Monday, May 26, 2008

MIKE'S THOUGHTS ON WORSHIP (CONT'D)


(In the last blog, worship pastor Mike Cathey left us hanging with what a 90-minute worship experience would look like. Take your time and read it through very carefully.)

Some people have asked me, "What will we do with a whole hour-and-a-half?" This is a legitimate question for someone who is used to a service that lasts an hour. As Pastor Ken mentioned in an earlier blog, the average worship time for the 25 fastest growing churches in America is somewhere between 75 and 90 minutes. Can we assume there is a correlation between the time allotted for worship and the church's growth? As someone who has led and experienced services of more than an hour for most of my life, I can say that I would believe that to be a huge factor. While each church operates slightly differently, let me share a break-down of what happens in these longer services and why it is so vital to the health and growth of our church that we learn to begin spending longer amounts of time in God's presence.

A typical hour-and-a-half service consists of 30 minutes of singing (mixed with announcements and greetings), 5 minutes for the offering, 35 minutes for the message, 5 minutes for a testimony and 15 minutes of prayer (sometimes mixed with the Lord's Supper and the time of commitment). I don't know about you, but when I see it this way, 90 minutes begins to seem pretty short! In fact, in the previous churches I've ministered in, the question has never been "How will we fill the time," but rather "Where can we find more time?" - No doubt a question we will be asking here at Chapin Baptist in the very near future!!

But what does it mean to truly worship, and how much time is enough? We must first realize that our very lives, each and every moment, are to be an act of worship. As I once heard another pastor say, we need a theology to play ball or to eat a Hershey Bar. If we cannot do either of those things for God’s glory then we shouldn't do them. But we can do both for God’s glory. We give Him thanks for the ability to play ball or for the awesome taste of chocolate. We compete not for our own sense of pride but to put God’s glory on display because He has given us the ability to play. We enjoy that Hershey Bar with God in mind and contemplate the multi-faceted gifts He has given us as well the multi-dimensional beauty or satisfaction we find in so many things. It’s all about Him! Psalm 100:3 says, “It is He who has made us and not we ourselves.” As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

When we consider that all of life is worship, that all of life is essentially the church, then how do we put a time constraint on it? For most of us, it is the constant pressures and expectations on our lives. Our children's schedules, our habits and hobbies, our lack of enthusiasm for God, our desire to do more: these are all things that are important to deal with, but when compared to spending time with our Savior, they become idols. If I can't trust Him to work these things out so that I can spend more time with Him, what else can I not trust Him with?

I love what I Corinthians 10 has to say on this subject of trusting God. Paul was writing a letter to His beloved church because he heard through the grapevine that they were becoming quite content with their lives and were balking at what God was trying to do in their midst. He reminds them that the Israelites were cared for in the desert and yet still complained, and God killed 23,000 of them in one day because of their discontent and talk of dissension. There is a clear explanation here that God demands a sacrifice, but we should be careful that it is for God and not for ourselves. "Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what's the idol but a nothing? Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don't want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. And you can't have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. Besides, the Master won't put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less?" (I Corinthians 10:19-22 The Message)

Do we really want to be the people of God who give only as much as necessary in order to be called Christians? The Word mentions God's jealousy of His people over twenty times, and each time it is said in the context of some idol that is taking their attention away from the Lord. There is this overwhelming reality that God will not put up with anything less than our all. If this is true, we must seriously consider everything we do as a church, least of all how long we worship together on Sunday mornings.

Can we accomplish all we need to in an hour on Sunday mornings? In all honesty,iIt's possible we could do it in 15 minutes. The real question, however, should be "Are we allowing God enough time to transform us from the inside out?" May the Holy Spirit guide us as we strive to answer that question...

God, give us a heart of worship. Renew in us a simple love for you, a thirst and hunger to know you and to walk in holiness and righteousness. May our hearts break for what breaks Yours. We want to see you and touch the hem of your robe. Bring us closer to your throne. Come and change our hearts again.

Be Blessed!

Mike



"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com/ to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."


Saturday, May 24, 2008

MIKE'S THOUGHTS ON WORSHIP


[I’ve asked our worship pastor Michael Cathey to do a couple of blogs on the theme of encountering Christ in worship. I believe this guy can preach. Each of the two blogs is a little longer than usual, but well worth the read. So if you’re in a big hurry, come back to this one when you have time to soak it in.

We all have one... that person we love spending time with. Whether it's going out to dinner, meeting them in Harbison to do some window-shopping, inviting them over for a pig-picking or simply watching a Sunday afternoon game in the living room, we all have that person that we can always "hang" with. Our conversations pick up right where they left off, and sometimes we know what they are thinking before they even say it. More often than not, we'll drop everything (or at least change our plans) so that we can spend time with that person who makes us feel wanted.

We also get a lot out of the time we spend with this person. We feel like we belong and are a part of a special relationship. And we know that if we ever need anything, they will most likely be the first person to give us a call and offer assistance, and they know they can expect the same from us.

One of the unique things about us humans is that we unconsciously say a lot about whom we hold dear by the amount of time we spend with that person. If we have a grouchy and inconsiderate boss, we don't tend to ask them to dinner or to the family barbeque. On the flip-side, we will go out of our way to make time for our friends - we'll change tee-times, take vacation days, get a sitter for the kids and even drive out of our way and spend more on gas to make sure we can spend quality time with those we care about.

As we are looking to the future changes in our schedule this August, I have been asking myself who I devote the majority of my time to. Of course Karin and Carson are high on the list, as are some of the great friends we have made here in Chapin since last September. I know that they can gauge my love and devotion for them by the amount of time I spend with them.

One of the convictions that I have received from the Lord is that Karin and I need to be spending more time together as a couple. One of the books we read as we were anticipating the arrival of Carson emphasized the fact that a new baby needs to understand that when he enters the world, he is a part of the family, not the center of it! Mom and dad had a family before he came It actually helps him to become a more respectful and secure child if he experiences a mom and dad who spend time together without him.

What would it mean to Karin if I was constantly telling her that I loved her, bought her flowers weekly and even gave her a nice diamond necklace each year on our anniversary, but could never really spend time with her? She would appreciate my gestures of love and affection, but what she would really desire is my attention. "I'd love to stay and hear about your day, but I've got a dinner meeting tonight." "You know I love you, but I'm fishing today and can't keep the guys waiting." "We can talk as long as I can still play my video games at the same time." These things I'm wanting to do aren't bad, and I should do them on occasion. However, these excuses would get pretty old if I used them every week! Part of loving someone is showing them that love with our time. Without sacrificing our time, our words of love can become empty. Bottom line: We show the importance of things in our lives based on how much time we devote to them.

Another way to think about quality time is to think of how we wash our cars. We can choose to do a 5 minute once over, or even decide to take our vehicle to the $20 full-service car wash and get it decently clean. But the truth is that if we take our time to do it right, we'll come out with a much cleaner car. No doubt we will end up spending more time doing the work, but in the process we will reveal stains and debris that would not have been caught and dealt with if we had paid someone else to do it quickly. It takes time to do thoroughly, but we end up with a result greater than we had even expected.

It is most likely obvious that you see where I am heading with this. When our time is one of the most precious gifts we can give to anyone or anything, what does it say to our Creator when we reserve a simple hour each week to celebrating him with our spiritual family? And when we do get together to give praise to our God, are we constantly checking our watch or slipping out early to get a good spot in line at La Fogata? When we worship corporately, are we giving enough time each week?

The only way to truthfully answer this question is to look at exactly what we are supposed to do when we come together to worship. I Corinthians 14: 26 - 33 gives us the outline for an appropriate, orderly worship service. Singing, a lesson or sermon, a testimony or story, reading of the Word, a prayer, and an insight or prophesy. These are the physical pieces to a service. (Side note: notice how they didn't take an offering - this was collected daily without needing to ask for it... another article for another time...) Can these things be accomplished in an hour? Certainly. Should they be?

(Ken’s note: Great question that deserves a thoughtful answer. Mike will answer this question in the next blog.)



"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com/ to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."


Thursday, May 22, 2008

JOURNEY THROUGH PHILIPPIANS

  • Philippians is my favorite book in the whole Bible. It is the only book I have memorized. Believe it or not, I think I can still recite it.
  • Paul doesn't tell us that we can have joy or how to have joy. He is simply joyful, and we learn from his joy.
  • Paul often prayed for his Christian friends.
  • God will finish what He starts in us.
  • His primary prayer for them: that their love would flourish.
  • Everywhere I go, no matter the circumstances, is a pulpit.
  • As long as I'm alive, God has work for me to do.
  • Always live in such a way that you are a credit to God's message.
  • I should be more concerned with helping others get ahead versus me getting ahead.
  • Christians should always be a breath of fresh air in our sin-polluted world.
  • Another classic paraphrase from Eugene Peterson in The Message Bible. In 3:8, Paul considered all his religious credentials as "dog dung."
  • We must keep our eyes on the goal of becoming all that God has for us.
  • Everyday, all day, I should celebrate God.
  • Prayer displaces worry.
  • No matter what my circumstances are, I can make it through Christ.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

STARTLING STATS

Today I met with about 250 pastors and church leaders at Columbia's Convention Center and heard well-known consultant and author Aubrey Malphurs teach on the subject of leading churches through change. For me, the morning session was the most enlightening, but also the most disturbing.

Malphurs stated five reasons why churches much change:

  1. American churches are struggling.
  2. The number of churched people is declining.
  3. The number of cults and non-Christian groups is growing.
  4. The church landscape is rapidly changing.
  5. Church people resist change.

He shared some alarming stats, many of which I had already read--but to hear them again challenges me more and more to do my best to lead CBC off our plateau.

  • 4 out of 5 churches are plateaued or declining.
  • A 2005 study showed that 17.5 percent of Americans attend church on any given weekend. The state of SC is a little better--22.7 percent (nothing to brag about, huh?)
  • 1999 study by Barna--The builder generation (born pre-1946)--51% attended church in last 6 months; Boomers (1946-64)--41%; Busters (1965-76)--34%; Bridgers (1977-94)--29%.
  • Only 4% of teen bridgers understand the gospel and have accepted Christ even if they attend church.
  • The US is the fourth largest non-Christian nation (235 million).
  • The fastest growing cult? Wiccans

My three most important takeaways:

  1. An affirmation that the changes we are making are on target. We must develop new paradigms of doing church.
  2. We must move beyond expecting the church to "take care of me" to a missional vision of reaching as many as we can with the good news of Christ.
  3. We must pour as much energy and resources as possible into children's and student ministries.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

STUCK IN TIME

To help us understand the schedule changes for fall, I've asked some of my fellow staff pastors to provide input. In this blog Steve Little helps us understand the small group dynamic.


How does a person really grow? A psychologist once told me that when post traumatic syndrome occurs, the person who goes through a severe traumatic event sort of gets stuck in time. They continually repeat that event over and over again in their mind. It is only through processing that event effectively that they can put it in the past and move forward.
I believe this is true for real growth and development to occur in all of us. It is only when we have the opportunity to process the events and issues of life with other people that lasting transformation happens. It is when we take the truths of the Bible and process what God is telling us with other people that spiritual transformation occurs.
The ultimate goal of small groups for the Christian community is spiritual transformation, believers becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. To realize this goal, people need time to share and mentally process the difficult situations of life. They need to celebrate how God is working through and in their lives. The group must provide a safe place to build relationships, trust and pray for one another. The group also needs to provide a place for people to discover the truths of the Bible and to wrestle with how to live those truths out in daily life.
To create this kind of environment takes intentionality and time. How much time? If you were going to have a small group meeting in your home and the focus of the group was to accomplish the spiritual transformation mentioned above, how long would your group sessions last? I gave a group of our leaders who had the assignment to answer this question one Wednesday night and they all came back with a unanimous answer, 90 minutes. To provide this kind of environment takes more time than the typical Sunday morning Sunday School class. It all comes down to an unquenchable passion to see the lives of people really change. Join me in praying God will allow us the joy of seeing the Holy Spirit move among us.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at http://www.pastorkenkelly.com/ to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."