Archives For unity

My smartphone is practically a Transformer.  Freaks me out.  If I program it correctly, it will get up before I do, put on a pot of coffee, and whip me up a nice plate of Eggs Bene (with scrambled eggs… poached eggs are gross) and a side of Hash Browns.
 
But with all that my phone can do, and all of it’s multi-media functionality, I still hold on to my trusty 3rd Gen clickwheel iPod to listen to music.
 
Why?  Because Apple flat out dominates the market when it comes to well-designed, high quality, easy to use, techno-magical user interface driven music players.  My Smartphone can play music.  It could crank out U2’s “Beautiful Day” as it gently browned my morning potatoes if it wanted to.  But it does so many other things that it is a little clumsy to use as a music player. For music, my iPod is magic.  It does exactly what it is designed to do very well.
 
Today the long awaited new Kindle from Amazon is slated to be released.  When specs for this next generation of the Kindle were released last month, technofiles watched closely for signs of video capabilities and a flashier, more interactive e-book experience.  In an online article from engadget.com, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos responded, “For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets,” adding later, “there are going to be 100 companies making LCD [screen] tablets… why would we want to be 101? I like building a purpose-built reading device. I think that is where we can make a real contribution.”
 
I love that.  A clear, focused purpose.  A device designed to fulfill a specific mission.  We don’t need more bells and whistles.  We want to produce the best electronic device for reading e-books.  Ever.  That’s it.  There is no “cook me breakfast” app.  Streaming video, shmeaming video.  But if you want to read an e-book, let me tell you why this baby is the cat’s pajamas.
 
(As a side note, what does that MEAN?  Cat’s pajamas?)
 
But this post isn’t really about e-readers or music players.  It is about church.  It is about the value of a clear, focused purpose.
 
I think most churches would say they agree on WHAT we are called to do as a local church… and it probably sounds something like “Helping build a community of people who used to be far from God and now are growing into fully devoted disciples of Jesus.”  Basically, local churches look at the “big ones” from Jesus about our mission here on earth in Matthew 22 (“Love God. Love people.”) and Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples…”), and try to word it in a unique way that fits on a t-shirt.
 
But God has uniquely wired your church, and my church, to reach specific people… in a specific way.  If you go to church, and your church family and leaders love Jesus, we probably agree on 99% of the WHAT.  But your church and my church NEED to listen to God on the SPECIFIC mission we are called to, in the community we are placed, with the specific mix of personalities and gifts that God unites in our congregation.
 
Without a clear, specific, focused purpose, many churches simply rely on what has been done before.  Others are innovation junkies, trying to stay just a step ahead of the Church of the Joneses across the street.  Others think the best way to accomplish the WHAT of Matthew 22 and Matthew 28 is to do more and offer more and be more…  They run the risk of becoming a “menu-of-ministries” church, driven either by the felt needs of the community, the whims of the crowd, or the personality of the pastor.  There’s nothing wrong, per se, with offering a long list of ministries, groups, events, etc… But when a local church UNITES around a common, God-given vision for accomplishing the big WHAT, there is energy in our synergy, there is clarity in our purpose, there is intention in our action, and there is a deep sense of community in the process.
 
When Jeff Bezos was asked about whether the new Kindle would offer more bells and whistles, he said no.
 
Does your church or ministry have a clear, focused purpose?  It will help you decide what God-stuff to embrace, and what good-stuff to say “no” to.
 
[For much more on this general theme, I highly recommend the book Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Grieger.  You could read it on your Kindle…]
 
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“new kindle launches today :: yeah, but can it cook me breakfast?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

Almost two weeks ago now, novelist Anne Rice (famous for her “Vampire Chronicles” series, including Interview With the Vampire) did something, because of her faith in Jesus Christ, that resonated with a lot of people.

She left Christianity.

July 29, 2010, on her Facebook page, Anne posted the following:

In follow-up posts and interviews, Anne has continued to espouse a life-changing faith in Jesus while rejecting any unity with other believers… at least in any organized way (aka: religion).  In her next FB post, Anne wrote “Following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

Yes… but.  And that’s a big “but.”

It’s not that I don’t understand where Anne Rice is coming from.  While I don’t share many of her social politics or views, that’s not the point here.  I agree with her in some ways.  I think so much of the in-fighting and judgement and hypocrisy and (fill in the blank) that exists within organized Christianity is yucky, too.  That’s like calling water wet.  But what Anne is doing here is basically taking the blood of Christ for herself, and leaving His Body behind.  * Insert vampire metaphor here. *

And it is appealing.  To many, many people.  Faith without structure.  Spirituality without accountability.  Personal God-relationship without the clutter of people-relationship interfering in your faith life.  The blessings of the one-on-one experience without the responsibility of community.

But God designed us for relationships!  We’re wired for community!  Look at Genesis…  Before Eve came along, Adam was in a perfect relationship with God – before the tree, before the apple, before the fall.  There was no sin.  There was no shame.  There was open face to face communication between Adam and God.  And IN THAT CONTEXT, God said, “it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone…”

I will tell you right now, if you diss my wife, you will answer for it to me.  That wasn’t just meant to be full of testosterone-laden machismo.  I’m saying NO ONE I hang out with can get away with choosing me and not accepting Amy.  We’re a package deal.  Rejecting Amy means losing me, too.  We’re ONE.

God said the Church is His Bride.  Jesus’ last prayer session in John 17 before being taken captive and crucified for us is a longing prayer that we (His followers) might become ONE, the way He and the Father are one.  He loves the Church that deeply.

And when asked about the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:37-40), Jesus answered (paraphrased) ” Love God like crazy, first of all, but ALMOST as important is to love the people around you selflessly.”  It has always been God AND people.  That’s His design.

Sure Anne Rice, or you and I, could love people in Jesus name – serve the poor, etc. – without any community of faith.  We can be Lone Wolves for Jesus.  But He doesn’t want us to.  If you want a meaningful relationship with me, you get Amy, too.  Husband and Wife.  Jesus and the Church.  She’s not perfect, but she is beautiful.  And mine.

If you’ve got a couple minutes, listen to this track (posted below) called “The Church” from Derek Webb (on “She Must and Shall Go Free”).  We agree that the Church is a flawed bride.  She has sold herself for a lesser reward that Jesus over and over and over again.  But if you can simply accept that the problem with the Church is that there are people in it who need love and grace, maybe it’s time to rethink that lone-wolf faith that seems so simple and so uncluttered.  If you love Him, love His church…

Click on the tab below to stream the audio >>

[audio:http://www.jskogerboe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/11 – The Church.mp3|titles=11 – The Church]

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“i love you man, but I can’t stand your wife :: anne rice, derek webb, vampires, and the church” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

As of 7:05PM last night, it’s official.  I’ve been accepted to begin Seminary this Fall at AFLTS in Plymouth, MN.

For the first time in a long season of living in “the between land” we feel like we have more answers than questions.  In reality, that is probably not the case… we still don’t know how we will make a living this fall, or even necessarily where we might be living.  We don’t know what my ministry role at Living Hope Church will look like exactly.  We don’t know how my schedule will work balancing work and ministry and family and study.

But we know this:  God is saying GO.

I LOVE THESE DAYS!  When God speaks and His will seems so clear… I love knowing that I’m heading toward a pillar in our family history.  We all have pinnacle moments in our life story.  They are the moments that set direction and bookmark the seasons in our life.  The game-changing decisions and circumstances that reset trajectory.  Things like: where should I attend college?  What is my major?  Should I take this job?  Is she the ONE?  We’re having a baby!  Am I going to make this marriage work?  Should we buy this house?  It’s time to home-school.  Are we going to adopt?  Is it time to go back to school?  Game changers.

In the last few weeks we have heard God’s voice.  Not literally, but it could just as well be.  There is a clarity to this call that is remarkable, and it has had me thinking… the truth is, for almost every new chapter in my life – the ones marked by those game-changing pillar decisions – Amy and I have had a sense that there really was almost no decision to be made.  God said GO THIS WAY.  And we have.  Our course has been charted for us.

But how do we KNOW?  Honestly.  Before these key, life-changing decisions are made there is often a season of uncertainty, concern, and painful ambiguity.  Gridlock.  Sometimes even fear.  Are you there right now?  Some of you must be.  No one gets a free pass in this life.  No one gets to coast, continually carefree, with the future road map laid out clearly before us.  We all hit intersections and turns in the road.  Sometimes a T.  Sometimes a dead end.  So how do we know where to go?  Even with many significant questions unanswered, how can we be so sure that Seminary is the next chapter for us?

Here are some of my principal indicators.  When it comes to the game-changers, here is a peek at the grid I filter decisions through:

(1)  What does the Bible say?  The Bible is my gold standard.  I believe it is not only God’s perfect Word to us, but that it is living and active.  The Holy Spirit breathes and whispers (and sometimes shouts) through the Word of God, and it is my authority and my guidebook for life.  So my first question in making a life-changing decision is always, “How does this square with Scripture?”  Paul writes that anyone that desires to be an “ejpiskoph'” desires an honorable position (1 Tim. 3:1).  As used in the New Testament, “ejpiskoph” refers to those who bear the responsibility of spiritual oversight, shepherding, and watchfulness over the believers in a local church.  In other words, a Pastor in a local congregation.  Does that passage mean that God is specifically calling ME to be a Pastor?  No.  But it does affirm the fact that it is honorable – worth pursuing – if we sense a desire to follow that calling.

(2)  What do you really want to do?  And this is not at all as flippant as it sounds.  When I was fresh out of high school, trying to decide what career path to take, I consulted a pastor whom I trusted.  He led me to Psalm 37:4… “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”  As I’ve written about before, this passage doesn’t mean God will magically grant you whatever your heart desires.  Rather, it means if you live in such a way as to DELIGHT in God, and stay in close relationship with Him, eager to please Him and follow His lead, then God will actually place into your heart the DESIRES THEMSELVES which will guide you according to His will.  IS that not the most AWESOME news ever?!  We get to enjoy a deeply satisfying pursuit of God’s favor, and then we do what we want to do, so to speak…  I’ve been asking Him, “Lord, make me want what you want, because I want to live this one life YOUR way.”  And you know what?  I want to go to Seminary.  Deeply.  Madly.  Passionately.  Prayer has been answered.

(3)  Listen to your wife.  Maybe this should be number one.  Well, OK, to be fair, The Bible and God’s guiding will are hard to top.  But the point is this:  Amy and I are ONE.  We move together.  She is bound to me, and I to her.  Without a clear, unambiguous affirmation from her, I don’t make game-changing decisions.  Ever.  And in this case, I think Amy may actually be more excited about Seminary this Fall than I am.  And that’s hard to imagine.  But she has said yes, yes, a thousand times yes, in a hundred different ways.  What my wife thinks matters.  A lot.

(4)  Listen to wise counsel.  In this case, what my parents had to say carried a lot of weight.  And my father-in-law, who is a pastor and professor at the Seminary I’ll be attending this Fall, gave me a good deal of encouragement, as well.  My Pastor now at Living Hope said, “Do it.  You’d make a great Pastor.”  I had breakfast with a close friend and fellow kingdom artist whom I love like a brother.  Again, affirmation and wise counsel.  These are men (with the exception of my mom, of course) whom I trust, because I have seen the Holy Spirit’s authority in their lives.  I trust their discernment.  And with a unified voice, I heard them say “GO.”  In my book, that is a LOUD voice.

(5) Pay attention to the doors.  No, I’m not calling upon the sage wisdom of Jim Morrison or his drug-addled cohort for guidance here.  But there is truth in the metaphor…  Sometimes doors close.  Sometimes doors open.  In my case, there were some closed doors in my path telling me that the status quo is no longer an option.  The path IS changing course.  So I looked for the open door with the flashing light and the “this way” sign.  Seminary.  I’ve always wanted to study like this.  I’ve always believed that seminary was a likely possibility, but I’ve been fully engaged in deeply satisfying full-time ministry for more than 15 years.  I didn’t feel a clear call to STOP doing ministry in order to pursue Seminary.  But doors close, and others open.  I pay attention to those moments.

(6)  Do other people in your life affirm this decision?  We have floated the idea of Seminary to our friends through face to face conversations, Twitter and Facebook, blog pages, and phone calls.  In every case so far, we have heard confirmation that this seems right.  No one is pulling me aside with grave concerns.  No one is asking me to reconsider – to step back and look at it another way.  Our friends have said YES.  GO.  God often confirms His will through the unified voice of His people.  In this case, what our friends and family have to say matters much.  And there are times to listen to God’s voice and chart a course even when many skeptics think you’re crazy.  But in this, we have enjoyed MUCH affirmation.  Unified agreement.  GO.

(7)  The inner call and the outer call.  This will apply most specifically to ministry decisions, but the idea is this… In order to move forward into a new ministry role, we listen for both an inner call (do I feel led to this ministry?) and an outer call (are there leaders in authority over me inviting me into this ministry role as well?).   I have a clear inner call to become a Pastor through Seminary training.  But I can’t just walk into class on day one without the invitation of the School Board of Trustees and the Dean of the Seminary.  Yesterday, Amy and I met with the Board of Trustees and some of the Seminary Faculty.  We discussed our spiritual life, our family, our spiritual goals and disciplines, our “inner call” to Seminary, and a handful of other bullet points.  Last night at 7:05, Pastor Monseth, Dean of the Seminary called us up and extended the “outer call.”  Further confirmation.  The next chapter.

(8)  Are you at peace?  At some point you have to make a move.  Turn and go.  After taking a step in that game-changing direction, are you sleeping well at night?  When I think about Seminary this Fall, I breathe deeply and smile.  The Holy Spirit isn’t nudging me to discomfort.  I’m not tangled up in my head.  This feels right.  The Spirit is confirming His will for me through unexplainable peace, even though there are huge question marks along the way.  Sometimes, when you don’t know everything, you must choose to be obedient in what you DO know.  The rest is details.  And God is both HUGE and my advocate.  What do I have to fear?

So there’s a look into the psyche and future of the Skogerboe family.  The next chapter.

For my dear friends at Living Hope, I want you to know that we plan to be around for the next few years.  On June 6 at our congregational meeting, we’ll fill you in on more of the details.  I’ll be meeting and talking more with the Elders between then and now.  And on the 6th we can talk all about it.  In the mean time, if you are a Living Hoper, please click here for a brief note written specifically to you.

So we’re taking a leap.  And we’re wildly excited.  Please keep us in your prayers in this next season of life.  May God be glorified in us!

    

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This work by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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Our worship ministry team at Living Hope Church is AWESOME.

Now, don’t misread my enthusiasm for pride.  We’re not the most gifted musicians, and we are certainly not mighty in number or prolific as songwriters, influencing the global Church for Jesus.  There are better sounding teams, bigger teams, better-known teams.  But you’d be hard pressed to find a TEAM with as much love for each other and sense of SHARED PURPOSE.  I love these people like family, and I trust them.  We depend on each other, and I believe we are living out Philippians 2…

…make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose…

When I reflect on why this bunch of friends works and ministers together so well, I think it has much to do with that Philippians 2 spirit.  We know what we are called to do.  Everyone is on the same page.  We don’t wrestle with multiple philosophies and competing values, because we have spelled out our purpose and our values explicitly, and we agree on them as a Team.  It’s true that we value excellence in our music and our art, but more importantly, we are all focused on the same audience of One when we lead together.

Here’s a question for those of you in Worship Ministry:  Has your team written down your core values and your purpose as a team?  If not, why not?

Carefully crafting a clear purpose statement and core values has some MAJOR LEAGUE advantages:

(1)  Unified language brings clarity to vision.  When leaders do the hard work of carefully word-smithing a purpose statement that is both clear and simple, the whole organization can align themselves with that vision much more efficiently.  Greater alignment to the vision means more synergy, and the team is able to be more effective. (Insert standard disclaimer here about the reality that God alone is responsible for any lasting change in a person’s spiritual condition…)

(2)  Shared expectations leads to greater accountability.  My greatest sin as a leader is my adrenaline addiction.  It leads me to rush everywhere and show up a few minutes late to everything.  Rehearsals included.  I don’t let myself off the hook for it.  I choose the uncomfortable tension of constantly restating the standard and apologizing to the team every time I am late, rather than accepting a “well, it doesn’t really matter – that’s just the way we operate” mentality that would allow me to comfortably continue to waste my friends’ valuable time.  And here’s the beauty of shared expectations… NO ONE has to be the bad guy.  No one on the team has to pull me aside and give me the talk about how I need to shape up.  I know I need to be on time.  The team knows we all need to be on time.  We value each other and respect each other.  And the VALUES we have agreed upon speak for themselves. 

Leaders, when you have a team member who is not consistently living out your Team’s values, it is a huge advantage to have looked at those values together before they serve.  That way, your correction (as you speak the truth in love) to them does not need to come from you personally, so much as it is a discussion about the VALUES you share as Teammates.  This has been a monumentally effective tool for me as a leader over the years.

3) Simplicity = Unity.  Simplifying your purpose and values leads to greater clarity, which leads to greater understanding, which leads to greater unity.  Distilling what really matters most down to bite-sized bullet points for your Team CLARIFIES and HIGHLIGHTS the Biblical principles that undergird what you do.  While God says that ALL scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, it is obviously not possible (or necessary) to remember ALL scripture at ALL times.  Bullet points are memorable.  Bullet points bring focus.  At Living Hope, all of our core values are derived from Scripture, and we have tied one verse to each value.  Our purpose statement is one sentence.  Simple.  Memorable.  Unifying.

I’ve listed three advantages of taking the time to write out and agree upon your Team’s purpose core values, but there are many more.  If you haven’t started the hard work of crafting these together as a Team, I encourage you to start.  It will take time.  Maybe months.  That’s OK – the results are worth it.  So order some pizza and have a good time with it.  Bring your Bibles and your white boards and your yellow legal pads.  YOU will need to work these out for your own team, because your church environment, your goals as a team, and your leadership style are unique to you.  Below you’ll see our purpose and core values, but it is worth it to craft your own.  Do the hard work.

 

As an example, here are the Living Hope Worship and Arts Ministry purpose and core values:

 

Ministry Purpose (why we exist) >> To model and facilitate deeply significant worship expressions that result in transformed lives.

 

Ministry Values (what guides us) >>

1.  We value GOD’S REPUTATION above everything else.

            “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  – I Corinthians 10:31

 2.  We value FREEDOM in expressing our love to God.

            “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  – II Corinthians 3:17

 3.  We value the authority and power of BIBLICAL TRUTH to change lives.

                “…true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth…”  – John 4:23

 4.  We value AUTHENTICITY, HUMILITY, and INTEGRITY as reflections of spiritual maturity.

                “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”  –  Romans 12:1

 5.  We value honest RELATIONSHIPS within the community, the church, and the Team.

                “…being like minded… one in spirit and purpose.”  –  Philippians 2:2

 6.  We value artistic EXCELLENCE for the glory of God.

          “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…”  – Colossians 3:23

 

Does your Worship Ministry Team have a clear purpose and clearly stated values?  Has it made a difference in the way your Team serves the church?

 

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“worship ministry team values :: we’ve got spirit, yes we do” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.