Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When I am president ...

I was at Baxter Elementary School this morning and in honor of President's Day they read a short essay one of the kids had written about what they would do if they were president. It was basically work for peace, feed the hungry, care for those in need. It was quite touching. It was beautiful in its simplicity, in the lack of partisanship in it. There were no litmus test answers, what the child's stance on abortion, terrorism, universal health care, any of it. All I heard was a concern for others. I do not like to be negative about politics but I fear that too many of our politicians, maybe too many of us who vote have lost that youthful idealism, that politics is about making the world a better place. I am not saying we cannot disagree, I am not saying we cannot want to do different things to make the world better. What I am saying is that we need to remember that making the world better is what it is all about. This has become quite clear to me as I read the political news lately. Senator Bayd of Indianna, a moderate democrat, is not seeking re-election because he believes the system is broken and he cannot bring the two different sides together. Senator McCain of Arizona is facing a fight in his Republican primary because he is not conservative enough for some people. It seems that both sides forget about making the world a better place and instead become focused on making sure the other side does not get the credit for doing it. First Corinthians has a great line ... "when I was a child I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became an adult I put away childish things." Maybe we need to get back to thinking, dreaming, hoping, acting like children, or maybe the problem is that we who are adults are still acting like children and it is time to grow up. Whatever the way you phrase it, I think the bottom line is we need to get back to the basics of politics, serving the people, making the world better, and stop worrying about how is winning when we do it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Forms of worship

I was interviewed this week as part of the ordination process and one of the things that I talked about was how we were changing the worship style as we launched New Light to better fit with my own personal style. Previously I had always done worship in the form the congregation had. Now we were trying to find the right form for me. It has been nice to explore the ways that I want worship to be and to find the things that fit for me.

All of this raises some interesting questions. My wife recently attended a workshop on worship that talked about different worship styles and different needs people have for worship. It is no secret that worship tends to be attended more by women. One theory for this is that our worship styles tend to be more appealing for women and it probably creates a certain cycle. If we accept the premise that worship appeals to a certain type of people, those are the ones most likely to then be inspired to go into ministry and thus their own style of worship will likely be similar to the one they experienced their call out of. This is not always the case but it seems like it would have an effect.

One of the things people often joke about is how worship for them is on the golf course, or while fishing. Now, as someone who golfs (sort of) and who finds a great deal of worship and beauty in nature, I can appreciate that there is some truth to this, but I also think it is a bit of a cop-out. Still it raises the question, for someone who worships in active ways, what does worship look like?

I think the real question I am wrestling with here, is whether there is something fundamental to worship or is it all contextual. Some people want active worship, some want passive, some want loud, some quiet, some want to be talked to, some what to have a chance to respond. Is there really anything central to worship other than God. Isn't it that the case that everything else is extra, everything else is just personal preference. So how do I find the ways to encourage people to find their own worship style, not as a way to get out of showing up on Sunday morning, but as a way to help them truly experience and relate to God? How does the church, equipped with this knowledge go from centuries of really offering only one or two styles of worship, to basically encouraging infinite variety? Do we even need to offer all of them?

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So there is a part of me that thinks I blogged about this a year or two ago ... but it is on my mind right now, so you are stuck with a potential repeat.

As we prepare to launch worship at New Light UMC in Baxter, I am forced to take every Sunday worship like it is a playoff game ... "win" or go home. It adds pressure to the moment, but it also I think brings out the best in a person like me. I take preaching seriously ... after all I am trying to communicate the Word of God. Just the same, I find myself focusing even more on it, and well everything when each service has a greater meaning, a greater impact.

So what I am pondering is this ... why haven't I been like this before now. Why don't all churches, all pastors bring their playoff level play to each week? Is it because we just cannot find the time to do it? Is it because we do not have the same immediacy to drive us? Does it simply not help enough to be worthwhile in the long run?

I think the answer is mixed ... I think for me there were times when I was just too busy, there is also a part of me that does not see the rewards of more work enough to inspire me to try harder. I was hearing on MPR last night about people who scan luggage for guns that as the percentage of bags with illegal items decreases their ability to spot them also decreases, the brain actually gets worse at seeing the same things. I wonder if it is not the same way with worship. There are weeks I slave over the sermon, polish the ideas, and really work at it, and in return get no more complimants or even fewer than usual. Other weeks I struggle with writer's block and end up with a final product that I feel is sub-standard, and people love it. It is hard to evaluate the effects of our effort.

The bottom line however is that worship is not about winning, it is not about being attractive to new members, it is not about anything except the worship of God. If we do that well, nothing else matters. If we do that well, everything else will fall into place.