I recently had the privilege of filling the pulpit at Community Covenant Church for four weeks. Rather than creating a series of topical messages, I preached from the Revised Common Lectionary. You can listen to each message below or subscribe to CCC’s sermon audio podcast.
This week, I was invited to do something I haven’t done in a while: to be quiet before the Lord.
I know what you’re thinking. But Mike, don’t you do that all the time? Well…no, I don’t. It’s a common assumption that pastors get up before sunrise every day to pray for three hours, but that’s just not me. I’m a night owl thanks to my mother, and more often than not my prayers are written down, sung, or expressed in an ongoing dialogue between me and God.
That’s not to say that I don’t value traditional silent prayer. In fact, I’d like to cultivate that discipline. But, like anyone, I make excuses for why I
can’t won’t (school is starting back up, my second job is keeping me too busy, some days I just need rest, etc.).
Regardless, on Wednesday I was given permission to slow down and hear from God. I’m spending the week in Denver for a Covenant Orientation class, and our instructors have been starting our time together with daily devotions and prayer. On this particular morning, our instructor gave a brief talk and then asked us to be silent and present ourselves to God.
I quieted my heart and prayed these words, over and over: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”
Lately I have been feeling stress from several areas of my life, so much that sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through everything just to get it done. As a result, I’ve felt my joy slipping. It’s not that I’m depressed or that I have any reason to be sad; it’s just that I feel like sometimes I’m simply existing rather than living into my identity as a child of God.
So in the silence, I asked the Lord to breathe newness into me – and that’s exactly what happened. I felt a peace that I haven’t known in quite some time.
And get this: at the end of our quiet time, our instructor broke the silence by reading these words…
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
– Psalm 95:1-7
God used these words to remind me that he’s in control, he’s got my back, and he’ll take care of me if I let him. I don’t remember if it came to me during my prayer or not, but the words that have stuck with me since then are, “Be still, and know that I am God.” What a gift.
I don’t know what it will look like yet, but when I return to my normal routine I’m going to carve out more time for being silent before God. I want to continue recapturing my joy. I don’t want to rush through my days; I want to experience new life in Christ to its fullest extent!
Between 1998-2000, I published an e-newsletter called United in Christ. As a young teen sensing a calling to ministry but with no clue where to start, I went with what I knew: the internet. I was an avid reader of the Jesus Freak Hideout and a member of several online communities, so I created my own hybrid of the two. I began e-mailing my family and church friends a weekly newsletter containing a hodge-podge of anything and everything “religious,” including my confirmation requirements and random scripture references. Oftentimes, I would unashamedly lift content directly from JFH – but always with attribution! I’ve posted the first issue here for posterity, complete with grammatical errors and even an incorrect scripture reference.
One of my favorite pursuits for United in Christ was interviewing Christian bands. While my journalism skills were nonexistent (I was 14 when I started), it was exciting to reach out to artists that I looked up to and actually get a response. Upon re-discovering my archive of newsletters, it occurred to me that people may actually enjoy reading these “lost interviews” from the bands they listened to 15 years ago.
In all, I scored seven interviews: six bands and one television personality. Rather than edit or correct them, I’ve decided to present them in their original form:
A blues rock band that I honestly do not remember in any capacity. If you know anything about these guys, let me know in the comments.
I saw this band open for Bleach and Viva Voce and they blew me away. I actually still listen to this band from time to time.
Every youth group kid was obsessed with “I’m So Happy” in the late 90’s. As you can tell from the interview, I was no exception.
Leif, the Witnessing 101 Guy
Did anyone else stay up ’til midnight every Saturday to watch Real Videos and G-Rock?
I interviewed this band and I didn’t even own their CD.
See above comment.
This was my most “controversial” interview, as one of my more conservative subscribers chastised me for including Mr. Suttle’s advice about yellow snow 😛
Even though United in Christ was somewhat of a trainwreck, I’m thankful for everyone who encouraged me and put up with me during that time (including the people I interviewed, as I’m sure it was obvious to them that I was just a punk kid). It wasn’t long before my pastor recognized what God was up to and encouraged me to use my gifts in the Church. It’s silly, but I see United in Christ as my first step into public ministry.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as I do!
You did it! You survived the worship leader’s busiest season of the year. Most of us work our tails off throughout November and December preparing for special events and additional services. By the time New Years’ arrives, many of us are exhausted and ready for a break.
But there’s just one problem: you still have to lead worship on Sunday. And the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that. Next thing you know, Easter will be right around the corner and it’s back to the whirlwind.
If you’re not prepared for it, the first few weeks of January can easily turn into a post-Christmas slump. Many are tempted to “phone it in” for the first part of the month, but if the church’s leaders are marked by fatigue or a lack of passion, we fall short of our calling to serve the body of Christ. And trust me, your congregation can tell when you’re going through the motions!
It should go without saying that every time we gather to worship God is important. He deserves our best not only on Christmas, but every day of the year. So if you’re feeling the Boxing Day blues, here are a few ideas to help you ward them off:
SPEND TIME IN THE WORD
If you’re like me, when things start to get busy, one of the first things you put on the backburner is spending time in the Word. It’s easy to justify: with all the extra work required of us this time of year, we’re spending plenty of time reading Scripture! But reading for work and reading for spiritual nourishment are two different things.
If you’ve fallen off in recent weeks, now is the perfect time to get back on track. Spiritual fatigue is far more perilous than physical fatigue, so give your devotional habits extra attention this month.
“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 8:3
GIVE YOUR TEAM A BREAK
On the administrative side of things, try giving your team a break! Working with a cranky worship team can add to the post-Christmas snowball effect. Chances are, you’re not the only one who went over-and-above for your church last month. Reward your musicians with a week off.
For the last several years, I’ve led a solo acoustic set on the first Sunday of January. Not only does this give my team a break, but it gives our church an opportunity to hear each other sing God’s praises in a special way. I used to dread this Sunday every year, but now I look forward to it.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! – Psalm 96:1
TAKE TIME OFF
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is take a Sunday off. Even the most capable worship leaders get tired, so make sure you’re evaluating your spiritual health on a regular basis. Occasionally, our leadership suffers not because we don’t plan well or because our hearts aren’t in it, but because we’re tired!
While taking a week off may not be possible for you right now, try to carve out some additional time for rest in the coming weeks. Sabbath is one of the most important practices for pastors; you can’t serve well if you’re constantly running on empty. And consider planning some downtime for after Christmas next year, especially if you’re feeling extra ragged right now.
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27
How are you handling the post-Christmas season? What works for you? Do you have any traditions or special methods of combatting malaise in the new year? Let us know in the comments!
This weekend, I will be joining a team from Community Covenant Church on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. We will be partnering with Covenant Merge Ministries, an organization that facilitates short-term missions for Covenant Churches.
At CCC, we’ve been asking the question, how can we better partner with God in doing the work of his kingdom? We believe the answer lies partly in what Jesus says to his followers in Acts 1:8: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” For us, this means reaching out in the name of Jesus to our neighbors, people across town, and even people on the other side of the world.
While the Dominican Republic isn’t exactly “on the other side of the world,” some members of our congregation have served there before, and we’d like to continue the work God started with them. We will be serving primarily in Jacagua and Cienfuegos, doing work projects, a music camp, worship team workshops, and general ministry to the community.
We leave on Saturday, August 3rd and return on Sunday, August 11th. During our time away, I ask for you to pray for the following:
- Please pray for the people we meet in the Dominican Republic, that their hearts would be receptive as we speak God’s truth into their lives.
- Please pray for each of our team members, that we might remain humble and work together to do effective ministry: Becca, Brooke, Connor, Jenny, Judy, Leah, Lori, and Mike.
- Please pray for our safety, and for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
I’m very excited for what God has in store for us on this trip! My own involvement is the result of many years of prayer and listening for God’s prompting; I truly believe that God has called me to go on this trip. I’m grateful for your prayers and support! I’ll be sure to post again after the trip is over.