Book I’m Most Looking Forward to This Summer

In the midst of my life I often look back at how God has brought me through many experiences and difficulties to the point I am today. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a PK (pastor’s kid) who has now become a P (pastor), hopefully someday having my own PKs. Growing up as a PK can be incredibly difficult. It doesn’t often feel like you can have your own identity outside of the church or your parents (particularly your pastor father). And I had the double hit of always being told I look and sound like my dad. I’ve even been told today that my laugh sounds exactly like my dad’s. Even at school I was immediately identified as “the Jesus freak.” I look back on my times and thankfully didn’t feel a ton of pressure from people inside the church, but at the same time it’s always there. I remember at one point in the midst of a season of huge rebellion against God and my dad stumbling across the phrase in 1 Timothy 3 “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,” and realized that my dad’s job had the potential to be lost because of me. That’s a lot of responsibility for a 17 year old to manage! Were my parents at fault because of the choices I’d made? Not completely, it was my own sin that I take full credit for, but it still reflected poorly on my parents.

As I’ve transitioned from life as a PK to life as a P there have been some things I’ve had to work through with my dad, and there were some very difficult years of transition as we both had to figure out how to relate to each other, as father and son, as brothers in Christ, and now as co-laborers in the same denomination. When I was looking for jobs in ministry after college the one denomination I didn’t want to be in was the EFCA, because everyone in that denomination knows my dad. God has a funny way of answering our prayer requests, because I ended up in an EFCA church.

This leads me to a book coming out in July by Barnabas Piper (yes, John Piper’s son) who also grew up as a PK titled ‘The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.‘ I’m very excited to read this and see some of what Barnabas has to say about growing up as a PK, and not just a PK, but the PK of a very well known P. This isn’t an issue that’s easy for everyone to deal with, and it doesn’t necessarily come naturally for PKs to struggle with their faith and who they are in Christ. I hope and pray that I can help my kids someday work through their faith in a Christ honoring way.

I’ll be posting a review about the book as soon as I can get my hands on it, but until then, will enjoy the discussions that take place between Barnabas and Stephen Altrogge.

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Why Dudes Don’t Sing

One of the perpetual problems I’ve heard about in multiple churches is that the men won’t sing. I’m grateful at the church I serve that overall, the men do join in the singing, and we have some men that sing VERY loudly (you know who you are!). Yet the question has often been asked, why don’t the men sing? Why is it so hard to get men involved in church? I’ve heard that men aren’t emotional and too many of the songs we sing are too “lovey-dovey” for men to feel comfortable singing. I’ve even heard a comedian say “let me sing about Jesus watching the game with me.”

The problem with this is that it doesn’t allow men to stand up and be the men we’re called to be. Men are supposed to be leading their families and this includes in the way their family sings and worships God together. Men are supposed to be emotional beings (no, that doesn’t mean we cry at every movie we watch, but that doesn’t mean we should be afraid to cry). I worry that many men today attempt to put on a tough guy facade or a hipster/too-cool-for-this vibe that doesn’t allow them to worship God with all they are and all they have.

Throughout my life I’ve had to work through how I can worship God with my whole being, including my body, voice and mind. This past week at church we sang Chris Tomlin’s song “Lay Me Down” which has the line “with my hands, lifted high.” As I introduced the song, I told the congregation it was their opportunity to raise their hands, and most people did and seemed to enjoy it. I know there were some people that REALLY didn’t like it, but they haven’t talked to me yet! It is a joy to sing praises to God in a place where people can be free to express themselves with their bodies! Dancing isn’t just a mark of women, David, whose life movie would probably look something like the movie 300, danced like a mad man! I hope and pray we continue to have more men like David who are willing to show physical displays of worship to God including: raising your hands, dancing, kneeling, bowing, standing in awe, singing and many more. What are some ways you’ve encouraged people to be more engaged at the church you attend?

Finding God in the Dark

I first heard of Ted Kluck when I was in college and was trying to figure out where my theology was and how it fit within the framework of my friends, many of whom were big fans of Rob Bell. Ted was the co-author of the book ‘Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be‘ that was incredibly helpful for me as I processed what the Bible said and how I should live that out. He later came and spoke at my college and I discovered he lived on the same wing as my Hall Director. My world since that time has only gotten smaller.

This leads us to today, where earlier this week I got and read a new book which Ted Kluck co-authored with Ronnie Martin (you may know him better from his days as the band Joy Electric) titled ‘Finding God in the Dark‘ that I wish would’ve been around for me to read in college. The book deals with the personal stories of both Ronnie and Ted as they both faced difficult personal situations and began questioning God’s care for them in the midst of tragedy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve questioned the goodness of God in my life when I’ve faced difficult circumstances. Ronnie’s intro to the book says, “For many of us, doubt and unbelief can be subtle poisons that gradually inoculate us over time from seeing the evidence of God’s grace working steadily in our families, jobs, relationships, and futures.”

The book is primarily just both authors telling the difficulties they had and the process they went through to find God at the end of the journey, and the hope they have that He will continue to provide for them. It is a good reminder for us as we seek God’s will in our lives. I enjoyed hearing perspectives of those who are a little older than me and have wrestled with some of the same questions I’ve wrestled with.

The book is helpful for reading if you’ve ever had times of personal doubt or struggle. It’s a good reminder of David’s thought in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” How can we trust God when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death? This book is a good reminder that He is faithful, and always will be. This book is a very quick read and worth the time that it takes to wrestle with God’s faithfulness.

It all stems from a fundamental disbelief that God is as good as He says He is. We can affirm it in our minds and say it with our mouths, but until it penetrates our hearts it will never transform our lives.

-Ronnie Martin

 

The Purpose of Art

I recently wrote an article defending Lecrae and his attempts to reach the world with the message of the Gospel. Since that time, I was shown another article defending Lecrae on rapzilla. (HT: Andrew) And then I found another article today on The Gospel Coalition asking the question ‘Must Art be Evangelistic to be Christian?‘ written by Alex Medina – one of Lecrae’s producers. Quoting Sho Baraka, Alex writes:

The problem is that we have created a theological truth from cultural and systematic preferences. So now hip hop is an office in the church and not a vocation or art. We first must start here before we can move forward. It’s something we’ve all been guilty of implying in one way or another.

This is the problem many Christians face as we attempt to interact with the culture we live in. People are always asking how far is too far? At what point is it too much like the world and not enough like Christ? We shouldn’t try to make music and art something only done in the church-but should be able to use music and art in general as a way to point people to the cross either directly or indirectly. My college president always told us “All truth is God’s truth” and I would go on to say that anything beautiful is designed by God and God made it good. Yes, it has been warped by the fall and distorted by sin, but God still created us in his image to bear his likeness and be like him in the way we create. How can we better push people to make art to the glory of God? Be encouraging them to continue to work on their craft as they become better and better at deflecting the glory to God.

New CD for Church

One of the most played CDs for me recently has been the new album by Vertical Church Band titled ‘The Rock Won’t Move.‘ If you attend my church you’ll recognize some of the songs as new ones we’ve started singing this year.

The album opens with a very catchy tune called ‘Found In You’ that starts with everyone singing “Oh” and slowly building until everyone is joining in the singing “We’re reaching out, to welcome you God.” This is a great song that could be used as a welcome song at church.

The next song is my least favorite song on the album, which I found interesting because it seems that a lot of other people really like it called ‘I’m Going Free (Jailbreak).’ I’m not planning on doing it at church.

The following two songs are the best on the album both lyrically and musically. We’ve done both of them at church during our sermon series on the church. The first is the title track ‘The Rock Won’t Move’ which talks about God being our rock that won’t move. Despite everything else shaking around us God’s Word and love endures. The second song is ‘Worthy, Worthy’ that is similar in content to ‘Revelation Song.’ The verses tell how God’s ways are so much higher than ours and that we will never be able to comprehend and builds to the chorus which says,

Holy holy is the Lord God almighty
Worthy worthy is Your name
All of heaven joins the universe ever crying
Worthy worthy is Your name

It’s very easy to sing and is a wonderful description of who God is.

I’m planning to do the next song ‘I Will Follow’ at some point in the future as well. This song addresses our need to press in to God in both the good times and the bad “I believe and I will follow You.” This song thematically is similar to the classic ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ where we are reminded to praise God no matter what comes our way.

The rest of the songs on the CD are potentials for us to do in the future, but aren’t as strong as the previous ones I’ve mentioned. This CD is worth sticking on repeat in your car and adding to your repertoire of songs your congregation sings at church. Have you found any other CDs recently that have been great congregational songs?

The New Hymnal

With the current technology we have, it has made music much more accessible to a larger group of people. By simply buying a computer and an audio interface you can record your own songs and upload them online for the world to hear and listen to. With an ever increasing amount of songs being published, how can you let people know what you listen to? And as this applies to a church, how can a congregation know what songs we sing?

Previous generations had these books compiled called hymnals. Within the hymnal was the collection of songs the congregation would sing. You could walk into a church and know many of the songs because they used the same hymnal that you were used to. People could even take one of these hymnals home to learn the music themselves or sing them with their families. This was one of the things my parents did with me as I was growing up, and as I became more competent with piano I even got to lead some of the songs we sang together. These hymnals worked really well when people knew how to read music and could hammer out the song on piano, but my experience with my generation is that many of them can’t read sheet music. Even those who can play guitar or drums do it by chords instead of sheet music so a hymnal wouldn’t work for them.

We now have access to thousands of songs at the click of a button. Services like iTunes, Amazon Music, Pandora and Spotify have made it easier to find any kind of music you like. And as the number of people with smartphones grows, the potential for people to access this overabundance of music grows. So how can people listen to the songs your church sings and get to know them well enough to teach them to their kids? One idea I’ve implemented is what I’m calling my new hymnal: a Spotify playlist. Spotify is a free service that allows you to access thousands of songs. I’ve created a playlist and posted it to our church website. One of the reasons I chose Spotify is because it’s easy to add or remove songs even after you’ve published a link to your playlist.

I got to go to a different church than I attend during Christmas break and of all the songs we sung, I knew 1. With all the music that is being released regularly it’s often hard to move from church to church and quickly pick up the songs they sing. I’m hoping this playlist will allow more people to know the songs before they even walk through our doors.

Does anyone else have any ideas on how you can teach your congregation new songs or the current repertoire of songs you do sing?

To see my playlist see my previous post.

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

-Deuteronomy 6:7

Songs at Cheyenne E Free Church

For those of you interested in seeing many of the songs we do regularly at Cheyenne E Free Church, feel free to follow this link.

How to Not Change the Church

Relevant magazine has another good article today on ‘How Not to Change the Church‘ that’s worth reading. It’s a topic I’ve addressed before multiple times (here, here, and here). The basic idea in the article is that complaining won’t change anything in the church, but actively doing things can and will change the church. Do you wish they’d do something differently? Then stop complaining and change it. The article says it well:

And the onus is on us to keep taking steps toward Jesus and His people on a daily basis—through prayer, scripture, community and evangelism. We need one another to be the Church, and we need lots of different people around us to remember that it can look many different ways.

So go do something about your unhappiness with church. Get plugged in a start seeing change occur, both in you and around you.