No Perfect People Allowed

No perfect people allowed: do away with religious guilt

I’m really quite glad to be away from organized religion, myself. Religion is a man-made attempt at reaching God. One that has really failed utterly to grasp the real issues; one that has failed miserably to understand the mission of Jesus and rather has made rules and regulation their religion; one that has literally made murder and tortures of all forms acceptable; has failed utterly in embracing science as what science was originally, and still is: man’s attempt to recognize and glorify God.

There really is an alternative to the face-off between organized religion, a.k.a ‘Christianity’ and the ‘until-you-proove-it-to-me-with-evidence’ religion called ‘Science’ that many ascibe themselves to. Both of these sides are not facing reality and are chasing the man-made illusion that either have got ‘the answer’. Who are we that we think we have got it all figured out??

I believe that if you get to know Jesus for who he really was, studying his words and actions and understanding the background of the God of the bible and the God of the bible’s reality, that it can change your life forever. It’s not about religion. It’s about a relationship with God. And God says it’s about our relationships with each other. Nothing more.

Not possible because there aren’t any real facts? Find out for yourself. Research whether or not the Ressurrection was possible. Confused on why the church and science split during ‘the age of enlightenment’? Easy to see how the church became dominant and fueled hatred. Easy to see how scientists turned away from a church that would not embrace them. We are all one through Christ. Christ is perfect, we are not. God is sovereign over the earth, man made church is not.

Plenty of research out there to keep your mind busy with this. You can embrace God and learn of his promises for your life without losing your identity. You can begin to understand how God is not a genie in a bottle to grant your every wish and to make the world a perfect place. You can begin to see the differences between what God has promised and what the ‘Christian’ church says in it’s press releases.

Religious guilt? Stop attempting to be perfect. Only Christ was perfect, and that’s what counts. No perfect people allowed. Just be humble and lay at his feet.

What is CCLI? Important!!

What is CCLI?

Christian Copyright Licensing International, http://www.ccli.com, is an organization founded with the idea in mind that all songs used by churches should be catalogued so as to bless the songwriters with any income the songs might generate.

Primarily, they were founded to help churches comply with copyright law.

A CCLI song number is a number given by CCLI for each song registered with them in order to track usage and to pay the owner of rights any monies that they collect. Churches have the responsibility to report usage (usually, only random churches are selected, depending on the size of the church).

Copyright law states that churches are EXEMPT from paying for PERFORMANCE of songs, but they’re not exempt from liability of distribution of COPIES of the lyrics, whether or overheads or lead sheets, etc.)

CCLI exists in order to grant churches licenses to cover these distributions.

I know, the opinion exists that songs in churches should be free, no matter who wrote the songs. Although no church organization has been sued for copyright infringement, the real possibility exists, and the truth is that churches ARE in copyright violation if they distribute works from Hillsongs, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, and on…AND, why not BLESS these songwriters for their contributions?

(the full story on Performance rights is that there are Performance Rights Organizations in each country. Here in the US they are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. These organizations license restaurants, night clubs and other venues to play copyrighted works. These organizations in turn pay the holder of rights of songs, publishers and songwriters, depending on how much the songs are played. Churches are the only organizations in the this country granted exemption from performance as stated in copyright law.

How other royalties are paid is another story. CCLI is an organization that helps churches comply with the rest of copyright law. So, they’re exempt from performance but not from distribution of lyrics. )

CCLI will grant a license to a church or church organization with the cost being determined by the size of the church or church organization. CCLI will give an identifiying number for each organization. Churches then report their actual uses of songs (not all churches have to, but your church might be picked randomly) so they can bless the songwriters.

HERE’S WHERE WE COME IN: Songwriters and publishers can apply to CCLI to become a publisher or an administrator and then submit songs to them in so they can be listed with them. CCLI will send you a song number. The song number is how a songwriter can be credited for usage.

Church administration, here’s where you come in: visit ccli.com and seek a Church Copyright License.

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Ok, that’s it for CCLI as far as songwriters are concerned.

I to take it one step further to say that CCLI also grants licenses for reahearsals of songs (mp3 distribution). The sound recording is a separate copyright, Again, why not help bless the songwriter? Even though the formula for how the artist/songwriter gets paid from this in the end result will vary, churches are in violation of copyright law unless they have a license.

1) Let our worship and music leaders at church know so they can be legal

2) Register our original songs we wish to use in church with CCLI

ANYONE here can register with ccli.com as a publisher or an administrator. This is not one of those ‘this levels the playing field’ type of come-ons. This is serious stuff.

If anyone is serious about their songwriting in churches, they should do this. Do this if you are a prolific writer and wish to share your songs with other churches.

If anyone here is NOT interested in registering with CCLI, but wish to have any of their songs registered with them, let me know. I am a publisher registered with them, and I’ll be glad to submit your song.

What happens when you submit your song? At this date, they want the title, writer and publisher information for the song and the lyrics. They will only ask for any lead sheet or mp3 submissions after your song has been reported as used by two or three churches.

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Recap:

Songwriters: learn how to submit your songs to CCLI.com so they have a song registration number.

Churches: visit CCLI.com and obtain a Church Copyright License (this covers the overhead and physical distribution of copyrighted lyrics). It doesn’t cost big money. Churches, also obtain a Church Rehearsal License (this covers the distribution of recordings of songs used by the worship team). Also not big money, and well worth it.

Lead His Flock in Worship

When we are up front and leading worship, we are all called to rise above the herd (click to read Rise Above the Herd Mentality). We are called to learn to do our part in leading others into the presence of God. This means so many different things, but primarily what it says to me is that I need to get myself out of the way. What do I mean by that?

We’ve heard, ‘I need to get myself out of the way’ in these contexts before. But I believe it is more than just a general call of humbleness. It is not only a passive act, but one that requires thought toward what actions may need to be taken in order to lead God’s people.

For reading scripture, it requires that a person practice that act and/or learn to speak in public. Why? Because stumbling over God’s words is, of course, acceptable and we all do it. But the words are delivered much more powerfully and clearly when we remove the distractions of stumbling and mumbling. People will remember the word, not my stammering. My inability to deliver God’s word concisely may place stumbling blocks in front of another person’s worship and edification.

The same can be said about preaching the word. I’ll be brief on this point. We’ve heard that those who preach will be held more accountable by God and they need to be sure of the truth. But even when those who preach are sure of the truth, they all need to spend the time in learning to deliver crisp and clear speach. They will all spend the time in studying the structures of sermons and how they are best delivered and remembered. These things are all a part of an active committment in becoming a more powerful delivery tool for God’s word and to remove personal distractions from efforts.

When we are up front and singing and playing, we have an enormous responsibility to be leaders and not distractors. All who are called to be on the team leading music are required to approach this work with extreme humility. I personally believe that if there are problems in this area that the person who is leading the worship team needs to address the issues.

All called for the worship team need to have an inner dialogue and learn of their shortcomings in order to make a plan to grow. We all need to be open to discussing our weak areas with our leaders and be open to agree on reasonable action measures when situations go wrong.

I was on a worship team one time when the leader, Johnny, used to always remind us that if we don’t feel right in our walk with God or we currently are struggling with our faith that we take the time to examine ourselves and include the possibility of stepping off of the worship team for a season. I’ll never forget when the time came and Johnny took himself off of the team for a month. He told us he was not right with God at that time, and he wanted to be able to give his whole self to the effort of worship. I sure loved Johnny’s heart.

All who are called need to understand their roles. Yes, they need to understand their musical roles, but they really need to understand their role as an approachable leader of the church. They are ‘up there’ for all to see, and any person might approach them to talk or to ask for help. One of our responsibilities in being on the platform is to know what to say. It’s our responsibility to act in the manner as a leader of the church and proclaim the values of Jesus. It’s our responsibility to tell another person who they might connect with when they have questions of life and of faith.

Back to the aspect of music. Here is an area where the individual needs to examine their heart as to their understanding of giving their best efforts. My personal take as a leader is that we approach practice time as something each individual does at home. Rehearsal time is when we get together as a group before Sunday. Sunday mornings are for a run-through and for last minute tightening.

The thought of giving nothing short of our best efforts has to be the goal. A book written by Robert Sterling on songwriting said that we may not know for sure if Jesus was actually a carpenter, but we’re pretty sure he did some creative handiwork. So, Sterling says, let’s assume Jesus was a carpenter and made chairs and tables for a living. Do you think that Jesus would have hobbled together some crooked pieces of wood and thought, ‘eh, that’s good enough’. I doubt it! So it should be in the preparation of delivering your musical product! And songwriting!! I will now forever think about how Sterling sprinkled throughout the book, “Jesus’ chairs”.

If you are up there singing, you are up there leading worship. Your preparation time includes learning the words to the songs and learning to have a cheerful face. There is nothing more distracting to the people than a singer with a lifeless expression and their face buried in a song book or a page of words. Learn to be expressive and to help lead the congregation in raising hands (if that’s appropriate in your church) or rising up and singing.

If you are a person running sound, your efforts are the same because you ARE playing an instrument in the band. Learning to play the sound board and getting all of the balances and executing all the different level and effect cues is just as important as any guitar or keyboard. More so, actually, because the sound board has the power to make the guitar or keyboard sound so small, not heard and out of balance with the rest. The board has the ability to add distraction more so than any voice. The mastery of all microphone levels to prevent feedback and to present a transparent and musical experience is a skill sorely needed in the worship setting.

The person running lights and video are equally tasked with providing a timely product on cue. If any of these elements are off, the visual distractions and the interruption of worship can be staggering.

Does the world come to an end (so to speak) when any of these elements aren’t perfect? Does God honor our efforts when we come short of these goals? Does it completely ruin the day of a worshipper when things go wrong up there? No, yes and no. But God deserves our best at all times, especially in the house where we gather to worship so as to draw less attention to ourselves.

Having said all that, I also realize that the entire notion of trying to make everything ‘smooth’ can in and of itself be an idol to me and others who are trying to make the entire service a ‘seamless production’ and not devote the time to worship ourselves. I believe that this is a matter of balance. However, for the good of the people, the service of the technical and worship team is the sacrifice of those who are called to help and run the church service. That is why it’s important to give all church volunteers regular time off, so they can make sure that they are not burned out and can enjoy the church service when it’s not their time to serve.

The people with whom we worship deserve to bring praise to God without distractions. We edify the group when we can present our gifts without breaking the flow of our communication with God.

Jesus’ chairs.

Rise Above the Herd Mentality

How is it that I am called to rise above the herd mentality (click to read my interpretation of The Herd Mentality or scroll/search to find)? There are certainly ways in which we can, in general, build each other up in these ways and hold each other accountable. But there are also ways of finding out how we are individually called to rise above the herd and to lead. Jesus is our guide for both.

Throughout the the upper story in the bible of how God had planned for us to be returned to his family, we read how God is so holy and so pure that none can look upon His presence and live. His holiness, His righteousness, is so powerful that we cannot live in human flesh terms and be in front of him because of our fallen nature. His purity, which is Love, and his sense of selflessness is beyond our understanding due to our condition of separation from God.

The lower story of how we as a community of people have risen and fallen in our attempts to seek God, but that the only way to seek Him and be re-united with Him is through the person of Jesus, IS within our power to understand!! Whenever I get into a conversation about ‘Christianity is this or that’, I need to always remember to just point people and the conversation to Jesus as quickly as possible!

So, in my own life, how do I rise above the herd mentality? How can I connect personally with God and learn to share His ways? I think that a big part of the answer is one that is common to all of us: spend time in getting to know the word of God. Learn to put on the Armor of God as told by Paul as we, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” in Ephesians 6. Spend time understanding His story so we can begin to understand our own story and how we can reconnect with Him and with others.

One of the areas where I am really weak is consistenly finding quiet time to commune with God. I do ‘ok’, but it could always be better. My prayer for me and for all of us today is that we can learn to spend time necessary to understand the role that God has in mind for us. To spend individual time with God and in learning His words of life and learning to take them to our hearts is a great way to connect in to that flow and to begin to rise above the herd mentality.

The Herd Mentality

When looking at the Old Testament as a whole, I find that there’s a cohesive message that many have missed (including me all of these years). To me, it helps to gel my understanding of God’s story so that I might be more passionate about doing my part in helping to make more disciples for Christ.

What I see from the beginning is that when we made the decision to go against God in the garden, that this allowed the consequences of separation from God into the world. Now, this is not in itself new territory of understanding. However, there is the telling of two stories from this point forward: the upper story, we see how God has made a plan for us to be re-unified with Him since the episode in the garden, and the lower story, where we have multiple accounts of individuals that are called to lead and to serve God in an effort to lead God’s chosen people. At the same time that we see these leaders, there is a continual theme where the masses of people actually turn away from the ways of God when there isn’t strong leadership.

It’s this lack of leadership where we see the phenomenon called ‘the herd mentality’. I see the herd mentality as an important early biblical theme that plays out all the way through the entire bible. It starts when we read about how selfishness crept into the world when Cain killed Abel, and is written about in every book of the bible going forward. Check this out! We continually read how this or that person or people worship other gods or do things which are detested in the sight of the LORD while the few or chosen leadership try and do right by God (let me emphasize two things: I say ‘chosen’ as in tapped into service, not ‘chosen’ as in special. And I say ‘try and do right by God’ because sometimes they succeed, but most of the time these special people fail, time and time again. These emphases are in and of themselves a hugely important part of God’s story!).

The herd mentality is often the whisper in the back of my brain that says, “Oh, it’s all right to be selfish and to think only of the things that concern me. It’s all right to spend time only on myself. Kill or be killed!” Isn’t this similar to what Cain must have been thinking when he offed his brother Abel? God asks Cain (by the way, knowing full well the answer) in Gen 4, “Where is your brother?”, to which Cain replies, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The herd mentality is shown when later in Exodus 32:1 it says, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘come, let us make gods who will go before us’.” And so, a golden calf was made by man, and we’ve been making similar golden calfs ever since! The herd mentality, often manifested today by my impatience with situations, says, “hey — somewhere in my brain I know that I’ve been created to always have a leader in my life. Oh, that leader must be me and what I think is great!”

The herd mentality is shown again when in the time of the Judges, we read about the physically powerful Samson. Once he was been killed, all the people just continue forward as if they can’t operate life without a single human voice leading them. Then in Judges 21:25 we read, “In those days, Israel had no king. Everyone did as they saw fit.”

The same pattern continues when the people pray to God to give them a king. God says, “You don’t want a king” and the people say, “yes, we really do”. God says, “All right! But be prepared for the consequences!” And what we discover is that these kings, though many have a heart for God, still do evil to people and are selfish and power-hungry. God was trying to tell them all along, “Let ME be the only king you need!”

This lower story of how we as a human herd with selfish motives continues throughout the New Testament and on until the current day. The upper story of how God is planning to re-unite us with Himself through the person of Jesus is also told throughout the Old Testament through prophets. When Jesus comes on the scene, He tells us exactly how we can be re-united with God: through believing on Him.

‘Believing In’ and ‘Believing On’ may be interchangeable, but I think that ‘believing on’ might be a great way to interpret this because Jesus often tells us that He has come to carry our burdens and that we can place all of our cares on Him. Jesus came so He can carry me on his back during my earthly life. He also came so that when it comes time for me to face the Father, the Father will see only Jesus and not the herd mentality that is in my nature.

The word of God tells us, in a very straight-forward manner, that we are all of the herd mentality in Romans 3:23. “All have sinned and are far from God’s saving presence”. The apostle Paul tells us that it is only through the power of Christ that we can rise above the herd. The herd mentality tells us that ‘we’re not good enough for God, so sometimes, why bother?’ Jesus tells us that we don’t have to be good enough.

Jesus tells us that He is the shepherd of the flock. Jesus is the manager of the herd, and we only have to believe in what He says. Sure, we need to get along with the rest of the herd. But in most instances, the herd will tell you to run over the edge of the cliff with the rest of them. Err on the side of the Shepherd.

“What must we do to do the works God requires?”, they asked. Jesus answered: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”. – John 6:27-29

Worship Leaders All

When we generally hear the term ‘worship leader’, we think of the man or the woman who is up front and leading us in song or in a time of worship in the Sunday service. But I think we’re all called to lead worship. Some publicly, some in homes and other intimate settings. We’re all called to learn to be better persons though the learning about the grace offered through Jesus. Learning of, and taking to heart, His story of grace makes us stronger as individuals, just by a consequence of the act alone. We’re all called to share this story of grace with the world.

We’re all called to share this story of grace with the world in the ways in which we’ve been called. But don’t think for a moment that your part of leadership is not as important as someone else’s. This is why Paul tells us that all the parts of the body work together to make the whole body of Christ.

If we have a family, we’re all called to be worship leaders to the members of our family in certain ways. We are called by Jesus to be salt and light in the world, and that requires each one of us to take stock and discover how we are gifted or how we are to be leaders. To do our part in our families, whether that be learning to be better men or women of God in the marriage relationship; to do our part as children and to be open to instruction from our parent so we can be equipped to do battle as an adult in the world or whether we’re called to be salt and light at work when a co-worker is being maligned, we are all called to be leaders of proclaiming and exclaiming the truth in love.

We lead each other in worship when we obey the call of each of us to become well-equipped parts of the body of Christ.