3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Leading Worship

I started early as a worship leader and was kind of thrown into it. Looking back, I had guitar1some incredible mentors but many of those around me were learning with me. Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I first started leading worship. These things have been echoed by many worship leaders across the country that I get to meet with. All of this really came together while at the Allaboutworship.com conference. Thankful to my friends Wisdom Moon, Michael Farren, and Sean Hill for conversation there that were incredibly helpful.

Let’s start with number 2:

2. Lead your congregation up the mountain

The Old Testament offers some beautiful illustrations of God’s people ascending his mountain to enjoy his presence (Psalm 24:3). As a worship leader, you’re helping spiritually lead your congregation into God’s presence. Corporate worship is a communal experience, and part of facilitating that experience is being aware of where the rest of your church is. Sometimes the worship leader or the band can get so far ahead that they lose everyone else.

The goal isn’t to be the first to the top of the mountain; you certainly don’t want to stand at the top alone. Be conscious of emotive moments during songs, and as you foster that experience through instrumentation, consider how vocals accompany the feeling. Lead the voices of your congregation so you can enjoy the presence of God together.


Read more over at the Proclaim blog. <——

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3 Reasons to Respond Graciously When your Theology is Challenged

“I would recommend to all my brethren, as the most necessary thing to the Church’s peace, that you unite in necessary truths, and tolerate tolerable failings; and bear with one another in things that may be borne with; and do not make a larger creed and more necessaries than God has done.” – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

As means of communication becomes easier and social media gives just about anyone a platform it’s easy to take shots at other camps based off of sound bites and clips. In all honesty, this is painful for me and I see this occurring all over Facebook and Twitter. On the one hand, its important to have the ability to voice concern but it becomes scary when it turns into a monster fight via social media.

When people find their identity in a theological position, denomination, or conviction and not in Jesus there’s a serious problem. And when Christians make the minors majors it’s a serious problem.

The moment of truth. If you ask me what camp I’m in the easiest answer is to say I’m reformed. But my identity is in Christ. My hope, faith, source of life, is in Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, as a stereotypical “reformed” type I’m absolutely into theology and my favorite books revolve around theology and doctrine. And at times I read blogs and articles that pin point the “reformed tradition” as being ego and intellectually driven, just a fad, or more committed to tradition than Jesus. Regardless of if this is true or not, what matters is my response. I have two choices.

1. Get defensive and attack the other camp
2. Respond graciously

Here are three reasons why I believe the gracious response is always the best option.

1. The scriptures tell us too – Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”. David helps us to illustrate the importance of unity by giving us two examples.

  • Precious oil anointing Aaron – In this imagery we find Aaron who served as high priest being anointed with precious oil. The oil would eventually flow down on his beard and over his chest which would have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Essentially, a consecrated, unified, and holy people of God would serve as an example to the rest of the world.
  • Falling dew – Dew served as symbol of refreshing, quickening, and invigoration. Likewise, brotherly unity should cause a resurgence, renewal, and refreshing for the believer.[1]

When responding in these situations we should consider how it will affect the unity of the church universal. If our response destroys unity, it’s not helpful or edifying for the church.

2. It fosters reconciliation not destruction – A gracious response may be the difference in a long and positive relationship. An un gracious response may be the catalyst for a destroyed and lost relationship. A family has fights and arguments. There are often different perspectives and opinions. However, each conversation should be aimed toward reconciliation, the same can and should be said between Christians.

3. It provides a bridge for honest conversations – If we are able to do the first two, the benefit could be an honest dialogue where both parties are heard. Its not about who wins, rather about understanding each others perspective. Our value and ability to live in unity in spite of different perspective on the minors is a thing that honors and edifies the church.

Please don’t misunderstand me. If something is said that falls blatantly outside the framework of the orthodox Christianity, we must address it. In fact, as pastors it is our responsibility to address such matters as we lovingly lead our people. This is not about being passive and not holding to convictions. It’s about holding to convictions while still representing Christ well.

 

 


[1] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 133:3.

Would you preach till your vocal chords gave out?

40 years of passionately loving a church and faithfully preaching the Gospel.

I get to travel a lot for work (Logos Bible Software) and this week I’m at Hillside Christian Church for the Jud Wilhite God of Yes tour.

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Best part, my dear friend from college Erik is the tech director. As he gave me a tour of the facility I got to hear the story of the church. The story that stuck out was about the last senior pastor who transitioned out after 40 years preaching from the pulpit. In fact, today, he has to get injections in his vocal cords to be able to whisper. It makes me consider the amount of passion and drive that motivates someone to such lengths.

What motivates you? Do you believe in something so passionately?

Ohh, as we were touring that same pastor was walking around the office loving on the staff at the church. Really makes me consider what kind of legacy I will leave…

Jesus – Grieving Over the Religious..

Was Jesus ever angry?

Mark 3:5

“And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart,”

One of the most important things to me is that my boys know who Jesus is. Part of knowing who Jesus is requires us to study and dive into what he did in the scriptures. What we find is a Jesus who is committed to the work of the Father. In Mark 3:5 we also see Jesus responding to the Pharisees that highlights his humanity. One of the great mysteries of theology is that Jesus is both fully man and God. This mystery should lead us into worship of our great God. In Mark 3:5 we see that Jesus feels two common human emotions “anger” and grief”. Jesus has human emotions, and feels deeply. Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 7.39.57 PMDiving into the Greek text (thanks to Logos 5 for the research help!) we see that the Greek word “Syllypeo” is being translated as the word “grieved”. This word literally means to feel sympathy. When referring to anger, the greek word “Orge” is being used which refers to relatively strong displeasure with a focus on the emotion anger.

In this one sentence we see Jesus expressing two seemingly opposite emotions. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for their insensitivity to suffering while also grieving over the condition of their hearts. Jesus’ anger and grief teaches me the following.

  1. Don’t forget the Gospel – While these religious leaders are consumed with hatred for Christ and waiting for the opportune moment attack, they miss their calling. As the religious leaders it is their responsibility to represent God. To do His will and care for others. It’s easy for us to get consumed with things that pull us away from Gospel.
  2. Do good – Jesus asks if its right to do good or harm, to save or to kill. In the very next verses Jesus answers this question with an action. He restores the mans hand. It’s simple, do good. Start with your family, your wife, husband, children, mom, dad, and siblings. Do good in your community (including the neighbors you try to avoid cause they annoy you). Be a reflection of the Gospel of Christ.

Get Into God’s Word…Please!

Get into the Word of God….Please!

If someone wanted to give you a $100 digital study Bible for free how would you respond? Here were some of the responses that I heard this past week at Creation Festival.

  • No.
  • No thanks
  • Not really into that
  • Awesome, thanks!

While many were excited about the Word of God and wanted to dig deeper, hearing students respond in an apathetic manner was disheartening. One of the reasons that I love what Creation is doing, is their commitment to get students into the Word. I love that I get to partner with them to help facilitate this process through Logos and the Faithlife Study Bible (you can get the FSB free here).

Hearing students respond so apathetically about their desire to read the scriptures caused me to consider my own desire to be in God’s Word. The truth is, I am not motivated to be in the Word everyday. I’m ashamed to think about how many days at a time I let myself go with out opening up the Bible. The issue is not just with students. It’s with me. It’s with us. It’s with all of humanity. Here are a few things that I have done that have helped me to be in Gods Word.

  • Remind myself why it’s important – Anything that is of importance has a slew of reasons why it’s important. It’s vital that we remind ourselves the benefits of being in the Word and the dangers that can occur when we neglect Gods Word. I love Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 6.41.41 PMHebrews 4:12 and its description of the Word of God. If this doesn’t give you reason to open up the Bible, I’m not sure what will.
  • Take a disciplined approach – This can mean different things to people. For me, it means that I have scheduled times to read the Word. Recently, I have been incredibly busy (traveled almost 20K miles in the last 3 months for work!). Needless to say, if something doesn’t make it on my calendar, its not happening. Practically, I have to get this on my calendar. For you it could mean having seasons of scheduled reading times. Consider how you can take a more disciplined approach to your time in Gods Word.
  • Journal – Yes, I said journal and no, journaling is not only for girls. One of the best advices I got from a youth leader when I was in Jr. High was to keep track of my thoughts about the Word in a journal. Discuss the text, identify things that are challenging, and ask questions. Today, I can look back through the years and see where I was and where God has brought me in terms of my understanding his Word. Some things have changed drastically while others have stayed incredibly accurate.

God’s Word is worth our time, effort, and diligence.

Do You See Jesus When You Worship?

Worship

I get the opportunity to travel some for my job. I wrote this post sitting in the balcony of Calvary Baptist Church in Lancaster, PA. Just a heads up, the pronunciation for this city is closer to “Lancester”. I offended someone at a local pizza place.

This is probably one of my favorite conferences. They have three locations and I am at the first one for 2013. The topic of Worship holds a  special place in my heart for a couple reasons.

  • I’ve served as a Worship Leader
  • I’ve served as a Worship pastor
  • I’m a musician and love music

Needless to say, I love talking about and discussing all the various components of worship within the context of a local church.

  • Music
  • Theology
  • Organization
  • Technology

My favorite topic, however, is that of theology. Our understanding of theology and the implication of how we read the Biblical text play’s out very practically in the songs that we write or chose to sing. While at the conference a pastor named Steve Berger spoke for a general session. While the overarching theme of the conference is worshiping in spirit and truth, pastor Berger made one statement that caught my attention. He asked everyone, “When we worship, do we see Jesus”?

In all honesty, I’ve found that many times leading worship I didn’t see Jesus. I thought about Jesus, I was focused on Jesus, I wanted other people to see Jesus. However, I did not make it a habit or practice to ask myself if I saw Jesus when I worshipped. There are some common issues, challenges, and fear’s that most worship leaders face. Possibly the most prominent or popular is pride. Worship leaders are always working towards humility, ensuring that they are not getting prideful, and working hard at being a humble servant. I wonder, if these things would be reconciled if we just saw Jesus when we worshiped. As I think about the implications of seeing Jesus when we worship, I think the following will occur.

  1. Our desire for approval will be satisfied – We are always looking for approval. Typically, this comes from the lead pastor, the church congregation, or our musicians and band. When we see Jesus when we worship, his approval of us is ultimately satisfying. The best part, is that his approval of us is not based on what we did, but what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
  2. Our songs become more theologically sound – When we look to Jesus and focus on him, our preparation for worship in song choices will reflect the personhood of who Christ is. Simply, the songs that we write and the ones that we choose become centered around Christ.
  3. We are able to lead more effectively – When we see Jesus during our worship, we are inevitably drawn to him. As we draw near to him, it becomes our goal and heart’s desire to point others to him. As we point others to him, we become satisfied in his exaltation.

I would also encourage that we expand the definition of worship beyond singing songs during a worship service. We worship God or have the capacity to worship him during every second, of every minute, of every hour. Our worship of God is a result of a heart that is postured to honor, exalt, and glorify God. So, do you see Jesus when you worship?

Death – The Last Station on the Road to Freedom

In Bible College we never really talked about the practicality of death. Of course, we discussed the theology, implications, and consequences of death for the Christian but we never really discussed how to respond to the reality of death.

My wife loves Gray’s Anatomy. This popular TV show was actually the cause of significant fighting during our first year of marriage. The scenario played out like this. We would come home from work, eat dinner, and then Britt would say, “I need to catch up on Gray’s Anatomy, watch it with me.” My response every time was, “no”. Britt felt like I didn’t want to spend time with her, when really, deep inside I was dealing with some significant issues. From my perspective the entire show was filled with death. Death was packaged in a variety of creative ways always dealing with some kind of medical crisis. Regardless, I couldn’t stomach watching it. Then it hit me, why watch a show about death when there are real people that are dying all around us. These people have real families, real stories, real children, and they face a very real conversation with God after death.

As I have been processing through my feelings, fear, and honest resentment with death, BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer has been a great help. Bonhoeffer comments about death in a sermon in 1933 stating,

“How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether in our human fear and anguish, we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly blessed even in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”

Bonhoeffer rightly describes the dilemma of death. In all honesty, none of us know what death is like. Our view of death is a combination of assumptions, fears, faith, belief, and simply our acceptance of an absolutely unknown part of life. As I look to the scriptures it seems clear that death presents an opportunity to bring glory to God.

Bonhoeffer referred to death as,

“the last station on the road to freedom”

While it remains certain that we don’t know explicitly what death will be like, we can know for sure that both death and life give us the opportunity to bring glory to God. As the Apostle Paul states in Phil 1:21, life brings the opportunity to live for Christ while death gives the opportunity to depart and be with our Father. From this perspective, there is a motivation to live for Christ but a sense of peace in understanding the outcome of death is to be with God.