Episode 028: Singing Our Hope

What happens when we worship? How do we select songs for congregational worship that instill hope? In this conversation, Dr. Glenn Packiam talks about what he learned as he researched the expression and experience of hope in our worship.

SHOW NOTES – Episode 028 – Singing our Hope

 

The thing that was most surprising to me in my research was how little the songs dealt with the future… we don’t sing about the future (or the past) all that much… it concerned me that songs about hope had no future orientation…

 

It might be that the spirit of the age is one of the reasons why we don’t sing about the future all that much… it’s a luxury to sing about the present tense when the present is pretty good…

 

There’s a challenge here for pastors and worship leaders to help people see their felt needs in terms of the great need of our lives, which is the hope of Christ…

 

The Holy Spirit is the experience of God’s presence, and many would say that the Spirit is God’s future presence in the now… which is why people who experience the Holy Spirit feel hopeful [regardless of the song lyrics]…

 

Only on paper can you distinguish between hope and comfort… when people say “I feel hope,” what they’re saying is “I have a sense of God’s presence with me”… theologically we’re saying, “The Holy Spirit, who is the deposit of the future—you’re having a taste of him now…”

 

The good songs are not just songs that are true this month… I think we address the realities of our day better by singing about something that transcends our day… it’s great to sing about our present pain, but there’s something about the church coming together to sing about something quite a bit better, higher, and stronger…

 

One of the things we’ve challenged worship leaders and writers with is not just thinking of theology as the fence but as the doorway…

 

I hope that what worship leaders and songwriters hear is that what they’re doing is incredibly powerful and the Holy Spirit breathes on it, so let’s allow him to make our craft the very best it can be… when he breathes on that, how much more could it do?

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Look at your worship set lists from the last 8 weeks. How many of the songs speak of the future hope of Christ? What do you think that says?
  • What are you doing to create space for people to experience the presence of the Spirit in your worship services?
  • What can you do to help your congregants fix the concerns of their lives in the future hope of Christ?

Episode 027: The Bible and the Church Pt 2

In this conversation, we pick up where we left off talking about the Bible. What is it, and how should it inform our lives and ministries?

Episode 027 – SHOW NOTES – The Bible and the Church Part 2

One of the mistakes we’ve made over the last several decades is that we’ve tried so hard to show how the Bible “relates” to people’s lives that we’ve eliminated what is unique, sacred, and divine about it…

 

If the Bible is just generalized life advice, we’ve actually domesticated the Scripture out of use… part of the job is to recover the uniqueness of Scripture…

 

We need to model for people that engagement with Scripture can take many different forms… it is a disservice to people to communicate to people a picture of engagement with Scripture in which it is uniformly ecstatic… sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not… we need to trust that God is in it…

 

As preachers, we need to realize that our sermon might be more Scripture than that person will hear all week long… if there’s any place where we can read lots of Scripture, it ought to be in church…

 

Two things that have been really transformative for our congregation (downtown) was (1) having Scripture readings in the service, which congregants lead… and (2) using the Immerse Bible plan… it is an arrangement of the Scriptures without chapters and verses which helps you become steeped in a section of Scripture… people had never read the Bible in big chunks before…

 

We preach through books of the Bible [at New Life] because there are lots of sticky pages in our Bibles that we never get to, and it’s easy for the preacher to just preach their greatest hits

 

What I’ve learned over the years is the value for the preacher of having “assigned readings”… that’s scary for charismatic preachers… but I’ve found that when you hold an assigned text against the life of the congregation, you will discover connections that you never would have seen otherwise…

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • What are you doing to help you people fall in love with Scripture? What more could you do?
  • Do your sermons model a rich engagement with Scripture? Or is Scripture a “pre-text” for your sermon? How can you start moving in a healthier direction?
  • What is your philosophy of your church’s preaching calendar? Does it help people fall in love with Scripture? Why or why not?

 

RESOURCES

The Immerse Bible

Fee and Stuart – How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth (a simple guide for layperson or preacher to understanding the different genres of Scripture)

Episode 026: The Cross of Christ

A special episode just in time for Holy Week. In this conversation, we discuss the importance of the Cross of Jesus Christ. What exactly do we believe about Jesus’ death and why does it matter? Listen in and enjoy this reflection as we move towards Good Friday.

 

 


Episode 026 – SHOW NOTES – The Cross of Christ

 

The cross is the crux of the whole story, the unexpected plot twist… who could have seen that God would rescue by becoming the afflicted one, by becoming the judged one…

 

Good Friday reminds us of the costliness, the weightiness, the holiness of the sacrifice of Jesus… you can only be prepared to receive Easter Sunday morning when you’ve properly gone through Good Friday…

 

In our generation of outrage, we tend to want the powerful abusers to pay, and Jesus in his death is not just showing solidarity with the victims, but is paying the judgment that we demand to see from the abusers…

 

Sin actually does have a real impact in human life… you don’t just wave a magic wand over it and watch it go away… sin drove us away from the heart of God, and Jesus went to find us… he absorbed the weight of our failure in order to bring us back home…

 

We need to think of sin not just as “doing bad things” but as a power that we were enslaved to… God judged Sin in the body of Christ Jesus and in doing so rescued us from slavery…

 

The powers of the air exhaust themselves on Jesus, who overcomes them by the power of an indestructible life… his victory over them accrues for us…

 

When we talk about God being love, the cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love… which is exactly what Paul says… some distortions of cross-preaching make wrath primary, that it was a demonstration of how mad God was at us… but the storyline of the cross is love, not wrath…

 

Because God is love, he opposes everything that mars, defaces, or destroys us… the expression of that is wrath, but always the wrath is an expression of love…

 

People come into a Good Friday service hurting, and one of the scariest thoughts to me is that those people would think they need to leave that in the car… on Good Friday we can say “There is no place that you have ever been that Jesus has left vacant…”

 

 

RESOURCES

Athanasius – On the Incarnation

  1. T. Wright – The Day the Revolution Began

Fleming Rutledge – The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ

Episode 025: The Bible and the Church Pt 1

In this conversation, we ask a simple and slightly funny question. What is the Bible? Perhaps one of the most taken-for-granted elements of Christian faith, we wanted to dig down and talk about what the Bible is, and what it isn’t.

Episode 025 – SHOW NOTES – The Bible and the Church

How we see this book [the Bible] determines how we approach it… everybody knows they are supposed to read the Bible but we don’t often stop to ask, “Just what is this thing?”

I think the best way to get to an answer [to the question of why the Bible is authoritative] is to begin with the resurrection… the followers of Jesus began to realize that Jesus was God himself meeting us in the flesh and fulfilling all the things he said he was going to do… so it legitimates and culminates the Old Testament!

Jesus claimed Israel’s Scriptures as pointing to him… the reason that this particular book [the Bible] has been treasured is that it bears witness to this Person [Jesus]… when we keep that firmly in mind, it helps keep the Bible vibrant and alive for us… we’re coming in contact with this Person…

The Bible is loved and cherished because the face of the God that we meet in Jesus Christ comes through… and if you just get people into it, it has a way of doing something to you…

If I could pick one paradigm for approaching this book, I would pick the “Grand Story”—it is the story of God working through a particular (not perfect) people… when you treat it that way, it changes how you read it…

This is a Story begun in love and carried through to completion in love… it has power to convert the mind and will and emotions into a different way of being…

There is not a time when I do not open up the Scriptures and find that this is the God who keeps rushing at me to bring me into blessing and to make me a blessing…

There is a way to read the troubling aspects of Scripture through the lens of the Person of Jesus that keeps us firmly in the character of God…

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM
1) Glenn mentioned a few common lenses people approach the Bible with. What is your default lens and why?
2) What would change in your reading of Scripture (or preaching and teaching) if you viewed it as the great Drama of God’s redemptive love?
3) How might viewing the Scripture as a witness to the Person of Christ impact how you read, preach, or teach the Bible?

Episode 024: The Creed

 

What can a centuries-old creed teach us about how to lead our ministries? In this conversation, we talk about how and why our church adopted the Nicene Creed and how it informs and shapes our ministry.

Episode 024 – SHOW NOTES – The Creed

 

Instead of having a unique statement of faith that highlights the ways that we are different from other churches, why not go back to this statement of faith that shows how we are all united?

 

In a world that is drunk on individuality, the Creed sobers us… in a world that loves what is new, the Creed takes us back… in a skeptical world, the Creed helps us say, “We actually believe something…”

 

When people come in and they have doubts and they’re afraid and the bottom has fallen out and they’re not sure if “they believe in,” they can step into a space where the community says for them, “We believe in… and you’re going to make it…”

 

This is a question of “What is our bedrock?”—our bedrock is not our distinctiveness; our bedrock is our unitedness in Christ…

 

If my sermon can’t go through the four stanzas, I have not risen to the level of what a “word” ought to be… the Creed has created an infrastructure for me… these are the safe lanes in which a sermon must run…

 

In some ways, the Creed has taught our people how to pray… sometimes in our minds, there is an undifferentiated way of addressing the Triune God… the Creed helps us there… God is one and yet we can shine a light on each Person…

 

We’re trying to keep the Creed part of a “living liturgy”… and so if at any point we’re doing it just to do it, we need to pause…

 

The presence of doubt is the condition in which faith exists… “We believe” says that these are not sureties but acts of belief and mystery… and “in” says that this is something that invites us to cling to a Person… it is an act of worship… it is intimate…

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Take some time to read the Nicene Creed (go here for one version). What do you notice? What stands out to you?
  • Are there ways that you could begin to incorporate the Creed into your church’s worship?
  • Compare the Creed to your church’s statement of faith. How are they similar or different? In what way would utilizing the Creed as a statement of faith be a benefit to you and your church? A challenge?

 

 

Episode 023: Spiritual Authority

Spiritual Authority is a significant biblical concept that recognizes that God sends people into our lives to speak to us and guide us. In this essential conversation, we talk about the importance of spiritual authority, why people don’t accept it, and how, when it is done right, it can be a beautiful gift.

 

Episode 023 – SHOW NOTES – Spiritual Authority

 

Spiritual authority is an awareness that God has placed people in my life to help guide me to the place that the Lord has directed me… It is because of the frailty of human life that we need people around us to help us see our blind spots…

 

We have created an entire generation of consumer believers who come to church because it’s convenient or feels good, but the moment someone begins speaking directly to them, they flee to the next church down the street… this has damaged the message of the gospel…

 

You only have as much authority as you are willing to submit to… everyone wants to be in charge… but delegated spiritual authority is given to us when we are found trustworthy by the Lord… he can’t trust us with leadership if we aren’t willing to serve our way into it…

 

Jesus was constantly telling his disciples: do not fight your way to the top, don’t demand to be in charge, don’t demand the spotlight… if you want to be great, you must serve your way there…

 

If people are talking more about the person who preached the sermon than on the Christ that was preached in the sermon, you need to flee and go to another place… there is a cult of personality happening in the church now that is hurting us… it’s a sign that the leaders of that church are probably not submitted to healthy, biblical authority…

 

The only way you know whether you are really submitted to authority is if someone can tell you “no”… I have some great mentors in my life, and if any of them told me not to do something, I would hit the brakes… if my wife said to me about something “Don’t do it,” I wouldn’t…

 

The three areas we need input and oversight are: your personal life, your theology, and your money/spending (both inside the church and in your house)…

 

A lot of leaders fall into this trap of being “the God expert,” and so they don’t feel like they have permission to question or doubt or wrestle with the deep, troubling questions of Scripture… pastors need people to bounce [theological/interpretive] ideas off of…

 

The way we spend our money reflects our hearts… pastors are notorious for saying this to their congregations, but often we ask it of ourselves because we don’t have anyone challenging us on it…

 

The devil works in the silences, and when you can invite trusted, wise counselors into the silences, the enemy’s power is broken off of us…

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Does your church have a healthy culture of spiritual authority?
  • Do you have people who can tell you “no”? Who are they?
  • Which of the three areas of accountability discussed in the podcast are most difficult for you? How can you grow in that area?

Episode 022: The Purpose of Sunday

Sundays come around with an alarming regularity. As we plan for our weekly worship services, the constancy of the calendar can inhibit us from stopping to focus on the lens through which we plan or what our end-goal should be. In this conversation, we talk about the factors we consider as we plan worship services that allow people to meet Jesus, to be formed into disciples, and to encounter God.

 

Mission, formation, and encounter are the three broad approaches to worship… I’m of the opinion that we are meant to hold all three of these together in tension…

 

Each service should have elements of all three but there are different elements for each service… for instance, I know that on Easter and Christmas Eve we will be filled with guests… so I need to have a service that day that emphasizes that…

 

At the end of 52 weeks, we should be able to look at our worship and see all three in healthy tension and balance throughout the church year…

 

If you want to make your team a bit uncomfortable, take a look at the songs you’ve sung over the last year and ask this question, “If people’s view of God was formed solely by these songs, what kind of God is that…have we said anything about who he is or just how we feel about him?”

 

By doing weekly communion, it’s made us as preachers preach towards the Table… the end of the sermon is turning to God and asking for his grace again… the gospel proclamation moment reaches the lost, forms the faithful, and creates encounter—somehow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus meets us when we come to the Table…

 

Singing, sermon, sacraments, and prayers should mirror all three of these things… to ignore any of them is to do so at your peril… embracing them helps the church come to maturity…

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • What do you think about the “mission, formation, encounter” grid? Would you add any?
  • Which of the three does your church do best? Worst? Why?
  • What can you do to grow in a balanced approach to worship?

 

 

RESOURCES

Andy Stanley – Deep and Wide

James K. A. Smith – Desiring the Kingdom

Glenn Packiam – Discover the Mystery of Faith

Episode 021: Healthy Transitions

Transition is something that every church staff will experience. What matters is how those transitions take place. In this conversation, we discuss how to facilitate and enact healthy transitions.

 

Transitions can be beautiful if we’ll embrace them… when I arrived at New Life, I arrived in a healthy condition [because of how I was sent]…

 

A lot of times, transitions get messy when people arrive with a predetermined future… but when you come openhanded, you give people a chance to send you into the next place…

 

No one should be punished for exploring other opportunities… if you’re a senior pastor, you have to lead the way in this way…

 

I have found that the greatest joy I have as a leader is finding out what’s going on in the hearts of the people on my team… I want to call that out so that it manifests for the greater good…

 

If you bring up the fact that you’re thinking about a transition [to your leadership], you’ll be able to transition in a healthy way, or you’ll see that your desire for transition was actually a little bit of boredom and you’ll grow more fond of the ministry you’re doing…

 

It’s important not to stay around too long; once your heart has left an organization, you’re not going to give your best… so agree on a timeline that’s good for you and for the team…

 

The onus is on the leader to create a safe environment for people to share their hearts; the onus is on the young leaders to respect and honor…

 

The church is known more for its divorces than its marriages… in the case of Gateway and New Life, it was more like a wedding… Gateway felt it wasn’t losing a staff member but gaining a family of people in Colorado… 10 and a half years later, I still go back there to speak…

 

When I am willing to send out good leaders, I am sent good leaders… the same way we teach about generosity with resources and time, we need to be generous with leaders…

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Is your culture one in which an emerging leader would feel empowered to share about their desire for transition? Why or why not?
  • Are you regularly checking in with members of your team to see whether they are thriving in their current roles? Why or why not?
  • What can you do to create an environment where the emergence of leadership gifts and callings is not threatening but celebrated?

Episode 020: Hiring and Firing

In this conversation, we talk about what we’ve learned about hiring well and how to navigate firing people well, too. Maybe you’re leading a church staff and facing a big decision regarding staffing, or perhaps you’re curious about how a church staff might handle a staffing issue at your church. We hope that this conversation leads to greater health and trust among the staff at your church.

You hire people for where you’re going not where you are… many pastors hire out of a panicked need or a felt burden right in front of them… most of the time, when I’ve hired people from that place, I’ve regretted it…

 

You’re looking for people who can train others… if you want to use the Jesus model, the people that Jesus called close to him were able to multiply others…

 

I have found that character, chemistry, and competency are a good litmus test for the people you are looking to hire… Chemistry is the tricky one… I want to work with friends, with people that I like… when you are shoulder to shoulder doing the hard work of ministry, it is almost impossible to do it with people that you don’t like…

 

We’re not promoting tribalism here… we want diversity… but at the end of the day, we have to enjoy being with one another, even if you look and think differently from one another… the relationship has to be good for both parties…

 

The hardest person to fire in the local church is the guy with high character, who everyone loves, who is just terrible at his job…

 

Don’t keep people in a place where they are not going to flourish… I owe it to them and to the congregation to steward the relationship well…

 

If we remember that people belong to the Lord, then “endings” can be “sendings” where people transition to new opportunities in godly ways…

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Do you tend to hire for where you are going, or where you are? Why? How can you adapt your philosophy of hiring?
  • What criteria do you use in your hiring process? What from this podcast challenged you in that regard?
  • Are you stewarding people’s lives and the culture of your team and church well? How can you improve this through your hiring and firing practices?

 

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Necessary Endings” by Dr. Henry Cloud.

Episode 019: Finding Your Voice In Preaching

In this conversation, Pastors Brady Boyd, Andrew Arndt, Daniel Grothe, and Glenn Packiam (who are all members of the New Life Church teaching team, talk about finding that unique voice that each preacher (or leader) must discover.

The tension is, on the one hand we have to be learners, and yet one the other hand we have to be comfortable with our own personalities…

 

Often when we begin, we find ourselves practicing on templates that have been given to us… the early years are about finding good mentors and people to follow… and at some point down the road you begin to settle into your voice… now, after I’ve done all my study, I always shut the door and say “God, who am I and how does this text live in me…?”

 

The key is finding that place in yourself that needs to be “amplified”… the issue isn’t whether or not you’re learning from others, but whether you’re letting it get deep enough in you is that it comes out of you naturally…

 

You can only really impart who you are, what you’ve lived and embodied in private… public communication has to be birthed from private impartation…

 

There has to be a great amount of humility when we stand up to preach… if we’re not aware of the moment we’re in and the opportunity we’ve been given, we don’t need to be on the stage…

 

All public figures have an idealized self, which can feed our temptation to ignore the darker sides of who we are… Jesus allows us to integrate both sides of who we are and we need to let people see how the grace of God holds all that together… appropriate transparency helps people to see that you are not just an idealized version of yourself…

 

[When it comes to transparency and vulnerability], if you find yourself oversharing from the pulpit, it might mean that you don’t have enough appropriate community around you…

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

 

  • On the spectrum of “learning from others” to “settling into your own voice,” where are you right now? Where do you need to grow?
  • What do you find most challenging about this podcast? Why?
  • Are you living deeply enough in God that you have a surplus out of which to share? How can you improve here?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how well are you and your team doing at modeling appropriate vulnerability from the pulpit? Explain why you gave the rating you did.