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Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 2)

Posted by on 6:47 pm in Faith | 1 comment

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 2)

In this article, we’ll discuss some practical ways that the ministries of spiritual direction and worship leading interrelate. In Part 1 (catch up HERE if you missed it), we discussed some of the ways the two ministries are unique and the particular developmental benefits of spiritual direction in the life of a Worship Leader. We then turned our attention to these specific questions: How might a Worship Leader prepare, plan, and lead worship as a Spiritual Director? Is it possible to some extent? Could it be beneficial to consider? I said I believed the answer to both of these questions was a resounding “Yes”, so let’s dive in. Let me address a question you might have right off the top; “Why should I adopt or embody this style or method as a Worship Leader?” Especially if you haven’t had an experience with spiritual direction and don’t personally subscribe to it as an element of discipleship in your life, this is a fair objection. But, whether you are a “fan” of spiritual direction or not, it’s important to consider that as Worship Leaders, we are also Culture Makers. Meaning, the way you approach, prepare for, and lead worship creates values and cultural touchstones within your context. Whatever you’re doing to get people in your pews, you will have to continue to do to keep them there. If your strategy and values, for instance, are high-production, Vegas-style smoke and mirrors, having the right fitting jeans, or staying up on the latest, greatest worship songs, you will need to keep that up, or do one better each week in order to keep your congregation engaged and entertained. I’d propose another way, a deeper, more thoughtful approach. What is the culture you want to create through your leadership? What kind of worshippers do you want your people to become over time? Let these greater questions shape your worship leading. You and your congregation will be grateful and blessed by doing so. And, again, because I’ve experienced first-hand the profound journey of spiritual direction in my own life, and researched its effectiveness in the life of believers around the world, for over a thousand years, it seems worthwhile to pursue this connection between spiritual direction and worship leading. It also seems logical and helpful to discuss elements of preparing for worship before addressing the act of leading worship in this way. It’s particularly interesting to reflect on the ways a Spiritual Director is instructed to prepare before meeting with a Directee, and how those items of preparation have some corollary with the preparation to lead worship. So, before talking through practical ways to lead worship as a Spiritual Director, let’s look at ways to prepare for worship leading through this lens. These prayer points are copied from my course syllabus in Spiritual Direction and Soul Care at Talbot Seminary. I’ll list them, just as they were written (with a few edits for context), and then unpack various ways I see these instructions and values inform the preparation of worship leading. I see these prompts being helpful as Worship Leaders begin to plan a service or liturgy, or as they enter the sanctuary or worship space to prayerfully get things ready for the already-planned gathering to come. These postures take practice, repeated over time, to...

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Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 1)

Posted by on 4:10 pm in Faith | 2 comments

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 1)

Leading worship for thirty years and serving as a Spiritual Director for the last five of those, has given me a unique perspective on soul care, formation, and the dynamics of worship leading. In this article, I will briefly attempt to describe the interrelatedness of these two roles, how they are alike, how they differ, and how the ancient art of spiritual direction can inform and deepen the ministry of worship leading. Many Christian leaders have found great value and support in meeting with a Spiritual Director as part of their ongoing discipleship and spiritual formation. This is a growing trend in evangelical circles, and I’m grateful for the interest in this aspect of spiritual formation. Graduating from Talbot Seminary and serving as a Spiritual Director these last several years has been a deep joy. Describing the many ways that serving in this ministry (and personally receiving spiritual direction) enriches my life and faith would constitute an entire article by itself, so I’ll simply say here that it has profoundly impacted the way I shepherd, lead, and love others. It has also shaped the way I approach worship leading and my role as Pastor of Worship at Grace Community Church. HOW THESE MINISTRIES ARE UNIQUE Before diving into the interrelatedness and connection between spiritual direction and worship leading, it might be helpful to discuss how they are not the same. Worship leading usually describes the activity of guiding a small-to-large group through an experience of corporate singing, prayer, reading, and listening to God together. It’s a role that can quickly scale from a few individuals in a quiet room to thousands in an arena. Traditional, formal spiritual direction, on the other hand, is limited in scope from a one-to-one relationship up to a small group setting, with usually never more than about ten people. It is not effective in a large group because spiritual direction relies heavily on the participant (the “Directee”) having space to talk, share, and process out loud the activity of God in his or her life. There is more content coming from the participant rather than the leader in spiritual direction. Significant time and opportunity must be created for this to occur, and a Spiritual Director goes to great lengths in providing a spiritually and emotionally open space where the Directee is free to set the pace and take the conversational and topical lead. Worship leading, especially in large groups, is the opposite; the worship leader provides most of the content, pacing, and agenda. A Worship Leader is more “directive” in this case, intentionally planning a structure and program for individuals or a congregation to follow and participate in. Spiritual Direction meetings usually occur once a month to give adequate time and space between appointments for a Directee to process God’s activity in their lives and to collect and ponder their unique experiences before they meet again with their Director. Quite different from this schedule, the people of God, in groups small and large, often gather for worship once a week on Sunday and sometimes on various days in between. The frequency of these meetings poses a unique set of challenges and opportunities for a Worship Leader that are not shared by the Spiritual Director. Formational practices that occur this frequently demand a thoughtful and...

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Practicing Silence for Lent

Posted by on 7:45 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Practicing Silence for Lent

I had the privilege a couple weeks ago to teach on Sunday morning at my church on the topic of silence. Here’s the sermon audio if you’d like to take a listen. May God strengthen and stretch you this Lenten season!...

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8 Podcasts for Lent

Posted by on 7:31 pm in Faith | 0 comments

8 Podcasts for Lent

Lenten blessings, everyone! Remember when you had to wait a week for your favorite TV show to come on? On-demand streaming has taken away a bit of the drama, patience, and anticipation of a slowly unfolding storyline, so to recapture that (and help us experience Lent more deeply) I’ve created eight, weekly audio meditations, like mini-Podcasts. These are imaginative exercises based on Scripture which take us through Jesus’ Passion Week, leading to his crucifixion. They range from around 5-10 minutes each, and are designed to lead to further reflective prayer afterward if you have time. Just choose a moment each week, grab your favorite blanket or comfy chair, maybe brew up a warm drink, settle in and hit “play”. You could also listen along during a daily activity, like a car ride or preparing a meal in the kitchen. Don’t skip ahead and binge-listen, though! I pray these are a blessing and guide you these seven weeks to a more intimate connection with Christ’s love and sacrifice for you. Week 1 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-1.mp3   Week 2 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-2.mp3   Week 3 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-3.mp3   Week 4 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-4.mp3   Week 5 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-5.mp3   Week 6 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-6.mp3   Week 7 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-7.mp3   EASTER!...

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Soul Sauna: Taking a Benedictine Retreat

Posted by on 6:53 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Soul Sauna: Taking a Benedictine Retreat

If self-care is somewhere on your New Year’s Resolutions list, you might be asking yourself: How can I get a rest, a real rest this year? What would best help me clear my head and reset my heart? What could most refresh and refuel me? What might deeply reengage my relationship with God? …and if you can carve out a 24-48 hour block of time to dedicate to this endeavor (which you should!), then I have an adventure for you: A Benedictine Retreat! You know that feeling when you get out of a hot-tub or sauna after a long time; that mellow, mushy, super-relaxed, nothing-can-upset-me type of feeling? A retreat like this does that for your soul, and there’s nothing quite like it. So in the next few paragraphs, I will explain exactly how to go on a solo, silent, self-guided Benedictine retreat at a monastery, on your own terms, in your own way (but steeped in hundreds of years of spiritual history and practice) that will stretch and grow your mind, enlarge your soul, and help you deeply unplug. Let’s go! BOOK YOUR RETREAT The first thing you’ll need to do is look at your crazy-busy, jam-packed calendar and find a 24-48 hour window to block out. This may be tough, but it will be worth it. The longer the better, so try for 48 hours if possible. Choose a couple options, because when you call the retreat center they may be booked. Most don’t do email often, so calling is best. There are Benedictine monasteries all over the world that host individuals for self-guided retreats. I’ve been to three, and I highly recommend them: Prince of Peace Abby (ocean) 650 Benet Hill Rd, Oceanside, CA 92058 (760) 967-4200 www.princeofpeaceabbey.org St. Andrews Abbey (desert) 31001 N. Valyermo Rd, Valyermo, CA 93563 (661) 944-2178 www.saintandrewsabbey.com Holy Cross Abbey (mountain) 901 Cool Spring Lane Berryville, Virginia 22611-2700 (540) 955-4383 www.virginiatrappists.org You’ll simply call them, tell them you’d like to come for an individual, self-guided retreat, and they will help you book your room. You normally pay at the end of your stay, with a check that you leave in an envelope and drop in a key-slot (and they are patient and gracious if you forget your checkbook and have to arrange payment later). Room and board costs are about $100 a night. This fee can sometimes be covered by your employer through a self-care/development budget, or through a spiritual development account if you’re in ministry, so don’t be afraid to ask your boss or supervisor about this. PRAPARE FOR YOUR RETREAT Now that you’ve got the dates booked, begin thinking through what to bring with you on the retreat. Pack light. This is a perfect time to practice simplicity! Meals: If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, I highly recommend not bringing extra food or snacks; eat the simple, healthy meals that the monastery provides and nothing more. Skipping a meal or two, as a fast, is also another powerful practice, but I personally like the mealtime because it’s a unique setting to experience, and it fits nicely into the rhythm of the day. The food is healthy and simple and often locally farmed. Clothes: Bring a sun hat and good walking shoes, and a coat for the cold nights...

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Best 30 Seconds Ever

Posted by on 1:14 am in Family | 0 comments

Best 30 Seconds Ever

  I led a team-building exercise recently where I instructed everyone to think for a moment about their favorite memories. We took a couple of minutes in silence to catalog a few of the most magical snapshots of our lives, and then I narrowed the search further; “now consider what 30 seconds you’d most like to live again.” A lively discussion followed as everyone shared their favorite 30-second memory. After 24 years of marriage, four children, countless adventures, challenges and joys, there were several 30-second snapshots that came to my mind, but one seemed to float above the rest. My brothers and I had the chance, years ago, to travel to Hawaii for a guys-only surf adventure. I’m the oldest of five boys, and it’s an amazing gift to be great friends with all of these…well, men now. Before many of us had families of our own, this long-shot blast to Maui, with our clothes taped around our surfboards as padding during the flight, made an indelible mark in my memory, seeming to somehow weave itself into my DNA. I’ll never forget catching the biggest wave of my life at Honolua Bay on that trip, but it was the small moments, the rambling, spontaneous, gloriously unplanned days we shared as brothers that made the deepest impression. On one of the last evenings together on the island, we were heading south along a two-lane country road with the ocean on our right, and we spotted a pristine, empty surf break through the thick palms. We jumped out and hit the waves as the sun was getting low in the sky. Sure enough, this spot was perfect; small but glassy peelers crashed one after the other, and there was no wind, and no other people for miles. We shared the waves, swapping boards, goofing around, passing around a straw hat, and laughing at all the inside jokes collected between us throughout the years. As the sun finally sank below the horizon, we all caught a last wave in and sat on the beach for a moment, catching our breath in the fading light, watching another epic sunset send streaks up across the sky. The temperature between the warm air, the sand, and the water was seamless, undetectable. Our swim trunks weren’t dry yet, but I wasn’t cold at all, even as darkness grew. My brothers and I had nowhere we needed to be, nothing to do, and no reason to rush off. Just resting on the sand, slightly damp, joyfully exhausted, and perfectly content, watching those last colored strands of sunlight fade into the tropical evening…that’s my favorite 30 seconds...

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JFB sighting! June 9th!

Posted by on 7:20 pm in Music | 0 comments

JFB sighting! June 9th!

We’re back! Pete Dawson on electric guitar will be joining the three of us, rounding out the classic JFB line-up on June 9th in Bellflower. We’ll be featuring a full-band set of original songs from over 20 years of music making. We’ll be focusing our song set around the theme of prayer and excited to revisit classics like “I Will” and “Stay”, as well as bring to life the newer songs “Here With You” and “In My Weakness”. There will be a couple other worship bands kicking off the night, and we’ll close the evening with a set starting at 8:30. Hope to see you there!...

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Lent Meditations (AUDIO)

Posted by on 2:12 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Lent Meditations (AUDIO)

Lenten blessings, everyone! Remember when you had to wait a week for your favorite TV show to come on? On-demand streaming has taken away a bit of the drama, patience, and anticipation of a slowly unfolding storyline, so to recapture that (and help us experience Lent more deeply) I’ve created seven, weekly audio meditations. These are imaginative exercises based on Scripture which take us through Jesus’ Passion Week, leading to his crucifixion. They range from around 5-10 minutes each, and are designed to lead to further reflective prayer afterward if you have time. Just choose a moment each week, grab your favorite blanket or comfy chair, maybe brew up a warm drink, settle in and hit “play”. You could also listen along during a daily activity, like a car ride or preparing a meal in the kitchen. Don’t skip ahead and binge-listen, though! I pray these are a blessing and guide you these seven weeks to a more intimate connection with our Savior’s love and sacrifice for you. Week 1 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-1.mp3   Week 2 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-2.mp3   Week 3 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-3.mp3   Week 4 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-4.mp3   Week 5 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-5.mp3   Week 6 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-6.mp3   Week 7 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-7.mp3   EASTER!...

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WHY do we do this?

Posted by on 7:23 pm in Faith, Music | 0 comments

WHY do we do this?

As Pastor of Worship at Grace Community Church in Seal Beach, I have the opportunity to plan our worship gatherings each week, working with a pastoral team and other creative collaborators. It’s a joy and a privilege and also a great challenge: How do we keep things fresh but also stay true to a liturgy (the “work of the people”) that helps us know God better and appropriately respond in worship? What elements need to be there each week, and which ones could we leave behind? WHY do we even do some of this stuff anyway?? Our Worship Community recently gathered to reflect on these questions, and here’s a few nuggets we discovered. This video also did a great job of prompting us to really look hard at what we do and why we do it… Each of these liturgy elements below are activities we do fairly regularly, and the descriptions and reasons behind them are taken from The Worship Sourcebook and Desiring the Kingdom. We decided that each one, when done properly, helps us worship God in spirit and truth, and that they really do matter after all: Call to Worship “An invitation to be human” One function of the invitation is to express welcome and hospitality. We worship in the joyful context of our renewed relationship with God in Christ. These words may be spoken with a gesture of open embrace and a genuine smile to convey the warmth of God’s love. Another function of the invitation is to call the community to the unique activity of worship. The primary activity of the worship service is for worshipers to participate in the gift exchange of worship itself, by hearing God’s Word, by offering prayers and praise, and by receiving spiritual nourishment offered at the Lord’s table. The call to worship establishes the unique purpose of the worship service and reinforces the “vertical dimension” of worship—an encounter between God and the gathered congregation.   Invocation “Utter dependence on God” These petitions express longing for God as well as deep dependence and humility. Invocations acknowledge that the power in worship is a gift from God rather than a human accomplishment, and they explicitly confess that we approach God only through Christ. The term invocation implies that the congregation invokes, or “calls upon,” God, but it should never be inferred that we are the ones to invite God into our presence, or that God’s presence with us depends on our invoking the Lord. God is present before we begin! Our prayers of invocation celebrate and acknowledge God’s presence; they don’t produce it.   Confession and Assurance of Pardon “Brokenness, Grace, Hope” Our God longs for honesty and holiness within the promise-based relationship God has established with us in Christ. In a culture that avoids talk of sin and culpability, regular prayers of confession foster honesty and openness in our relationship with God. Just as a marriage cannot flourish without honest confession, so our mar- riage-like relationship with God cannot flourish unless we freely and honestly express all facets of our life: hopes, fears, sins, desires, thanksgiving, and praise. The call to confession invites us to honest expression within the context of our covenant relationship with God. God’s grace comes to us, creating a relationship with us in Christ in which honesty about our...

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FOUR New Chapters!

Posted by on 10:26 am in Faith | 0 comments

FOUR New Chapters!

Advent greetings, friends! Have you noticed that “advent” forms the first part of the word “adventure”? And what could be more thrilling than diving deep into a journey of freedom, of following and becoming more like Jesus? That’s why I’m writing Trailmap; to serve as a guide to spiritual adventure, to map out a way toward true connection with God that previously might have been reserved for monks, missionaries, or “holy people”. This is contemplative Christianity for regular folks, an intimate experience for the rest of us. My vision through the last two decades of ministry and a seminary degree in spiritual formation has only become clearer with each new bend in the road. Will you join me on the adventure? For any contribution amount, I will offer a first-glimpse of Chapters 1-4, complete with prayer exercises and devotional reflection questions. These 55 pages bring to light fresh insights on prayer, devotional resources, and finding a personal path to spiritual wholeness, and this end-of-the-year charitable donation is tax-deductible and goes toward a great cause; our passionate calling to strengthen the soul of the Church and develop fresh ways of reaching out. Thanks for considering joining us in this way… Advent Blessings to you this holiday season! So, click the button below and continue the adventure! Of course, you can always support our nonprofit through a check or use your credit card over the phone. Here’s the info: Justin Fox Ministries 2356 Edgeview Ln. Midlothian, VA 23113 (804) 318-6477 …and you might be asking yourself, “Why would I pay for only part of a book that is unedited and unpublished, anyway?” It might help to think of it more like a free-will donation that comes with a personal thank you letter (that’s four chapters long!). What’s fun about this is, these pages are “uncooked”, un-marketed, and not undiluted by focus groups or branding companies. This is un-distilled, raw content from the heart. You can’t put a price on that, so we didn’t. Any amount triggers a PDF copy to your email…and we mean any amount, so don’t be shy and don’t be embarrassed if you’re only able to do something very small. It’s all good and all goes to Kingdom work! Thanks...

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