thinking out loud

…things that are on my mind, heart, and soul

2.6.11 Worship Confessional

It’s Super Sunday here in Pittsburgh and it was pretty cool to see our worship space filled with people dressed in black and gold this morning. While we all had our thoughts on the big game later today, it was great to gather with the people of God and together express our love and devotion to Him.

Today’s gathering was the fourth in our series, “Five Ways of Being the People of God” and our focus was on the command to “be forgiving.” Katherine Sikma, our Director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, shared an excellent message based upon Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4.

This past week I have been listening to the latest Defining Moments podcast from the Willow Creek Association and this month’s topic was “Spiritual Direction in Worship Services.” This is a extremely helpful conversation between Bill Hybels, Nancy Beach, and two of Willow Creek’s primary worship leaders, Aaron Niequist and Matt Lundgren and I would encourage you to give it a listen. The big question that this podcast caused me to wrestle was “how do we help non-singers connect with God in worship?” We place a great deal of emphasis on worship through music in our community of faith and as a musician and singer, it is easy for me to forget that not everyone’s pathway to God is through music.

This morning we took a fairly extended time of Scripture, reflection, silence and prayer wrapped around the themes of confession and forgiveness. Using the words from David found in Psalm 139, Psalm 51 and Psalm 103 we created some non-musical space for our worshiping community to invite God to examine their lives, bring their sin before God and receive words of assurance that remind us of God’s great love and forgiveness:

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us ” (Psalm 103:11-12).

What do you do to help non-singers connect with God in your worship gatherings? I would love to hear your ideas on this topic.

We also had some fun this morning as we used the Mumford and Sons song, “Sigh No More” as a lead-in to the message. This song was a bit outside our normal musical genre, so it provided an opportunity to stretch for our team.

Here’s the rest of our worship set included:

  • Nothing But the Blood (Brett Younker arrangement)
  • All Things New (Brett Younker)
  • Because of Your Love (Paul Baloche)
  • I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin)
  • Sigh No More (Mumford and Sons)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced his weekend at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…


Filed under: leadership, reviews, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

1.30.11 Worship Confessional

It’s hard to believe that this morning was our last worship gathering of the month of January. This first month of 2011 was gone by incredibly fast. In my mind, Spring can’t get here fast enough.

Today’s gathering was our third installment in our series “Five Ways of Being the People of God.” This series is foundational to our life as a community of faith and is built around five New Testament allelons, (the Greek word for one another).  As a church committed to nurturing healthy relationships, we are focusing on these five biblical attitudes:  be accepting, be hospitable, be encouraging, be forgiving, and be loving.

Our focus this morning was “be encouraging” and our central text came from  2 Corinthians 13:

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11-12)

In summary – the essence of encouragement is giving courage to another person. Life is difficult, the journey is risky and at times we all face the temptation to give up, throw in the towel and bail.  Encouragement gives heart to the disheartened and helps people keep going.

As an introduction to the message this morning, we did a cover of John Mayer’s “Say” (the theme song from the movie, “The Bucket List”). While I’m always looking for a way to get some John Mayer music into our worship gathering, this song provides a familiar and strong reminder that each of us plays an important role of speaking encouraging into the life of others.

The rest of our worship set included:

  • Everlasting God (Brenton Brown)
  • As It Is in Heaven (Matt Maher)
  • I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin)
  • All Things New (Brett Younker)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced in worship this weekend at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

1.16.11 Worship Confessional

This morning was the second installment in our series, “Five Ways of Being the People of God.” The series is based upon five New Testament, “one anothers,” that we have identified as foundational to our life as a community of faith. Today’s focus was “be hospitable” and our primary text was Romans 12 :13  – “share with the Lord’s people who are in need; practice hospitality.” I especially appreciate the way Eugene Peterson captures this verse: “help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality” (The Message). What might our world look like if Christ-followers truly became inventive in hospitality?

This weekend, one of our team members, Sue, led our music team. I have to admit she had a challenging assignment as it is fairly difficult to identify a setlist of “be hospitable” worship songs. Sue did an excellent job in not only putting a setlist together but also leading worship through music this morning. I have known Sue for quite a while and it has been a gift to see her grow and mature as a person, follower of Christ and worship leader. She stepped up to a whole new level this morning as she worked diligently on flow and song transitions.  And the result was a rich environment where people could truly connect with God. As well, she faced the challenge of having both our regular sound guy and a percussionist and strong background vocalist call in sick this morning. That’s enough to make even the most seasoned worship leader quake. She took in all in stride. Well done, Sue!

Here was our setlist for the morning

  • Freedom is Here (Hillsong United)
  • Bless Your Name (Eddie Kirkland)
  • How He Loves (John Mark McMillan)
  • Made to Worship (Chris Tomlin)
  • I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced in worship this weekend at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

1.9.11 Worship Confessional

This morning felt the first Sunday of the new year. Our community of faith has been scattered over the past three weeks and it was good to have everyone back together after the Christmas and New Years’ holidays.

We took time in worship to focus on the feast of Epiphany. The more I think about this feast, the more surprised I am at the lack of attention it receives in most churches. Ruth Haley Barton of the Transforming Center writes this about Epiphany:

“Today is the feast of the Epiphany—the day when the Church commemorates the journey of the wise men to seek the Christ child.  On this day we celebrate their arrival at the manger with longing in their hearts and gifts appropriate for the One who would be our king, our priest, and our Savior. Epiphany is the culminating event of the Christmas season in which we celebrate the “showing forth” of God’s presence to unlikely people in unlikely places.  In yet another strange twist to the Christmas story, it was pagan astrologers who were among the first and most venerated visitors to the manger. Although theirs was an occupation that was expressly forbidden in Jewish law (it was the modern-day equivalent of those who read and interpret horoscopes), they were welcomed and their gifts were received!”

Epiphany recognizes that the light of Christ has come to Jew and Gentile alike. And the last I looked, most of us in the Church today are Gentiles. Epiphany is our day!

To press deeper into this truth, we created an Epiphany Litany that consisted of the congregation singing “Star of Wonder” (the chorus of “We Three Kings”) intermingled with readings from Matthew 2 and Isaiah 60 and concluding with this prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, who came as our light and the redeemer of our world, reveal yourself to all those who still live in darkness.  May they see your power at work in their lives and be filled with the hope of your presence.  May they come to follow you, our God, who is with us and will remain with us this day and forever.

We had planned to sing Matt Redman’s “Light of the World” as a follow-up to this litany, but we had a time issue and unfortunately it had to be cut at the last moment. It is a tremendous Epiphany song!

The rest of our worship set included:

  • Song of Hope (Robbie Seay Band)
  • Your Grace Is Enough (Matt Maher)
  • Joyful (Brenton Brown)
  • Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone (Chris Tomlin)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced this weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings, ,

1.2.11 Worship Confessional

Happy New Year. I hope and pray you have had a great Christmas season. It has been a busy ten days for me with Christmas Eve coming on a Friday this year and then quickly followed up with a Sunday gathering. And this past week I conducted New Year’s Eve wedding. While it was a true joy to celebrate with a family I have known for many years, it was also a lot of extra work. The good news is that later today, I am headed to a friends house for a three day retreat. I am looking forward to beginning 2011 with some quiet time and space and believe that God has some things to speak into my life.

We continued our celebration of the season of Christmas during worship this morning. On the ninth day of Christmas, we took a scaled back approach musically with two guitars, bass and cajon and our worship set included:

  • Angels We Have Heard on High (Chris Tomlin version)
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman (December Audio version)
  • Christmas Time (Phil Wickham)
  • Jesus Messiah (Chris Tomlin)
  • Light of the World (Matt Redman)

After singing Jesus Messiah, we prayed together an ancient Christmas prayer attributed to Augustine.

Let the just rejoice,
for their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their savior is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free people rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born. Amen

Rejoice for Jesus Christ is born!

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced in worship this weekend at The Worship Community.

Stay Connected…

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

12.26.10 Worship Confessional

I hope you had a great Christmas weekend filled with worship and wonder. These words from the 12th century French theologian, Peter Abelard have been a focal point for me over the past few days:

“The purpose and cause of the Incarnation was that He might illuminate the world by His wisdom and excite it to the love of Himself.”

How has Jesus illuminated your world with His wisdom? And during this season as you celebrate Christ’s coming, how has your love for Him been inflamed? I would love to hear your response to these questions.

Yesterday in worship we took a very laid back approach. We began with the reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2 interspersed with “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” (both were the Tomlin versions). We followed those carols up with a new Christmas song from Phil Wickham called “Christmas Time.” This is a very singable congregational song with a nice hook. If you are not familiar with it, go find it and make sure you remember to use it next Christmas (or this coming Sunday – remember Christmas is a day but a season).

Let me mention two other unique pieces to our worship gathering. A mother/daughter duo sang three lesser known Christmas carols: “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” “Once in David’s Royal City,” and O Sing a Song of Bethlehem.” Accompanied with a single acoustic guitar, Merritt and Ellie’s voices blended together beautifully and their offering was a true gift to our community of faith.

The other interesting piece in our worship gathering grew out of my fear that Christmas caroling is becoming a lost art in our culture. And so we featured an old fashioned a cappella carol sing. I actually got the idea after listening to Sara Groves, “O Holy Night” project last week. In the middle of the concert, Sara talked about a “planned power outage” and led the audience in a medley of Christmas carols. I asked our people to get out of their seats and form one big mass choir in the center of our gym and together we sang: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Our singing without any musical accompaniment would have greatly pleased our reformed Presbyterian brothers and sisters.

I have enjoyed posting these worship confessionals each Sunday and look forward to continuing the practice in 2011. You can learn what other faith communities experienced this weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

12.24.10 Worship Confessional

Ryan Rotman over at The Worship Community had a great idea about posting our entire Christmas Eve worship gathering information. So I am following his lead and sharing the shape of our Christmas Eve gathering with you. I hope it inspired you and sparks some creative planning and thinking on your behalf.

  • Welcome
  • Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-7
  • Video: He is Here (Worship House)
  • Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-15
  • Angels from the Realms of Glory (Steven Curtis Chapman)
  • Angels We Have Heard on High (Chris Tomlin)
  • Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Christmas Time (Phil Wickham)
  • Scripture Reading Matthew 1:18-25
  • Perfect Gift (BJ York)
  • Scripture Reading: Luke 2:16-20
  • You’re Here (Francesca Battestelli)
  • Christmas Eve Message
  • Silent Night (Matt Maher)
  • Closing Prayer
  • O Come All Ye Faithful (Chris Tomlin)
  • Joy to the World (Chris Tomlin)

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

12.19.10 Worship Confessional

This morning was the fourth Sunday of Advent and we continued our preparations for the coming of Christ with a worship gathering wrapped around the theme of preparation. My message was based upon Isaiah 7 and Luke 1 and the significant name that was given to the One who would serve as both promise and sign of God’s faithfulness to God’s people: Emmanuel. This is one of my favorite names in Scripture and the promise of Advent is that we worship and serve a God who comes near to us in Jesus Christ. In Emmanuel, God is with us!

My fear is that I have become too causal, too nonchalant about this reality. And in my message today I raised this question: if it is true that Jesus is Emmanuel, the God who is with us:

  • Should we laugh or cry?
  • Should we cheer or lament?
  • Should we shout it from the rooftops or run and hide?

The truth of God’s advent among us demands all the above.

As you prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth, I leave with you this two questions to consider as Emmanuel implications:

•    What are the signs of God’s presence in our world?
•    What does God’s presence with us require of us?

Musically speaking – one of the guitarists from our music team, Greg, stepped up and led worship through music this morning. Greg is a gifted musician, a trained trumpet player and high school band director and one of Greg best qualities is his servant heart. He truly This is the second time Greg has served our community by leading worship and he shared with us that the first time he was actually quite nervous. Today he wasn’t as nervous but acknowledged a different challenge point: sickness. Like a lot of people right now, Greg is battling a nasty cold. And despite not having his full voice, Greg faithfully led us to God through music.

One of the songs that Greg shared with us was a original piece called “Anticipating.” It had a hymn-like quality to it with four verses each addressing a different aspect of our anticipating Christ’s advent.  And Greg added a nice tag to it with the “Come, Lord Jesus come…” from Brenton Brown’s song, “All Who Are Thirsty.”

The rest of our worship set included:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (traditional)
Salvation is Here (Hillsong)
My Soul Magnifies the Lord (Tomlin and Carson)
Jesus Messiah (Tomlin)
Anticipating (Greg Steele)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced this weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

The Next Christians: An Important But Incomplete Work

Gabe Lyons’ new book, The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith” is an important, yet incomplete read. Let me begin with the important aspects to his work.

I was encouraged to discover that early in the book, Lyons’ challenges the typical evangelical view of America as a Christian nation. He writes, “our nation’s founders were influenced by Christians ideas, but they were also wise enough to structure America to allow for a pluralistic setting – a place where all faiths could be practiced and no faith would be given the upper hand”(22). And while the Church no longer holds a central place in the marketplace of ideas in our culture (at least among the younger generations), Lyons is hopeful that this is not a time to be discouraged, but instead a season to be encouraged by what God is doing in this new movement of the next Christians.

In chapter three, Lyons shares the fruit of a conversation he had with a Hollywood producer who had called upon Gabe to share his perspective on potential strategies for filmmakers to reach Christians. Lyons categorized believers into two groups based upon their interaction with culture identifying the groups as the Separates (insiders, cultural warriors and evangelizers) and the Culturals (blenders and philanthropers). Lyons goes on to present a third way (reflective of Jim Belcher’s approach in his book, Deep Church) to live out the reality of the Gospel in today’s world and this makes us the bulk of the book. This third way, which is reflective of the next Christians, is defined as the way of restoration. The posture of restoration involves having the full story of the Gospel in our minds and hearts – the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. The next Christians embrace this in its fullness.

Lyons identifies six characteristics of the restorers and devotes a chapter to each of these movements: provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; and countercultural, not relevant. The chapters are filled with inspiring and hopeful stories of people who are living out their faith in real-time as restorers. These stories are one of the highlights of the book.

This is an important read for people seeking to influence our world toward the kingdom realities of Jesus Christ.  Ministry leaders would be wise to gather some key people together and begin to engage in dialogue over Lyons’ premise and perspective. As well, Lyons includes a study guide that connects material from Q Notes with each chapter. This supplemental material is captured from the Q conference that Lyons facilitates and includes video messages from important thinkers (Scot McKnight, Andy Crouch, Ambassador Max Kampelman and others) in the various channels of cultural influence, as well as a number of commissioned essays by people like Tim Keller, Matthew Sleeth and Josh Jackson and Nick Purdy from Paste magazine.

While this is an important read, I also feel it is incomplete. My biggest critique is that Lyons identifies the next wave of Christianity by the individual actions of highly committed and passionate followers of Jesus. While I applaud their faithful efforts, as I read their stories I keep asking myself, “where is the Church?” The only substantive illustration of the next Christians that involves the church is Lyons’ discussion of what God is doing through the church in the city of Portland. In the last chapter, “The Next Big Shift,” Lyons also makes a minor reference to the church-planting movement that has swept the next Christians, but overall I keep coming back to the question, “what kinds of churches will help shape and nurture the next Christians?” Perhaps Lyons will have more to say about this in the future. Or even better, perhaps we need to engage in this conversation and create the kinds of churches that will model the third way of restoration.

Stay connected…

BTW: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Filed under: books, leadership, Q, reviews

11.28.10 Worship Confessional

Happy Liturgical New Year!

Today was the first Sunday of the season of Advent which marks the beginning of the liturgical calendar in the Christian Church.

This year we are using an Advent resource that comes from the Mosaic Holy Bible. This is a beautiful and well crafted biblical and devotional resource, arranged in such a way that each week presents a variety of content for reading and reflection. Each week follows a theme appropriate to the Church season and the content includes full-color art, Scripture reading, a historical reading, a contemporary reading, a prayer, creed, hymn or quote; and space for reflection.

Our focus this morning was on longing and we leveraged these words from John Paul II (taken from the Mosaic Advent Devotional):

Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.”

Have you ever thought of the weeks of Advent as an intense training season? I would love to hear how your faith community engages the four weeks of preparation before Christmas. Do you celebrate the season of Advent. If so, how?

This morning we introduced a new song by Chris Tomlin entitled, “All to Us.” This song worked really well coming out of the message, leading us into the celebration of the Sacrament of Communion. It has a hymn-like richness and quality to it and presents some beautiful images of Christ. I love the chorus which declares:

Let the glory of your name be the passion of the Church
Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns
Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives
We believe you’re all to us.

You can listen to Chris tell the backstory of this song at the New Song Cafe from Worship Together.

Our music set this morning included:

  • Shout of the King (Matt Maher)
  • As It is in Heaven (Matt Maher)
  • Forever Reign (Hillsong and One Sonic Society)
  • Call to Worship (Matt Redman)
  • All to Us (Chris Tomlin)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced today in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

about me

my name is terry and i've been married to a great woman, patty for 29 years and we have four children, (ranging from 17-25) and an awesome grandson. i serve as lead pastor of christ community church of the south hills in pittsburgh, pa (lets go pens!). i am currently working on a book on worship with a working title of "a movable feast: a liturgy for our everyday, ordinary lives."