Worship Curator

My dad and I chat a lot about some of the current trends in worship, and how we’re both old enough now to have seen so many “this is it’s” come and go. One of our favorite topics of conversation is titles given to things that for all practical purposes haven’t really changed…spiritual architect (service planner), worship curator (music director), liturgical post-rock (worship music), leader of leaders (unemployed). With apologies to any of you who hold those titles; but let’s be honest, have a sense of humour about yourselves. I myself am a professional ambient musician (own a reverb pedal, a laptop, and a Bandcamp account).

And one quote stood out:

“I’m surprised (sort of…) that worship is still synonymous with music/arts as opposed to honor and obedience. Now there’s a staff position for someone: curator of honor and obedience. 🙂 “ – Dan Verkade

Good reminder (complete overhaul) for the weekend.


Why I’m a Libertarian Christian

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m an anarchist.

Although you might be able to make that case about both libertarianism and possibly the man Jesus himself. The message of Jesus, and of the God Christians purport to follow in the New Testament, is one largely of freedom. There are rules Jesus lays out, and grave consequences, but no forcing and no coercion to follow those rules. Here is what you should do, here is what happens if you don’t, but the choice is yours.

In fact, when Jesus first showed up on the scene and claimed to be the One the Jewish people of the day were waiting for, one of the large reasons some did not believe is because he did not set up the political kingdom they had been waiting for. He didn’t legislate His words; He simply told it like it was, and then let people do with it what they would.

Why? Because that is the only way to change what really matters: the heart. Jesus was and is so much more concerned with the hearts and intentions and identities of people, rather than the outward appearance of a person, or a society. If you put someone in jail for theft, you still have a thief. Perhaps jail time will stop future thefts due to the adverse consequence, but you have done nothing to change them as a person…merely their actions. And Jesus wanted to change us as people, not just create a moralistic society. (And yes, Libertarians believe theft should be punished, because society functions by an individual being able to protect his or her property. In fact, Libertarians believe it so much that they’ll usually shoot you on the spot for stealing their stuff. Sorry, had to get the neo-con’s on board. 😉 )

Which is unfortunately what much of today’s evangelicalism has become. Jesus never lobbied to make prostitution illegal; He ate dinner in the homes of the prostitutes. And they had their lives changed. He valued them as people by not forcing them what to do, but showing them what to do. Which is why I am a libertarian. I have seen so much harm from doing things the opposite way of Jesus. We legislate non-intrusive immorality, and then rejoice when that immorality becomes illegal. But making it illegal has done nothing to change people’s hearts, or even to stop them from doing it! It’s only purpose is to make us feel better about our society, and meanwhile we are roadblocking every avenue we might have had to reach people’s hearts by being the taskmaster trying to tell them to do something that they don’t believe in and that doesn’t harm us. If a Muslim lawmaker tried to make a law that all American women had to cover their faces, we’d freak out! And then if that same lawmaker tried to tell us to become Muslim after forcing his or her morality on us, there’s zero way we would listen. But that’s exactly what Christians try to do in politics. I hate to break it to you, but telling people they can’t sleep with each outside of marriage doesn’t keep them from sleeping with each other. Punishing them for sleeping together doesn’t change their hearts. And even at the point of chains and shackles making them not sleep together does not get them any closer to Jesus. It just makes them hate us because it seems like we care more about controlling their lives than we do about letting them freely hand their lives into Jesus’ control.

The only role of government, from a libertarian standpoint, is to keep this selfish species from imploding in upon itself. Regulate violence and property so that each individual has a chance to make their own choices, and that’s about it. And if Christianity is as good as we claim it to be, and if we’re doing our job as an example of what Jesus actually said, taught, and did, I wholeheartedly believe that more people, when given the choice instead of legislated to make that choice on pain of consequence, would decide on their own to see what following Jesus is about. We’ve watched over decades upon decades now as forcing people into our morality has done little but turn them away, and rightly so. That’s a jerk move to force someone to do something they don’t believe in when it doesn’t harm us. And then we wonder why no one listens.

The inherent flaw in all of this? Libertarianism expects that either people will be intelligent enough to govern themselves, or they’ll die off and good riddance. One of those seems naive, while the other is just plain harsh. Which is why no one political ideal is the be all end all of life. Love is. Jesus’ love is. So that means that we have to actually do something. I have to actually do something. With morality legislated, we can stick our head in the sand, sit back and say, “See? No one’s sinning. Everyone’s a Christian. I can go about my day.” Meanwhile everyone has zero hearts changed, goes to hell in a handbasket, but we’re good because we made it illegal for them to sleep with each other. In the libertarian way, if people have the choice to do whatever they want (so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else), as Christians we actually have to live the choice we hope they make. And we are absolutely not doing that.

I fully believe it’s time to use Jesus’ example and stop trying to force people. Just show people. And start by respecting them enough to let them make their own choice, just like you were free to do when you chose to love Christ.


Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending: Part 9

You chose:

G) Buy a new guitar. For $3,000, it really should have a failsafe or something.

(Click here to read the previous chapter in the series if you have no idea what is happening. Or even if you do.)

So you spend all service in between delay riffs, on the Gear Talk Classifieds on your phone, buying a new guitar from a new builder with no reputation. So you know it’s going to be good.

The service, needless to say, is kind of a blur for you. A blur of imaginary internet tone. Which is the best kind of tone. Before you know it, you’re back on stage, never having opened your Bible, your guitar is back in your hands, and the pastor is pre-closing in prayer. You know, the one before the worship leader decides to pray and really close it out, maybe with a mini sermon too. Because the pastor did a pretty good job, but…

Ohp, he just said traveling mercies, he’s nearing the end of his prayer. Hedge of protection is next, and then an out of context quote from Joshua. You don’t have much time. Deftly you place your fingers into the blessed G…wait for it…major 7th…not done…add 9 chord, ease your heel down on your This1sMyne-used-to-be-Ernie-Ball volume pedal, and get ready to ever so emotionally swell into the underscore of the pastor’s closing words. Because the Spirit of God doesn’t inhabit prayer, or the praises of His people; nope, He inhabits our minor 6th chords, obviously. You crush your guitar gently with your $30 dollar hand-carved obsidian stone pick, and in the instant before you can smoothly slide that volume pedal up, you realize in horror that your Gmaj7(add9) with layers upon layers of $2 fuzz circuit housed in a $500 boutique casing is already cascading off the walls of the church! Your volume pedal wasn’t engaged! Curse your modded volume pedal with its true bypass switch so that you can get that extra .01% of treble without actually having to turn the treble knob on your amp!

Quick as the meteoric rise and fall of yet another “boutique” pedal company with borderline sacrilegious churchy names, you…

A) Look disdainfully at the other guitarist. He has the bigger pedalboard anyway. It’s a foolproof plan.

B) Just crush it. Seamlessly flow into a face-melter. Underscore that pastor like it’s Pointe Break.

C) Join the rest of the congregation in staring incredulously back at the sound guy for his obvious mistake.

D) Bend down and grab the time knob of your Memory Lane and skillfully shift the cacophony of sound into beautifully glistening alien saucers landing ambiently.

E) Stare out at the congregation with your shoulders shrugged as if to say, “Ya, I really don’t know what I’m doing up here.”

F) Try to then engage your volume pedal and save it, by hitting that clunky true bypass switch…”Ka-THUNK…THUNK…thunk…thunk…thunk…”

G) Blame the Avioms.

H) Laugh a little, cry a little, pray a little.

J) Do a guitar drop and walk off the stage like a legend.

You know, just to remind us we’re probably not as rad as we just almost subconsciously always think we are. 😉


Phase 2…Hippie Delay Tolkien Church Pub

A little update from Church Project Hippie (Not Hipster) No Stage No Money Acts Tolkien Pub We Can Still Have Delay…

Well first, I’m still working on the name. But Phase 1 was, if I believe that there may be an improvement made to church by removing money from the system, then can I survive and support my family without my church employment income. And surprisingly, the answer has been yes. Phase 1 took a little longer than expected because, somewhere in the middle of it a little child appeared. (And that’s literally how it feels…one day you’re just like, wait how are there three humans in this apartment now.)

So phase 2…we’re getting settled into an actual house. With space for people to sit. And neighbors to invite. So it’s getting cool. We’re gonna start as a group of friends looking for God, not trying to replace anyone’s home church. No money, no government license, we’re going to hang out and discuss theology. If our beliefs are as real as we say they are, more “church-like” things may come out organically, either here or in our home churches, but most certainly in our daily lives. But we’ll start with discussions, and see where that goes. I’m hoping, very much hoping, to have atheists, agnostics, Baptists, charismatics, millennials, post-church-millennials, and maybe even some Blaze-readers. 😉

I’ll keep ya posted. Oh and by the way, there’s not a lot of reason that I can see that a guy with no degree can quit the only career he’s ever had, move to the beach, extend his family, move into a little house, and still be making it without a pledge drive or church plant grants, or really any financial support beyond the occasional credit card (sorry, Ramsey-ites…, hey you’re welcome here too). It really seems like God is in here somewhere.



We’re looking for You, O God. We abandoned our cathedrals and replaced them with sound systems. Our indulgences are our parking lot funds, and today Judas would be bought with a book deal instead of silver. We’ve created a maze, and now we’re lost in it. We want to hear Your voice again, and we don’t want to be told it’s You; we want to fall on our faces. Your presence shouldn’t be able to be mistaken for a well-placed minor chord or a poetic sermon ending. We want to know You again.

I think we should go acapella on this one. 😉


Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Jesus on a Scissor-Lift

It’s one of our favorite stories in the Bible. I don’t know if it’s because it makes Jesus seem cool, or if it’s because of our current flavor-of-last-month Driscoll-infused manly version of Christianity, or if it’s just a great story with lots of application. But whatever the reason, Jesus walking into the temple and overturning the merchants’ tables is one of those stories I’ve heard preached dozens of times, in dozens of ways, usually culminating in the final question, What tables does Jesus want to overturn in your life?

And while the answer to that in my own life is probably, “Plenty” if not simply “All”, I’d like to just for a second take it as less of a metaphor, and more of a thing. That actually happened. You know, as if we actually believed that this guy, who was supposed to be the foretold leader of Israel’s religion, came into their religious establishments and instead, threwdown. (Yep, threwdown. Hey, I grew up in the ’90’s.)

My guess is that the religious folks, the churchgoers, thought they had it right. In life, there’s usually a few despots purposefully using religion or church for their own gain; but most of us honestly think we have it right. And I’m picturing right now being all excited to invite our fearless leader Jesus to my church. And while I’m filling out a Visitor name tag for him, I turn around and he’s quietly tearing up brochures, tossing ministry tables, walking into the supply closet and emerging with a ladder to climb up and take down banners. Maybe if we left him long enough, he’d have gotten out the scissor lift, and we hear this “Beep! Beep! Beep!” and there’s all our parishioners scrambling to get their chairs out of the way as Jesus cuts a wake through the sanctuary on the fully extended scissor lift, smashing LED stage lights with his weapon of choice, which I can only imagine would be a Duesenberg guitar.

And I wonder what my first thought would be. Probably not, Oh man, we’ve had it wrong all this time! My first thought honestly would probably be, This Jesus guy is out of control! Where’d my religion go? (I know, it’s not a “religion”, it’s a “relationship.”) So then, where’d my comfy you-hold-me-now-all-things-work-together-for-my-good relationship go? We’re stoked to raise our hands and say He’s mighty to save, but what if He’s mightily trying to save us from ourselves?

Most commentaries relay that when Jesus overturned those tables, it wasn’t just because they were selling things in church. It was because they were selling things necessary for salvation at gouged prices. Which makes a lot more sense. But I can imagine there may have been those asking, “So what’s wrong with a little profit? It’s 30 AD man, culture has changed. Do you know how many hours I put into raising those doves? A workman is worth his wages!” Just like today. “Jesus, what’s wrong with those lights? Don’t smash them! Stop tearing up those books! The profits from those feed my family! Do you have any idea how many years that took to write? What’s wrong with being paid for ministry? I’m a Levite, right? I know I don’t live in the church, or spend my life making atoning sacrifices, and spend more time researching Coldplay’s lighting sequences than I do on hospital visits. But it’s the 21st century! Things have changed! Don’t burn those concert tickets! I feed my family by charging people to have an awesome worship experience with You! Is that so bad? I know Malachi says to bring the tithe into the storehouse, and our church doesn’t support any local food banks or feed any poor people. But it’s not the same as the money-changers in the temple to tell people tithing is a necessary part of their faith when that tithe goes directly to my car payment and five bedroom house and church staff lunch, is it?”

We’re on a very slippery slope now that we’ve successfully corporatized and monetized the love of Jesus. And we can’t be surprised if He loves us enough to completely overturn our current system so that we can once again experience the pure joy of Christ Messiah, and Christ Messiah alone.

I love all the good our Christian culture has done. But I still dream of a time when Jesus becomes once again more important than church. When we no longer count bad press for our lack of care and compassion, as “persecution.” When tithes go into an actual storehouse for the poor. When pastors lead by shepherding, not by attending Starbucks leadership conferences. When we no longer feel like we have to buy a concert ticket to “experience God.” When “Christian” is no longer synonymous with any political ideal. When “worship” becomes again more than just our favorite genre. When our community leaders know us more for our help of our fellow citizens than our building permit applications. When God to us is no longer a commodity, or a sports team, or that thing we’re into, but the One before whom we tremble.


We Are Not at War

The war rhetoric is for revenue-based blog hits, while the Jesus we claim to follow had compassion even on those that killed Him. But compassion is quiet, and in our culture, quiet doesn’t sell.

What if we assumed everyone was a possible Christian, instead of assuming an impending battle with them? If we believe that everyone is built with an inherent need for God, than why don’t we view everyone as a soul seeking God, rather than an enemy combatant? The way we treat people that our same God created and wants to love is absolutely ludicrous. And very simply? It needs to stop.

We need to start actually seeking out how the God we claim to follow would have us act, and let those trying to use a war-time version of Christianity for blog hits and advertising money, see that anger and recrimination against those we claim to be trying to save, doesn’t sell to Christians anymore.

In all sincerity and love,

You Can’t Just Cut Out the Parts of the Bible You Don’t Like…

…but if you can explain them away, that’s totally cool.

We are all human. And as such, true scholarly criticism of our own thinking strongly suggests the almost near impossibility of reading or learning something without unconsciously injecting something of our own thoughts, bias, or experience into it. So then at what point do we start to question our own reading of the Bible? In other words, how many theological backflips before we start to go, ‘Hold on here.’

In my lifetime, I have seen huge changes amongst even the most fundamental churches in how we explain Jesus’ teachings on divorce in Matthew 5, Paul’s teachings on women pastors and just women in general, and the Levitical office of priests according to how it pertains to our pastors today…just to name a few. In order to explain them in their current interpretations, a great deal of “exposition” is needed. It is completely dishonest and disingenuous to say that we believe the Bible in its entirety, but use the loophole of “exposition”, or the current trendy phrase “unpacking”, to in essence get rid of the passages we no longer like or that no longer coincide with culture.

It is true that many things in the Bible need deep study. The problem is when the conclusions from that “deep study” change so constantly, when we are always so fond of quoting our last year’s trend or interpretation as absolute infallible truth, and “praying for” the poor souls who dare to question the interpretation. And more often than not, just a few short months later, we’re championing a new interpretation as infallible truth, forgetting about all the people we stepped on or turned off from God by calling truth that which we now believe to be heresy.

It’s time that us general lay Christians learn the simple basics of scholarly criticism, and not only apply it to the Bible, but what may be infinitely more important, applying scholarly criticism to our own reading and our denominations’ reading, of the Bible. If the Lord does not change, as stated in Malachi 3, then what He is trying to tell us through the Bible is either right or wrong. Pretending that our theology is complete, constant, and unchanging, while using exposition and theological “backflips” to explain away the lack of completeness and constancy, is extremely disingenuous, and we are quite quick to point out those inconsistencies and hypocrisy in other religions. If God is truth, then that truth should be able to stand up to the most trying of critical methods of study. It shouldn’t need us to explain things away. We need to start being critical (in a scholarly sense) of our own interpretations, those who interpret it, and the way the Bible was compiled. This is not news to most theologians today and in history…but to us lay Christians, this may be new territory. For some reason, we’ve been taught not to question our faith. We say this is the most important being and the most important book to ever exist. And we so often act as if they’re anything but. Some even go so far as to say our criticism of the Bible and the church are evidence of us leaving the faith. On the contrary, I believe they are evidence that we are finally starting to take it seriously.


P.S. As alluded to in the post, I am using the word “criticism” in a literary sense, to mean “the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults”, as opposed to the more colloquial meaning of baselessly deriding something.

Why Science is More Respected Than Christianity

It’s not because people hate God. It’s not because of the “war on Christianity.” And it’s not because somehow thousands and thousands of scientists are involved in a conspiracy to discredit our religion.

The truth is rarely exciting enough to make it on a meme, or a catchy sermon one-liner. And the truth is that the majority of what is considered scientific theory is peer-reviewed. That’s it. The very simple idea that one person or one research team or one school of thought cannot logically be trusted without multiple perspectives lending their expertise and diverse viewpoints. Meanwhile, the church takes each and every word of its pastor’s sermon as infallible truth; a sermon that has been reviewed by no one, and that often times (go back and listen to older podcasts) contradicts previous sermons that were also thought of as infallible truth. Simply because a prayer was said asking God to speak through the pastor. And we assume that He has, even if there are contradictory statements with previous sermons, with the Bible itself, or with the other pastor down the street who has also prayed that God would speak through him.

What is worse, that we as a church also often hang a great deal of our theology on whatever Facebook meme or out-of-context book quote we have just come across. Again, with little to no reviewing (probably no reviewing, but I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt) by differing perspectives, or even the same perspectives. We attribute these words as the mind and will of the Creator of the Universe, without ever even double-checking, let alone putting them through a scholarly review. It’s madness.

Science has Christianity beat, and I don’t know why. If we truly believe this God deal, wouldn’t we want to make sure we were saying and learning and believing as close to the truth as we are capable? I think it’s high time we brought back the peer review in our churches, podcasts, and books, and stopped basing our week’s theology off of 140 characters and an half an hour message put together the night before. Perhaps even, structuring our entire study of the Bible as a peer review, instead of the focus on just one person whose spiritual giftings of teaching and possibly shepherding do not necessarily preclude a Tony Robbins style of church.

We continually claim to hold the keys to life, and continue to take that claim so incredibly lightly. I love you, church; and we can do so much better.


Midnight, January 19th, 2015

Have you ever had someone genuinely curious about your religion, and by the end of the conversation you’ve realized that what you thought was a following of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth was actually little more than a socio-economical peer group following select Pauline writings?

Most of my friends are incredibly respectful of my religion; just amused at how much more they thought it would mean to me.

We can do better, and we must do better.