3 Reasons Why Legalists Are The Same As Liberals

Though many seek neutrality in terms like non-denominational or relevant,  one side of the camp is always branding  the other with terms like "legalism" or "liberalism."  We pick on the Baptists because they are generally the most vocal with their preferences,  but there is a large percentage of a generation that abide firmly beside the idea that hymns, flannel graphs, sunday school, and suits will usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  To venture from these old-fashioned preferences we call principles would be to compromise our perception of the very doctrine of Scripture.

The opposing side, the "liberals"  have embraced a casual atmosphere.  They have abandoned dated methodology and cling to a new "style" of worship and outreach.  For some strange reason, they seem to be engaging the millennials,  and growing by leaps and bounds.  By forsaking the "old paths," are they attracting people with a false gospel?  

Beside all these confusing questions,  who really is right and who is wrong?  What defines a legalist and separates them from a liberal?  Is there a happy medium?  

Like many others on the pendulum of approach and study,  I began to find that my "legalist" Independent Fundamental Baptist background held more preference than it did Scriptural principle.  While I did not leave the doctrine of Scripture, or waiver in my foundational beliefs one bit,  I forsook anything methodologically "old"  from my upbringing. Suddenly suits were outdated and hymns became less relevant. "We" were not judgmental of anyone,  accepting of everyone, and reaching the masses for Jesus....or so we thought.  

You know,  I like suits.  I've always been kind of a GQ guy,  so one day I walked into the Kansas City church where I was one of the pastors, wearing dress slacks,  a collared shirt, and a "spiffy" jacket.  (I'm bringing that word back.)  One of the elders in the church looked at me and said, "Uhmmm I think you're in the wrong church." Suddenly, because of what I wore, I was being...dare I say it...JUDGED.  And like a ton of bricks it hit me.  In our attempt to leave "legalism" we had created our own sect of "legalism."  We demanded a certain type of dress.  We decided what methodology would work based on the time of its inception.  We ONLY sang one type of music and never varied from it.  Our services were structured just the way we liked them, and we were content that way.  Stagnating on the platform of the relevant and new.

The eye-opening truth is that millenials are not just leaving the old people churches by the masses,  they are leaving ALL churches by the masses.  Why?  Because we have ceased to be "real."  Our modern churches are just as legalist as our "fundy brethren," just in a different way.  It takes more than different programming to win the world.  More and more we realize our desperate need for DIVINE POWER.  

What defines a legalist?

1.  A Two-Fold Definition of God's Word
The majority of IFB's have waded into dangerous waters by linking salvation with the magic words of a prayer or a particular way of life you must become enslaved to.  The cannon of scripture murders the idea of a free life, enslaving believers to a list of rules,  mere "do's and don'ts" that dictate everyday life.  Likewise, many new-age churches have linked the Lordship of Christ with the concept of legalism,  and thereby released a "convert" from any obligation to serve Jesus with the rest of their life.  Both approaches are dangerously wrong,  as neither represent a new life in Christ.  This serves as only one of many examples of the contrasts between generations, and their's with the Word of God.

I can't help but hear the "Fiddler On The Roof."  Hey, did you know that people make brand new traditions every day?  Each new family that is created forms their own daily routines and corporate traditions.  A tradition is not necessarily "old,"  just something that is repeated without change, with no intent to reevaluate.  "It works...so no need to evaluate."  Captaining a ship on the sea's ever changing waters requires constant course correction.  Truly great LEADERSHIP does the same.  We must always ask the question, "Is this the BEST way to_______?"  If something old can effectively fill that blank,  do not disregard it because of it's age.  Otherwise, watch out....you will expire before your time and be buried in the very grave you dug.

3.  The Club
Every day members of this organization gather.  On holidays you see them in the masses,  and throughout the week they meet in smaller groups.  They treasure their membership,  and are quick to identify themselves as a paying, voting participant.  Some come to serve, and many others to be served.  Some eat to their full, while others walk the aisles merely to sample.  You can visit once or twice, but unless you're willing to be a member they do not intend to include you in any of the special things they have to offer.  Sound familiar?  It should.....Everyone needs a Costco or Sams Club membership!  

OH, but how similar does that sound to our local churches?  They come.  They eat. They leave.  And the member feels no responsibility to share what they benefit from this membership with anyone who is not.  We have transformed the church into a club, when it ought to be  the hands and feet of Jesus,  working and moving outside the walls of our campus.  Where ministry is mobile, and the message is manifest in each and ever life.  No clubs.  No cliques.  No committees.  Just committed Christians carrying Christ to the lost.  

7 Tips For Effective Kids Worship

Leading kids age 6 through 12 in worship is no easy task.  Do you go back and sing the old classic Sunday School songs?  Or are those too outdated?  Do you lead in more modern choruses and worship songs? Can little children even understand what they're singing about?  Do we have to dumb it down?  

Questions like these plague the minds of pastors, worship leaders, and children's workers across this nation.  It is almost as if leading children takes greater skill, preparation, and thought than leading a group of adults.  We have complicated it to the point where ministries swing into the extreme of ONLY the oldies or ONLY the newest stuff.  As adults we have decided what the kids need, and told them what it is they want;  when really it is so much more simple.  Not easy.  Just simple. 
Here are 7 Tips for effectively leadings Kids Worship. 

1.  Be Energetic.

You don't have to be a "youth" to lead a youth.  However, you do need the energy of one, at least as long as your setlist lasts.  Because kids are full of energy, they are fascinated by energy.  You cannot expect the kids to be engaged and excited about something that you are not pumped about.  If you are expressive, they will be expressive.  "Monkey see - Monkey do." Prompt them to follow, by leading in personal example. Whatever you want them to do, you must in turn do twice as big.

2.  Refuse To Dumb It Down.

Somewhere along the line we decided that kids are stupid.  Having decided this fact,  the education system began to cater to the new set of expectations, rendering our high school graduates incapable of reading in some cases.  If a child is uneducated in worship,  rather than dumb it down, TEACH THEM!  No,  they don't need a 20 minute dissertation on the Greek and Hebrew origins of worship.  They need bite sized pieces of intellectual information that will be the foundation for their lifelong perception of worship.  Kids are nothing more than tiny adults; teachable, moldable, observant little adults.  

3.  Engage Your Audience.

Engagement and Energy go hand in hand.  Find unique ways to capture your audience's attention.  In world where commercials and programming change shots on average of every 8 seconds,  it is going to take preparation to maintain kid's attention.  Screens are great,  and can be very beneficial when used correctly.  Props are better.  But hand-motions and movements will always be your biggest crowd-pleaser. 

4.  Confidence Is Key

You're going to make a mistake here and there.  And those kids are going to let you know about it!  While leading at Fort Bluff Camp I messed up some words.  One young gentleman on the front row let me know that immediately...very loudly....in front of 400+ elementary kids.  Thanks bro! - I can let that phase me and lose my audience.  OR I can laugh at myself, move on, and win my kids over with a memory they will always look fondly upon.  Kids are the best people watchers,  and they sense your insecurities. Confidence makes all the difference in the world. If you are confident, they will follow.  If you are timid,  you might need to find another ministry outlet. 

5.  Be Prepared

You kids are your future.  They deserve more than your last minute scramble to "find something."  Just like adults, they are souls in need of leadership and direction.  As the worship leader you set the tone for the lesson that will be brought,  thereby carrying an eternal responsibility on your shoulders. Let that sober you,  realizing that you pave the way toward heaven, or watch as they drift toward hell.  Spend time in prayer and preparation for these eternity-impacting moments in worship. They deserve your best. Preparation allows you to effectively fill in the gaps between songs, or during the song to keep the momentum building. 

6.  Be Real

It's not about what year the song was written.  It's about how real the message remains.   Choose songs that are real and reflect a genuine, real relationship with Jesus.  A song is only as outdated as you say it is.  We've been singing "Happy Birthday" for decades because we said it's relevant.  Relevance is directly proportionate to how real we allow the song to be in our life.  Instrumentation and choreography should always be secondary to the message of the song.  When it's real in our lives,  it will impact forever.  Oh, that we adults truly knew and believed that "yes Jesus loves me,  the Bible tells me so."  

7.  Always Be Ready

Expect the unexpected.  I'll never forget leading in "God's Not Dead" while watching the boy in the yellow shirt, five rows back on the right side puke his guts out onto the floor.  This wonderful sight was followed by a parade of camp staff and cleaning supplies all in the middle of an intense worship set.  

-Or that one time when I stepped off the edge of the stage and slid down four stairs to the floor.  

-Once while leading worship at a camp in Kentucky, in the open air tabernacle at the top of the hill, a large, round water tank began rolling down the hill with four frantic workers in pursuit.  How do you keep straight faced and focused during that hilarity?

-OHHH and that one time I went to sing a high note after a game that involved a lot of screaming; my voice cracked like I was in middle school in front of 300+ teenagers.

Stuff happens.  You learn to roll with it and move on! Leading kids may not always be easy...but it will always be interesting! 

3 Easy Ways to Transform Caring Into Controlling

It has been in the tagline of a million companies.  Your parents did it. Equivocated with sharing for quite some time,  and also appearing in conjunction with some very special bears;  this attribute goes far beyond mere affection.  We seek to provide it in quality to our customers,  and hospitals provide it in urgent quantities.   Without it people die. It is pivotal to the forward movement of society. In anger we retort WHO does it,  maybe because we don’t give a…. 


Recently I was walking through the mall and a billboard caught my eye with a thought provoking question.  When does caring become controlling? The Indianapolis Fashion Mall sign poses an important question: Can one transform  tender loving care into  tyrannical lordship and control?  Sure can, and here’s three easy things you can do to make that happen!

  1.  Make Mending Malicious. 
  • Don’t ask anyone’s forgiveness.  After all,  that would cost you some of your pride and maybe even make the person you offended feel better than you.  We can’t have that!  
  • Leave it at “I’m sorry.”  That allows you to maintain your place as the subject and controller of any further conversation.  Slipping the word “sorry” in there was scary enough….so let’s continue to talk about “I.” 
  • Better yet…instead of really apologizing, go ahead and redirect the conversation to the sins of the other party.  Say things like “I know I’m not perfect, but neither are you.” Or, “I know there are things I could have done differently, but YOU definitely could have.” Always direct attention off of yourself and back on the person you think has wronged you. We care so much that we would rather call to repentance than allow the Holy Spirit opportunity to do his own job.
  1.  Manipulate Your Marionette 
  • Nothing solidifies your grip of control like manipulation.  If people refuse to act the way you think they should,  manipulate them! 
  • There are some things you cannot necessarily directly control, but you can criticize what you cannot control, thereby gaining a mental hold on your moldable follower/employee.  Compare their qualities to another person you like more.
  • Forget the fact that God makes each individual just that,  AN UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL,  they need to look like you, talk like you, live like you, and think like you.  Take away or refuse to acknowledge anything that contradicts your plan for their future.  You hold the strings!
  • Question Everything.  They obviously have not retained an ounce of anything you have ever taught them.  Fret not,  this has no reflection upon your ability as a leader whatsoever…besides, people love having their every move questioned.  We only ask because we care.
  1.  Memorialize Mistakes 
  •  Nothing is quite as sweet as reminding someone of when they screwed up!  Whether it was yesterday or 10 years ago,  it is your job as the superior to keep a detailed list.  This allows your…well let’s just call them what they really are…SLAVE to understand that only you could make the proper decisions for their life.  
  • No matter what the situation, always have an incident ready to report.  Hopefully the more we point out their past mistakes the less they will examine yours….well, if you have any.  Like most controlling people you probably don’t make that many mistakes.
  • Your slave will never be competent enough to make their own decisions. So, the more you remind them of their mistakes, the more it feeds your need to be needed.  Why do we call these things to remembrance?  Because we have always cared....

Control is often disguised as care.  In many cases,  control freaks have no grasp of their true identity, and would die on their platform of feigned love.  Caring truly is sharing.  It’s more than equal rights to an object,  its providing all the information needed so that care can be interpreted and received.

It's like the story my grandma tells about the two neighbors.  One neighbor kept his yard pristine, while the other let it grow wild.  The "better" of the two asked his neighbor, "why don't you cut your grass?"  "Well friend," He replied, "My lawn mower is broken."  So the keeper of the pristine yard purchased a brand new riding lawn mower for his neighbor.  After several weeks with the unkempt yard in the same condition, the one approached the other and asked "Why haven't you cut your grass?  Where's the lawn mower I gave you!?"  The unkempt man replied, "Oh,  THANK YOU,  my friend needed a mower so I gave it away."  Infuriated the first neighbor shouted, " I GAVE IT TO YOU TO USE!!!!"   Calmly the man replied, "Oh,  well I thought you had GIVEN me the mower,  I did not realize its stewardship belonged to you."

The God who clothes the grass of the field and feeds the sparrows has placed many things in our care.  He cares for us so much as his children, that he does not force obedience or demand a robotic existence. Just like he did not pursue the rich young ruler,  he does not chase after us.  Our joy in obedience is fulfilled by our personal choice to do so.  If God refuses to control people,  we understand that people are not ours to control,  but to care for.

To the poster of the billboard,  the answer is this:  When does caring become controlling?  When care is given with intent to secure power, seek praise, or sabotage plans. 

"3 Easy Ways To Transform Caring Into Controlling" was inspired by and Indy Mall billboard and written to fit the June theme of Nashville's FaithUnity Street Paper.