Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Am I a lukewarm worship leader?

When my throat is not inflicted I sometimes lead worship at my local church. So this post on Signs of a Lukewarm Worship Leader caught my eye. After a bit of deliberation, I decided to post my responses to each point made...

- Prays more onstage than offstage.

To be pedantic; we don't use staging. I'm pretty confident that I do more praying throughout the week than during Sunday worship. That's not to say I do enough praying in the week. I don't think conversation with God should be something you step in and out of, but something that you're constantly immersed in, and this should show when you're up at the front.

- Is almost exclusively dependent on others songs to sing than writing songs for where their local church is at.

Yes. Currently I do only sing other people's songs. I am trying to write some, but not all worship leaders also have songwriting abilities. Those of you who know me will know that I do write a lot of songs, but not worship ones, it's a hard transition to make from secular anti-folk to worship music.

- Cares more about how many songs he or she is leading than the overall shape of the service.

Not really. I do get slightly miffed if the worship time stops just before my favourite song, but not in any serious heartfelt way.

- Is overly sensitive to criticism.

Hard to tell, since I don't get any. (Not quite true. As a Christian youth worker I get more criticism from kids and it doesn't bother me that much). Constructive criticism is always much more appreciated than thinly disguised slander.

- Is jealous or critical of someone else that God is blessing.

More likely to be jealous than critical. Sometimes it motivates me to seek God; when I see someone else reaping the rewards of doing so.

- Spends little if any time in the Word preparing to lead His Church.

When I'm preparing, I do spend more time looking through songbooks than the Bible. On a weekly basis, I spend more time "in the Word" than in Songs of Fellowship, but again, ample room for development.

- Sings more songs on stage than in personal worship.

I often sing at home, with a guitar or along to a CD, but only when I am alone in the house. But then personal worship could take the form of humming, whistling, dancing or playing instruments too.

- Spends more time mimicking other worship leaders then being shaped into the worship leader they we made to be.

Very tricky. Since I already copy most mainstream worship leaders by being a bloke with a guitar, and sing their songs, it's hard to tell what part of my leading is me. If that makes any sense. How exactly would I go about being shaped? For most practices you have a point of reference, and input from various people. I think that leading worship is similar, you just have to be open to what God is saying as well.

- Says things on stage that his or her family NEVER hear them say off stage.

This is a great one. To be honest, I probably fail here. It's so easy to talk about Jesus in church when everyone expects you to, but then to make your relationship with him private as soon as you leave. Let's talk about "church stuff" outside of church! Please. And blogs don't count.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Bah Humbug

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday to see about a sore throat that has been plaguing me for about six weeks. He reckoned that because I do a lot of singing my larynx never got the chance to heal after a cold and that's why it's lasted so long. He said I should give my voice a rest by not singing for two to three weeks and see what happens.

So no Christmas carols, no singing in church and no songwriting til sometime in January. As these are all things I enjoy, I am mildly perturbed. What complicates things further is that I have a gig on Saturday. I suppose I can make an exception for that, but I won't be practicing much so it could all go pear-shaped, unless I decide to do a 20 minute improvised instrumental. Hmm.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Thank you Sainsbury's

At the moment I'm working for Shrewsbury Youth for Christ - a local Christian schoolswork project. We've just had a run of Christmas assemblies in several of the secondary schools in the area, which went quite well (or so it seems). To begin the presentation, I wrote a sketch about a tree merchant who tries to change the name from Christmas to "Treemas".

For one of the assemblies, we decided to film the sketch and show it on the projector instead of performing it live. We thought that Sainsbury's was a good location, as they had some trees on sale, and we needed to go shopping for a party anyway.

So, after a conversation with the manager, they let us stand outside the entrance and film our sketch using their trees as props. The slight downside was that it was slightly embarrassing to have curious shoppers walking past as we were performing. It was almost like street theatre. Probably worth it though, as the skit went down well at all the schools.

Oh, and my guitar works fine now - just needed new batteries. Oops.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Mushrooms

Results on the poll are in:
60% love eating mushrooms
30% hate mushrooms
10% will eat mmushrooms when in pie or lasagne

Results may not be an accurate representation of the country, however, as only ten votes were cast.

Personally, I find the texture of mushrooms very offputting, as well as their organic relationship to athlete's foot. That's not to say I don't like the taste, but to be honest, I've only ever eaten them when smothered in something else, so I wouldn't really know.

New poll to be revealed shortly.

Christmas shopping

I could sum up my usual Christmas shopping habits as follows:
- Don't start until midway through December
- Buy presents for family and friends, maybe 10 people in total
- Get cards from Clinton's and distribute last minute (up to a fortnight after the 25th December)
- Buy at least one "joke present", previous examples include a squeaky plastic chicken and a kit for learning how to bellydance (for a bloke).

This year, I am doing things differently. I have almost finished my shopping, helped by the fact that I am only really buying for family, with exceptions of very close friends perhaps, but I still haven't made up my mind. Either way, there will be fewer presents given out, which eliminates the joke present too. As much as I'd enjoy watching someone unwrap a box of grout again, I'm starting to see that it's not really justified.

Also, I've bought charity Christmas cards this year, and I aim to have them out by next weekend. Emphasis on aim.

I suppose that these changes are a result of trying to be more organised, less wasteful, and a better steward of money. Though there's probably still a hundred more changes I need to make. I don't want to just be a thoughtful Christian, but a radical Christian. What does radical shopping look like exactly?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Why?

Why is it that bad things happen to good guitars? Yesterday my acoustic was sounding great through my amp, practicing for an upcoming gig. This afternoon I got home, plugged in, and all I got was EEEEEEEEEEERRRRRKKKKKKK EEEEEERRRRKK!!!

What has my poor Ibanez done to deserve such suffering?

I know, I know, it's because of the fall...

Monday, 8 December 2008

Bad advice

My friend, the simple pastor (to whom the title does not refer), often talks about consumerism in our society in his blog, regularly naming and shaming various brands and advertisers who endorse materialism.

I was surprised, then, to see an advert on TV today that I had not previously read about on the aforementioned blog. The ad was for Aldi - a supermarket I rarely visit, and for good reason: I live nowhere near an Aldi. To be honest, my view of Aldi is along the "cheap and nasty" lines, but this is almost entirely based on the fact that they have the worst logo I've ever seen. I would guess that quite a few people share my opinion, for various reasons.

So, they have recently started doing TV ads that copy the M&S style - close-ups of mouth-watering, steaming meals accompanied by an alluring voice-over. Not much to complain about there (unless you find your expectations are unfairly raised), but today I noticed for the first time this slogan being used: "don't change your lifestyle, change your supermarket."

Grrr. Don't change your lifestyle? That is possibly the most unhelpful advice you can get directly from an advert. It's like telling a guy who doesn't wash and therefore has problems finding a girlfriend to just lower his standards, rather than have a bath. WRONG! If I was the type of person who shouted at TVs I would have done. In fact, I probably am, just not when there are other people in the house, which there were.

We all need to change, and the quicker we all realise, the better.

I guess that switching your weekly shop from M&S to Aldi might be a bit of a humbling process, and therefore beneficial, not to mention much cheaper. But if we go to Aldi looking to indulge ourselves for less, that's not good.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Youth Alpha

At the moment we're running a Youth Alpha course at our church youth group, which meets on a Friday night. Yesterday the subject was "what about the church?", a talk which I had been invited to do. It's hard enough trying to prepare a sermon that 11-18 year olds can all engage with and learn from. What makes it harder is that the speaker is often challenged to fit certain words into his or her talk, usually with not much notice.

Previously, I have been given the words "penguin", "skingraft" and "Ronald Reagan" (a real tough one - as you can imagine - I think someone still owes me a drink for getting that one in) among others, which I have tried to casually slip into talks about worship, grace and other not quite so random subjects.

Last night I was challenged to use both "boondoggle" and "perspicacity", the latter being a word I had never heard of, and had to look up on the internet to find a definition. As it turns out, perspicacity is means something like "keenness of understanding" so it wasn't too hard to slot in. The problem is that if they're completely bizarre words you can lose your audience a bit; a word like boondoggle is quite conspicuous, regardless of subject matter.

It was suggested that we could hold back on the silly words, but it's good to keep a preacher on his/her toes, so it'd be good to think of other challenges that we could set. Like, who can construct the longest alliterated sentence perhaps. Any ideas?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The true meaning of Christmas

In September I was made aware of a competition being run by Ecclesiastical Insurance Inc. to make a one-minute film on the theme of "the true meaning of Christmas". As I enjoy film making, and the top prize was a tantalizing £3000 for your local church, I decided to enter, with some help from my youth group. My entry can be found here on the competition's website.

Despite my efforts, "Christmas is a bit like a monkey" was not selected as one of the ten finalists (out of a total of 97 films). Fair enough, I thought, as there were plenty of other quality entries. One of my particular favourites was brilliant. However, having watched all the high rankers I couldn't help but wonder on what criteria they were judged. One was just a slideshow set to music.

Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I guess it was still worth it. I enjoyed creating our entry, and watching some of the others was a delight. I recommend you crank up your speakers and feast your ears on this.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Lego is amazing

This article from the BBC reminded me that I've missed off Lego from my list of "Likes" on my first post. It should probably be near the top of the list; near pizza. I spent a large amount of my childhood playing with lego, and would probably still do if I had the time and didn't mind making a few people slightly worried. Apparently I am not alone in my fascination, however, as in 2008 lego was voted Britain's Top Toy. Huzzah.

I've got to be quite careful when start talking about it though, as I distinctly remember some years ago delivering an impromptu rant about the Lego company's marketing strategies that went on much longer than was warranted. (I believe I also digressed slightly to warn my peers away from the evils of Mega Bloks). It is not surprising then, that soon afterwards I began working at Toys 'R' Us - which reminds me of something I missed off the "Dislikes" list: bad grammar. Grrr.

It's interesting to see the progression of Lego into other formats, e.g. the Lego Star Wars computer games, and notably the brick testament. (Which I urge you to enjoy cautiously). Clearly, the humble construction toy has had a lasting impact upon our culture. Well done you Scandinavians.

Here's a comment from Scouse Pie to end with...
"I've find Lego very useful for teaching children to swear. All my kids have played with it at some time and it's amazing how many small pieces I can find when I'm not wearing any shoes - and they are very hard. "My, my!" I exclaim loudly, "I appear to have injured my foot unexpectedly! What silly child overlooked this piece?" - or words to that effect..."