Worship

It’s All About His Presence

“It is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in their personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into him, that they may delight in his presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

Aiden Wilson Tozer
Chicago Illinois
June 16, 1948
From the Preface of: The Pursuit of God

What do you think the application is?

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Lights, Smoke, Worship?

Lights and smoke do not make what we do on Sunday a show, and the lack of lights and smoke do not make what we do on Sunday worship.

Lot’s of digital ink has been spilled recently about the “look” of worship in a lot of churches and why it either hinders or helps “worship”.

Many writers and leaders have diagnosed a problem. That problem being the congregation is not engaging. I believe they have correctly diagnosed the problem. However I believe the wrong solution has been prescribed. What has been missed IMHO has to do with the presence, or lack thereof, not the presentation, necessarily. The presentation can be the reason there is no presence in some settings but let’s start somewhere else. Let me give examples as explanations.

James K.A. Smith just posted An Open Letter to Praise Bands this morning.

It’s a good article. In it he gives three criteria to evaluate whether we are leading worship or delivering a concert.

1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.
2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.

In his final paragraph he says “My concern isn’t with style, but with form:”

I’m not saying he is wrong. What I’m saying is there is another aspect that is more important than style, or form.

Doug Lawrence also posted 5 Ways to De-Professionalise Your Worship.

Doug gives us these tips:

1. Stop being a slave to glitz
2. Start seeing congregations as people instead of numbers!
3. Let people see worship as part of their offering instead of just yours!
4. Stop competing with pop culture, you’re probably bombing there anyway!
5. Shut it down instead of whipping it up!

Again I don’t mean to criticize this critique. Although it does begin with an assumption that I am confident is not true of many churches. Most Church leaders and worship leaders I meet are great people who love God and love Gods people. Unfortunately We don’t have many fathers in the church. Many teachers but not many fathers. Seems like Paul mentioned something about this in 1 Corinthians 4:15. So most of todays leaders have not been taught incorrectly. They think the magic is in the media, or the presentation, or the show. “If you build it they will come” is true but what are we doing with them once they arrive?

I am not against the media, the presentation, or the show, necessarily. The issue is deeper and bigger than all of these things in themselves.

Late last year Matthew Sigle at Seedbeed, a Methodist blog from Asbury Theological Seminary. nails the main issue in his post called “Misplacing Charisma: Where Contemporary Worship Lost its Way.”

Among other things he says:

it’s important to point out that this theology of worship, while undergirded by “praise and worship” songs, understood the entire time of singing (the pauses, instrumental solos, spontaneous prayers, raising of hands, shouting, etc.) to be part of the progression from praise to intimacy. The songs themselves are only a part of the complete picture of what is occurring in a Charismatic praise and worship service. Something much deeper is understood to be going on in worship.

This needs to be couched in the next point he makes:

What’s missing? The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship. In other words, many mainline churches brought the form, but didn’t bring the theology of praise and worship into their congregations.

That last point is the main point and the reason we’re in the fix we’re in and is not exclusive to “mainline churches”. We do need to be careful about what elements we bring into the worship service. That is a much bigger conversation than I want to get into here but I want to note that we must evaluate why each element is present.

The bigger issue as leaders is our why. If get the why of worship right the how will take care of itself.

The only way to evaluate the corporate time of worship entrusted to us as worship leaders is did the Bridegroom meet with the bride?

  1. Did I prepare a place for the two to meet?
  2. Did I approach our time together with a deep love for the bride as the one Jesus bought with His own blood? (Acts 20:28)
  3. Did I prepare as one laying down his life for the sake of unity in the body?
  4. Did I prepare myself and my team well enough to recognize when the bridegroom enters and then get out of the way when He does? (John 3:29-30)

Before you reply let me clarify. I understand sometimes the bridegroom does not enter (Read Song of Solomon). I also understand your tradition may define “His entering” differently than I would. We also need to be sure we are not trying to manipulate a feeling or an emotion, although I defy you to come into the presence of God and have it not be an emotional experience, what we do is not about a specific outward response.

Having said all of this let’s make sure we begin from the right premise before we begin diagnosing a cure. Let’s do all we can to prepare a place for the Bridegroom to meet His bride and then get out of the way.

Would love your thoughts.

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The Sheep Are Not The Problem

Before I get into the purpose of this post I need to clarify a few things.

First of all life for me the past year has been very busy. Learning a new job that requires all of me for at least 45 hours a week leaves me with no bandwidth at all to maintain this site or any of my social media the way I would like so I have been posting articles written by others that I think are interesting. Also I’m sorry for not responding to every comment I wish I could.

The primary purpose of these posts are to start a conversation.

Recently I posted an article entitled “Who Will Lead Through The Church Disaster” by Randy Bohlender. Over the weekend I posted “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship” and “Why They Don’t Sing On Sunday Anymore“. I’ve also got coming up in my buffer app “Why Men Have Stopped Singing In Church

This morning I was looking through my Facebook news feed and a friend posted something to the effect of “Stop posting negative things about the way we worship”. I’m not assuming he is responding to me specifically because there does seem to be a lot of articles about what is wrong with worship.  Today I got comments on “Why They Don’t Sing On Sunday Anymore” and while looking through my news feed for something else I found “What Is The Real Problem With Todays Evangelical Worship

Looks like I’ve stumbled into a conversation.

Here are my thoughts.

Since 1982 I’ve been in this arena. Reading and searching for wisdom from all kinds of people. When I first started there was very little being written on contemporary worship. Now everywhere I look someone has an opinion on it. Some good; much of it not so good. I’m also a part of several online worship communities from communities like Worship The Rock to groups within LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Frankly I’m saddened by the bulk of the questions and answers being posted.

One post asked the question “What do I do with people who complain the songs are too high when they don’t know how to sing?”. Others are talking about “At what point do I have enough musicians on my team?”, or “Our worship team is full how do I tell people no”. I even saw a post by someone who I highly respect. A staff worship pastor, songwriter, teacher, and mentor say. “As I get older I want to be purposeful about raising up the next generation”. I’ve commented on this here so I won’t go over it again. These are just a few of the many threads that break my heart.

Every problem is a leadership problem.

I’m not saying every problem is caused by leadership but I am saying if your people are distracted, not passionate, or don’t understand what you’re doing its your job to lead them and lead them with a pastor’s heart.

I found “Misplacing Charisma: Where Contemporary Worship Lost Its Way” on a Methodist website that is spot on.

Here is the money quote:

What’s missing? The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship. In other words, many mainline churches brought the form, but didn’t bring the theology of praise and worship into their congregations.

I hope this is not your problem. I hope you understand your role as a prophet, pastor, teacher, and theologian when you stand in front of your congregation. If not get this book.

May I also suggest a few practical solutions.

  1. Have the correct EQ.
  2. Have the correct volume. Sometimes its necessary for people to not hear themselves other times its necessary that they do. It depends on the size of the group.
  3. Have songs in the correct keys. If you’re doing everything in the keys of B and C I wonder if your leading worship.
  4. Leave the lights up so we can see people’s faces and lead them in worship.
  5. Keep your eyes open and connect with people.
  6. Pick songs that are congregational. If every song in your set list is from KLOVE or have octave jumps in them I wonder if your leading worship.

 

Bottom line, stop blaming the congregation for not worshiping. It’s up to us to lead them and teach them. Bring them lovingly into the presence of God. Meet them where they are and take them someplace.

Maybe the reason there are so many articles about what’s wrong with worship is because something is wrong with worship. 10 years ago there was lots of criticism of contemporary worship that was based on style not substance but when the congregation stops participating its time for us to start asking why.

Let the conversation continue.

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Nothing Deep

Just enjoying a cup of coffee and looking out my window at the trees and the mountains thinking about how blessed we are.

In the midst of all the uncertainty and all the trials God is faithful, steady, and ever-present.

My prayer this  morning is one of gratitude.

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Continuous Worship Conference

Last weekend I attended a conference you should consider attending with your team next year.

The Continuous Worship Conference at Maranatha Bible Camp near North Platte NE. Next years conference will be the weekend before Valentines Day, February 5-7 2015. Make sure you put it on your calendar.

There are so many options when it comes to worship team training.
Why should you attend this conference?

The best reason is the heart of the leaders. They get it. The weekend was a great mixture of “the why” and “the how”. Paul, Phil, and Ty understand if our hearts are not right nothing else matters. They have humble servant hearts with a passion to equip the local church.

The workshops were very practical and very specific. Rather than a workshop for drummers the workshop was titled “mic’ ing the drums”. So drummers, sound techs, or anyone else can determine if its something they should attend based on their skill level or level of interest.

My favorite part was the jam session. They leave time for people to come on stage and put into practice what they’ve learned no matter the skill level.

It’s a lot of fun and will equip your team with the right heart.
See you there in 2015.

Continuous Worship on Twitter
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Continuous Worship Blog

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Indie Music Reviews

Just got my first Music Review here it is:

Gary Trobee Proves His Faith Is Strong

Gary Trobee Proves His Faith Is StrongGary Trobee is a man who puts his faith first and does it well. “Waited” is a wonderfully sung song that’s sincere to the core. Gary Trobee lets his faith shine in this aptly titled one called “Faithful One.” It’s all about the “One” that he’s been put his beliefs in all these years and all that he does for him; it’s much appreciated. That seems to be the same tale Gary sings about in “You Pursue Me” as well. I think it was Shakespeare who once said something along the lines of, how many ways do I love thee, let me count the ways. In this case Gary Trobee is singing how many ways he loves the Lord with all of the above and “My Jesus I Love Thee.” A lot of the songs are these slowed down testaments of faith, but the title track, “I Will Sing,” brings an upbeat energy to the record. If you love Christian music that’s done with the big guy upstairs in mind, check out Gary Trobee now. (http://www.trobee.com/)

From Indie Music Reviews

Listen to the full E.P. here

Watch the Run To You video here

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Run To You

I got to do the coolest thing ever. Several weeks ago Aaron Wagner who produced the I Will Sing EP for me called and said “let’s do a video“.

So I headed to Rock Church in Castle Rock CO and the guys put together a great set in the lobby of the church and at 11:00 at night we made this.

Give it a look and let me know what you think. If you like it please share it. You can get the EP here.

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Worship Culture

This weekend I had the privilege of attending Peak Life Churches “Worship Culture Weekend”.

It was a weekend meant to define what the worship culture at Peak Life Church would be.

Culture is defined this way:

To till, to plow, to guard. Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguish one group of people from another; a set of traits that have been plowed into a groups way of life.

What culture are you plowing?

If you don’t define it and guard it. Your culture will become something you probably don’t want.

It is essential that you cast vision at every meeting and every practice. You must establish a foundation and then continually build and repair as you grow. Those who were there in the beginning will forget and new people will not pick it up by osmosis.

Culture must be plowed and guarded.

Let’s partner together to lay a solid foundation you can build on. Worship team retreats are a great way to get everyone on the same page.

Contact me here to talk about the possibilities for your team. You can preview some of the teaching here.

I look forward to helping you build what God has entrusted to you in your context.

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Where Are You In The Process?

I have been asking God to give me a glimpse of where I am and where He is taking me, and yesterday He showed me something amazing. It may not be just for me so I wanted to share it. I pray it will be helpful to you.

In Ezekial 36 from verse 16 to 20 we hear about the nation of Israel acting badly. I don’t want to draw any conclusions as they apply to me or to us.  I merely want to make the observation that Israel was not repenting or crying out to God. They were behaving badly.

God says in verse 22 when people see you they know you are my people and because I have concern for my holy name I will do this:

  1. I will take you from the nations and bring you into your own land.
  2. I will sprinkle you with clean water and cleanse you from your filthiness.
  3. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit.
  4. I will cause you to walk in My statutes and keep my judgments.

Then:

  1. You will dwell in the land you will be my people and I will be your God
  2. I will deliver you from all your uncleanness
  3. I will call for the grain and multiply it and bring no famine on you.
  4. I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations.

There are several observations and applications I could make but I just want to make four:

  1. The nation of Israel was not being good, spiritual, repentant, or anything else worthy of God’s favor. He did it merely because they were His people and He wanted the nations all around them to know “that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate” vs 36
  2. Everything happened because God did it. Israel did nothing. (don’t take this too far)
  3. When you read; commandment, covenant, statutes, judgments etc. insert faith. We are under the new covenant. (again, don’t take this too far. keep it simple)
  4. Once He has done these things and caused us to live by faith. Then we will inherit the land and be blessed.

In order for this to be a theological piece it would have taken many more words than this and I’ve already abused the boundaries of a blog post. So please take some time to read Ezekial 36 and consider where you are in the process and thank God for the coming multiplication of grain and fruit. Then thank Him for His mercy, His long-suffering, His loving-kindness, and His grace. Submit to the process, He is good.

Selah.

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A Different Perspective on Excellence.

I ran across this quote from Rev. Thomas Fuller from the 17th century and thought I would add this for context when talking about excellence. I’ve spoken here before of my definition of excellence which is: To offer the best I have, something above and beyond or different from the norm. Something costly.

Please consider this as an example:

Lord, my voice is by nature harsh and untunable, and it is vain to lavish any art to better it. Can my singing of psalms be pleasing to thy ears, which is unpleasant to my own? Yet though I cannot chant with the nightingale, or chirp with the blackbird, I had rather chatter with the swallow, yea, rather croak with the raven, than be altogether silent. Hadst though given me a better voice, I would have praised thee with a better voice. Now what my music wants in sweetness, let it have in sense, singing praises with understanding. Yea, Lord, create in me a new heart (therein to make melody), and I will be contented with my old voice, until in thy due time, being admitted into the choir of heaven, I have another more harmonious bestowed upon me.

Granted if his voice is harsh and untunable we probably don’t want him “leading” worship but I hope this provides a little balance to the Excellence conversation.

What are your thoughts?

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