Archived entries

we are a family (a little love for the vineyard)

I’ve spent the better part of the last week traveling – trekking out across the wild frontiers of the American Northwest – connecting with the worship community within the Vineyard tribe.

A couple observations:

We are a mixed bag

We are diverse with respect to age, race, political philosophy, and spiritual heritage. We are lead in a significant way by both women and men. We are urban, suburban and downright hillbilly (I can say that because I am a hillbilly). We are liturgical and we are free-form spontaneous. We are both mega and micro church, with most of us somewhere between. We are musicians, classically trained, club crafted, and bedroom beginners. We are every tribe, tongue and nation.

We are the same

In the midst of radical diversity there lies a genetic similarity. We are presence people – those whose identities have been birthed, shaped and formed by the tangible presence of God. We have experienced God and his kingdom, neither of which have been isolated to books or intellectual concepts – when we gather, every time we gather, they are present realities. God’s presence and the in-breaking of his kingdom are the glue that holds us all together, and at the same time they are the basis for so much of the diversity that exists in our tribe. In the kingdom of heaven unity is base upon diversity rather than conformity and this reality is expressed in vivid detail within the Vineyard. We are every tribe, tongue and nation – citizens of a kingdom come, and kingdom yet to come.

We are family

We are a tribe. We are family. We are relatives. There is a reason that Paul refers the the church as a household and Timothy as a son. The people of God are a family. Our strength is not in our marketing, our ‘corporate culture’, or our leadership hierarchies. In a time when pastors have often become CEO’s and church has become big business, it is refreshing to belong to a family.



friends and family

‘A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity’

Proverbs 17:17

Life is really complicated. There are a lot of other adjectives that would have worked there, but few that capture the gravity of it all like ‘complicated’. Right now, all around us, really amazing and utterly heartbreaking things are taking place. Babies are being born, grandparents are dying, products are being sold, cars are breaking down, single moms are graduating, alcoholics are going to rehab, kids are watching t.v., judges are making decisions, dream homes are being built, fathers are being laid off – the tides of hope and despair roll in and out, seemingly beyond anyones control, held firmly within the grip of a distant moon.

Woven in the middle of this wild tapestry is a delicate thread, that by appearance, looks too weak to be of consequence, but in reality holds it all together, keeps life from dissolving like disappearing fog in the rising sun. It is the golden filament of friendship and family, common as a penny, yet rare as gold coins from a sunken, Spanish sailing ship.

We need each other. The good kind of life is the shared kind of life. God himself models this kind of living by being a sweet community within himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This isn’t just high-minded theology, or saccharine sweet sentimentalism, its the way real life works. Family is born out of naked friendship where nothing is hidden and everything is shared.

Yet more and more of us live isolated, lonely lives – a sort of modern leprosy that drives us further and further apart, until we live are, finally, all alone. Even when people are around, even when our iPhones are blowing up with text messages, even when the calendar is full – alone.

Sweet community, while most definitely heavenly, is not always easy because this sort of friendship, this kind of family, the kind that loves at all times and is born for adversity requires a vulnerability, a transparency that can be downright unnerving. But for those who risk, there is reward.



the lyrics of your life

Let me begin by getting a couple of things clear here at the get-go, as a disclaimer of sorts:

1) My life has been profoundly blessed, shaped, enriched (insert any number of endless positive adjectives here) by the modern worship movement. Parts of it bother me, but I’m learning to be more generous – and that’s not even the point – point is, my life with God has been strengthened because of what has happened globally with the worship industry. (“worship industry”, thank you capitalism.)
2) I am a part of that industry, albeit, in a majorly, minor way. I’ve had a few songs published, but hardly anyone knows them or sings them, thus, majorly, minor.

I was sitting in my office a couple months ago reading the book of Exodus, and in a moment that has become all too common, a passage that I had read no less than a dozen times previously, hit me like a loaded dump truck – one filled with awe and laughter.

The passage was Exodus 15, which is the basically the song that Moses and Miriam sang immediately after they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground and the greatest military in all of the world was drowned behind them.

Side note: What would posses the Egyptian army to actually go into the sea after Moses and the Hebrews anyway? Wouldn’t the dry ground and walls of water on the left and right actually be a deterrent? I mean, you have to know how this thing is gonna end right? Had they already forgotten about the river of blood and the frogs and the flies and the death angel?

Side, side note: Therein lies the problem with being deceived – you don’t actually know it.

Side, side, side note: God please be gracious to me!

Side, side, side, side note: one day I’ll have a band called Moses and the Hebrews

Take a minute and read it. I timed it – you can do it in less than three minutes. Click HERE.

Now, Imagine singing those lyrics at your church on Sunday morning!

2 “The LORD is my strength and my defense; 
he has become my salvation.

That’s a great line! Things like this are probably sung a million times all around the world every Sunday morning.

3 The LORD is a warrior; 
the LORD is his name.

That’s a little different, but I like it. It’s fresh. Yeah, fresh! And the men will love it – they have had to sing too many sappy love songs to Jesus anyway.

The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.

The deep waters have covered them; 
they sank to the depths like a stone.

Is this the sign that we’re becoming a hardcore church? Are we all gonna have to wear eyeliner and scream till our vocal chords are raw hamburger? Are we moving out a few chairs for the mosh pit? Is Billy Corgan gonna be the new pastor? (did I come of age in the 90’s, yes I did – 10 points for noticing)

Imagine singing this at your church on Sunday – with all the visitors – right before communion.

Now imagine singing this with Moses and Miriam and a couple million of your best friends looking over an ocean that has just become a tomb for your enemies!

Experience makes all the difference.

Sometimes I wonder if the lack of creativity, both melodically and lyrically, within the church isn’t because we’ve failed to write out of our actual life experience? David wrote “the Lord is my shepherd” because those happened to be the the lyrics of his life.

I wonder if insecurity keeps us from seeing God in our midst while fueling copy-cat, derivative song ideas and lyrics?

Will there be threads of similarity? You bet! We’re all worshipping the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but his workings in our lives and in our churches are as diverse as the stars in the sky.

A couple more questions

What is God doing in your life? In the life of your church?

Where has there been victory in your life? In the life of your church?

What has caused you tears? Where is the pain?

Wherever God is working, wherever there is victory, wherever there are tears – there are songs! Don’t be afraid to write them!



face to face

Church culture is obsessed with leadership – our bookshelves sag beneath the weight of the subject. Oddly enough, almost all that is written is about ‘being’ a better leader, while precious little is given to ‘making’ leaders. The subject that’s being bought and sold might not really be leadership at all, but rather, how to get a whole bunch of people to do what you want.

Donald Trump is famous for a reason. He is a caricature of our own heart, the fleshed out reality of our own secret hopes. Nothing else could explain how someone as obnoxious and pompous could have such a large audience for so many years. It is evidence that our thirst for power has few limits.

This is not to say that leadership is bad. That’s just ridiculous. If anything significant is to happen there will be a leader somewhere casting vision, assembling and organizing talent, and shaping the process along the way. Shots have to be called, even if simply for the sake of efficiency. Leaders dream. Leaders gather. Leaders take risks. Leaders impart courage and boldness. Leaders provide a plan. Leaders make things happen, and that’s a good thing.

The issue for those leading the church is simple – what is our supreme value? Simply leading? Or the God we are supposedly following?

It’s easy to get caught in the swirl of bigger IS better and becoming a ‘more influential’ leader. It looks good on the outside, but I wonder if some of this zeal isn’t just another thick coat of whitewash on the tomb of our existence.

In a church world where pastors have more and more in common with Steve Jobs or Donald Trump than with Jesus the Good Shepherd certain passages pop off the page.

Exodus 33:12-16

12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

No question that Moses was a leader – he had hundreds of thousands if not a few million people in tow, but the strength of his influence wasn’t found in his natural abilities – he stuttered – or the books that he had read – he was more of a writer, in stone to be exact, but in the company that he kept – namely the presence of God.

No question that Moses was a leader, but I, for one am struck by Moses the follower! Cloud by day and fire by night with Moses right behind. His counsel came from his face to face encounters with God in the tent of meeting where ‘anyone could go’ (33:7) but apparently, only he and Joshua went – the mark of real leadership within the church is going where few dare to go, not necessarily deeper into books or across the country to another conference, but into the very presence of God!

Whatever you lead this year, let it be from a place of being led – from the place where ‘anyone can go’ – before God, face to face.



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