Archives For Worship

ConfusionCan you imagine what it would be like to walk into your church for the very first time? Not as a veteran church attender or someone steeped in American Christianity, but as a complete rookie to the church experience.

As you walk into the lobby you see signs like “Worship Center” and “Connect, Grow, Serve” but you have no idea what they mean. You follow the crowd into what appears to be the “Worship Center”, and when the music starts you stand when everyone else does. The band is singing songs you’ve never heard before, but you notice a few people around you singing along. You mumble through words on the screen to try to fit in. Other than the National Anthem at a ballgame the last time you were involved in group singing was 7th grade choir. That’s an experience you never thought you’d have to repeat.

Finally the band finishes and everyone sits down. The stage lights focus on what appears to be a large bathtub. A girl about 10 or 11 climbs into the bathtub while an older guy addresses the crowd saying something about “baptism” and “profession of faith”….

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Small to MegaI recently joined the staff of Valley View Church in Louisville. Prior to coming to Kentucky, I was serving as worship pastor at a church plant in Birmingham, AL. Over the past twenty-five years I’ve served on staff in several different churches. In the majority of those churches I was bi-vocational and the congregations were quite small. Although the church in Birmingham had grown significantly and my staff position there was full-time, its total membership was still not more than a few hundred.

So, how did I suddenly go from a church of hundreds to serving as worship pastor at a church of thousands? Good question!

Of course, the short (and truest) answer is “God and His grace.” But that’s not the answer you’re probably looking for, is it? Most likely you’re taking precious time to read this article because you want to know exactly how such a thing could happen. Anyone who knows me may wonder how a guy from some small backwoods town in Alabama could “land” such a big church job. Well, keep reading. I believe I may be able to shed some light on that for you.

Contentment with…

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Up All Night to Get LuckyEverywhere I go I hear that song playing. It’s on TV, radio, at ballgames, in convenient stores – all over. It’s got stuck in my head. I started thinking on the title and reflecting on past experiences and conversations.

I started thinking about how many pastors stay up late Saturday night working on their Sunday morning message hoping to get “lucky.” Hoping that they will deliver and come through with excellence. Friends, it doesn’t work like that.

I used to serve on a church staff with a senior pastor that would come in and change his message every single Sunday morning. He’s switch points, slides for the presentation software, music. He killed our creative flow. We had an entire worship and creative staff dedicated to creating amazing worship experiences and they were constantly handicapped by last minute changes.

Hear my heart. I worked with another pastor who planned a year out. He was awesome. But on the rare occasion that he would come to the team and say God had laid something new and fresh on his heart, we would move heaven and earth to accommodate and support him….

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Formed for the Glory of GodJonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is considered by many to be one of the smartest philosophers and theologians in American history. But more than that, Edwards is one of the great spiritual thinkers as well. Edwards helped the churches in New England navigate the work of the Spirit in the “Great Awakening,” and he continues to help pastors walk through these issues through his great work The Religious Affections (one of the most beloved spiritual classics of the Protestant church).

How can we learn from the spiritual practices of Edwards? Here are three lessons that are as important today as they were in Edwards’s time:

1. Spiritual Practices are God-Focused

When engaging in a spiritual practice, whether reading the Bible devotionally, praising God in church or even listening to a sermon, it can be incredibly easy to start focusing on side-issues. Maybe our lips are moving while singing a praise song, but our minds are thinking about everything else we have to do. Maybe we are reading the Bible for something to say that will sound smart and informed rather than hearing from God.

Whatever the case, Edwards would encourage us…

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Burnside Church, Wairarapa, New Zealand, 10 December 2005I’ve been on the road a bit more than usual. My job as CEO of LifeWay requires that I spend most of my time in Nashville, but I do get out to speak and preach frequently. These past seven months have been unusually heavy travel times for a myriad of reasons, but I have tried to make the most of my trips.

Though I’ve not been a church consultant for several years, I do seem to see churches through consultant’s eyes. That reality has been especially apparent as I visited many churches during the past seven months. So, even if I am the guest preacher, I enter the church grounds as a guest. I drive my own rental car, and I have to find parking and entrances just like everyone else.

So what I have found these past seven months? I could give you a fairly extensive consultation report about the churches, but I prefer to distill my words into just a few helpful hints. Each of these issues clearly needed addressing in most of the churches I visited.

  1. Please have plentiful signage on…

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Rick Warren BaptizingNearly 3,000 people gave their lives to Christ over Easter weekend at Saddleback Church! The stories of salvations and baptisms have been so deeply moving.

All eight of our Saddleback campuses had record attendance:  Corona, Anaheim, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Laguna Woods, San Clemente, Rancho Capistrano, and Lake Forest. Last weekend, three of our campuses had over 3,000 attenders, one had close to 2,000 attenders, and four of campuses had nearly 1,000 attenders!

In addition, about twenty folks around the world rented theaters to show our Saddleback Easter service for their friends. Many were saved in a prison in the Philippines where the service was shown!

On Monday after Easter, I sent a tweet asking for people to email me with the highlights of their Easter weekend. Here are some of the responses I’ve received…


I attend a Korean church in Walnut Creek, CA, but am a member of our English ministry for young adults. Because our church has two different congregations and a youth group, Sundays like Easter Sunday and Christmas Sunday are treats for us. All three groups (who worship separately for language and age group reasons) join together for a joint service.

This…

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Revival FireBy Roger S. (“Sing”) Oldham

NASHVILLE (BP) — The apostle Paul charged Timothy to establish prayer as the top priority in his life and ministry (“first of all,” 1 Timothy 2:1). If our churches are to experience spiritual renewal and our nation is to experience spiritual awakening, must embrace this same priority in our churches and in our personal lives.

In Scripture, spiritual awakening is always tied to the obedience of God’s people. Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter recently reminded us that revival does not trickle down from the White House; it bubbles up from God’s House! God’s Word to Solomon still holds true — “If MY people, who are called by MY Name …” If revival is to come to America, we must earnestly beseech the Father in specific ways. I mention three.

Pray for our leaders — In Paul’s charge to Timothy, he commanded him to pray for “kings and all that are in authority.” Few national and international leaders mentioned in biblical history were godly. In fact, the number of godly kings can be counted on less than two hands. On the other hand, the number…

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Channel“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV)

In faith, I know these things to be true:

  • God is full of love and grace, and he fills me with his love and grace.
  • God’s work within me is to clear a channel for his love and grace to flow through me into the lives of anyone and everyone I meet.
  • I may not be there yet, but I am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).
  • And I know “God is able to make all grace abound will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV).
  • He will make my joy complete because I no longer live in darkness, but I now live in the truth and have fellowship with God (1 John 1:4; 1 John 1:6).
  • Through the “Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship…

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By Chuck Kelley

This week the United States will be voting in one of the most important presidential elections we have ever had. Christians across America are praying about this election and calling others to pray. Our instinctive expectation when we pray is for God to intervene in the circumstances and situations we bring before his throne. It is proper and appropriate to expect God to respond when we pray. We must never forget that he responds in the way he deems best and that his response may often be different than our desires. Whatever God’s response, the act of prayer is itself a pathway to joy.

Prayer is a petition we present before God — never directions we give to God. However, knowing that every time we pray in accordance with biblical guidelines, God does hear and does respond, is a promise that should bring joy to the heart of every believer. Prayer becomes our passage into a front row seat to see God at work. It is our assurance that we are living in his grip and are a part of his unfolding purposes. Christians with the…

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WorryBrett Eastman and I are working with a growing number of churches at Lifetogether Ministries to help them produce their own video-based curriculum and grow their small group ministries successfully. As we watch churches take big steps forward for the Kingdom, we also see the enemy at work. Divisive church members, staff setbacks, and a variety of other things seem to surface. For the record, Brett and I are not causing any of this trouble. But, there is an enemy who doesn’t like to see churches make bold moves in connecting and growing their people to reach others and serve their communities. For all of my friends who are struggling today, I’d like to share one of the most popular posts from my devotional blog over at http://galatians419.blogspot.com. If you’re worried and stressed today, I hope these words encourage you.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27

We can’t add anything to our life by worrying. We might even shorten our lives by worrying.

When we worry about something, we put ourselves through the same physiological state as if the event was actually…

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You’ve been a church visitor at some point, right?

Ever heard something you wish you didn’t hear, right off the bat?

I’ve got a few that nobody really wants to hear. Some I’ve heard personally. Others I’ve heard as they were told to someone else.

10 Statements Church Visitors Never Want to Hear

1. Our pastor isn’t normally this _____.

Insert whatever you want in this blank: loud, obnoxious, offensive, long-winded. If you have to explain part of your pastor’s style because you know that outsiders won’t like it, you’ve got a problem. Talk with your pastor about that.

2. We’re full. Sorry. 

Always have a backup plan. Always. If someone sees that your service is full once, they’ll deal with it. But they probably won’t come back if they don’t see a plan you have in place.

3. What are YOU doing here?

Never say this. Never. Your shocked, open mouth reveals your judgmental spirit…at least in the eyes of visitors. When you say this, all they can think is, “God couldn’t really love someone like you.”

4. You can’t serve now…you’ve got to be a member…

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lovePastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.

I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.

Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view.

Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:

“Father, I love you and you love me. I love these people and you love these people. Love these people through me. This is not an audience to be feared but a family to be loved. There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.”

Let me suggest some practical ways that you can demonstrate your love:

Memorize names. Remembering names shows that you’re interested in people. Nothing sounds sweeter to a second-time visitor than hearing you use…

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