Some Guitar Songs in G-Tuning

I started playing in G tuning to spice things up a bit… not that I ever played that well in E, being a hack. For G tuning, strings are tuned to DGDGBD, except “Daughter” which is GGDGBD (The E string is tuned up to G). Keith Richards had the low string removed from his Tele, so he never played the low D.

Some songs in G…

Start Me Up- The Rolling Stones
Brown Sugar- The Rolling Stones
Honky Tonk Women- The Rolling Stones
Tumbling Dice- The Rolling Stones
Daughter- Pearl Jam

Some people might notice that these are not “Christian” songs. When I was in middle school, I had a (cassette) single of “Show Me The Way” by Styx, a song that is an inspiring prayer for more faith. A friend of my mother’s convinced her that Styx was a “Satan-worshipping” band, and I was forced to throw the tape away. A few years later, I read that Willow Creek Church used “Show Me the Way” as a theme song for an Easter service.

In Genesis, God is described as the Creator… as the Original Artist so that everything in the world that is good and true and beautiful comes from God. I’ve heard songs released by “Christian” music labels that were great songs and many more that were subpar, even ripoffs of current pop songs. I believe that the “sacred” vs “secular” labels are artificial categories that often fail to see the Original Artist at work.

If God is the ultimate Creator, perhaps music that is creative, beautiful and soul-stirring is more God-honoring, or Christian, than uncreative, formulaic songs. Perhaps, even if the artist did not intend for the song to be God-honoring, if it’s creative, good, and beautiful, then it’s God’s and should be appreciated as such.

What are your thoughts?

Pastors, Posts I Consider to be the Most Important, Preaching, Uncategorized

Sermon Delivery Tips II

The Sermon Writing and Delivery Tips entries (February 2010) have gotten a lot of hits on my blog, so I’ll add to them from time to time. If you have tips, feel free to click “Leave a Comment” and share them. Here we go…

  • When I use sermon props, I’ve started using a black museum-style pedestal (42′ tall) to display small props during the entire sermon. It sits a couple of feet away from me on the platform, so I can reach it easily when I’m ready to use the prop. Displaying props during the whole sermon builds anticipation as people wonder what you’re going to do with it and also ties the sermon together around a visual image (Rob Bell, The Art of the Sermon). I purchased the pedestal at Home Decorators, and it was a higher quality product than I expected… http://www.homedecorators.com/P/Wood_Square_Pedestal/210/.
  • Small props, even when displayed on the pedestal, can’t be seen in a large congregation. When the point comes in the sermon when I actually use the prop, I put a photo of the prop on the projection screen behind me, so everyone can see it in detail. For example, I’m going to be using a business size envelope with print on it as a prop in an upcoming sermon, and people in the back will not be able to fully see it without a pic on the screen.
  • It’s good to be funny in a sermon, but remember that you’re doing something sacred, and an element of preaching is providing pastoral care to the congregation. My attitude has been a little too cavalier when preaching at times, so I have to remind myself of the sacredness of what I am doing and show that in my attitude. Steve Sjogren writes in Community of Kindness, “Don’t be cute. Be profound.”
  • If you use projection during your sermon, look at the screen occasionally to reference quotes, clips, etc. Looking at the screen occasionally has the psychological effect of joining you with the congregation who are looking at the screen. You and the congregation are experiencing the same thing together.
  • Make sure you properly set up video clips that you’re showing. I have seen pastors who thought it was a cool dramatic effect to play videos without setting them up at all. I thought it just looked dorky and disjointed. Set the clip up so the congregation sees in the clip what you want them to see. Explain to them why you’re showing it before you show it. Then after the clip, unpack the meaning of the clip. Again, clips should only be 1-2 minutes long, so they don’t become the sermon instead of adding to the sermon (Adam Hamilton, Unleashing the Word).
  • Recently, I have put extra material from my sermon on my blog and then referenced my blog in the sermon. I print my blog address in my sermon notes in the bulletin. You can teach people more than you can fit in your sermon by pointing them to your blog.
  • It’s okay to give people homework occasionally (not every week). A sermon might require the congregation to do some reflecting, devotional work, action step, etc. when they get home. That’s a good thing! It keeps them thinking about the sermon after they leave the worship gathering.
  • This is a repeat from the first Sermon Delivery Tips entry. Eliminate repetitive words, phrases or ticks from your preaching. Using a catchphrase in every sermon, saying “um”, clearing your throat, etc. is very distracting to the congregation. Every time you do it, they are thinking about your repetitive habits instead of your sermon content. Be ruthless in eliminating these. Ask for feedback,and when people give you feedback, don’t defend yourself. Just say, “Thank you”. Their honesty helps you, so don’t punish them for it.
  • Vary your sermon structure from week to week. Do you always, or usually, start sermons the same way? Do you use a video clip every week?  Do you use a prop every time? Are your sermons always structured the same way? I used to know a pastor who started every sermon the exact same way. He would give a 2-3 minutes intro then say, “Today, I would like to speak to you on the subject (sermon title)”. If you do not vary your structure and delivery, your habits become the focal point instead of your sermon, and what you think is your “style” becomes a running joke to other people.
  • Think of new creative ways to vary your delivery. I’ve heard it said that’s it’s a sin to bore people with the Gospel!
    • Have the congregation text something to someone during a sermon.
    • Show your Facebook page on the projection screen and invite people to friend you and share questions they have about God.
    • Invite a juggler to be a live illustration for you.
    • Include a live animal in your sermon (put plastic down, so the trustees don’t complain about animals pooping on the carpet. They thought coffee was disrespectful to “God’s house”!).
    • Put up a portable basketball hoop on the platform and have a volunteer shoot baskets as an illustration.
    • Play 3 minutes of a popular TV show (with the volume up) on the projection screen while you preach to talk about distractions in our lives.
    • Have a very good pianist or guitarist play a complicated song as an illustration of the power of discipline and practice.
    • Decorate the platform according to the theme of your sermon (Lifechurch.tv and Fellowship Church are the best at this).
    • Take a trip to somewhere; then use video footage from your trip as an illustration (Adam Hamilton, cor.org)
    • Plant a fake heckler in the congregation (think Saturday Night Live), and interact with that person to illustrate turning the other cheek or conflict management. Mic the person, maybe a local actor, so the congregation knows its staged. It will still be hilarious if done with some intelligence.
    • Make your sermon remarkable- worth your congregation remarking to their friends about (Seth Godin, The Purple Cow). Of course, everything you do should make sense, or it will be just another running joke. Be intelligent and profound.
Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

More Teens Are Fake Christians

By John Blake, CNN


More teenagers embracing watered-down Christianity, author argues in new book

Teenagers see God as “divine therapist,” author says

Teenager: “They don’t want to make sacrifices”

Who’s responsible for inspiring teens? Parents and pastors are, author says

(CNN) — If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of “Almost Christian,” a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.

She says this “imposter” faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

“If this is the God they’re seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust,” Dean says. “Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about.”

What traits passionate teens share

Dean drew her conclusions from what she calls one of the most depressing summers of her life. She interviewed teens about their faith after helping conduct research for a controversial study called the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.

The study included Christians of all stripes — from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can’t talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good — what the study’s researchers called “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

Some critics told Dean that most teenagers can’t talk coherently about any deep subject, but Dean says abundant research shows that’s not true.

“They have a lot to say,” Dean says. “They can talk about money, sex and their family relationships with nuance. Most people who work with teenagers know that they are not naturally inarticulate.”

In “Almost Christian,” Dean talks to the teens who are articulate about their faith. Most come from Mormon and evangelical churches, which tend to do a better job of instilling religious passion in teens, she says.

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.

“If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,” wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.

More teens may be drifting away from conventional Christianity. But their desire to help others has not diminished, another author says.

Barbara A. Lewis, author of “The Teen Guide to Global Action,” says Dean is right — more teens are embracing a nebulous belief in God.

Yet there’s been an “explosion” in youth service since 1995 that Lewis attributes to more schools emphasizing community service.

Teens that are less religious aren’t automatically less compassionate, she says.

“I see an increase in youth passion to make the world a better place,” she says. “I see young people reaching out to solve problems. They’re not waiting for adults.”

What religious teens say about their peers

Elizabeth Corrie meets some of these idealistic teens every summer. She has taken on the book’s central challenge: instilling religious passion in teens.

Corrie, who once taught high school religion, now directs a program called YTI — the Youth Theological Initiative at Emory University in Georgia.

YTI operates like a theological boot camp for teens. At least 36 rising high school juniors and seniors from across the country gather for three weeks of Christian training. They worship together, take pilgrimages to varying religious communities and participate in community projects.

Corrie says she sees no shortage of teenagers who want to be inspired and make the world better. But the Christianity some are taught doesn’t inspire them “to change anything that’s broken in the world.”

Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on, she says.

“We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Corrie says.

David Wheaton, an Atlanta high school senior, says many of his peers aren’t excited about Christianity because they don’t see the payoff.

“If they can’t see benefits immediately, they stay away from it,” Wheaton says. “They don’t want to make sacrifices.”

How ‘radical’ parents instill religious passion in their children

Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens’ religious apathy as well, says Corrie, the Emory professor.

She says pastors often preach a safe message that can bring in the largest number of congregants. The result: more people and yawning in the pews.

“If your church can’t survive without a certain number of members pledging, you might not want to preach a message that might make people mad,” Corrie says. “We can all agree that we should all be good and that God rewards those who are nice.”

Corrie, echoing the author of “Almost Christian,” says the gospel of niceness can’t teach teens how to confront tragedy.

“It can’t bear the weight of deeper questions: Why are my parents getting a divorce? Why did my best friend commit suicide? Why, in this economy, can’t I get the good job I was promised if I was a good kid?”

What can a parent do then?

Get “radical,” Dean says.

She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.

A parent’s radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says.

But it’s not enough to be radical — parents must explain “this is how Christians live,” she says.

“If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”

‘They called when all the cards stopped’

Anne Havard, an Atlanta teenager, might be considered radical. She’s a teen whose faith appears to be on fire.

Havard, who participated in the Emory program, bubbles over with energy when she talks about possibly teaching theology in the future and quotes heavy-duty scholars such as theologian Karl Barth.

She’s so fired up about her faith that after one question, Havard goes on a five-minute tear before stopping and chuckling: “Sorry, I just talked a long time.”

Havard says her faith has been nurtured by what Dean, the “Almost Christian” author, would call a significant faith community.

In 2006, Havard lost her father to a rare form of cancer. Then she lost one of her best friends — a young woman in the prime of life — to cancer as well. Her church and her pastor stepped in, she says.

“They called when all the cards stopped,” she says.

When asked how her faith held up after losing her father and friend, Havard didn’t fumble for words like some of the teens in “Almost Christian.”

She says God spoke the most to her when she felt alone — as Jesus must have felt on the cross.

“When Jesus was on the cross crying out, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ Jesus was part of God,” she says. “Then God knows what it means to doubt.

“It’s OK to be in a storm, to be in a doubt,” she says, “because God was there, too.”

Find this article at:

Posts I Consider to be the Most Important, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

The Level 5 Leader

Jim Collins on Level 5 Leadership (Thanks to Jeff Greenway, pastor of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, for some good convos about Level 5 Leaders)…

Jim Collins video- http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/level-5.html#audio=81

  • Level 1 Leaders are “highly capable people” who can produce results of some kind as individuals, as opposed to leading teams.
  • Level 2 Leaders are team players who can accomplish good things with their teams.
  • Level 3 Leaders organize people and move them toward a goal with some effectiveness.
  • Level 4 Leaders are remarkable leaders and motivators. They lead their people toward accomplishing high goals.
  • Level 5 Leaders do 1-4, but they have reached a rare stratospheric plane of leadership. In short, they embody their cause… and with humility. They are phenomenal leaders, and their movement will live beyond them. Level 5 Leaders are rare in pastoral ministry and in leadership of any kind.

By the way, I think most leaders who think they are Level 4 or 5 Leaders are actually Level 2’s or 3’s. If we’re going to be honest, there are many pastors who are zeros; they cannot lead with vision at all and do not accomplish any meaningful goals. They are easily sidetracked and afraid of conflict.

So, 1-5, what level of leader are you?

(My answer- While many people might call me a 4, I think I’m actually a 3. By God’s grace, I hope to make it to 5 before I’m done. I’ve found that one of the most helpful ways of moving to that next level is seeking HONEST feedback from higher level leaders (like Pastor Jeff), even if it hurts. The call of leadership is too important to be afraid of temporarily getting my feelings hurt.)

Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

Was Jesus a Christian?

It’s taken 2,000 years for us to realize that Jesus was a good Jew who was probably not trying to start a new religion (although His claim to be the One sent from God demands a decision about whether to follow Him or not). So, to understand what it means to follow Jesus, we have to understand Jesus in His Jewish context. Authors like NT Wright and EP Sanders have ben writing about this for awhile. It’s not an overstatement to say that it has revolutionized my faith.

I came across a great book that sheds light on what some Jewish theologians are thinking about God these days (the pic).  Along with it, here are some other resources. Just start with one and see what you think…

  • The Jewish Study Bible
  • Our Father Abraham
  • The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation (a great book to start with)
  • Everyman’s Talmud
  • Jesus the Jewish Theologian
  • The Jewish New Testament Commentary
  • What is a Jew?
  • The Jewish Book of Why
  • The Prophets
  • Jesus and the Victory of God
Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

Cell Phone Ettiquette from Tim Stevens

This is entirely a re-post of a blog entry by Tim Stevens at http://www.leadingsmart.com/.

Wherever You Are…Be Fully There

July 22, 2010 – 7:19 am

Teens get a lot of grief about how much time they spend on their phones. I hear adults say, “They never put their phones down!” or “He is texting non-stop!” or  “I bet she couldn’t live a day without her phone.” But in truth, teens do what teens see. And I see adults every day who belittle others because of bad phone habits.

One day last year I got up before daylight, and spent hours traveling by plane to go across the country for the sole purpose of a one-hour meeting with some leaders for whom I have huge respect. During the meeting, there were several occasions when each of those leaders picked up their phone to read or type. At the same time, they glanced up at me on occasion as I was talking, said “uh huh,” then continued to “thumble” with their phone. I’m not a touchy-feely type of guy, but on that day I felt devalued. I walked away from that meeting purposed in my heart to never do that to anyone.

Here are a few habits I appreciate in others and try to put to practice…

  • When you start a meeting, turn your ringer off and move it away from you. If the screen comes to life when you get a text–then put the phone upside down so you won’t see it. If it is likely to vibrate, then put it somewhere it can’t be felt or heard.
  • If your phone does vibrate during the meeting and your guest says, “Go ahead and take that if you need to” — reach down and silence it without even looking. This communicates to your guest that they are very valuable to you.
  • Don’t buy into the “what if there is an emergency?” line. Rarely does that happen. It’s not a good excuse for having to look at your phone multiple times through every meeting.
  • If you know you will need to be reached during the meeting, let your guest know, “My wife is at the doctors office and may need to reach me, so I apologize in advance that I’ll be taking her call when it comes.” That tells your guest this is an exception–you wouldn’t normally do this.
  • If you are in a meeting with multiple people–follow the same rules. Don’t convince yourself that your participation isn’t needed right now so you can disengage and respond to texts or play your next turn in Words With Friends.We fool ourselves into thinking we can multitask, or that our disengagement won’t be noticed for a few minutes. Not true.

I’m not saying phones are evil or every time you use your phone you are devaluing others. I’m a heavy smart-phone user. Your phone doesn’t need to be out of sight every time you interact with another human. There are times when I’m sitting around with 5 or 6 friends or family members and every one of us has a phone out. That’s part of the 21st century. I think it can actually enhance the conversation and social interaction. But there are times when you have limited interaction with others when you should be ALL there.

It’s about valuing people. And sometimes that means we are looking in their eyes and being fully engaged so we can really listen to their story and hear their heart.

Think about it.