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Archive for July, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve presented an excerpt to my upcoming book, which should be published in September or October.  The book is a real-life story about a group of people who joined forces to force a pastor to resign … using any and all means at their disposal.

The last chapter of the book presents FAQs on this kind of conflict.  In most churches, there are churchgoers who know which perpetrators have launched an attack on their pastor … but to keep their friendship, they usually remain silent.

I’ll divide this question into two parts.  Here’s the first part:

What usually happens to the perpetrators?

Realistically?  Nothing.  Biblically, however, perpetrators must be corrected before they strike again. This can be done by staff members, the governing board, or deputized members.  However, if a transitional/interim pastor is hired after the pastor’s departure, he may have to oversee this thankless task.  (Some transitional pastors are trained to deal with powerbrokers and request absolute authority before being hired.)  Unrepentant individuals who target their pastor sense they are immune from correction and feel free to use the same template with the next pastor.  However, in such situations:

Peace mongering is common. With tranquility and stability reigning as premium values, congregational leaders adapt to their most recalcitrant and immature people, allowing them to use threats and tantrums as levers of influence. Malcontents’ complaints never seem to cease. Unwilling to confront the constant critic, leaders set the table for the unhappy souls to have a movable feast of anxiety.  By appeasing rather than opposing, leaders give control to reactive forces.  Feed them once and leaders can be sure they will be back for more.[i]

As far as I know, no one took action against any non-board perpetrators in our situation.  My counsel to any successor is, “Watch your back.  They know the template.”  Trull and Carter note:

Generally speaking, an incoming minister does not need to fear those who speak well of the predecessor. Those who loved, appreciated, respected, and supported the former minister will likely do the same with the new minister.  The church member of whom the minister should be wary is the one who speaks ill of the previous minister. Those who criticize, find fault with, and express disappointment in the former minister will probably react to the new minister in the same way over time.[ii]

I have to confess, this really bothers me.  For decades, pastors have been told that whenever there’s a major conflict in a church they’re leading, they need to resign to keep the church intact. But why should the pastor leave while those who initiated the conflict are permitted to stay?  I suppose it’s easier to remove one person than many.  And spiritually-speaking, the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, just as Jesus did (John 10:14-15).  But why don’t God’s people band together and ask the perpetrators to leave as well?  If the pastor can find another church, they can find another church – and it’s much easier for them than for him. I saw the highlights of a basketball game in which both players involved in a fight were instantly removed from the game.  Why doesn’t this happen in churches?  Aren’t we rewarding people for their divisiveness without expecting them to change?

If I was a layman and my pastor was pushed out by non-board antagonists, I’d approach a board member and say, “If you confront those who perpetrated this conflict, I will stay in this church.  But if you don’t deal with them, I will leave and find a church where they take Scripture seriously. And if anybody asks why I left, I will feel obligated to tell them.” While this may sound harsh, how can church leaders take no action against those who have driven out their minister?  Steinke writes:

In congregations, boundary violators too often are given a long rope because others refuse to confront the trespassers. When boundaries are inappropriately crossed and people are harmed, no one wants to name the violation.  It’s as if the disturbance of the group’s serenity is a greater offense than the viral-like behavior.  Boundary violators go unattended and suffer no consequences . . . . The lack of attention only enables the repetition of the invasive behavior.[iii]

Your thoughts?


        [i] Steinke, Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, 102.

        [ii] Trull and Carter, Ministerial Ethics, 129.

        [iii] Steinke, Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, 85.

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During the Summer Olympics this year, I’ll be interested not only in the competition, but also in the city where it’s being held … because London is my favorite place in the entire world.

It’s crowded … and inexpensive hotel rooms are small … and the food isn’t all that great … and the weather can change on a dime … and Tube riders can be rude … and you’re under constant surveillance … but I’d rather be in London than anywhere else.

Why?

First, evangelical Christianity came to America through London.

The trappings of London are still Christian, even if the British people are Christian in name only these days.  But much of our spiritual heritage came from the Continent through London and then on to America.

For that reason, London feels like the closest thing to Christian National Park.

Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

dscn0494

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached at what is now known as the Wesley Chapel.

John Wesley Statue in front of Wesley Chapel

Charles Wesley, John’s brother, is also buried in London.  (I haven’t yet found his gravesite.)  He wrote hundreds of hymns, including “And Can it Be That I Should Gain?”, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” and “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Isaac Watts, one of the world’s greatest hymnwriters (he wrote “At the Cross” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” among others) is buried in Bunhill Fields (the non-Conformist, non-Church of England cemetery in The City, London’s financial district).

Tomb of Isaac Watts, Bunhill Fields

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, is buried in Bunhill Fields as well.

Tomb of John Bunyan, Bunhill Fields

John Stott, my favorite Christian author, pastored All Souls Church on Regent Street for many years.

All Souls Church, Langham Place

And Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a master preacher and the pastor of Westminster Chapel near Buckingham Palace, preached there for decades.

Nicky Gumbel, creator of The Alpha Course, still serves as pastor of Holy Trinity Brompton in Knightsbridge.  Even though the church meets in an old Anglican church building, they offer a contemporary service that’s unforgettable.

Holy Trinity Brompton, London

And Handel wrote The Messiah at this house (now a museum).

Handel House and Museum

And then there are all the famous churches:

*Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

*St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

*St. Bride’s Church (the tower became the pattern for wedding cakes)

St. Bride’s Church

And so many more …

Second, London is the place where the British resisted the Nazis during World War 2.

Winston Churchill is my all-time favorite political hero.  Without Churchill, Americans might be pledging allegiance to Hitler rather than the American flag.

Statue of Winston Churchill

You can visit Churchill’s underground War Rooms in London and take photos of everything down there.  I’ve explored the war nerve center twice and find it thrilling to be able to stroll through the rooms where Western Civilization was saved.

Cabinet War Rooms

Even walking down Whitehall (the center of British government) toward Trafalgar Square is exciting.

Whitehall, Center of British Government

Third, you’ll find Beatles’ history everywhere in London.

The place most tourists make a beeline for is Abbey Road.  It’s in a residential neighborhood and doesn’t feel all that special … until you try and stop traffic by walking across the zebra crossing.  (For non-fans of the Fab Four, one of the most famous record album covers in history is when the Beatles were photographed walking across the street together for their last album, Abbey Road.)

Abbey Road Zebra Crossing

But London has many more Beatles’ sights, even though they may not look all that spectacular today:

*Trident Studios, where they recorded “Hey Jude”

Former Trident Studio Building

*Paul McCartney’s London home … just a five-minute stroll from Abbey Road Studios

Paul McCartney’s House, London

*3 Savile Row, where the band played their final concert on the rooftop

3 Savile Row

Finally, I love the general atmosphere of London.

I love the Tube (most of the time) …

Tube Train

and the variety of plays (many relatively inexpensive) …

Theatres in Central London

and the train stations (Charing Cross, King’s Cross, St. Pancras, Victoria Station, Waterloo Station, among others) …

St. Pancras Station

and Greenwich, where official time is kept …

Greenwich Park from Royal Observatory

and the Tower Bridge …

Tower Bridge

and anything to do with Sherlock Holmes …

Sherlock Holmes Pub

and the cultural treasures of The British Library (where they display the Magna Carta, ancient Bibles, scores from Beethoven, manuscripts from Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll, and handwritten Beatles’ lyrics, all in the same room.)

The British Library

I guess the reason I love London so much is that as a kid, it seemed so far away … like I could never, ever go there.  And yet so many of the people and things I loved are found there.  I thank God that He has allowed me to visit the city many times … and I hope to be able to visit many more times in the future.

And every time I watch Sherlock or Spooks, I get to go there again.

So I’ll be watching the Olympics not just for the athletes, but to see places where I’ve spent a happy morning or a leisurely afternoon.

And dreaming about the day when I can go back … even though I do London very inexpensively.  (Burger King and KFC cheap.)

The great Samuel Johnson, compiler of the English dictionary, once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

This is one man who will never tire of London.

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This past week, I was quickly reviewing the terms that people type into their search engines to find my blog.

I have no idea who these people are … I’m just given an updated list of search terms all day long.

Because I found some of them amusing, I thought I’d share them with you.  These are just from the past 30 days:

One person entered, “What is the bible way to replace a pastor of a church that dies?”

Short answer: If the church dies, they don’t need a pastor.

Someone else wrote, “I don’t floss dentist yelled.”

Was the person who entered that phrase a dentist or a patient?  (Floss next time.)

Another person entered, “Suggested baptist hymns to sing at a pastor’s termination.”

Seriously, if a pastor is forced to leave a church, who feels like singing?  (Maybe the way to tell who pushed him out is to listen carefully for who is singing.)

I do have one recommendation, though, if the pastor wants to sing a solo: “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”  Why?  Because the first verse goes like this: “My Jesus, I love Thee/ I know Thou art mine/ For Thee, all the follies/ Of sin, I RESIGN.”

Someone else entered, “When a husband says that you are being too nice to a neighbor.”

I have absolutely no idea how that person ended up at my blog!  I don’t do marriage counseling online.

Another person found me by writing, “Pastors are the problem.”

Not politicians?  Not drug dealers?  Not terrorists?  Pastors are the problem?

They should have told us that in seminary.

Who entered this term?  “Seminary classes on forced termination of ministers.”

Is that class designed for helping pastors avoid termination … or for helping antagonists produce termination?

Hmm.

Someone else entered, “Church conflict over soundboard.”

Whatever this conflict is really about, don’t turn on the sound while people are arguing!

On the other hand, what a great introduction for a sermon!

One person was very bold, entering, “pastor i don’t like you.”

I don’t think that was aimed at me … but someone sure is ticked at their pastor.  Maybe it’s time to find another church.

Here’s a doozy: “How to control a control freak wife.”

That one needs no comment.

And this one?  “what can the church do when their pastor dive the flock?”

Did they mean “divide the flock” or “dive into the flock?”

If some pastors did the latter, they could hurt an awful lot of people.

This one I don’t understand: “gay marriage lord stands forever.”

Is someone the “gay marriage lord?”  If so, who would that be?  Maybe that person is behind all the gay marriage in our country!  Let’s find out who it is!

I don’t get this one either: “how many pastors are freak?”

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say, “23,000,” but what do I know?  That would probably make a great PhD dissertation.

This one makes more sense: “what to do when wife want to leave church.”

You leave!  When wife want to do anything, you do it!

Let me conclude this little exercise by sharing two terms where one followed the other:

“freaks at church”

“Jim Meyer Christian teacher”

That about wraps it up!

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Early yesterday morning, I listened to an account of a man’s legacy being uprooted.

I got up around 4:30 am, pushed back my recliner, closed my eyes, and listened to ESPN on television.

The president of Penn State University had ordered the removal of a popular statue of former coach Joe Paterno from its familiar location.  To hide what workmen were doing, the entire area around the statue was covered up.

When the 7-foot high, 900-pound statue was removed, it was transported to an undisclosed location.

When an adult abuses the vulernable children placed in his care, you can’t explain it or excuse it.  It’s wrong, and the perpetrator needs to be isolated from society so he cannot harm children again.  Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty of heinous crimes and is now wallowing in prison.  He will never come out alive.

God have mercy on his soul.

Apparently Joe Paterno and a few others at Penn State knew about Sandusky’s behavior and covered it up.  What they did was horrible and permitted Sandusky to harm still more children.  If true, there is no excuse for such behavior.

Soon after Sandusky’s arrest, Joe Paterno died.  He has met his Maker and is living for eternity in one of two destinations.  I do not pretend to know where that is.

I was never a fan of the Nittany Lions because they ran the football too much for my liking.  I always preferred to watch teams with a wide open passing attack.  But Coach Paterno seemed to be a good man, well respected if not idolized by players and fans alike.

After the President of Penn State called for the hauling down of Paterno’s statue yesterday, the President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association – Mark Emmert – today imposed strict penalties on the university itself for permitting the abuse to occur.

One of those penalties was the vacating of 112 football victories from 1998 – the reporting of the first abuse incident involving Sandusky – through Paterno’s coaching career in 2011.

Paterno had stood alone as the winningest football coach in NCAA history.  But by wiping out 13 years’ worth of victories, he’s now Number 12 all-time.

I don’t pretend to know everything that President Emmert of the NCAA knows about the Penn State situation.  Maybe the school does deserve their $60 million fine.  Maybe they don’t deserve to go to any bowl games over the next few years.

But should much of Joe Paterno’s record as a college football coach be wiped out?

The coach wasn’t found guilty of illegal recruiting, or betting on games, or stealing opponents’ playbooks … all offenses that would have affected the outcome of games on the field.

Besides, the coach didn’t win those games by himself.  Hundreds of players went to Penn State.  They invested time to learn and practice plays.  They learned teamwork and perseverance.  They sacrificed their bodies for their coach, team, and school.

But now, the NCAA is telling those students that all they did on the field counted for nothing.  Students and their parents and all Penn State fans are being penalized, too … all innocent victims of bad decisions made by others.

In my view, the NCAA is being vindictive.  Joe Paterno is dead and gone.  Although guilty of permitting horrible crimes, the school profited from his football program for years … but now much of that is being erased from the record.

Who benefits by vacating the victories?  Nobody.  Who is harmed?  Tens of thousands of people.

I believe that President Emmert is justified in prescribing severe sanctions against the school … but vacating victories?  How did what happened off the field transfer to football on the field?

I do not worship football, or Coach Paterno, or Penn State … and evidently a lot of people do.  Maybe that culture contributed to the toleration of unspeakable actions … and that should not be tolerated.

But since our society believes that the punishment should fit the crime, I don’t see how vacating victories is connected to the crimes committed.

I welcome your thoughts on this difficult matter.

Here’s a great article on the Paterno statue and his legacy: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf–cemetery-gates-protect-joe-paterno-from-dealing-with-the-consequences-of-his-inaction.html

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Three of the greatest artists of all time in popular music have professed belief in Jesus Christ:

*Johnny Cash, considered by many to be the greatest artist in the history of country music … and who wanted to quit music and become an evangelist until Billy Graham talked him out of it.

*Bob Dylan, almost universally lauded as the greatest songwriter of the past half-century – if not the entire twentieth century – whose conversion to Christ in the late 70s shocked the music establishment who viewed him as their prophet and poet.

*Bono and The Edge from U2 – members of one of the greatest bands of all-time – who are known for turning the last portion of their concerts almost into a worship service.

Each of the above artists regularly incorporates Scripture and Christian ideas into their music.

Keep that in mind as we look at 5 more secular songs you can sing … or hear someone else sing … in church:

Number 5: “Magnificent” by U2

U2 writes their songs almost like parables … and they have admitted as much.  If you’re a believer, you get what they’re singing about … if you’re an unbeliever, you can just enjoy a song on its own merits.  Since Jesus taught this way, it’s a perfectly legitimate way to present truth … but there are always Christians who demand that a truly “spiritual” song include explicit references … and even praises … to Jesus Christ.

But should that be the rule when you’re trying to create art?

How about “Magnificent?”

The second verse goes like this (and Bono raises his hands heavenward at this point):

I was born, I was born

To sing to you

I didn’t have a choice

To lift you up

And sing whatever song you wanted me to

I give you back my voice

From the womb

My first cry

It was a joyful noise

Sounds like a psalm to me … and Bono loves the Psalms so much (he wrote an introduction to a collection of Psalms in England in the late 90s) that U2 even did a song in 1983 called “40” which is based on Psalm 40.

But in “Magnificent,” Bono gets both romantic and theological:

Justified

Til we die

You and I

Will magnify

The Magnificent

The video of the song is itself magnificent:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=u2%20magnificent&tnr=21&vid=4848722374819980&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4848722374819980%26id%3D5ecd467794d80c1930f2eb2b7c9289af%26bid%3DLvqf9JKZbAOcgA%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dYi52HjJbwVQ&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DYi52HjJbwVQ&sigr=11an18dt2&newfp=1&tit=U2+-+Magnificent

When U2 were launching their last album, No Line on the Horizon, they played some songs on the balcony of the BBC building in downtown London … with continual views of All Souls Church across a little street … the church where John Stott was rector for years:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=u2%20magnificent%20bbc&tnr=21&vid=4870064047980609&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4870064047980609%26id%3Df1d5d519940e0b57f3d77c1c26b820be%26bid%3DdncOSq%252fgf90Vlw%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dkHPvrC0eDss&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkHPvrC0eDss&sigr=11ahcc389&newfp=1&tit=U2+-+Magnificent+-+live+rooftop+gig+at+BBC+-+%5BHD+-+High+Quality%5D

Number 4: “Viva la Vida” (Long Live Life in Spanish) by Coldplay

Coldplay’s lead singer, Chris Martin, grew up in a strict Christian home in England, but there is no indication that he has chosen to follow Christ into adulthood.

And yet Martin and his band hit gold with this 2008 song, which captured the Grammy award for Song of the Year in 2009.  Lyrics aside, it’s my favorite tune out of all ten “secular” songs.  On a recent trip, after hearing the song once, my wife asked if we could play it again.  It’s a song I’ve never tired of hearing.

The song is a mini morality tale.  The narrator was once a king … someone in authority … but has since been deposed and sings:

I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning I sleep alone

Sweep the streets I used to own

With an infectious string background, the narrator continues:

One minute I held the key

Next the walls were closed on me

And I discovered that my castles stand

Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

Remind anyone of Jesus’ words about the rich man at the end of the Sermon on the Mount?

The song refers to “Jerusalem bells” and “my missionaries in a foreign field” … the latter phrase being one that someone raised in a Christian church would know.

Then at the end of the song:

Revolutionaries wait

For my head on a silver plate

Just a puppet on a lonely string

Oh who would ever want to be king?

For a Christian, the saddest phrase of all occurs when Martin sings:

For some reason I can’t explain

I know Saint Peter won’t call my name …

What did the king do to merit banishment?  The song doesn’t say, but it’s obvious he fell from grace … an illustration of the biblical idea that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

Our church in Arizona not only played this song during their pre-service music, they also did it as a performance song in their services one weekend.

There are two videos for the song: one that’s a bit edgy, another that’s more conventional.  Here’s the conventional video:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=viva%20la%20vida&tnr=21&vid=4679311676014760&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4679311676014760%26id%3D328d95281bbd59832ac78eb6d72da347%26bid%3DmJOXDdQMNVMIVw%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dezi1J8f8ecA&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dezi1J8f8ecA&sigr=11a6snagk&newfp=1&tit=Viva+La+Vida+Anton+Corbijn+video

Number 3: “When He Returns” by Bob Dylan

When I went online to try and find a performance of Dylan singing this song, I discovered dozens of cover versions, many of them by Christian artists.  This song obviously resonates with many people.

Dylan’s classic album Slow Train Coming ends with this song … with Bob singing and playing the piano alone.  It makes the song that much more powerful.

After Slow Train came out, I preached on the second coming of Christ at my church, and after the message, I wanted someone to sing the song live … but I didn’t know who could do it justice.  Next best option: to play Dylan doing the song while projecting the words, but Christians weren’t used to that kind of thing back then.

So I read the words to the song to the congregation … and they still hold up to this day.  For example:

Surrender your crown, on this blood-stained ground

Take off your mask

He sees your deeds, He knows your needs

Even before you ask

How long can you falsify and deny what is real?

How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?

Not exactly hand-clapping, toe-tapping lyrics … but they make you think.  The song ends this way:

Of every earthly plan

That be known to man

He is unconcerned

He’s got plans of His own

To set up His throne

When He returns

The lyrics are powerful on their own, but when you consider who’s singing them …. wow!

Since nobody does Bob like Bob, check out this video … has to be from around 1980:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqII4nghQoBQA0Kv7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBrc3VyamVwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQD?p=godtube+bob+dylan+when+he+returns&vid=6288DC98DFB07DDD792D6288DC98DFB07DDD792D&l=5%3A38&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4913670861684989%26id%3D75ba4f033e18132eb51bd551a9de484e%26bid%3DLXndfbDfmNyIYg%26bn%3DLargeThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.godtube.com%252fwatch%252f%253fv%253dWW7P7NNX&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.godtube.com%2Fwatch%2F%3Fv%3DWW7P7NNX&tit=when+he+returns+-+Today%26%2339%3Bs+Christian+Videos&c=1&sigr=118ll8dtq&

Number 2: “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables

When I was a kid, I heard scattered warnings that Christians shouldn’t attend plays in the theatre.  Before movies, I suppose decadent ideas were first introduced to the public through plays.

I’ve seen maybe 15 shows in my lifetime, but most of them have made me a better person (although considerably poorer financially).

But the best one of all is Les Miserables.

If you haven’t seen it, the musical is at once inspiring … and sad … and bawdy … and intensely spiritual.

And the most spiritual song in the musical is “Bring Him Home.”

Jean Valjean … a former criminal who seeks redemption while being chased by a relentless policeman (The Fugitive TV series and film were both based on Les Miserables) … sings this song about a young man named Marius toward the end of the show.

God on high

Hear my prayer

In my need

You have always been there

I can’t hear this song without thinking of both my children … my son Ryan because the song expresses how I feel about him … and my daughter Sarah because she knows every word of Les Miserables by heart.

And every time I hear this song … I am moved to tears … primarily because of Jean Valjean’s last 12 words:

If I die

Let me die

Let him live

Bring him home

The song is a prayer … a prayer for safety for a young man who has been standing for what’s right … and a prayer for an old man who is willing to sacrifice his life so the young man can live.

See if you can hold back tears while watching this video of Alfie Boe singing “Bring Him Home”:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=les%20miserables%20bring%20him%20home&tnr=21&vid=4991572973191328&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4991572973191328%26id%3Ddec1445ebacce4afacacb04c4b40a7d1%26bid%3DY6dmx87lSF8v8g%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dUaI9BPKhExk&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DUaI9BPKhExk&sigr=11a04cgm0&newfp=1&tit=Bring+him+home+-+Alfie+Boe+%5BLes+Mis%C3%A9rables+in+concert%2C+the+25th+…

And if you’d like to see a sterling performance, watch the Valjean Quartet … 4 vocalists who have played the part of Jean Valjean on the stage … sing this song together (Sarah loves Colm Wilkinson the most … the first vocalist) at the 25th anniversary of the musical:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=les%20miserable%20bring%20him%20home&tnr=21&vid=5023102315003949&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D5023102315003949%26id%3D8d94db7e2f51a0a212e6f73440837547%26bid%3DyX4%252bTW93AfrLGA%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253ds-0MS72uHSQ&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Ds-0MS72uHSQ&sigr=11arq1pg2&newfp=1&tit=Bring+Him+Home+-+Valjean+Quartet+%5BLes+Mis%C3%A9rables+in+concert%2C+the

Number 1: “Yahweh” by U2

U2 is one of the greatest rock bands of all time … certainly in the Top 10, and arguably in the Top 5.

But would John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, or Robert Plant ever sing these lyrics?

Take these hands

Teach them what to carry

Take these hands

Don’t make a fist

Take this mouth

So quick to criticize

Take this mouth

Give it a kiss

And then the chorus:

Yahweh, Yahweh

Always pain before a child is born

Yahweh, Yahweh

Still I’m waiting for the dawn

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is, in my opinion, U2’s most spiritually-oriented album … so much so that I used to give copies of it away.  “Yahweh” ends the album with a heartfelt prayer … the modern-day equivalent of the hymn “Take My Life, and Let it Be.”

The song ends this way:

Take this city

A city should be shining on a hill

Take this city

If it be Your will

What no man can own

No man can take

Take this heart, take this heart

Take this heart

And make it break

“Yahweh” isn’t necessarily my favorite song from this list … I’m partial to “Walk On” and “Viva La Vida” … but I believe it’s the song that could most easily be done in a church service.

Here’s a moving video of Bono and the Boys ending a concert with a slowed-down (hymnlike) version of the song:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=u2%20yahweh&tnr=21&vid=4821432146853965&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4821432146853965%26id%3Dbcdfeba53d4a80db14bad403ad490c12%26bid%3DBxQx%252b8Dwtq6ijA%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dGkEQS5SJZPU&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DGkEQS5SJZPU&sigr=11adl4aqm&newfp=1&tit=U2+Yahweh+Live+From+Chicago

So that’s my list.  What’s yours?

Check out our website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find Jim’s story, recommended resources on conflict, and a forum where you can ask questions about conflict situations in your church.

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There are moments involving popular music that will remain with me for all time:

*Hearing “Born to be Wild” outside my summer school geometry class

*Hearing the world premiere of “Hey Jude” on the radio

*Hearing “Bad Moon Rising” and “Get Together” while playing flashlight tag on a hot summer evening

*The day the music really died … the day The Beatles broke up

*The day I heard … but couldn’t believe … that Bob Dylan had become a follower of Jesus … subsequently proved by his ground-breaking album “Slow Train Coming”

*The day I bought U2’s album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” … and played it over … and over … and over

*Ditto for “Achtung Baby,” still U2’s edgiest – and best – album

Many Christians make a sharp division between secular and spiritual music.

To them, if it’s secular, it’s bad … and if it’s spiritual, it’s good.

But I think a song is good whether it’s secular or spiritual … and some “spiritual” songs are duds.  (I won’t name any … they might be your favorites.)

I realize that some Christians may not like some of these songs … because an artist hasn’t led a completely clean life … or doesn’t have a clear Christian testimony … or doesn’t attend church regularly.

But I think the songs … and their lyrics … stand up under scrutiny … and it just so happens that secular artists (some of whom are believers, some of whom aren’t) first introduced these songs to us.

I’d like to share ten secular songs you can sing or hear sung in church … five in this article, and five in the next:

Number 10: “May the Road Rise” by Roger McGuinn

McGuinn was the lead guitar player in the Byrds … manipulating his Rickenbacker 12-string guitar to get that “chiming” sound that many of us love so much.

During Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour, McGuinn became a follower of Jesus.  His mission in life is to preserve folk music, and to that end, he sings and records one folk song every month, which he gives away for free on his website.  Many of the songs he produces are old spirituals like “Wayfaring Stranger” and “He’s Got the Whole Word in His Hands.”

“May the Road Rise” is based on an old Irish blessing.  It’s written by both Roger McGuinn and his wife Camilla.  The lyrics tell the story of a couple who enjoys nature, but upon further reflection, also describes a couple’s relationship.

The wife ends up singing this chorus to her husband:

May the road rise to meet you

May the wind be at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your land

May the rain fall soft upon your face

Until we meet again

And may God hold you in the palm of his hand

Here’s the album version: http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=roger%20mcguinn%20may%20the%20road%20rise&tnr=21&vid=4535249882382424&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4535249882382424%26id%3Dfb9d53fbfb040598512c6f9adc4e5de5%26bid%3DMPAUNyIiwUKzdA%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253d5bzCZdB3dT4&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D5bzCZdB3dT4&sigr=11a2fj141&newfp=1&tit=Roger+McGuinn+-+May+The+Road+Rise+Up+To+Meet+You.wmv

And here’s a live version:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=roger%20mcguinn%20may%20the%20road%20rise&tnr=21&vid=4909367311925301&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4909367311925301%26id%3D6b8545d6a9d9698b963c094330b1c115%26bid%3D7a3StV2SL7yk3g%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dwEFo3JJ-fEk&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DwEFo3JJ-fEk&sigr=11aegp3ge&newfp=1&tit=Roger+McGuinn+-+May+the+Road+Rise+to+Meet+You

Number 9: “When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God” by Van Morrison

Van the Man has embraced all kinds of styles in his half-century musical career: rock, pop, folk, jazz, gospel … and a lot of music that remains uncategorized.

He’s also embraced various spiritual paths as well … but at the time this song was released (1989) he seemed to be firmly in the Christian camp … so much so that Phil Keaggy – the great Christian guitarist and vocalist – covered it on his best album, “Crimson and Blue.”

Who writes lyrics like these?

You brought it to my attention that everything was made in God

Down through centuries of great writings and paintings

Everything lives in God

Seen through architecture of great cathedrals

Down through the history of time

Is and was in the beginning

And evermore shall ever be

Nobody sings or writes like Van.  He’s one of the greatest of all time.  If you only know him from “Brown-Eyed Girl” or “Moondance” or “Domino,” you’re missing out.  For me, his best stuff started 22 years ago with “Avalon Sunset” and “Hymns to the Silence” (where Van does a cover of “Be Thou My Vision”) and my favorite Van record, “Magic Time” from 2005.

The chorus:

When will I ever learn

To live in God

When will I ever learn

He gives me everything

I need and more

When will I ever learn

Here’s a live version, although the video isn’t that clear:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19DPp290OEg

Number 8: “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan

Dylan wrote this song of blessing to one or more of his children … maybe Jakob.  If you have a son … or a daughter even … you can’t help but shed a tear when Dylan sings:

May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong

And may you stay

Forever young

Bob isn’t everyone’s cup of tea … because of his singing … but in the opinion of people within the music industry, he’s the world’s greatest songwriter of the past half century.  Check out this clip from the David Letterman Show back in the mid-90s:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIIURP9P2AEA.FH7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBrc3VyamVwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQD?p=bob+dylan+forever+young&vid=ABE07D246FD052C1A129ABE07D246FD052C1A129&l=5%3A21&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts4.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4642190270005259%26id%3Dc1c571d8d76fc0566cfec795ce370b0c%26bid%3DKaHBUtBvJH3gqw%26bn%3DLargeThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.dailymotion.com%252fvideo%252fxpoaxo_bob-dylan-forever-young_music&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailymotion.com%2Fvideo%2Fxpoaxo_bob-dylan-forever-young_music&tit=Bob+Dylan+-+Forever+Young&c=15&sigr=1255p6tln&

Number 7: “Walk On” by U2 (Heroes version)

U2 opened the Grammy Awards in 2002 with this song … and then proceeded to win the Grammy for best record.  Bono and The Edge wrote the song for pro-democracy Burmese prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest in Burma for years until recently released.

This version of the song was performed ten days after 9/11 and broadcast all over the world.  Bono and the Boys could have chosen any song to sing … but they chose this one.  The snippet of their song “Peace on Earth” at the beginning is awesome … as is the chorus that includes Bono’s shouts indicating his view of life after death.

While the song is definitely a political anthem (the album was banned in Burma), it also has spiritual overtones (as most of U2’s songs do), reminding us that:

You’re packing a suitcase

For a place none of us has been

A place that has to be believed

To be seen

Not to sound morbid, but I want this song played at my memorial service someday, especially because of these lyrics:

All that you fashion, all that you make

All that you build, all that you break

All that you measure, all that you feel

All this you can leave behind

Here’s the Tribute to Heroes version:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIAnpetPljkAPGD7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBrc3VyamVwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQD?p=u2+walk+on+heroes&vid=6E681ED83FD0AE0B547A6E681ED83FD0AE0B547A&l=&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts3.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D5044194870231098%26id%3Dd1ea4bc9f58bdac1cf9010fdffd36309%26bid%3DelQLrtA%252f2B5obg%26bn%3DLargeThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253d2Fv-j5iBgKU&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D2Fv-j5iBgKU&tit=U2+-+Peace+On+Earth%2FWalk+On+%28from+%26quot%3BAmerica%3A+A+Tribute+to+Heroes%26quot%3B%29&c=4&sigr=11ag0luga&

Number 6: “Show Me the Way” by Styx

I never became a fan of the long-haired bands of the 70s or 80s … including Styx.  But this song by them is incredibly well-written and sung.

When I first heard these lines over the radio in 1990, my eyes welled up with tears:

All the heroes and legends

I knew as a child

Have fallen to idols of clay

And I feel this empty place inside

So afraid, that I’ve lost my faith

Dennis DeYoung, the group’s lead singer, is a devout Catholic.  He wrote this song for his son Matthew about the struggle to keep faith “in a world so filled with hatred.”  The chorus:

Show me the way,

Show me the way,

Take me tonight to the river

And wash all my illusions away

And please show me the way

The song is probably the best “seeker prayer” I’ve ever heard.  Dennis DeYoung has an incredibly powerful and expressive voice.

The song ends with this memorable line: “Every night, I say a prayer, in the hopes that there’s a heaven.”

Here’s a live version of the song, which I like better than the video:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A0S00Mz5Nv9PIiYA7V_7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBrc3VyamVwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQD?p=show+me+the+way+styx&vid=57FCC9DA7A03482B822057FCC9DA7A03482B8220&l=5%3A55&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts3.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4859691695866138%26id%3D9cd0a6cd09b03f4f688b95f64a680b83%26bid%3DIIIrSAN62sn8Vw%26bn%3DLargeThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dKOgGJK9r_1M&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DKOgGJK9r_1M&tit=Styx+-+Show+Me+The+Way+%281996+John+Panazzo+Tribute%29&c=15&sigr=11aqfq42c&

There are many songs one could choose in this category.  In fact, I made a huge list on iTunes that I whittled down to 10.

You undoubtedly have some nominees of your own.

Before I reveal my top 5 next time, which songs do you think work here?

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Imagine that you have a friend who is married and has two kids.

She’s been struggling with her marriage, and one day, she tells you that she and her husband have separated.

She proceeds to tell you – in great detail – why her husband is 100% to blame for their failed relationship and why she has done everything right … and nothing wrong.

You want to support your friend … to listen to her pain, and be a safe person, and gently offer her advice … but you also know that she’s responsible for at least some of the problems in her marriage.

Here’s your dilemma:

Do you become so empathetic that you side with her completely?  (“You should never have married him, he’s a selfish pig, and you deserve full custody of the children.”)

Or do you share with her biblical principles of marriage?  (“Marriage is for life, you lack biblical grounds for divorce, and the right counselor could help you both rekindle your old flame.”)

As a pastor, I actually relished most forms of counseling … all except marriage counseling.  I discovered that:

*I rarely sensed I was getting the real story from either partner until the third or fifth or seventh session … by which time one or both of them had already quit.   

*I couldn’t watch their real-life interaction at home (like Jo, the British nanny, did with parent-child situations on TV).

*I sometimes suspected that one partner was mostly responsible for the mess … until I spoke with the other partner. 

*I couldn’t form an alliance with either one … I had to be on the side of their marriage instead.

Now let’s apply these ideas to conflicts at church.

*It’s hard to get the real story about a conflict at times.  If you talk to the pastor, you’ll get one story … and if you talk to the pastor’s detractors, you’ll hear another story.

It’s okay to remain friends with one or both parties during a conflict.  Just realize that if you only hear one side, you’ve chosen friends over principles … and when you do that, you’ve lost all objectivity.

*It’s unlikely you’ll be able to watch any real life interaction between the pastor and his detractors.  Most conflicts happen behind closed doors during board meetings or staff meetings … or after those meetings in parking lots or corners of the church campus. 

Most people – especially church leaders – are on their best behavior in public.

Because you can’t witness any conflicts yourself, be careful about publicly taking sides just because one party is a better friend than the other.  You can’t be 100% certain you know what’s happening.

*Be careful about blaming everything on one party … usually the one you like least. 

This is a trap.

I have been a Los Angeles Lakers fan for almost 50 years.  While I deplore their recent trend toward thuggery, I remain a loyal adherent of the team.

Sometimes I’ll watch a game, and I’ll see a player on the Lakers take an elbow or a punch from an opposing player … and my first reaction is, “Throw that guy out, ref!”

Then the TV people show the replay, and I’ll notice that my guy threw the first elbow, or pushed his opponent hard, or was guilty of a flagrant foul … or flopped unnecessarily.

I love my team, but come on … sometimes both parties are guilty … although one may bear more responsibility than the other.

Wouldn’t it be great to have instant replay in church settings?

*Instead of backing one party 100%, isn’t it better to be on the side of truth and righteousness?

So let’s say you’re in a church, and a conflict breaks out between the pastor and a small group of detractors.

Resolve that:

*because you don’t know the full story, and …

*you can’t witness their interactions (or lack thereof) …

*you won’t blame the conflict totally on one party, and …

*you will lobby for the truth to emerge and for righteousness to prevail.

If someone tries to draft you to be on their side in a conflict, simply state:

“I love all the parties involved and wish them well.  But I really don’t know the full truth about this conflict, so I’m not going to take sides at this time.  Instead, I will take the side of truth and righteousness, and I will suspend final judgment until I have all the facts.”

We all want to be loyal companions, but sometimes … as Jesus reminds us … we need to risk appearing disloyal to our loved ones so we can be loyal to greater principles.

I once witnessed a major conflict involving a pastor where sides were quickly chosen up.  You were either for the pastor or against him … there was no middle ground. 

I did my best to point people to biblical truth during the whole sad situation.  While I had feelings about what was happening, I tried to be an advocate for higher principles … even though some of my friends wanted me to take their side.

Once we choose sides, we want to win … and we want the other side to lose.

There are times when one side is clearly in the wrong and the other is clearly in the right … but even then, we want to make decisions on the basis of principles, not personalities.

How do you feel about this issue?

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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