I grew up in a very conservative, “bible-based” church. So naturally, I memorized insane amounts of Bible verses as a kid. Most of them were about the “love” or “salvation” or “grace” of God. To be honest, I had no experience of the love or salvation of God. I was more scared of him than anything. But I learned the verses all the same.
There was this test at the end of the school year with a handwritten and verbal component, testing how well we’d memorized the verses word-for-word. And if you got a good enough grade on the test, you got a free ride scholarship to summer camp.
To my recollection, I passed every year. Free trips to summer camp. I did the book work to appease the powers-that-be, pass the test, and make my parents proud. And in exchange I got to escape with my buddies for a week or two, stay up late playing pranks with shaving cream, and exploding flashlight batteries in a bonfire. Win win.
A guy named Tim Lambesis recently hired a hitman to kill his estranged wife. He paid the man a thousand dollars and promised another $19k once he’d confirmed his wife was dead. He gave the hit man specific times that his children would be alone with him, to be sure they were safe and that he had an alibi. When it turned out that the hitman was actually an undercover detective, Lambesis was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison.
This probably wouldn’t have made national news coverage, except that Lambesis was the lead singer for a popular “Christian” band.
Shortly before his trial, the singer gave an interview and explained how he and his bandmates had become atheists throughout their years of touring. In order to maintain record and concert ticket sales, the band decided to continue marketing themselves as “Christian.” In the interview, he shared openly about his struggle to be honest and the “cowardly” way he handled it. He talked about the Christian music scene and said “9 out of 10 ‘Christian’ bands we toured with weren’t actually Christians.” Lambesis’ cautionary tale reminded us of a gross reality within the Church:
You can totally fake it.
Actually, you can totally fake it and loads of people won’t even know that you’re faking it. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between who you really are and who you pretend to be on Sunday morning. And if Christian rock stars can get away with faking it, couldn’t worship leaders as well?
This is an excerpt from a guest post I wrote for The Worship Community. Continue reading here…
This week I had the privilege of writing a guest post for Worship Links. It’s something I wrote to lead pastors and preachers about how they’re the “real worship leaders” of our churches. Now, I’m nowhere close to qualified for giving lead pastors or preachers any advice, other than maybe “here’s why you shouldn’t let your youth group kids play with lighters and cologne in the summer camp cabin.” But in my time leading worship, I’ve noticed how influential these pastors are in creating a culture of worship in their church. This post is a “thanks” to them.
Here’s a nibble of the post:
“Once when I was nine or ten years old I spent the summer at my grandma’s house. I’d just bought a sweet new plastic ninja sword, and I was playing by myself in her backyard pretending to be a Power Ranger or a Ninja Turtle or something. I was fighting some imaginary evil ninja bosses, and I was really taking names and feeling good about it.
My karate moves were complete with kicking sound effects and a hearty “hi-YA!” every now and then. I flew through the air taking out sixty-two bad guys with one jump kick. At one point I got swept up in a moment of ninja bliss, and busted a roundhouse that would have made Chuck Norris cry like a baby. But as I spun around, I froze in terror…”
(Melodramatic linkbait cliffhanger!)
…now go read the rest on the excellent Worship Links site!
“Conversational life with God – or prayer – is not hindered by space and distance. When you speak to God, it is like speaking to someone next to you. Spirit is unbodily personal power. Our conversation is not limited to space, time, or matter. God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. You don’t need a holy place, as the woman at the well learned when she asked, ‘Where is the Holy Place – on this mountain or in Jerusalem?’ God is not looking for a holy place. Places are holy because God is there.”
Last week, I shared a few self-deprecating stories about how I used to hate singing in church. Until about three years ago, I refused to sing on Sunday mornings and had a lot of opinions about how lame worship music was. Then I had an experience that changed the course of my life, as God revealed Himself to me in a way that significantly shifted my opinions about corporate worship.
The irony wasn’t lost on me. I was a guy who hated “worship music” with every fiber of my creative being. Now, three years later, I’m a worship pastor who asks people to sing every Sunday. Why the one-eighty? I was curious to explore the thought further, to see how my beliefs about communal worship have changed over the last few years. I was also really eager to make fun of myself some more and expose a few funny laughable skeletons from the closet of my past.
I thought maybe the best thing to do would be to interview my 25 year-old self.
Confession: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always hated singing in church. Some say “hate” is a strong word. I’d say it’s probably not strong enough.
Being a pastor’s son, I was always in the children’s choir. I didn’t want to be exposed as a fraud, but I didn’t want to sing either. So one of my middle school buddies taught me that if you just mouthed the word “watermelon” over and over, it would look like you’re actually singing real words. I don’t know if that actually worked or not. It probably looked ridiculous (“why are those two kids in the back row saying ‘watermelon’ instead of singing?”) But I did it anyway and escaped having to learn the words and sing along.
About a year ago, my wife and I sat in our living room and cried.
We couldn’t afford to send our son to preschool. My wife had quit her job so she could stay home with the kids and finish up her degree. We were getting used to our new financial situation and we crunched the numbers over and over. No matter which way we sliced it, there was no way we could afford the tuition.
We’d been so excited when we enrolled our son in preschool. We knew that it would help him socially and academically and we found a great school that loads of our friends recommended. We couldn’t wait for him to start. But as the first day of school approached, we knew we couldn’t afford it and we were pretty shattered. As a man, knowing that I couldn’t provide that for my kid was a terrible feeling.
When I was in second or third grade I decided to try out for the talent show.
I had an incredible plan. I was going to do a hip hop lip-sync and dance performance. I had a blue Nike beret that I planned to wear sideways. I had shoes that lit up when I busted sweet moves. I had some fake Oakley sunglasses. I had some wacky home-made Hammer pants that had unbelievable neon designs on them. I couldn’t believe how good this was feeling.
When I was a kid I used to go and spend time with my grandma in the summer. Every Sunday she’d haul me to church with her. And because I never wanted to join Sunday school with a bunch of kids I didn’t know, she’d let me sit through “big people church” beside her.
The first church I remember her taking me to was an old traditional Methodist church. With all the stained glass and the built-in pipe organ and the semi-gothic architecture, I remember feeling like I was in a castle. But that was where my excitement ended. The rest of the time I was confused by when I should be standing or sitting, and why the guy up front was wearing robes, and why everyone was reciting Scriptures together like a chorus of elderly monotone robots.
If I have to listen to the “Frozen” soundtrack one more time, I might stab my eardrums with giant icicles.
It’s my daughter’s fault. That little girl is wearing me out.
Every time we get in the car, she is slowly but surely wrecking my well-manicured Spotify account. “Because you listened to the Frozen soundtrack twenty-three trillion times,” Spotify tells me, “you might also like music from the Veggie Tales, Thomas & Friends, and Caspar Babypants.”
It blows my mind that my two year-old daughter can memorize the lyrics to all those “Frozen” songs in the first place. It also blows my mind how much she wants to build a snowman. But no matter how much I try to sell her on the finer points of The Beatles or Wilco or Arcade Fire, I still hear the same request from that little voice in the backseat: “Fwozen music!”
There’s an interesting thing I’ve observed in my children. They engage with music differently than I do. Like a quality wine or dessert, I like to savor good music. I only listen to my favorite album once a year. No joke. And if I find a new jam, I’ll wear it out for a few days then throw it on my “favorites” list and forget about it. But my kids are different. They can sing the same song over and over and never get sick of it.
I never made a connection between all this and leading worship until recently, when a boy in our congregation approached me after church.