Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Music Leader at Chain of Lakes Church

Chain of Lakes is hiring a Music Ministry Leader. This is a part-time position that could eventually grow into many more hours. I hope that the person we hire will be part of Chain of Lakes for a very long time. The Job Description for the position is here: http://siterepository.s3.amazonaws.com/00684201207100928509440.pdf

This position is an outstanding opportunity for a person to set the culture of music at a church. Our new church has already experienced a variety of different ways to worship and to participate in music. We’ve worshipped in a traditional, Presbyterian fashion; we’ve worshipped in a way similar to many non-denominational churches; we’ve had services with a lot of video. We’re still experimenting with our worship and musical styles. Whoever we hire will have the opportunity and privilege to sharpen our focus in worship in terms of our music.

In addition to setting the culture of our congregation in terms of music, the new person will come into a very supportive environment. Our staff has been together for almost two years. We like each other and support each other. We just added three new people to our worship team. They are excited to hire a new person and to work with that person to develop our music ministries at Chain of Lakes. The people of Chain of Lakes are truly a group of authentic people who live by our eight Core Values, especially the value of “Acceptance.” I’m confident that whoever we hire will make many new friends in our new congregation.

I know that God will call the right person to this position. I made a promise to God that I would pray on my knees for 15 minutes a day that God will call the right person to this position. I have and intend to keep my promise. When I'm praying on my knees I share with God that I feel like the persistent widow in the story in Luke.

I also know that musicians know musician. If you are a musician, would you consider applying? If you know of a musician, would you consider encouraging that person to apply? At the very least pray with me that God will call the right person to this position.

The deadline for applications is August 5. We’ve already had some qualified applicants. I am praying for many more!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Worship at Woodland Hills

Yesterday was the second Sunday this summer that I wasn’t responsible for leading worship at Chain of Lakes on a Sunday. I used the opportunity to worship at Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood. I’ve wanted to worship there for a long time as I’ve admired Greg Boyd’s ministry for a very long time. I’ve heard him speak, read many of his books, and admired his honesty and intellectual abilities.

The web site for the church is: http://whchurch.org/

Hannah wanted to sleep in, so we didn’t go to worship until 11:00 a.m. I took a wrong turn, so we turned into the parking lot a little after 11. I had asked Hannah to share with me two things she liked and didn’t like about worship. When we pulled into the parking lot she asked me why the church was in a warehouse building.

I was impressed by the many different races that were walking into the building. I saw many Hispanics, Africans, African-Americans, Caucasians, and Asians. It looked and felt like Pentecost.

We walked into the building and into their sanctuary. The place is a huge room that had a stage in front and a cross on each side of the front. Two big screens were adjacent to the crosses. Since we were late in arriving the singing had already started. The band was made up of ten folks—five singers and five instrumentalists. It was also racially diverse. There must have been at least 500 people in the sanctuary. This was one of three worship services on the weekend.

We sang three or four songs. Each song was led by a different song leader. Before one song we took the offering. The congregation was very enthusiastic about the singing. Many people were raising their hands and responding to the short faith stories that some of the song leaders shared.
Hannah didn’t like the music and asked if she could walk around. I gave her my phone and she hung out in the lobby for the rest of the service.

After the singing, Greg Boyd jumped up on the stage to preach. He was dressed in a polo shirt, shorts, and didn’t have shoes. He sat on a stool the entire sermon. He is sharing a series called, “God’s Shadow Activity.” He’s looking at the image of God and asking the question how this is reconciled with the Jesus of the cross.

The sermon was academic and felt like an academic lecture. Many people took notes. I wish I had taken notes as I got a bit lost. My getting lost had more to be with me than with the sermon. I wasn’t at my sharpest attention.

It’s obvious that Greg uses the sermons to engage people in conversation. He encouraged people to text questions to him. On the web page for each sermon is a place for conversation. Last week many people talked to each other via the web site about the sermon. The link is here:

The sermon must have gone about 45 minutes. When it was done, Greg prayed for the congregation and we left.

Hannah didn’t enjoy the experience as she didn’t like the music, the building, and the sermon was over her head. I do know she enjoyed texting her friends as she sat in the lobby.

I would have enjoyed a little more liturgy and beauty.

I was very impressed by the spiritual vitality of the people at Woodland Hills. They take their faith very seriously. This is not a congregation of entertainment—a frequent criticism of mega-churches. There weren’t any videos shown (though I’m guessing that videos are shown), or easy sermon illustrations, or a lot of glitz. This was an experience where people were encouraged in many ways to take their faith very seriously.

We in the main-line have a lot to learn from Woodland Hills!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


The Red-heads and I haven’t seen a movie lately for “Family Fun Night.” So after reviewing the list of possibilities we found ourselves entering the AMC with one of Hannah’s friends at 7:30 last night for a showing of “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

I remember reading Spider-Man comics as a kid, but I haven’t kept up on its development. I didn’t see the 2002 film, so I came to the movie without a lot of history.

The “Amazing Spider-Man” starts out when a four-year old boy, Peter Parker, discovers someone had broken into his fathers’ study. His father had been working on a top-secret scientific experiment. Immediately after the break-in Peter’s parents take him to live with his uncle and aunt. Fast forward at least ten years when Peter discovers a secret file from this father. This leads him to sneak into Oscorp, a bio-engineering company. He meets the one-armed Dr. Connors, is bitten by a genetically modified spider, and attracts the interest of classmate Gwen Stacy.

On the subway ride home he discovers he has spider-like powers. He has super-human strength and can literally fly with the help of his web-inducing wrists. Over time he creates the familiar red and blue costume and becomes, “Spider-Man.” When his uncle is killed by a thief, he uses his new abilities to try to find the murderer. This draws the attention of Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy who is the chief of the New York City police unit who sees Spider-Man as a vigilante and a threat to public safety.

By this time Dr. Connors has produced a serum that can regenerate human organs using lizard DNA. His superior wanted to inject Veterans at a VA hospital with the serum. Dr. Connors gave himself the serum and grew into a giant lizard. The lizard went to stop his superior from using the serum on the veterans. He and Spider-Man encountered each other on the Williamsburg bridge and had their first fight.

Dr. Connors wanted to spray all of Manhattan with this serum. He believed that humans are ultimately weak and this serum could save them from their weakness.

The huge lizard tracked Peter down at his high school. Their brawl started there and ultimately continued on the high rise skyscrapers of Manhattan. Just as Dr. Connors had sprayed the serum on the City, Gwen developed an antidote. The question during the final fight scene was whether the antidote could be sprayed over Manhattan. With the help of Captain Stacy—who was eventually killed—the serum was sprayed, the lizard went back to being Dr. Connors, and Manhattan was saved.

The sequel was firmly established at the end. As he was dying Captain Stacy asked Peter to keep Gwen safe by staying away from his daughter. After her father’s funeral she confronted Peter about his absence at the funeral.

Much is going to happen in the next movie between the two. In a post-credit scene—which I missed and only read about on-line—a man in the shadows asked Dr. Connor if Peter has discovered what had happened to his Dad. He hadn’t.

The unresolved pieces of Peter’s story will undoubtedly be explored. What happened to his father? What happened to the murderer of his uncle? What will happen in his relationship with Gwen?

The theme of the movie was almost brazenly shared at the end when Peter attended his high school literature class. The teacher said that most people believe that no more than ten stories exist. She said that in reality only one story exited—the question, “Who Am I?” The question framed the movie and the two main characters.

I didn’t come to any new understandings of my own identity through watching the move, but I enjoyed the almost buoyant action. The action scenes became a bit long at times, but watching Peter scale and jump to and from the Manhattan skyscrapers was fun. The movie had some scary moments for my eleven-year old daughter, but I don’t regret taking her.

I’d like to fly like Spider-Man. The movie didn't help me soar, but it was a fun and cool diversion from a hot Minnesota summer.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Worship at Substance Church

Yesterday I had the opportunity to worship at Substance. This is a relatively new, mega-church that was started by Peter and Carolyn Haas in 2004. They have had phenomenal success—especially among adults under 30. They now are a multi-site church that worships at four different locations. Their web site is: www.substancechurch.com

Because Chain of Lakes primary worship time is Wednesday this summer I was available to worship at a different location yesterday. At Chain of Lakes we are offering a worship service on Sundays that involves the Alpha video series. Three of us take turns leading that group. I wasn’t scheduled to be at Alpha yesterday, so I went to worship at Substance.

I attended the 9:00 service at Spring Lake Park High School. This was one of seven worship services that Substance offers on a weekend. As I came up to the parking lot I was greeted by a young boy waving a flag on the edge of the parking lot. Their parking lot ministry was well-staffed. Worship was held at the auditorium at the High School. There were many opportunities to sign up for ministries in the lobby of the high school along with clear directions for the kids program that was going on.

When I walked into the auditorium at 8:50 there were probably less than ten people there. People kept arriving, though. I would guess when everyone eventually arrived over 125 people were present. Most of the people in attendance were young adults.

Worship started promptly at 9:00—it had to as a video screen had a count-down to the start of worship. When the count-down hit zero the Praise Band started. The Band was made up of six people—five men and a female vocalist. I love singing Praise songs, but I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs we sang yesterday.

After the first song the Campus Pastor welcomed us to worship and prayed. We then sang, had a video about small groups, sang, had a video about the departure of a worship leader to another church, and sang some more. This first part of worship lasted a little more than 20 minutes.

The sermon was preached by Mark Mellen and delivered over video. The topic was “Being a Catalyst.” The sermon was a combination of videos, stand-up comedy, personal stories, stories of people’s lives who had been transformed at Substance, and biblical preaching. It lasted 35 minutes.

We then sang a song, and celebrated Communion. The Campus Pastor prayed for us and told us how we would receive the elements. We got in a line and picked up a cracker and cup of juice.

We then sang another song and left. The service lasted 75 minutes.

The Spirit is obviously moving through Substance. We in the main-line church who bemoan our inability to attract young people have a lot to learn from churches like Substance. I pray that our main-line churches can be open to learning from churches like Substance.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Declaration of Independence

The best way to celebrate the 4th of July is to read the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is only 1323 words, it fits on two pages of a Microsoft Word document, and it would take less than fifteen minutes to read. Yet it changed history.

If you didn’t have an opportunity yesterday to read the Declaration, you can find it here:

Like any rich document I discover something new every time I read the Declaration. One sentence that jumped out at me this year was the following:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

The 56 signers of the Declaration recognized that governments should not be changed for easy or simplistic reasons. Almost half of the Declaration demonstrated the injuries that King George had caused. In some ways the Declaration was a cautious statement, appealing to natural law for the change of government in the 13 colonies. It was both radical and conservative at the same time.

It took Thomas Jefferons seventeen days to write the Declaration and the 2nd Continental Congress a few days to make the final changes.

As I read the Declaration this year I couldn’t help but think of the people of Syria. The oppression of the people of that country by Bashar al-Assad must be similar to the oppression of King George III.

Twelve of the 56 signers were Presbyterian; the only clergy person who signed the document was John Witherspoon—a Presbyterian pastor.

May we never forget how the Declaration of Independence changed the course of history. It is worth reading at least once a year.