One of the Most Important Weekly Investments For Pastors, Worship Leaders, Speakers, and Prayer Counselors

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Churches spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on quality sound systems and hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on worship facilities. Worship leaders and speakers also often invest thousands of dollars in training, instruments, and resources, not to mention countless hours in sermon preparation, worship rehearsals, worship planning, and prayer. All of this time and money is dedicated to honoring the Lord, reaching the lost, and empowering the church.

However, one small weekly personal investment can help pastors and worship leaders when it comes time to make real connections with people.

Gum.

No matter how great our upfront preparation is and will be, if we speak personally with people and they are offended by our breath, we will lose vital opportunities to share the gospel, encourage the timid, or recruit vital leaders and volunteers.

What’s Your Worship Vibe?

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At a conference this past week in another city, a guy asked a group of us, “So, what’s your worship vibe?”

“Excuse me?” I asked. “What’s our vibe?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Who are you trying to be like?”

“We’re trying to be like Jesus,” said one of my co-workers.

“Yeah, I know that,” he said, “But what other churches are you trying to be like? Are you trying to be like Hillsong or Gateway or Church on the Move? Are you trying to be like Charismatic Baptists or Evangelicals with a Spirit-Filled vibe…”

“A Spirit-Filled vibe?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be real, it just has to seem like it.”

“Do you serve at a church?” I asked.

“Me, ah, no, I run a Christian magazine and I’m leading a break-out tomorrow.”

“Really?” I asked. “What’s the name of that breakout?”

He told us the name and I made a mental note not to attend.

Just for the record, serving in worship and church ministry is not about a vibe. It’s not about trying to be like Hillsong or Gateway or Fellowship or First Baptist or LifeChurch or Mosaic or First Assembly Anywhere.

Not that there’s anything wrong with them.

Those churches have to be who God called them to be. And every other church has to be who God called them to be.

And that’s ok.

You see, worship is not about suits and ties and formal wear. It’s not about skinny jeans and feminine shoes. It’s not about hymnals or projectors or candles or stained glass or hard pews or theater seating.

It’s about Jesus.

He is the One we should be trying to emulate.

And living that out is so much more than a vibe.

 

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

 

Meet Challenges Together, Celebrate With Bacon

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I looked across the kitchen and thought, “I’m not sure we’re going to pull this off.”

While on our annual staff retreat, the worship ministry team had the responsibility for cooking breakfast for the rest of staff. We had grandiose plans of preparing 72 eggs, 120 pancakes, 72 biscuits, a variety of fresh fruit, assorted yogurts, prepackaged granola bars, milk, juice, coffee, and (cue the music) 10 lbs of bacon.

We were prepared to knock it out quickly with the retreat center’s oven, stove top, microwaves, and electric griddles. Sounds reasonable, right?

However, when we arrived, there was no oven, there was no stove top, and the microwaves were broken. Our alternative equipment was a Crock Pot, two older electric griddles, and two coffee pots.

So, an hour before breakfast, we started cooking, using every outlet we could find, which worked well for about five minutes, when we threw a breaker.

Quickly, we rearranged the kitchen, borrowed a few cooking items, started cooking bacon in the dining hall, moved the coffee to the meeting room, found the breaker room, reset the breaker, and continued cooking.

We spent the next hour working as a team, taking care of issues as we found them and resetting the breaker from time to time. Right on time, our delicious meal was presented to the rest of the staff. As they enjoyed their meal, I felt a surge of satisfaction and munched a piece of bacon to celebrate.

At the end of the retreat, when we were asked to share our best memory from the retreat, I said that mine was making breakfast with our team. We’re used to overcoming the odds (and the clock) in worship services, but this was a real team building exercise for us, with better results than a professional ropes course.

Working as a team through difficult situations will either tear you apart or bring you closer together. Why not use them (or even create them) to bring you closer together.

Solomon, the wise son of King David, once wrote, Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

My advice to all of us is this:

  • Do hard things together.
  • Create challenges.
  • Work together.
  • Be victorious.
  • Celebrate with bacon

Why Church Greeters Are Important

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Not long ago, I noticed a church billboard I had not seen before.  It had the name and address of the church with a picture of their smiling pastor and his wife.  The following words were displayed across the bottom:

The friendly church with the friendly pastor

“Well,” I thought, “That certainly sounds like a friendly church. I should visit there some weekend when I’m free.”

Ironically, at that moment I was on my way to visit another church in town for their regular Sunday evening service.  One of my friends was going to be leading the musical worship and had invited me to observe and participate.

My friend, let’s call him Mack, had warned me not to tell anyone where I was from.  He told me his church was internally focused and did not trust pastors, leaders, members of other churches, or guests of any kind.  I thought this was a little strange, but I guaranteed Mack that I wouldn’t speak with anyone about who I was or what church I was from.  I even decided to dress down for the evening.  (Not the best decision)  I suppose I was trying to look like someone who decided to attend the service on the spur of the moment.

I arrived at the church building about 10 minutes before the start of the service.  The building looked deserted, but I walked through the empty foyer and found the worship center without encountering another human being.  As I entered, the worship team was just breaking from their pre-service music run-through.  Mack came and shook my hand, but none of the others on the team spoke to me.  After interacting with Mack, I took a seat near the back row of pews and waited for the service to begin.

After a couple of minutes, a man in a suit entered and spotted me from across the room.  He immediately headed my way.

“Ah,” I thought, “He must be coming to greet me.”

I was wrong.

“Hello,” he said without extending his hand for me to shake.  “I’m the associate pastor here.”

“Nice to meet you, Pastor” I said.  “My name is John.”

“Ok,” he replied, putting his hands on his hips.

“This is a very nice church building,” I said, trying to make conversation.

“Yes.  Why did you come tonight, John?”

I was somewhat taken aback.  I was dressed down, but I didn’t look like a homeless person.  I replied, “Oh, I know Mack and he told me he was singing tonight.  I had the night off so I thought I’d come hear the music.”

Suspicious-eyes

The man looked me over cautiously.  I expected him to shoot me the I’m watching you hand signals, but instead, he replied, “I guess that’s ok.”

“Thank you,” I answered, not knowing what else I could possibly say.

Without another word, He shifted on his shiny black loafers and walked away.

“Man,” I thought, “I should have gone to visit the friendly church with the friendly pastor.”

I wish I could tell you the pastor redeemed the church with his sermon, but I left shortly after the music ended.  Up to this point, I’ve never returned, much to Mack’s dismay.  Every so often, when I drive past the building, I shake my head, remembering my dreadful experience.

And then I wonder…

  • How often have people gone unwelcomed in the church where I serve?
  • How many guests have felt like the foyer of my church building was deserted?
  • How often have our church leaders failed to have someone greeting guests as they enter to worship?
  • How often have I been guilty of turning away visitors by my words, actions, or disposition?

The answers to all of these questions should help us all remember why it’s important to build a culture of friendliness in our churches, especially surrounding our worship services.  This is one reason why church greeter teams play such a vital role in vibrant, growing churches.

Greeters are groups of church members (or regular attenders) who work cooperatively to ensure that every person (first time guest, regular visitor/attender, or long term member) entering the church facility is welcomed warmly and directed sufficiently.

When I think of church greeters, I can’t help but think of Wal-Mart.  Many Wal-Mart stores around the country hire greeters to stand at the door in their blue vests with the sole purpose of greeting people as they walk through the door.  So, you may ask, what does this accomplish for Wal-Mart?

A lot.

  1. A friendly welcome at the door helps the customer feel (at least the slightest bit) welcomed, can serve to put them in a better mood so they have a more pleasant shopping experience.
  2. The Wal-Mart greeter is an instant source of information to the customer entering.  It doesn’t matter if the person wants to know how to find sporting goods, electronics, home office, or the nearest restroom.  The Wal-Mart greeter, often with the words How May I Help You? written across their back, is a plethora of knowledge, especially when you don’t have it.
  3. Wal-Mart is known for hiring Senior Adults as front door greeters which creates positive feelings (for some at least) for a company which hires people in this demographic group to fulfill these roles.

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Church greeters accomplish a lot for the church as well.  Here are just a few of their responsibilities:

  • Monitoring the cleanliness of the gathering place entryway.
  • Opening the door for guests and greeting them as they enter.
  • Passing out worship guides to people as they enter the worship service.
  • Assisting the church ushers, pastors, and staff with unforeseen emergencies.
  • Helping guests know where to go for the worship service, children’s ministry, or restroom.

All of these tasks are extremely important, but not one of these tasks fully describes the full realm of responsibilities fulfilled by the church greeters.  I think a better description of church greeters was made by Dr. Nelson L. Price in the following:

Greeters are the personification, the representative, the exemplar, that is, the church embodied.  Their very presence is the first living impression of the church body.  Greeters need to realize they are more than themselves.  They are the style and spirit of the church in human form.  Greeters are the Ambassadors of the Door.  They are the gatekeepers in the House of the Lord; the envoy of the Lord of the House.*

Well said, Dr. Price.

Church greeters aren’t just bulletin passers, information sharers, door openers, and direction givers.  They most often serve as the church’s first contact with the unsaved, unchurched, curious, misguided, broken, hopeful and hurting people who enter our places of worship.  Church greeters provide a tremendous service for the Kingdom of God that impacts people for Christ just as much as the Sunday morning preacher or worship leader.

Imagine how different my story at the beginning of this article would have been if I had been greeted warmly, given a welcome packet or worship guide, and directed to the worship center.  Their friendliness would have impacted everyone in the building.  I might have stayed for the sermon and left with a smile referring to them as the friendly church with the friendly pastor.

*Nelson L Price, The Importance of Church Greeters 

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How I’m Learning Spanish For Free

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Hola, mis amigos!

My third goal for my 45th year is to learn Spanish. After speaking to some of you, I believe it is time to clarify this goal.

I’ve discovered a free app called Duolingo, which assists individuals in learning other languages through a steady, systematic process. Several months ago, I spent about a month working through the Duolingo App and made it up to level four.

What I plan to do this year is start over at level one and work all the way through level 25. I started over yesterday and just this evening progressed to level two. I may do another level over the next couple of days since I’ve already been at this level once before, however, my plan is to simply learn at a slow and steady pace.

If you would like to join me in learning Spanish, check out Duolingo in your smart phone App store or online at www.duolingo.com.

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Sit Still! No Talking

Sit Still! No Talking!

 

 

 

 

 

school-bus

It was 1980. My family moved to the country. I thought I was going to love it, but I didn’t. In fact, it was an incredibly hard transition for me. I was in 6th grade, and for the first time in my life, I began to get in trouble on the school bus. Before long, I was assigned a seat and ordered not to speak to anyone.

For months, I rode the bus in silence, avoiding those around me by reading novels from the school and public library. Somehow, during those long bus rides, those stories became my companions. Often, I would continue reading during lunch, study hall and even at home. Before long, I forgot about my punishment and looked forward to my bus rides because it afforded me the opportunity to read.

I want to write a middle grade novel. Hopefully, the stories I include will help some young person out there develop a life long love of reading.

A Tribute To Shelton Kennedy

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My friend Shelton Kennedy went to be with Jesus one week ago today, a few hours after playing for two of our morning worship services.  He is one of the only people that I have ever written a devotion about.  I thought I would share it with you today.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Shelton plays the synthesizer for one of our worship teams. When it is time for a rehearsal to begin, he is always in position ready to go. When we need for someone to play at another campus, Shelton is always willing to drive the extra distance to help out. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed our church sheet music library, Shelton produced a copy of every song that he had ever played with the band. He had saved them for years.

Last week, I noticed a crutch on the floor next to Shelton, so I asked him, “Shelton, is that yours?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m having some problems with my knee.”

“Are you o.k. to play?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “Yes, I’ll be fine as long as I’m not walking.”

Later, when asked asked again if he was sure that he could play. Shelton, smiled reassuringly and replied, “I’m on this team and a team’s a team.”

Whenever I think of Shelton, I will remember Psalm 133:1  “How good and pleasant it is when brothers can live together in unity!”

Lord, help us all be more like Shelton.

 

4 Things to Remember When Doing Hospital Visitation

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I’ve been doing hospital visitation on a regular basis for over 20 years.  One thing that I’ve learned is that I’m not very good at it.  Even though I’m a pretty compassionate person, I struggle when trying to minister to those in the hospital.  Something in me clams up and I struggle with my words.

However, Jesus did say I was sick and you visited me, so it’s important to press on with the visit, even when I feel uncomfortable.

I spent most of the last three days with my mother who was hospitalized.  During that time, I pondered my own hospital visitation situation and realized that there are 4 things to remember when doing hospital visitation.

#1  –  Pray.  The Holy Spirit is a much better Comforter than any of us, so pray and let Him do His work.  Thank Him for who He is in front of the people who need to remember it the most.  If for some reason you can’t pray with the hospitalized or their family, pray by yourself for them and for you as you visit them.

#2 – Bring a small gift.  After visiting my mother for the first day, my wife suggested that we bring her the shampoo and conditioner samples from our hotel room.  We weren’t using them anyway and it allowed my mother to wash her hair with real shampoo.  Whether it’s shampoo, facial tissue, a magazine, or a drawn picture from a child, it could make a huge difference in their hospital stay.

#3 – Know when to leave.  Unless you’re family or considered part of the family (sometimes even then), don’t overstay your welcome.  Understand that while you’re trying to bring someone encouragement, you may be wearing them out.  People are in the hospital for a reason and you might be stealing their sleep time. 

#4 -Use discernment when using anointing oil – Some people don’t understand the symbolism.  To some, it just seems like you’re putting grease on their heads.  Your prayers are more important than the oil.

Remembering these 4 things will help me.  Maybe they’ll help you as well.

By the way, my mother’s doing great.