One Voice

Download the song for free on NOISETRADE.

Some time ago my friend, Josh, and I were working with Crossroads Missions in New Orleans. We started talking about song writing and he told me about a chorus he had written that he used during a chapel time with the mission groups that were coming in [which is most of the chorus that is currently in the song].  I loved the focus on unity – especially in the context of the hundreds of churches, mission groups, and denominations working together during the rebuilding phase in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  My intention was to wrap some verses around the chorus and call it finished but it got shelved.  A couple years later I heard a teaching from another friend of mine about the words “hallelujah,” and “amen.” In summary, he stated that these two words were powerful because, in every language they were found across the globe, they meant the same thing: to praise God and to agree together.   I decided to do some of my own research about it and found this:

  • Hallelujah: Halal means to be clamorously foolish in praise and it combined with the name of God -Yahweh.
  • Amen: To agree, in unison, that something is truth.

This idea seemed to work well with the flow of the chorus that Josh wrote so I began to rework the song to incorporate a response with Hallelujah and Amen in the bridge and ending.  I wanted the song to be accessible lyrically and musically catchy so that it would be easy for people to sing in a short amount of time.  I began working out some lyrics for the verses that would help to explain the context of the response and serve as a connector for the chorus and bridge.  The final result became a congregational worship song that proclaims unity among believers and ends with a built-in response for any culture or language that might sing it!

Recently, a friend of mine suffered the loss of his mother.  He mentioned to me, as an encouragement, that the words “hallelujah” and “amen” are even being sung i
n heaven [Rev 19].  He was moved by the thought of his mother singing this song alongside him as we sang it in the services the week following her memorial.

It is exciting and humbling to see our new church community embrace these songs and to watch God use these them to minister to people in celebration and even in pain. I am thankful that God would use ordinary people like Josh and myself to write new songs and to inspire others to find refuge in His name.

Advertisements

The Church In Exile

The Church In Exile Graphic

I recently saw NT Wright speak at a local Bible College.  It was obviously thought provoking and filled the typical challenges you would come to expect from a theologian such as NT Wright. Oddly, the part that stuck with me wasn’t Wright but the man who introduced him to the stage.  He was a representative from Fuller Seminary and this is what he said:

“The church is no longer at the center of influence in our culture…we must be preparing the church for exile.

This thought isn’t new and physical exile isn’t necessarily what he was referring to.  In fact Judeo-Christianity has had plenty of historic moments in exile.  The most well known is, of course, found in Exodus as God’s people roamed around in a desert for 40 years as well as their life under the Roman regime during most of the New Testament accounts.  I believe he was referring to a time soon-to-come that places Christianity as oddities culturally, politically, and socially to the extent that we will be exiles on our own soil.  Neil Cole mentions his speculations on this in a recent blog series he posted.

One reason the statement caught my attention was the matter-of-factness with which he stated it.  He ASSUMED a tipping point had occurred and most of us listening had an understanding of what he was referring.  It would be foolish to ignore the fact that the christian influence in America has waned and will, most likely, continue over the next few years.  Maybe God has revival in our future but I too sense the church is heading into a time of cultural exile in America.  I believe, as a church leader, that I am responsible to prepare God’s people for it.  Not simply for the purpose of survival but for thriving within the pressure of this exile.  This preperation involves:

  • how we are to live in loving, gospel community together
  • how we are to present an alternative lifestyle contrary to the dominant culture we are immersed in
  • how we are to adhere to and protect God’s word
  • and how we are to be on mission in a new context where christian values are not embraced or even tolerated.

The questions to ask:

  • Are we adequately preparing the church?
  • Is the church actually as aware as this man supposed?
  • If he is correct, what should we do to prepare?
  • Are we willing to let go of old paradigms [traditions] to channel the gospel in new ways?
  • Are there aspects of our current expression of church that can’t survive without government help?

Again, it wouldn’t be the first time God’s people walked in exile. In fact the church often moves into a stage of spontaneous, unstoppable expansion when put under pressure.  I believe we can learn a lot from the scriptures and how God guided His people during those times [the book of Acts would be a great starting place] and that we should prayerfully consider how God might want us to live in the exile to come.

Is Your Message PROPHETIC?

Prophetic Banner

Timeliness.

In the last couple of weeks I heard three notable quotes about messages, in sermons or worship, being “prophetic.”  Two were from similar backgrounds but one came from a completely different tribe in the evangelical world.  From the more conservative side, Pastor Crawford Lorritts spoke at The Resurgence Conference and, during the Q & A section, he said this:

“Preaching is always prophetic…New Testament preaching is more prophecy to me in the sense of forth-telling…It is a declaration of truth for that moment in history, there is a timeliness about it. Wheras teaching is sort of like the unfolding. There is an urgency associated with biblical preaching and that puts it on the prophetic side.” [He went on to distinguish between this idea of prophecy and the gift of prophecy. I encourage you to see his full interview here so you can see it in full.]

The second quote comes from Beth Croft, a worship leader with Soul Survivor tweeted:

“Prophetic worship… Not necessarily a new song, or even a spontaneous song, simply the right song at the right time.”

The third was from an interview with Brian Johnson [of Bethel Worship] about “prophetic” worship:

“Well, I think anything that has the breath of the Spirit on it.  It could be a rehearsed song or an already written song in the right moment.  A lot of times I think we can get it wrong with thinking that it’s just a spontaneous song and that’s not true…It could be Here I Am To Worship in the right setting…the right timing.”

I wouldn’t try to summarize the “Prophetic” as simply being the right moment but the common factor that I am pointing out here is the timeliness of a given message either by song or by preaching.  I have a strong view of God’s sovereignty and one could argue that any message is always prophetic and I would agree in one sense but there have been moments when a message I’d heard just hit me with a certain…supernatural timeliness.

A Weird Message From God.

A few years ago my wife and I were at a christian concert in New Orleans. We didn’t realize it at the time but concert was for a Catholic youth rally and they just happen to open it up to the public for the concert. During this event an elderly lady sitting a few chairs away from us tapped my wife on the shoulder and said something along the lines of “God wants you know that you are forgiven.”  At the time she mentioned it there was no pressing need for her to hear this so we both kind of dismissed it and thought it was a nice gesture from a weird elderly lady.

Months later we encountered some trials that felt a lot like punishment.  Theologically, I knew God wasn’t punishing us but the message from the little old lady kept coming to mind and became a very real message from God in the face of this particular trial.

Application In My Ministry.

Last weekend I led worship at our worship services.  I had chosen the worship set and was singing through it and listening to God for any adjustments.  The chorus and bridge from Give Us Clean Hands kept coming to mind and I thought it might be added just in case the moment called for it. Soon after the pastor asked me if I could add in a song that he would be mentioning in the sermon.  It worked well and I figured it made more sense than my “inkling” so changed the set and added the one he mentioned.  One service went by and things seemed in line as far as song choices go but the second service there was a line in the sermon that led me back to the Give Us Clean Hands so I sang it even though I had not added the lyrics into the powerpoint.  The combination of both songs really seemed to strike a chord in that service.  I even had a woman come up to me crying and telling me specifically that BOTH of those songs were exactly what she needed in that moment.

In the third service however, I added the lyrics to the powerpoint and led the song just as I did before and, oddly, it didn’t seem to have the same effect as far as I could tell.  I am sure it was beneficial for some while others felt the set went too long in both cases. It’s possible I tried to bridge over one timely moment into an untimely one!  Thankfully there is enough grace in our congregation and leadership to allow for me to make such decision.

Put Up Your Antennae.

Even though I felt a bit of a timing roller coaster in that example, I believe there is merit to putting up your spiritual antennae and listening for a timely [maybe even prophetic] message from God and having the boldness to do what you believe you are being asked to do.

The ONE

Alone in a Crowd

Have you ever noticed how often Jesus seemed to notice one person in a crowd?  He had a special knack for seeing and addressing “The One” amidst the many!  While churches in America today tend to look for the person with the most leadership potential, the one Jesus decides to address usually wasn’t the most important person around.  In fact, they were usually the outcasts!

While walking through a mass of people Jesus calls out a tax collector named Zachias from the tree and tells Him that He will be dining with him in his home.  Jesus promised an outsider going to draw from the well at a time when she could avoid others that He knows her sins but offers her water that will cause here to never thirst again!  He shelters a condemned adulteress with the words, “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” only to send her out by telling her to “sin no longer.”  Finding THE ONE was very important to the ministry of Jesus.

In Luke 8, as Jesus’ boat arrives at the Gerasene shore, He is greeted by a madman.  This man was severely oppressed by demons, completely naked, he had broken out of his shackles, and he was living in tombs among the dead.  Jesus could have stayed in the boat.  He could have asked that the boat be docked down shore- away from the crazed man.  Instead of avoiding him to find a more civilized, suitable crowd Jesus asked “what is your name?”  His reply is “Legion” for he had many demons in him and Jesus set the man free by commanding the demons to go into a heard of swine nearby.  Word spread fast about the man.  He asked Jesus for permission to travel with Him but Jesus turns him away saying, “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” He sent the man back as an ambassador to proclaim the good news of God!!

If you know God, at some point, you were His ONE.  Jesus noticed you in the crowd and called you out as an individual.  He loved you enough to chase after you and bring you to Him.  Stop now and think of a moment when God actively sought after you through an odd coincidence, some life interrupting news, a persons kind word, a challenging sermon, or an encouraging verse.

Like the Gerasene Demoniac, He didn’t chase after you so that you could remain dormant.  He called you out for a purpose.  Who is your ONE?  Who is it that God has placed in your path to notice in the crowd?  Who around you needs to be noticed in the crowd at your work place, your coffee shop, your grocery store.  You have the ability, RIGHT NOW, to notice the ONE!  It’s time to raise the spiritual antennae of awareness to view anyone and any situation that sticks out, seems odd, or appears out-of-the-ordinary, as opportunities to notice THE ONE.

My prayer is that we will walk around this earth, interacting with people, and constantly asking to ourselves “is this THE ONE?” It may be that, through you, they might know that Jesus notices them and that He is chasing after them!

A New Reformation | Mike Breen

ARE WE ON THE BRINK OF A NEW REFORMATION?

Written by Mike Breen [Original post at www.3dm.com]

If you could have a big tree with only a little fruit or a small tree with lots of fruit, which would you choose? It’s about a choice, right?

But we’ll get back to that in a second.

I’ve noticed there seem to be two things I can do with Jesus. Either I can increasingly look like Jesus, or I can make him look like me.

I can look like Jesus or I can try to make him look like me.

The funny thing about Jesus is that I’m never sure we give him quite enough credit. Sure. He came to earth, left the throne of heaven, took on the nature of a servant and died on the cross in our place, rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Yes. All that happened.

But we really don’t give his three years of ministry much reference.

Here’s what I mean: We think Jesus was the Son of God, but when we read the Gospels, do you think he was the smartest person who ever lived? Most accomplished? Best fisherman? Best evangelist? Best church planter? Best movement leader? Best discipler? Most successful leader?

For instance, in Luke 9 and again in Luke 10, Jesus gave the most detailed strategy you will ever find in the scriptures for how to evangelize, and then we see the exact same strategy used in the early church. Shouldn’t we be using that same strategy? I’m guessing we’re not arrogant enough to think we’ve come up with a better strategy than Jesus. (Example: for most churches, the evangelism strategy is “invite your friends to church and then let the professionals take over. We’ll do the heavy lifting if you get them here.” Not exactly Jesus’ strategy!)

We acknowledge what Jesus did on the cross, but what about what was started before the cross? What about the movement he began that changed the course of human history when it was released and catalyzed after the Resurrection and Pentecost? If being a disciple is “who Jesus would be if he were me” (Dallas Willard), shouldn’t we be learning the patterns and practices of the best whom ever lived if we too want to change the world for the Kingdom?

Yet often when we look at the Western church, I’m not sure we see many of the practices of Jesus among the way we lead. Though…that’s starting to change!

Back to the original question: Big tree/little fruit or little tree/lots of fruit?

It feels that at some point, we might have lost our way. Perhaps we became more concerned with success than fruitfulness. Jesus says we evaluate things in the Kingdom on their fruitfulness…but somewhere along the way it became about the size of your tree. Now having a big tree is a fine thing. Just know you’re only successful in evaluating yourself against the size of other trees, and God has never been terribly concerned about tree size. Just fruitfulness. That’s it. The point of a tree isn’t how big your tree is but how much fruit you have. It’s about fruit! And in the Kingdom, fruitfulness is always about reproduction. (Specifically, reproducing disciples…multiplying Jesus’ life into the life of others who can then go and do the same.) Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 8.53.46 AM

My experience tells me having a big tree doesn’t mean you have a lot of fruit. In fact, what I’ve seen happen a lot more often is people going after the big tree and hoping to get fruit, rather than going after fruit and knowing you get the tree along the way.

Choose the best, and you always get the good. Choose the good, you very rarely get the best.

Are we trying to start or lead churches, create Kingdom movements and aspire to all the breakthrough Jesus saw apart from the way Jesus did those things? Am I trying to make Jesus like me or do I honestly believe he was the best in the Kingdom business?

The Reformation was a significant moment because among other things, it put the Bible back in the hands of the people. But when we look at the church of the last 100 years, I have to wonder if we have been more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.

This is the gut check questionIf you had to choose between being known as a movement leader but not really having one, or actually being a movement leader but no one knowing it…which would you choose?

Tree or fruit?

Here’s the good news: I believe we are on the cusp of a new Reformation, one that sees the kind of fruit we saw from Jesus’ ministry, because we, once again, embrace not simply what Jesus did on the cross but the way he led and made disciples. Yes. I think we are on the tipping point of a new Reformation and it is about putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people. Because when we equip the people of Jesus with the patterns, practices and way of Jesus, it will once again be ordinary people equipped to do extraordinary things.

The key is to embrace the mission of Jesus AND the way of Jesus. He’s just the best there ever was!

Hopefully you hear what I’m trying to convey clearly. I’m not suggesting we should go after a new Reformation. I’m suggesting it’s already happening. And maybe we don’t see it on every street corner yet, but I see it happening all around. A small group of communities, ready to be bloodied in going through the wall first, who are getting the beachhead of breakthrough for the rest of the church.

It’s already happening!

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 8.54.14 AMAt the end of the day, I don’t want a big tree. But I don’t want a small tree either. I want an orchard. I want a Kingdom movement where reproduction of Jesus’ life within individuals and communities is happening on every level. I’ve seen this happen before. I know it because I’ve seen it. And I think we are starting to see glimmers of this reality again.

Lord, may it be so! May we see a Kingdom movement wash upon these shores.