Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Present: Worship Lessons

It's so easy to plug along week after week in ministry and lose sight of why we do this in the first place. I have to continually remind myself (or be reminded by God) why I really do what I do.

I'm reading a book called "The Cross and Christian Ministry - Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians" by D. A. Carson. The premise of the book is whether or not the Cross is truly the center of your ministry. I'm only a 3rd of the way through the book and God has "reminded" me of areas of worship that can, little by little, head off course. Here's a few examples from the book (I'm paraphrasing)-

"We have become so performance oriented that it's hard to see how compromised we are. Here's an example: In many churches, prayers now function as the time to change the set in the sanctuary. The people bow their heads and when they look up a minute later, the singers are all in place or the drama group is ready to perform. It's all so smooth - it's also profane. We are in prayer addressing the King of heaven. In reality, some of us are doing that (addressing the King of heaven) while others are tip-toeing around the stage - still others are wondering what happy configuration will confront them when they open their eyes. Has the smoothness of the performance become more important to us than the fear of the Lord? Has polish displaced substance?"

OK, I'll be the first to admit it...I've used prayer as a transition.

A little further on he writes: "As long as people are impressed by your powerful personality and impressive gifts, there is very little room for you to impress them with a crucified Savior."

OK, I'll admit this too - I sometimes worry about how "well" I'm doing when I'm leading worship.

Wow. I need to be reminded of these things continually. I DO worry about smooth transitions in a worship service and sometimes forget the important things. I also have to continually be aware of my human need to "perform" and keep my purpose as a worship leader in check - an on-going battle with my human nature.

I love it when God reminds of things and keeps me in check - I need it and I'll be the first to admit that I've got a long way to go. How about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Past and Present: Summer is Over

Summer was always such a great time of year for me as a kid. I absolutely loved playing outside and would go out from the time I got up until I had to go in when it got dark. Riding my bike was a favorite activity as well as playing cars in the Cramblett's sandbox, kickball in the field behind my house, "olden days" in Kent woods (at the end of my street) where we acted like we were settlers, and on and on. Most of the families on Thoreau Ave. in Akron had lived in their houses for years, so I grew up with mostly the same bunch of kids from the time I was a toddler until they either moved away or graduated from high school - I never moved. Today when I think of summer I often think of the kids on Thoreau.

There was Timmy Simmons, the red-haired kid who lived next door until he moved away in 5th grade. One time I pushed him off the front porch (see earlier post about the porch) into the bushes and he had to get stitches on his back. He was also friends with my future wife Donna when she was in junior high - strange. Curt Cramblett and his sister Colleen lived across the street until they moved away; Curt was younger than me and we didn't often get along too well. I accidentally (?) put my fist through their storm door window and almost had to get stitches myself. Next to the Cramblett's were the Vannatters; another anchor family that lived in their house for many years - we loved the Vannatters and all four of us Authenreith kids hung around with them at one time or another. Lori was a best friend from kindergarten until high school, and her brother Kelley was great friends with my sisters and even became close to my mom and dad later on. There were the Colliers who lived two doors up (lots of stories there) and Kim was a good friend up into high school.

There were other "anchor" families on Thoreau: The Mays, the Goodwills, the Hackets, the Saunders, the Falveys, the Glasses and many more that I can see in my mind - and see their house, but can't remember their names! Some of them may still live there today.

For my boys now, summer is a little different. We've had the curse or the blessing (depends on how you look at it) to have lived in 5 states in the past 12 years - all for my job/ministry locations. I hurt sometimes when I think that my boys never really got to experience very many "Thoreau" summers because they were always the kids that moved away. I look at my time on Thoreau as a pretty positive growing up experience and have often wished the same for Brandon and Marshal. Fortunately for Donna and I, they are very adaptable and have done well with the moves and school changes - praise the Lord for that.

So summer 2009 comes to a close. The boys are back in school and all the fall activities are starting up. I know we are only on this earth for a brief time compared to eternity, but why does it have to go by so fast?

How about some thoughts and comments?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Present: Back in Texas

It's really hard to believe that we've been gone from Texas half as long as we lived in Texas. To come back is always a blessing - we have so many fond memories of the six years we were here.

Every year in July I have the opportunity and privilege to come back to Tomball Texas and help with a preschool teacher's conference called PTAC - Preschool Teachers Adventure Conference. About 800 preschool teachers from all around the U.S. gather for three days to get better at what they do. It's three days of speakers and workshops covering topics like safety in the classroom, CPR , quick and easy snacks; and everything in between. I was asked to help out with the technical a/v stuff about 4 years ago or so, and have been coming back ever since.

This year was an added blessing - I brought Donna, Brandon and Marshal with me for a mini-vacation. Donna was here last year but the boys haven't been back in almost 3 years. It's great driving around and seeing all the new stores and restaurants, driving by our old house, seeing old friends and eating at our favorite places with our favorite foods - Mexican and Barbecue!

We miss Texas but we know that God has moved us on for a reason and we love Ohio. I've already been booked for PTAC 2010 so hopefully Donna and the boys can come back with me next year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Present: Change of Life

Even though I'm about through the middle-age thing (unless I live to be 100), I am experiencing a "change of life" right now. As for the real mid-life crisis we experience, I still want a tattoo really bad (I designed a "godly" Fender Stratocaster that a tattoo artist drew up for me - can't spring for the $100 to get it done), and I'm jonesing for a backup guitar, (can't spring for that either.) Other than that, I never wanted the sports car or the 20 year old college chick. My change of life has come in a different way... Donna's mom and dad and two granddaughters have moved to Walbridge. Now for the first time in 13 years we have family living in the same town as us.

It has already been an amazing experience. They have plugged along for too many years trying to raise Sara (11) and Alyssa (7) on their own, and God opened the doors for them to come here, so we could jump in and offer them the help they so freely gave us when we were first married. We picked out a house for them (scary I know) which they love, we've helped them with contractors, buying furniture and appliances, helped them get familiarized with the area, the boys have kept their yard mowed and on and on - it's such a great joy to give back to them. The biggest and best blessing of all? We are beginning to introduce them to Jesus Christ.

Our small group and church family have already shared Christ's love without even mentioning His name - through food baskets, cards, visits; and the two girls from our church that live across the street have become Sara and Alyssa's good friends. Another young girl from the church has taken Sara to the movies and had her over to play; I think they are starting to settle in.

Please pray for them - God has never been a part of their family but get this...they all came to church last week and the message was about raising your kids in a godly household. It couldn't have been any better. This is a welcome "change of life."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Present: Week after Week

You know... it's really difficult to plan and prepare worship experiences week after week after week. Sunday comes every seven days and here at Mainstreet we throw in extra services throughout the year; like for the past few months we've added a "1st Wednesday Worship." I don't think that most people understand what it takes to pull worship off every week unless you are involved with planning a worship experience yourself.

Used to be in the old days you picked three or four hymns and selected which 5 of the 15 verses you were going to sing from each one. Even with a hymn book filled with hundreds of hymns you still only sang about 15-20 different ones over the course of a year. And of course you sang all 6 verses of "Almost Persuaded" every single week at the altar call; waiting for that last lost soul to bravely slip out of their row and head down the aisle - all eyes watching.

Which reminds me - remember this? "Every head bowed, every eye closed; no one looking around; just slip your hand up saying yes pastor pray for me...I see you in the back thank you, just slip your hand...yes over there to the right, I'm praying for you...anyone else...don't be afraid; every head bowed...yes young lady I see your hand and so does Jesus (choir looping back around to verse 1 of Almost Persuaded quietly in the background.) It always seemed like this went on for an eternity...everyone by this time was starved, so some people either made their way down the aisle or raised their hand week after week just so the thing would finally end.

There was always a fiery sermon straight from the KJV Bible and a solo sang at the pulpit by a operatic soprano (sometimes my own mother), or maybe the house quartet would do a special, and after the aforementioned altar call they'd read the names of those who received Jesus or joined the church and off we'd go (we usually came back at 7 for the evening service)...ah the good old days!

Church is a little different nowa days. First of all, our pastor labors endlessly over what his message (not called a sermon any more) topic should be for the culturally relevant series we're going to do, then he brings a "bottom line" to the planning team. We can spend hours just deciding on what the title for the series should be, and it's got to be one that would make an 18 year old want to get out of bed and come to church - totally cool (err sweet) and totally connected to something in the culture.

Once we have a series title we labor over graphics...something grungy with a broken font and maybe a close-up of a skateboarder doing an ollie or something from Rock Band - (uber sweet). Then and only then do we start planning individual services. "How about a secular song for a prelude...Aerosmith..." "Yeah, but don't they do drugs? What if someone thinks we're promoting drug use..." "No, not anymore, they all went to rehab in the 80's... it'll be fine - let's do Love in an Elevator." "We should probably do a drama for week two and shoot some man-on-the-streets to tie each week together." "Hey, the new Miley Cyrus song has a great message..." "Yeah, but doesn't she do drugs?" And on it goes...week after week.

We do have a particular challenge putting services together. Cirque Du Soleil (which I love) can spend months and months preparing their show, and they do the same show over and over night after night. But they have one advantage...a different audience for every show. We have the same audience week after week...some of which still long for the old days. How do you keep it fresh and interesting week after week? Church was rarely fresh and interesting (sorry) when I was a kid but we went...week after week and so did everyone else.

Guess what...I think worship at Mainstreet is usually fresh and interesting. Oh, sometimes we fall into a routine and have to change things up a bit, but generally? I like the music, the grungy graphics, the videos, the messages, the dramas... I like to go to other churches to see what they're doing too. God is so creative and He has given us creative people - I love hearing creative ideas flying around the worship planning table and see it come together on Sunday morning.

Many people received Christ and built the foundations of their faith on the church services of the past. It's a privilege to use all the things at our disposal today to help people connect with God - I wouldn't change it for anything. But you know? The Bible says..."faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God..." Hummmm.

Thoughts? Comments?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Past: Sunday School

I think I've been to thousands of church services over the last 48 years. My mom and dad used to drag all four of us kids to the Akron Baptist Temple each week whether we wanted to go or not. Sunday school is not quite a church service but I think it still counts; I racked up hundreds of hours there - what do you think?

The Akron Baptist Temple (ABT) was actually in the Guiness Book of World Records when I was growing up, as the church with the world's largest Sunday school - wow did I think we were cool. I remember there were nearly 40 full-size church buses parked out back that picked up thousands of kids all over the city on Sunday morning - affectionately known to us as "bus kids." The Sunday school was housed in a bunch of connecting buildings (added on as the church grew) and you were assigned appropriately to a floor in one of the buildings with kids your own age. On your floor was the main "worship" area and then several dozen classrooms surrounding the worship space. We'd meet in the middle at the beginning, sitting on long, hard, high-backed slatted benches to sing the classics...The B-I-B-L-E, If You're Saved and You Know It, Jesus Loves Me, I am a C, I am a C-H, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N (Amen!) and on and on; usually accompanied by a 300 year-old lady on an upright piano in a print dress that had been going there since the place was still woods, and a Rodney Dangerfield-looking song leader that never made it as a soloist in "big church," always trying to be funny. After 15 minutes of songs and announcements, it was off to the lesson time.

Every fall during Sunday School promotion time, (when you got promoted to a new age group and shuffled to another floor in the complex) it was always a time of anticipation to see what teacher you would get for the next year, and to see what kids were going to be in your class - including bus kids. Usually, the teachers were nice and used flannel graphs to tell Bible stories, and after a month or two they would remember your name. I would do my best to go every week (like I had a choice) because you got a cool prize if you made it 13 weeks in a row. Can you imagine that now? Thirteen weeks is like an eternity - would that be defeating to an 8 year old trying to win something? What if you were a bus kid? I'm sure that parent advocates have passed some sort of Sunday school law against that 13-week-perfect-attendance thing by now. Thirteen weeks was a huge investment when all it got you was a white plastic bank shaped like a church that glowed in the dark (eternal benefits not quite understood.) Be that at as it may...I had quite a collection of glow in the dark banks. Eventually when I got old enough, I would shoot for a voucher for $2 off the price of a week at church camp (the prize got better as you got older) - that's about 15 cents per Sunday...tough economy back then. Hey, some years those vouchers almost covered the whole cost of camp for me - that's a lot of 15 cent Sundays.

The thing is...I had no reference as a kid for what was really happening at Sunday school. I was learning the truths of God's Word from that Sunday School teacher. Rodney Dangerfield and the long ago-passed-away piano lady were helping me discover God's magnificence and learn about God's creation through song. And all of that seeped deep into my spirit, so that when the time was just right, Jesus Christ became Lord of my life.

Keep watching.

Hey, you can leave comments you know... I'd love to hear about your Sunday school adventures.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Present: The New Saturday Routine

Life has changed a little at the Authenreith household. I used to get up whenever I wanted on Saturday morning (still usually before 8am), make a pot of coffee and throw myself on the couch until I "felt" like doing anything. I have a full schedule at Mainstreet - working Sunday through Friday with a few evenings thrown in, so Saturday was my only official day off; notice I say was...

I'm always looking for opportunities to supplement my income as many of us do, and through the years I've been asked by different people here and there if I give guitar lessons. My personality type leans towards the cautious - "don't try anything you think you will fail at" so I've always said no. One day several months ago, I was in Marty's office (my supervisor) and he asked me out of the blue if I ever considered giving guitar lessons - he thought there was a bit of interest by people in the congregation, including his son Marty Jack. After a some prayer and much discussion with Donna, I began the research to see if I could pull this off.

I started with an online forum I belong to called The Gear Page, (TGP) which is a forum of, for and about anything having to do with guitars. I've been an active participant on TGP for almost two years - learning about different guitars, playing techniques, amps, pedals... you name it. It's a blast for someone like me who lives and breathes guitars, and it is has proven to be very beneficial to me as a player and as a worship leader. I started a thread on TGP - "How Do I Become a Guitar Teacher - help please," or something like that, and with thousand and thousands of guitarists active on the forum I received plenty of responses from those who teach - almost all of them positive, with most saying that teaching guitar is a very rewarding activity. I also got advice on what to teach each week - (a piece of theory, an exercise and a piece of music) and practical things like how to handle students who don't practice, etc. One of the great things I was turned on to was a marvelous beginning guitar book, "From Liverpool to Abbey Road - Beginning Guitar with the Music of the Beatles." Wow, how can you beat that. So - I had my friend Lisa Feather design some cool business cards, Donna and I spruced up the basement, and I ordered my teaching materials - along with a book called "How to Make Money Teaching Guitar," (another invaluable asset to my venture) and off I went.

Within a week or two, I filled up my student openings and the new Saturday routine began. I have eight guitar students coming to my house each week for lessons, and we're all working through the great book "From Liverpool to Abbey Road - Beginning Guitar Lessons with the Music of the Beatles." So far, it has been a blast - and as my friends on TGP said - it's a very rewarding activity. Music and the love of playing my guitar was somehow engrained in my DNA from birth or something, and being able to share that God-given passion and love for music with beginning students is a great thing. Now if I can just get used to the new Saturday routine it will all be good!

Oh, one other thing... the first song you come to in the Beatles book after a few weeks of lessons is "Little Help from My Friends," which I've now heard and played dozens of times. The problem with that song? There's lines in there that talk about activities you can do with help from your friends..."Oh, I'll get by with a little help from my friends... gonna try with a little help from my friends... I get high with a little help from my friends..." Being a worship pastor and all? I've had to scratch that one word out of all of my students books - just to be on the safe's not 1967 anymore.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


So I get around to writing again. I know, it's been a while. Here's some things on my mind lately. I just turned 48. Yep. That's the big thing on my mind...well, that and about 200 other things. At 48 years old I look back at my life (more of that later in "Past") and you know what, God has been really good to me. There were many, many times that I know for sure that God could have said, "Enough is enough, I'm bringing you up here to heaven to play the harp." But, God is a God of second, and third, and forth chances so He let me stay a little longer.

Have you ever tried to figure out what it is exactly God has called you to do, like why he let me stay a little longer? "Why yes, John, I would say you're called to be a worship arts pastor," you might answer. Yeah, that could be true, but that's only part of the picture. But let's look at that first...

I have the honor and the privilege of working with a great team of people to dream, create and execute worship services every single week for about 800 people. I have a pastor who trusts my judgement and oversees, but does not micro-manage the work I do. I am surrounded by incredible teams of people that decorate sets, pick the music, load the lyrics and videos, operate the lights and the sound console, direct and operate cameras, lead with their voices and their instruments, actors and readers, video shooters and editors and on and on. All of this so that those 800 people might catch a glimpse of, or just touch the garment of the creator of the universe. God doesn't need any of us to reach people, but He chooses to use us for whatever reason; to allow us to participate, to encourage the use of the gifts He has given us - wow, what an honor.

As important as all of that is - that's not the MOST important thing God has called me to do. The most important thing he has called me to do is to love Him. When God gave me that forth or fifth or tenth chance, I fell in love with Him all over again. That's not to say that our relationship isn't up and down. He stands back and folds His arms and watches me make our relationship more difficult than it needs to be. Do I really understand His love for me? Do I really understand unconditional love that would warrant the sacrifice of His Son? I don't think I do. I'm still a work in progress; beating myself up at every turn in the road - making our relationship harder than it needs to be as I said before. Maybe when I'm 58 I'll have different words to write but right now? I've got a ways to go.

The second most important thing - that's right, even before my "calling" as a worship arts pastor, is Donna and the boys. Wow. That's all I can As selfish a person as I've been for so many years I never could understand why God blessed me so much with my wife and kids. I am just now at a point in my life where I'm realizing that selfish pursuits don't do anyone any good. For me, my career/ministry has called me to be away from my family a good bit of the time. I haven't had a 9-5 job in many years. This, however has all been a part of being able to provide for my family using the talents and abilities God has given me - I don't have a "normal" set of 9 to 5 skills! Donna has been my support - she patiently waited for me to get my degree as we barely had food to eat. She's packed up our house a half a dozen times to move to the location God was calling us, or should I say me to...and she's endured my selfish pursuits in other areas. Same with the they really mean "that's OK dad," when I tell them we can't watch a movie because I'm playing at a coffee house? I always wonder if that will come back to bite me in the "you-know-what" somewhere down the road. At 48, God is finally getting it through my thick head...God, Family, Others. I hope it doesn't take you that long...