it as “loud and sounds like a rock concert.”  It took me just a second to realize that this person was not giving us a compliment.  I understand musical preference, but what I do not understand and cannot tolerate is castigating other styles of worship as “bad.”

Which gets to the larger point, worship is not the same as music.  You can have worship without worship music and you can have worship music without worship.  Right now I sit in the lobby of FBCLR and worship music is playing, but I am not worshipping to that music, I am typing.  Worship is not simply singing.  It is your heart connecting with God’s heart.  It is you demonstrating with your words and with your life that you love God and are completely devoted to God.  Worship is an expression of your heart.  If I walk into the most traditional of worship services and hear a hymn, I should be able to worship.  If the words and music of that hymn do not captivate my heart, then I assure you problem is not with the minister of music or the organist, it is with me.

I should be able to worship God in any style of music.  More than that, I should be able to praise and worship God when I see Lauren (my 9 yr old daughter) winning her soccer tournament.  I praise God for the beautiful, sweet, strong young lady she is becoming.  I should praise God just by waking up to another day, a day that is a gift from God.

Worship is so much more than being in a worship service where music is played that you prefer.  Worship is you from your heart appreciating and praising God for the amazing God that he is.