The Cross, Babylon, and Me

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Hello everyone!

My name is Marcos Torres and I will be the main contributor on blogs relating to the gospel. While I have been a Seventh-day Adventist all my life I never fully understood the gospel until about 3 years ago. All along I have run into Adventist after Adventist that don’t get it either. Just a few years ago, while studying at Southern Adventist University, I ran into two students. One had been to SDA schools all of his life, was raised in an SDA home, and currently attended an SDA university. When I asked him how a person got to heaven he replied, “You do the best you can and then hope for the best.” The other had been raised in an SDA home and now currently attended an SDA university. When I asked him the same question he said, “If you don’t do everything perfectly you are out.” It came as no surprise to me when, later in the day he confided with me saying, “You have no idea how hard it is always thinking your never going to make it or that you’ll never be good enough. Sometimes I just feel like quitting.”

I couldn’t fully relate to him. I had been privileged to learn the gospel from Felipe Andino, a powerful preacher in the Hispanic world. I had also spent some time with pastor John Clark in Hawaii – a man passionate about the grace of God. And I have been heavily influenced by Alejandro Bullon, a champion of the gospel and the greatest evangelist Adventism has ever seen. But I had also been exposed to other theologies that left me a bit confused. In my mind I thought, to a certain extent, that everyone was preaching the same gospel. Consequently, I made few distinctions in what I was hearing. As a result, not only was I influenced by Andino, Clark, and Bullon, but by many others preaching perfectionism, works-righteousness, and rigid lifestyle Christianity. This led to an incredible journey of faith that would demand answers in the years to come (more on this later). So while I couldn’t fully relate to my friend, I did resonate about 90% with him.

In this blog I am going to share my story. It is not my intention to simply write theologically. I want to also write experientially. I want to share my faith-journey. I want to tell the story of how the cross has led me out of Babylon (yes I was in Babylon even though I was Adventist) to the remnant. From confusion to truth. The journey is not over. There are many miles left. But I would like to tell each of you what I have seen and heard so far with the hopes that it can revolutionize your faith.

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Anthem Rising Pt.1

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[dropcaps background_color=” shadow=”]H[/dropcaps]ey guys, welcome to the first episode of Interlude, an Adventist perspective on worship, music and the arts. My name is Rick Anderson and I have been a worship pastor, music director and worship leader within the Adventist Church for about ten years now. I’m passionate about creating a culture of powerful, intentional, meaningful worship in the Adventist Church and that’s what I want to spend some time talking with you about today and in the other episodes you’ll see on this channel of thehaystack.tv.

This week I want to share with you some very simple, practical advice on preparing for worship leading. Some of this may seem like common sense to you, but reviewing these steps and committing to doing them or some form of them, will help you be effective in ushering people into God’s presence through worship.

It’s easy to think that when the band is scheduled and the songs are picked that you’ve done your job, but there is so much more required of us if we want to truly be effective and make everyone else involved in the worship experience feel adequately prepared, so that they can then “let go” – not be so focused on the words, breathing, notes, etc… and be FREE to actually worship God as well as LEAD a congregation in worship.

The first thing I like to do early on in the week – maybe even the weekend before I lead, is to just put time into my musical understanding of the songs I’ve selected – even if they’re familiar songs. I print out the charts, grab a pen and put on my headphones. As I listen to each song, I am listening for the musical parts – what each musician should be doing, I’m listening to the dynamics – when and how things build up and break, I’m counting out tricky transitions and charting out the song order – verse/ chorus/ verse/ chorus/ bridge. At my church, we don’t typically do 8 minute plus versions of songs so this also gives me the chance to figure out where I want to take the song. By charting this all out and answering these questions for myself, I am able to actually be a leader at rehearsal and confidently instruct those that are looking to me for leadership with what they should be doing. Sometimes I skip the headphones in this equation and start from scratch with my guitar or at a piano with the charts and I custom fit the songs to what I think will be best for our worship service that week. Whatever you think will work best for you – do it! The important point here is to actually have a plan. Know the song and how you want to use it to connect this congregation to God. You’ve been given an incredible opportunity to lead them.

Once you have a plan, the next step is to share that plan. If you want to create a culture of effectiveness through excellence, then you have to give your team the chance to live up to that expectation by communicating it. Once you have a plan, share it with the team. Take the notes you made and send an email to the band on the dynamics, the changes to the flow of the songs, the transitions, and so on. This is the perfect opportunity for you to set the bar for your team. By sharing with them that YOU have been preparing, you are communicating the value you place on the task at hand AND you’re asking them to jump on board. In your communication, point out things that you know may be tricky or you know may take extra attention for band members. Ask them for their input on things so that they actually dig into the music and are a part of the creative process while there is still plenty of time to plan for creativity. Some of your team will love being able to give input and some will appreciate knowing what is expected before rehearsal – that’s why, in my book, it’s always best to plan and be intentional!

This next step is going to be very important for some teams and not an issue at all for others… follow up. Some of the musicians I work with eat, sleep and breathe worship tunes and others enjoy serving and are talented, but often show up not having any clue how the songs are supposed to sound. This is where you have to remember, “I am the leader; it’s my job to lead.” Bug them. Text, email, call, Facebook message… do whatever it takes to remind them, “hey, we have a job to do this weekend and I’m counting on you to prepare.” Again, this is situational and you may have just one or two musicians that need this kind of leadership, but if you want the weekend to go smoothly and for the congregation to experience distraction-free worship, do everything in your power to make sure you’re not the only one that shows up prepared to do that. Sometimes a quick reminder that only takes you a few seconds to send out will make the difference between a prepared team and chaos.

Finally, and most importantly… experience worship for yourself. You cannot lead a congregation to a place you have never been. In order to get your heart, mind and soul all in the right place, sit down with your instrument, the song charts and your Bible (or Bible app on your phone) and use the songs for your personal worship. By meditating on the lyrics and experiencing the musical highs and lows of the worship songs you’re about to lead, you will gain deeper insight and understanding into what will happen during the worship service for yourself, your team and the congregation. Combine that practice and prayer worship experience with relevant topical scripture. You will fill your heart and mind with spiritual depth that will make your worship experience as a leader that much more genuine and authentic, while also equipping your brain and mouth with meaningful scripture and phrases that will help you facilitate the worship as you lead.

I hope some of this proves helpful to you as you serve God with the gifts He’s blessed you with in the place He’s called you to. I know your struggle – I know sometimes as a leader (and maybe you’re a volunteer like me) it feels like all the work and stress of ministry is overwhelming. Find peace, courage and strength in the Well that does not run dry. Our faithful Savior, Jesus has called you to serve Him by being a vital part of the Body.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen! (Ephesians 3:21-22)

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