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
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.
I lost connection to to many friends and families during the Covid panic. The prevailing logic was to just use social media to stay “aware” but this proved to be false and even worse than no connection at all. In reality, the incessant whining and searching for relevance and popularity empowered the FBs to control my life and actually divided and disconnected us all even further. The Rules of appropriate and respectful caring connection communication are non existent or at a minimum severely perverted in the digital realm.
The only solution is live face to face contact. To talk, to sing, to eat, and to celebrate together we MUST be together. Even calling and messaging cannot and will not substitute for physical time. This reality is subject to the overly committed personal calendars which each of us freely build. It seems that our “social” society, at least mine, has decided that other priorities are more important. This is lunacy.
My solution is to set aside time and let my crew choose. I model a spirit and practice of hospitality. I seek to build in the expectation that they are welcome, as a regular ritual. We work together, we talk, we eat and sing and try hard to avoid any and all judgement. The time makes this real.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. At the core all I can control is my own behavior and choices and I respect others’ above all. My friends and family must choose to be social, real and present. This exposes us to emotions and failures for sure, but it opens us to celebrations and life together.
What is the alternative to this time committed and connected? Disconnected delusions of connection where the illusion of caring substitute for authenticity is a recipe for full scale cultural chaos. It cannot be mandated. It cannot be dictated.
How does the priority work out for this time thing?. It goes like this.
The sabbath is and was set aside to remind each of us to stay connected. We used to do this by going to church. In the world today, we have come to understand that we ARE the church. The social Sunday sabbath provides the very essence and foundation for success in every facet of life, if priorities are in order.
Start somewhere. Will you, can you, do you choose to make time together a priority. Choose wisely. Your future and your family’s future depends on it.
“So let’s do it— full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25
We are the church.
We choose to connect.
We choose relationship.
We choose what worshiping means and how it is done.
The framework and timing is in the book.
The choice remains. What will you choose? Who will you choose? How will you choose?
I will always be here for you. Until I’m not. That day and time is not known to either of us and it is not to be feared.
Your life is yours. Your success is yours. Your failure is yours just as my failures are mine. I’ve failed a lot. I got up and kept on going down my path. I want you to do the same but not have to get up as much as I did.
Seeing you fall/fail hurts me. I have to walk the line allowing for your free will but I never want you to fail and I want you to succeed period. For you. Not for me.
My path is mine. I walk it and you are bound to it as my child and as commanded in scripture. I chose you as your parent. As an adult. You must choose me as an adult. Freely. This is not trivial.
Your path is yours. I want to be nearby and walk with you often but choosing the direction is for you. I am bound to it as your father and as commanded in scripture. If and when I can help you, I will.
I am still walking my path. I figure this stuff out one step at a time and I often make it up as I go along. You are doing and will do the same.
I do not want to control you. I yearn to be able to protect and guide you whether you need it or not.
God willing, I’m not going anywhere any time soon.
I will always be here for you. Until I’m not. That day and time is not know to either of us and it is not to be feared. I know this because God loves you and me both.
We are specific beloved firstborn children of God above all. Both of us.
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.
Have I trained myself to be dissatisfied with what I have? Finding the balance between ambition(growth) and static decline is hard. If you aren’t growing you are dying but happiness is understanding that a journey is required every flipping day. Taking things for granted is the way to lose.
I said Omicron 3 times. I’m still not afraid. I admit that I am getting tired of so many that are. You know how to protect yourself. Do it and stop pretending that there is science to back up mandatory masking and lockdowns and mandates of every variant. Move on America. Yes we can.
Trust in the Lord… none of us is promised tomorrow. That is a fact. Straight talk reality check.
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
Mixing virtual and in person. Reducing in person Increasing online components- flipping the classroom. Maybe 3 days in 2 out?? Education not a daycare function but has to solve for parents timing needs.
Shorter classes and face time. More motion and movement though modules/classes.
Must be willing to test and learn. Identify 10-20% of failing or under producing practices and change them up annually.
Teachers. Tech savvy. Willing to embrace new way. Capable of change and outcome thinking over incremental thinking.
Solid Stable metrics to evaluate student progress.
Pedagogy is important but it is only piece. The teacher mindset and enablement is the critical enabler.
Using arts to enforce a “creator” based framework. As teach them to create art, (music, art, drama) barriers to learning fall away.
Athletics and competition are attractive and exciting. Choose a lane to start. Use a publicized mix/ratio.
Parent empowerment and choice. Offer parents solutions to teach and be involved… but don’t require.
Multi generational perspectives focused on today. Not yesterday.
Incentivize acceleration and achievement beyond standards. For teachers, parents, and students.
School is equally about the teaching teacher community as it is the student community.
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. 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
To have a cohort where you can just be and speak freely... where you can eat and drink and be merry... all while understanding and appreciating authority and consequences…
this is a retreat and a blessing from the world we all live in. It is not a vacation. It is a cleft in the rock to recover and restore as the storm rages contemporaneously crushing so many.
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.
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.
2020 changed everything for me and for all of us. I think I managed the survival mode pretty well but the psychological trauma was real. For those of us who worked in churches it was extreme. Wounds were willfully opened. They are and were deep and spread open for continuing salt and fire. The insidious nature of the fear disease still persists.
2021 has provided some reprieve from the constant antagonistic climate. I am personally experiencing a complex and prolonged grief cycle. There is no returning to normal, whatever that was. The future is filled with uncertainty. I am certain of the loss. I have faith in the future. The internal trauma response continues in me. I am not afraid. I am angry and judgmental more often than not. Both states are toxic.
I am grateful to see each day as it is. Arianna Huffington spoke on a Cisco meeting today and said “gratitude and anxiety can’t exist at the same time.”
I think that is right. We must choose gratitude and the anxiety will dissipate. Faith teaches me to thank God for every moment. Faith is the antidote and vaccine for fear.
What do you have faith in, specifically? Therein lies the root of our hope or our fear. I choose constantly. This is life. This is just me.
A man without faith is a man without hope. This explains the mental illness of so many humanists and social “science” academics. They cannot thrive because the consume the wrong fuel for thought.
Hope is not a management strategy but it is required along side it’s trinity companions.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
When the stone was rolled away, the mask was ripped off of the facade that death is the end. The fear is overcome and faith is revealed in the flesh. Man’s vicious pursuit of relevance and virtue at the expense of the virtuous is proven false and empty.
There is nothing rational and reasonable about our risen Lord. The resurrection is miraculous just as our salvation. The Age of Enlightenment has no answer for a resurrection because Jesus is both God and Man. We see dimly through our human eyes, but today we see enough. We celebrate eternal life given to each of us specific, beloved, first born children of Christ. Hallelujah. He is risen. He is risen indeed. In the resurrection, the promise is fulfilled.
This cactus “crown of thorns” was given to me by dear friends years many ago. We aren’t good at plants in our house but it always seems to survive. Some periods have more thorns than others. Some times have more flowers than others. Today is Easter and we celebrate the risen Lord. Earthly death awaits all of us. In Christ we live forever. Death, o death, where is thy sting? It is not here in this period and time.
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.
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.
What you do when someone says “I am not okay.” Says a lot about you.
Most people will never answer that way because they don’t trust. They expect judgement, condemnation, fixing, and controlling behaviors to follow such a personal admission. Fear is in charge.
What do they most often need?
Acceptance, attention, time... relationship and connection. LISTENING and Sitting/serving, maybe studying, eating or just silence.
Are you okay? Don’t ask the question if you aren’t prepared to put in the time, sacrificially, to love and serve.
Doctrinally, I do not believe that blanket submission to govt authority coupled with the idea that safety comes from medicine and SCIENCE is correct. Forcing masking for vaccinated, and recovered patients based on nano-risk thinking is misplaced... Locking down ALL of society by force was a terrible failure and a horrific precedent which we the people have allowed.
We have swung the pendulum to politics and science and media WAY off center....
The ONLY path back is Faith over Fear.. but that is NOT popular. never was.. never will be.. such is life. PrinciplesMatter. Practically now and into the future. Be not afraid means something powerful and profound.
Intersection of principles and practices...