Sunday, March 18, 2018

Reverence: the missing piece in our worship.

A few of our Southlands musicians were delighted to sing group vocals on Matt Redman's recent album, Glory Song. Singing some of those songs live a few months later with him and his band as a church at our Night of Grace was a longing fulfilled for me. Over the years, I've marveled at how God seems to have given Matt the gift of expressing His heart for the Church at a particular moment with such poignance. There is one such moment on his album that comes after a song called Simple Pursuit, where he breaks into a probing spontaneous song that asks, "Did we lose the awe of God? Where has all the reverence gone? There's a song of Majesty we've forgotten how to sing. Bring us back to your Glory Song."

In the Western church, at any rate, we've never had such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to musical worship resources. Great songs abound on countless albums. Musicians are more skillful than ever. Arrangements, instruments, acoustics, lighting, graphics, sound rigs and musicians are cooler than ever.  There's a wonderful mix of intimate songs and majestic hymnology, stripped down folksy meditations and catchy, wall-of-sound anthems. With a few notable exceptions, there's an increasing lyrical depth  and a creative diversity.  I'm no worship curmudgeon, nostalgic for the good old days when we only had our hymn books, Vineyard, Integrity and Maranatha to choose from. (Respect to them all). I remember the old days. Believe me, they weren't that good! But I think Matt's song touches a raw nerve that causes me to flinch a little, probing at something I intuitively feel may now be missing. 


Where has all the reverence gone? Perhaps it's been replaced by cool? Worship today seems fixated with cultural relevance. I, for one, am glad we've shrugged off some of the cultural cringe factor of being 10 years behind the times in musical style. But relevance   is a poor substitute for reverence. The former reaches outwards to our world in a language that is intelligible. It's  timely. The latter reaches  inwards to the holy realm of God's eternal throne. It's timeless. Reverence will never be satisfied with being merely timely.

Reverence is the unsandaled feet of Moses standing in the smoldering sand before the burning bush. It is, by its very nature, both intimate and awe-filled. "Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews  12: 28)  

Reverence does not cower in fear. The blood of Christ speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. It bids us come to glorious Mount Zion, not the fire and smoke of Mount Sinai. But it stands there wide-eyed, hand over it's mouth without so much as a hint of blasé'.   

Reverent worship is the farthest thing from consumer worship. It does not do song-tasting. It understands that we bring a sacrifice that God consumes. It looks less like a song offered up and more like a life laid down. It will repent quickly. Obey fully. It's songs will be the soundtrack to a life of justice and mercy.

I would venture to say that reverent worship sounds less like something on a stage and more like something among a people. I would not think that reverent worship is only about singing old hymns and doing liturgy. But I think that reverent worship will be open to historic expressions of worship beyond the tyranny of our own moment. It may be loud one moment, quiet the next, but never luke-warm.

Reverent worship is in Spirit and Truth, anchored by the ballast of God's Word but with sails hoisted to catch the Wind that blows wherever it pleases. 

Did we lose the awe of God? Lord, Bring us back to reverence. 


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Night of Grace: Two legends re-unite for the benefit of others.

I couldn't honestly be sure if it was the Spirit's prompting or just nostalgia. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two! But last, year I kept on thinking about a night of grace 15 years ago that left an indelible imprint on my soul. 

It was 2002 and I was a pastor at New Covenant Church Bryanston, in Johannesburg, South Africa. I'd traveled as a band member with Matt Redman around South Africa on a previous tour, so was looking forward to reconnecting with the prolific British worship leader whose songs were becoming worship standards in churches around the world. I'd heard of Terry Virgo, the elder-statesman and founder of New Frontiers, but had never met him, so I was intrigued by the idea of their 'Amazing Grace Tour,'  because I'd never seen a worship leader and preacher tour together with such intention. 

The night turned out to be unforgettable. To a packed house, Matt led worship and Terry preached around the theme of 'Amazing Grace.' I remember being offended one moment, liberated another moment, brought to tears the next, by the scandalous gift of grace that Terry preached from Galatians. I'd not heard it preached with such purity before, but it was the spark that began a fiery awakening to the gospel of God's grace in me. Matt's songs were powerful amplifiers of what was preached. The only response to theology on fire is doxology as John Stott once said.  It was a night of conviction, of liberation and celebration. Biblical Nitro met Holy Spirit Gylcerine in an explosion of gospel joy! It was basically Church as it should be!   

So, knowing that these two humble legends of the faith would be in Southern California around the same time in February, I took my courage in my hand and asked them consider re-uniting one more time for a Night of Grace. This wouldn't just  be getting the band back together for old-times sake though. I envisaged this gathering would be both a celebration and extension of the amazing grace we've received to others who are in a place of need. This would be specifically about extending grace in the area of orphan care, which is so close to God's heart and to our heart as a church. 

This will take the form of a short video and offering taken up  for the benefit of  the Rancho Hermosa Orphanage in Baja, Mexico. Southlands has been working with One Generation for the past few years to build the orphanage and get it up to meeting government standards. We are just a few months from it's official opening and we wanted to extend the grace that we have received to others in need through this offering. Matt and Terry and Southlands are willing to absorb the cost of the evening in order to pass on the proceeds to Rancho Hermosa. 

So, join us on the 15th of February as we celebrate and extend the amazing grace of God in Christ.  Tickets, although free, do need to be registered for at
But hurry, because space is limited. Look forward to seeing you there. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Cup of Quietness: What I learned about my wife from the Enneagram

One of the highlights of our Sabbatical last summer was being walked through our Enneagram profiles with our friends, Nick and Kim Bogardus. The Enneagram is a personality profile that has a particular interest in how people function relationally. Enneagram is quite the thing at the moment.  But I think it's a thing for a reason. It doesn't just analyze your personality. It shows you how you relate to people when you're under stress versus when you're not under stress. 

Nick and Kim use the Enneagram course with Cross Point, which focuses on how Christ can transform us to relate with health towards others within our unique personality design. They're close friends of ours, but they're also trained to coach married couples to be a more effective team through the Enneagram. We so appreciated their insight and skill as they coached us to understand ourselves and each other better. 

Now I don't want to bore you with our complex Enneagram profiles, but Rynelle is a high 9, which stands for The Peaceful Person. A high value for this person is maintaining an environment of peace. Among others, I am a high 3, which stands for The Effective Person.  A high value for this person is getting things done. We are both high 4's, which means we connect through a love for beauty and aesthetics. The problem is though, that my high 3 means that I don't savor beauty at the same place as my peaceful wife. For instance, we both love going to a beautiful restaurant to eat beautifully prepared food, but because I'm a 3, I'll gobble mine down in order to get on to the next course. Rynelle, rightfully so, will want to savor the ambience and every mouthful slowly,  repeatedly telling me to, 'Slow down, we've got nothing to rush to.' 

And as if that weren't bad enough, my high 3 generally has a bit of a  honey-do-list, especially when it comes to pastoral matters. "Have you called this person, love? Have you managed to see that person? How are things going for the ladies retreat? Would you mind doing the devotional at staff meeting tomorrow?" I also tend to invite people over spontaneously quite a bit, which means Rynelle has to scramble into hospitality mode at short notice. Because we are both 4's, we never want to host with paper plates and plastic cutlery either. It must be aesthetic. I didn't understand why my gracious and gentle wife was starting to dig in her heels. 

What I didn't realize was that in the quest to try and make her more effective, I was robbing her of the  thing she craved most: peace.  Nick and Kim's counsel to me was profound. "You take care of the environment of your home, making sure it's a place of peace, and Rynelle will be more effective than ever." This was one of my pledges to her coming back from sabbatical, and honestly it's proven to be true. Plus, we feel like we've found us again, not just functioning side -by-side, but connecting face-to-face. So thankful for wise friends and for Jesus who continues to renew us.  

So, on our 24th anniversary this week, I wrote her a short poem about my pledge to celebrate and honor her as an Enneagram 9.

                  A Cup of Quietness

A cup of quietness, is better than two cups full of toil,
Your hands of kindness, lifting me up from the thorn-choked soil, 
Poured the water over, when I got burned by the midnight oil,
A cup of quietness, is better than two cups full of toil. 

A cup of quietness, early in the morning through the porch window,
That’s the way I love you, sitting in the light of heaven’s glow,
A steadied beauty, ready with grace for the high and low,
Your cup of quietness, I’m fighting for the day that it overflows.