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Division or Unity?

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9:00 Traditional Service: Choir. Robes. Orchestra. Hymns. Anthems. Pulpit.
11:00 Contemporary Service: More guitars. No Choir. Fog. Cool lighting. Younger people on stage. Jeans.

Years ago I visited a church where the pastor wore a robe in the first service, a suit in the second and a casual outfit in the third. The choir sang the early service, an ensemble in the next and the stage was cleared for a band in the last service. Whew! I left wondering if that really worked or why it was necessary. In another church I noticed the pastor wore a suit and tie in all 3 blended services and there were thousands of people in attendance. Is it the look or the message? In our attempt to become everything to everyone are our choices causing division or building unity? You may have heard something like this before; “You really should go to the 11 o’clock. The worship is way better.” Or “Mostly old people go to the early service and the choir sings.” How does this unify the church? But there are others who seem quite happy with the choices.

Hear me out. I’m just asking. Recently overheard on stage: OMG we couldn’t dare be on stage without a suit and tie. They would come unglued. Who is they? I’ve also heard a few say; we won’t have a choir because that is SO old and traditional. What? Who said? Someone at a conference with a cool pair of jeans? (I like cool jeans) :) Then there’s the opposite; “that” contemporary music isn’t worship. Maybe someone who refused to change anything? Come on! These ideas suggest that we have to dress a certain way or play a specific type of music to experience worship. I understand that you’re not typically going to find someone with all the Gaither homecoming video’s at a Gungor concert. But isn’t there a way to connect the two? Should we really have to split everyone up?

A few years ago a well known church tried to oust their new pastor because he decided to change the two morning services to blended rather than have a separate traditional and contemporary service. He felt by having both a traditional and contemporary service they were consciously splitting who they were with one service eventually seeming like the winner and the other the loser. Imagine an outreach to the community where music is involved. Which music team should be sent? Which pastor would you send? The one with the tie or without? By the way, you don’t suddenly become contemporary by removing your jacket and tie do you?

I recently asked this question on Facebook and Twitter. Do you think having both a traditional and contemporary service on Sunday morning builds unity or division in the church? Overall there were more than 130 responses. I was shocked by the feedback. Most people said they felt two different style services eventually causes division.

A number of people have asked where I stand on this matter. It’s tough because I’ve been to churches where this model seems to be working. Overall, I think there are creative ways to involve both traditional and contemporary styles in one service without alienating anyone. I believe that model offers opportunity to work together and also helps us become a stronger community. Anything less seems like we are more focused on ‘our feelings’ and not focused as much on being the body of Christ.

What do you think? If you’re more traditional would you be disappointed if your pastor wore a pair of jeans while he spoke? How about those of you in a contemporary service? What if this weekend during your contemporary, band driven service there was a choir? Would you be cool with that? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Does your church offer a traditional and contemporary service? Is it working well? Or, do you feel that multiple style services cause friction and/or disunity?

Remembering

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I’m sitting alone in the living room of our cabin surrounded by hand hewn logs, a stacked stone fireplace and our dog who has pushed her way between me and the back of the couch. It’s Thanksgiving and I’ve been considering the many things I’m thankful for. Where do I begin? Some things are the obvious: God, my wife, our children, our family, our friends. You know the normal list. But I’m thinking about a few people who aren’t always on ‘the list’.

I’m remembering my first piano teacher Marjorie Watson, who showed such love and patience and helped give me a wonderful musical foundation. Dr. Dorothy Shuford Griffith who I was privileged to have as my last teacher. She gave up so much of herself to invest in me and I’m forever thankful. In addition to my parents, she believed in me regardless. Paula Boyette for inviting Kim Crisafulli to our College & Career bible study/party. A year and 6 months later Kim Crisafulli took on Stone as her last name. I’m blessed and grateful!

Pastor Joe Wright, who I met during the summer of 1997. Thanks for finding me in the middle of 5,000 people and taking time to ask about my family. I never dreamed our conversation would change my life forever. Joanne, our tireless social worker (servant). We are so thankful for the opportunity to know you. There’s nothing like watching God’s hand move. Thanks for introducing me to a brave young teenager who had the courage to give her baby (our daughter) the chance to live and for choosing us to be parents; there are no words except thankful. Her braces came off two days ago and her smile makes my heart flutter.

To Mercy Ministries for your amazing passion to young girls and for the opportunity to be chosen by another brave and courageous young woman to be parents to a wonderful, healthy boy. It’s because of you that I drove 32 miles to pick him up from his grandma’s house last night because he was homesick. I didn’t mind.

Today will offer new opportunities for new memories. But for now I’m remembering. Have an incredible Thanksgiving and take a few moments to think about a few people who’ve been part of changing your life.

 

 

 

worship-without-limits

Worship Without Limits

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Worship shouldn’t have limits. However, when worship is placed in a box only to be taken out for the Saturday or Sunday weekend service, worship loses its flow. Psalm 150 says, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” We’re also told to pray without ceasing and Psalm 34:1 says our lips and life should offer praise continually.

Continually means recurring regularly or frequent.

Not interrupted. Steady.

If we set boundaries around worship only to be visited certain times of the week, we miss out on an opportunity to experience the relationship with God we were meant to have.

Last year, I traveled to more than 20 churches and I usually ask this question; “What gets in the way of your worship?” I hear these answers: time, schedule, worry, pride, self, kids, fear, work and so many other similar reasons. It seems most of us have filled our week with so much stuff that worship has often been set aside for a one hour weekend church service. Sound familiar? I’m sure we’d agree that the sermon is important along with the music and the offering and the videos and Sunday School and children’s church and everything else church has to offer for that matter.┬áBut more important is for you and me to live out worship every day.

And that is more important than any song we can sing. Or the latest must read book. Or the latest sermon series. Or the biggest and best conference in the land.

This is really more than a blog. It’s a call to take down the fences and walls that divide and separate us from God’s presence. Let’s throw away the box and let worship roam free. That’s the way it was meant to be.