September 07, 2016 - No Comments!

Two Threats to Sundays

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Two imminent threats exist against the church gathered. I’ve watched these two threats show up unannounced and often in discreet fashion, but every Christian is in their cross-hairs. Both of them are designed to dislodge one of the best rhythms God has given his kids, and I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this, one (or both) would be true of you if you were honest. Simply put, the threats are this: overvaluing or undervaluing the weekly gathering. Here in part one of this three part series we’ll look at why these threat matter, and who is affected.

WHY ARE THEY DANGEROUS?

If you’re a Christian than it’s no secret you’re signed up for a lifetime of Sundays. We know that Sundays are a big part of normal life for any Christian. And yet making too much or too little of them is highly dangerous to the Christian life. And no one is immune.

Some of us connect with God primarily through our head-space or intellect, while others from the heart and emotion, while others through activity and the action of our hands.  I want to be clear that the threats that oppose us affect all three areas.

 God wants us to understand, desire, and participate in Sundays AND all of us, myself included, can stray from fully engaging and receiving from the Sunday gathering.

This mini-series will talk about whats really two sides of the same coin; the threats, symptoms, and remedies of overvaluing or undervaluing the weekly gathering.

It’s a necessary message because we as believers can fall off the horse on both sides. If you’re not a Christian and you’re here asking questions about faith and church and Jesus, then this discussion will hopefully give you an idea of what this part of Christianity is all about.

TWO PEDALS

Spiritual health is like our physical health…if we neglect, minimize, or discount the most important things to our health then our health will suffer. The elders and staff at Doxa have doubled down as it relates to doing SUNDAYS and life together, and doing them both well. We talk about it around the office in a way that I think it’s helpful.

 Picture Sundays as one of the pedals on this bike.

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I want you to see the other pedal as Missional Communities or whatever your church does to facilitate bible study, prayer, mission, and life together. It seems basic, but its important to point out that no one is going to get very far very fast if they only use one pedal. And from what we can see in scripture and in church history, disciples are made and the kingdom of God goes out in powerful and transformative ways when God’s people do both. What I’m saying is, we need both pedals. Keep that picture in mind as we look at our first threat.

Part two will go live next week…stay tuned.

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May 16, 2016 - No Comments!

Not Strong Enough

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One of my favorite parts of leading worship in a local church is getting to articulate what God is doing in my heart for the congregation to process and identify with. The hopeful and messy parts, strewn together. It’s helpful for me because it forces me to remind myself constantly that I am a sheep before I am a shepherd. I believe it to be helpful for those in the room because they are given an out from the pretending and posturing that everything in their own chest is fine and clean.

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Last Sunday, I read an excerpt from Paul Tripp’s new book “Awe” that I recently picked up. I found the following section helpful in setting up our worship time together:

“As it is true of a street sign, so it is true of every jaw-dropping, knee weakening, silence-producing, wonder-inspiring thing in the universe. The sign is not the thing you are looking for. No, the sign points you to what you are looking for.”

This is a perfect description of how the good things in our lives that we commonly elevate to supreme over our lives (i.e. work success, influence, romance, family, recreation) can actually redirect our affection to God rather than replace it. Replacing God is something we’re quite good at, even if it is only our own perception change and not a positional change. It’s a perfectly understandable and flawed habit we humans have.  We want to place our hope in something we can wrap our arms around or pay for online. The tangible feels trustworthy.

Simply put, the weight of our hopes and hearts can not be held up by other things. It just weighs too much. These smaller things are not strong enough.

Thankfully, He is.

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May 10, 2016 - No Comments!

An Interview with Gospel Song Union


I recently got to share my thoughts on why creatives in the church can learn from baboons over at GospelSongUnion.com. Zach Bolen from Citizens and Saints is helping lead their efforts. We talked about why artists in the church need to rest as much as anyone else.

They also did a quick interview on my current role at Doxa Church in Bellevue. Have a look here:  http://www.gospelsongunion.com/blog/2016/5/9/who-is-donald-zimmerman

Thankful for Gospel Song Union and there desire to see encouragement and unity among arts leaders in the Pacific Northwest.

April 25, 2016 - No Comments!

Speed Kills

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If God offered to change anything in your church, would you ask for numerical growth? More leaders? More people giving? More people arriving on time on Sundays? Would you ask for something to be removed or added so that you could experience growth?

These are obviously good things and many a godly man and woman has sought God to bring these changes. But I am reminded this week as to the dangers of believing that growth defines your ministry as worthy, faithful, or godly.

I reached out to my friend Matt Boswell recently and asked what his highlight was from the recent Together For The Gospel conference was. The video below is what he passed along. After watching it, I completely understand why he picked this as significant.

Having worked for a church that made the “fastest growing churches in America” list a few times, I can tell you first-hand that rapid ministry growth is not to be coveted or idolized. It’s not sexy or fulfilling.  While not antithetical, it’s also certainly not a metric for faithfulness or maturity. The leaders that I served with look back on those seasons of soaring numbers  with a mix of gratitude and sorrow. It took a lasting toll on each of us and we’d certainly navigate things differently given another chance.

It is perfectly possible (and I would even argue, perfectly common) that your church may not be exploding in weekend attendance and you could be doing exactly what God wants you to be doing. It’s also possible, and common, that you could be blowing up on Sundays, with spontaneous baptisms falling out of your pockets and be missing God’s call almost completely.

Doxa Church where I serve has grown slowly and steadily over the past year. Our challenges are many. A replant is a very unique animal. That said, I am both grateful for the new life and the rate at which we are experiencing it. The logistical demands and painful choices that naturally spill out of a church experiencing “explosive growth” is something

Watch the video and see what the Spirit tells you as you listen.

“Endurance Needed: Strength for a Slow Reformation and the Dangerous Allure of Speed” — Mark Dever (T4G 2016) from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

April 05, 2016 - No Comments!

Confession: He Provides

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Here is a little something I wrote for last Sunday as we looked at Jesus’ unexpected provision in the book of Mark:

A Prayer of Confession For Repentance

We forget that you are over all, and love us dearly. We try to take things into our own hands instead of trusting you.
Response: The Lord is good and provides for his children. 

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We store our treasure and carry anxiety that we will go without tomorrow, even though our yesterdays are packed full of evidence that you care for us.
Response: The Lord is good and provides for his children. 
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Our hearts are full of worry when we lack and full of pride when we have. We take credit for the things we have and forget that even our abilities, intelligence, and work ethic have been given by you.
Response: The Lord is good and provides for his children.
//

February 01, 2016 - No Comments!

Jesus As Healer

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(I wrote this for our gatherings this last Sunday.)

Jesus is alive. He is with you at this moment. He is our healer. He is willing. He is able.

Today we will look at how Jesus did some unexpected healing.  The beauty of Jesus is that he is full of depth. There are thousands of reasons to give our all to Jesus. This is why we gather to worship the same  triune God every Sunday, but rarely for the same reason. This is why a weekly rhythm of corporate worship is always fresh and never tired. The aspect of our Savior that is reason for today’s worship is Jesus as our healer.

“We don’t have to simply clamor around the crowds watching the miracle carnival.”

The thing that stands out to me in the stories of Jesus healing is that most often, someone goes to great lengths to get to Jesus. They pushed the crowd. They would drop down their friend through a hole in the ceiling. They will do whatever it takes. Some would call them desperate. Many surely called them foolish. We know, because we have the luxury of looking back on their lives, that they were indeed the smartest people in the room.

But this is where our story differs from theirs. We don’t need to run to town to catch a glimpse. We don’t need to hope the rumors are true. We don’t have to simply clamor around the crowds watching the miracle carnival.  We can relate to him and be known by him in the comfort of our desk at work or the driver’s seat of our car, or the rocking chair in our newborn’s room.

Jesus is alive. He is with you at this moment. He is our healer. He is willing. He is able.

Some of us have never asked Jesus for healing because we don’t think he’d ever say yes. Some have asked for healing and he has said “not yet” because he cares more for the part of us that will last forever and knows that when he works through our circumstances (including pain) that we are transformed. Can we trust that whatever his answer is to our pleas for healing, he’s answering the question the way we would if we knew everything? If you want healing from God, then rest in his goodness and timing.

Jesus is alive. He is with you at this moment. He is our healer. He is willing. He is able.

January 05, 2016 - No Comments!

Finding New Music

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Happy New Year.

2015 was a year full of challenges and transitions for sure, but also a time for growth and hope. I’ve been in my new position here on the Eastside for 8 months, and we turning a few corners in some of our biggest challenge areas. We’ve launched an arts ministry, auditioned and activated 25 music team volunteers and overhauled the tech ministry.

I’m often asked about where to find new music…and I should note that it’s usually not just referring to songs useful for corporate worship.  This post from Product Hunt will get your wheels spinning and some fresh content in your playlist. The benefits of listening to many different genres of music can not be overstated. It’s fuels our creativity, teaches us how to exegete our culture, and helps us develop our craft (albeit mostly in method and not in content).

2016 is going to be an important year in the lives of your leadership. I have a couple of coaching slots open for the spring, so if you’d like to grow as a worship leader, contact me and we can discuss what would best serve your needs.

All the best to you and your loved ones as we dive into another season of God’s faithfulness to us and the rest of his kids.

September 29, 2015 - 1 comment.

Blocks: Use A Song Catalog

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(Continuing in my series about leading worship in a replant, I’ll discuss something any worship ministry can benefit from. This week we’ll look at WHY catalogs are helpful. Next week I’ll unpack HOW to build a catalog.  Stay tuned…)

What’s A Catalog?

When worship leaders reach out for coaching wanting guidance or input on their worship ministry, one of the first things I ask about is regarding the use of catalogs.  Most are familiar with the concept but pick songs for their congregation with little attention to frequency, consistency, or breadth.  The top 10 CCM songs are not a thoughtful or even helpful way of choosing songs for Sunday.  Using a catalog hlps your congregation, your musicians, and is a great tool for worship leaders to balance the “worship diet” of their church.

First let’s define the term for our use:
A catalog is a set bank of songs used for a set period of time at a set location that balances the worship diet of your congregation.  For example, we use a catalog that changes every 3 months, of around 25 songs at Doxa.

Here’s a quick rundown on a few of the tested advantages I’ve seen play out:

1.  It’s helpful for your congregation (and guests).

It’s very hard to encourage participation in the congregation if they are constantly learning new material. They need to have several reps of the same song before it becomes familiar to them, and this happens long after the musicians (because we’ve practiced it several times for every single time they hear it on a Sunday). In addition, if someone new comes to our church for several weeks in a row, we want them to begin to recognize the music and feel an active part of our gatherings.  Our songs are a part of our shared culture and language.  We say, “a guest should recognize several songs if they spend a month with us”.

2.  It’s helpful for your teaching pastor.

In many churches, the teaching pastor has ten times the theological training that the worship leader does.  This is highly problematic, but that’s another post for another day.  Giving your teaching pastor a voice into the songs you use for Sundays is a great checkpoint, especially if they aren’t musically inclined.  Using a catalog can help you work on the worship menu together and gives you a fighting chance at tying in the music with upcoming teaching themes.  It also allows for your teaching pastor to request songs more easily when he has the catalog in hand.  The benefits for planning services with a catalog are numerous.

3.  It’s helpful for the worship leader.

Every worship leader has a certain number of songs they could play at any moment.  There are another group of songs that with a quick glance at a lyric sheet you could pull off.  Still other songs would require the chord chart to be in front of you and several practices.  This is true because depending on many factors, you only have so much memory recall to allocate towards the songs you are playing.

If you utilize a catalog, you can prepare smarter.  Rather than just prepare for the looming Sunday, use rehearsals to play through a portion of your catalog.  This can mean it’s never been more than a few weeks since you’ve played an active catalog song.  I can’t overstate how helpful this is.  This saves time previously spent trying to remember that one tune you haven’t played for months.  It creates space in practices for praying together, writing and creativity with your band or team, not to mention polishing the songs that need a little extra work.

4. It helps with a balanced worship diet.

Using a catalog is a great way to ensure a “balanced diet” for your congregation.  The Psalms are full of a breadth of human emotion.  With a catalog in place, it’s easier to intentionally have songs in rotation that cover celebration, despair, doubt, gratitude, and confession.  Here is a sample of some of the balances we are striving for in our catalogs:

  • a.  Subjective vs. objective (How we feel or respond vs. what is unchanging and true)
  • b.  Indicative vs. imperative (Reminding what Christ has done vs. what we do in response)
  • c.  Celebrational vs. contemplative (both in lyrical content and in musical mood)
  • d.  Individual vs. corporate (I and me vs. us and we)

A warning: many have moralized (or demonized) different categories of songs in recent years, which speaks to both an ignorance of the Psalms as well as church history.  Yes, let’s sing about what God has done and who He is.  But giving language to our response is essential to.  The common notion that all the old songs were rich and godly, and the modern contributions to praise music are empty and man-centered is problematic.  For example, in the hymnals I have collected from the 1800s, the most common first word found in the song titles is “I”.  Balance is key.

Try A Catalog Out

These are only some of the benefits but it’s clear to see that catalogs are a incredibly useful tool for worship leaders.  Create one from scratch or use PCO, but figure out a way to implement a catalog for greater clarity and intentionality in your worship ministry. You can download a sample of one of our catalogs here.  I’ll post next week on how to build a catalog, so watch for that.

What benefits or challenges have you seen?  Comment below.

September 24, 2015 - No Comments!

Song Spotlight: “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted”

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Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” was originally written by Thomas Kelly in 1804 from a passage in Isaiah 53.  Kelly wrote over 750 hymns in his day…no small contribution!  He set out to be a lawyer but quickly felt a pull towards vocational ministry and started at an Anglican priest.

Our version has the language modernized a touch, and uses part of a verse as a bridge format to provide some variation in the road-map.

The song is very fitting for communion times in a Sunday service, and the depth and weight lend it to being used in Good Friday type services.  A PCO chord chart is available here for download.  You can buy “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” from the album “Hopefully Broken” on iTunes.

Kevin DeYoung has a helpful write-up on the author as well found here. Let us know if you use this in your worship gathering!