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vickybeeching

Celebrity controversies are all over the Christian Fifth estate, right?

While Gungor's view on the Bible is an opinion and Driscoll's issues will go down as one man's craziness, Vicky Beeching's coming out story is different—it's a controversy on steroids and is more likely to affect the church at large (if it already hasn't that is!).

In fact, her saga has somewhat been akin to the recent Miley Cyrus circus with more or less similar results: intensely polarized reactions and opinions accompanied by truckloads of publicity. If Vicky writes a book now, I bet it will be a New York Times bestseller!

So Why is This Topic Catching Fire?

Maybe because it rocks the very concept of 'family'. Since it's family that shapes 'community' and the church is basically a community of worshipers, a shift in how we define family is bound to affect our worship.

And btw, this isn’t a post about whether Vicky Beeching is prophetic or heretic—I continue to respect her as a person, Christian and artist.

I'm posting my 2 cents 'cos I believe this topic is worth discussing. Though the challenge is in taking it on without judging/hurting/offending anyone, I'm going to try here.

How Did We Get Here?

The more I think about it, the more I believe that we have changed the way we accept scripture. Instead of studying it to understand what it teaches, we'd rather feel/believe something first and then look for verses to convince ourselves that that's what the Bible really says. Our fancy is more in what Scripture means to us than in what it actually means.

This self-centered approach is a clear and present danger to any Christian belief because ultimately, what's socially popular becomes truth. Instead of the church evangelizing society, the opposite is becoming the norm—society is deciding and lobbying for what Christianity should believe and teach... and successfully too in many cases, this subject being a prime example!

While a largely anti-Christian media and a confident pro-LGBT lobby are exploiting each other for their respective agendas, the collective voice of regular churches is being grossly undermined. We’re at a point where traditional Christians are facing an ultimatum of sorts: accept LGBT marriage or endure a variety of labels—like Obsolete. Judgmental. Uncharitable. Loveless. Graceless. Bigot.

But Why Can't the Bible Settle it?

'Cos appeals to Bible verses on this topic  lead to predictable debates like this:

  • Traditional Christian: See? In Romans 1:24-32, Paul has clearly taught that this is a grave sin!
  • Pro LGBT Christian: Of course not! If you see the context of those verses, you'll understand Paul was condemning idolatry, not homosexuality!
  • Traditional Christian: Really? Then let's apply the same context to the entire set of verses and declare wickedness, evil, greed, gossip, slanderer, hating God, etc. as also not sin. You can't have it both ways!
  • Pro LGBT Christian:  No, can't you understand that David was a man after God's heart, but was in a same-gender relationship with Jonathan?
  • Traditional Christian:  Oh yeah? David was gay? How do you explain Bathsheba...

...and so on! The absence of an acceptable authority (I mean in the non-Catholic world) to decide who is right/wrong ensures the Bible is effectively rendered inconclusive and powerless.

The Slippery Slope

A typical 'coming out' story of a Christian goes something like this:

  • I realized I was different when I was 'x' years old
  • Traditional Christian teaching made me feel awful and ashamed about myself
  • I sought help and no prayer changed me
  • God must have made me this way, therefore I am normal
  • Why can't the church just accept me as I am and love me (love = accepting same-sex marriage)

But, same-sex attraction is not the only variation in human sexuality, right? A pedophile could also 'come out' with the exact same story. Ditto for a zoophile. Pedophilia is not mentioned directly in the Bible while zoophilia is not touched upon in the New Testament. So logically we could (not saying we should) make a stronger case for them than LGBT marriage.

If the church is to love all non-straight people just like how it's being compelled to love LGBTs, won't we go down a very slippery slope? Like child marriage with an adult? Or humans with animals? Not to mention others with a bone in this fight—polygamy anyone?

While the can of worms is well and truly open, it's likely that heterosexuality vs. homosexuality discussions are just the tip of a massive iceberg. In time, the ring will probably widen to lobby for all other kinds of sexual relationship preferences. You think that's impossible? Well, 50 years ago, people thought so about same-sex relationships and yet here we are!

Should/will we ever draw a line? If yes, where? And who decides?

The Way Forward

Please, let's not hate, judge and cloud ourselves with intolerance—we already have too many walls! Disagreeing people need not be enemies. See the example of Pope Francis apologizing to the World Evangelical Alliance and its return apology by Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe. That's a great example of how we should be behaving.

Let's put on the mind of Christ, talk, discuss, exchange thoughts, reach out and pray for God's Kingdom and His will.

  • To the shocked and the outraged: calm down, the church has seen far worse—Christ will always see us through
  • To the angry and the disgusted : please show respect for people with differing thoughts/beliefs/struggles—hear them out and reach out with love
  • To the disappointed and the sad: please make Christ your role model/hero and you won't be
  • To everyone: Let's pray for each other that the Holy Spirit may lead us to His Truth and His light
 
So how has this topic made you feel and think? How can we handle controversial subjects like same-gender relationships in a Christ-like manner without causing hurt and offense? Will this impact our worship? Why don't you leave a comment and share your thoughts?

The Challenge of Vicky Beeching and Diverse Sexual Preferences

By Gangai Victor →

worship-questions

Experience teaches us loads of stuff that can rarely be learnt from any other source. However, experience also brings with it the curse of going through the motions.

I mean, we've led worship so many times that now, we are able to do it with our eyes closed (pun intended!) now, right?

Have you been there? If you have, then you know the fallout of reaching this point: stale worship that bores us and the congregation!

In this post, let's look at 3 questions, which I believe could help refresh us and gain new focus in our worship.

3 Questions for Reflection That Could Transform How You Lead Worship

 

1. Are You self-indulgent?

Check the content of what you're speaking—is it full of 'I-me-myself' stuff? If it is, you're turning people off more than you realize!

Here's the thing about effecting pastoring: If we want people to be interested in us and our ministry, we need to be interested in the Lord and His people first.

Speak about the Lord and His works more and you will see people responding better. Be a caring pastor who exalts the Lord and engages His people than a self-indulgent bore who punctuates every word and sentence with the "I" pronoun.

2. Are You a Clone?

Don't get me wrong, imitation is a good thing—though it depends on who we are imitating!

But, maybe you're attending way too many conferences and trying to implement everyone else's methods but yours... maybe you're spending disproportionate amount of time with your guitar than with the Lord... maybe you hero-worship Redman, Baloche, Tomlin, Brewster, Houghton and want to be like them so much that you've become a clone of them and lost yourself in the process.

The Lord wants YOU leading worship the way YOU lead worship just as much as he prefers Redman leading worship like Redman.

So, if you've been over-influenced by someone else, turn around now and be your unique self—even while implementing the good things we learn from others.

3. How Deep Are You?

Do you pray daily? Read/study the Bible, spiritual books regularly? Invest in training yourself and your team?

Or are you one of those mediocre worship leaders happily swimming in shallow waters? Do you pick songs that have solid meat to feed your congregation or are you satisfied with any catchy tune out there?

In the long run, people always respect and connect better with depth—not superficiality.

Do you agree? How else do you think we can maintain a God-focused worship ministry? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Image: http://pixabay.com/

3 Critical Questions That Could Change the Way You Lead Worship

By Gangai Victor →

speak-onstage

Speaking is probably the no. 1 pet peeve people have against worship leaders.

More specifically—what we speak, when we speak, how we speak, and  above all—how long we speak!

Now, this doesn’t mean we should stop speaking all together! But, a greater focus on speaking well, will help us add value to the worship with our words, instead of them becoming a hollow distraction.

Singing songs is only one component of our worship—speaking the right things at the right time matters too in the interest of building a positive connect with the congregation.

Here’s a simple 7-tip guide to get better at using words in worship

 

1. Plan ahead

When planning worship, don’t stop with just creating great set-lists. Visualize the moments in the set when it would be appropriate to speak. Prepare for those moments with scripture verses, an inspirational insight, or maybe even something about the song.

You don’t need an airtight memorized script; but don’t leave everything to the last moment either. Plan the content (brief points) around which you will be speaking, in advance. This will shield you from nervous random rambling.

2. Look

Think of it as any other conversation—how would anyone feel if you close your eyes and talk to them? Not cool, right?! So, open those eyes and look at your people. If that scares you, here’s a public speaking trick: start by looking at the heads of people (their hair basically!) instead of their faces. People will still feel like you are looking at them.

And smile too while you’re at it.

3. Invite

Let’s say you want the congregation to experience worshipping with uplifted hands. “C’mon people, lift those hands” would sound a bit instructional, and may put off some people.

Instead, we could try something like, “You know, the Bible tells us in Psalm 134:2 to raise our hands and bless the Lord. Can we try that now and use our hands to praise Him as we continue to sing to Him?” You see, ‘we’ and ‘us’, are better than ‘you’ and ‘do’.

I loved how Paul Baloche did it during a concert—“The Bible tells us to praise the Lord by lifting up our hands. For those who are comfortable with this posture, why don’t we raise our hands…” (I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea).

Be invitational, conversational, and one-of-the-congregation instead of using ‘me’ vs. ‘you’ language. There are not too many people out there who like an aloof megastar.

4. Pick your moments

Don’t speak between every song in the set—that would make us annoying one-trick ponies. If a lyric needs more explanation, do it at the beginning of the song on top of the musical transitions. You could say a few words during an instrumental solo too.

And btw, stop calling out every line in the song when people have it on the screen anyways—not clever! If need be, call out only the first line of the next song section (verse, chorus, bridge etc.), so that the person managing the slides, the band, and the people are all in sync with you.

5. Include emotions

People connect better when we rope in emotions and feelings, so feel free to use emotionally descriptive language.

Examples: “Let’s experience the joy of singing to the Lord freely!” Or “How amazing, friends, that we are able to join with Heaven now as we worship the Lord!”

6. King of the content is… the King!

Like the songs that we sing, our words also need to point to God—nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Talk more about the Lord, and less about ourselves. For e.g., suppose we are singing “You Alone Can Rescue”, we could say something like this:

“Friends, this song is a wonderful reminder that no matter how great the divide, the grace of Christ is far greater; it’s more than enough for all us! Maybe some of us are feeling frustrated at not being able to beat a particular habit, or a sin. Instead, let’s lift our eyes to the grace that has already rescued us! This grace will surely lead us home! Trusting this grace, let’s sing the chorus again with joyful and thankful hearts!”

To sum up—let’s choose words that glorify God, and draw people to Him.

7. Watch the clock

No matter how wonderful a speaker you are, the worship leader’s speaking can only make passive listeners out of the congregation. One of our more important goals is active participation. So consciously practice brevity and limit yourself to 30-45 seconds. If you want to speak longer, you better be super-led by the Spirit! Also, to maintain clarity and focus, it helps to share just one thought or scripture verse at a time.

I am sure you agree that speaking well is important when leading worship. Do you find these tips useful? Can you drop a comment and share what works/doesn’t work when the worship leader speaks during your church’s worship?

7 Tips for Worship Leaders to Get Better at Speaking During Worship

By Gangai Victor →

band

In the previous post, we saw a few ways to lead worship without music. But, what if you still want to use music without musicians?

Then, the solution you'd want is backing track software.

Backing tracks have been around for some time now, but in recent years, the tech to use them has advanced substantially—so much so that it’s quite easy and convenient to set things up quickly and start leading worship. There are many worship specific backing tracks software out there—I have mentioned Band-in-Hand before; then there’s Worship Backing Band made by the cool folks at Musicademy, Fly Worship etc.

In this post, we’ll look at WorshipSong Band—a versatile, cross-platform and flexible solution to setup and use backing tracks in worship. You can install it in on almost any kind of hardware/OS—iPAD, Android tablets, Mac and Windows machines. And, it’s also totally affordable ‘cos it’s available at the price of FREE!

Let’s take a look at WorshipSong Band's features

Watch the video for an overview of WSB:

  • Supports 12 tracks with a separate click track and ambient pad feature to playback pad loops between songs
  • Tracks can be mixed (presets available), pitch shifted, and looped in any order
  • Ability to spontaneously move between sections of a song with a foot pedal (looping, song flow, dynamics and song order can be controlled)
  • Chord charts can be integrated and distributed to the entire band and also transposed on the fly
  • You can also project lyrics to an external monitor—WSB can therefore double up as a church projection software too

A standout feature is the open file format that’s used by WSB freeing us to use backing tracks from various other content providers like WorshipSong.com, PraiseCharts.com,WorshipBackingBand.com, Multitracks.com, LoopCommunity.com. This gives us access to a wider selection of songs. If you want to use your own tracks, that’s possible too!

I’ve been playing around with WSB for a week now and totally like what I’m seeing so far. Mark Snyder, who runs WorshipSong Band was kind enough to provide a coupon code, which allowed me to download and test it with many songs in different keys, tempos and styles. Though I am using a very basic Android tablet, it still managed well enough.

The only issue I’ve encountered so far is with the store to buy tracks. Twice after the purchase, the download links failed because of connectivity issues at my end and forced me to buy the songs again and get new download links. If I were not using a coupon and had to actually pay for it, I would have had to pay twice! Hopefully, this will be fixed soon. Mark subsequently confirmed that he's changed the settings to allow multiple download attempts, how's that for customer service!

I also hear that a new feature to change the tempo of a song is also on the way along with an integrated metronome. According to Mark, "With this, for many resources, you will be able to use it as a built-in click track.   In this case, you could buy something like a Praisecharts Rhythm track (for $2 each if you buy in bulk) or any other split track, then play the built in pads and the built in metronome, and have a great resource for very little money per song with access to a huge library.  You would lose individual instrument control but for the price that's a good tradeoff.  And you could mix and match these with full multi-tracks.  The technology is really designed to make backing track software affordable everywhere." Considering the high price points of backing tracks, this would ease the burden for smaller ministries.

If there’s an additional feature I’d like to see in WSB, it would be the ability to add vocal cues, which works nicely in Worship Backing Band. That apart, WorshipSong Band is excellent at being the band when there is no band! I’d happily recommend it to anyone looking to get started with using backing tracks for worship.

What’s your favorite worship backing tracks software?

Image: http://pixabay.com/

WorshipSong Band - When You Need to Fill in for Missing Musicians or the Whole Band!

By Gangai Victor →

bible

That dreaded moment when we have to lead worship and the nearest musical instrument is at least a mile away!

Have you been there? If yes, you'd know the feeling!

We depend on music and musicians to fill the worship environment so much so that without them, it feels kinda empty, right!

On the other hand, such sessions are good times to remember and put into practice an important truth: music is just one among the many vehicles available to express our worship.

So how do you lead worship without music?

5 Ways to Engage People in Worship Without Music

 

1. Songs

Use simpler, shorter and familiar songs—teaching longer and complex songs without a musical instrument is a daunting challenge and I am yet to see anyone do it successfully (myself included). Use choruses or responsorial songs where you sing one line and the people sing the same line or a different line back to you (E.g. Hallelujah Glory, He is the Lord (Show Your Power) etc.)

2. Scripture

Use loads of scripture—verses from the Psalms work really well as also other 'songs' in the Bible like the Magnificat for instance.  Read the verses aloud, designate one verse as a 'chorus' and encourage people to repeat it back as a response when other verses are being read. For example, if we are using Psalm 8, we could fix the 1st (and the last) verse as the 'response'. "

"Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8: 1,9)

The worship leader can then read each verse one by one and pause after each verse for the people to respond with "Lord, our Lord, how majestic..."

3. Praise Prayers

In a small group, we can also request quick praise prayers from the people; short testimonial praise/thanksgiving prayers with a few moments of free praising at the end of each prayer.  In case, your group is not too comfortable with shouting out free praise prayers, use one or two lines from a song as a refrain instead —a good example would be "God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You."

4. Chants

Contemporary Christian songs are not the only musical genre for worship! There are other types of beautiful music too—like chants. They are short, easy to learn and you can repeat them easily to create a meditative/reflective atmosphere. Lookup YouTube for TaizĂ© worship videos to start with.

5. Listen

It's good to call for times of silence in corporate worship too. As much we like to do many activities when we worship, waiting on the Lord in silence is also equally important—because it's in those silent moments that we are able to listen to the voice of our Lord. So it's only right that we give Him time to speak to us, right?

The goal for corporate worship with or without music from a worship leader's perspective remains similar: to engage people and facilitate them to participate actively and authentically. Hopefully, these ideas will help you become more comfortable to lead worship without music.

How else can we lead worship without music? Why don't you leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: Pixabay

5 Tips to Lead Worship Effectively Without Music

By Gangai Victor →