Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spontaneous Worship

Driving around town yesterday, I spotted a bumper sticker that made me chuckle. It encouraged me to "practice random acts of praise and worship." Then it made me think.
Too often it seems our praise and worship is scheduled. There's nothing wrong with planning. We plan that we'll sing certain songs during service in a certain order, etc., and such planning is necessary if we hope to have the band practiced and get the service done during in enough time to get the next service started, etc. We plan our "quiet times" of worship and praise to fit into our busy daily schedule. Again, nothing wrong with scheduling-- God loves the worship and praise we offer him during these times.
But what about stopping the normal routine simply because we're overcome and can't help but worship and praise. Do we always make sure we are willing to set aside plans or schedules for this?
"I'm singing at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of answered prayers," David tells us in the Psalms.
God loves it when we randomly praise and worship him. It's evidence of a relationship that is active, ongoing and spontaneous. Allow yourself to be open to a schedule interruption that will allow you to do this when you feel led. Don't convince yourself you're too busy to stop and praise him. Try offering a time during worship service for people to offer praises, for example. It can be uplifting and encouraging to hear what God is doing in the lives of those around us.
Lord, I praise you right now for the many works you accomplish through the arts and for the many hearts who seek you in planning worship services. I praise you for talent you have given so that you may be glorified. I thank you for the lost souls who will be in church this Sunday and for the impact you will make on their lives through the worship they experience. You are the master planner. You see the big picture and put everything in place. We praise you for being a God who cares so deeply for his people and we thank you for allowing us to worship you whenever the Spirit moves us! Amen.
There, see, it's easy! I just stopped in the middle of a blog to do it. Go forth and be spontaneous.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Be, or Not to Be a "Christian" Artist

More and more Christians involved in the arts world are questioning whether or not they want to be labeled as "Christian." Can't I just be an artist who happens to be a Christian they are asking? A number of objections to being "labeled" have been raised:
The term "Christian" is found to be offensive by many people who do not like the conservative (and often politically "incorrect") viewpoints held by many who are Christian
Some calling themselves Christian have conducted themselves in an unloving or hypocritical manner with which some of us wouldn't want to be associated
An artist labeled as "Christian" probably won't be booked for non-Christian events

I'd like to encourage you, if you are an artist who has a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, not to be confused by the semantics. There are a number of artists out there who do not have that personal relationship, but who don't have any problem promoting themselves in the Christian market because they are "spiritual" and innocently believe that is the same thing as being a Christian. There are some performers I have met who have admitted that they don't have that relationship, but see a potential market in the Christian arts field, so they offer a performance of "clean comedy" or "spiritual songs" in the hopes of generating more revenue. So the label "Christian artist" might not even mean what you think it does to some!
The label "Christian" should be used to indicate the relationship with Jesus and a submission of our life to Him and His will as given to us in Scripture. Churches and Christian venues using the arts for outreach and hiring artists to help in that outreach, more and more want to know where a performer stands before giving them them authority to lead worship. It wouldn't be helpful for the furthering of the gospel, for example, to hire a "spiritual" actor to do a dramatic monologue from the life of Jesus only to have him comment somewhere in the monologue about being married to Mary Magdalene a la "The DaVinci Code".
There always will be Christians who "see the sin and not the sinner" and as a result of this narrow vision, will alienate the lost; there always will be Christians who sin; and Christians always will be persecuted for their beliefs, so all three objections to being labeled a Christian artist come as a result of people being people-- we all mess up.
If we are willing to abandon the label "Christian" for fear of what human associations it might attach to us, however, my fear is that we open ourselves to abandoning it for the heavenly associations it attaches to us as well. If our friend who is following a different religion would be offended, for example, if we shared that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and that the leader of their religion couldn't provide that, would we be tempted to abandon Him in favor of being "spiritual" rather than Christian and being more tolerant of another way to preserve the friendship? I believe that possibility is real.
As for me, I stand with Christ. If that means sometimes people throw me into the same category as a televangelist who makes an unwise comment or lifestyle decision, I can always explain that I have a different opinion. If being a Christian means that I sometimes take a stand that's not "politically correct", I'll back it up with the Word of God. If being "Christian" means that I don't get hired somewhere, I'll trust the Lord to provide in some other way.
I find that I can't just be an artist who happens to be a Christian, not if I want to see my art have the most impact possible for His kingdom. For that, I have to lay down all of my life and take up a new identity with Him, not just when it's convenient or beneficial, but always.

Check out a related posting under "Raise Your Hand" on the Willow Creek Arts blog at http://2007artsconferenceblog.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Broadway Talent Gathers to Ask Blessing

One of the highlights of the new Broadway season for Christians in fast approaching: the Broadway Blessing. Producer Retta Blaney brings together stars of Broadway to honor God and ask His blessing on the new season. This year's event will be 7pm Monday, Sept.10 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine 1047 Amsterdam Ave.
Actresses Frances Sternhagen and Marian Seldes are among the performers who will participate in the service which also will include music and dance.
The event is free. You're sure to be blessed as you worship with other believers and honor the biggest star in Broadway: Jesus.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

For more information, call (212) 794-6163.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Losing Ourselves in Worship

As artists we have been given gifts and talents and as Christians, we offer them back to their creator to worship Him. Many of us use the arts to lead others in worship, in church services or at special events like conferences and retreats.
In all our efforts, we must be diligent to always put God and His purposes first.

It's so easy in this field to allow pride to surface, sometimes without our even noticing. We must never forget the source for any gifts we have received, nor that the use of them during worship must be for Him and only for Him. "Excellence" has become a rallying cry in many churches. And excellence should be our goal when serving the King of Kings. But excellence for its own sake, or to impress worshippers or other churches with what you can do diminishes the focus on God. I have experienced some beautiful worship by some singers or musicians who may not be able to rock me out of the house with the best solo, but who offered the song to Lord and caused me to know that He was in the House and was pleased to be seated in the place of honor.
The best way to make sure you'll remember to put God first while leading worship is to make sure you've put Him first in your heart. If you haven't spent any time with Him in prayer and in His word this week, if you've been so busy working or rehearsing that you haven't noticed or acted to help your neighbor in need, how practical is it to assume that you'll be able to lead others to Him this Sunday?

Worship isn't a performance. It's not even just a congregation getting together to for a service. It's a great celebration of knowing who God is and exultation at being in His presence. As leaders of worship, we should see ourselves as honored guests ushering others into an audience with the Most High. Remember the words of John the Baptist:
"A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:27-30 NIV)

People should leave worship services saying, "God is great," not "the band was great," or "that soloist was great." Leaders who continuously worship all week long will lose themselves in it-- and God will be all that people see.

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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