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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Worship Service Elements - Intro and Call to Worship

One of the most refreshing observations I’ve made over the past few years is seeing greater diversity and experimentation with service formats, elements and styles. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not speaking about abandoning the empirical truth of the Word of God. That must always remain even in the midst of diversity.
One study has shown that people stop paying attention after more than 50 repetitions of the same thing. This applies to every aspect of your worship service.  Diversity can be a wonderful instrument for ensuring that the truths of God remain fresh in people’s minds. Just as Jesus told multiple parables with central truths, so we can share the truth of God through multiple expressions. Another parallel can be found in the different approaches to the four Synoptic Gospel Parallels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here, stories are repeated but reflect different presentations based upon writing style, interpretation and experience. However, the essence of truth is unchanged even though writing styles and some content is different.
I want to encourage you to step beyond your denominational and stylist norms to look at the rich diversity of Christian expressions in worship. You may find new expressions that enrich your worship experience. Please don’t stop there. You can step back hundreds and even thousands of years to traditions that have stood the test of time and have enriched the worship lives of those who have gone before us.
Over the next few blogs I’ll be covering some elements of the worship service that you may wish to either incorporate for the first time or adapt. Some of the ideas will be common to many and others may be new. Hopefully, you’ll find something over the next few blogs of value.

The Prelude:
Most churches find that up-tempo music played as a prelude works the best in creating a welcoming atmosphere for the majority of people, and especially families. The Disney Empire has studied people’s preferences for decades. They are masters at creating atmosphere. There’s a reason why the music people enter the gates to resounds with energy. While you may be hesitant to compare something as sacred as Christian worship to anything with the icon of a mouse, we can still learn from those around us.
However, Disney intentionally plays more serene music as people leave the gates. After a particularly stressful day, Disney knows that they want people to forget about all the long lineups, sunburns, screaming kids and stomach-churning rides. Quiet music soothes the savage beast.  
That’s why other churches prefer to play more meditative music to create a sense of the mystical and serene. There’s a strong argument to be made for this. Life is often like Disneyland, full of brain-baking stress. We often need a sacredly serene atmosphere to slow down our over-stimulated minds just enough allow the Spirit of God to break through the concrete-like protective shell around our hearts.  
What style of prelude is right for your church? I’d say both. I believe that variety without scriptural compromise is a gift to your people. However, only you will know what works by trying different forms. Don’t be afraid to try both and see what works the best in your church.
Generally speaking, keep the volume modest on your prelude. This way, when the service finally starts there will be some volume headroom to announce to the congregation, “We’re here! We’re starting! This is what you’ve been waiting for all week!”
Most churches use live musicians for preludes. Other churches simply play CDs while people enter to create a sense of anticipation much like music played before a concert or a movie.
Other options include many excellent ‘call to worship’ videos that are now available.  Some are like movie shorts, others are atmospheric. Some of these resources include,,, and There are many more resources out there as well.  
Don’t be afraid to experiment. A prelude is a subtle call to worship. If things are becoming stale, change things up for a while. Surprise is a critical part of any good story. Variation can become a powerful ally.
Our next blog will continue with other worship service elements. Stay tuned . . .

PS - Have you considered attending Break Forth Canada 2011? Join 15,000 for powerful times of worship and in-depth training. Learn more at

Friday, September 24, 2010

Audio Excellence: The Starting Point

It often baffles me that so many churches seem to spend the equivalent of a third world nation’s GDP on their church buildings and yet install the sound system that Noah used to call the animals into the ark.
People expect quality sound that has clarity, balance and if needed can thunder the foundation. They experience this in the theatre, at concerts, in their cars and now in their own homes with full 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound experiences.
If sharing the Word of God through scripture readings, music and the message is so important then it must at least rate at the same level as the budget for the seating.
The rule of thumb today is that at least 10 – 15% of the value of your current sanctuary should be designated for the audio-visual system. If you have built a half million dollar sanctuary then you should be spending at least $50,000 to $75,000 in audio-visual equipment. This can and often should go much higher, but this is the minimum starting point.
A church that offers a full ‘contemporary’ service with a full praise band and a projection system will need to spend approximately four times what a church with simply a traditional service will need to spend.
When people enter your church, they expect high quality sound. If the sound system hums like a cheap crystal radio set from the ‘50’s then it also says to the visitor, “We’re not relevant to the culture you live in.”
I will share more on sound systems in a later blog. We'll delve into acoustics,  in-ear monitors, digital boards, budgeting and many other details. We'll keep it in layman's language.
To help out, I am going to be tapping into the minds and experience of some of the best audio trainers and consultants for churches.
Our next blog moves into elements of the worship service. Stick around . . .

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Visual Immersion in Worship

Stained glass is ancient multimedia. It told stories of God’s creation, humanity’s fall, God’s redemption, the final judgment and beyond. It told stories from the Bible. As the ambient light changed outside, so the figures would seem to come to life, animated as clouds would part and the sun would break through.
Even the very architecture, furniture, candles and clothing represented aspects of the Gospel.
Today, many of our churches have lost this visual aspect to worship.
I am not suggesting that we return to the days of ancient gothic cathedrals. As beautiful as these buildings are, they often involved great oppression on the poor in order to build an edifice for the ecclesiastical powers. Still, there are some ways to reclaim visual beauty in our churches without selling indulgences.  Here are some ways we can reclaim this heritage:
·         The power of the screen – in the beginning.
The price to performance ratio of projection systems is dropping all the time. When video projection systems first began to be used in churches, they projected dim images even when the lights were kept low. Worse, you could have bought a small house for what some of these systems cost. That is no longer the case.
Some large data and video projectors are so bright now they are nicknamed ‘light canons’. In a fully lit room they can display images of dazzling contrast, clarity and brilliance. While these systems are expensive, the entry level for a simple projector is about the price of a good desktop computer.
Most churches start with PowerPoint for projection software. This is a great place to begin. It is simple to use, gives you basic tools and  places the broadest smile on the church treasurer’s face. The church probably owns this software already as it may have been packaged with your office suite.
However, the limitations of PowerPoint start to become obvious when you want to change songs on the fly, avoid typing your song lyrics each Sunday, insert a ‘surprise’ scripture passage in the middle of the pastor’s sermon or want to offer more advanced features such as moving images behind song lyrics.
When you want to take the next step, there are many options available. Fortunately,  most worship projection software companies offer free trials of their products. Here is a somewhat dated but helpful site to check some of these packages out:
This blog will not discuss this area in depth as technology changes so rapidly. That’s why God created Search Engines on the 12th day (the 8th day her created a really good cup of dark roast coffee).
·         The power of the screen – the still image.
Projection systems allow us to display announcements as people enter the sanctuary. We’re all used to the pre-roll of announcements and upcoming previews we see in movie theatres. Many churches are emulating this through projection software such as PowerPoint and through displaying in-house video productions.
There are many churches that have graphic artists in their midst. With their permission, you can scan their artwork or take a high quality digital photo and use this as modern and personalized ‘stained-glass’ in your sanctuary. 
Children can participate as well. Ask a Sunday School class to draw pictures to represent a sermon theme or season of the church year, scan them in and display them for every child, parent and grandparent to see.
Digital cameras also open up the world of catching your church in action. Perhaps your youth group is serving the needy in a street mission. Interjecting these photos of the life of the church says, “We are a part of the ministry in our church.” It also shows the visitor how active your church is in the community as well as meeting the needs of the body.
The church usually begins with simple stock photography and generic clip art. This is understandable as it is generally the least expensive. We all drop in the scenic photos and graphics we all received with our office software packages. While these are fine to start, there are exceptional, jaw-dropping visuals that are available from many sources.  I challenge churches to take their graphics to the next level.

·         The power of the screen – the moving image.
Through simple computer-based editing suites and moderately-priced digital video cameras you can put together an in-house video team to enhance your worship through video. What would have been impossible for any but the largest mega churches to attain is now possible for some of the smallest churches. In fact, in practically every church there are people who are doing this already with their own home videos.
You can prepare weekly announcements such as ‘Sixty-Seconds at Central Baptist.’   
You can also prepare videos of dramas shot on location, interviews, testimonies, or ‘Word on the Street’ presentations shot in your community. 
There are several companies who offer short video clips for sermon illustrations, meditative video moments as well as video enhancements for worship songs.
Consider a combination of some you purchase and some you make. Personalize.
·         The Post-Modern Paradigm and the Rise of the Visual.
In John Naisbitt’s best-selling book, Megatrends, he spoke of the concept of ‘High Tech, High Touch’.  As we expand our tool chest of high-tech toys, we long inside for a high-touch experience in the midst of cold silicone, brushed aluminum and depersonalization.
At the same time that text-messaging and push technology advances, the clustering in Starbucks™ grows just as rapidly. People need people. People also seek the musty ancient and the sense of community in the midst of the cold plasma screen.
The same has happened in the church. We want the latest and greatest in technology but we also long for the ancient. The late Dr. Robert Webber called this ‘Convergent’ and Ancient/Future.
Not everything in church should look like an Ikea™ store or the local shopping mall. There is a need for sacred space in all of our lives.
In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s the seeker model of church looked much more like a local concert hall, nearly devoid of any ancient symbolism. Current churches recognize than in our high-tech, high touch world there is also a place for elements that have stood the test of time. Candles, banners and ancient symbols normally reserved for high church ceremony are experiencing a renaissance in many churches reaching a culture that longs for roots.
Look around your church and ask yourself, “Does this just look like the local multiplex theatre or is there a visual sense of the holy when I walk in here?”
It is possible to create a sense of sacred space and yet be able to create an audio-visual explosion of sight and sound.   
It’s important for our worship to be more than simply an aural fixation on music.  When all our senses are employed in worship the potential for total engagement happens.  Sight is a powerful sense that most people are gifted with. Let’s use this as we weave the thread of sight in worship, empowered by God’s story.
My next blog will cover audio . . . Stay tuned.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Basic Worship Service Elements

Worship is so much more than music. Our entire communal worship experience begins before we sing our first note and it continues after the last note is played. While all of life is to be lived in worship to God, our worship service specifically includes many elements that can enhance our entire experience.

While most of this blog will deal with musical elements of the common worship experience in our churches, everything either enhances or detracts from the overall experience.  We need to consider these other elements.
Here are some general principles on elements in the worship service. Please use these thoughts as a catalyst as you consider how you can enhance your entire worship experience.
There are many who shut down anything that sounds like a “church growth” or “mega-church” model. First of all, without me coming across as too strong, I want to remind the anti-mega-church group that people in the mega-church are our brothers and sisters and they are being reached in a form that you are not meeting. Please celebrate all forms that God is using whether you would choose the model or not. Secondly, these are not “church growth” or “mega-church” models. They are simply people principles. Whatever group or model of church you are called to minister in, just scale the concepts appropriately.
Okay – let’s talk about welcoming people to your church . . .
Welcoming Guests and Members:
Consider the Wal-Mart experience. One of the reasons why they have been such a success is that they know how to make it easy to shop at their stores. They are at major intersections, they have huge parking lots (they even invite people in RVs to overnight in their parking lots), massive signage, huge stores, wide selection, excellent branding, and hosts that greet you at the door, pass you a shopping cart and try to let tell you where to find what you’re looking for so that you’re happy to come back. While I wouldn’t want to adopt everything from Wal-Mart for any church, you still can’t argue with their success in attracting people.
On the other hand, many of our churches are out of the way, have terrible parking, you can barely find a sign, the entryways are too small, they have limited selection, weak ‘branding’ and the hosts, if anything only place a bulletin in your hands and make you find your own seat.
As much as you may be focused on the musical part of the worship service, it is important to consider how many hurdles visitors may have to jump in order to finally get to their seat for worship. I would suggest that you consider looking at the other areas that affect the worship service in order to make the entire experience one that is welcoming.
You may want to consider training your hosts (ushers) to truly welcome people into the worship experience.
Consider asking an unchurched person to visit your church incognito and to critique you on areas such as signage, facilities, and friendliness. You may be surprised at the result. Don’t perceive this as failure; see this as an opportunity to grow. While you’re at it, feel great that you will be one of the few churches that will be willing to face the facts for the sake of mission. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Is Your Church Welcoming in Worship?

Our family visits different churches when we are on holidays. Sometimes we have wonderful, profound, moving , life-enhancing experiences. Other times . . . (make up your own words)

I will never forget visiting a church in the Pacific Northwest. It was a beautiful church of our own denomination in a seaside city. It seemed to have so much going for it. The community was growing. The economy was good. It was in a prime location on a main road. The ocean vistas were breathtaking. What more could they need to build an effective ministry?

We showed up at the church. No one greeted us, ever. Not even the Pastor. Not even during the welcome time. It felt like a death had just taken place. They had two hymnals, two supplements and one service bulletin. They didn’t tell us what was going on. I kept on trying to find which hymnal or supplement to use. I didn’t know when to stand or when to sit. I felt like a cork on a wave-tossed ocean. In fact, as I looked out the church window at the wave-tossed ocean I really wanted to be there instead. I was completely lost, unwelcome and uncomfortable.

Now, I’ve been in many churches just like this. So, what was the difference between this church and the many others? The difference was my reaction. Halfway through the service I lost my cool, crossed my arms and harrumphed onto the pew like a cantankerous old man with corns on his toes.

Here I was, a minister who travels around the world, sharing of the goodness of God acting like a hormone-enriched teenager. The worse thing is that I was doing this in front of my children. I wasn’t exactly a Godly example. I spent a few minutes in the truck after the service going through a time of "confession of sins" before my wife and children – and there were many that morning. Fortunately, they extended absolution.

What had bothered me so much?

What bothered me was not so much that the church wasn’t welcoming to my family or myself. Any musician gets used to being unwelcomed and after this many years I've developed some coping skills.

What truly bothered me was that I knew that this church with such amazing potential. Yet, it was flushing that potential into the ocean because they refused to consider adjusting things for the sake of mission. They seemed much more content to build a comfortable sub-culture that was hostile to anyone but their own small group.

Now, here's some grace . . .
 It simply may have been a bad week for visiting that church. We all have those.

But there are many bad weeks in many churches that do this week after week after week. Most are simply oblivious to the problem.

In the next few posts I'll share some basic principles you can use to prepare your church to be a more inviting place for visitors.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Designing Your Service – Where Do We Begin?

My wife and I planned to build a house many years ago. We worked with the architect and contractor to design what we considered to be the perfect house for what we could afford. It took into consideration our:

Lifestyle – there was a ramp to the basement from the garage to move all my equipment without banging up the walls by going through the house. As a bonus, if we ever had a flood it would serve as a great water slide.

Stage of life – we had small children back then. We wanted to work from home in the evenings instead of heading back into the office so that we could maximize our family time.

Aesthetic – My wife and I are both from the prairies. Give us big open skies or open designs. Walls are simply there to hold the roof up.

It seems logical to build a house that meets your needs. What works in one setting may fail miserably in another. We live in Canada. We know snow. While we have friends who plant Palm Trees and Cactus in their Arizona yards, we would simply get strange looks from our neighbors if we tried this here.

It also seems logical to build a worship service that meets the needs and interests of the community God has called you to reach. I believe that it is possible to do this without watering down the essence of the Gospel.

The worship service is still the primary source of introduction to those in your community who are trying to find a church home. Unfortunately, some churches are not just user-unfriendly. They’re downright user hostile.

Ask yourself what form of communication and activities people choose in your community? Is this primarily:

• Books or multimedia?

• Point form lectures or stories?

• Classical music or alternative music?

• Wooden benches or comfortable chairs? (Courtroom or Starbucks ™)

• Formal, black-tie dinners or informal barbeques with friends?

• Tuxedos at the opera or shorts on the deck?

Within each community you will get many answers. In most communities, the vast majority are going to choose the second option.

You can choose to meet the needs of many. In this case I believe you need to offer different service options. This can be highly effective. It is also highly work-intensive. Diversity takes effort if you are going to carry it out with excellence! It is important to weigh costs of offering multiple services if you are going to choose this option.

Your other option is to state that you are a certain form of church, reaching a certain demographic of your population and you stay with one style. This can be less effective in reaching a diverse community. But it can also mean a lot less work.

I know wonderful churches who have chosen to define their church’s methods by either one of the above options and have accomplished this with great effectiveness. Whatever, you choose, make sure that it is propelled by your call to mission.

Whatever your choice, it is important that you always re-visit your mission. The ‘hot’ thing that brings growth and increases effectiveness today will certainly change in five years. You must constantly be in transition. It is the only way to remain effective in ministry. The Word of God does not change, but the methods may vary.

Never shy away from the difficult questions of:

• Why are we here?

• Who are we called to reach?

• How do we do this in the current culture?

• Where is the culture going?

• What will it take to get this done?

• Are we ready to take up the call of God to do this?

Once we have answers to these questions, we are ready to take the next step, putting it together.

Now, we're starting to get into the roll up your sleeves material. Check back.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Authentic Worship is Expressive

You cannot have a healthy relationship without expression. While we can be wisely cautious about pure emotionalism, a service that lacks any emotion is probably not connecting with people’s hearts.

I travel a lot. I know the best places to plug in my laptop in far too many airport concourses. When I travel, I have to leave my wife and children behind most of the time. I am deeply in love with all of them.

Put this picture in your mind: I come home after a long overseas tour, walk in the door of my house and impassively tell my wife of 29 years, “I love you. You are wonderful. I would like to shake your hand.”

Any person in a healthy relationship knows that this would be one of the signs of a dysfunctional relationship.

When I come home after a long tour, I wrap my long arms around my beautiful bride and tell her how much I love her. Sometimes there’s a tear. Sometimes, there’s a whole lot more. This is one of the signs of a healthy relationship!

Why is it any different with God? As great as our relationships are on this earth, they are nothing compared to the inexpressible, passionate gift of life we have been given by God. It says in Philippians 2: 6-8 “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!"

Talk about a passionate love story! The creator and sustainer of all life itself became one of us and walked among us in our decaying flesh. He gave up the beauty, love, serenity, and perfect culture of heaven. Not only did He do that – He was spiked to His own creation (a tree) by His own creation (us). Yet, in the midst of all this He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Then, He exploded from the grave three days later, gave us a mission with eternal consequence and promised He would be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). He would never walk out on us. He would never turn His back on us. When we forget about Him, we are always on His mind. When we turn down the wrong pathway, He is always redirecting us.

Now, this is a relationship to celebrate more than any other! If this realization does not bring about passionate expression in our worship, then we had better check our pulse. We might just be dead!

A healthy relationship will always be expressive. If it is not, it is dysfunctional. Healthy worship will always be expressive. If it is not, it is dysfunctional.

It is important to say at this point that simple emotionalism can become an addictive drug. When the endorphins are flying through our system like bullets, we feel great. This can happen in our worship. Emotions are a gift from God but when they become the object of our worship service then it simply becomes emotionalism and that feeling becomes the end goal. We seek the gift and not the giver. The ‘worship leader’ achieves ‘success’ when they can bring the crowd to emotional hysteria whether through tears or ecstasy.

When our worship is balanced, and we seek the giver and not simply the gift then emotion becomes a natural response to divine truth.

Sometimes our hearts soar like eagles. Other times, they sit like chickens. We all go through phases. Give yourself grace while you are seeking the giver.

Are you seeing expressive but grounded worship in churches today? Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Worship Coach Practical Tips and Tools: A Labour Day "Worship Break" with Carolyn Arends

Worship Coach Practical Tips and Tools: A Labour Day "Worship Break" with Carolyn Arends: "It's a holiday here in Canada for many. (What is Labour Day anyway?). As a holiday break from all the reading, sit back and watch this gre..."

A Labour Day "Worship Break" with Carolyn Arends

It's a holiday here in Canada for many. (What is Labour Day anyway?).

As a holiday break from all the reading, sit back and watch this great video interview on worship with our good friend Carolyn Arends.

Carolyn is an award-winning songwriter, excellent concert performer, inspiring speaker and gifted author.  She also has a great sense of humour (and as a Canadian also understands why we stick the letter u in so many unnecessary places such as labour and humour.)

Listen, watch, learn and smile:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Today's Worship Devotion - Big-Eared Ambassadors

Every now and then I'll include a worship devotional. Feel free to share this with your worship team.  This devotional is from the book 'Times of Refreshing" I co-authored this with my good friend Tom Kraeuter and several other well-known worship authors and leaders.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20a NIV

It was humiliating! I was just an innocent little kid. I was visiting my grandfather in a little village on the prairies. My grandfather decided to take me downtown. He held my hand and proudly paraded me down main street from store to store.

I’m not complaining about the walk. Believe me, it wasn’t a long walk in Torquay, Saskatchewan. It was the humiliation that came with it in every conversation.

From store to store, my grandfather would proudly show off my ears and compare them to his gigantic muffs. “See, he has the Salte ears”, he’d proudly proclaim. I wanted to dive underneath the store displays. Was it my fault that I looked like a 56 Chevy driving down the street with the front doors open?

The worst part was looking at my grandfather and seeing my future. Not only were his ears big but it also seemed as though his hair had receded from his head and was poking through his ears in big clumps. Not only did I have even bigger ears to look forward to; they were also going to be hairy.

I can’t help it. One of the genetic traits in my family is huge ears. We’re not talking about slightly larger than normal audio receivers. We’re talking about flaps that intimidate Dumbo the elephant. On a windy prairie day, if we weren’t careful our ears could get caught up and spin our heads like roosters on the barn roof.

If I ever questioned my heritage, all I had to do was look at my own shadow. Remember Dopey in Snow White? He must have been a relative. As much as I tried to hide my ears with hair or hats, they’d pop out at the most inconvenient of times and reveal my true genetic code.

You’ve been coded as well. You’re a part of the worship team. Everywhere you go people are watching. That’s a lot of responsibility to hold. That’s true for all Christians but especially true of those who stand on the platform on Sunday morning.

We can call it role modeling. We can call it being an example. The apostle Paul simply called us ambassadors.

That’s a tall order to fill. In order to be an ambassador you have to give up your rights. You never have a day off. You represent your country in all you say and do. Every action reflects on your country. You forfeit certain freedoms and take on extra responsibilities. An ambassador is never to be absorbed by the country where the embassy is located. He is watched at every turn. People watch the ambassador from Norway to see what Norwegians are like. When you think of it, it’s not an easy job.

Your job isn’t easy either. Your job doesn’t end once you step off the platform. Your public position comes with a price. You’re an ambassador for your church. More importantly, you’re an ambassador for your God.

People are watching you to see what a true Christian is like. “But that’s not fair”, I hear you say. “That wasn’t a part of the formal job description,” you protest. “My job description revolved around strings and picks and capos and Eb chords written by malicious keyboard players.”

But the truth is out. You’re coded. The sword has been drawn and you’ve been dubbed an ambassador.

Now the challenge is to know your citizenship very well. It’s time to dig into the visitors guide, the Bible. It’s time to let the culture of God infuse your very being until you think, act and breathe the very nature of your citizenship.

Here’s your new job description as an ambassador. The Apostle Paul already wrote it for you:

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

"Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father."
Colossians 3:12-17 NLT

But remember that when you’re feeling weak as an ambassador, there’s another truth you need to remember. You have diplomatic immunity. There’s always a fresh start in Jesus Christ.

If you haven’t lived your citizenship for awhile, why don’t you start today? God is calling you as His ambassador.

Your Heavenly Father wants to take your hand and show you off to the world. He cares nothing about your ears. It’s your kindred heart He’s looking for.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Worship is a 24-7 activity.

This blog is mainly about corporate worship. But corporate worship does not simply start when we walk in the church and switch on the sound system. It is often said that effective corporate worship is simply a public expression of what is happening on a private basis. If we are not living an attitude of worship, it will be difficult to lead our congregation with heartfelt authenticity. We will simply be going through the motions like a sandwich board advertiser traipsing the streets for a restaurant he never eats at. In today’s media-manipulated world it is more important than ever that our words ring true.

This all comes down to our daily relationship with Jesus Christ. Like the old saying goes, “You become what you eat.”   So we become what we are spending our time and passions on. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Friday, September 3, 2010

God is to be the focus of our worship.

It is so easy to get so caught up in pursuing ‘excellence’ and ‘relevance’ that our style of worship can easily become our god. While God calls us to excellence (2 Chronicles 34:12b) and relevance (Psalm 33:3), He is not overly impressed with our excellent and relevant activity if He is not the focus of our attention in worship (Isaiah 1: 10-15). If you find yourself being simply caught up in activity take the time to examine who is the focus of your attention in worship.

Remember that Worship Begins with God, not with us!

God is always the initiator of our worship. In fact, He is the initiator of our very relationship. God seeks us and when we are moved into the heartfelt recognition of the Divine, we worship.

This truth is expressed throughout the Bible. People who came to worship God were not so much the “seekers” as they were the “sought.” God came to Moses in a burning bush while he was busy tending sheep (Exodus 3). Abraham was living outside of God’s will and was 99 years old when God came to him (Genesis 16 & 17). The Virgin Mary was a young girl when an angel of God came to her (Luke 1: 26 – 38). The Apostle Paul was on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus when God came to him (Acts 9: 1 – 18).

Why is it important to say this before we launch into techniques? I believe it's important because if we don’t have a solid foundation of where worship begins it colors everything we do in our worship life.

When we steep our worship ministry in the reality of the "God who seeks" then it affects how we choose our songs, how we order our worship sets, what we say when we transition to a new song, how we treat our team members, how we lead our churches, and how we view ourselves.

When we experience “success” in ministry it is God who gets the glory because we are more the sought than the seeker. When we “fail” we still live under the reality of the grace of God. Some days the sense of God’s presence in the worship service will be as tangible as the very air we breathe. At other times we will feel as though our congregation is more concerned with making it out in time to hit the buffet line than lining up to the spiritual buffet that sits in front of them in the service. At those times we can extend grace to ourselves and to those we are called to lead in worship.

Remember that, “We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 NIV

Launch Notes

As I launch this blog I want to give you some background information so that you can see where I'm coming from.

My father was a pastor and the Dean of a Bible School. He was a wonderful man of God. My mother was a leader within the church and a Godly woman with a heart for the Gospel. They both also loved music. They loved God more and it was obvious!

I was brought to Christ and nurtured in my faith within the context of the Church. It was my home.

At 7 years of age my life was changed forever. On the trip home from one of my father’s speaking engagements, our family was in a horrific car accident. My father was killed.

My mother was left with no husband, little income, three young children and a fourth on the way.

As I grew older I became very bitter against God. My life reflected that bitterness. I was self destructive, broken-hearted and viciously angry.

It was the power of God working through contemporary music and worship that made the biggest impact on my life. It spoke my language. It reached my heart.

Many years have passed since that time. I have traveled throughout North America and parts of the world to visit churches and ministries through my concerts, workshops and conferences.

I have seen churches that have a passion for reaching the lost. I have also seen a growing hunger among churches to develop their worship services into a form that reaches those who are looking for the Gospel in their language. I hope that this blog will be an effective servant in helping to meet this need.

I hope that this is done in a balanced format that has a respect for the traditions of our church as well. While this book is generally oriented towards more “contemporary” expressions in worship, I want it to be clear that I love many different forms of music and worship. I have been deeply moved in highly liturgical settings as well as through new expressions. I love classical music as well as folk, rock, country and pop.

This blog is designed to be highly practical. It is not a blog of apologetics or vague theory. It revolves around ideas that have been tested and used all over the world in large and small churches. It is written for your church.

Most of all, I pray that God is honored in what is presented here. I pray that there is a respect for all positions and openness to different worship forms.

I welcome your feedback, including objections and affirmations.