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Creating Environments of Worship

We are all affected by our surroundings in one way or another.  It either has a positive affect on us or a negative affect on us.  To help you understand this let’s look at a couple of examples:

Imagine you go to 2 restaurants.  One has paint coming off the walls, the table is kept from rocking by some cardboard shoved under one leg, a dead fly is on the table when you sit down, the menus have some sort of sticky residue on them, and you’re treated like you’re intruding on someone else’s time.  This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat.  You order a steak, but you’re not certain that’s what they brought you.  The end result is that your experience was less than perfect.  The other restaurant has just the right lighting, not too bright, not too dark.  You’re treated like you’re family.  The menu’s are clean.  The tables are clean. Everything seems to be good.  This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat.  You order a steak.  It’s just what you were hoping for and as a result you’ll definitely be back.

Imagine you go to 2 hotels.  One was built in 1970.  It was modern in it’s day, but over the past 40+ years it’s lost its’ appeal.  The burnt orange  carpet is no longer ”fancy”. The dark paneling is dented and scarred from years of guests coming and going.  Even the clothing worn by the front desk personnel is dated.  It’s almost as if you walked back in time to 1970.  It’s really no longer a relevant environment.  And you’re hoping that the bed is newer than 35 years old.  The other hotel was built the same year.  The difference is that it just underwent renovation to bring it up to date.  It will still serve the save purpose.  It’s just a little more relevant.  A fountain and greenery were installed in the lobby.  Large tile floors, abstract painting, new furnishings and much more were included in the renovation.  You can immediately feel a sense of relaxation when you walk into this environment.

The truth is that we make our choices of restaurants, hotels, even where we want to watch a movie because we like the environments that are there.  Environments are important to how we respond to situations.  This is true for our worship as well.  As far back as Genesis, we find environments of worship being created.  In Genesis 8:20, Noah built an altar for a sacrifice to God.  This had to be built before he could worship.  We also find that Solomon built the temple.  Following God’s leadership, he built it with only the best gold and precious jewels. Nothing was spared.  This was to be the house of God.  The environment had to be suitable.  We even have current examples of environments of worship.

Today, God doesn’t dwell so much in a place as much as he does within us.  However, to be able to reach the world that we live in we must be aware of the importance of environments.  The world around us uses a variety of gadgets, computer graphics and technology to communicate in large environments.  Because of this, we have to be aware that what we do in an environment of worship is important.

Our goal is to create worship environments that are appealing, relevant, changing and current.  Probably the best example of what we attempt to accomplish is our own homes.  When we have people over, we attempt to make them feel welcome and comfortable as our guests.  We put our best foot forward by making sure our house is clean (usually).  We want the decorations to look good and for everything to be in its’ place.  We don’t hold back!  It’s only the best for our guests.  And we may even surprise them with a few unexpected things.

So what does this mean for us as we develop environments of worship where we are?  How do we create a relevant environment for worship and what exactly does that mean?  There are a few things that are important.

1.  The People.  We need people who are contagious.  This is the most important aspect of setting our environment.  Attitude counts!  We’re not a looking for a fake personality, but a genuine excitement for what God is going to do.  From the time people arrive on any day of worship, we set the stage for worship.  A Guest Services team should be ready to greet people at the door to invite and encourage them to worship.  They create an environment in the refreshment area and meet and greet people there.  Praise singers, audio visual, children’s workers, instrumentalists, greeters and others all play a vital role in creating an environment of worship.  That’s why people are a vital key to a successful environment.

2.  The Decorations.  Cleanliness is important.  We should have an inviting place to come and worship and for our guests to come and worship.  Don’t be afraid to change things up.  Create fresh looks by using new banners and graphics.  Change is a good thing because it helps keep us from falling into a rut or a routine.  We set the stage for our environment by providing a visually stimulating environment.  Everything works together.  Those who work on cleaning the property, maintaining the property or decorations all work together to help create an important aspect of our environments …

3.  The Gadgets.  We live in a technical world.  Any concert you go to is maxed out with lights and sound and visuals that are top of the line.  Check out the computer graphics in movies these days.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished by the stoke of a key on a keyboard.  To reach this computer driven age, we must be relevant.  Our technology and audio visual is important in creating a relevant and current environment.  It’s important to realize how these just aren’t extras if we want them anymore.  They are things that are expected as much as hymn books were expected in many churches.

4.  The Unexpected. Everyone likes being entertained.  Although church is not “an entertainment”, it’s not intended to be boring either.  One of the main reasons people go to different concerts, movies and more is because they’re looking for the unexpected. So let’s plan to be unexpected in what we do when we worship God.  We can change our flow of worship, change how things are presented, and even change how things look.  As we create the unexpected in our worship, we must always stay true to the truth of the Bible.  That is one thing we cannot change!  Scripture demonstrates that God has been worshiped in a variety of different ways throughout history.  As we do things that are unexpected, it allows us to worship God in fresh ways.

We need to realize that we all have a role in creating an environment of worship whether we’re the Pastor or have just been worshiping for a short time.  Because of this, we need to plan ahead.  What attitude do we need to have? What needs to be cleaned up?  What needs to be changed or added?  What are some creative things that can be done to engage people in worship?  How can we have a sense of worship that is contagious?  Everything we do works together to create an environment of worship.  Our Worship involves the whole body.  Once the environment is set, we can let the worship begin!

5 Important truths for a Spiritual Leader

A few years back I was reading a book on leadership by John MacArthur.  In that book there was a statement that leadership wasn’t the ability to manage people or details, but the ability to inspire others to follow.  It went on to communicate that leaders don’t exist without followers.  This thought challenged me because I had always been a good “manager”, but had to start evaluating how effective I was at being a leader.  As I started to think through this, some areas started to become obvious to me as a pastor.

1.  We are not managers, but Spiritual Leaders.  A manager can direct traffic in any organization simply by conveying a list of things that need accomplished.  As spiritual leaders, we have the opportunity to move people from following out of a sense of obligation, to following because they believe in the goals we set out.  We must convey the goals and the overall vision in such a way that it inspires people and motivates them to become something more than they could ever have imagined.  We can’t just do this with good, persuasive words.  It must be accompanied with much prayer and discernment on our part.  We should see that, as spiritual leaders, we must spend time daily with our Leader and Lord.  This should be a priority in our schedules if we ever hope to accomplish anything for Him as we lead.

2.  Relationships Matter.  A manager can function apart from any real relationship with those that are managed.  Again, it’s simply conveying a list of things that need to be accomplished and the people who do it are just a means to an end.  As a spiritual leader, we must follow the example of Christ in what we do.  If we examine how He was able to have such a broad impact, we can see that He invested His life in people through relationships.  We can look at His relationship with the disciples and see that these were the people He poured into.  How were they able to go on and turn their world upside down? It’s because they had been inspired by their leader through their relationship with Him to become leaders of others.  We should make it a point to invest in the lives of the people and leaders we lead.

3.  Direction Matters.  We must be able to cast a vision for where we are going.  For those who follow, they want to know that what they are doing has value.  They want to see that it accomplishes an overall purpose or goal.  No one likes busy work.  No one wants to look back and see that they have just been working in circles and have nothing to show for it.  We must constantly remind those we lead where we are leading them to.  What is our purpose? How will this grow the kingdom? How will this impact the church? How will it help those who are hurting?  As we have one on one conversations with people, lunch with people, meetings with groups, we must always restate the vision in different ways and in different settings.  This allows us to remind them, as well as ourselves, where we are going.

4.  Grace is necessary.  As a manger in the work force, I would often find myself in situations where policies were broken by employees and action would have to be taken.  There were often times where I had to go in and demote people or terminate people from their positions because of their actions.  But as a Spiritual Leader, it’s not just a matter of enforcing policies. Although, we do desire that people work within the boundaries laid out.  We must be consistently communicating with those we lead.  If there is a situation or confrontation that needs to take place, it must be done in grace.  This doesn’t mean that we allow people a free pass to do whatever they want or to work against the vision or direction of the ministry.  It simply means that we are not the judge and jury.  We all do the wrong thing sometimes and we need people to come into our lives and lovingly guide us and correct us.  In these times we should follow Matthew 18 and talk with those who may have offended us one on one.  I have discovered that some clear communication at this time can go a long way to restoring and refocusing everyone on the overall vision and direction.  I’m reminded of Peter’s denial of Jesus at the cross.  Jesus knew it was coming, but it must have been devastating to Peter.  But Jesus showed him grace and Peter became one of the key leaders in the early church.  Grace can go a long way.

5.  Truth matters.  We should always be honest as we lead.  Everyone wants to follow those who have a strong character and live in integrity.  Grace is important, but it must always be measured with truth.  If someone is living in sin and/or refusing to follow spiritual leadership it must be confronted sooner rather than later.  If we sweep it under the rug or just hope it will go away, we can actually do more damage than addressing the issue.  We shouldn’t confront people in anger, but in truth.  If our emotions are high, we must take some time to pull away and pray.  It’s amazing how some time alone with God can change our perspective on situations.  Often, it becomes less about us and more about Him.  When this happens, we can address people from the truth of God instead of a personal agenda.

These aren’t intended to cover everything about Spiritual Leadership, but is a good place to start.  Just working through these has reminded me of some areas that I can focus on more in order to be a better leader.  What are some thoughts on Leadership you might could add to this?

Be Yourself

I’ve often thought about how amazing it is that God made each and every one of us unique.  I know if it were me doing the creating, once I got to a good design, I would make a lot of duplicates.  But God not only made us unique, but is glorified in our uniqueness.  But too many times, we get caught in the cycle of being someone that God did not make us to be.  We try to be like a friend, our pastor, our dad, our brother or someone else we think has it all together.  Because of this, we aren’t living in our sweet spot.  I like to think of my life like a suitcase.  When I’m getting ready to go on a trip, long or short, there are a few things that I consider as I pack my bags.  The first thing is my destination.  I pack according to where I’m going.  I’ll pack differently for going to a place near me or going overseas.  The second thing is the season or the weather.  I pack according to the time of year.  Is it going to be hot or cold?  I also consider things that I may enjoy on any trip.  Is it a business trip or a casual trip? Will I have time to read? What else can I do in my downtime?

The truth is, if we were to all pack for the same trip and then compare bags, chances are great that there wouldn’t be any two bags alike.  We take care in packing and put a lot of thought into it and a lot of it is based on who we are.  We can’t live out of other people’s bags.  It doesn’t work that way.  The clothes wouldn’t fit, the extra’s wouldn’t match what we enjoy.

God has done the same thing with us in our lives.  He considered our destination and the timing and even considered what we may enjoy.  He packed each one of us to be who he created us to be.  Because of that, each of us are packed differently.  We may have some similarities, but not one of us in here are exactly alike.  That’s God’s plan.  He doesn’t want us to all be alike … he has intentionally created us to be different.  We would find it difficult to effectively use the tools and gifts that others have been given.  But it becomes easy to use the ones that God has given to us.  Instead of running from who we are, we should be excited about how God has made us.

A key thought through all of this is that when your uniqueness meets with God’s purpose, everyone benefits!

I’ve discovered 4 reasons in scripture to be yourself.

I Corinthians 12:14-18 tells us, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

  1. You belong.  Belonging means that you’re connected to something bigger than yourself.  Because of that, you have a responsibility that fits with who God made you to be.  Belonging lets us know that we’re not a solo act, but part of a bigger plan.  God didn’t create us to act independently of others, but to be involved with others.  If we want to thrive and succeed as we journey through life, we must discover our place of belonging in the body.
  2. You are unique.  This is because of who you are.  God made you on purpose.  You were no accident.  You have a reason for being.  He has given you abilities, relationships, experiences and gifts that make you who you are.  Because of all of this you are uniquely gifted to do exactly what God wants you to do.  Your characteristics, background, upbringing, perspective, and skills are different than others.  This is not a bad thing, it’s a great thing for everyone.
  3. You are valuable.  Because of what you can do for the body.  You can serve God best with who he has made you to be.  Many of us are ‘fans’ of church and we love to watch what God is doing through our church.  But we cheer from the sidelines and never set foot on the field.  God didn’t create any of us to be a bench warmer.  He made you to get in the game and fulfill the role he equipped you to do.
  4. You serve a purpose.  It’s no mistake that you are where God has placed you.  God has arranged each of us in the way he wanted us to be.  You have a purpose.  Because of that purpose, you have a job to do.  This is best done as you discover who you are and work hard at being yourself.  When you realize your purpose you can serve with a purpose and a passion that only comes from God.  When you realize that you serve a purpose in His church and you step up to fill that role, you glorify God.

I Peter 4:10 tells us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Gods grace to others.”  This should be our goal.  Our gifts are not for ourselves, but for others.  God gets the glory when you be who He made you to be.  He takes pleasure in seeing you be you.  When you don’t fulfill your role in the body of Christ, the church is crippled.  Other parts of the body have to carry the weight and are used in ways they weren’t designed to be used.

The question to ask yourself today is what are you going to do with who God made you to be?  You may feel ordinary, but God has made you to be extraordinary.  He has placed value on your life and gifted you uniquely to fulfill a roll within His body.  You serve a purpose! When you don’t we’re crippled.  When you don’t, you can’t give Him the Glory.

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