Created on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 08:41
Written by Aaron
Today I received an email from someone who USED TO attend Element. Your first question is probably, “what did you you do? Why did they leave?” Well, they didn’t leave because of something I did, they left because of something Uncle Sam did when the Air Force moved them away. This is now their second transfer since leaving the Central Coast and we still keep in touch periodically. Today he sent me a question about Element’s stance on volume of music during services.
He said that for the first time ever he, “had to leave a worship service after having had my fingers in my ears for a few minutes…I talked with the sound guy afterwards, and encountered a relatively prideful position of ‘this is how we do it.’” He pointed out that this isn’t him trying to put his tastes upon the whole group, “If I don’t like a mix, or the way the drummer is mic’d, or the style of a song, or how silly an electric guitar player is acting...I can get over that (and have).” But then he says, “the ringing [in his ears] didn’t stop until later that afternoon.” If you are wondering if he felt this way at Element, he did say, “I never had even a moment of this issue at Element. There might have been a time or two I put my fingers in my ears, by they were transient and not a pattern” and his wife didn’t feel the same and thought the volume was always fine.
I found his email interesting because he asked how Element would like to be approached about this issue by people who feel this way. Last week a blog actually came across my feed where the writer said the volume needs to be low enough that you can hear your neighbor sing because that will make you want to sing. It also said volume needs to be low enough that OTHERS can hear YOU sing because that will make you want to sing. I actually totally disagree with the blog writer as we have found the quieter that the band gets, the quieter that the congregation gets. Everyone actually seems to be afraid others will hear them be like an off pitch American Idol reject.
At Element we believe volume should be in a place that you could feasibly sing comfortably without worrying about others. What is pretty cool from a band side of things is that when people enjoy a song and everyone truly joins in, we (as the band) can actually hear that OVER the instruments. All of these things are a tough line to find and sometimes we do it right and sometimes we don’t. The problem is everyone has an opinion and we all feel our opinions are correct and that those who don’t agree with us are wrong (it stems from the little thing called sin).
At Element we have done a couple of things to try and alleviate some of the volume issues. First service is typically turned down a bit as first service is usually lower in attendance and when there are less people there are less bodies absorbing sound waves. Second, we supply ear plugs for anyone who wants them back at the sound booth (some kids have tried to eat them thinking they are candy…they are not). Third, we have various staff members walk through the room on occasion to listen for volume levels. We hope that over time we as a church have become more consistent in our levels and our approach. I have even had people say that the electric guitar needs to turn up at times (you almost never hear that and I am happy to always oblige).
How should my friend approach it where he is now? How would Element like to be approached about it? I do not think approaching the sound guy is anyone’s best bet. Sound guys get the short straw every week. Anything that goes wrong in a service they are automatically blamed for, even if it had nothing to do with them. They get a lot of complaints (and in-turn) shut off and can become territorial because people don’t usually ask them questions, they usually get people’s opinions foisted upon them. Find out who is over the service from an “arts” point of view and talk to them instead. Approach the music leader and speak with him/her about your issues and the volume concern.
From Element’s experience, there have been some people who have shared their concerns and we have dismissed them (we did listen though), but there was nothing we could really do about it (this was more along the lines of style). At other times people have shared and we have taken their words into account and tried to change. When the band hits a first chord and everyone kind of moves back a step, it is too loud, but something to understand is that many times the music leader doesn’t even realize the volume issue because they are on the other side of the main PA speakers than the congregation.
In everything we must be those who extend grace and try to see the issue from all sides, not simply our own. Zac Hicks wrote, “Regardless of your tradition, volume may be one of the top three perennial ‘unsolvable’ problems in worship planning and leading. No matter which way you go, someone is unhappy
We are told that when we worship through song it should be LOUD:
“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts” (Psalm 33:3);
“Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1);
“Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” (Psalm 150:5).
Hicks writes, “Joy, again and again in the Psalms, seems to be associated with pushing the faders up, pressing the organ volume pedal to the floor, and turning the amps up to eleven. The joy of salvation and deliverance is expressed in shouts (Psalm 20:5; 27:6; 32:7, 11; 33:1; 35:27; 42:4; 47:5; 65:8; 66:1; 81:1; 89:15; 126:2; 132:9). Trumpets (no mutes in the ancient Near East) were blasted (Ps 47:5; 98:6; 150:3). So it seems that the loud end of the dynamic spectrum is appropriate for worship music.
We are also told that when we worship through song it should be SOFT:
“I have calmed and quieted my soul” is what one worship song sings (Psalm 131:2).
Hicks again, “Psalm 95 verses 1-5 express loud, thankful, jubilant worship. But Verses 6-7 encourage a different posture: bowed, quiet, reverent. Alongside the admonitions to leap, clap, and shout are the edifying words that whisper “be still” (Ps 37:7; 46:10) and “wait” (Ps 25:5, 21; 33:20; 37:7; 130:5)…In the Psalms, therefore, we hear that low decibels, even a zero reading, are appropriate for worship music
In the end it is how we approach Jesus in our attitude of worship that matters, but let us never forget worship is all that we do…so it matters how we approach one another as well.
Tomorrow our women’s bible study began this week with their fall study on the book: Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. If your schedule allows, and you are a woman, you are invited to join them at 9:30am at Element, even if you missed this week’s study, join in next week!
Created on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 10:44
Written by Michael Reed
However, if you are not a woman or aren’t able to make a mid-week morning study, we still highly recommend you pick up this book to read it. This is a subject that we as leaders strive for Element to have as part of its culture: to see every conversation we have through the lens of the gospel.
How does the good news that Jesus has come to rescue and redeem His people (you and me) speak truth into every situation we face today? How do we become fluent in the language of the gospel and apply these truths to our own hearts, fears, desires and identities? How do we, as well as to our family members, coworkers, neighbors, friends, and those we come into contact with become re-centered on Jesus’ words and works? How do we move from cliché slogans to heart felt responses that lead people to further faith and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? The answer is a greater understanding of the Gospel.
This book is the tipping point of that understanding. Gospel Fluency
looks at what a community committed to speaking and hearing gospel truths looks like. The book focuses on the gospel as applied to every aspect of our lives in order to become “fluent.” It reminds us to extend grace when we don’t want to, and support each other when we try.
We would love if Element’s culture was so saturated in Gospel Fluency, that whenever someone from our city has contact with a member of Element, they encounter Jesus in both word and deed.
Please consider picking up this book. If reading isn’t the way you learn (you probably haven’t read this far) then check out these videos on the subject.
Part 1: What is the Gospel
Part 2: Gospel Fluency
Part 3 & 4 Q&A
Created on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 14:40
Written by Jonathan Whitaker
As many of you know, one of our Elders, Jonathan Whitaker, is currently stationed in England. He will periodically write a blog for Element’s website, but hasn’t sent anything for a while. He is currently overseeing the base’s church ministry where he is stationed and wrote a blog for them. I thought I would repost it for you here:
This little kid sitting next to me, who says she looks like me, is one of the greatest blessings in my life. She doesn’t look like me, she looks like her mom, thank God. But, we’re wearing the same glasses, so that’s something, right?! The point is she is a blessing. Blessing is something I want more of in my life.
Blessing IMHO is a result of getting acquainted with the one who blesses… you know… God. Paul said in Philippians 3 that it was his “determined purpose to know God the Son.” Knowing Jesus is a pretty good way to bring more blessing into your life. But the biggest blessing on knowing Jesus is experiencing Him… yes you can actually experience the unseen God of the Universe in this life.
I personally have experience with this. Lots of experience. I am blessed and blessed and blessed. I would love to tell anyone who will listen and buy me a cup of coffee, all about it. But, for those of you who want to save a couple bucks or quid, as the case may be, I will give you the top three ways that I have experienced blessing from the living God.
First, through prayer. I pray with specificity. I pray, doing my best to trust that God will answer and I pray with my utmost effort for God’s will (not my desire) to be done. God shows up often immediately and in undeniable ways. Sometimes I have to wait, but I am always on the lookout for the results or a report of what God has done. Psalms 5:3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you[a] and watch. If you are intrigued by this, ask me any question you want. If you have never had a prayer answered, ask me about mine.
Second, tithes and offerings. In my decade of giving to the Lord out of what I now know is his money (not my money), I have never been able to give more to God than what he has given me in return. Disclaimer, this is not a get rich quick scheme. If you are giving in order to get something from God, that’s a bribe and that is sin. I’m talking about trusting God with your money. Give a little to honor Him and see what he does. Give a lot and watch Him show up in a major way. Remember the Widow in the synagogue who gave a mite. Monetarily it was worthless, but to her it was priceless because it was all she had. God wants you to give big with your heart. But, if you want to know more, I will tell you a personal testimony that is nothing short of miraculous. (Malachi 3:10)
My third tip for experiencing Jesus is very simple. Honor him with your words and acknowledge him in public. 1 Samuel 2:30, tells us that those who honor God, will be honored by God. I wish more Christians would take God at his word. When I have been bold enough to speak out for Christ in my life, Christ in return opened doors for me professionally, academically, and personally. I’m not joking… there is no other explanation. Honor God and He will honor you.
These aren’t my tips for wealth, health, and fame. Nor are these tips advice for non-believers to get the proof that God exists, so they can believe. This is just my testimony as a believer, about the promises that God made to me and kept. I would love to tell any of you specifics, but I would rather you experience Jesus for yourself.
As for that pretty girl sitting next to me, she was just a blessing God gave me because He is good and He loves me.
Created on Sunday, 10 September 2017 08:15
Written by Aaron
If you have been at Element the last three weeks, you know that it might seem like a bit of a downer because we are in the first chapter of the book of Ruth. This is simply because the first chapter of Ruth is
depressing. It starts off at very low point: no one is following God, a man moves his family to a pagan place and dies, his sons marry women who worship foreign gods, those same sons die, and all hope seems to be lost. These scenes we read about in Ruth should give us pause to consider the whole idea of suffering and affliction in our own lives.
The term “sanctified affliction” has been used by Charles Spurgeon, John James, and most recently, John Piper. Sanctified affliction teaches that everything that comes into our lives can be used by God to grow us more into His likeness and image. This means not one tear we have shed is meaningless in light of God’s overarching sovereignty. As I talked about on Sunday, John Flavel, a Puritan in the 1600s, wrote extensively on this subject. He personally lost three wives, a son, his parents, and he was ejected from his church…he (understandably) asked the question, "Why does God sovereignly permit the suffering of his people?
". He gives eight answers to that question (from an article by Brian H. Cosby in Modern Reformation Magazine,
February 28, 2014):
1.To Reveal and Deter – Flavel writes, "I heartily wish that these searching afflictions may make the more satisfying discoveries; that you may now see more of the evil of sin, the vanity of the creature, and the fulness of Christ, than ever you yet saw."
2.To Produce Godliness and Spiritual Fruit – Flavel believed that the most fruit producing soil in our lives is the ground of suffering. "The power of godliness did never thrive better than in affliction."
3.To Reveal More of the Character of God – God reveals his kindness (hesed) and character by how He cares for us in the midst of our suffering. Flavel writes in reference to 2 Cor 12:9 (where Jesus says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”), “By exposing his people to such grievous sufferings, he gives a fit opportunity to manifest the glory of his power…and of his wisdom."
4. To Relinquish the Temporary for the Eternal – Too often we cling to things that have no eternal value, so God removes them from us even when it hurts. "Thy affliction is a fair class to discover [the creature's vanity]; for the vanity of the creature is never so effectually and sensibly discovered, as in our own experience of it."
5. To Produce a Sincere Faith, Devoid of Hypocrisy – Suffering reveals what we truly believe about the kind of person Jesus is. He says that in suffering we have "an opportunity to discover the sincerity of your love to God."
6. To Encourage Fellowship with God through Word and Prayer – In times of suffering, we should be drawn to the goodness of God and develop a deeper faith than we have ever known. Flavel writes this amazing line, where he says, "I am sure the sweetest melody of prayer is upon the deep waters of affliction."
7. To Bear Witness to the World – How believers live in the midst of their suffering will be a great witness of the reality of salvation and the goodness of God. Rather than hiding or running, we embrace what affliction can teach us. In The Touchstone of Sincerity he writes, "The frequent trials of grace…prove beyond all words or argument that religion is no fancy, but the greatest reality in the world."
8. To Cultivate Communion with Christ, the Greatest Sufferer – We have a God who not only walks with us through our suffering, but suffered Himself for salvation by taking our sin upon Himself. When we understand that Jesus cared enough to die the death we should have died, it should humble us and draw us into deeper relationship with Him. In The Method of Grace, Flavel writes, "In all your afflictions he is afflicted; tender sympathy cannot but flow from such intimate union."
The Puritans, as a group, were unique in their understanding of our suffering and the goodness, sovereignty, and kindness of God. Today it seems as though the American church wants to run and hide from any theology that touches near the subject of suffering and pain. We are told that God’s job is only to bless you…and “bless” is defined as whatever makes you
feel happy and fulfilled. On the contrary though, we know the truth is that God does bless us many times, but that blessing comes either in the midst of, or as a result, of suffering. God isn’t too small to allow pain into our lives, and He is big enough to walk us through it to grow us in our sanctified afflictions.
How about one last quote from Flavel? “A Christian may develop and cultivate a deeper and more meaningful relationship and fellowship with God, especially in times of suffering
Created on Monday, 19 June 2017 20:48
Written by Aaron
In case you have missed it over the last few years, Element is on a mission to glorify Jesus, and you are invited to participate in that mission. Part of that has included, over the past few years, trying to find a permanent home where we can gather. Our current lease expires at the end of 2017 and if you have noticed, we still haven’t started moving dirt in the field we bought. I’d like to explain the reasons behind that.
After getting all the bids back, it turns out our building (as currently designed) is too expensive for us to build. Don’t get me wrong…it’s nice, but we would probably have to take out a hefty mortgage to make it work. We then have to ask, “would a mortgage that became an extreme burden be glorifying to God even if it ended up with us having an amazing building?” Probably not. There are new state regulations that apply to our current design that make it cost prohibitive. This leaves us with a few options:
One. Someone gives us 5 million dollars to build a building. I am not entirely sure of the stewardship of that, but hey, we’d take it. (Have you seen our Giving page?)
Two. We try to find more time to go back and redesign our project. Bringing the building size down into more manageable chunks would work wonders to our cost; unfortunately, that will take another couple of years to do.
Three. We have found another property in Orcutt that sits on 5.2 acres and is currently for sale. The property currently has a smaller church on it, but we believe we could make it work for what we need. We could sell our current parcel and move into this property nearly debt-free (in the end saving us close to $17,000 a month in our current rent and mortgage of the land).
Four: A mortgage on the property listed in Option Three would end up being about $4,000 a month less than our current rent. We could feasibly live on this property while redesigning our current building and eventually move back to the current site we are in now.
It’s good to have options, but we also need Planting Roots to continue in order to make any of these options a reality. Planting Roots has never been about a building. It is about Element finding a permanent home in the Santa Maria Valley in order to lift up Jesus in all things.
At this point we are officially in escrow on that property in Orcutt. It will take a lot of effort and energy to get it into shape to move into by the end of the year, but with your prayers and support, we will continue on to our Plan Z (whatever that is) and seek comfort in the fact that is always God’s Plan A.