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Suggested Reading ...

As requested by a number of you, herewith a few books that I strongly recommend.

The Case for the Psalms:Why they are Essential - N.T.Wright

Journey to the Common Good - Walter Brueggemann

Gagging Jesus: Things Jesus said we wish he hadn't - Phil Moore

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God - Bob Kauflin

The Writings of the New Testament : An Interpretation - Luke Timothy Johnson

These titles I have been able to source through Loot.co.za- happy reading!

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Worship-Leading and Spiritual Transformation. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Sunday, 15 January 2017 11:18

Dallas Willard in his book entitled “Renovation of the Heart” writes that; “We live from our heart. The part of us that drives and organizes our life is not just the physical. This remains true even if we deny it. You have a spirit within you and it has been formed. It takes on a specific character. The human spirit is an inescapable, fundamental aspect of every human being; and it takes on whichever character it has from the experiences and the choices that we have lived through or made in our past. That is what it means for it to be “formed.”

As we discussed yesterday, being in worship leadership necessitates God working His character into our hearts. In so much that we are “formed,” God continues to “transform” us to be more like His Son, Jesus, but, here’s the deal, we must surrender our lives to His transformation. Without that surrender God can do nothing with us. David valued God’ s presence above all and was known for integrity, obedience, passionate worship, his desire to play with skill, and humility before God, all of which is needed in the heart of a worship leader. God desires worship that is both passionate in spirit as well as founded on principles of truth. Skill and art alone do not impress God nor does passion with no boundaries, so we come before God not on our terms or with our methodologies, but in accordance with God’ s regulations and desires.

Remember the words of the Lord to Isaiah; “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13). Our worship is not to be given to God in accordance to the expectations of man, but out of the simplicity of the heart in the fear of the Lord. As worship leaders

We need insure that we are balanced in our approach of God, being both passionate and reverent, dedicated to honouring the presence of the Lord and not the pleasures of man. Extremely important. We sing songs like “Give us clean hands” and my prayer is that we take heed of what it is about – living a godly life. Listen, in case you know it not, worship-leading is an extremely high calling, this not leading songs, this is leading God’s people into a place of intimacy with Him. With this high calling means higher demands with regards to attitude, action, character, and lifestyle. Let’s press pause here in this context. I was called in to mediate a meeting involving a young worship-leader who had chosen to move in with fiancée and had stated that they were sleeping-together. What would your advice have been to the leadership of that church? “But he is such a good musician and singer” the pastor said to me. Let’s be real, all of us have been guilty of assuming that an ‘artist’ is qualified to lead worship because of their skill, but in the end, it is God who qualifies the artist. If you are a leader reading this today, refuse to fall into the trap of promoting people to, not only worship-leading, but any ministry role for the sake of their ability, it is a ‘heart’ issue. Psalm 24:3-4; “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”

Israelson writes that; “Just as God called the Israelites to purity regarding ministry in His presence, we likewise are called to new levels of holiness in Christ Jesus. Artistry, skill, programs, and good works are not sufficient to endear the presence of God; we need to have an authenticity of heart, but at the same rate we cannot ignore the scriptural commandments and examples for how people are to express themselves to God. The worship leader is responsible before God and the people to worship God in both spirit and truth by serving with the gifts and wisdom given from the Lord as well as in sincerity, integrity and obedience. “In Christ there is such a thing as a transformed, well-adjusted, Spirit-filled artist. Imagine what God could do with an artistic temperament that's completely yielded to Him.” What is a worship leader to be? Ever more like Christ as we are increasingly changed to be more like Him..

 
The Character and Spiritual Formation of the Worship-Leader. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Saturday, 14 January 2017 06:56

Psalm 34:8; “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

I was asked to speak to a group of budding worship-leaders once. As I looked around at this group of people mostly in their 20’s and, sadly, mostly male, my initial question was “are you ‘prepared and ready’? A young man holding an acoustic guitar in his lap caught my eye so I posed the question again, this time directly to him; “Are you prepared and ready”? Immediately the group responded; “He’s the best guitarist and vocalist among us, knows all the songs, so he is cut-out to be a worship-leader!”

Of course the response isn’t what makes a worship-leader although many, if not most leaders in churches continue to make this mistake time and time again. Psalm 34:8. Think of David’s life of worship. It “was rooted in his experience of God and because of those experiences he was able to lead the people of Israel into a greater understanding of who God is. In the same way, we as worship leaders must come to know God intimately if we are to lead other people into experiences of deep, meaningful worship where they too can come to a greater understanding of God’ s presence in their lives. Again, we can’ t lead people into this experience with God unless we go there ourselves” (Peter Engle).

So as we progress here it takes far more than just being able to play an instrument and sing well to be in worship-leadership. In fact, if we be honest, if that’s all you bring the result will be entertainment and a performance and very little else. For us to be in worship-leadership will require an intimate relationship with Jesus, and God working His character into our hearts. Character and character-development is an integral part of leading God’s people into a place of intimacy with Him. As with people like David and many others who God called to leadership, with this principle of character development and intimate relationship with Him, were able to minister out of the deep working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. We will deal with the Spiritual Formation of the worship-leader on Monday!

 
Where is Worship Today? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Friday, 13 January 2017 06:29

For those who are in the worship ministry this might be worth reading. I am spending time with a few worship-leaders I have mentored over the years electronically as they are as far-afield as Tanzania and we have all chosen to read Robert Webber’s book “The Divine Embrace” again. You can read an excerpt of that book by clicking the link below here. As our discussion, has progressed it has become clear that in churches today we are sold on playing the latest ‘Top 40’ covers irrespective of whether our congregations know the songs or not and tend to be “situated in the culture and not in the story of God” (Webber). Of course, when that happens, it “becomes focused on the self” and “becomes narcissistic” (Webber). Much of our worship “has shifted from a focus on God and God's story to a focus on me and my story” (Webber).

Our discussion has of course included re-looking at the role of the worship-leader and team. What is their role? To facilitate and lead the congregation they serve into a place of intimacy with Jesus. This means being able to step-aside and allow Him to minister, taking the focus of 'self', and placing it fully on Christ, and not trying to ‘sing over everything’.

We have chatted too about song choice. If our ministry involves leading people into worship (which it does) why do we persist in choosing songs which at least three-quarters of the audience do not know? The result is that folk spend the 30 minutes or so trying to read and follow what is often like ‘sermon notes’ on a screen thereby not being able to focus on Jesus which is the reason they are there. For most, they end up being so ever thankful that they got through it relatively ‘unscathed’ and literally breathe a sigh of relief.

So, here’s the question; Have you ever stood out in a congregation ready to sing your heart out to God and worship Him, and, find that it is rather difficult to do that? So why is it so difficult? Well, besides being faced with songs you have never heard, you encounter renditions that have been so re-modeled that it takes you getting to the chorus (perhaps) to get into the song.

We have discussed too that, secondly, most often it is me-oriented where it seems to be a talent show with members of the team seemingly trying to prove to the audience that they have the X Factor. This is obviously a result of the culturally driven contemporary worship band-wagon that most aspiring worship-leaders are trying to get onto.

As a worship-leader and mentor I toy with this reality so, again, we have chosen to read Robert Webber’s “The Divine Embrace” again an excerpt of which featured in Christianity Today in 2007 which, if you click on the link below here, you will find interesting reading.http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/aprilweb-only/118-13.0.html

 
Kimberley Trip - #UnityThroughCommunity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Friday, 09 September 2016 17:53

I am really looking forward to travelling to Kimberley at the end of September and will be there from the 30th September to the 2nd October ministering about one of the most important facets of the Christian faith, unity. If you reside in the area look out for the advertising and posters to find out where it is all happening. Join us - it will be a blessing!

 
Tell the World. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 07:01

I was reminded by one of my fellow classmates in the Missiology module from my Bachelor of Theology studies of a song I wrote for a presentation. Here it is - inspired by a book by Rose Dowsett. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uR-QKHFdNk

 
Worship Workshop. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Saturday, 30 July 2016 19:05

Click on the link below to find out more about the Christian Worship module and Worship Workshop. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMkIz93tziQ

 
Book Review: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Saturday, 26 December 2015 06:14

Perhaps like you, I, as a pastor and follower of Christ, look around me at what is going on in, for the most part, what calls itself the faith and church today. I too, as Michael Spencer realises as well, worry about the reality of people leaving the church and the church leaving Jesus. Now I am pretty vocal about this and, I must say, I often meet with resistance in this regard, some have even shunned me and that's okay, so it's refreshing to find someone else who worries about it as much as I do. So, prior to posting the Internet Monk's review of a book I am now reading for the third time, herewith a few excerpts from this book. In the first chapter "The Jesus Disconnect" When Church Signs Lie" Spencer writes; "When I hear churchianity-oriented Christians say; "Jesus wants us to build a multi-million-dollar facility to grow into", I'm skeptical. When I hear a church announce, "Miracle and healing revival! The sick cured every night. Bring your loved ones", I have to wonder how they can schedule a miracle. When I hear the church at large say, "We have the mission and vision of Jesus at heart", I ask why it's not more evident." He then, in chapter one, starts to look behind the sign saying; "Behind the Jesus is Here sign are seemingly endless versions of the church-growth obsession that has gripped evangelicalism for more than half a century. No longer do most Christians question the assumption that bigger is always better; God has (apparently) made it clear he prefers a gigantic church with enormous facilities. Sports arenas are converted into worship centres, and (man I love this comment) thousands of pastors can't stop imitating Rick Warren, right down to the shirt.  What would Jesus do if he were confronted with an escalator inside a shopping - mall - sized megachurch? Would he let it take him for a ride?" He goes on; "How long could Jesus remain on his feet when directed to sing fifteen consecutive worship choruses, each one only seven words long and repeated twenty-three times? Behind the Jesus is Here sign are too many pastors with ambitions Jesus wouldn't recognise: ambitions to fly their own jets and put their smiling faces on book covers, morning-commute coffee mugs, and every television screen on the planet. Would Jesus invest in eighty acres of prime suburban real estate so he could build a "campus" as a way to change the world?  Behind the Jesus is Here sign is a health, wealth, and prosperity "gospel" that removes God from the status of sovereign Lord and turns him into a convenient vending machine. Insert a prayer in the slot, pull the lever, and get a great life now. This type of thinking is big among Christians, but it shows very little respect for the omnipotent God who created the universe. Christians who worship the celestial vending machine assume that God is all about giving them more stuff and making them feel better. I wonder if Jesus mentioned promises of earthly goodies to the repentant criminal hanging on the cross next to him." This is a must-read for you if you are concerned about the state and current-thinking about both the church and Christianity today. Herewith the promised Book Review.

Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality has been released! To summarize its main message: It’s time for Jesus’ followers to GET REAL.

This is the manifesto for post-evangelicals. Anyone out there who thinks, “Jesus has left the building”? Michael thought that was the case too often in our American evangelical churches. After decades of working in congregations and Christian organizations, he observed these ironies:

§ We didn’t know what Jesus was like.

§ We assumed that church would make us like Jesus.

§ We didn’t read the Bible with our focus on Jesus.

§ Unlike Jesus, we were often ungracious and unloving to others.

§ Beyond his death and resurrection, we didn’t grasp the meaning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

§ We assumed that Jesus stamped his approval on our way of life.

“Here is the truth,” writes Michael Spencer, “Far from being Jesus-shaped Christians, we were church shaped” (p. 7).

The Jesus Disconnect

Michael points out that there is a “Jesus Disconnect” in the American evangelical church. We advertise that church is the place to find Jesus. Instead, when people enter, they find moralism. Culture-war political rants. Church growth strategies. Pandering to religious consumers. Pastors with egoist ambitions. A “gospel” of health, wealth, and prosperity. A bourgeois suburban ethos of security, safety, and perpetuating the status quo. Programs that are light on genuine spiritual formation and teaching people to actually follow Jesus.

If we spent three years with Jesus, as the disciples did, is this the Christianity we would recognize? iMonk argues that this religion of “being a good Christian” is a far cry from the disruptive, disturbing adventure of being Jesus’ disciple. It’s time to get real!

The Real Jesus

If our lives are going to be shaped by Jesus, and not simply by church culture, we must get to know Jesus. The second part of Mere Churchianity helps us see who the real Jesus is. Spencer gives us a “Jesus 101” course, reminding us of some basic facts about who Jesus is, and what his mission in this world is about.

Jesus’ work of dying on the cross and rising again were, of course, the climax and culmination of his redemptive ministry. However, evangelical churches have often given less attention to the ministry that preceded the Passion.

§ Jesus taught about God’s Kingdom.

§ Jesus practiced radical hospitality and inclusion of those rejected by the religious establishment.

§ Jesus prophetically denounced that same religious establishment.

§ Jesus did not engage in lavish marketing campaigns or focus on impressive “church growth.” Rather, he spent his life in a small place mentoring a few people and turning them into disciples.

§ Jesus called his friends to a life of doing the same and warned them that they too would suffer for it.

Jesus kept it real, and honest, and down-to-earth, while at the same time giving us a vision of a completely new creation!

The Jesus-Shaped Life

The third section of Mere Churchianity points out some beginning steps toward truly following Jesus.

§ It starts with taking a new look at the Bible. Just the Bible. Not the Bible as interpreted for us by the dominant church culture, but the Bible in all its raw beauty and power. Read the Bible. See what it actually says about Jesus. Let Jesus’ words and actions impact you full force.

§ If you want a Jesus-shaped life, choose not to be defined by adjectives that are commonly added to the word “Christian.” Don’t seek to be a “good” Christian or a “victorious” Christian. Just be a Christian. Just follow Jesus. The adjectives that churches and Christian traditions use often signify extraneous demands and expectations that go beyond what Jesus is calling us to be.

§ Be who you are: be real, be honest, be weak, be a sinner and let Jesus be who he is: your Saviour. Don’t buy into  wrongheaded views of sanctification that suggest we will be anything other than sinner-saints who need Jesus’ grace, forgiveness, and present help every moment until the day we are glorified.

§ Realize that “the church” is bigger than its institutional expressions, and that God may lead you out of “acceptable” church culture into forms of fellowship and mission that will enable you to follow Jesus more fully.

The Jesus Community

Finding a group of others seeking to follow Jesus in this fashion can be difficult. A host of people are leaving the church or on the verge of doing so because they can’t find this kind of fellowship. People leave established churches because they often promote being a “fan” of Jesus rather than a “player” on his team. They are also tired of the consumerist style of Christianity that says we can buy the product, take the class, complete the program, and voila¡! we’re followers of Jesus. As a result, many feel alone. And while solitude is an essential part of the spiritual life, we were also designed for community.

Start with yourself, and begin following Jesus in the life you live. Focus on the Scriptures. Build your relationships. Look for mentors that can guide you to Jesus. Find a humble place to serve others, and if possible, a community that supports you in that.

Finding a Jesus-shaped community may be difficult, and Michael Spencer concludes with this encouragement:

The decision to pursue a Jesus-shaped spirituality won’t take you to a building with a sign out front. You may have to look hard to see the overgrown path of the “road less travelled by…that has made all the difference.”

You will be cutting against the grain and swimming against the current. You may find yourself far outside the doors of many churches and thrown in with whomever the scapegoats of the hour happen to be. You should expect to be called liberal, emerging, naive, rebellious, and unsaved. Heads will shake and fingers will wag. But you’re in good company. Jesus’ own family raised questions about his stability.

…trust me you are not alone. There are millions like you, coming from every possible church, experience, school, ministry, and family in Christendom. I believe your presence is changing the landscape of the Western Christian world (p. 211).

May God use this book to help us all “get real.”

 
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