Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Worship Rocks!

The most exciting thing going on right now in my life is the worship ministry. I have been one of three worship leaders here for a year or so and the three teams have all been pretty good with three significantly different and distinct styles. There has been, however, little in the way of a consistent move of the Spirit. I wrote in December about my desire to see more of the manifest presence of God.

One of the things I felt hindered us was a perception of disunity between the three teams. I don't believe there was any real discord but the disparate styles of the groups and the fact that there were three different leaders offered the impression of "each doing what was right in their own eyes." Therefore the first thing I wanted to accomplish was to attack that perception.

Although I have never seen this modeled anywhere I decided to take a drastic measure... I invited 6 senior members of the worship band and team to meet with me once a month to build the sets for the coming month. In this meeting we would bring any new songs we wanted to try and we would all work together to put together each service.

We also pulled together the best of the three groups to form one team that performs every week utilizing essentially the same people week after week. This alone has tightened up the group both musically and relationally.

The very first week after this began we saw a powerful, tangible lift in the spirit of the church, as well as the presence of the Holy Spirit during our worship service. The next week picked up where that one left off and now, 4 weeks into this grand experiment, it is almost unbelievable how dramatic the change is that has taken place.

People in the congregation are commenting on the sense of "unity over the church." The power of God has prevailed over the worship. The band is invested in the service... I have noticed the musicians singing while they play... that's never happened... and they feel empowered... they are already holding the bar a little higher for each other. After this week's meeting (planning March) they requested a weekend practice to work on "their new songs." I have asked for weekend practices in the past and nobody was willing... now they are the one's calling them.

The leaders had to relinquish some of their authority... it's hard to have a song you have always loved doing get voted off the island. I brought a new song to the meeting this week... I had listened to it all week and it always moved me... I wanted to do it next month. I was the only person who voted to do it... everyone else was very ambivalent about it... therefore we canned it. On the other hand, in one of our first meetings someone else brought in a song that was unanimously agreed on. It proved to be one of the most powerful songs we've done and was immediately received by the congregation. What has happened is that there are no weak songs in any of our sets. Every song is powerful because I have 6 people bringing the best to the table and I'm not throwing together a set on Saturday evening.

And, preparing the sets weeks in advance gives ample time for me to get cd's and chord charts to everyone giving them plenty of time to listen and work on the songs.

The downside is that I have a handful of singers and musicians that have been on the platform occasionally that are no longer used. In order to include them I am having a choir sing on the final Sunday of the month... although I am not calling it a choir... I prefer "large vocal group." I am focusing the music that week to music that is served by the big anthem vocals. We are preparing for our first big vocal weekend now. I will still lead the worship and use the choir much like I currently use backup singers.

Oh, yes... of the other two worship leaders... one has left the church for unrelated reasons and the other seems to be enjoying the changes... and we are letting the vocal lead float between 4 or 5 vocalists. We have also stepped up the training on a couple of young vocalists that will one day lead worship... and they are getting more lead opportunities.

I will keep you posted as this grand experiment continues

Home Group Notes

After our "40 Days of Purpose" campaign back in April of last year we were able to maintain about 10 home groups. These groups are still operating with varying degrees of success. I have taken on the responsibilities to grow and multiply these groups.

The "40 Days" model of using a video to teach and drive the group with handouts and discussion questions to stimulate interaction and community is, I believe, a good model for this day in this culture. The 15 minute videos are short enough that anyone can stay with it and light enough for anyone to digest it. The interaction can be taylored to a groups maturity... simple and near the surface for nonbelievers or new christians... deep and probing for those wanting more transparency.

I have begun working on several teaching series that we will be producing in house for DVD distribution. The video studio is almost ready... lights are being hung... computers in place... even setting up a teleprompter for script support. It has proven to be quite an undertaking but I am excited about the project.

Initially the teaching will be 15-20 minutes with discussion questions presented at the end of the video onscreen... with a 'continue' button to proceed to the next question... I hope it will be 'home group in a box'... something that can guide leaders through provoking interaction.

I am also revisiting the need for training the leaders. "40 Days" encouraged us to invite people to "Host" groups that were not necessarily leaders... therefore, when "40 Days" ended we still had groups meeting with ministry models and leadership models that were all over the board. As a Vineyard church it concerns me when we have "leaders" ministering in decidedly "non-Vineyard" models. I hope to begin a leadership (and prospective leadership) training program that is grounded in Kingdom Theology, Vineyard Values and Priorities and particularly focused on ministry models.

We are seeing many exciting things in our groups right now. A couple of significant healings... a young woman was recently healed from bolemia... another had a tumor disappear from her leg... a pregnant woman had a tumor vanish from her sonogram over a 3 week period after prayer (with pictures to document it). The power of God is moving through the community of small gorups.

New Job, New Focus

Ok... ok already... I've been chastised for not writing in over 2 months. Its been busy but fun. I'll try to catch you up on all that's gone on.

I have been working for Saks... (yes, that Saks... as in 5th avenue) for 2 years. I have also been working some on the side doing contract work for a company. The company I was contracting with began to try and hire me over a year ago but they couldn't come up with an offer good enough to make me leave the comfort and security of Saks. In the meantime I had begun to take some Bible courses and school requirements were really swamping me. Towards the end of December I was talking with their people and mentioned my need for more time to do ministry and school. Two days later they called me with an offer that allowed me to work 20 hours a week and still earn enough to live on. Its a significant cut in pay but along with Marie's salary (she left school this semester and is working on staff at the church as Children's Pastor) still provides the opportunity to move back into ministry more aggressively. So, since January 1st I have been having a blast. I have setup an office at the church and have taken over responsibilities for worship and the home group system.

I will write more on some of the things happening in those ministry areas but I want to touch on something else, first.

I looked back over some of the things I have written in the past... most notably things regarding the role of an Associate Pastor... how to submit vision, etc. I realize some of what I have written regarding struggles over vision have no relevance to me today... being back in a full pastoral role is so fulfilling... that my vision and that of the Senior Pastor is truly the same. I don't feel any sense of struggle making visions mesh. We obviously don't see everything the same and don't react to everything alike... but we are one in spirit, in motivation and goal and it is a joy to be working with people like that again.