Golden Calf

What are your golden calves?

I mean that figuratively, of course. I assume that you don’t have a literal, physical, golden statue of a calf anywhere.

I hope not, anyway.

But we all have golden calves in our lives. Some people like to call them “high places.” But whatever you call them, we need to get rid of them.

Melissa Pirtle recently wrote a great piece at Worship Ministry about the golden calves that worship leaders can all too easily build. One example:

Stardom mentality: The definition for the word stardom: The status of a performer or entertainer as a star acknowledged. Stardom mentality can be contagious. This is where humility comes in and the acknowledgment of where your talent comes from. Stardom has ruined so many peoples lives, especially Worship leaders. It is ok to get compliments, and it is ok to say thank you for them. God did use you as the vessel to flow through. The danger lies when we begin to think it was because of me! I made this happen.

Read the entire article for other Melissa’s other insights.

Slow Down

As a great man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” In keeping with this week’s continuing theme of goals and planning, I found Relevant Magazine’s (highly recommended reading and listening) article “5 Ways to Slow Down in 2013” by Jeff Goins pretty interesting.

I love the final item on Jeff’s list: Schedule time for silence. This is something I struggle with. I want to fill every waking moment and consume as much information as I can, but that leads to burnout so quickly. It’s easy to forget that worship isn’t just about us making noise, but also about listening to God. And that can only be done in silence.

At first, the stillness may be unnerving, and that’s fine. Let yourself remain in that tension before resolving it. Use the time to think, reflect, pray. If you have to do something, use this time to mow the lawn or go for a walk. But don’t take any technology with you; trust yourself with just you and your thoughts. It’s not as bad as you might think.

Biblical Goal Setting

We’ve been talking a lot about goals and goal setting this week, which I suppose is to be expected given the new year. I’ve mentioned before that most New Year’s Resolutions fail, which is why we talk about goals. Resolutions are typically vague and “squishy”; goals are specific and measurable. For example, a resolution might be “lose weight this year,” while a goal might be “run a marathon this year.”

But of course, we’re not talking about fitness and health goals; we’re talking about goals for worship leaders and other ministry leaders. That’s why I was excited to receive a submission from Rob Still yesterday, highlighting his post “3 Biblical Principles For Goal Setting.”:

At this time of year many people reflect, refine and reset their goals. God is keenly interested. He desires to be at the center of our hopes, dreams, goals and plans. Setting goals is essential to happiness and successful living.

I love that these the principles he lists are pulled from scripture. My favorite is this one:

Align your plans and dreams with God’s.

Rob goes on to back this up by quoting Proverbs 29:18.

As you plan for 2013, don’t forget to base your goals, and all that you do, on God’s Word.

PS: Speaking of fitness goals, I noticed that Rob mentioned that he wants run a half marathon in 2:45 this year. Run well, Rob!

Discipleship Sketch

In keeping with our recent theme of New Year’s Resolutions, prolific worship blogger David Santistevan has written a post about Discipleship Sketches, called “The Best Way For Worship Leaders To Start The New Year.”

I want to challenge you to do one thing. If possible, simplify your task list for today and just do this. This exercise will help you enter the new year with confidence. It will help you operate from a place of vision, rather than a place of stress.

David goes on to challenge us all to reflect, dream, and develop. As I read his post, I took a moment to reflect on the good things that happened within my own worship team in 2012. I couldn’t help but think of how my team went from an average of four people to an average of eight people almost overnight early in the fall. So my dream? Grow the team even more! And not just in numbers, but personally, relationally, and spiritually.

Year Round Resolution ABCs

Not everyone is suggesting New Year’s Resolutions. Cynthia Boyd over at Worship Sounds has posted a list of 26 characteristics to strive for in 2013, one for each letter of the alphabet (unsurprisingly, she kind of cheated on the letter X, but that’s to be expected unless you’re encouraging someone to be xenophobic or something).

Some samples of how to be:

  • Aware of your blessings and the joy of the moment
  • Bold in your efforts to do good deeds
  • Caring to others, realizing that we everyone needs kindness and understanding
  • Diligent in doing what is really important

(Note: I think this post was written last year but reposted today. Either way, it’s a fun read and worth your time.)

“Sure, Charlie Brown.”

Tom Lawson, on his blog Adorate, wrote a great post called “What Linus can Teach Pastors at Christmas,” but I think it applies to worship leaders as well, and in fact, anyone who is in leadership or who is involved in service planning.

We’ve been through this before. Year after year. Christmas program after Christmas program. And each year we feel the greater weight of that challenge to say something fresh and original and relevant.

Know the feeling? Tom’s advice begins:

The greatest stories do not really need us to change them. To change them would be to cheapen them. These are stories that manage to change themselves. The same descriptions that spoke to us as children speak again to us as adults.

Well worth a read, especially leading into Christmas. I also heartily endorse repeat viewings of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Churches & Copyright Law

Aside from tax laws, I think copyright law must be the least understood topic in the American legal system. Admittedly, it can get complex, but I see so many taking liberties that it’s frankly astonishing. That’s one of the reasons I’m so thankful that All About Worship posts their Copyright Q&A articles regularly. The question this time around: Are churches exempt from copyright law?

Question: For outreach, my church has recently made a video montage of our youth and children’s events, with a song playing throughout the video. Is this legally o.k. to do? My pastor said we bought the music and, as a church, we have the right to use it however we want.

Answer: Your pastor is operating under some incorrect beliefs. Unfortunately, he isn’t alone, as this is a common myth.

These issues, if applied improperly, can not only result in major fines, but can damage the witness of the church. It’s important to know your copyright law!

PS: I see this same thing happening in the public school all the time, so it’s definitely not limited to churches.

Surviving Criticism

When you’re in any kind of leadership role or public ministry, you’re going to be criticized, sometimes lovingly, sometimes harshly. That’s something that most worship leaders learn about pretty quickly. We know the criticisms will come, but we don’t always know the best ways to handle it. Some of us are pretty good about taking things in stride, but some of us could certainly use some help.

Donald Miller, prolific writer and author of Blue Like Jazz, has posted 5 Tips On Surviving Criticism:

If you share yourself with the world you’re going to be criticized. The world may seem like a nice, safe, warm place, but as soon as you put yourself out there’s a good chance you’ll be a target for criticism.

On a side note, an audio version of his book Through Painted Deserts, is currently available for free on Noisetrade.

Do You Worship Your Church?

Pastor David Lee of New Life Mission Church of Fremont posted an article a few months back about the importance of not worshipping your church. Having witnessed this and its effects firsthand, I can only agree with what David says:

There is a fine line between loving your church and worshiping your church. Worshiping your church hurts people. It will hurt you and people around you. So how do you know if you are worshiping your church? You might be worshiping your church if…

Read the article for some telltale signs…