Too Many to Jail

Let me start by saying Too Many to Jail by Mark Bradley is available until April 5 for just $.99 on Kindle – and you need to order it now by clicking here.  The book tells the story of the Christian church in Iran – a country where you’d expect the church to be dieing – but to the contrary, Iran is the country with the fastest growing church in the world, growing at a rate of nearly 20% every year!

In the book Bradley provides several chapters that give a brief overview of the history of Iran since the Islamic Revolution, with an eye towards explaining both Christian persecution during that time and the growth of the church.  He goes into detail regarding five house churches, and the book really is a study of the growth of the house church movement in Iran.

Rather that provide you with any further details about the book, though, I’d like to share what the book has forced me to think about – and reminded me of.  Overall, it has led me to reflect on my own witness for Jesus (0r lack thereof) – I’ve had to ask myself, “Why is it there are so many people in Iran who are willing to go to jail, be tortured, or even die for sharing the Gospel and I’m afraid to talk to people here in America?”  The boldness of these believers is both inspiring and convicting.

The book also addresses why people are so open to Christianity (and, honestly, why do I assume they aren’t open to it here?)  The biggest reason?  It’s really simple: the primacy of Jesus Christ.  Bradley writes, “Ask an Iranian why they are attracted to Christianity and the answer is often very simple: Jesus Christ” (p. 104).  It makes me wonder, why don’t people in America say that?  Is it because we’ve done a lousy job of showing them Jesus?  Several times in the book Bradley wrote about how in the house churches Christians told others (evangelized them) simply what God had done in their own lives – it is the story of testimony.  Yet here in the American church we struggle to get people to even see the movement of God in their lives, yet alone tell others about it!  There’s also an emphasis in the book on the practice of church discipline in the Iranian church: “[The church] is particularly string in two areas: sexual relations and gossip” (p. 131).  The process?  People who fall in these areas are first warned and asked to live pure lives, but if they continue they are asked to leave the church.  It’s that simple.  And do you notice the two that have been picked?  Wow!

The other reason the church is growing?  Christians aren’t afraid to share Jesus with people!  Even in the presence of persecution, Christians share the good news:

“The policy for Christians who do not actively threaten the status quo of the Shia state is discrimination, which often leads to the ordeal of emigration…It is true that many hard-line Muslims in Iran interpret the Sharia law as demanding death for male apostates and life imprisonment for females.  Hence, in more colorful publication,s the impression can be given that a Muslim in Iran who becomes a Christian spends every waking moment in fear of being murdered or dragged of to a kangaroo court to be sentenced to death.  However, even Iranian officials can be uncomfortable with this image and there is no record of any Christian facing that sort of treatment in Iran – as long as they are quietist and not active at all…The issue is that many Christians are not quietist” (p. 165-6, emphasis mine).

Read that again – if Christians in Iran would be willing to put up with some discrimination (political, economic, etc), they could live their lives without fear of torture or murder.  But even know that they do not remain quiet but insist on sharing the good news of Jesus with non-believers! Bradley also writes, “One man closely involved with house churches made this striking comment, ‘The people are so open that you can get away with anything in evangelism if you go about it the right way.’  In other words people want to hear about Jesus, and if approached in the appropriate way they will make a commitment” (p. 147, emphasis mine).  Why aren’t the Christians afraid to suffer persecution for the sake of Jesus?  Apparently they actually believe what he said, and they believe it enough to risk it all – but they’ve also found that when they share Jesus with others people actually respond by also taking on the risk of following Jesus.

When was the last time you heard anyone in America talk like that?

Overall I’m giving this book 5/5 stars – if you’re willing to confront your own fears about sharing Jesus with others.   If you’d like to check out an excerpt before spending the $.99 for the book (see link at top of page) you can find one if you click here.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.




Me-Centered Worship

I have just finished reading the story of the Exodus – where God takes on Pharaoh and miraculously delivers his people from Egypt by performing 10 wonders (or plagues, depending on which end you are on!), culminating in the awe-inspiring parting of the Red Sea.  Having been working through this for a couple of weeks now, the drama has continually been building up to the point where the people finally experience the full salvation of God from the hands of Egypt and get to watch as the Lord destroys the Egyptian army in the blink of an eye when they find themselves at the bottom of the sea.  And then we arrive at chapter 15 of Exodus:

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said:

I will sing to the Lord,
for He is highly exalted;

This seems so simple, and I’ve written about it before, but for some reason it jumped off the page at me today.  Here in Exodus we have the first recorded song in scripture, and I want to spend a minute looking at just the first line.  Do you notice why the people sing?  It’s because “He” is highly exalted.  Other translations say it’s because “He has won a great victory” or “He has triumphed gloriously”, but what is important is to notice that it’s because of Him.

Seems simple enough, yet as I thought about this I reflected on how backwards we have it in our culture.  Our culture is so self-focused and me-centered, that we really think worship is about us.  Not just in our songs (I’d be curious to take modern worship songs and even old hymns to count the number of times “I” or “Me” is mentioned rather than “Him”, “He”, or “You”), but in our attitudes.  Why don’t we sing in church?  Here are some reasons I’ve heard and continue to hear:

  • I don’t like the style
  • I don’t feel like it
  • I can’t sing very well
  • I can’t hear myself (it’s too loud)
  • I hear the person next to me (who can’t carry a tune and distracts me)
  • I don’t like the song
  • I don’t know the song
  • I can’t sing this song – it’s too hard
  • I _________________ <fill in the blank>

It’s me-centered worship.  Two years ago I wrote specifically about men singing in worship services, and it still irks me.  Our worship shouldn’t be dictated, determined, or driven by us (preference, emotional state, etc).  Our worship is to be dictated, determined, and driven by the God we serve.  Look back at Exodus 15:1 – the people sang to the Lord for the sole purpose because he deserved it.

Not convinced yet?  Think it’s easy because they had just experienced the miracle of the Red Sea crossing?  Take a look at these verses (which I also read today):

Psalm 61:3, “for You have been a refuge for me, a strong tower in the face of the enemy.”

Psalm 62:1-2, “I am at rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.”

And then look at Psalm 63:1-8

God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
I thirst for You;
my body faints for You
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
So I gaze on You in the sanctuary
to see Your strength and Your glory.

My lips will glorify You
because Your faithful love is better than life.
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
You satisfy me as with rich food;[a]
my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

When I think of You as I lie on my bed,
I meditate on You during the night watches
because You are my helper;
I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings.
I follow close to You;
Your right hand holds on to me.

Look again at verse 4…. David says he lifts his hands why?  Because he feels like it?  Because the key change in the music demands it?  No, he lifts his hands because of God’s name.  In other words, because of God.

Worship isn’t for us, it’s for Him.  And it’s not for Him because we feel like it, but because he deserves it (and he deserves it whether we feel like it or not).  Recently I listened to a sermon by a former pastor of mine who now serves at A2 Church in Birmingham, Alabama and was so profoundly challenged and encouraged by it I forwarded the link on to the band leadership and the general leadership at my church (groups of which I’m involved).  Of particular interest to me was the 2.5 minute excerpt between about 3:25-6:05 where the pastor starts talking about the importance of Sunday.

And here’s my conclusion based of my reading and as I reflect on the sermon linked above (which I encourage everyone to listen to): until we can see for God for who he is, until we can set aside ourselves in worship, until we can deeply and truthfully begin to comprehend that the resurrection of Jesus means something beyond ourselves and our personal salvation then our “worship” will always be me-focused and me-centered.  Until we walk into church and realize that we don’t sing because we want to or because we feel like it but rather because God deserves it then worship in our churches will always be driven by performance-ism and have a self-centered focus.  In short, if you can listen to just the first 6 minutes of the sermon linked above and NOT have an overwhelming, emotional, and fully human response leading to awe and amazement, then you need to examine and reflect on who you think God is and what your relationship to him is like.  Worship isn’t driven by us and who we are, it’s driven by God and who he is.

We don’t worship for any other reason that because God deserves it.  To not worship for any reason is to suggest that God is undeserving and our feelings, thoughts, and attitudes are higher than he is.  And the word used in scripture for considering something higher than God (giving worship to anything but him) is idolatry.


A Response to Mark Gungor

Last week a friend of mine shared Mark Gungor’s post titled Attention All Worship Leaders. Musicians and Singers.  In it, Gungor identifies four “big problems when it comes to music” in the church today.  While I agree with some of what he says in the post, I believe he’s completely off base in a major way when he talks in big terms about the role of music leaders in the church.  Some of what he says is, well, just down-right disheartening and, to be quite honest, I’m glad I don’t attend his church – and if I did, I think after reading this post I would have to seriously reconsider whether I did or not.

My major disagreement with him starts fifth paragraph of his second problem.  He writes,

In my church, musicians are on the stage for one reason: They can sing or they can play—period.  They are not pastors, apostles, prophets, evangelists or teachers—they are musicians. They hold no special status like that of an elder or deacon. Quite frankly, their spiritual status is of little matter and in some cases, not required at all.  We don’t put the musicians on our platform through a spiritual filter anymore than we would ask that of the construction workers who built the building.    We do not hire a construction worker based on the condition of his heart, but on the status of his skill.  So it is with our musicians. (emphasis mine)

I can not disagree with him more.  The spiritual status of the musicians on his stage are of primary importance.  Gugnor’s position here reflects a key misunderstanding of the role of music in worship.  Let’s assume for a second that everything is about the music.  If that’s the case, then Gungor’s position is perfectly defensible and even understandable.  If what you are looking for is people to lead and perform music, then, yes, find the best musicians you can find regardless of their character.

But, if you are looking for worship leaders to lead people then character is the utmost importance!  Here’s the point: worship leaders are not called to lead musicthey are called to lead people.  Now that doesn’t mean they have to have “special status like that of an elder or deacon,” nor do they have to be “priests of worship” or have a special “anointing” or “power”.  What they do need to understand, though, is how to relate to people.

If you think I’m misunderstanding him, read these excerpts from his post:

It is always ideal and preferable to have a committed believer lead the music; one who understands who God is and what it is we are trying to do.  But at the end of the day they are up there for one overwhelming reason: They have musical skill….Again, our singers and musicians are up there because they can sing or play—period, not because they have some unique Old Testament version of an “anointing”. (emphasis mine)

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not suggesting that you can put someone on stage with no musical skill who has a deep walk with the Lord, because both are needed.  What I am saying, though, is that musical skill does not trump one’s walk with the Lord or their leadership ability (though one’s walk with the Lord should certainly trump musical skill, contrary to what Gungor says).

While he’s got plenty of other statements in his blog post that I disagree with, my point here is not to go line-by-line in rebuttal of his position.  I will ask this final question, though, and I’d honestly love to hear (or read) the answer…  Gungor writes,

[C]onsider this: Many (if not most) of the musicians you hear on Christian recordings are not believers in Jesus at all.  Some of them, frankly, are quite accomplished heathens and pagans (I know—I’ve met them).  You think when you hear that big string section on your favorite worship CD that they are all committed followers of Christ?  Hardly.

I’d like to know who he’s talking about here – which artists that I listen to are accomplished “heathens and pagans?”  I’d honestly like to know.  This is not something you can say without actually backing it up with some truth.  And I’m curious, has Gungor called them out on their “heathen and pagan” practices?  Does he pray for them?  Has he challenged them?  Has he brought other believers in to hold these people accountable since due to their hypocrisy they will actually suffer even more in Hell than if they just lived in open rebellion to God?

Again, Gungor’s position is, at it’s heart, a basic misunderstanding of the role of the worship leader in the church.  If leaders are called to lead music then, yes, he’s spot-on in his arguments.  But leaders are called to lead more than music.  They are called to lead people.  And that, Mr. Gungor, is a completely different role than the one you apparently desire at your church.

If you’re looking for proper perspective on the role of the worship leader, I would recommend avoiding Gungor’s post and instead reading the post entitled 4 Characteristics of Great Worship Leaders by Laura Singleton.

My Prayer for Newtown

Father, I’m not even sure what to say.  I know you grieve over what happened yesterday – I know that you are a good God and that you took no pleasure in watching this happen.  I also know that you are sovereign and you are in control – even though the world seems out of control.  I believe you are strong enough to have stopped this from happening, and I don’t know why you didn’t.  But I believe you are big enough to handle that question without being offended.

I also know that I’ll probably never get an answer to that question, at least on this side of heaven.  And, for some strange reason, I’m okay with that.  So I don’t want to talk about the why, I don’t want to try to understand, because, at the end of the day, there are 20 dead kids up there in Connecticut and 6 dead adults just from that school.  That’s a lot of families that are hurting right now because their loved ones didn’t come home last night; those parents weren’t able to snuggle with their sons and daughters and tuck them in last night, they didn’t get to see them take a nap in someone’s arms today, nor did those kids wake up to discover “the elves” had returned.  And those families are hurting.

They need help, Jesus.  They need love, they need peace, they need hope – in short, Lord, they need you.  So I’m praying right now that you would supernaturally rain down on them – do something, Lord, to bring peace to chaos, hope to despair, and love to the hurting.  Father, move your people who live in Newtown to pour out your love to these hurting people.  There are no answers, there are no explanations, there are just hurts – hurts that seem beyond healing.  Hurts that never should have been.

I can’t fix this, Jesus – none of us can.  We can’t bring these kids back from the dead, we can’t undo the madness of yesterday.  In fact, we can’t even do anything to prevent this from happening again.  We’ll try – I’ll try – but at the end of the day it seems that if evil wants to rear it’s ugly head then evil will rear it’s ugly head.  And that, quite honestly Lord, just down-right sucks.  I know in the end you win – I get that; I know and believe with all my heart that one day you will “wipe away every tear” from our eyes, but right now there are hurting people, people who have lots of tears and lots of holes in their hearts, and that promise you gave has yet to be completely fulfilled.

And it’s not just those who lost a loved one, Lord – it’s everyone up there that was affected by this tragedy.  There were over 600 kids at that school – SIX HUNDRED KIDS, Lord!  That’s 600 kids whose lives will forever be changed, six hundred kids whose innocence has been shattered.  Every one of their families will now fear sending their kids to school, wondering, “Will it happen again?”  I’ve read the comments on the blogs, on Facebook, and even on the news stations.  People are scared.

And you know better than I do that when we get scared we do only a couple of things.  One is to react irrationally and do crazy things.  Another is run away from you because, well, we’re mad that this happened and questioned how you could allow it.  The other is run to you and just collapse in your arms.  Father, I pray for each of the families that are affected by this tragedy that they would run to you, Lord.  Let them know that you are crying, too – that you hurt because what happened is bad and evil and it was never in your plan.  Let them know, Lord, that this is not something you did or wanted to happen, that this is an example of something happening on this fallen world that is outside your will.

And, Father, I also pray (and perhaps I’m praying this even more than anything else), that you’d smack your people upside the head so we don’t say or do anything stupid.  I read in horror what people write about you – people who claim to believe, know, and follow you.  The things they say about you and this situation break my heart (and I have to believe they break yours).  They blame you, they say you caused it.  They’re so busy arguing over your involvement (or lack there-of) in this tragedy that they’re forgetting to reach out to those who are hurting.  They’re not listening to the broken-hearted, Lord, too many of your people are preaching at them, complaining about things like video-game violence, R-rated movies, ease of obtaining a gun, and the like.  It’s not that those things are unimportant, Lord, it’s just that right now is not the time to discuss them.  You told us in your word that for everything there is a season, and the season for those conversations will come – but right now, Father, is the time to weep.  To weep over the fact that these little kids were murdered in cold blood; to weep over the loss of innocent lives of teachers and administrators at an elementary school.  It’s time to weep and mourn, Lord.  Use this, somehow, to bring your people back to you.  There are people weeping right now and we’re supposed to weep with them, Father, but too many Christians are, well, just worried about other things. Let them weep, Lord.  Don’t wipe the tears away just yet because the tears of those who are affected are still there, so ours need to be present too.

And, finally, Father, I pray for those who, tomorrow, will preach your word in churches across this nation.  I know that it’s going to come up in sermons; I know people will go to church tomorrow that haven’t ever darkened the door of one before.  And they’re going to be looking for answers, answers to questions they’re asking, answers that none of us have.  Give those pastors and leaders the courage to say, “I don’t know” when they need to; give them the wisdom to know how to communicate your love and your brokenheartedness to those who hurting.  Don’t let them get distracted, Father, by politics or theological arguments.  Lord, help them just love people and communicate your love to tomorrow.

Jesus, we need you.  We need you because right now we’ve got nothing.  We’re sitting down here, two weeks before Christmas (a time that’s supposed to be about peace and joy and happiness), and we’re crying because laying in front of us are the bodies of 20 murdered kids and six murdered adults and there’s nothing we can do to bring them back.

I take that back, Lord, we do have something – we have you; I have you.  Give me the courage to share you with a hurting world; give me the courage to talk about you and lift you up, to point to you and acknowledge you.  Give me the words to say when I’m asked questions where clearly the only answer is you.  Give me the courage to love those around me and share your love with them, to shower people with the good news that even when I’ve got nothing I really have everything.  Dear God we need you.  My country needs you; all those people up there in Connecticut need you, Lord.  Show us how to share you.  Soften their hearts – somehow, some way – to be open to receive you and know you and be filled by you, because what they’re looking for they will never find outside of you.  Show us, your church, how to share you.

And We’ve Arrived…..Home

Earlier in the calendar year I did a several-part series on our search for a new church, with the last post done in early May.  I won’t detail the number of churches we visited, but I will tell you that we did visit quite a few.  To make a long story short, we have ended up at Discovery Church.  To be honest, I’ve struggled for quite some time with whether I even wanted to write this blog post because I didn’t want to draw attention to any one church or make one of the churches we visited but didn’t end up at look bad (for the record, all of them were wonderful congregations).  At the end of the day, though, I guess I felt it was only fair to give this update on our journey.

We made our first visit to Discovery sometime last March and have actually been in attendance ever since.  We decided over the summer to get involved in a small group, so we joined one, and then this past fall I got involved with the early-morning men’s Bible study as well as their new discipleship class.  After all I’ve written on the subject of finding a church I feel it only fair to say what finally drew us to Discovery.  It wasn’t the music, the service time, the pastor, the people, or any of those things (they all played a part, but they weren’t the “deciding factor”, so to speak).  Quite simply, the one thing that overwhelmingly drew us in, and why we felt like God was sending us there, was the vision.   Again, don’t get me wrong, the pastor is a great preacher, the people are wonderful people whom we’re enjoying getting to know, and the girls enjoy the kids’ program.  But at the end of the day those things are, well, just parts of the whole.  And, to be completely honest, there are plenty of churches that do a good job with those parts (some perhaps even do them “better”).  What we were really looking for, as I look back, was to identify with what held all those parts together.  And that was always the missing part at so many churches we visited: our visions didn’t align.

So what is the vision?  I’m not sure I can tell you the “official vision statement”, but I can summarize it fairly simply.  Discovery church is about making disciples.  And that’s what we’ve been looking for for a very long time.  Lots of churches talk about making disciples, but this is actually the first church I’ve ever been a part of that has a plan in place to do it.  Granted, it’s a plan in infancy, but it’s a plan none-the-less; and it’s a good plan.  The leaders and people at Discovery truly want to connect people with Jesus.

And that’s what it’s all about.  Our church in Florida had a very simple vision: “Changing lives by connecting people with Jesus Christ.”  We saw that start to work its way out before we left, but we weren’t at the church long enough to fully experience it (not because we left the church but because we left the State!)  And I see that same desire at Discovery:  They talk about it every week, they make it obvious in how they structure their organization, and they’ve spent weeks preaching it and countless hours putting a plan in place.  They’ve identified discipleship as having three components: Deepen, Do, and Develop (it’s what we now call the “3-D’s” of discipleship).  They’ve even restructured their pastoral staff to align with the three terms – we have a pastor of doing, a pastor of deepening, and a pastor of developing:

  • Deepen – it’s about deepening our relationship with God and other believers
  • Doing – it’s about serving God and others
  • Developing – it’s about intentionally building relationships with non-believers with the goal of sharing the gospel

I’m not saying Discovery is the only church that emphasizes discipleship or that the way they are doing it is the only way to do it – in fact, I know that’s not the case because when I talk to my strong Christian friends around the country I hear them saying the same things but in different ways.  I’m just sharing that, for whatever reason, this language makes sense to me.  While it’s not been said by anyone at the church (at least that I’ve heard), I get the impression that the pastors are actually working to “equip the saints” to do the work, and that the saints understand they are to be equipped rather than delegate ministry to “full-time, paid” people.  And that’s refreshing.

Am I suggesting all those things I wrote in my previous posts aren’t important?  Absolutely not.  I’m simply saying that they are not the end-all of the discussion.  I’ve said for years that those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus are all in the same church, we just worship in different buildings.  And I believe this so strongly that sometimes I have suggested to people they attend a different church than the one I attend.  For the record, I’ve actually taken some heat for that.

Before I go on, let me be clear: I’ve never suggested to anyone in one of my churches that they needed to leave the church.  I’m referring here to people who are searching for a church and I’ve suggested they try a church, but sometimes my suggestion has been different than where I attend based on their personality.  For example, if someone was not into liturgy and high-church I suggested they attend a contemporary service even though I may have been at a liturgical church at the time, or vice-versa.  I never discouraged people from coming to my church and I always welcomed them if they did.  I am just much more concerned with people meeting Jesus than I am with building my local church.  One would think those two are the same, but, unfortunately, they’re not.  And leaders who don’t get that fact are missing the boat, and they run the risk of setting themselves and “their church” up as an idol.

Which brings me to my point…  I get the sense that our pastoral staff gets this – that it’s not about us but about Him.  There were two churches we visited this year where the pastors actually said from the platform some variation of, “We want you to be involved in a church, and if it’s not our church that’s okay – just get involved in a church where Jesus is taught and lived.”  Discovery was one of them.

It’s not a perfect family, but it is our family.  Continue to pray for us as we figure out the role we are to play in our new family, and pray that we fulfill that role as God desires.  And thank-you for your prayers as we have traveled this journey.


And it Continues…The Singing Men (or lack there-of)

I’ve been tossing this one around in my mind for awhile, discussing it with a couple of people, and even reading other people’s thoughts on it.  So it’s time to throw it out there for people to consider and even comment on.  As we have been visiting churches I’ve noticed a phenomenon I don’t care for – and it really bugs me.  At first I started seeing it only subconsciously, but now that we’re visiting lots of churches I’ve actually started looking specifically for it: do the men in the church sing?  Let me lay out a couple of assumptions/beliefs so you can understand where I’m coming from on this:

  1. Worship is a response to God, as such it is not initiated by us (I’m not even going to link to a specific post on this because I’ve written on it so much – if you click on the tag “worship” you’ll find more posts about this than I can count)
  2. The Bible calls men to be leaders in the church and in the home.  I’m not saying this to down-play the role of women or sound chauvinistic; I’m simply stating what the Bible says (and I’m not going to get into a long drawn-out discussion about it because that’s not the point of this post).  I’m also not saying women can’t hold leadership roles – because they can and do; if you disagree with this statement just bear with me and I think the context will help explain it.
  3. Men, by nature, are designed by God to be initiators; women are designed by God to be responders.  Now, this is a broad (very broad) generalization, but it helps me make my point so I’m going to keep it in here.

You’re probably wondering why I pay attention to whether men sing in church when we visit: after all, shouldn’t I be focusing on God and not the people in the room?  I look specifically because I want to see what the leaders of the church do in worship: what do they model?  I’m not talking the formal leaders (deacons/elders, pastors, musicians, etc).  I’m talking the leader of every household is standing in the congregation – I’m talking about the men.  I look to them because people do what the leaders model, so if men aren’t singing it says a lot to me about the church.

Now as I was researching this topic a little I realized I wasn’t the only one to have noticed this trend over the years – in fact, I stumbled across an entire website dedicated to getting men more involved in church (including singing and worship).  In fact, this website has multiple pages dedicated to helping churches design their ministry to encourage men to participate (at least that’s what they say).  Posts like Men Vs. Praise and Worship or Why Men Have Stopped Singing; they even have a so-called “Guy Friendly Test” for churches to take to see if their culture is too feminine for men to feel comfortable!  Then there’s this page I stumbled upon named “Why Do Men Resist Getting Into Worship?” or one worship pastor’s thoughts from his blog.  Apparently I’m not the first person to wonder about this question.

And these people make some great arguments – saying that music is too feminine, or too emotional, or too performance-oriented.  It’s great reading, but I’m not going to re-hash it here since I’ve provided the links above.  In all honesty, they offer some pretty decent suggestions for churches to consider in designing services that men would feel more comfortable in.

But that’s not what I want to talk about – I don’t want to talk to churches and church leadership (pastors and worship teams).  I want to talk directly to Christian men.  Here’s the bottom line, guys: I don’t give a darn what type of music your church is using – if you don’t like it get over yourself, get over it, and start singing.  Grow up and be a man – stop being a baby and pouting every Sunday morning.  I have been to too many churches in the past four months (at least 8 by my most recent count) and I am sick and tired of seeing men in the service standing during the songs with hands in pockets or arms crossed, lips not moving, and just staring with disgusted looks on their faces.  Do youreally think that when you stand before God after you die and he asks you “Why didn’t you worship me in church” he’s going to accept some lame-a** excuse that “I felt the song was too feminine and emotional” or “I just couldn’t get the tune” or “Singing is for women – I’m a man” or any of the other excuses identified by the writers mentioned above?

We are the leaders, so we need to lead by example.  My girls need to see that men sing – and we sing our hearts out.  Not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us!  Why is it men will do the absolute dumbest things at a sporting event but then check-out when it’s time to cheer for the God of the universe?  Do you think he’s not looking?  Not only do my girls need to see that real men sing and real men worship (so they know what to expect in a husband), but the young boys in churches – two of which will one day marry my daughters – darn well better see what they are supposed to be so they can adequately lead as husbands.  If we don’t do it guys, no one will.

It’s not easy and I’m not going to pretend it is.  Go back to points 1 and 3 above: if they are true (and I believe they are), then worship itself will in many ways feel un-natural for men.  If worship is response and  we are not by nature responders, then we’re going to have a hard time worshipping.  But anyone who says they can’t do it is lying not only to themselves but also to God on High.  If you can cheer for your favorite team you can cheer for your Lord and Savior.  I get excited to see the Cubs play – even though they haven’t won the World Series in over 100 years (no, I’m not bitter!).  I wear hats and shirts with their logo on them – and I don’t even live near Chicago anymore.  And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way about a sports team.  If I can do that for my favorite baseball team I can certainly do it for my Lord.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not equating worship with singing, because worship is so much more than that.  But singing is one of the most visible ways we can worship.  And we don’t worship for others to see us, we worship for God.  Yet at the same time when we refuse to sing we send a very strong message not only to Him but also to those around us.

I mentioned that I look at this because it tells me a lot about a church – and it does.  One of the things it tells me is how seriously men take their walk with the Lord.  Do they really believe what their hearing?  Are they willing to look like a fool for the one they love?  Does the church evaluate what they are doing in terms of preaching and worship (because if all the men are disengaged obviously they aren’t evaluating their effectiveness very hard since they aren’t very effective)?  Do I see men who challenge me to draw closer to God and become more like Jesus?  Do I see men modeling for the boys the type of man I want my daughter to marry?  Yes, I really do believe you can make an initial assessment of the health and vitality of a church just by looking around it to see if the men are singing.  It’s that big of a deal.

So men, this Sunday at church (which for me is in just a couple hours by looking at my clock), stand up and sing.  Don’t worry about how you sound, don’t worry about if you like the song, just sing.  Let your kids see you singing and praising God.  Let others’ kids see you singing and praising God.  But most of all, let God see and hear you singing.  Forget about the lights you don’t like, the music that’s not your style, the song you may or may not know, or the distracting whatever on stage (fill in the blank there: drum set, dancing worship leader, etc).  Just sing to Him and for Him.

It will not only warm his heart, but it will also warm the hearts of those around you.