I have attended church and worked/led in churches for over 30 years now. In March of 2021 that all changed. I have not attended anywhere regularly since then, for over a year… shocking to consider but true.
Typical church leadership drama played out at my most recent position but that wasn’t the issue. My recognition of reality is what hit me.
The churches that I see are fully committed to their building, their programs and their existing group of attendees. They expect the rest of world, community to fit into their way. This is fundamentally and perhaps irreparably broken.
Covid exposed the reality viscerally. Most of them are already dead and just waiting for the current member to physically pass on. In Covid, Churches retreated from fellowship and faith into consumerism watch on TV telechurch. They embraced the concept that watching a sermon and writing a check was enough. Sunday schools in most shut down. Fellowship Meals disappeared. Choirs stopped rehearsing. Funerals and wedding were not allowed because government said so. Catastrophic does not even begin to cover it.
Reality check. This model was already entrenched in minds of nearly all. Covid devotion must accelerated and exposed the death curve. Bold leaders and faith communities were judged and cancelled. It happened and it is done. It is finished.
So now what?
A church at its core must exist as a fellowship of believers choosing to serve together. Sermons, education, choirs, and the myriad of programs are important but secondary to the people. A church can exist and worship without almost all of those. Think : where 2-3 are gathered… The programs are derived FROM the fellowship, not to the fellowship.
I’m actively looking for a community like this. Alive and committed to one another above all. But that commitment must balance to some unbalanced number in service to be true to great commission. Maybe 70/30 external/internal. Maybe even 90/10. Every fellowship community must decide for themselves what their devotional notion is.
When the balance tips to managing and maintain the internal above the capability to serve outwardly, the church is officially dying.
That 2 or 3 number is conceptually more of a maximum for me rather than a minimum. Smaller numbers of believers gathering and loving and serving are the foundation.
I don’t honestly know if God will provide me this fellowship regularly as I’ve conceived of it in the past. I long for a place to devote my musical skills to encouragement and service. We shall see.
If you read this, Contact me. Is your church dead or dying. I’d like to put them on my prayer list and you as well. I’m sure God has answers and I don’t. The obstacle we face are our way forward. #1 obstacle I see is authentically LOVING one another. We don’t love a place or a class. We love one another and we then must put that love into practice with bold passion and resolute discipline. Love ya. Jeff
The church crucified Christ.
Palm Sunday is excellent. We the people celebrate the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. We wave palms and sing and celebrate. Jesus had a different view. He was fulfilling prophecy. The very first thing he did when he arrived was to go to the temple and throw the falseness out. He turned over the tables. He diminished the building in his teaching and explained how it would be destroyed.
The leaders of that “church” led the charge to crucify him. The people with their fickle and weak understanding followed suit and Christ was tormented and crucified.
It is important to remember the story.
It is important to removed our part in the story.
It is important to remember the lessons of the Holy Week.
Most of all it is critical to remember that in spite of us God rose up and showed us that the grave is nothing to Him.
His love for us was that great. We sing Hosanna and wave our palms and we are blessed in spite of what we are about to do. The price and consequence is paid in full.
Palm Sunday is excellent!! Indeed. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. It is right to give Him thanks and praise.
Simple end of the beginning.
Advent simplicity that we don’t know.
The advent season reminds, restarts, and renews. As we remember and celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, everything literally stops and holds. The focus is on the star, the child, the light.
All of our worldly “lights” dim in comparison in respect and deference to the source. Don’t get me wrong, I love the candles, and the bells, with choirs and songs and stunning experiences envisioned and executed by men old and new but the simplicity of the child is unparalleled in its message and personal connection to my heart mind and soul.
For too long, I’ve focused on the buildings, the smells, sounds, and the singing. What matters is the smiles and the eyes of the hearts as they open and understand. The advent of the true king is a spectacle beyond the imagination of men. The best we can do is focus on a child and fall on our knees. We humble ourselves at the manger with its ugly, loud, decidedly unchurchy vision. The ox and the ass bow along with the sheep. The angels and the shepherds give honor and praise.
The king is here in this moment. He was, is, and will always be. Emmanuel, God with us, reminds us of HIS amazing love. He reminds us that OUR work is only just beginning. Advent is indeed the end of the beginning. The story we find ourselves in is not written nor is it complete even as it is fully known. It just isn’t known by you and me and that is alright.
I remember the first time I sang the Messiah solos of Comfort ye and Every Valley. It was in the chapel at Princeton Seminary for a wedding. I wonder how good I was as a 19 year old. Today, I heard my son sing his first pass at the Messiah solos at Ardmore Baptist in Winston Salem. He was so much better than I was at his age. Style, composure, artistic message, command, and fine, elegant singing. Tenors are a funny stressed bunch of souls. Singing comfort ye is not comforting normally. Today, I was calm and comforted for lots of reasons.
The artistry of the the PrillaKids is well known to most but today it feels like the first time I’m comfortable that the coming valleys will indeed be straight. I’ve sung that line hundreds of times, but clearly I need to listen more than talk more often. They have got this.
First time I’m comfortable saying that I’ve turned the page. Every day is a chance to step back and see that all we like sheep have gone astray and yet Hallelujah and amens still happen in spite of us. Our masks are ripped off and the face is there for all to see.
Elements of fail
Willful ignorance, intentional elevation of buffoonish behavior, unchecked doublespeak, bottomless hypocrisy, laughing it off but not changing anything — signs of #idiotsincharge that make me insane and wake me up in middle of night
These “metrics” are prevalent In failing institutions everywhere, from churches, to schools, to governments, to families. The outcome is always the same. Failure.
Is my church irrelevant?
Too many church communities have no courage. They seek popularity and “members” above all. Like most of us, trust is placed in skills, in govt leaders, and things of the world. The problem is that we live in the world but are not of the world. Cowards are irrelevant to the courageous. This is hard. Churches in 2021 are almost universally soft. #mustchange
Art means art. That is enough.
Art (for me music) does not need a reason to exist. It is born of a divine spark. The artist is simply a conductor for the energy. Singing in church, on a stage, in any venue is a blessing but it isn’t required.
Living is NOT suffering
The culture around me tells me that I am a victim. Everyone is a victim of some oppression related to race, money, age, weight, parents, gender… you know how the story goes. We are told to wrap ourselves in blaming others and be dependent on ???
This is all a lie. I don’t know why so many are wired to think this way but it is toxic to life.
As a retired performing artist, perspective is important to me. I see and think about what I am seeing constantly. My life is filled with challenges just like yours. My life is NOT an exercise in suffering. Every day is an opportunity to do something, to improve, or maybe just to rest but it is not a burden to bear. Each day is a blessing and a gift. It is from God, bestowed on me, not because of my worth or my deeds, but because of Gods extraordinary love.
The constant complaint, blame game, victim approach is a construct, a choice, that destroys relationship. This is from Satan. It separates us from one another and most importantly it separates us from God. This is sin my friends. The seed may practically originate with your mother, your neighbor, your Sunday school teacher, even your wife and children but it is of the devil.
Life, my life, your life, is about loving and doing in spite of the human challenges which we all have. Living is not about fear and control and the constant envy of what could have been if… this is foolish fallacy.
I am not special. I am a specific, beloved, first born child of God. The systems of men always fail. Gods love does not. I am destined for glory in God, but not because of what I do here and now.
1. see the behaviors which are rooted in blame, victimization, and self
2. reject the victim mindset and choose to be grateful. Focus on blessings. They are always there.
3. Live into the future however it comes. Choose wisely, but choose. Don’t let others choose your thinking.
as to all of that blame and victimhood and pain… it is real. To move ahead, you must let it go and forgive everyone. Period.
Out of the blue.
Out of the blue. We all want to hear. I don’t need to know where you have been or what you have done or said. Be here now. Let’s walk on together.
The fellowship of the believers is sweet.
The devotion of the disciples is deserved. Sustained by forgiveness, it persists.
Inspired watching Jet Li in Fearless
Church leading Covid cures.
Sunday am thinking. I led in a local baptist church during the 2020 Covid crisis. TBH it cured me, of any desire to continue in leadership in that church into 2021. The overt willingness to do “nothing” except take care of self and institution coupled with submission to the govt authority in virtually all things, especially singing was deplorable and I could not do anything significant about it. Did i fail? Maybe. I don’t think so. For sure, I clarified the environment where we am best suited to work in vocational ministry. And it is not in a play a track, no real choir, pseudo praise team situation. I require respect for live,
elegant, structured and formed presentation. It is how I’m wired.
Will I ever seek out another minister of music and worship position? I honestly don’t know. I’m interested and passionate about the fellowship of believers, not the institutional legacy. Period. #ChoirIsLife
A church is a fellowship of people loving living and DOING life together. Not a place or a building, but those things are helpful.
For me. Doing life requires an attitude and practice of high quality music. I enjoy pop music for a bit, but the form structure and content are critical for me to be able to relate. I am an expert at blended worship music and design.
Including everyone (or at least most) in a giving (not getting) experience is opportunity of a worship service. Singing and praying are the collective activities that matter. Sitting and listening are NOT that important. Being entertained is a problem, not a benefit.
I go to a worship experience to submit and feel the fellowship. There is no desire for recognition. There is only the reality of mutual love respect and service through the creation of great music.
As a highly trained classical musician, performer, and choral champion I don’t fit in most fellowships in my area.
The events of 2020 exposed the worshiptainment culture. They exposed the overt desire of most churches to comply with secular governing authority above their own fellowship. They exposed the fear and lack of practical faith disease which is crippling Christians in America.
I’m seeking a “church”, a fellowship that will appreciate my contributions and allow me to serve as the musician and leader that I am. I pray that God will provide this fellowship for me locally. I have it virtually but my “doing life” model is not a part time thing. It isn’t just virtual. This is a challenge.
If you have this challenge too, reach out.
Doing life together and finding common ground to SING (unmasked) and serve with bold reckless abandon as God leads rather than “how we’ve always done it” is the goal.
Yes we should have a pipe organ.
Yes we should have a drum set.
Yes we should have a guitar and bass.
Yes we should have a great choir.
Yes we should have great congregational singing. Hymns and choruses and even chanting.
Yes we should welcome anyone anytime.
Yes we should have a beautiful facility.
Yes yes yes. These provide a ring of resources which blesses and binds with the power of faith hope and love.
Above all, it is the fellowship of the ring that matter most. It is precious and worthy but only in service to Jesus Christ not ourselves.
Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.
More sitting songs requires.
If another chooses to share with you. JUST Listen and be with them. Do NOT equivocate and do NOT share how much you know because of YOUR pain. They wish to heal and seek the light not wallow in the morass of self pity. Beware dragging them into your story. Be with them In theirs. Resist the urge to solve. Seek solutions with them not for them. Period. And only if they ask. Above all be with them. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Does NOT mean to turn the issues and topics to you. True friends can do this as hard as it is.
There should be more songs about this.
Inspired by the fellowship of the ring.
Palm Sunday reminds me that Triumphal entry celebrations can turn to vicious ego and power driven public executions in a matter of days. Who leads the charge? It is almost always the pious posing puritan pseudo protectors of the greater good.
Anniversary of a FAILURE
A year ago, the federal government and state governments of the United States of America locked down the greatest country in the world. We the people were told that it was for our own food, for the greater good.
Stay at home, no church, no school, no hugs, no handshakes, no travel, no exercise, no choice. No preventative and normal medical care for anyone. Why? Covid.
The “experts” used faulty projections and models to terrify the population into submission instead of leading with authority. Media fueled the panic. Toilet paper disappeared. Supply chains were disrupted globally. Families disintegrated overnight. Singing in choirs was utterly destroyed overnight.
The TRUTH: none of the countermeasures delivered as promised. The epidemic and mortality curves of the lockdown leaders are equal or greater than the anti lockdown leaders. We live and we die. This was true before. It will always be true. The mortality rate of the human race is 100%.
What happened, whether intentional or not, was the further subjugation of people’s minds and ability to think for themselves. Our bodies fought the battles with Covid. Our minds chose to surrender to the “experts” opinions over our own because we were and are afraid.
We the people fell in line. We went along to get along. We dutifully put on our masks and stopped singing our songs of community and connection.
The medical crisis is ending now. Science has prevailed with vaccines and synthetic immunity. Those of us that had the actual disease either lived or died like every other disease. The infestation of fear and dependence on government has only begun. The consequences of THIS disease will be far worse over time. Write it down. Follow the science.
We the people need community. Masks are bad things both physically and mentally. Not singing in community is catastrophic. The one societal entity that could have fought successfully was the local church. Instead, it largely proved its insignificance and irrelevance and stayed on the sidelines like it has in so many global crises of the past.
God is working indeed. He is working individually in hearts and minds. Faith over fear is the answer. Once we accept the astounding authority of God and His power to overcome death, these earthly things become nothing. Governments rise and fall. Churches form and fail. My God is real and present in my day. I am not afraid. I am sorry for when I was afraid. I will strive to NEVER be afraid of death again. You should too.
Look at what you did.
Assigning blame and convicting a leader is a weekly reality in most churches. Punishment is death. This is how the majority of the world of “church politics” acts in response to a message of hope, plans of action, and accountability for results and better choices. This is a story we all know and relate to viscerally. Apologies and reconciliations are rare indeed but they are a foundation for healing.
Couple of weeks ago I was attacked by friends in public, in my church. It is true that I was to blame for many results over the past year. It is also true that I deserve credit for inspiring, desiring more, and delivering when most did nothing and continue to do exactly that even today.
My choice as a leader was to stay and fight on terms of men or withdraw and let God work in hearts and minds. I and family made a hard choice based on principles, plans, and hope for a future for everyone involved. The pain is still real. The grief is stifling. This is the life we are provided. Every day is an opportunity to be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Some years go better than others.
Results can’t be determined one day at a time but my decisions over time will show that I’m proud to say. Look at what I did when I stand for judgement.
I’m pretty sure that I retired from vocational music ministry this morning officially. 25 years of doing the job, fitting in, and going along for the greater good with notes, rhythms, and service design are over in my mind.
I actually resigned from First Baptist Ridgeway for any that don’t know. No hard feelings but plenty of anxiety.
Ministry is guaranteed to always be part of my future. I’m a musician so there is that, but I can’t see a job for me which forces me to fit into a box anymore. The old Jeff, the tenor, the performer, the passionate powerful presenter has been in a chrysalis for a long time. Maybe I stay in there. Maybe I come out a moth. Maybe I come out a glorious butterfly. Who know? Only God knows.
I hope that I’ll be afforded and opportunity to lead again in the future. I adore choirs. I revel in live music making with passionate and skilled collaborators. I also love preaching and teaching scripture and leadership and using technology.
the future is bright but the one thing I know for sure is that it won’t be like it was. I’m grieving that loss. I’m a change champion but even for me it is exhausting and the cost is high.
For anyone who sings and leads in worship AND anyone who attends and wants to lead. Perhaps most important of all...for the congregation: as we approach worship we must find the balance and always seek the higher excellent things for glory to God, not praise of men and not our own preferences. It is difficult for all roles to execute. It is simple to criticize. The relentless return of the sabbath provides a weekly opportunity. As for my experience, some are far better than other. This is simple reality.
The force is strong with this one. He should go back to population and act like everyone else to set a good example. That is one way.
In the movie of course, the special then step up and lead in a new way, setting themselves apart.
The real way is to learn where you can best serve and then do so safely after education yourself. Raising all with you while you continue to seek to improve yourself.
The answer is never to lower the bar and race to the bottom to simply include. The distribution curve has a top and a bottom. Neither can be ignored.
Educate yourself. Live your life. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Freely giving and loving but standing proud. Let your light shine bright for all to see. Sing loud for all to hear. Stand and be counted. You are specific, beloved, first born child of Christ. Act like it.
it would be awesome if Jesus gave the disciples light sabers. Wait? Maybe he did. See: #TheHolySpirit
Local churches too often thrive on a culture of control. We set a standard of fear and condemnation based on an unachievable standard and spend our precious relationship cycles telling people what they can’t do. Our control choice inhibits the mission of spreading good news.
We should be focusing our leadership and congregations on what they CAN do. That is GOOD News of great joy. God is love. We the people are charged to live in that example. The entire garden of Eden is ours and yet we focus on control and the one tree. That power choice controls us.
Local Max Global Min.
Minimizing TV news and mass opinion commentary maximizes clarity of individual thought and perspective.
Reading enough but not too much.
Talking less, smiling more.
Thinking and praying in a private time and space is powerful. Physically creating is far more critical than consuming, competing, comparing and judging. Focusing on personal and local actions maximize the value and immediate results.
Signs of success
In order to proceed differently, we must accept what went well and what is failing. Changing nothing is accepting a likely outcome.
All we really know is that happened based on the actions in the past and even those facts are often interpreted differently. How do we define success and what are we able to actually do to make a difference? There is a judgement and the accountability for how we spend our time, money, and precious ability. We choose and we are thus accountable for our choices. Too many desire to be subjects to avoid accountability.
What is the job? What is the goal? What is success?
for your church? Your family? Your job? Your freedom? Your example? Your writing? Happiness?
Title privilege connections
The title of FAMILY comes with great privilege AND great responsibility. if you give away or minimize the responsibility and accountability you minimize the title and privilege.
That is a tragedy in most cases as we are made to be connected not isolated. Their is no real excuse for abandonment in any direction.
Tozer for TODAY educate yourself.
Tozer teaching still today. “No free believer should ever sell his freedom to another. No Christian is worthy to be the master of other Christians.”
#1 Church growth Factor is...
not: Worship Music ( but style matters along with depth and feel...)
not: Facilities ( but they matter both for function and look and feel..
not: Preaching (but skill, and practical cultural currency is critical... )
not: Technology (but it matters in rooms, in parking lots, on iPhones, and at home... it cannot be ignored or off the cuff)
#1 -->> HOW we, the congregation, interact with PEOPLE matters most of all.
Communications TO the people is just a piece of building COMMUNITY... with the PEOPLE. All tied up in circles of 5ths. -- contact me for more information
I Expect. We take for granted.
It is not possible to just expect community. We all choose. Everyone must choose. Context and activity, even purpose, come into play. Physical proximity is an enabler, but it is far from enough. Without a shared reason, living "together" becomes a chore not a blessing. Only Christ abides with us regardless of condition. We strive towards this prize. #churches #families #neighborhoods
With a shared purpose and context community can exist where members have never even met face to face. Love and respect can be exchanged. Even dissent can be lived together. This "distance" is difficult, it requires more skill and tools to manage, but it does provide community.
My experience has proven that we need all of the above, but that these blessings are just that... they are blessings. We cannot and should not expect them without sacrifice and condition, in this world. In Christ alone we stand indeed. It is not easy, it is simply true.
Intersection of principles and practices...