Leading worship

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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Posted by Gary in Intimacy W/God, Leadership, Worship

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.

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Posted by Gary in Leadership, Worship

Building The Bench

Rick Muchow is the worship pastor at Saddleback in California. I don’t know much about him and the style at Saddleback is not one I am particularly fond of myself. Today however I became a fan a Rick Muchow.

He answers a question from Kelly Gabriele serving in Little River, SC that points up a very common misconception in churches that once we have our ministry teams set were done and we can just operate in our gifts:

Our Praise Team is fully stocked at this time. What do I do about other musicians and singers who might be interested? While I want to reach out to new talent that may be in our church, at the same time we have a worshipping, wonderful, dedicated team with all the players and singers we need right now. Our service is growing by leaps and bounds… we are SO blessed. I think I am afraid of looking closed minded and closed hearted toward others who might be interested in joining. And if you tell me to start a Praise Choir I’m going to run away– that really frightens me! But then again, it may be time to “build a bench”–or should I leave well enough alone?

Rick hits it out of the park. The bottom line is we are not called to operate in our gift for a season and then hand it off to someone else. As Rick so eloquently and gracefully points out according to Romans 12 when someone has a gift in the church we are to LET THEM use it. Here are his remarks in total:

Many churches would love to have this “problem.” This is a great time. You must feel very encouraged. The question here is really about stewardship.

Why is God giving us all this talent? This is a common predicament for those who find themselves in a position of great wealth. Believe it or not, there are some people who don’t want to steward great wealth. With it comes great responsibility. It takes a lot of work and effort to manage great resources of any kind.

In my position as my church’s Worship Leader, I’ve always thought of myself as the manager of God’s musical resources within this church. I take this responsibility very seriously, realizing that all these people belong to God. He created them for a purpose. There is a fine line between our perceived needs and the church’s needs. My goal is to help people fulfill their place in ministry. I am not familiar with your exact situation or season, but I would encourage you to examine your paradigm here.

Let’s look at Romans 12-1:8 (NIV.) Every believer in the church has a contribution to make in the body of Christ. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” This verse is about the life of worship and about using our gifts. Everyone needs to worship with their life. Part of that worship is using our gifts for the glory of God, to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Verses 4-5 tell us, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

In verses 6-8, we are told 7 times to “let him.” Starting with verse 4, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

When I try to put myself in your place, I think God would be asking me to “build the bench.”

Let’s talk about building the bench. The bench is not the place where people never play. The bench is the place where they are ready to use their gifts at a moment’s notice. The bench has great benefits. For the inexperienced player, the bench allows them to train with the rest of the team. The bench also allows the team to share the load, avoiding burnout and injury. Finally, the bench provides a sense of teamwork, community and family.

Romans 12 is an example of how God wants us to include everyone into active service. God created each of us to use our gifts for Him. As a leader, our task is to try to figure out the puzzle and make a place in which each gifted person can serve.

If your team is “full”, here are some ideas. As we teach Biblical principles of teamwork, servanthood, and family, we are reminded that there is a place for everyone to serve in the ministry of the church. We willingly let another person use their gifts even when it means we have to share opportunities and responsibilities.

Start a new service time or form a team who can help other churches which have a smaller talent pool than yours does. Increase the number of people you use at a given service, for example start an orchestra or choir. (It’s not as scary as you might think!) Try a new rotation that allows more teams to serve in your existing services, for example each team serves every other week while rehearsing every week with the whole team together. Another idea is to promote existing team members to leadership positions allowing new leadership to take on the added responsibility of expanding your team.

How many musicians do we need at the church? According to Romans 12, when someone has a gift in the church we are to LET THEM use it. It is our responsibility to create the ministry climate that allows every member to incorporate their unique contribution to the body of Christ. This approach takes more work up front but is absolutely worth the investment.

Most churches don’t have this problem and I think the reason is we are not stewarding well that which has been entrusted to us. Those people He has bought with His own blood and given gifts. If we do not steward His resources He will send them to a place where they will be stewarded well.

Thanks Rick.


H.T. The Worship Community

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Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Worship

Leading Worship

As I head down this road please understand I am not attacking anyone.  Many of you who read this have made these statements either to me or in my presence. I hope to clarify words and intents. Please know I have the utmost respect for you, your ministry, and your calling.

Several years ago Andy Park  wrote an excellent book called “To Know You More“. It’s written to worship leaders not to the congregation. In it he makes the Biblical case for the title “Worship Leader”. I strongly recommend you get a copy if you feel called to the office of worship leader.

I first heard Jack Hayford use the term “Lead Worshiper” in his book “Worship the Pattern of Things in Heaven” now I’m hearing the term “Lead Follower”. It’s not that I have a particular problem with any of these terms. I just want to make sure were not missing the point when we use them.

Recently I came across an article on HigherPraise.com with this paragraph at the beginning:

As worship leaders (each member is a worship leader, not just the lead singer), you need to remember that leading worship is NOT trying to get people to sing, It is WORSHIPING GOD yourselves, SO THAT others will FOLLOW your LEAD!! !! Instead of concentrating on worship leading, focus on being a lead worshiper.

There’s that term again,

I don’t totally disagree with this statement however it leaves out some critical elements of standing on the platform in the position of leader.

Eddie Espinosa writer of amazing songs like “Change my Heart Oh God”, and “Most of all”, said:

Worship leading is not worshiping God while others watch. I liken this to eating in front of hungry people.

Leading worship begins well before we stand on the platform on Sunday It begins in our ongoing prayer life and individual worship times. We must be asking God what He wants to say to His people. Taking into consideration everything God is speaking to us to evaluate if it’s for us, for the team, or for the congregation. All in submission to the leadership of the Church or event.

When we stand on the platform we must have already received direction from the Holy Spirit and given Him every opportunity to change what we think we heard. The reason we stand on that platform should be because we have been affirmed in our calling and gifting by Elders and been delegated authority over that part of the service.

Walking in that authority we must then engage those God has entrusted to us and lead them to where we have already been with the creativity God has given us. I agree our job is not to “get people to sing”. It is also not to “Worship God myself so that others will follow my lead”. We must lead them gently, humbly, and confidently, as many as will come, into the secret place.

Leading worship always begins where the people are. If you miss where they are spiritually you will miss them entirely. Very few people will run to catch up once you’ve begun. Getting a large group of people to walk aimlessly down the street is much different than leading a marching band. Leading is not directing from the front or being a cheerleader. It does however require actively meeting the people where they are and taking them with you.

If we merely show up and worship through the 20 or so minutes given to us we may have, but most likely have not, “lead worship”.

would love your thoughts on this.

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Posted by Gary in Worship