Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Problem with Hillsong and Hillsong United

I've been listening to Hillsong's Faith+Hope+Love and its good. I've also been listening to Hillsong United's A_Cross... and its good too; both albums good... not great. Hillsong and Darlene Zschech transformed modern worship back in the 90's with the anthem "Shout To The Lord," a well written worship song with Pop sensibilities. It was huge. Year after year Hillsong would produce albums that would influence churches around the world.

As the new millennium came, worship music had become an epic force as top CCM artists like Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys even started to produce worship albums. Hillsong seemed to be one among many. Around that same time in the early 2000's Hillsong spun off a youth worship band called United Live that would eventually dawn eponymous Hillsong tag, and become Hillsong United. Slowly building momentum fronted by Marty Sampson and Joel Houston, they would eventually change modern worship again with Hillsong United's "Look To You," and make an even bigger splash on the CCM scene with the follow up "United We Stand." United's music would break the cycle of repetitive mindless melodys of songs like "Open The Eyes Of My Heart," and craft worship songs with compelling music structures and thoughtful intelligent lyrics. They weren't trying to be christian band trying to sound like a secular band. They were a band that sounded original, complex, and all together inspiring for a younger generation.

Recently, both Hillsong and Hillsong United have been producing albums every year but now certain songs make it on both albums but are done slightly different; watering down the level of excellence with each album with filler to make two full albums. It is strikingly noticeable on the latest two albums. Hillsong United have grown and many of the members of the band are featured on the newest Hillsong effort. They appear on the album even more than Darlene Zschech, in fact. Which is surprising for she was the one who put Hillsong on the map in the 90's.

For those who are not in the worship music culture, this blog may sound myopic and shortsighted. However, as a lover of music and as someone who rediscovered that love for worship music with the on set of Hillsong United and other modern worship acts like David Crowder Band and Desperation Band. Im simply stating a opinion that no one likes filler on an album, even a worship album. And if Hillsong and Hillsong United would have combined both albums "Faith+Hope+Love" and "A_Cross..." with only the best songs off each album, you would have one masterpiece of modern worship. Instead, they produced two albums that are good... not great. I don't think Hillsong and company would ever produce just one album with only the best of both; the two bands are huge money makers. I just wonder what the impact would be if they did.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Well Thought Out Christian on CNN

Gabe Lyons co-author of the book "Unchristian" answers some thought provoking questions about the changing perceptions of Christians. The perceptions of what outsiders think of Christians are not very good. However, Lyons presents some well thought out ideas of how to be a relevant Christian in America's changing culture. He is definitely someone I'd love to have lunch with, yeah...I'd buy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Message In A Bottle...

There has been much-ado about coffee these days. The continuing debate between Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts... taste vs. value. However, I have discovered something, or maybe noticed something is a better way phrasing it, that sets one a part from the other. The big difference between the java giants is... a smile. Starbucks, service with a smile. Upon getting my Verona-grande-black coffee, a simple unpretentious smile from the barista seemed to make the whole experience just a little brighter. And I as enter my vehicle with Pandora radio on... Message in Bottle just happened to be playing by the witty crooner John Mayer. Interesting. We send lots of messages in different ways, sending a smile is a pretty good start.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Official Position On Vick

I was recently talking to someone who said, I've asked peoples opinion's on Vick but never shared my own thoughts on the topic. Well...I guess its time for me to get in line with all the other opinions and chime in. I do not have any obscure random thoughts of wisdom on the subject.

I will not parallel Vick against others who have done crimes and seemed to have gotten off with a slap on the wrist or not even a slap at all.

Two words say it all, Second Chance.

Albeit, American's may have bad taste in music and movies, but we are a forgiving Nation. Michael Vick is doing and saying all the right things, which is a good start, but I believe its the new company he keeps that is changing people's opinions.

It is amazing, how the influence of one man redeeming another man makes such a difference, (not Jesus, not this time) I am talking about Tony Dungy. The respect, the character, and the integrity of one man can be so honest and true, that it carries over to another man who seems to be lacking in all of those areas; changes the perspective.

The Message Bible Says in Colossians, "Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out."

Thank God for the Tony Dungy's of the world, who do not put down, or cut out, those of us who need a second chance. When was the last time you brought the best out in someone who was not deserving?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 Things That Will Keep Your Church From Being All It Could Be

1. Lack of Identity and Vision
2. Lack of Excellence
3. Lack of Exposure
4. Lack of Welcoming Atmosphere
5. Lack of Kids/ Youth Events
6. Lack of Good Preaching
7. Lack of Genuine Worship
8. Lack of Intentionally Reproducing Leaders
9. Lack of Intentional Outreach
10. Lack of Continued Pastoral Growth and Assessment
-By Rich Fogal

A number of these items are no-brainers. One that sticks out to me is 4. Lack of Welcoming Atmosphere. I imagine a number of Pastors would say, "our church has very nice people, we always welcome our first time visitors..." However, it says welcoming atmosphere...not welcoming people (however the goal is to have both). I recently went to a local supermarket and they had a parking space for expecting mothers. My wife really appreciated that, and we drove right in and parked with smiles on our faces. I think our churches need to pick up on ideas like this, more spaces reserved for people than clergy. I believe today people want to FEEL more welcomed than actually be welcoming by MORE people. That can be intimidating. In selling a house it is said that a good idea is to have fresh cookies baking as people view your home, what a welcoming and inviting smell (plus everyone loves cookies). It's all about atmosphere. When was the last time your church smelled good?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

mistakes and second chances


Benjamin Franklin said, 'I haven't failed, I've had 10,000 ideas that didn't work.

Thomas Edison said, 'of the 200 light bulbs that didn't work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt.'

At the last company I worked for you would not be fired for being wrong, but you would be fired for not having initiative. It had a positive attitude to mistakes. It was a great company.

-Paul Arden

The thing that I love about my parents that had a profound impact on my upbringing was the fact that they provided an environment that allowed me to fail. Mistakes are a part of life... a part of the greatest redemption stories in cinema. I believe in second chances...the Philadelphia Eagles believe in second chances. God believes in second chances, after all that's why He sent Jesus... to give His creation a second chance. He is a great God.