Monday, April 29, 2013

Choir is Good for Your Health

Choir nerds and music educators, listen up! This is a message from a longtime choir cabinet member and Bass II, who married a music teacher. Great news! Being a part of a choir is good for your health!

"Whether it's an a cappella group or the church chorale, a small new study shows that singing in a choir could do a lot for your state of mind. The findings, published in the journal Psychology of Music and conducted by researchers at Abant Izzet Baysal University in Turkey, show that singing in a choir is associated with decreased levels of anxiety."

You can read the rest here. So, the next time you update your folder, sharpen your note-taking pencil and start your vocal warm-ups, know that you're getting benefitted!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Fun: A New "Journey Church"

While I was enjoying some wings and watching the NFL Draft last night with some friends, a colleague of mine (who works for InterVarsity) and I realized that there are many, many churches entitled "Journey Church" (e.g. the campus church movement in New York City), but none of them have the killer slogan "Don't Stop Believin'."

My colleague expanded on it. Its welcome and assimilation ministry? "Open Arms." Its adult ministry and discipleship programs? "Faithfully." Its worship style selection? "Anyway You Want It." Counseling ministry? "Only solutions." Children and youth ministry? "Only the Young."

Any other ideas? This is too much groaning fun.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

National Church League Mock Draft

Reposted from last year. The following is intended as agenda-free parody to commemorate the NFL Draft, taking place tonight. All names and stories portrayed are fictional and any similarity to actual persons or events is coincidental. 

Annually, late April and May is an exciting time for all churches in the U.S. It’s right after Lenten season and it’s the time when most seminaries are having their graduation ceremonies and sending a plethora of promising talent into the ministry market. Many commentators have been weighing in, but here is my guess as to how the top recruiting churches will partake of the upcoming draft.

No. 1 Pick - Maplestream Community Church -  John Patterson, Senior Pastor, Stott Seminary
This pick is almost obvious. Maplestream is recovering from a rough year. Their previous senior pastor left to serve as a missionary trainer in Uganda, but unfortunately the rest of the staff has been struggling to properly restructure. The well-known megachurch dropped its attendance by 30% in 8 months. Most would be surprised if they didn’t utilize their awarded top pick on Patterson.
Unlike a lot of recent seminary graduates, Patterson enters the ministry market for the second time. He’s a good exegetical communicator and an experienced shepherd, and has led a few church plants and small, sometimes dysfunctional churches for 25 years and has just finished his formal education, magna cum laude. Add to that the fact that Patterson has background in the metropolitan area where Maplestream resides. A minor question mark is if he can handle a megachurch.
No. 2 Pick - West Bluff Church - Devin Castigliano, Worship Arts Pastor, Wyclif Divinity School
West Bluff is trying to end the plateauing period of what was once impressive growth in membership. Rumor has it that the elders and the program staff have been frequently talking about the strong possibility of venue services. Castigliano finished his MDiv while serving as a top Associate Worship Leader at Benchmark (a venue service church)under the mentorship of the well-known Josh Rafael, and he has the qualifications and experience to oversee multiple services.
However, Castigliano’s skills could be rendered useless if the West Bluff leadership decides to remain with its “blended services” approach (which is not arguably efficacious in West Bluff’s context) or if the current worship leaders can accept his oversight.
No. 3 Pick - Elk Path Baptist Church - Ryan Britten, Youth Pastor, Edwards Seminary
The membership of Elk Path went down, mostly estimated due to the absence of a strong Christian education program for teens and young adults. If Britten is drafted, he would be Elk Path’s first youth pastor. Britten only has part-time experience (though significant) under his belt, but he showed great skills, promise and humility at the scouting combine. The question on the minds of most commentators is if Elk Path’s leadership is expecting the “attraction model” (now being reevaluated by bloggers), because Britten will probably bring something else.
No. 4 Pick - The bridgeCROSSing - Phineas Murphy, Lead Pastor, San Luis Obispo Theological Seminary  
The bridgeCROSSing is the latest addition to a fast-growing church planting movement in the Portland area, started by pastor/author Kyle McLellan. Unfortunately, two of Portland’s well-known companies had to make a lot of layoffs that same month, diverting the attention McLellan and other leaders from helping bridgeCROSSing during its public launch, including the appointment of a lead pastor. The bridgeCROSSing has been having only intermittent growth while juggling guest preachers, so Murphy, with his education, experience and West Coast background, is an apparent-best pick for this leader-less church with potential.
No. 5 Pick - Woodfield Bible Church - Jeff Gundersen, Executive Pastor, Kletos Seminary
While the senior pastor at Woodfield Bible is an educated and charismatic visionary, the church has mostly plateaued in its membership and struggled financially and organizationally since their relocation to a newly-built facility. 
Gundersen, arguably, has the most eye-catching testimony of all the draft picks: a successful CEO, who stepped down after his conversion and felt call into ministry, he’s been well-funding ministries and charities all across New England. 
If he’s Woodfield Bible’s first Executive Pastor, there’s no doubt he would help to get things in order and add to the community. There is question, though, what his job description would be, including in relation to the senior pastor, his younger superior. There’s also been talk of Woodfield Bible trading down.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Angry God and Mental Illness

Both those who suffer mental illness and those who worship an ungracious condemning (and Scripturally-incomplete) God have been making headlines these days. Not to make any prejudice or stereotypes, but turns out there's at least a little bit of a connection, one that may strike close to home in my town.

"People who believe in an angry, punishing God are much more likely to suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, a scientific study published in the April edition of Journal of Religion & Health finds. The study, conducted by Marymount Manhattan College Assistant Psychology Professor Nava Silton, used data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults to examine the links between beliefs and anxiety disorders like social dysfunction, paranoia, obsession and compulsion."  

As always, we're to spread and celebrate the Scriptural Truth that God is just and loving. It's a Truth that's very much needed. You can read the rest of the article here.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mumford and the Spiritual-but-not-Religious

When Mumford & Sons played at the Grammys and won, my Twitter feed was aglow with celebration that "worship songs" were being played in the Grammys. Myself, I had never listened to or researched Mumford & Sons. But, as interviews indicated, Mumford's personal views don't match up with the theology that his song lyrics seemingly emulated so well. So, like Creed and Evanescence before, Mumford & Sons became the next popular and award-winning band whose background is steeped in the Church yet is not, wholly (at the very least), professing Christian, even when a comparable part of their fan base want them to be.

Relevant Magazine has a column with some good points on Mumford and the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd. You can read it here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Q Debriefing

After the Lakers game, the crowd spilled out into the L.A. Live area, a hotspot of Los Angeles’s vast and uncompressed city limits, including The Grammy Museum, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, and the hotel where my wife and I were staying. I was regularly walking in and out of Club Nokia as a participant of the 6th annual Q Conference, which is best described by Jamie Smith as “a conference that has brought together over 700 practitioners and leaders from an array of cultural ‘channels’--entrepreneurs and artists alongside pastors and academics,” discussing ideas and exchanging resources in the continual strive to apply the Truth of the Gospel in “holistic, culture-making, world-restoring” ways.

It was a bit of an overload of information and wisdom. Bobette Buster, a story consultant of Pixar, opened up the discussions with an engaging presentation on the recent socio-cultural history and spiritual needs of the city of Los Angeles. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary, connected culture-making to the Creation mandates in Genesis. Dale Kuehne, of St. Anselm’s College, spoke of Aristotle’s family values and argued that society, literally and financially, cannot afford the breakdown of the nuclear family. We were updated from leaders and their charity and justice work in North Korea and Uganda, and also learned of the unique and effective churches in the area such as Reality LA. Dale Partridge, of the innovative charity, encouraged Christian businessmen to lead the business world into integrity and Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, talked about how we’re to think about the Gospel as a virus, and was worried that a weak strand of the Gospel has inoculated many. 

That evening, I attended a forum/concert of Christian songwriters including musicians that have served in bands such as Evanescence and written songs for movies such as Twilight. I was particularly intrigued by the creativity of the liturgy-inspired fusion of folk and classical music portrayed by Wisconsin-native David Gungor (Michael’s brother) and his band, The Brilliance. For me, it was a break from the dominantly U2-based worship music. I should have known The Brilliance long ago.

The next day, we were privileged to hear from Mark Burnett, producer of Survivor and The Voice, who talked about the worldwide impact of the recent Bible mini-series and encouraged church unity. Kim Biddle of Saving Innocence gave us a sobering presentation on the reality of human trafficking (a near-to-heart issue for Los Angeles), and Romanita Hairston of World Vision’s urban ministry curiously connected Old Testament passages such as Zechariah 6 to her work. Tom Krattenmaker of USA Today encouraged us with the notion that stereotypes of evangelicalism are crumbling and that Gospel-bearing Christian influence is growing in the media. Contemporary visual artist Lynn Aldrich challenged the Church to embrace deeper, complex and abstract art as they do the same for concepts in theology and to move on from their linear and function-based view of the arts. The third day, I chose to attend a special session on storytelling from the aforementioned Bobette Buster in the local Regal Theater, where we had already been privileged to screen State 194 and Terence Malick’s upcoming To the Wonder.

And this recap is extremely abridged. I haven’t even talked about our talk from the president of the Barna Group, Rebekah Lyons’s thoughts on ministry to the mentally ill, Kara Powell’s convictions on our technological-ized and impersonal society, Jessica Rey’s modesty-comeback swimsuits, Jessica Dominguez’s views on immigration, the ministry of the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope, and Southlake Church’s impact on Portland’s Roosevelt High School. We also heard from Margaret Feinberg and Father Elias Chacour. I still haven’t mentioned everyone.

And there wasn’t really a moment to spare. Sessions started at 9am and ended around 9pm, only with breaks for mealtimes, which usually consisted of spillover discussions. Such informal and unofficial gleanings and conversations easily went past midnight in mostly nocturnal LA.

As a conference, Q stands out from many other Christian conferences, so to speak, with their emphasis on Gospel application and their avoidance of method prescription. Many church-related conferences focus on the pastorate, a certain demographic outside of church leadership, theological discussion or the promotion of a certain new understanding or way of “doing ministry.” There are no book sale tables at Q, however. Q, very knowledgeable on cultural exegesis, is about discussion, and inspiring the diversely-gifted collective Church towards their diverse local communities with creative and effective forms of impact, discipleship and evangelism. It’s very much a lively and inspiring conversation to see God at work and to think of creative ways to serve Him. You can see some photos and session streams here

This next year, Q goes to Nashville.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Fun: Another Christianese Post

Wow. Just wow. I've grown up around may dialects and subcultures of Christianese, and I had trouble understanding some of this blog post.

How about you?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

America the Vulnerable?

This is my first blog post since my attendance of the Q Conference, about which I spent the last few days tweeting, and some related reflective blog posts are in queue (pun fully intended).

As my wife and I rode a shuttle back to LAX yesterday afternoon, another snowstorm settled into Denver, delaying our already late-night flight(s) home to Wisconsin by at least five hours. We and other passengers strived to be patient as we stood in lines for (literally) hours and ended up boarding a bus to a terminal on the desert outskirts of LAX. Denver's airport had basically become a chaotic zoo of stranded passengers. After all this, we pulled into our driveway after 4am. As a consolation for our inconvenience, the airline gave us free television on each flight. And that's where we learned about the explosion in the fertilizer plant of West, Texas.

At the conference, we had already learned about and had been praying about the bombings in the Boston Marathon. Along with the extended day at the airport, I was feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted. It was two too many deadly explosions for one week in our country. I felt things were falling apart, and I was tempted to feel more fearful about even bringing myself and my family into the public square. And I doubt I'm alone with this feeling.

Hence, I was very thankful to find this helpful article from Ben Witherington III, a renowned seminary professor who has run the Boston Marathon, who said"the best answer to senseless violence is to go on living a normal life with normal precautions, not allowing the wicked plans of evil persons to alter what is good, and true, and beautiful. For if you allow acts like this to put an end to good and godly activities, then the wicked have won a brief victory. And they must never be allowed to think they have won— because in the end, they will not." Whether it's purposeful violence, a humanly accident or even a force of nature that causes tragedy, fear can be a crippling and self-imprisoning option that those who trust in a sovereign and just God would do well not to choose.

You can read the rest of Witherington's thoughts here.     

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Fun: Kid Snippets

My little brother recently let me know about a little video series on the web known as "Kid Snippets." In case you haven't heard of it, producers record raw dialogue from preschool children and then film videos where adults, amazingly, lip sync the children's recorded dialogue. Their "Driver's Ed" video is below. Enjoy!

Also, as a reminder, this is my last post until next Thursday, as I'll be departing for the Q Conference in a few days. There was snow on the ground again this morning, so I'm looking forward to being in Los Angeles!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Departing for the Q Conference

          Almost seven years ago, I had graduated from a music conservatory and I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be a successful service producer. I’d compose and arrange songs, put together service order, and seldom lead worship or participate in any pastoral duties. I was convinced that certain new ideas (including mine) for theologically-informed musical/artistic excellence, from the pulpit alone, could bring anyone into the church doors.
          But then I went to seminary. I learned about the temptation to consumerism in American churches and the depth of impoverishment and depravity (spiritual and otherwise) in the world we’re called to reach. Also, my ideas for service production were fleshed out in an internship, only to fall flat in a failing church plant. To me, it was a humbling realization that there’s more to serious ministry than just producing content for services within a church’s walls.
          In seminary, I also was truly inspired by the story of the Church of pre-Constantine Rome, and I started trying to think about more things that the Church (myself included) could do in ministry. As Dallas Willard said, “Shouldn't a quarter pound of salt be having more effect on a pound of meat?” Then, I was particularly challenged by Jamie Smith’s defense of the “Christian hipster,” when he criticized portions of evangelical subculture as being “the sort of thing you can add to your life without really disrupting the rest of it. It’s a style, not a way of life.”
          So, that’s where it needed to start. Am I letting the Gospel disrupt every aspect of my life? How would that play out in my ministry? And what about the ministry of Christ-followers in their non-clerical employment?
          That’s what the Q Conference is about.
          I learned about the Q Conference after picking up the book from which it was conceived, The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons (which I reviewed), while on my aforementioned journey. And after reading a very good review of Q’s vision and content, I just had to see if I could make it to the next conference. And I’m going. (When you register, they ask what you hope to glean and learn from the conference, for statistical and grouping reasons. I answered that I desire my life and ministry to be more multi-faceted in their outreach.)
          So, needless to say, there won’t be any blogging early this next week, but there will be a lot of tweeting. My wife and I are going to Los Angeles. In addition to wise and engaging discussions about the Church’s role in our postmodern culture, I’ll also be enjoying, with my wife, the warmth, sights and food of Los Angeles (can we say In-N-Out Burger?). The last of which I’m particularly excited about, because I’m going back to diet and exercise next week, now that my son is sixth months old.
          I’m very excited for this conference, and will likely write a “post-” blog as well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Where are They Now?: David Crowder

          Myself and a few people on my worship teams were sad to see david crowder*band, the creative, eccentric and passionate Christian and worship band from Baylor, announce their retirement. 
          What are they all doing?
          Find out here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Wrong Side of History

          Announcement: Apologies for my absence. I just came back from visiting my folks on the other side of the Mississippi. Incidentally, I'll be in Los Angeles next Monday through Wednesday, tweeting about what is sure to be an amazing conference that I'm attending. Details to come.
          In the meantime, I know this article is from last week, but I found it very intriguing and clever. Enjoy!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Playlist

          There's been some recent talk about more incorporating the Lenten season into church corporate worship, just like there's been topical sermon series and songs approaching Christmas. Recently, Trevin Wax, of The Gospel Coalition, suggested an Easter playlist (that spans generations).

1. Christ Is Risen - Matt Maher
2. See, What a Morning - Keith & Kristyn Getty
3. All Things New - Andrew Peterson
4. In resurrectione tua - Taize
5. Easter Song - Keith Green
6. Redeemer - Nicole C. Mullen
7. Come, People of the Risen King - Keith & Kristyn Getty
8. Mystery (Feat. Charlie Hall) - Passion
9. Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) [Live] - Hillsong
10. Christ The Lord Is Risen Today - Hymns Triumphant
11. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth - Steve Green
12. Before The Throne Of God Above - Selah
13. Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed - Keith & Kristyn Getty
14. Christus Resurrexit - Taize
15. Jesus Lives - Sovereign Grace Music
16. I Will Rise - Chris Tomlin
17. The Trumpet Shall Sound - 4Him
18. For This Purpose - Graham Kendrick
19. Low In The Grave He Lay - The Hymn Makers
20. In Christ Alone (My Hope Is Found) - Adrienne Liesching & Geoff Moore

          Full blog and links here.