The Weeping Tree

The Weeping Tree – A Good Friday Service by Joseph Martin.

Performed by the Choir of Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church, Sherwood, AR.

Good Friday, April 18, 2014

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Why Have a Good Friday Service

GoodFriday2014This coming Friday is Good Friday. The day we Christians remember the death and burial of our Lord, it is “The Passion” of our Christ. We remember his death, his suffering, and his cross. Here at Sylvan Hills we will mark this day with a time of worship and remembrance. We will gather together to sing, read scripture, and take the Lord’s Supper.

Why do we do this, even when it is not part of our “Baptist” heritage?

1. Because the cross is central to the message of the gospel. Without the death of Jesus, there is no life for the believer. You can’t have life without death. There is no salvation without atonement. There is no resurrection without a burial. Without Friday night, there is no Sunday morning.

2. It helps put Easter into context. We can no longer assume Biblical or doctrinal knowledge on the part of many church-goers. (if we ever really could) What is this Easter holiday? Why do we buy our children baskets and hunt eggs, and dress a little nicer for church than usual? The resurrection without the crucifixion doesn’t make sense.

3. We can take the Lord’s Supper in a more reflective environment. Sometimes, Sunday mornings are just a little hectic. And usually, by the time we get around to taking communion at the end of the service many folks are just ready to go. Blood sugar gets low and lunch is looming. We are called to “remember” when we take the Lord’s Supper. For me, that takes a little more brain power than I have left at 11:50am on Sunday.

4. It is rooted in Centuries of Christian tradition. We can be grateful that our reformation forefathers threw off the yoke of ritualism and “papist” customs. Yet many young believers today are seeking to experience their faith in traditions that date back further than 50 or 100 years. The first recorded observations of Jesus’ death and burial can be traced back to the second century. And there have been many different customs and traditions to spring out of it. “Stations of the Cross” and “tenebrae” services to name of few.

So if you are in central Arkansas and aren’t busy this Friday, April 18h, come on over at 7pm and observe Good Friday with us.

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Meetings Get a Bad Rap

I don’t love meetings. But I love what a properly executed meeting can accomplish.

Meetings in churches usually get a bad rap. And in many instances, it is justified.

Many, many meetings are simply unnecessary. But when you wish to accomplish common goals in a common way, with a community, some amount of meetings are required.

When I first started in ministry, I had no idea how to hold a meeting. They didn’t teach me that in college or seminary. Or I may have missed that day. (which is entirely possible, like I said, I don’t love meetings)

I first learned how to have a productive meeting when I was serving in a church in San Antonio. That place is filled with military bases and military folks. We had several high-ranking Air Force officers in our church. I showed up once to one of their meetings unprepared. Big mistake. Those fellas (mostly Lt. Colonels) know how to get things done.

Meetings help with accountability. They put organizational and social pressure on people to be prepared and accomplish their goals. In churches, we can’t force people to accomplish anything. We can ask, beg, plead and cajole. But unlike the military, or any other paying job for that matter, we can’t hold “making money” over anyone’s head. And to be honest, I hope we wouldn’t, even if we could. But what we can do, is give them a greater purpose. Furthering the Kingdom, spreading the Gospel (good news) and teaching people biblical truth should be enough motivation for anyone.

So how can we accomplish that in meetings?

1. We can cast a vision for how we’re going to do those things.

2. We can develop and share strategy for how we will do those things.

3. We can ask people to play a role in that strategy.

4. We can equip them to play that role.

5. We can hold them accountable for doing what they’ve said they will do.

Number five may sound harsh. As leaders, we must ask people to do the things they’ve committed to doing. But we must do it in the right way. Here are some things not to do in meetings, especially church meetings.

1. Do not shame anyone. If you must call an individual to account, do it in private, after much prayer.

2. Do not waist time. A meeting is not a fellowship. If people want to hang out and visit after the meeting, that’s fine. But dismiss the meeting first. Not that fellowship is a waste of time, but if you do it in a meeting some will see it that way.

3. Do not come unprepared, or without an agenda. It is better to postpone a meeting than to show up unprepared. When possible, circulate the agenda beforehand so that everyone will be prepared.

4. Never leave a meeting without everyone having a clear purpose, or plan for what they will do next. Also, write down what you think was decided and send it out in an e-mail after the meeting. This keeps everyone on the same page.

If you are having meetings that do not follow these guidelines, do everyone a big favor and cancel them.

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Should I Have Burdens

I’ve got a little project going with a couple of my buddies to record some original material. This is our first effort. Here’s the “latest single” from “McClung, Byrd and Reed.” (well, we’re sticking with that name until we can come up with a better one.


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The Sins of Modern Worshipers

41AzR9358GL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I was recently thumbing through one of my old seminary texts on worship and ran across a passage that seemed to be timeless in it’s warnings about some of the sins we worshipers of Jesus sometimes commit. In his book, Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal, Donald P. Hustad lists four of the most common. He states:

In keeping with the encouragement to “live in grace,” I list only the flagrant offenses…If readers identify these sins as theirs, as well, they are invited to join in the confession.

1. The sin of pride. While acknowledging the significance of forms which confirm our own identity, we must reject the temptation to believe that all our worship practices are more acceptable to God that those of other Christians. Again, while we strive for excellence as good stewards of talent and musicianship, achieving it should not lead to arrogance or pride.

2. The sin of hedonism. I am afraid that, for many evangelicals, the central meaning in church music is “pleasure.” Few of our churches use hymns, anthems and instrumental music for their maximum spiritual benefit….

3. The sin of spectatorism. Many evangelicals would rather be sung to than to sing for themselves. True, there is important involvement and significant meaning in “listening music”; it need not be unduly limited, so long as there is full meaningful participation in the congregation’s own song.

4. The sin of sentimentalism. This is related to the sin of hedonism, and is shown in our predilection for favorite hymns…or a favorite musical style. Undoubtedly, this sin is encouraged by the commercialism which prevails in our affluent American culture, including that in evangelical publishing and recording. Of course, a performer and composer must be compensated for their artistry, and a company must make a business profit, but the net result of flagrant commercialism in recent years is the creation of an evangelical “hit parade.” Such narcissism and conformity stifle creativity and cannot meet a biblical standard.

What do you think about Dr. Hustad’s list? Though the book was revised for republication in 1993, I suspect these words were written in the 1980’s. Is our modern worship “scene” the result of some of these trends observed over 25 years ago? I think so. Are we still guilty of them today? Probably. What do you think?

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