serving the nazarene

What Are You Proclaiming?

I’m reading Bob Kauflin’s new (and utterly terrific) book about corporate worship, “Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God.” Kauflin is the author of a popular blog of the same name (, dealing with a broad range of issues related to the corporate worship of the church.

In the book, Kauflin is unpacking, phrase by phrase, his definition of what a worship leader does. Perhaps at some point in the future we’ll go through this material together, but I want to focus your attention on a particular portion of it today.

One of the worship leader’s tasks is to “motivat[e] the gathered church to proclaim the gospel.” He defines proclamation as “declaring what’s true about God.” He suggests that one reason it’s necessary to proclaim truths about God and the gospel that we probably know already is that we tend to forget. We get wrapped up in the worries, fears, desires and busyness of life, and we need weekly reminders of God’s goodness, specifically of his mercy and love displayed in the cross of Christ.

He cites 1 Peter 2:9, where the apostle says that we have been saved “that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” One purpose, and result, of our redemption is that we now proclaim God’s excellencies. Kauflin says that “we’re meant to fulfill this command both in our meetings and in our lives.” Then he writes these insightful words:

People come into our churches proclaiming all sorts of things with their words and actions. Through close-fisted giving, some are asserting how much their own personal wealth matters. Others, by their complaining, are declaring that personal comfort matters. Teens in the latest fashions may be proclaiming that being cool matters. Others confirm through their smiles or frowns that their musical preferences matter. But we want each of them to leave proclaiming this: The gospel of Jesus Christ matters.

I was struck and convicted by these words. Can you relate to this? Have you ever entered a corporate worship meeting proclaiming with your words and actions something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ? Kauflin’s given us a few examples here, but what are some other things we might proclaim? What might people be distracted by as they enter to encounter the living God with a community of believers? How can we get our gaze fixed once again upon the crucified Messiah and the fountainhead of blessing we find there?



April 16, 2008 Posted by | biblical reflection, corporate worship, theological pondering | Leave a comment

PC&D and the Trinity

I ran across an article a couple days ago about the Christian music industry, with a particularly unsettling discovery (on my part) about the group Phillips, Craig, & Dean. It’s gotten me thinking a bit.

Here’s a link to the article, which includes the discovery I mentioned. The bottom line of the article is the suggestion that the CCM industry (Contemporary Christian Music), and what is “Christian music” and what is not, is driven more by business considerations – namely, what makes money – than by any spiritual or doctrinal standard. The evidence of this fact given in this particular article is the difference between Sufjan Stevens and Phillips, Craig & Dean.

You see, Sufjan Stevens is not a “Christian artist.” His CD’s have been produced by mainstream labels. His agents and promoters are CCM outsiders. And yet his orthodox Christian theology is immediately recognizable in his music (Countless other examples could be offered, but this is the one the writer of the article chose.). He even has a soulful rendition of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (which you can check out at this link; don’t pay any attention to the goofy animal pictures – just listen to the music.).

Phillips, Craig & Dean, on the other hand, as you probably know, are highly successful and prominent artists within the CCM family. Unless you live under an evangelical rock or you can’t change your radio dial from KHCB, you’ve likely heard many of their songs, even if you didn’t realize it (“Crucified with Christ;” “I Want to Be Just Like You;” “Mercy Came Running;” “You Are God Alone” (which, I should add, they didn’t write), etc.). And now the discovery: They are modalists – which means they deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Each of the three men are pastors and music ministers in (different) Oneness Pentecostal churches, which teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit motifs are simply different “modes” in which the unipersonal God has revealed himself in various periods of history. In other words, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons comprising one unified Godhead – rather, they are each an alter ego (that’s my term, not theirs) of the one person who is God.

This is deeply troubling to me. Of course you won’t find the word “trinity” anywhere on the pages of holy Scripture, but its concept is nearly impossible to miss! Jesus prays to his Father. He says “I and the Father are one.” He tells the disciples that after he goes to heaven he will send them “another Comforter, who is with you and will be in you.” When he gives them the “Great Commission,” he tells the disciples to baptize people “in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (plural).” In the event of Jesus’ baptism, all three persons of the Trinity are seen performing separate tasks at the very same time. Is this unipersonal God of Oneness Pentecostals seriously delusional, or is something else happening here?

Add to this isolated issue the loads of sappy drivel that pass for Christian art these days, and I think we have a pretty substantial problem on our hands. After all, in one very real sense, this is the image of Christianity the world is receiving. Is this what we want to communicate? That we don’t really care that much about what people believe, and the closest we can come to art is to imitate what non-Christian artists are doing?

I don’t have good answers at the moment. Just those questions and concerns roaming about my mind. Perhaps some of you have thoughts to share. That’s what the comments are for.


April 1, 2008 Posted by | theological pondering | 2 Comments

the gospel and the death of a fish

we got a goldfish to give away as a “white elephant” gift at a party we attended early in december.  it got a few laughs, and then was handed back to us at the end of the evening.  “we don’t need a fish,” they said.  alright, fine.  madeline seemed pretty interested in the fish anyway.

we took the fish home.  madeline was thrilled.  she thought we were giving it away (so did we.).  she reminded us multiple times a day to feed her fish (whom she named… you guessed it – nemo).  she sat in a chair next to his bowl often and just looked at him.  she was a good fish companion.

until last friday.  i passed by nemo’s bowl on my way into the kitchen, and in the corner of my eye noticed that he seemed very pale.  i examined him more closely and discovered that his gills were not moving, his fins were not waving about through the water, his eyes were not blinking, and his mouth was not doing the usual fish pucker thing.  he was dead. 

i delayed relaying the news to madeline as long as i could (i was still waiting for lindsey to come home from shopping, and preferred for us to handle it together if possible).  i knew, however, when madeline insisted that we feed nemo his lunch that i could not tell a lie or simply redirect her attention elsewhere.  the truth had to come out.  with all the articulate wisdom of a third-grader with stage fright i stuttered out a few sentences about nemo.  “honey, fish don’t live forever.  in fact, they have very short lives.  i think nemo must have gotten sick.  he died.”  a confused stare from my daughter.  

“he can’t eat his lunch?” 

“no, honey.  he isn’t alive anymore.  he can’t swim, or eat, or see, or smell.”  she started to look really sad, which made me assume she was beginning to grasp at least that it was sad for her fish to be dead, though i’m sure she didn’t understand the concept of death. 

“nemo’s gone?”

“yes, honey.”

a few moments passed quietly, and then she asked, “can i see him?”

she saw the fish.  i tried to explain to her what it meant that he was dead.  i don’t think she got it.  i suggested that we flush him down the potty as a way of saying goodbye to him.  she thought that was silly, but i told her it was better than putting him in the trash, and assured her that, as gill proclaims in one of her favorite movies, “all drains lead to the ocean.”

i’m not sure what all this has to do with the gospel.  as i put off the discussion of the dead fish, i contemplated the possibility of using it as a springboard to talk about death and life, and sin, and jesus’ death.  but then i thought, “she’s three!  surely that’s not fitting for one so young.”  is it?  perhaps all she would come away with is a fear that at any moment she might get sick and die like nemo did.  that didn’t seem like what i wanted her to take away.  so i decided to leave out the connection.

so i wonder, when, and under what circumstances, does it become right and fitting to teach youngsters about the realities of sin and death and judgment and eternity?  of course we’ve talked with her about jesus’ as the ruler of the universe, and we celebrated his birth at christmas.  we’ve read a couple books that talk about jesus dying on a cross.  but how and when do you bring home these enormous realities? 

rest in peace, nemo.


January 22, 2008 Posted by | family news, theological pondering | Leave a comment