Monday, July 2, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spontaneity in Worship


If planning is classical music, spontaneity is jazz. Both are important for serving the church faithfully with our gifts.

Pursuing spontaneity isn’t simply about breaking our routine or being creative. We want the Spirit to manifest his power through us in as many ways as possible so people’s hearts and lives can be affected. Spontaneity can be a means to that end.

Spirit-directed spontaneity
From passages like 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, we see that the early church exercised spontaneous spiritual gifts that were “manifestations of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Martin Lloyd-Jones encouraged preachers in such Spirit-directed spontaneity, and his comments can easily be applied to those who lead congregational worship:

"Do you expect anything to happen to you when you get up to preach in the pulpit?… [S]eek His power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when this power comes, yield to Him. Do not resist. Forget all about your sermon if necessary. Let Him loose you, let him manifest His power in you and through you." (As quoted by Tony Sargent in The Sacred Anointing, 57)

Freedom to Respond
Spontaneity give us the freedom to respond to present needs and promptings and can increase our awareness of the Spirit’s active presence. This could include an unplanned comment, a prayer, a Scripture reading, or a prophecy. Smaller churches may be able to do this more frequently, but even in a large church we can make room for unplanned moments. Whether your church is big or small, it’s important that contributions are evaluated by a pastor. Valuing spontaneity doesn’t negate the need for wise leadership.

Charles Spurgeon shared these wise thoughts about spontaneous impressions:

"I have been the subject of such impressions myself, and have seen very singular results. But to live by impressions is oftentimes to live the life of a fool and even to fall into downright rebellion against the revealed Word of God. Not your impressions, but that which is in this Bible must always guide you."
(From Sermon #878, A Well Ordered Life)

However, “to live by impressions” is different from simply being receptive and responsive to them. If our feet are firmly planted in the sufficiency of God’s Word, we are then more prepared to benefit from listening for the voice of the Spirit as we lead.

Here are a few practices and principles that have helped me grow in spontaneity, both spoken and musical, over the years:

1.Don’t plan to do too much. Too many items on the agenda limits interaction with the Spirit and the congregation. If this happens, we can’t repeat songs or parts of songs for emphasis, and we certainly can't expect anyone to have time to actually think about what we’re singing.

2.Practice musical spontaneity alone. Sing your prayers or Scripture, make up a new melody to familiar words, or make up new words to a familiar melody. Break out of your routine.

3.Practice spontaneity with your team. That sounds like a paradox, but it’s helpful to work out with your band how and when to listen for your direction. Some musicians do this naturally, others don’t have a clue.

Spontaneity isn’t an end in itself. But it can open doors that will enable us to regularly experience a fresh awareness of the Spirit’s presence when we gather.

http://theresurgence.com/2010/10/28/spontaneity-in-worship




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

10 Essential Traits of a Worship Pastor/Leader

One of my life’s greatest privileges has been serving as a worship pastor, and with this responsibility my eyes have been opened to so many different facets of what the job really requires, as opposed to what I imagined it required.

I believe in my heart of hearts that the worship pastor of a team does not have to be the most talented, the most eloquent, the most gifted writer—although to be skillful at your craft is a must. But this role is truly all about care.

The worship pastor must care that people have an understanding of why we worship and not just how we worship; the worship pastor must carry the heart of the church and its leadership tenderly with great respect and unyielding support. The worship pastor must love the team and their families more for who they are and their journey in Christ than for what they do for the church.

Yes, the worship pastor is shepherd first, musician second—a true worshiper, one who leads with skill, wisdom, and godly devotion.

I have written my Top Ten teaching thoughts for worship pastors to share with their teams—to give you some absolutes to pass on to those entrusted to your care.

1. The Worship of God Is Holy
God is not common; hence worship is not a gig, not a right to prove our abilities, not an opportunity to sing our favorite songs. We worship because he is a holy God, and we the created—made for his pleasure—worship and serve the Creator because he alone is worthy.

2. Regarding Excellence
We bring our finest, because we care that our sacrifice is truthful and brought with integrity of heart. The first fight in the Bible was about a worship offering (Gen 4), and to this day, people bicker and disagree about what is genuine worship. No matter how we present our worship, only God knows the true intent of our pursuit of him. And it is in the authentic pursuit of him that we find excellence in worship.

3. Authentic Lives of Worship
We train in so many things consistently, but nothing can replace each individual’s commitment to an authentic life as a worshiper. So that when your inner life is revealed, what is seen and what is unseen by humans is one and the same.

Bill Hybels wrote a great book called Who You Are When No One’s looking. Work at making sure that you are one person: the person we publicly know, and the person God privately knows.

4. Serve the Lord With Gladness (Ps 100)
Gladness is not just an emotion; gladness is a byproduct of joy, which is substance, a fruit of the spirit. You can literally live on it. Joy puts others at rest.

“He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Eccl 5:20).

5. Worship Is Not Just a Lifestyle.
Worship is our life’s response to the grandeur and magnificence of our God. Worship as a lifestyle sounds like we would treat the Cross of Christ casually. But our ability to enter his courts and live in his presence actually cost God his all—for us. Never treat his worship as a lifestyle option.

6. Build a Culture That Embraces the New
We see that the Levites were trained and skilled in making music before the Lord (1 Chr 25:7). Never compare or be skillful for the sake of it, yet always encourage people to be developing their gifts, to try new things, new ideas. Be vigilant to train and grow and strive for freshness in all that you have been given, for the glory of his name. As the Scripture says:

■Sing new songs (Isa 42:10).
■You will be called by a new name (Isa 62:2).
■I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them (Ezek 11:19)

New songs, new day, new start, new hope, new mercy, new possibilities, new ideas, new ways, new people, God says “new heaven and a new earth,” “ new covenant,” “new self,” “new heart,” “new command,” “new creation”… new, new, new!

7. God’s Presence Is Great Power
Our role is to declare and announce that God is here. If we just play and lead to please the ears of man and satisfy our own desires to play/sing, and march into services without a holy awareness of his presence and magnificence then we rob people of their spiritual inheritance. Lead people to the courts of our God.

8. We enter “his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Ps 100:4)
This sequence is God’s idea, not just the delight of all sanguines worldwide. Be confident to lead people in the high praise of our God. Announce that our God reigns.

9. Speak a Kingdom Culture
If your team knows how to play music but the culture is one of negativity, defeat, resistance, offence, pride, lack of self esteem, jealousy, even of unbelief, then your team will never grow together into a culture that is based on kingdom principles. Kingdom music is crafted in the heart of a human being who gets a glimpse—a taste —or hears the sound of the kingdom of God.

10. People of Prayer
It is a very presumptuous person who thinks you can live an effective Christian life without prayer. Prayer is our lifeline; prayer is our first language; prayer is our direct access. This is made clear in the Psalms—a magnificent book of prayers that teaches us so much about our language before our God. Enter with thanksgiving, bring him everything, love him, adore him, ask of him; this is the language of prayer. As you develop your life of prayer, you are developing your life of faith—and your life of worship.

http://worshipleader.com/leadership-3/

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Your Worship Isn't Enough

Worship is more than a song. But the song really matters, too.

Sometimes church feels like a surreal high school pep rally. The guy with the bullhorn (worship leader) pumps up the fans (congregation) to go out and win the big game (do the right thing, live missional lives, pursue justice, draw others to Christ, etc.). Like pep rallies, these worship services fulfill a particular, focused purpose: they are a means to a victorious end and preludes to the “real action” of life.

Do we worship to give us the emotional energy for the application part of our faith? Tim Hughes, a worship leader, writes in one of his choruses, “Keep us from just singing, move us into action.” While his message is important—that we are living lives of meaning and mission and not ones of stagnant faith that lacks deeds (James 2:14)—these lyrics could be misconstrued to assume “just singing,” just worshiping, isn’t as important as the action.

To be fair, the hierarchy of mission and worship is easily flipped for many Christians. These people are perfectly content going to church, worshiping and living without a greater awareness of our world, or even the neighbors around us. In The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton says, “The crisis the church currently faces is that our individual and corporate worship do not produce the fruit of justice and righteousness that God seeks.”

But, if we rank mission over worship or worship over mission, we end up sabotaging both; worship and mission are equally and intrinsically linked. If worship is merely the thing that makes us feel good, feel “full” so we can go and do the important, active stuff, we lose. On the other hand, if mission is the thing that’s flippantly tacked onto our faith, we lose. Either way, our definitions of worship and mission are sickly and insufficient. We are missing the engaging, challenging, and courageous call of the Church to enact both.

Worship as Mission

In worship, we encounter not just a good feeling or a boldness for justice; we encounter the living person of Jesus Christ—the embodiment of perfect justice. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus begins His public ministry by quoting Isaiah:

“[The Spirit of the Lord] has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

The good news Jesus is talking about is redemption for the whole of life: spiritual, physical, emotional, social, etc. Our attempts to fulfill this Gospel mission fall short unless we are being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In the presence of Jesus in worship, we behold His glory and realize that it is only He who can save us and our sinful world. We are transformed into a just community; we actually accomplish and enact justice. The injustices of this world are socioeconomic, political, systemic and individual, but first and foremost, they are spiritual realities (Ephesians 6:11-12). When we offer praise as a community, we enter into this spiritual conflict as we encounter God and participate in His holy mission to liberate the oppressed.

Mission as Worship

Meeting God in worship impels us to carry on the mission of Jesus in the world. Mission flows directly from the worship of the Church and the two cannot be severed. In her book Everyday Justice, Julie Clawson writes, “Worship doesn’t merely involve enacting the cultural rituals of worship or personal piety, but more importantly, it involves how we treat others. […] Following God in full obedience in as an act of worship, which means that acting justly is part of what it means to worship God.”

Living a life of true worship means feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. In fact, Jesus promises that when we do these things, we actually meet Him in the faces of those we love and serve (Matthew 25:31-46). Here mission and justice become worship.

Matt Redman addresses the connection and cyclical nature of worship and mission in his song “Mission’s Flame”:

“Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame
We’re going with a passion for Your name
We’re going for we care about Your praise
Send us out
Let worship be the heart of mission’s aim
To see the nations recognize Your fame
‘Til every tribe and tongue voices Your praise
Send us out”

The first lines from each verse describe mission flowing from worship and mission flowing to worship. The aim of mission is God’s holistic restoration (physical, spiritual, emotional, socio-economic) so that all people can come into His transforming presence. In the bridge of Redman’s song, he describes the scene from Revelation 7: people from every tongue and tribe and nation will one day be clothed in white, gathered around the throne of God in worship.

Breathing with Both Lungs

We need worship and mission; they are essential and inseparable. In our church, we talk about worship and mission as two lungs: we need both to breathe. A hierarchy of either leads to asthmatic Christians and churches, shallow-breath worship, and missional wheezing. So breathe deeply of worship and mission, the way we were intended to live.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worship/features/18614-your-worship-isnt-enough


Monday, May 14, 2012

The Medium Matters: Is Music as Important as the Message?



Don't Waste Your Music
Some Christians might argue (especially in Reformed circles) that as long as gospel truths are present in the songs we sing together, our gathering has been a success. Helping our people see and respond to Jesus with biblically orthodox words is the most important factor in worship services, but don't waste your music. God has made music a powerful tool. As a body of believers we can communicate, memorize, express, and emotionally connect with truth through music in ways that no other medium allows. When we see music in its proper place, our job as worship leaders and pastors becomes less about truth and good music being at odds with one another, and more about utilizing great music to highlight truth. Let me unpack this.

Style Polarizes a Crowd
If someone walks into your church service and hears your new pop-country band for the first time, I guarantee you they aren't paying attention to the words. They are either thinking about how much they hate the music or how much they love it. Music is not a neutral tool. It polarizes a crowd. People draw much of their cultural identity from the style of music they listen to.

Can Musicians Be Too Good?
Nothing is more distracting than the guy who wants all eyes on him, and not on Christ. The front man isn't the only worship leader on stage; the players are too. Our gatherings can't be a musician's competition between his glory and God's. We have one target in mind, and all band members should be shepherded to aim there together.

Don't Water It Down; Change It Up
Since stylistic choices and musicianship can be a distraction, the tendency in churches is to make worship music "broadly palatable." Watering the music down may remove a stumbling block to some, but it can also dilute the power of the medium. If we have to work in the confines of music and all the cultural baggage it brings, we must also take advantage of the cultural benefits. Keep in mind that there is diversity in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5). Change it up from week to week. A good sign that you have the right balance of styles is if every congregant has one band they love and one band they hate. Seeking to find balance is our lot as worship leaders and pastors. One day we won't be distracted by musical style or sin, and every tribe, people, and language will come together (Rev. 7:9-10) singing praises to our Savior! This is a hope we look forward to. Until that day, we will make the most of this gift that God has given, using it as a tool to point to his unparalleled worth and glory.

http://theresurgence.com/2010/06/07/the-medium-matters-is-music-as-important-as-the-message

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

iSingWorship



I recently had the opportunity to take a look at some cool new technology on the IPod/IPad. I am not a ‘worship techie’ as much as some people, but I do like to look at technologies to arm the small church and small group gatherings, because this is where I do most of my worship leading time and where I like to target our worship resources.

Backing tracks and technologies to play them are great. Loop programs such as Ableton, GarageBand, or even just a keyboard are great to allow the band to ‘virtually’ come alongside a vocalist or single guitarist for a fuller sound. The biggest issue with loops is allowing spontaneity – how can you repeat a part, loop a part, or even just jump to a quiet instrumental then back into a chorus? Well-trained live bands can do this and they know how to do the transition, but a looping program is lacking for this.

Enter iSingWorship, from The Innervation Trust in the UK, iSingWorship is an app for your IPhone 4 or IPad that is based around some groundbreaking technology designed to solve the free-flow problem I described above. What these folks have done is to craft a way for a backing track to seamlessly jump around in a song, from any part to any part, and sound natural. Say a song is written like this:

Intro
v1
Chorus (quiet)
v1
Chorus (loud)
Bridge
Chorus (x2)
Outro

With iSingWorship, you could do

v1
Chorus (Loud)
Chorus (Loud)
Drum/kb interlude
v2
Chorus (quiet) (x2)
Outro

Or any other arrangement you want. You could preplan it or change it on the fly, as you go. The interface is simple and clear, you can just touch the part you want to do next. There are options to remove the vocal or acoustic guitar, so you can set it up for a vocalist or single guitarist/vocalist. There is also a feature to show you lyrics and chords, and to project your lyrics against backgrounds using a video out cable from your IPad or phone. Basically, you show up, hook your IPad to a speaker, hook your output to a TV, and you are leading worship with a band. Its all very simple to use and sounds great. The main interface looks like this:



What is neat about this and why this technology works is what iSingWorship calls Smart Audio Transition Technology (SATT). What this does is allows the track to be recorded and processed so that all of the transitions, no matter what order you select, sound natural. You are in control of a virtual band that seamlessly does what you tell it, naturally. The technology knits together instrumental tracks (called stems) in a way that the sound of each transitional section is natural. Its a neat technological trick.


Besides the one-man worship leader role this technology enables, iSingWorship would also be a great tool for teaching new songs, practice time for instrumentalists or vocalists, teaching melodies to new songs, or even serving as a virtual songleader in a pinch! Like other programs, iSingWorship has a set of available songs, primarily oriented around CCLI top 100 content at this point. Songs are reasonably priced for the small church at $1.99 each. iSingWorship developers Zarc Porter does have a desire to build up their song catalog to a wider variety of material. including offerings from independent artists. The program is free to download and there is a sample track that you can try for yourself and see how it all works.

Simple to use, reasonably priced, great technology, and a growing catalog – iSingWorship will definitely find a niche in those smaller churches and home groups. Highly recommended and free to try. Just log in to the app store and give it a go.

Check out the iSingWorship website for more info:  http://www.isingworship.com/isingworship/isingworship.html

http://www.theworshipcommunity.com/review-isingworship-the-backing-track-for-the-21st-century/


Monday, May 7, 2012

3 Priorities When Preparing Music



By the time your Sunday services begin, thousands of decisions have been made—both macro and micro. In each of these deciding moments is an opportunity to be faithful, or not, to the purposes God has called us to. If we are to be faithful, we must set our priorities in order long before even the smallest decision is made.

Priority #1: Truth
As Paul says in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Truth from Scripture must be the framework and standard by which every other priority is subjected. If we have a gathering with killer music but no truth, we have a pointless gathering: we’ve led people astray by placing their focus on something far less important and valuable than a God who redeems broken sinners. The songs that we sing need to not only have the ability to stir affections (any pop song can do that), but also to teach. The choice of song can be as simple as “Agnus Dei” or as deep as “Before the Throne,” as long as it is shows our people who God is or who we are in light of him.

Priority #2: Corporate Response
If the songs we play are only true, but not singable, memorable, or enjoyable, our people will be far less likely to have their hearts stirred by the truths we are presenting. They will be distracted with trying to get around the music instead of into it. Songs that teach and admonish are best when they are SUNG! Jonathan Edwards says that what we see on the outside “is no sign one way or the other, that religious affections are very great, or raised very high.” Responsiveness is hard to gauge. Just because hands are in the air doesn’t mean hearts are being changed. At the same time, if everyone in the congregation is staring at your lyric slides like zombies, chances are their hearts aren’t being changed either. God looks at the heart, and whether corporate worship is a true reflection of the lives within our church or not, it will be seen by the fruit we bear in our day-to-day worship.

Priority #3: Musical Style, Arrangement, and Execution
When we gather to sing, the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” are the means by which truth is prompting people to respond. Though this is our third priority, it is only because it is in subjection to priorities 1 and 2. The music serves truth and responsiveness. I say all of this because the medium matters.

http://theresurgence.com/2010/05/31/3-priorities-when-preparing-music

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Prayer Circle

God listens to our prayers no matter how they may come.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding Strength in Your Weakness


“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
2 Corinthians 12:10

Can you say that?

Have you ever said that?

Choosing the weak
One of the most startling things about 2 Corinthians 12 is that this is not an exception to how God works; it is the rule. The pattern in God’s work on earth is to channel his power through human weakness. God does not skim off the top ten percent—the most gifted, the most articulate, the smartest, the best educated—for significance in the kingdom.

He picks the screw-ups. The nobodies. He picks people like you and me.

Weakness in the Old Testament.

We see it time and again in the great story.

Abraham, not man enough to put his own wife before himself, is the father of God’s special people. The younger son—Abel rather than Cain, Isaac rather than Ishmael, Jacob rather than Esau, David rather than his more impressive brothers—are the ones through whom God’s promises travel. Gideon, cowering in the winepress, the least of his family, is chosen to lead 300 to defeat a horde of Midianites. Jeremiah, young and timid, is chosen as God’s mouthpiece (Jeremiah 1:1–10; see also 9:23–24). It is the lowly to whom God looks (Isaiah 57:15; 66:1–2).

The theme of strength through weakness is not only individual but corporate. The more the Hebrews were afflicted in Egypt, the more they multiplied (Exodus 1:12). Israel was loved and used by God despite being the runt of the ancient world (Deuteronomy 7:6–7).

The New Testament is full of weakness too
In the New Testament the theme of strength through weakness is ratcheted up even further.

Jesus repeatedly upends our intuitive assumptions about significance and strength. It is in losing our lives that we find them (Matthew 10:39). The last will be first (Matthew 19:30–20:16). Those who serve others are the greatest (Matthew 20:26–28). The kingdom is like a tiny seed that nevertheless provides the largest, most shady branches (Mark 4:30–32). It is the grain that falls into the ground and dies that bears much fruit (John 12:24–25).

Paul drives home the theme of strength through weakness more decisively than anyone. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Weakness isn't “good,” but God uses it
Human weakness is not inherently good. There is no weakness in the first two chapters of the Bible or the last two. But in between Eden and the New Eden, human weakness is not a problem for God. It is the great prerequisite. It is where God locates his power.

Jesus experienced the worst weakness
Let us follow our Master, who “was crucified in weakness, yet lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). The pattern of his life is ours—life out of death, power out of weakness.

Even more fundamentally, though, Jesus experienced in our place the worst weakness of all. On the cross the one person who ever lived in perfect strength his whole life long, who never knew any moral weakness in himself, bore the wrath deserved by moral weaklings.

Feeling inadequate? Perfect.
Do you know yourself to be weak? Inadequate? Not up to snuff in intellect, family background, educational opportunities, financial resources?

Get ready.

You are just the kind of person God loves to use. The power of God—power to kill sin, power to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, power to speak courageously on the job, power to love the unlovely, power to lead many to Christ, power to make your life count—such power is for inadequate people.

Acknowledge your frailty to God. Look to the Savior. He embraced the weakness of the cross so that you and I, weak sinners, can experience the blood-bought power of God—now.


http://theresurgence.com/2011/04/11/finding-strength-in-your-weakness

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Worship Droids


By Glenn Packiam (Worship Leader Magazine)

My friend, Cameron, is an early adopter. He’s on to gadgets and widgets before they make their way into mainstream culture. This past year, Cameron got me blogging. Because of him I know what “StumbleUpon” and “del.icio.us tags” mean. Cameron is also responsible for my participation in Twitter. Though Cameron is an early adopter, I am an obsessive implementer. I blog once a week, check my Facebook several times a day, and Twitter as often as I think about it.

But I’m starting to wonder if all this online tagging and tweeting is such a good thing. I believe in the moral neutrality of technology. It is all simply a tool: in the wrong hands it does harm, in the right hands it can do good. And certainly, it has done a lot of good. It has helped us keep connected with the people in our churches, or, in the language of Facebook and Twitter, our “followers,” “fans,” and “friends.”

Here is the question: Are we perfecting the art of artificial relationships and losing the craft of cultivating deep friendships?

Connecting with a person’s online profiles can become depersonalizing in the end. A person is no longer a rich, complicated, beautiful mess of good desires and wicked impulses, with unique stories and quirky personalities. A person is reduced to a few key statistics or the groups they belong to or the colleges they attended. We don’t want to know people; we just want to find things our about them—quickly, easily, and without a real conversation. So, instead of baring our souls we update our status. Technology has made communication efficient; but our obsession with efficiency has depersonalized our relationships.

It doesn’t’ stop there. We watch a video sermon and some worship videos and call it church; we add and accept Facebook friends and think we have community. I’m not against any of these things; we do many of them at my church. But there is a danger lurking that must not be ignored. The way of Jesus with His disciples was highly personal. He never chose efficiency and expediency over friendship and conversation. His disciples weren’t people He checked up on; they were people He walked, ate, laughed and lived with.

So, here are some ways to not allow technology to depersonalize us:

1. Use social networks as a supplement to your relationships not as substitute.
Real life, face-to-face relationships have fights and resolutions, hugs and facial expressions and tone of voice. There is a genuine connection and a history of relationship and a commitment to each other. It’s built on trust and vulnerability. A Facebook friendship and a Twitter-follower relationship can have all those things only when there is an additional non-digital dimension to it.

2. Take a day a week where you shut out communication technology—laptop, cell phone, etc.
Call it a tech-Sabbath if you’d like. You’d be surprised how just one day a week can break your addiction to gadgets. Plus, it will force you to actually focus on the people who are right in front of you. And if there aren’t any, it will help you realize it’s time to cultivate some deeper friendships.

3. Pursue relationships pro-actively instead of reactively.
Technology can make us relationally reactive. We’re buzzed with text messages and emails, alerted of other’s updates, and notified when we’re tagged. We’re constantly reacting and responding that we’re losing the art of pursuing and loving. If someone stops making digital contact with us, we forget about them, move on to our other “friends” who do. Having forgotten what it means to fight for a friendship or push through a conflict, we find ourselves with a revolving circle of friends who never get too close. In the end, we may find ourselves alone. But we can avoid that by choosing to pursue and learning to become faithful friends.

Steady Diet
Maybe our online relationships and social networks and video church are like frosting on the proverbial cake. Cameron is one of my best friends. I was the best man in his wedding. We had a friendship long before Facebook, Twitter, and IM. But now that Cameron lives in another state, all these social networking tools help our connection. But they are not the totality of our connection. Not every relationship needs to be deep; some will be superficial. We have acquaintances and casual friends. But be cautious of relationships that are artificial. Eating frosting with cake is delicious. But a steady diet of frosting alone will make you sick.

We must not lead people to believe that relationships are just about status updates and news feeds and tweets. We must show a better, more personal, more fully human way lest we keep our souls shallow, our lives unchallenged, and our hearts unloved.

http://worshipleader.com/worship-droids/



Monday, April 23, 2012

Elevation Worship


Get FREE charts, loops, downloads and tutorials on how to play songs by



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guía para ser un Buen Director de Alabanza

Un corto video explicando cosas basicas que todo director de alabanza debe saber.
A short video explaining basic principles that every worship leader should know.




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Mountain Top Experience

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them."  Mark 9:2-3

Jesus takes his inner circle to a mountain with Him and they experience a divine moment, something unlike anything they had ever seen. Most of us have had a similar experience, maybe not as intense, but a “mountain top” experience nonetheless. It may have been while worshiping at youth camp, a prayer meeting or maybe even a conference you attended. God moved there in a way you had never experienced.

Some attempt to relive the same experience everywhere they go. Life doesn’t seem right if one of those experiences isn’t right around the corner. They began looking for an experience instead of living their life for Jesus. Peter wanted to do just this, to make a memorial to what happened on the mountain so they could come to it and relive the event. But Jesus didn’t allow him to do this and brought them back down the mountain, telling them not to mention this until he was risen from the dead. What a buzz kill. You see this awesome thing, you want to keep reliving it over again and again and Jesus says, “Oh yeah, by the way, don’t mention this to anyone until I have risen again.”

The disciples didn’t understand this, but Jesus knew what He was doing.

He gave them the glowing mountain top to aid them through the dark valley when He would be taken away and murdered. He graciously gives us these experiences so we are able to navigate the many valleys in our lives, not so we can stay on the mountain.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/daily-devotional/28888-the-mountain-top-experience

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

7 Things That Worship Is


1. Repentance
Where there is no repentance, there may be an emotional experience, but it’s not worship! Worship does not become worship until it changes the way we live!

2. Intellectual
We are called to worship the Lord with our minds by renewing them and fixing them on him. (Colossians 3:1–2)

3. Intentional
No one accidentally follows Christ. If we are going to worship him, it will be done purposefully!

4. Relational
Worship affects every relationship we have. It is impossible to be a fully devoted worshiper of Christ while being a jerk to your wife or trying to take advantage of the opposite sex.

5. Financial
Until following Christ has affected our finances in a sacrificial way, chances are, we are not followers of Christ with our whole heart. Would you like to see the primary object of your worship? Look at how you spend your money, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

6. Unconditional
Worship is consistent, 24/7, not situational or just when I feel good or God is giving me all that I want. If we worship only when things are good then we do not worship God, we worship a genie!

7. Emotional
Worship is overwhelming when we realize that Jesus has rescued us while we were deeply entrenched in sin, when we realize how helpless we are and how incredible he is. (The reality of Romans 5:8 blows me away!)

http://theresurgence.com/2012/01/25/7-things-that-worship-is

Monday, April 9, 2012

God is Most Glorified When We are Most Dependant on Him



Some of us have been duped into thinking that the Christian life is meant to be lived in our own strength.
__________________________________________________

We’re Westerners. We like to be strong. We grow up thinking that things depend on us and our abilities. We import all of this into our Christianity, we believe we’re meant to follow Jesus on the basis of our own resources.

In short, we settle for a natural life when we could be living a supernatural life.

We Don't Grow Out of Dependence
God calls his people to live supernatural lives, filled with the Holy Spirit—to live in expectant and full dependency on the living God, believing and trusting that what seems impossible to us is possible with God.

Just as a toddler is meant to depend on his father and mother for everything, we’re meant to depend on our heavenly Father for everything. Again, we’ve been duped. We thought we were supposed to grow out of this toddler phase. No. The whole of the Christian life is meant to look like the toddler phase in terms of dependency—we are to always depend on God for everything.

Why?

Because God is God and we are not.

Don't Settle for Independence
To live a natural life is to live a prideful life. When you live life based on your own resources, sight, and strength, you declare that you don’t need God.

“To live a supernatural life is to live a humble, thrilling, and God-honoring life."

”When you live life based on God’s resources, sight, and strength, you declare that God is God and you’re banking everything on his ability to come through.

Abel, Abraham, Caleb, Rahab, Gideon, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mary, the Apostle Paul, and the early Christians whose lives are recorded in the book of Acts all lived supernatural lives. Who they are and what they did makes no sense apart from radical dependence on God.

We were never meant to trust in our own five loaves and two fish. We are meant to live as though, at any moment, God can turn five loaves and two fish into something we never dreamed of.

Don’t settle for a natural life. Live a supernatural life. Read your Bible and see that that’s the only kind of life we’ve been called to live.

I believe that God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him. To the degree that you live dependent on yourself, you dishonor God. To the degree that you live dependent on God, you glorify God.

“I want to give God a lot of glory with my life. Don’t you?"

Let’s repent of our less-than-supernatural way of life. Let’s live supernatural lives. Let’s depend, supernaturally depend, on God.

Don't Settle for Your Visions
This is the heart of the gospel. The good news of the gospel comes to us in our complete inadequacy, a message of supernatural grace and transformation for the undeserving. That’s how the Christian life starts and it’s how the Christian life is meant to continue, knowing our inadequacy, and Christ’s total adequacy to forgive, satisfy, lead, help, supply, love, and move mountains.

I’m concerned about the loss of faith that moves mountains. I don’t think this is a faith intended for a select few. We know the living God, the God who calls us to live in light of the fact that he is real, sovereign, near, wise, good, and attentive to our prayers.

Could there be anything that the enemy is more eager to do in the Western world than trick us into living natural lives with smallish faith in a smallish God?

We’ve settled for me-sized visions for our lives and our churches when we’re meant to move forward with God-sized visions.

I’m done with me-sized living. I don’t know how I got to confusing Christianity with me-sized living, but I did. A few years ago I repented of that and asked God for the grace and power to trust him like he’s meant to be trusted. I’m figuring it out, having fun, and realizing that living a supernatural life is a lot more interesting that the life I once lived.

God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.
God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.
God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on him.

"Beat that into your head. Beat that into your leadership. Don’t settle for anything less."


"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." Job 42:2

http://theresurgence.com/2012/04/02/god-is-most-glorified-in-us-when-we-are-most-dependent-on-him

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Leadership: Are You Conflict Averse?

Question: There is some bad blood brewing within my worship team. Right now I have two people in the band who argue at every rehearsal, a couple of singers no longer on speaking terms, and a pocket of people upset with me because they’re not singing as often as they’d like. I really hate conflict. It makes me want to quit and run away. I don’t understand why we all just can’t get along. Thoughts?

Answer: I don’t know of anyone who loves conflict, but it’s something every leader must learn to deal with. Your case may prove challenging because it sounds like you might be conflict averse—that you’d rather avoid problems than aggressively seek to resolve them. Leaders who are conflict averse tend to gloss over messy issues, wish them away, or withdraw. Meanwhile, team morale erodes and unity unravels, so it doesn’t serve you well to sweep those sticky matters under the rug.

In my younger days, conflict used to paralyze me. I would lose sleep over the least bit of friction within my ministry. I even took it personally, assuming that any semblance of conflict casts a bad reflection on my leadership. I’ve since learned that every ministry has its issues. The question is whether I, as the leader, rise up to do something about it or not.

Be Proactive
In 1 Chronicles 28:20, an aging King David exhorts his son, Solomon, to proactive leadership: “Be strong and courageous, and act” (NASB). The ESV translates that last part, “Do it,” and the NIV reads, “Do the work.” No matter the translation, the language is assertive. It’s as if David is saying, “Solomon, you’re the leader. Do something about those pesky problems.” In the same way, I urge you to be proactive. Don’t wait for problems to go away or solve themselves. If you care about your ministry and your people (which I’m sure you do), then take action. Assert leadership.

Firmly, But Lovingly
Ephesians 4:31 instructs us to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. Good advice when you’re just about to confront someone. Leave your anger behind. Don’t use an accusatory, harsh, or vindictive tone. Be humble and speak lovingly to those involved.

Kickoff With Questions
Instead of opening with harsh accusation, I find that beginning the conversation with a question starts dialogue in the right direction. For example, I would ask those two band members if they’re aware of the effect their arguing has on the rest of the team. I would pull those two singers together and ask, “What would it take to restore your friendship?” I would meet with those who are upset and ask, “How can we work toward peace in our relationship?” Those may not be the right questions. You know your situation better than I do. But the point is that, instead of going into the situation with some ax to grind, you ask questions that foster constructive communication.

Confront Observable Behavior
Whenever you confront someone, limit your remarks to behavior that can be seen with the naked eye. If you were to accuse someone of harboring a bad attitude, for example, they could easily reply, “No, I don’t,” and the conversation would be over. That’s because attitudes are intangible—you can’t see or hear them. Besides, you’re not inside the person’s head. You don’t know what he or she is thinking. But if you were to say, “I heard that negative remark you made at rehearsal last night. Did you really mean that?” you’d be referring to a specific incident. Pointing out the irrefutable remark would make it easier to get at the heart of the issue, which could very well be a bad attitude.

I don’t know anyone who isn’t conflict averse to some degree. Like I said, no one loves conflict. However, with practice, you can get better at confronting and your ministry will be healthier as a result. In the meantime, may God grant you the courage to face any and all problems in your ministry and the wisdom to effectively deal with them.

Rory Noland (heartoftheartist.org) directs Heart of the Artist Ministries and is the author of Worship on Earth as it is in Heaven: Exploring Worship as a Spiritual Discipline.

http://worshipleader.com/leadership-2/

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Free Chart Downloads (Matt Redman)

Download charts for the Matt Redman's newest music direct from the source at http://www.mattredman.com/chordcharts

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Not-So-Joyful Noise

I come from a family of musicians. It’s a great way to grow up, but a problem we used to often encounter is we could not turn off that side of ourselves in church. Some of you know what I’m talking about: the band will start to play, the worship leader opens their mouth and BAM—they sing a note that is nowhere near the right key. The musician in me is inwardly cringes as the worship leader attempts to try to find the melody of the song ... and fails. I know this is worship time, but I and my family can't help but give each other looks every time the singers mess up their harmonies or the drummer gets a little ‘too happy’ on those drums.

It is often a challenge for church music directors to find willing volunteers who not only want to give up their time, but actually possess musical skill. They are often left to scramble, sometimes going outside their church membership to hire other singers and musicians to come in. Just how important is musicianship to the worship experience? What attitude should singers and musicians carry when in church?

Depending on what type of church you go to, the allotted worship time can be from 15 minutes to over an hour long in more charismatic churches. Regardless of how much prominence musical worship is given in your church services, it is up to those in charge to provide the right atmosphere for those to enter into God’s presence and leave behind the worries of the week. Worship should be a time of reverence, but commonly we settle into a pattern of familiarity with the chosen songs, the A-A-B-A structure or the calming voice of the worship leader as they invite the congregation to participate. It can easily become a ritual lacking any spiritual significance.

Yes, church music directors and praise team leaders should strive to make great music unto the Lord—the Bible says that whatever we do, we should work at it with all our hearts (Colossians 3:23-4)—but they also should understand the hearts of their musicians are more important than how many vocal runs they can produce. Worship teams are so much more effective when the love for God is evident on their faces. As I’ve heard someone say, they are not worship leaders, they are lead worshippers. When praise teams are more concerned with putting on a solid performance than with joining in worship with the congregation, there is a problem. Church is supposed to be a community, not a business. You can always work on improving someone’s musicality, but they have to come already prepared with the right spirit to worship.

We can get picky over whether our church chooses hymns over the "light rock feel" of Chris Tomlin. But it all comes down to making a personal choice to look past the music and focus on what you are actually singing about. A song that used to have no meaning for me was Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name”. I had sung that song in church for years and thought it was pretty boring musically. However, at a service I recently attended, the worship leader explained the lyrical content. The song says, Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me, and then the next verse says, Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering. Oh, wait, so this song is about praising God when things are going your way, as well as when you are in the midst of intense suffering? It’s about being able to say, “Yes, Lord, I will worship You, I will bless Your name no matter what my circumstances." That is a message we all need to take in. Now when I hear that song in church, it has renewed meaning for me; the music does not matter because I found a way to connect with the song no matter how proficient the musicians are.

When I was fifteen, the youth pastor of our church said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said that everything we do can be worship to God. The words “worship” and “music” have been tied together so permanently that people think worship time ends when the praise team leaves the stage. But when we pray, when we tell our friends about Jesus, when we tithe, we’re worshipping. Worship is anything that lifts up God’s name and praises Him. The way in which we live our lives everyday should be an act of worship.

And it doesn’t matter how you worship either. Not everyone is going to run around a church, singing “Hallelujah!” and not everyone is gonna stand still with their hands at their sides. I love to lift my hands toward God when I’m singing, but I have friends who don’t do that—and that’s fine. It does not matter what you do when that time comes; what matters is where your heart is at. Be present in the worship. Try (as hard as it can be) to focus on God and His awesomeness instead of how the girl playing the piano should probably be wearing pants from that angle. Blocking out the world (and its unseemly distractions) is part and parcel with being able to enter in the presence of God.My family may exchange loaded glances from time to time, but when our focus quickly turns to worship, we are able to move on. If the music is actually inhibiting your ability to worship, you better check and see what it is you’re actually praising. Don’t make music your god. Change your circumstances in order to avoid being put off by anything that may hinder you. Maybe you will even have to purposely seek out a different church. Whatever your options, make the changes necessary to take your focus off the screechy soprano and put it where it belongs—on the King of Kings.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
 
http://m.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/blog/28730-a-not-so-joyful-noise

Thursday, March 29, 2012

SC12 [PART 2]

Service Corps 2012 Team Announcement video part 2
The Salvation Army USA Western Territory Youth Department

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Note to Self: Sing



Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.  PSALM 30:4

Dear Self,

You really should sing more. You should sing more than at gathered worship with the church. You should sing in the car, while working in the yard, and in your home. And when you sing, you should do so with more than lungs and lips. You should sing with your heart, mind, and soul.

And stop rolling your eyes! I’m not suggesting that you become the perpetually happy whistler who rolls through the aisles of the grocery store whistling others into an incurable state of annoyance. But song does need to be a much bigger part of your life.

“ When you sing, you should do so with more than lungs and lips. You should sing with your heart, mind, and soul.”

People sing about the things that capture their hearts and things that give them joy. People sing of heroes, victory, longing, and hope. People even sing as a way to express their sorrow. Does anyone have more reasons to sing than you? As a sinner who has been forgiven, a slave who has been freed, a blind man who has received sight, a spiritual cripple who has been healed—all by the gospel—you have real reasons to be known as a person of song!

It is one thing to tell the world of God’s work of redemption in Jesus; it is another to sing of it. Anyone can parrot truth, but to sing of it—from the soul—reveals how you feel. Song is the natural and appropriate response to the gospel, because singing is one of the highest expressions of joy.

“There are songs of praise, thanksgiving, confession, lament, and victory that need your voice.”

So why aren’t you singing always, only for your king? Have the mercies of God grown small in your heart? Is there little joy, little gratitude, little wonder? Do you just not feel like singing? The confession of your sins and gospel meditation will lead you to song, so start there. There are songs of praise, thanksgiving, confession, lament, and victory that need your voice.

From the great hymns of old to the new songs echoing the wonders of God’s mercy, you have more means of finding songs of redemption than any other generation before you. So join the chorus of God’s people, who have always been known as a people who sing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

30 Seconds

It’s Sunday morning. You step onto the stage and sit down at the piano or strap on your guitar. The songs you picked out earlier in the week have now been practiced well, the band is behind you tuning their instruments and the crowd is still stirring. In close to 30 seconds you will be leading the church in song.

Seconds for self or Jesus


Depending on the morning, you will usually have around 30 seconds to glance at the crowd before that awkward moment where everything goes silent. So, what do you do in that 30 seconds? Do you wink at your spouse? Do you head nod friends in the back? Do you exercise your OCD by tuning your guitar for the hundredth time?

For me, these 30 seconds are some of the most precious in the life of my ministry. I am about to celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ and plead with others to behold him. I’m going to do this with a heart that, at times, wants glory for myself. I’m going to be leading in a room where the cross, for some, has no more meaning than shiny jewelry hung around their necks; a room where false gods can be created in an instant; a room where happiness can rule the day, not “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Seconds of prayer for minutes of soulful worship


Do I feel the weight of all this at that moment? Do I understand my primary function is to pastor, not merely entertain (2 Chronicles 7:6)? What if we used this time to plead for the souls of the men and women in attendance? What if we asked the Lord to make us shine like the stars in the heavens for his glory, humbling us under his mighty hand and hiding us behind his cross? What if this morning was different? It will make all the difference for the next 30 minutes.

http://theresurgence.com/2011/05/07/30-seconds

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Worship Tutorials

Looking to figure out how to play a specific song?  Do you need chord charts?  Maybe an instructional video might be helpful.  Check this site out for great tutorials and downloadable charts; all for free.  That's right, I said FREE. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Staying Healthy Emotionally and Spiritually

In Worship Ministry
Effective worship ministry is a challenge that few people, other than worship leaders themselves, completely understand. Not only are most of us juggling family and career obligations while we lead our faith communities in praise each week, we are also attempting to manage the preferences and demands of our congregations, pastors, musicians, singers, and others around us who are often quite vocal about their needs. But what happens if we neglect our own spiritual and emotional health in the process of serving others? Is it possible to maintain a balanced life and still be a great worship leader?

Stress Happens
Humans were designed by God to handle stress. When he placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, Adam was given an appropriate amount of work to accomplish. He named animals and tended the garden under God’s direction. Adam and Eve enjoyed the direct, unmediated fellowship of God in their pristine surroundings. When Adam chose to disobey God’s command, sin and death (think undue stress here) entered and God’s judgment resulted in their expulsion from Eden and the edict that they would now only eat of the earth through “painful toil” (Genesis 3:17). Thank you, Adam.

Stress, then, is not a bad thing, but part and parcel with the creation before and after the fall. Just like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was built to carry a certain amount of traffic each day without cracking or crumbling, we are built to bear a certain amount of weight as we work through life. Yet, many worship leaders are cracking and crumbling, showing signs of excessive wear and tear as they are weighed down with much more than they were designed to handle. Although it may be argued that stress is the natural state of man post-fall, we still need to ask, “What would be considered a state of hyper stress for us as worship leaders?” and “What can we do to stay healthy?”

Perhaps we should take a step back from the burden of the week-to-week duties for a moment to consider the greater design of God in the ordering of his Church. If Jesus is the “head of the church” (Eph 1:22), then we must believe that his “yoke is easy” and his “burden is light” (Mt 11:29), as he has promised. The tip off that we are doing too much in ministry is when life becomes unmanageable and we, or the people closest to us, are suffering. Our task, then, is to yoke up with him, to be more attentive to his direction in the load that we are willing to carry and to be aware of our own needs spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Three Battlefields
As post-Eden earth dwellers, we find ourselves engaged in three arenas of battle: physical, emotional, and spiritual. As Christian believers we have learned much of the spiritual arena, yet often neglect the things that keep us strong in the Lord (Eph 6:18) such as prayer, personal worship, Bible study, and fasting. We often default to the pabulum of popular semi-biblical jingles on Christian radio and abdicate our daily fellowship with God for drive time devotionals. An authentic Christ-centered spirituality is much more than knowing all the lyrics to current praise songs. We would do well to re-engage with ancient liturgies, texts, and the classic spiritual disciplines to accompany our bevy of praise tunes.

When it comes to understanding the indissoluble link between our mortal bodies, spirit, and soul, there may be few books that stand up to Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy (HarperCollins, 1998). Our western penchant to compartmentalize ourselves into three separate elements of spirit, soul, and body is antithetical to Scripture, according to Willard, and we are impoverished for this viewpoint. If we are neglecting our bodies through over eating, lack of exercise, or some other thing, we are neglecting the very presence of God (see Paul in 1 Cor 12:27). Many worship leaders are suffering unduly because they are neglecting themselves physically. Why not take a walk today?

Perhaps the area where stress cracks show the most is in the emotional arena. Burnout, depression, anxiety, and many other symptoms are warning signals that we need some self-care or even professional care. Like the dashboard in your car or in the cockpit of an airplane, warning lights usually come on for a reason: to indicate low levels of fuel, oil, or some other vital element. When we are feeling chronically depressed, hyper-stressed, or burned out, more prayer may not be the answer; rather, a phone call to a biblically based counselor might be more appropriate. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. God has placed in the Church many excellent counselors who are equipped to help you regain the emotional stability and health you need to continue to be a dynamic worship leader.

Healthy for the Long Haul
No one else can take responsibility for your health. I cannot swim laps for you or go out for a run to build your heart muscle. You have to get up off the couch, put down the fork, pick up the weights, and pump the iron. You have to open the Word, read it, meditate on it, and make it a vital part of your life. Though Adam abdicated the unmediated presence of God in the garden, God has made a way for you to re-engage with him by the indwelling of his Spirit. Now it is up to you to “draw close to God” (Js 4:8) in your own heart and seek him for yourself.

While church life and worship ministry are stressful, with the right perspective in mind and the willingness to do battle in these three arenas you can stay healthy and balanced to run this race with endurance (Heb 12:1).

Worship Leader Magazine: http://worshipleader.com/staying-healthy-emotionally-and-spiritually/

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Love Moves Slow

by Audrey Assad

The slow burn of intimacy.

Have you ever gone for months, or even years, without hearing God’s voice? I have. And I have seen dear, faithful friends and believers, other women who desire intimacy with God, do the same. It can be incredibly frustrating, painful, and discouraging, as I know from experience.

Not even six months ago, I was pouring out my vexation about this to my spiritual director. I am twenty eight, and I have been a fully invested Christian woman for nine years, raised in a Christian home for my whole life, and I still struggle with discipline in prayer on a daily basis. I have trouble desiring to spend time with God, which looks and sounds even more ridiculous than ever as I type it out on my laptop. It feels like I don’t hear from Him as often as I used to. If you asked me to list all the things I believe about God’s goodness and faithfulness, the list would be long, indeed. I have walked through mountains and valleys with Him in the last nine years that have proven His faithfulness to me over and over again. Yet even still, I fight a gruesome, silent battle with spiritual drought.

It turns out, I am not the only Christian who struggles now in this way, nor have I been the first. I, like many others before me, have “left my first love” again and again, times without number. It is no coincidence that my favorite hymn says, “Prone to wander ... prone to leave the God I love.” (- from Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.) Sometimes daily, I vacillate on a see-saw between spiritual ardor and blasé. I always thought I would be long past that by now. I thought the “further up and further in” I traveled into God’s heart, the less I would struggle with seemingly simple things like ‘desiring God.‘ I thought that roller-coaster type of wavelength between those mountains and the valleys was just for teenagers. Yet here I am, a twenty eight year old woman, and still going up, and down, and up, and down again. So what’s the story?
 
Read more at: http://blog.worshiptogether.com/worshiptogether/2012/02/women-in-worship-audrey-assad.html

Monday, March 12, 2012

Breaking Out of the Worship Formula

Can you make authentic worship?

Growing up in a small Baptist church helped me learn something at an early age: Our gatherings as the Church tend toward formula. There are lots of reasons for it. It’s easier. It’s comfortable. It’s predictable. It fits inside of our “boxes.” It’s replicable. It allows us to attempt to recapture meaningful moments of the past.

But—like in all relationships—our encounters with God are meant to be progressive, not repetitive. That’s why I think I was so excited about the movement of a fresh approach to worship that was coming out of people like Martin Smith and Matt Redman in England in the early '90s and things like the Passion Movement here in the U.S. It wasn’t simply a stylistic change. It was something fresh in the expectation of the movement of God.

But now, 15 years and thousands of songs later, there seems to be a new homogeny throughout our churches and our worship gatherings. We’ve gotten to the point where we have made what was fresh into a formula once again. 


A familiar formula

Tell me if this sounds familiar for a worship song as played by the band at your church:

Loud intro.
 Come down for verse one.
 Hit it hard for the chorus.
 Keep it going hard up til the bridge.
 Drop out for the bridge. 
Build back into a loud bridge section.
 Come down for an ending chorus.
 Vamp low on the end (with some occasional builds).

This type of song formula takes people dynamically up for two minutes, down for one minute, back up, back down. It’s a constant roller coaster for the duration of the set.

There’s nothing wrong with this song structure, but it might point to a greater issue: Perhaps we’re relying on musical dynamics to elicit an emotional response more than we are pleading for the Holy Spirit to engage us in the spiritual realm.Obviously, the solution to what seems to be our new habitual formula is not another formula. But we should be aware of how songs really do affect us emotionally and how we can engage with God in different ways through a range of dynamics. It might help to think through what we think of as a time of “worship.” Are there times of celebration with the Lord as well as times of rest? Do we dwell on the joy of celebration and the peace of rest, or are those moments fleeting?

Who is worship for?

Ultimately, worship leaders are there to help foster moments where individuals can connect with God. And our goal as worshipers is to use that time to connect with God.

Sometimes, I think we get into the mindset that the worship is for the band—that we are present to allow the band to do what it wants or to help us hit an emotional high. There’s a time for high notes and guitar prowess, but it’s a matter of the chicken and the egg. Because those moments aren't all the time. It’s a continual balance of asking, “What is this moment calling for, and what will take us deeper?”

Music seems to be this strange thing that serves as a bridge between the natural and the supernatural. Because of that, our conversations about how to do what we do best involves both the earthly and the spiritual. It means not getting stale in what we think of as “worship.” But it also means fighting the temptation to judge whether or not the worship was “good” by criteria like, “They sang well” or, “That band was awesome.”

But the most important thing about worship is that it allows us to engage with God. It matters a lot less if everyone hits the right note, or if the band hits the right solo at exactly the right time or even if the particular song is the one you want to sing. What matters is if worship is providing you a space to connect with God—it’s not a formula or a series of easy answers. It’s letting God work through each of us to connect with Him both as individuals and as the Church.
 
Relevant Magazine:  http://m.relevantmagazine.com/god/worship/features/24146-breaking-out-of-the-worship-formula