from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Archive for the category “seeker”

Where Personal Preferences in the Church Go Wrong

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I’ve written on several occasions about personal preferences in church and how they should not be completely set aside. They are what help shape a church’s personality. But they can definitely cause problems, and this article sent to me by a friend seems like a good example of personal preferences gone bad. The issue here is not that the author has preferences for his type of church, but that he implies all other types of churches are wrong or ineffective at best.

The author cites Willow Creek’s seek-sensitive movement as support for his preferences. I’ve written about seeker-sensitive programs as well, stating that true seekers will not be offended by symbols of Christianity. Removing organs, choirs, pulpits, etc. was not Willow’s problem. Their problem was shallow teaching for which they admitted.

What many fail to accept is times change, things change, methods change in the church just like everywhere else. Technology plays a big role in this, and there is no getting around it. Yes, the organ is the perfect instrument for choral singing, but choral singing is not the only way to sing praises. And the organ was certainly not welcomed by all when first introduced to the church. Classic hymns have also had their share of controversy. And the pulpit has its own story.

I really wish Christians would focus more on spreading the gospel than judging each others’ methods of spreading the gospel.


The Steve Jobs Biography – My Conclusions

After reading and pondering the life of Steve Jobs, I’ve reached a few conclusions that should speak to us all. It appears to me that Jobs’ entire life was a quest for inner peace. From his obsession with simple, Zen-like designs (of which I am very fond) to his deep involvement with Buddhism, he was constantly searching for tranquility.

He admitted his religion of choice did not bring him peace. So I believe his quest flowed over into every other part of his life. He steadfastly surrounded himself with simplicity even through his strange eating habits. His home, at least up until his marriage, was VERY sparsely furnished because he couldn’t find anything simple enough.

It was as if he was filled with a world of chaos of which he fought earnestly to rid himself. My first thought in response to this conclusion is the typical Christian response of “he was looking in all the wrong places.” And he was, but we don’t make the right place to look very evident or appealing sometimes.

While we are given a “peace that surpasses all understanding,” how often do we truly live that way? How do we respond to the chaos in our lives, external or internal? Does it direct others to the right source of peace?

People Like Steve Jobs

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Not to imply Steve Jobs was ordinary or relatively common. He was indeed a unique person. Incredibly intelligent, but also incredibly successful. At his level, the two don’t often go hand in hand. But let’s generalize it a bit.

How can someone so intelligent and capable of monetary success and popularity miss the boat on the most important thing in life? How do they get sucked in by things like drugs and Buddhism? Even on his death-bed, Jobs speculated that life was life an on-off switch, “Click! And you’re gone.”

It is a sad story. While he knew very much what he wanted from a business perspective, Jobs seemed to live a life of searching. Loyal to Buddhism most of his years, but still it did not bring him peace. It’s as if somewhere deep down inside he knew there was more. He did express a desire to believe in God and an afterlife near the end, but never quite got there. How is that possible?

Here are some explanations:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:19-22

“Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.” Jeremiah 5:21

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

I guess ignorance truly can be bliss.

Contemporary or Relevant

Two words you’ll hear quite often in the church world.  Contemporary was the buzz word in the 90s.  Relevant became the buzz word in the new century.  Many of us have grown tired of referring to our services or music style as contemporary, but since the Christian music community has grabbed on to it so firmly, it is hard to avoid.  And what’s the difference between contemporary and relevant?

I suppose the best place to start is the dictionary.  Here is the common meaning of each word:

Relevant – closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.

Contemporary – belonging to or occurring in the present; following modern ideas or fashion in style or design.

And what’s the difference?  Contemporary takes on more general terms applicable to society or an entire generation.  Relevant is, well, relevant. It is more specific to a group of people or situation.

Relevant applies not just to generational differences, but to personalities and preferences as well.  (Remember personal preferences are not always a bad thing.)  We all have preferences, and if they helps us worship and connect with God better, then they are also relevant.

How does all this apply to the church?  It means each congregation of people has its own relevancy.  The music may be traditional and or contemporary.  The instruments may be organ/piano, or a guitar/drum driven band.  (By the way, “blended” is another buzz word I had just as soon see us lose.)

What songs, styles, and presentations are relevant to one group may be completely wrong for another group across town.  For a church to be relevant, it has to look inside and outside.  What methods and styles will best reach those attending and those trying to be reached?  Relevance is all about preferences, just not in a selfish, demanding way.

Becoming an Evangelistic Church

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Churches often ask the question how can we grow, what do we need to do to reach more people. The answer is multi-faceted, but one thing sorely missing in many churches is the evidence of genuine worship.

Unfortunately we tend to under-estimate the power of our corporate worship time.  Many see it as a time to sing some songs and then complain if the songs aren’t like they prefer them.  David makes it clear in Psalm 40:3 that singing is power packed.

Rory Noland states in his book The Worshiping Artist, “Whenever Christ is lifted up, believers and unbelievers alike are drawn to him.”  There should be something for non-believers to feel, see, sense in our corporate worship time that draws others to Christ.  If there isn’t, that is perhaps the best place to start toward becoming an evangelistic church.

New Willow Creek REVEALed

Willow Creek’s executive pastor Greg Hawkins announced big changes for the church last week at the Shift Conference. The changes come as a result of their REVEAL survey given to 200 churches of the Willow Association in 2004. Hawkins says they’re “making the biggest changes to the church in over 30 years.”

Willow has long been known as an originator of the “seeker sensitive” church approach, believing that “seekers,” or the unchurched, didn’t want a churchy atmosphere full of deep theology and worship. They simply wanted to attend church anonymously, unapproached, and unchallenged.

In the REVEAL survey, people were asked what they want most from their church. The top three answers were:
1. help me understand the Bible in greater depth
2. help me develop a closer personal relationship with Christ
3. challenge me to grow and take the next step in my faith

The big changes at Willow include curtailing their mid-week worship services that had been geared toward believers. These services will now focus on discipleship classes for varying levels of growth. “Hard-hitting stuff,” according to Hawkins. “Look at what they want!” he said. “They want the Bible, they want to be close to Christ, they want to be challenged. Yes, I will give them what they want!”

“Our strategy to reach seekers is now about focusing on the mature believers. This is a huge shift for Willow.” What was once Willow’s seeker-sensitive weekend service will now consist of worship music, prayer, Scripture readings, and more challenging teaching from the Bible.

Whatever you may think about Willow Creek, past and present, you have to give them props for genuinely caring about what their people want by conducting the survey, then being humble enough to make those results public and responding. It just goes to show, we can all be wrong about something at any given time, but if we are staying close to the Father, and our intent is to do His will, the Holy Spirit will correct us.

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What Is A Seeker? Part 2

Following up from the two previous posts on seekers, it is important to remember that there are various degrees or levels of seekers. Some might start out with a simple curiosity about God or church. And what about those who are looking for something, but haven’t realized yet it’s God they are really seeking?

A.W. Tozer in his classic In Pursuit of God states the following about a seeker. “Before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man. Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.” This is basic gospel. Jesus tells us in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him”.

So are we wasting time and energy striving to make our church services appealing to the unchurched, post-Christian generations of today? If we are spending considerable time and energy trying to attract people God isn’t dealing with, I suppose so. While every church has its own personality that appeals to different groups of people, there will be various levels of seekers among those groups. This brings about a responsibility to encourage attendees toward a continually deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, and that requires more than secular song analogies and self-help teaching.

Our goal should always be to make sure that everyone who enters the church feels loved, but that does not mean we should make the service comfortable for them. Remember, the Truth is like a two-edged sword. That’s not comfortable.

What Is A Seeker?

Let me start out by saying it is not my intent here to put down any church’s style or method. This writing will either reveal my ignorance or pose some questions for pondering. While the trend of “seeker sensitive” churches seems to be past it’s peak, the idea has far from vanished. In fact, what we see with many churches today is somewhat of an evolvement of seeker sensitive.

The word “seeker” is defined as one who is trying to locate or discover. This type person is well beyond the target of most seeker friendly churches. Programs that purposely avoid liturgy and anything with a church-y or religious feel, including the music, are actually focusing on the pre-seeker rather than a true seeker. A true seeker of God wants to learn about the things of God, ceremonial, traditional, or not. A true seeker of God is not offended by the word sin, but rather convicted.

Throughout scripture, (Deut. 4:29, Jer. 29:13, Lk 11:9 to name a few) we are told we will find God when we seek Him with all our heart. When a true seeker enters the doors of our church, we need to make sure he finds God and not the world there.

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