No Church For You!

Whew. Worship was canceled today. Kind of.

All week I’ve been struggling with dizziness. For the most part it was just an annoyance, but yesterday (Saturday) it was bad enough I canceled all my appointments. I was able to do plenty of office work, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I was frustrated. I don’t like being the one canceling. (Though, as has been noted, I rarely cry if someone cancels on me!)

And then… this morning.

I was hoping that the dizziness would be like most pastors’ illnesses: Maybe bad on Saturday, but fine on Sunday. Whether it’s God working to make sure his people hear his Word, or just adrenaline, I’m usually fine on Sunday mornings. When I got up this morning, that’s what it looked like.

Good. There’s lots to do today. Choir, then worship, then Bible study, and then a new member class. All of it good, but a lot to do and much more difficult if I can’t stand up because the world is spinning. (more…)

The Fearful Ring

I’m calling tomorrow about how worship went.”

That’s not an encouraging text. Not when the congregation is experimenting with a new order of service. Most of the time, people who approve of a change will remain silent and content. Pastors hear a lot from folks that are unhappy, though.

I braced. I didn’t want the phone call. I’m not a fan of phone calls in general, much less unhappy ones. I’ve received so many people telling me about how dangerous something is we were doing, or how they were going to leave, or how “someone” they know was really upset (and that “Someone” 95% of the time is them, but they’re not brave enough to own up to their own reactions).

I understand that change is difficult, and I understand that we can’t please everyone. As I led worship this past Sunday, I started worship by announcing that we were trying something different. “You might not like it. Frankly, I don’t care. Because the point of worship is not giving you something you like. It’s about a conversation. It’s about listening to what God says and then responding. So as you evaluate these changes, don’t think about whether or not you like them. Think about whether or not you hear what God says more clearly through his Word, and whether you’re equipped to respond better not just for this hour, but for the next 167 hours until we come together in worship again.”

And those, frankly, are fightin’ words. So I expected a fight. And with that text I received, I felt the stress threading through my shoulders and pulling tight. (more…)

Worship, Comics, and Continuity

Batman… and church! 

I wish worship at my church was more like a comic book.

OK, hear me out.

So, if you were to try to get into comics, you would be met with some very different options. Some comics have been going on for well over fifty years. Action Comics, which has normally featured Superman as the main character, will soon celebrate one thousand issues. 

That’s a lot of comics. 

Some of these long-running comics can be near impossible to pick up without having an incredibly long history with that particular comic (and sometimes the entire company), a lot of patience and time on Wikipedia, or a willingness to have no idea what’s going on. I think about certain eras of X-Men in particular for this, though pretty much any long-running comic series can have this problem. It’s just not accessible; there’s so much continuity, character histories, and plotlines to follow! It’s like it’s a club only for the initiated. (more…)

Proof of Racism

According to this article, I pastor a church that is “racist as hell:”

If your pastor, priest, or leadership is silent about the events taking place in Charlottesville, VA, you attend a white supremacist church. Simple. If your church does not spend a significant amount of time this weekend denouncing, condemning, and speaking out against the actions of the white supremacists gathering in Charlottesville, VA in the strongest possible terms, your church is racist as hell.”

Today we opened with the hymn “Church of God, Elect and Glorious.” It’s a hymn that praises each person of the Trinity for how they rescued fallen sinners. It’s got a glorious, soaring melody. The congregation struggled through it, since it was the first time we’d ever sung it.

Then, I opened worship with the Invocation. This ancient part of worship reminds us whom we are there to worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a reminder of our baptisms, when the Holy Spirit created faith in many of our hearts. Even when I baptize adults, I refer the baptism as the “day you got your adoption papers from God.” The invocation also calls God to be present in this place as we worship him.

The next thing we did: as a congregation, together, we confessed our sins to God. And as soon as that was done, I announced forgiveness. Jesus was punished in our place, and our sins were taken away!

It’s kind of funny… but there were no current events at all yet in our worship service. (more…)

Pushed to Share the Gospel

A future of worship?

She wants to go to my church. She can’t.

It’s not the normal excuse. “Oh, well, I just keep forgetting to get up.” Nope, she’s actually awake early enough.

“I don’t have a ride.” Nope; I always offer rides to anyone who gives that excuse (And it’s always something else then). I actually can’t give her a ride.

Nope. She’s going to college a number of hours away, and a good distance from the nearest church she’s in fellowship with. She really can’t get to my church. She doesn’t have a car. And even more… she wants to be in on our evening service, the discussion-based service we’ve been running since late May. (more…)

Empty Church/ Full Church

Sunday morning has been shrinking. People die. People find other things more important than God’s Word. People are offended by God’s Word (see also: last week’s post). This morning was particularly pathetic. We had a mere twenty people in attendance, counting me. And my family. And a guest pastor’s family. (Yeah, today was the first day of my associate preaching in the morning.)

Granted, it was Labor Day weekend. And it was hot. So hot. So humid. Bleh.

But… still. We had about half the amount of people we usually have on a Sunday. Not exactly uplifting.

And then this evening happened. At our nontraditional evening service we had nineteen people. We’d been getting around ten, and then tonight… well, a mix of nearly everyone showing up at once, starting Sunday school, and having some old friends passing through town and stopping to check out the new service – our new evening service, my “new congregation,” nearly equaled our morning traditional worship. (more…)

Pastor Goes to Chapel

I debated whether or not to go to worship. I mean, I’m visiting a college campus, and not for my own good. I brought a teen member of my congregation to tour my churches “college of ministry” to see if she might want to be a teacher. I personally think she’d excel as a teacher, especially in a mission setting. These two days “away” from ministry will be well worth it for her. However, it means I’m just sort of hanging around campus. I’m getting some work done on my laptop, but most of my work this week will end up being face-to-face.

So, it was time for chapel. All right. Let’s go.

And as I sit down, I see that it’s one of my favorite professors, Prof. Lange, giving the chapel. Excellent.

The hymn begins. And… oh my. (more…)

Holy Week Hell

If the devil can steal Jesus from a church, he wins. One of the easiest ways he can do that is to drive the Pastor away from Jesus, particularly during those times when the most people are naturally thinking about church – like, say, Christmas and Easter. There’s a reason that Christmas and Easter are just insane with people inside a church saying, “Oh, we have to do this! We have to do that!” whether or not God’s Word says we must do anything. If the pastor is so busy he loses Jesus, Satan wins. If the pastor is too drug down by the woes of this world, he has such a hard time pointing to Jesus.

They warned us at Seminary that anything that can possibly go wrong during Holy Week – the week that started today, Palm Sunday, and runs through Easter a week from today – anything that can go wrong this week, will. Expect it.

For an average pastor, Holy Week is already insane. An average Lutheran pastor will have to prepare worship for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and sundry services Easter morning. Considering it takes me ten to fifteen hours of time – easily – to write and memorize a sermon, three sermons in a week is a lot of work.

But then you throw in additional weights: I get to preach a Christian victory service – you may know it as a funeral – for a man I’ve served since arriving here. It is an honor to serve him in this way. It is also additional work in an already busy week.

I get to lead a chapel devotion at a local Christian school. Again, an honor – but an additional weight in a busy week.

There’s numerous things in the church I need to take care of, or at least oversee. Yes, ok, we’re set for Easter breakfast. Yep, we’ve got someone lined up for projector in the many services. Choir looks to be all ready!

All that is important work, and while the funeral will certainly be emotional, it will be a good emotional.

But now the actual weights start coming in. Things that aren’t just “busy but things we can do,” but things that burden the heart and make it hard for me to get up. (more…)

One-Minute Worship and the Teenager

Sometimes teenagers can be really stupid. I think you may know this. And yet, sometimes, God grants those teenagers some wisdom.

Today, for teen Bible study, I told the teens we were going to watch an entire church service. I asked them to look for:

1. Something that was right.
2. Something that was wrong.
3. Something they wanted to try.
4. Something they never wanted to see at our congregation.

And with that introduction, we watched this video:

Now, before anyone freaks out, the pastor did that as a joke. If you want more commentary on the video itself, check out the commentary from this excellent Bread for Beggars post.

So, what do you think the teens said? (more…)

You can change church!

Look! Interactive!

Social media is inherently interactive. You can choose to make church interactive, or you can resign yourself to seeing a generation missing for decades to come. By “interactive” I mean someone’s participation has the ability to shape the content of the experience itself. – Leonard Sweet,  Viral

A lot of things in Viral really got me thinking, and this passage (and what follows and precedes it) struck me hard. Church really isn’t interactive the way we do it in my congregation. At least, the worship service isn’t. A lot of other things are, but not the worship service. It’s participatory, sure – the congregation sings, we speak certain things together, we all recite the creed and pray the Lord’s Prayer. But participating and interacting are two different things.

Can I somehow make a worship service an interactive experience? (more…)