All Posts in Resources for Worship Leaders

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.

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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

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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. 

 //

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

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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.

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!

July 08, 2015 - No Comments!

Blocks: Ask The Right Questions

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Over the last 17 years, I have had a host of influences in regards to leadership.  I’m thankful that these influences have come from very different “tribes” in the church world, and in some cases, not from church leaders at all. This diversity in perspective is something that’s immensely helpful.  People outside your own camp often ask different questions than you would, and that is incredibly valuable to any leader.

One thing I heard from Andy Stanley years ago, was that you can tell what an organization values, by the questions it asks.  I suspect that this is why one of the most common resources I am asked for is our Sunday Scorecard.  In the midst of rebuilding a worship ministry, it was a great time to revisit that tool, and establish a foundation for what we care about on Sundays.

Below are a few tips in building your own scorecard for Sunday gatherings:

1.  Use your church vision and mission statements to frame the scorecard.

This ties your feedback to how it supports or detracts from the mission you have collectively agreed upon.  I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important this is.  Your volunteers and leaders will create cultural momentum if they know how their task fits inline with the greater vision.  This is not solved by a scorecard alone, but the scorecard is a GREAT place to reinforce that vision.

2.  Be sure to cover every area of a Sunday you want to grow, not just preaching and music.

Sundays are more than a message and some music, so use the scorecard to evaluate and give feedback to other areas that people encounter.  Examples would be: kids ministry, greeting team, hospitality, ushers, etc.

3.  Make sure there is space for both constructive critique and positive affirmation.

Find people who naturally see the wins and also those that can see what needs improvement.  Have them both fill out your scorecard.  Instruct them to be honest and gracious.  It’s essential that you make sure that anyone responsible for the area of ministry discussed is roped into the conversation at some point, and appropriately encouraged/challenged.  It’s helpful to have measured questions (yes/no or scale of 1-5) along with open ended questions for comments and specifics.

4.  Have people in different roles and level of responsibility fill out the scorecard each week.

This is essential because a volunteer will see and hear things through a very different filter on Sunday.  This kind of 360 degree approach ensures a wider perspective and that the leadership stays connected to the front lines of ministry.  Did the sermon make sense to those that weren’t at the church staff meeting where the teaching pastor explained his main point?  What did “non-musicians” think about the set-list?  I’d also encourage you to have a diverse team build the scorecard together to start with.

I hope this is helpful as you think through your own scorecard.  Ask the right questions and you will continue to see the right results.

 

See a live sample of my scorecard here.  You can see the other resources I have developed here.  If you’d like help developing your own scorecard, or just want better Sundays, contact me for a free coaching call.

March 09, 2015 - No Comments!

Free Worship Leader Resources

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I’ve recently added some free tools for worship leaders, including a sample Worship Application (detailing expectations), some Memory Verse Cards for worship volunteers, and a Worship Catalog Balance Tool that is really helpful in rounding out the selection and genre of songs you use on Sundays.  Check it all out over at the Resources page.

For far less that the cost of a typical conference, you can have highly personal and customized worship coaching for 6 months.  Learn more here or request a free coaching call here.

August 25, 2014 - No Comments!

Worship Ministry Essentials Part 3: Bring Identifcation

After meandering through the corn maze of ropes and suitcases on wheels, you finally approach the counter.

The ticket agent is distracted. You throw your luggage on the scales, waiting for her attention. Anxiously, you check the time, glance at the container of unused bag tags and the pen chained to the counter, then back at the time again.  Finally, she turns and asks the most important question of the day.  No matter what you’ve paid or sacrificed to be standing here now, your response will determine your destiny.

“Can I see your ID?”
Whether your traveling, heading into a warzone, grabbing concert tickets at will-call, or using your credit card to buy a really old new vinyl record, your ID is an essential item that goes with you everywhere.  The same is true for the worship stage.

Continuing in our series about the most important facets of worship ministry, this time around we’ll look at why gospel identity is important for all believers, but especially essential for those in worship ministry.

WHY IDENTITY MATTERS
Jesus repeatedly point out that who we are must precede what we do.  We get into dangerous territory when “what” comes before “who”.  Keller addresses the difficulty of doing ministry without a clear picture of identity:

“At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.” 

You can’t do what God has called you to, without a clear understanding of who he has called you to be.  Paul Tripp adds this:

“I will either get my identity vertically, from who I am in Christ, or I will shop for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of my daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that pastors are particularly tempted to seek their identity horizontally.” 
So before we jump in, lets briefly define gospel identity:

Gospel identity is the recognition in the believer that they have been created by God, participated in the Adam’s rebellion in nature and action, atoned for by Christ when he died in their place for their sins, and now belong forever in God’s family, both during current sanctification and in the future in God’s perfect heaven.

 

WHO YOU ARE (AND WHO YOU ARE NOT)
Worship leaders have several fake IDs they can reach for.  We can try to emulate our mentors or heroes in the worship world.  We can try to be what we think the people we’re leading want us to be.  We can try to play the role of mediator, carrying the weight of connecting the congregation to their Maker.

Knowing your gospel identity will put guardrails between you and the deadly cliffs of being anything outside of what God has asked of you.  Rather than entertaining God’s apathetic sheep like a rockstar, you can pastor them through tough Sundays because you are a shepherd.  When you don’t see yourself as the God-man standing between creator and creation, you can lead your people faithfully as a worship leader rather than a worship mediator.
Additionally, if you don’t expect to be impressive or perfect, then feedback from your staff or volunteers won’t be crushing, because they aren’t shattering the fragile glass ornament of your ego.  Instead those remarks are received as constructive and useful for consideration in our growth.
AN EASY AND ESSENTIAL CHALLENGE 

Knowing and believing that you are forgiven and under God’s grace will drastically change how you lead on stage. You’ll be free to express gratitude, brokenness, and joy on stage because you aren’t captive to the opinions of others. You can rest knowing that God’s work moves on despite your imperfect execution or that moment you forgot the lyrics to verse two.

Jesus repeatedly points out that who we are must precede what we do. So then, who are we? We’re broken people that God delights in using.  We are treasured sons and daughters in His family. We are servants to the highest king to have ever taken a throne.
There’s certainly a lot more to be said on this topic, but for the sake of brevity remember: we can’t lead others in worship very effectively if we don’t first know who we are.  Knowing our identity gives us reason to sing ourselves and the boldness to ask others to do the same.
No matter how long you have led worship (and I would argue the longer you’ve led the more likely you are to err on this issue), I’d challenge you to do something simple.  Next Sunday, just before you take the stage, check your ID.  In those last moments while people are finding their seats or the pastor on stage is making announcements, whisper to God, “I am yours, and I belong to you”.  Remember who Christ is and who you are too.