Showing posts from November, 2009

Christmas Readers Theater

Special thanks to Rick Shallenberger for providing Christmas Readers Theater dramatic readings.  You can download the pdf file from the following link:

The Trinity imaged in our humanity

In a former post  I quoted Tom Smail's book, "Like Father, Like Son, the Trinity Imaged in Our Humanity." Here are additional quotes from chapter 1: If we are made in the image of God, we are made in the image of the Trinity; and the life of the Trinity must in some sort be reflected in the pattern of our human life. (quoting John F. X. Hariott in the flyleaf) To make gods in the image of men is the essence of all idolatry, whether the resultant idols are the physical artifacts of our hands or the cerebral projections of our minds, and the result of both is an impotent religion that imprisons us in its illusions and distracts and distances us from the genuine sources of our liberation. (p. 19) If the idols of our own making that reflect our own image are toppling all around us, it might be time to ask, What vision comes into focus when we see ourselves not as the masters but rather the mirrors of an ultimate reality on which we depend? Is there any word from ou

Songs for the coming of Jesus

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale. A stellar 2009 Christmas album is Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs , from Chris Tomlin (and friends) – a collection of traditional songs recorded live in a worship setting, along with outstanding new praise and worship material such as Born That We May Have Life , Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) , My Soul Magnifies the Lord, Matt Redman’s Light of the World and several more.  Separate accompaniment tracks can be purchased. Other favorite holiday albums from recent years include Third Day: Christmas Offerings (2006) with the powerful and distinctive southern rock vocal styling of lead singer Mac Powell and the great sound of a band that has been a fan favorite at Christian concerts for years.   This Is What Christmas Means to Me (2007) by Tommy Walker and the C.A. Worship Band is described by Tommy as a worship project with Christmas as the theme. Tommy is a prolific songwriter with a unique blend of pop/jazz/R&B and has

From Hope to Joy: Advent and Christmas/Epiphany

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale. To be sure, the decorations, gifts, candy and cookies were huge hits, but even as a child, church events around Christmastime captured the imagination of this Illinois boy.  Powerful stories and songs about the coming of Jesus carried anticipation, drama, miracle, mystery, wonderment, and celebration that brought together God, angels and all people—including a kid like me.  From small simple gatherings to elaborate pageants, each created special memories and valuable open-ended questions.  And that's one more reason this blog exists about Christ-centered theology that shapes worship. I’d like to suggest four helpful books—two that address the entire church year, and two that are specific to Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (each book is available at  Even if you normally do no more than light another candle on the Advent wreath and add one more verse of  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” each week—these books offer scripture

Belong before believe?

Jesus includes all humanity, including non-believers in his love and life. Is it not then appropriate for the church to embrace non-believers and include them in the life and ministry of the church?  In short, is it OK for people to belong before they believe?  In answer, we need only look to what Jesus did. In calling and forming his first group of followers, Jesus reached out to several young men who did not yet believe in Jesus - though Jesus believed in them, and included them in his group (and thus in his ministry) before they came to believe in him as their Messiah, the Son of God. In a progressively post-Christian world, this insight has particular relevance - people will often need to experience the loving, inclusive community of Jesus' followers before they come to believe that Jesus is their Savior and Lord. For more on this topic,  click here to download a paper on the Mosaic Alliance Project written by Eric Bryant (pictured left). You can read more from Eric on h

Elvis has left the building

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale. Early in the career of Elvis a concert promoter famously announced “Elvis has left the building” in hopes that screaming fans would begin calming down upon learning that Elvis had indeed exited the hall and would not be returning for another encore.  The promoter had brought Elvis to the fans in the first place and was now announcing his departure.  The phrase about Elvis became a punchline for whenever someone makes a dramatic exit.  (Need we note Elvis is pictured below?) Sometimes a worship service is conducted in a way that implies the pastor or the worship leader is somehow by words or actions bringing the presence of God into the building.  I’m sure I’ve done that myself.  For example a person might pray for Jesus or the Holy Spirit to come into the room. The implication is that God has come from far away to meet with us during the worship service and will then leave the building, awaiting the next invitation to come back whe

Pulitzer Prize in worship?

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale. My journalist friend described his method for writing.  After completing research for an article, he quickly writes and reviews the very first sentence he has written.  In reading just those first few words it becomes clear to him that the Pulitzer Prize for journalism (pictured left) cannot be won with the article he has just begun.  And having rid himself of any notion of attaining journalistic glory, he is then free to simply do his best with the time and resources available, and what he writes is nearly always quite sufficient for his publisher and readership.  Being realistic can be enabling.  I got a kick out of my friend’s admission, and have tried to take his wisdom to heart.  But it gets more complicated with ministry and worship.  While there’s no Pulitzer Prize for a worship service, we tend to set awfully high standards for ourselves.  We want powerful life changing worship services that glorify God and minister to bret