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.

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:

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:

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:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Recruiting and Training New Members for Your Worship Team

Here are some guidelines I follow in recruiting new worship team members. The first six points apply to all worship team members and the last five points apply to worship team leaders.

Choose people who have a heart of worship.
Look for people who love God with all their heart, soul and strength. There is no substitute for this foundation. Out of that heart flows genuine worship and a desire to be a team player. These are the kind of people I want to raise up into leadership—people whose lives are devoted to Christ, His Church and His cause in the world.

Choose people who are full of zeal to serve.
Don’t mess around with people who aren’t ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. When a developing leader is full of energy to serve and grow, they have an appetite to learn. They’re not picky about the tasks they are given. They come early to meetings and stay late to absorb all they can.
In the various churches and meetings where I’ve led worship, I’ve played with all levels of musicians—everything from great players who have done lots of recordings to inexperienced players. I really don’t mind undeveloped ability as long as the attitude (in the Christian sense of the term) is professional. A person with a professional attitude shows up on time, takes seriously his or her responsibility, doesn’t pretend to know everything, pays attention during rehearsal and wants to fit into the big picture.

Choose people who are loyal and willing to follow your leadership.
You can’t lead people that don’t want to follow you. They decide who their leader is. Attitude is everything. The apprentice must be willing and eager to learn from the mentor. The most fruitful mentoring relationships I’ve had are those in which both parties have a mutual desire to cooperate as co-workers.

Choose people who are integrated into your church community.
Worship leaders are formed within community—by pastors, leaders and worship leaders—and by the hard knocks of life. I impart worship leading principles, but I depend on the power of the Church to form people into mature leaders. Worship leaders are, first of all, Christians; secondly, they are musicians. A lifestyle of worship encompasses everything from feeding the poor to setting up P.A. systems to leading a worship set.

Choose people who have musical ability
If you’re in a small church, you should start by looking for anyone who can play the right chords, keep rhythm pretty well and sing on pitch most of the time. If you’re in a big church, you can be much more selective—choosing people who are highly skilled. In a medium-sized church, you will probably have a combination of skilled musicians and beginners who have talent that is developing. Regardless of the size of your church and skill level of your team members, you can have a spiritually rich worship ministry. Don’t ever let the spirit and heart of worship be lost in a quest for a polished performance.

Release people into positions of responsibility gradually.
I’ve made the mistake of giving people too much responsibility, too quickly and watched those musicians and singers struggle because they weren’t ready for heavier responsibility. Ask someone to lead worship one time or to play an instrument in a rehearsal before they play in a worship service. Don’t give them a permanent or even a semi-permanent position at first. If they are called to a greater scope of ministry, they will first be “faithful with little things.”

Futulele (Ukelele App for iPhone and iPad)

I've seen many a ukelele used in worship.  For those of you who travel with your iPhone and iPad I'm sure this might come in handy.  If anything it's pretty cool!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Confessions of a Former Worship Leader

What is our worship music really pointing to?

Growing up as the oldest son of a pastor, as well as a trained musician, the use of music as an expression of worship has been an integral piece of my church experience. I can vividly remember, as an eager fifth-grader, my excitement and anticipation over the opportunity to play bass guitar in a worship band for the first time. From that point on, as I became competent on instruments such as guitar and piano, my life would become dominated by musical, corporate worship. Whether it was at summer youth camps, university chapel services, informal gatherings around a campfire or meetings at newly planted churches, I happily assumed the title of “worship leader.”

For many years I felt no need to carefully examine how I approached corporate worship in the church. After all, I loved playing music, I seemed to be an effective leader and I was happily giving my talents back to God. However, I eventually realized it was not that simple.

As a freshman at a Christian university, I spent the majority of that first year “church shopping.” I quickly became enamored with one of the church communities near my university campus; its seeker-sensitive approach, flashy light shows and blaring music created an exciting change of pace for a straight-laced pastor’s kid. The worship leader this particular morning nailed the Christian rock-star image: good looks, styled hair, faded jeans and an expensive acoustic guitar. About halfway through the second song, I noticed an unused microphone, which was set-up at approximately his waist level. “What purpose could that serve?” I wondered in a quick moment of curiosity, and then I quickly raised my hands and lost myself in the tunes. The sound was mixed wonderfully, the vocals were outstanding and the set of music was carefully constructed to serve as a powerful crescendo to the last song: “Hungry” by Kathryn Scott. As the leader belted out the final refrain—I’m falling on my knees, offering all of me—he acted on his words and literally fell to his knees. It was at this point that the aforementioned unused microphone came into play. It was preemptively placed at the perfect height and angle so the leader would be able to sing while on his knees without stopping his guitar-playing.
Read the rest of this article at:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Easter Worship Songs

Can you believe Easter is just 5 weeks away from this Sunday? Whether you're in the middle of or just getting started planning your Easter worship services - we've got 10 powerful and timely songs for you to download FREE this week from