All Posts in Resources for Worship Leaders

June 22, 2017 - No Comments!

Get Upstream


Just east of my home, the Snoqualmie River meanders for 45 miles through homes, farmlands, two counties, and then feeds into the famous Puget Sound. The river begins in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness way up in the Cascade Mountains. It’s there in the mountains that the source waters run and collide together to form the river before it begins its push down through western Washington.

Most (but not all) of my coaching clients are bi-vocational worship leaders in churches of 500 people of less. They are neck deep in all of the challenges that come along with wearing multiple hats and leading worship while balancing a hundred other things. They want to build great teams and have fun being creative in the local church.

That said, most of them reach out after they are overwhelmed or drowning a bit. This is natural I suppose, similar to how preventative medicine has been scientifically proven to be cheaper and more effective, and yet most of us elect to avoid the doctor’s office until a problem arises with our bodies. I’m no doctor, but I have seen a parallel in the worship leaders I coach.

My favorite clients are those that are trying to prepare in advance for the challenges coming for them. One of these leaders is Sarah. Yes, that’s her real name. Sarah is a delight. Sarah isn’t on staff at a church. She isn’t even in full time vocational ministry. She’s in a small town and has no aspirations of being in a big city.

Sarah is also clear in her calling to grow as a worship leader, so we’ve worked together for the last 6 months around how she can be best equipped for that future. Sarah wanted to get upstream, and learn how to organize, lead, and care for a worship ministry. She’s already grown a ton and now has tangible skills in her pocket that she didn’t a few months ago. I don’t share this story as some kind of humble-brag, but for clarity. Many of the leaders I speak with seem surprised that someone like Sarah makes for a great client. I tell them what I’ll say again now: I’d take a dozen more Sarah’s because she’s getting upstream and preparing herself for what’s ahead. She comes prepared, asks good questions, takes feedback with humility, and follows through on her “assignments”. She’s growing because she’s putting in the work. A few thoughts from her:

“Donald makes long-distance coaching effective…He cares genuinely about my growth as a leader and my growth in my relationship with Christ, with every meeting being centered around the gospel. The coaching has played an integral part in my development as a worship leader and leader. He has helped me to understand how to apply my gifts to serving God’s people through worship and relationship. I appreciate his wisdom, creativity, and insight when it comes to working with a team. I’ve grown as a worshipper, as a worship leader, and am more confident in my identity in Christ because of our time together.”

Sarah has invested in being the leader she wants to be in the future…she’s been pro-active instead of reactive. Be like Sarah. Get ahead of what’s coming. Ask questions of those further down the road than you around how you can grow in the areas of leadership that don’t come natural to you, and how you can leverage the strengths you already have.

Some good “upstream questions”:

-What will my team (up, down, and laterally) need from me in 6-12 months?
-What do I want the worship or arts ministry to look like this time next year?
-What do I need to do in my church to make disciples in the next year?
-Do I have any life stage changes coming (engagement, birth of a child, graduating college) and how can I plan for that?
-What do I want my volunteers and congregation to experience or learn this year?

I love the local church and local church leaders. If you or someone you know would benefit from some one-on-one coaching towards leadership development, organizing and recruiting artists, or growing your worship/arts ministry, let’s chat.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

May 05, 2017 - No Comments!

Two Threats to Sundays – Part 1

twoTHREATS

Sundays are a big deal for Christians. This is no secret. But two imminent threats exist against the church gathered. I’ve watched these two threats show up unannounced and discretely, and every Christian and local church is vulnerable. Both threats are designed to dislodge one of the best rhythms God has given us, his kids. I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this, and willing to be honest, one (or both) would be true for you.

The greatest threats to Sundays are overvaluing or undervaluing the weekly gathering.

Here in part one of this three part series we’ll look at why these threats should matter to all of us.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

If you’re a Christian than you probably figured out that you’re signed up for a lifetime of Sundays. Sunday is normal and important, sure. And yet making too much or too little of them is highly dangerous to the Christian life. And no one is immune. This issue matters because it attacks an essential rhythm for all believers.

It’s a necessary message because we as believers can “fall off the horse” on both sides. incidentally 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.

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. This issue matters because these threats detrimentally affects all types; those that learn and grow primarily through their head, heart, or hands.

 God wants us to understand, be desirous of, and participate in Sundays and we all can stray from fully engaging and receiving from the Sunday gathering.

Lastly, this issue matters because it affects the very way we do church, and the way we reach the world. A monstrous proportion of church impotency, leader frustration, and cultural irrelevance is tied to the over-estimation or neglect of our Sundays together.

TWO PEDALS

Unsurprisingly, 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. This is at the root of why most churches either focus on Sunday experiences or everyday discipleship. It’s not easy to do both, and most churches that claim to do both, though well intentioned, are fooling themselves.

The elders and staff at Doxa have doubled down as it relates to doing SUNDAYS and life together, and doing them both well. It’s hard. Really hard. every dollar spent on anything to make Sundays better can be movement away from resourcing everyday discipleship. We talk about the tension around our office in a way that I think it’s helpful.

 Picture Sundays as one of the pedals on this bike below:

2pedals

I want you to see the opposite pedal as whatever your church does to facilitate bible study, prayer, mission, and life together (for us it’s missional communities). 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 those pedals in mind as we look at our first threat.

Part two is found here.

Save

Save

March 08, 2017 - No Comments!

Lent & Joy


“Why the rules, God?”

So much is wrapped up in that one question.

Disbelief. Accusation. Condescension. Weariness. Disappointment.

This is the kind of question that often comes from an exhausted heart that is forced to face its failures. It comes from the prideful angst of wanting to script our lives differently than He has. It ‘s ammunition for prosecution against a god we’ve constructed in our minds that doesn’t even resemble the true one over all things.

I was a Christian for far too long before I heard (or perhaps more accurately, listened) that God was for me, and for my joy. This was one of a small handful of truths that changed everything for me. I believe that (on a good day) I relate differently, I speak differently, I rest differently, and I lead differently. That avoiding certain places, people, and behaviors, might be for our best. That embracing others we wouldn’t gravitate towards might be for our best. That going without something we love, for a lent season, might be for our best.

I long for my church to know God’s favor and to live in that kind of freedom. I myself desperately need the reminder that all Christian doctrine and instruction is for the purpose of God’s glory, which will always lead to my own maximum joy. In the time it takes me to read that sentence, I can forget it. Like a puff of smoke, only after realizing that it has taken shape, does it dissipate again. I need reminding. We all need reminding.

This idea that God is for us, and that joy drives obedience, is one of many that inform how we begin our Sunday gatherings together. To that end, as we recently kicked off Lent, I read this modified prayer below over our congregation as a call-to-worship:

Jesus invites us to a way of celebration,
meeting and feasting with the humble, powerless, and poor.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus beckons us to a way of risk,
letting go of our security and self-protection.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus challenges us to listen to the voices
of those who have nothing to lose.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus points us to a way of self-giving,
where power and status are overturned.
Let us walk his way with joy.

Jesus calls us to follow the way of the cross,
where despair is transformed by the promise of new life.
Let us walk his way with joy.

May His divine joy show up in your heart and mind today.

Save

Save

Save

February 13, 2017 - 3 comments

Silence and Solitude (Part 3)

(photo credit: athena grace)

In the final installment of this three-part series, I’ll detail some practical hand-holds for how to approach a time of solitude. Following these steps is certainly not mandatory, but I believe them to be helpful for getting the most out of your time away. We’ll quickly cover four basic parts, and I recommend the order as much as the pieces. With that said, let’s dive in:

PART 1: GET MOVING

Do something active to get the blood moving (i.e. short run or hike). Once your body and mind are fully awake, find a place your body can be comfortable. Read a bit of scripture and write down your thoughts.

PART 2: LOOK BACK

Review your last season. Have you avoided compulsion? Are your identities in the right order? (Christian, spouse, parent, student, employee…etc) Are you hitting your goals? Are you enjoying life? Are you resting? How would you describe the season you’ve just walked through.

PART 3: LOOK FORWARD

Look at your upcoming season. Take time to hear what God calling you to do. What would you like to accomplish? Who would you like to invest in? Write these things down so that you’ll have them to evaluate in your next solitude.

PART 4: DREAM

Write down what you’d like the next two years to look like for you. What are the personal goals? What hopes do you have for your relationships? What opportunities do you want to pursue? (keep in mind, this is NOT a time for planning, simply dreaming) Are there activities or people that would be life-giving that you want to give more attention to?

“If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can’t afford to not practice silence and solitude.”


TRANSITIONING OUT OF SOLITUDE

Athletes know to properly “cool-down” after an event. The same concept is helpful after an extended time of solitude. Finish your day by having a tasty dinner with your friends or family and share the things that stood out to you. Ask them for feedback on your goals. Ask them what they think would be helpful for you moving forward.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

The people who get paid a lot of money to study millenials say that millenials care deeply about being authentic. If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can’t afford to not practice silence and solitude. It’ll keep you from pretending that a curated online life means anything. Pretending that digital relationships can replace eating or crying or laughing together in the same room. Pretending that sex is only a physical act and not a spiritual one. Pretending that a life in a cubicle for a product or service you don’t care about is the best you can do. You will only be able to quit pretending, to break the addiction, and to walk forward with powerful clarity if you take the time to sit and listen to God.

When I get away into silence and solitude, the volume of all my compulsions is turned down. And that is incredibly uncomfortable. Because we are addicted to our compulsions and they keep us from looking ourselves in the eyes and seeing what is chaotic and messy.
But let me tell you what else happens.

The volume of the voice of my perfect father creeps up. My calling becomes clearer. I breathe more deeply and I feel the freedom described in the Scriptures and songs that I
participate in every Sunday. There is no cheap counterfeit or shortcut for this in the life of the believer.

“God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
God wasn’t in the earthquake;
God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”

The same silence that pulls back the curtain and smoke is where the healer is found. Silence and solitude will not be given to you, you have to take it for yourself. He is not waiting for your performance, He is waiting for the quiet.

go back to part one // go to part two

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). A more detailed list of practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

February 07, 2017 - No Comments!

Silence and Solitude (Part 2)

Last week, I provided a brief introduction to the disciplines of silence and solitude. This week we’ll continue building on that idea, and I’ll unpack a bit of why this element of Christian discipleship is generally neglected if not completely forgone.

So why is it so difficult to get time away? Why do we only typically think to get alone with Jesus in silence when life runs us down completely? Three reasons drive our avoidance of silence and solitude, and they are all powerful deterrents from what brings us life.

WHY IS IT HARD?

1. Distractions
We are addicted to noise, on the outside and the inside. Millennials touch their phones 43 times a day on average. We don’t like to be left alone with our thoughts. The human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to about 8 seconds currently. (Interesting to think about what has happened culturally since in 2000…)

2. Compulsions
Compulsion is every time you choose something urgent over something important. It’s when you spend energy appearing a certain way, instead of being a certain person. Compulsion is the internal “oughts and shoulds”, the feelings of never enough. It’s one more hour of video games, one more unnecessary online purchase, one more hook up. Our busyness is a way to avoid ourselves, God and others. We make endless lists, spinning on what we’ll do next. Always moving, never resting.

3. Confusions
We get confused about our own limitations (namely that we can’t hold the pace most of us try to keep), and confusion about God’s disposition towards us. God is not an old bitter friend, waiting to light you up with his anger and list of wrongdoings when you finally make time to reconnect. He’s not sitting arms-crossed just waiting to let you have it. He loves you, not a future version of you, YOU. NOW. No matter how long it’s been. And so our distractions, and compulsions, and confusions lead us to have tired souls.

Tired souls look like this:
-Inner restlessness, underlying anxiety, or vague nervousness
-emotional weariness
-obsessive thinking
-inner irritability and agitation
-we can’t sit and be quiet
-relationally detached and numb
-immersed in fantasy world, dreaming of escape, or taking sexual risks
-people become tedious
-lack of enthusiasm for life/ministry/devotions
-we become depressed / hopeless
-angry, defensive, and argumentative
-decision-making feels impossible and clouded

WHY IS IT WORTH IT?

With regular silence and solitude the soul becomes refreshed and recalibrated. We begin to live out the day the way the Father intended. This can not be overstated. Below is a brief list of what I have seen happen after regular silence and solitude:

-Freedom from compulsion
-Interior space which is able to hold other spiritual disciplines
-Moving away from constantly seeing your life in reference to how others see you
-Increased clarity on the desires of your heart
-Becoming more adept at listening to and recognizing the voice of God
-Experience the supernatural and mystical side of our faith

Now, you can do silence and solitude in an hour, or a whole weekend, but
the basic elements are the same. Next week, I’ll unpack the four basic parts.

go back to part one // go to part three

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). Practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.
Save

Save

Save

January 28, 2017 - 2 comments

Silence and Solitude (Part 1)


“A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains
and shattered the rocks before God,
but God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”
-1 Kings 19

For a long time, I have worked with artists, musicians, and creatives all over the country to tell the unchanging gospel story in fresh ways. I have surrounded myself with the most talented and dedicated artists I can find. Most of them have been what sociologists call millennials.

Millennials are an interesting bunch. Considering they currently make up 25% of the American population, it’s no wonder people are paying attention. What I love about millenials is that, more than those before them, want their life to matter in substantive ways; to have a clear purpose and make a difference. They sacrifice money and power to achieve their goals faster than their predecessors. That said, one discipline matters more than all the rest in that pursuit of that kind of clarifying purpose (whether you grew up watching Boy Meets World or not). If you want to live a life of calling, and not just wander around, moving from compulsion to compulsion, you must learn and practice silence and solitude.

Silence and solitude are the foundational disciplines that provide spiritual and psychological space for all other disciplines. They are the way by which we face our real selves and enter into the presence of God. The primary means by which you will determine your calling and avoid compulsion, is in SILENCE AND SOLITUDE.

“If you want to live a life of clear calling, and not just wander around, moving from compulsion to compulsion, you must learn and practice silence and solitude.”

Much of what I’ll share in this three part series is informed and guided by spending time with two brilliant men, Jim Cofield and Rich Plass. These two men are pastors of pastors, who work full time in soul care, counseling, writing, and helping leaders around the country be healthy. They wrote the book “The Relational Soul”, and if you want to stay in ministry a long time and be wise beyond your years, read every word of that book.

WHAT IS SILENCE AND SOLITUDE?

Alright, so how are we defining this discipline? Here’s what I use to frame it up:

Silence and solitude is the act of freeing ourselves from the distraction of people and tasks and words so as to give ourselves completely to God alone with all of our being.

Solitude is an intentionally alone place, not to hide but to listen.
… it is Jesus in the solitary place (Mark 1:35)
… it is Elijah at Mt. Horeb
… it is John on the Island of Patmos, shunned by his own community
… it is Paul imprisoned wondering what to do next

Silence is where you find the real you.
Solitude distances us from the fake version of us we have made for others.
…a place where we put down our curated and filtered Instagram lives,
….a place where we are more honest before God without having to perform
…..a place where we see that our identity is a gift and not earned.

This is true of everyone, but especially those in public ministry, we’re often on display, and we become adaptive to what others expect even though that may not always be the true us. In solitude, God does deep work without any pretense of
being something other than our true selves. In solitude you ask God to be
merciful and show you the REAL condition of your soul.

You are not the fringe.
Without solitude we mistake the fringe for the center and think “that’s the real me!” We become addicted to maintaining that fringe and that image. It’s impossible to slow down in your life if you are constantly servicing that fringe version of yourself. Keeping the fringe from falling apart is an insanely tiring and consuming activity.

Silence isn’t just environmental.
it’s NOT just a condition outside of me … it’s state of my soul before God. Silence frees me from having to say something. Silence intensifies the solitude. They go hand in hand.

“Solitude doesn’t make God love you more, but it might let you see more of God’s love.”

Silence and Solitude are not…
They aren’t just daydreaming or simply emptying the mind. They aren’t an attempt to become more spiritual or the same as meeting God, but certainly an environment to do so. Solitude doesn’t make God love you more, but it might let you see more of God’s love.

Next week, we’ll look at why silence and solitude are very difficult for most of us. Three specific challenges keep us from this rhythm and knowing what they are makes a huge difference. Read part two, and have the courage to step into the silence and hear what God’s love and mercy sound like.

go to part two

I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). Practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

January 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Jesus Is the All-Wise

 

Most worship leaders I know are balancing a lot in their lives. Working full or part-time, going to school, church activities, touring, families, kids, travel, etc. Just getting through Sunday can feel like the win. This dictates how we as leaders approach liturgy at times.

When I think through the liturgy for the upcoming Sunday each week, based on margins, I frequently reach for an established resource; a creed, a prayer, a psalm etc. On occasion, I feel like I need to spend the time to write out myself what I want our people to know and hear.

This past Sunday, we looked at God as the source of wisdom, as we walked through part two in our series in the book of James. I wrote and then read this confessional prayer with the congregation. Feel free to use it if it’s helpful in your context.

 

LEADER: When our days are darkened, and trouble surrounds us.
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When others sin against us, speaking unkindly, betraying, or minimizing us:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we grasp for what we falsely believe is rightfully ours, and attempt to control or manipulate our circumstances or relationships:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we isolate and hide from community, in an attempt to protect and defend ourselves:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we kneel before Fear, paying homage to an abusive king that robs us of life, and neglect you the True king that brings life:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we receive your blessings with entitled hearts, recognizing the gifts but not the giver:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

CLOSING:
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:6

Save

Save

April 25, 2016 - No Comments!

Speed Kills

speedKILLS

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

confession1

 

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. 

 //

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. 
 //
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

ctw1

(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.