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
Finding the line in 2022 is a challenge. How much involvement with a friend is enough? FaceTime, face to face, texting, email, social media, tik tok. All of these are channels for connecting and communication and yet our society seems more disconnected than ever.
I honestly don’t know how much time to give or expect anymore. Assumicide runs rampant ate every level and the consequences of mistakes are visceral. Was I supposed to know that? Was I supposed to ask about that? Do I call too much? How do you know?
Shared lives are connected by social lines. Those lines connect and divide, often based on assumptions, context, culture, and history. To answer who my friends are forces me to prioritize. Friends DO have expectations of one another. That is how the world works.
Applying this logic to family get much more intense. Stakes are higher. In theory the grace should be more abundant and forgiveness easier. This is rarely true when the assumicide weapons of digital communication are deployed.
the 2022 social lines are drawn. The courage to cross them and love and expect and be accountable for consequences of choices is rare. I aspire to be so much better at all of this. Cest la vie.
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?
It is possible that I am not a nice person. Perhaps I just “play one on TV”. As a performer, I certainly learned to play my role, and wear the mask as Pagliacci brutally illustrates.
I prefer to think that I am actually a passionate person, with high emotions, and ability…. Who under adverse conditions can to be too aggressive. The more personal and higher the stakes, the farther I will push the limit. Is this nature or nurture. I don’t know. It just is. This is viewed and consumed as “Not nice”, in overly simplistic terms.
If I were willing to play the victim card, I could blame society, my family, my mother/father, even my community and church for oppressing me. I am not willing to play the victim. I own my choices and actions. My results and achievements, both good and bad, are on full display.
That is another aspect of being a performer at heart. I’m not all that subtle and smooth, even when I think I am. I can only control what I do and say, not how it is perceived. I am accountable for both the intention AND the result of those words and actions/choices.
Perhaps, I am not nice. It is possible.
Unmet expectations cause injury. Period. Met expectations have a short lifespan in memory. All too often they are taken for granted. The focus always turns to the mistakes and misses. This is human reality and requires constant intention to remediate. The consequences of assuming are bad.
Expectations that have not been communicated, clarified, AND agreed upon will not be met. This is a foundation for progress.
Top 5 reasons to DUMP social media
I’ve had more than a few insightful moments since I flew the coop and left social media behind. It is really interesting to consider how blinded I was up until the last month.
I have tried to limit and even pause social media’s influence on my time and life at least three separate times in the past 5 years. I knew my time and attention was unproductive . My emotional state after spending time “there” was unhealthy and yet each time I went back because I didn’t want to lose touch with friends around the world. That was a fallacy.
I am not really connected to these people that I care about when I use FB or any of the “others”. The posting actually distances me from them in most of not all cases. I write and share and the medium censors me, colors my comments, infects them with unsaid insinuations, and even hijacks my messaging altogether. All the while, the social experiment company is monetizing my addiction to being connected. This is NOT okay.
I write and speak quite often about examples and personal liberty to speak and act with agency and authority and all of its associated responsibility. I am hitting the reset button.
I actually shut my social media service down. Connections are certainly still available and highly valued but I have left Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram… their toxic brew of emotional judgment and half truth condemnations is gone from my life. I have left some of you. I may have disappeared. If you care enough to prioritize, you will seek me out via this site. My writing, concerts, videos, and the ability to find me is pretty simple. Use Vatenor@me.com if you don’t know my normal personal contact info.
I do want to stay connected with many of you from my past, both physical and digital. The digital landscape has evolved. I’m a 1x1 or 1 to few kind of a guy these days. This is the way. I have spoken.
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.
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.
A brilliant light has left this world. The world remains blessed because of his execution and legacy.
“Having just the vision's no solution, everything depends on execution.”
- Stephen Sondheim
“Bit by bit, putting it together...
Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having just the vision's no solution,
Everything depends on execution,
Putting it together, that's what counts.”
- Stephen Sondheim
“It's not so much do what you like as it is that you like what you do.”
- Stephen Sondheim
“Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new. Give us more to see...”
- Stephen Sondheim
“I chose and my world was shaken, so what? The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.”
- Stephen Sondheim
All from Sunday in the Park with George
I am thankful for an end to this year and another day tomorrow.
I am thankful for the lessons I have learned.
I am thankful for my children’s transition to adulthood.
I am thankful that I have a place to be me.
I am thankful for my job and the opportunities it provides.
I am thankful that I live in the greatest country in the world.
I am thankful for my health and prosperity.
I am thankful that I can sing.
I am thankful for the examples around me, showing me who I do not want to be.
I am thankful for connections and community.
I am thankful for my brothers : the Brandon Bacon Bunch
i am thankful for the engineers and technology tools enabling me.
I am thankful that God loves me in spite of me. It is amazing.
I am thankful for warm fires, cool pools, fields to work in, and the ability and desire to work and provide for others.
I am thankful for the abundance of food and drink in my life, including bacon.
I am thankful for the freedom provided to me by the sacrifice and service of so many before me.
Sunday dinner was never about pressure. It was about priority. We go to grandma’s house because family and time is precious. Of course the food is important. Yes it is nice to watch football and maybe even have a fire. Ultimately it is about making people the priority in your life and showing respect for that blessing. Every week isn’t required. Grandma understands. It is the ritual of prioritizing and choosing to spend the rare and precious time of a blessed day with people that matter that matters most of all.
Each of us chooses our example and making the effort in spite of the constant challenges and obstacles is what this whole life thing is all about. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat.
If the things I think and say shock you, you don’t know me.
Musing Monday on my day off for me. Tenors set the tone. Power and lines. Nail the high notes and minimize the low. Never be afraid of the bombastic. Embrace the sublime.
Mixing, matching, making… manahmanah. Doo do ba doo doo manahmanah.
What will you do when they (cancel culture victimization culture, blame game types) come for your family, your friend, your neighbor?
When “they” attack the character of a person you know... when their livelihood is threatened….
Will you stand with your friend, family, neighbor supporting their God given right to disagree, even with you? That is a damn good question and test my friends.
If I don’t trust and rely on you, then distance and boundaries are increased. Separation can and will occur and it could be permanent. #musingtime
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.
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.
There are plenty of people that i consider to be friends who are not.
There are plenty of people that I consider to be enemies who are not.
Family is not a blood thing but blood helps.
Most people don’t really care at all. Period. Most are self focused and self involved above all else.
Social media is a semi public, artificially created, construct of community. It is not community and it is a fleeting reflection of what authentic living together encompasses. #WakeUpAmerica
Social media is a pandemic public health crisis which is actually undermining society. No different than drugs, alcohol, big tobacco, gambling… it is an addiction that requires treatment and detox.
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.
“You have fought bravely and kept your honor.”
Aragorn to Boromir at his death.
“I would have followed you my brother, my captain, my king.” Boromir to Aragorn.
Both statements are what I yearn to hear, perhaps above all else. They represent true goals for fellowship.
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.
I may appear to some to be an easy target. I assure you I’m not. I am not at fault and I didn’t contribute or cause your issues. I do care, and will try to help but even that has pretty firm limits. Major assistance comes with strings.
On the target thing… don’t test me. You won’t like me when I’m angry. I don’t even like me when I’m angry.
This should be the policy of the US dept of defense and state in both military and economic matters. Trade first and foremost but backed with force and will.
My nature is something I understand more fully as I get older. to compete, to control, to conscript and compare... I choose to nurture differently. to collaborate, to enable, and to assist and to revel in others success along with my own.
I am far more than my biological makeup. You are too. Choose wisely, learn and change where YOU decide according to YOUR standards.
I’ve spent many days worrying about burning bridges. All good things come to an end is another important idea that I embrace. The reality is that In the last two years a ton of people chose to burn bridges to me and my cohort with their authoritarian behaviors, condemnation, and disregard of my and my fellow citizens agency. From speech, to firearms, to respect and even singing… and music making.
The wounds were frequent personal and sometimes vicious and even as I chose to suck It up buttercup, the indignant behaviors continued. I guess It wasn’t always malevolent intent. Often the outcomes were rooted in immaturity and pure incompetence. The results of those two realities are often identical.
So Many chose to embrace only their ways and treated me and mine with rank disrespect. Perhaps I’m just older and crotchety now. Maybe I’m wiser, maybe I’m foolish. The truth is… I’m not really interested in spending the time and energy required to rebuild most of those bridges.
Perhaps this is a character flaw. Perhaps it isn’t. There is a peace in personal liberty and morality. When I put aside what you think of my choices I am free to look to brighter choices, new bridges and spectacular new lands. I’m have some clarity now. More will come.
The fog will clear and it is my goal that those who chose to burn ties will find new ones elsewhere. Not sure mine can even be rebuilt. Grief cycle is real. Exploration is ways off but coming.
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.
Intersection of principles and practices...