Episode 104: The Pastor and the Worship Leader: 5 Battles

In this episode we take you to a conversation between Pastor Brady and Pastor Jon Egan at our recent Essential Church Learning Community on the relationship between the senior pastor and the worship leader.

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I firmly believe that this is one of the most vulnerable relationships in the church… it’s an area where the enemy attacks… the key for Pastor Brady and I is understanding that we have different personalities…

If you do not like conflict, you can’t lead… leadership requires conflict… conflict is where the best ideas come from…

I believe that there is an ordained leader to lead the church and that it is not the worship leader… I think the senior pastor is the worship pastor of the church… deciding that early makes things a lot simpler…

Most of the major conflict in the church is just the accumulation of minor aggravations that went unsaid… but if you’ll speak out on the minor issues, you’ll have very few major issues…

One of the things that’s helpful is that you want your worship pastors to feel like they have ownership over the process of choosing songs, but they have to be willing to submit it…

Another battle is the battle for the clock… we shouldn’t go long just because we haven’t prepared… a lot of worship can happen if everyone comes ready…

I grew up in a tradition where 20-minute worship sets felt like a joke… it was a great lesson to realize that every minute, every breath, can truly count…

A lot of the wasted time in worship is not the songs, but the transitional moments that aren’t prepared… if you’re not prepared, you’ll start rambling…

All of us need words of affirmation, but we all need to wrestle with whether we need inordinate amounts of affirmation in order to do our job… how much of the spotlight do any of us really need? 

People are coming to church when their whole world is being turned upside down… people need to know that church is predictable, stable, and safe… and sound and lights can help with that…

This is a highly relational environment, and there needs to be as much relationship as possible between the senior pastor and the worship leader… I don’t just see Jon as a gifted musician and singer… the first thing I see is a remarkable person who I enjoy as my friend and who happens to be my worship leader…

Episode 103: An Interview with Dr. Simeon Zahl – The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Simeon Zahl to talk about how a robust theology of the Holy Spirit can give us better language for talking about the role of experience in the life of a Christian. Grab a copy of his book, The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience here.

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The main thing that drove me to write this book was that Protestant theology had gotten into a false dichotomy: either suspicion about experience or being uncritically accepting of it… I just think we need a better way of accounting for the experiential dimensions of the Spirit’s work… 

I grew up with good Lutheran theology, but when I was in college at Harvard I got involved in the Alpha course… and at the Holy Spirit weekend, a lot of people had experiences of the Holy Spirit that were life-changing… I had been taught that I needed to make a choice between my Lutheran theology and the charismatic experience, but Alpha showed me that wasn’t the case… 

People mean different things when they talk about ‘experience’… but fundamentally, everything is experience… you can’t get rid of it… the thing to do is to try to think well about it…  

The main way the Scripture leads us to think about experience is through the doctrine of the Holy Spirit… the Spirit is the right way of talking about God’s action in the world…  

There’s a story that’s told in the theological academy that the doctrine of justification by faith is a cold, legal, rationalistic form of Christianity… but when you read [the Reformers], you see that it’s all about a kind of experience that you’re being led to… an experience of moving from terror to joy…  

Biblically and theologically, the Spirit is involved in three areas of life: salvation, sanctification, and the mission of the church… these things are not abstract… they are about having our desires transformed so that we desire the things of God…  

There’s a way of talking about the Spirit where when you’re stuck in behavior patterns you can’t change then it must be a sign that you’re not a Christian… that always bothered me… what do we do when there isn’t striking transformation? 

Luther is helpful here… he says you are both a sinner and a saint, which creates room to admit what is true… the gospel creates a firewall against despair… when our attention is on God, things go back into their proper shape… 

We need to beware where we are preaching an idea or a concept that hasn’t been filtered through experience… it will create a disconnect for people…

Episode 102: An Interview with Rich Villodas – A Deeply Formed Life

In this episode we sit down with pastor and author Rich Villodas to discuss his book, The Deeply Formed Life.

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The five values of our congregation are contemplative rhythms, racial reconciliation, interior examination, sexual wholeness, or missional presence… we’re trying to offer these values to the world and to the church as a paradigm of faithfulness to Jesus…  

Contemplative rhythms are not just about slowing down our pace, but also giving ourselves over to God so that we can address the issues of our day from a deeper kind of wisdom…  

We need to resist formational compartmentalization… the evangelical tradition prioritizes right thinking, the Pentecostal tradition prioritizes right experience, and the progressive tradition prioritizes right action… I want to hold them all together… 

The foundation of engaging matters of race is thinking about the gospel differently… if I limit the gospel to a post-mortem status, I’ll miss it… I’ve found myself this past year regularly coming back to the question, “What do we mean when we say ‘the gospel’?” 

I’ve found myself also this past year reframing for people what racism really is… it’s not just an individual thing… we need to look at it from an individual, interpersonal, and institutional perspective…  

We need to think about how our family of origin shaped us with respect to race… to have people reflect on that and name it is painful… but we need to go back to the scene of the crime—where the malformation first took place… 

We also need to practice listening to other people’s experiences “in the bond of peace”… those who have had the privileges of social power must take the lead to listen first and most often…  

I am very hopeful for the church… I’m in conversation with so many pastors who are showing leadership, creativity, and innovation… a willingness to try new things amidst a new reality, and doing it with joy…  

I’m also encouraged by so many people who are investigating the claims of Christ… I’m hearing so many stories about how the pandemic, our current political climate, and the racial hostilities of the past year are pulling people to something deeper and higher…

Episode 101: An Interview with Steve Cuss – Managing Leadership Anxiety.

In this episode, we sit down with Steve Cuss to talk about his book Managing Leadership Anxiety and how leaders can become not only more self-aware but also wise about managing both their own anxiety and that of others. You can learn more about Steve and his work at capablelife.me.

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This book was born out of some measure of personal desperation… from a deep desire that the life I was proclaiming to others was also the life I was living… 

All chronic anxiety is based on false belief and false need… leadership anxiety is what happens to us when we don’t get what we feel we need to be okay… 

One form of this for me was the belief that every sermon I preached needed to be the best sermon people had ever heard… then, whether it went really well or poorly, I became anxious… I was living under a false need…  

There are universal sources of anxiety, where it doesn’t matter how you’re wired, if you’re in that situation, you’ll be anxious… for instance, whenever we are in situations where we don’t know what to do, we’ll be anxious… that’s where a lot of pastors are right now… 

When a pastor is better at eloquently telling people about the love of God than they are at experiencing it for themselves, they are going to hit a wall… 

Burnout isn’t because of workload… burnout happens because we haven’t addressed, for instance, what happens when the critic calls and all of our old “stories” from the past come up… we can’t control whether that will happen, only our response to it… 

What anxiety does is that it tells us a lie… it is spiritual warfare… it’s about the story we tell ourselves and the voice of our inner critic… the gospel frees us from the tyranny of believing these lies… 

The first step to becoming a non-anxious leader is to pay hyper attention to your own reactivity… and then to learn to notice how your anxiety infects other people and how their anxiety infects you…  

I think that we are failing at discipling our people into non-anxiousness… most people are more discipled by their political point of view than they are by Jesus…

Episode 100: Responding to January 6th

In this episode we sit down to talk about the events that transpired in our nation’s capitol on January 6th, what those events are telling us, and how the church needs to respond to it.

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The timing of what happened in our nation’s capitol could not have been worse for pastors… we’re all feeling it… that we didn’t need this… but sometimes we don’t have the luxury of choosing timing… 

What we saw in our nation’s capitol is an accumulation of emotions that have been building up for a long time… it was hard to watch… I want to come out and say publicly that I condemn mob violence in any form… it was travesty, demonic, it was a sin…  

We’ve always told our people to vote and get involved in politics… we’re not a-political… but we also believe that maintaining our witness to Jesus is the paramount thing… we have to maintain the integrity of our witness…  

We need to ask ourselves one primary question: What is it that God blesses? That question leads me back to the beatitudes, which teaches us what God blesses… what we saw at our nation’s capitol is not the beatitudes being fleshed out…  

We cannot choose the ways of the world and get the kingdom of God… if you want the kingdom of heaven to come to the earth, you have to choose the narrow way of Jesus…  

The crucial thing about the way of Jesus is that it’s not quietism… Jesus bears truthful witness all the way to the end… but what he won’t do is he won’t yank the reins of power back…  

At some point it just comes down to having faith: do we believe that God is in charge or not…? Do we still believe that the Holy Spirit is better at changing hearts than we are…? 

I think in this moment, something is being driven out… if we’ll respond to the invitation of the Spirit, Jesus will cast some things out of us…  

The meek will inherit the earth… we’re not trying to protect something that’s already given so much as we are trying to live in a way that positions us to receive what God will one day give… 

What we’re all afraid of is that there’s some identifiable group out there that’s going to take away everything we hold dear…

Episode 099: Extravagant: Discovering a Life of Dangerous Generosity

In this episode we sit down with Pastor Brady to talk with him about his newest book Extravagant: Discovering a Life of Dangerous Generosity. Grab your copy over at Amazon today!

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One of the things that my mom and dad did on four or five different occasions is that they took struggling young men into our home… they fed them and clothed them and helped them get through school… I was marked by my parents’ extravagant generosity…

As people get older and make more money, the percentage of their generosity tends to go down… I think that’s because they get more guarded, more cautious, because there is more to lose… but this is the time in our lives when we can and should be more generous…

The most fun thing that I get to do right now is to give… it’s a joyful experience to take what the Lord has provided me and give it away to widows and orphans…

One of the things I talk about in the book is the beauty of a boring budget… you need a plan for your spending… which sounds awful, but is actually the most important thing… you can’t be generous if you don’t spend less than you make…

A lot of people think that compassion is a purely external thing… but I think it is an internal matter long before the need presents itself… compassion is a cultivated sense of empathy and concern for others…

As I get into my 60s and 70s, I want to be a kind old man… well, that doesn’t happen by accident… compassionate people have made up their mind to be interested in others…

To be honest about our Christian experience in America, most of us live in suburban bubbles and don’t take risks the way the Scripture calls us to take risks…

There are two topics that most pastors don’t want to talk about, and they are the two topics that are wrecking our families: sex and money… money is wrecking people right now… and we need to take responsibility for talking about it from the pulpit…

The moment in our lives when we realized that we didn’t “own” it, that our money was God’s provision, was the moment that our marriage changed… it was a matter of trust… did we trust ourselves or in God…?

Episode 098: An Interview with Dr. Derwin Gray // The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness

In this episode we sit down with our good friend Dr. Derwin Gray to talk with him about his new book, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness. Grab a copy for yourself here.

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In 2014, we were a four-year-old church plant, and I started discovering that regardless of race or social class, people were not happy… so I started wondering, “What did Jesus say about happiness?”

Hiding in plain sight, in the greatest sermon ever preached, by the greatest preacher that ever preached, Jesus (in the beatitudes) teaches us about true happiness…

Jesus outlines eight characteristics that are actually a living portrait of himself… and we are invited to enter into Christ and his story… happiness is not about perpetually having good things happen… it’s about God making us good for the world…

Happiness is the divine birthright of every child born into the kingdom of God… but it is a happiness that is better than feelings… it is something that happens to you as you become like Christ… the beatitudes turn us into people we would want to be friends with…

Jesus is not a product and the church is not a corporation… we’re not selling a product to a group of consumers to help them fulfill something that THEY need fulfilled in their lives…

So much of the modern church has been built on a consumeristic understanding of Jesus… a Jesus that is merely used for what he can give us is not a Jesus that we can adore… and a Jesus we cannot adore is a Jesus we cannot worship…

The good news is that there is a new king, who is the true Lord of all and has launched his kingdom on earth, and now is welcoming us into his kingdom to fulfill the purpose for which we were created…

We will never treat someone above the label we give them… and “neighbor” is how Jesus describes humanity… we are called to treat everyone like Jesus died for them, because he did…

Episode 097: Leadership During Turbulent Times: An Interview with Dr. Ben Witherington

In this episode we sit down with New Testament scholar Dr. Ben Witherington to talk about church leadership during turbulent times.

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My parents were devout Christians and raised me in church… I was there every week and those people really shaped me… and I had some wonderful pastors along the way who were a big encouragement to me…

As I got older, there were a couple years where I didn’t really attend church… the churches seemed very formal… so I wandered until the Lord called me back through some friends into InterVarsity… that did me a world of good during a very turbulent time…

One of the things that is clear to me about right now is that when you have a crisis, you find out which people have a civic religion and which people have a genuine Christian religion… there is a sort of winnowing effect in a crisis, and you find out where people really place their trust…

I think what I want to say to pastors right now is that they need to take half-baked Christians and put them back in the oven… you don’t get to wear the big ‘C’ on your forehead if *this* is what you think about race, disease, etc…

We have a teaching moment right now, an opportunity to raise the level of biblical spirituality and sanctification, because people are struggling… we learn more from trial and tribulation than we do from other times, so: carpe diem—seize the day and let people know how Christians are supposed to behave…

We need more solid, meaty biblical preaching and teaching that’s bringing the text to bear on the situation at hand… a good preacher knows how to do this… I’m not talking about speaking to the issue du jour, but giving people the tools to fight off sub-Christianity…

It is time for us to redouble our efforts to make sure our ministers are well-equipped to equip the saints for the works of ministry…

With fallen human beings, sins like the sin of racism don’t go away; they keep resurfacing… we need to look to genuinely people like (civil rights leader) John Lewis who lived his faith out in day to day life… to Christians who will call us to action…

To the pastors of today I want to say: you are a long way from being finished… read 1 Kings 18 and 19: now is no time to give up; now is the time to redouble your efforts…

Episode 096: 10,000 Fathers

In this episode we sit down with a new addition to our staff, Aaron Keyes, to talk about the mission of his organization 10,000 Fathers and how to raise up worship leaders as genuine pastors in our churches. You can find out more about 10,000 Fathers at worship.school.

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I was never a great musical performer or singer… what I was able to do as a worship leader was to open the Scriptures and invite people to try it out… people came alive to that… I started realizing how rare it was to be led in worship by Scripture…

The stuff that pastors are trained in now is very different than what worship leaders are trained in… the apprenticeship and training that is required for being in pastoral leadership in the church doesn’t really exist for worship leaders…

Big songs will only carry small leaders so far… and that’s what’s happening… but the problem is more with the system—we’re hiring people because they know how to play guitar, and then we’re mad at them because they ONLY know how to play guitar…

The reason we started our worship school was to address this need… my wife and I and our pastor started praying and decided to bring worship leaders from around the world in to come and live with us… we wanted to do discipleship in the context of life together…

We’ve shifted it now to an 18-month thing where people don’t have to move… our goal is to raise worship leaders up who can be elders in the church for years to come…

We’ve had pastors call us to say that having worship leaders who can help them make disciples is such a gift… and that’s what we want to see…

Many worship leaders live with anxiety about their relevance… when they’re no longer relevant, they exit ministry… 10,000 Fathers is trying to equip people so that when their stage value starts going down, their spiritual and practical value to the church goes up…

Worship leaders are easy targets… but most of them want depth and want to be helpful to the church for a long time… most would jump at the opportunity to be equipped for that…

Episode 095: A Conversation on Church Discipline

In this conversation, we sit down to talk about the issue of church discipline, what it is, and why it is so important.

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I have children who are now 19 and 21… I can’t imagine what kind of human beings they would now be without rules and safeguards, without discipline…

When I was a young pastor, we had to subject a man to church discipline… when we came back to church the next Sunday, there was a palpable shift in the air… we had regained the ethos of our community…

Let’s not be surprised: if we start treating people like customers, they are going to start acting like customers… we have a sacred responsibility to make sure that the atmosphere inside our congregations is as healthy as we can make it…

Two of the lenses we can use to think about church discipline are: is it threatening the unity of the church, and is it threatening the witness of the church?

Everything is highly relational and gentle, as the Holy Spirit is with us… we’re not talking about coming in with an iron fist, but about loving one another enough to keep people from going off the cliff…

Jesus doesn’t say “get behind me Satan” because he hates Peter but because he loves Peter… this is part of the ministry of Jesus…

To be holy is to be healthy, so if we’re not concerned with holiness, we’re not concerned with health… church discipline needs to be a ministry of healing…

What we want is our congregation to take ownership of this… this is the Matthew 18 model… it’s not until “step 3” that the church gets involved…

I want 98% of the correction in the church to happen within relationships where trust has been forged… the elders are called in when grassroots correction doesn’t work…

No matter what size of church you have, there is a core group that is helping you lead… your core is like the engine of your car: if your engine is broke, your car is useless…

I believe the reason that most church leaders don’t get involved in church discipline is that they know that the first person to be judged will be them… so they ignore the topic altogether…