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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Benediction Part 2

It my previous post I wrote briefly about the power and purpose of the benediction. In this post, I want to write about some practical suggestions on pronouncing the benediction for greater impact.

Some Brief Tips:
  • Meditate on the benediction before you give it. When you understand the meaning, your blessing will have a greater impact as you pronounce it. Your engagement and immersion into the text will be clearly telegraphed to the congregation.
  • Pause after you say the words, “Receive the benediction.” This will allow people to prepare their hearts through this method of building anticipation.
  • Most ministers who pronounce a benediction lift their hands towards the congregation. This has been a common posture since the Old Testament.  Jesus Himself blessed through the lifting up of his hands. (Lev 9:22, Luke 24:50)
  • Have the congregation bless each other. You may project the benediction on the screen and have the congregation say it together and towards each other. This is a wonderful way to live out the Priesthood of all believers:  (Ex. 19:6; Hos. 14:2; Ps. 50:23; Ps. 51:17-19; Ps. 141:2; 1 Pet. 2:5-9; Heb. 13:10-16) 
  • Invite your congregation to place one hand of the shoulder of the person beside them as the benediction is pronounced either by the minister or by the congregation as an entire body.  Please be aware that there are some settings where this may not be appropriate. Always be sensitive to your setting.
  • Sing the benediction over the people. This can be performed in a canted (chanted) format (possibly with or without a predefined melody) or by members of the worship team through a song of benediction.
  • Consider placing a music bed underneath the benediction in the key that the closing song will be played in. (I will share more on this in a later post on the principle of the unbroken line)
  • Play a benediction video. Many are available online. You can start here.   
  • Bring up a child to pronounce the benediction.
  • Play a short piece of instrumental music as a benediction and invite people to meditate on a meaningful scripture of blessing during this piece of music
  • Recite a poem with deep spiritual blessing.
  • Play a Youtube or Vimeo video of a slam poet. One of my favourite is Mike Young. See his work here and here.

In my next post, I’ll provide many benedictions from the scriptures for you to use in your times of worship. 

As of November 15th, Break Forth Canada 2012 is 87% sold out. Do you want to dig in deep to enrich the worship life of your church? Join 15,000 at the largest event of its kind in North America. Learn from some of the best in the world. Click the graphic below for more info:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Worship Coach Practical Tips and Tools: The Benediction Part 1

Worship Coach Practical Tips and Tools: The Benediction Part 1: God speaks to us with heavenly realities in spite of our earthy frailty. This awakens within us the affirmation of the Father, th...

The Benediction Part 1

God speaks to us with heavenly realities in spite of our earthy frailty. This awakens within us the affirmation of the Father, the hope for tomorrow and the assurance of God’s presence in our lives.

This is the benediction.

It’s not a “wouldn’t it be nice if . . . “ It’s not a “Have a nice day.” It’s not a “When you wish upon a star.”  It is the truth and power of the Word of God spoken over our lives.

When we choose to believe the solid foundation of the truths of God’s Word over our fickle feelings and corrosive culture, our hearts and lives are transformed.

This is the benediction.

The whisper of God’s Fatherly voice. The resounding thunderous proclamation of the finished work of Christ. The peaceful treasures of the assurance of the Holy Spirit.

This is the benediction.

Our repetition of God’s assuring, affirming, transforming truth upon our people.

This is the benediction.

Throughout history, people have known the power of words to change someone’s destiny for good or evil.

Countless times, cutting words have ruined a person’s life or at least damaged their hearts so deeply that without a miracle they are destined to become the very curse that was placed on their hearts.

However, the opposite is also true.

Words have brought people into the profound hope and potential that God designed for them. Overnight or over time they have been changed into becoming who they were destined to be.

I’ve experienced this. You have as well.

When my wife and I were in Israel, the traditional greeting was Shalom. This term is thought of as simply meaning peace. But, it is so much more. It’s a blessing that God would grant peace, goodwill, good health, prosperity, and well-being.

This is the benediction.

Perhaps the best known benediction heard today is from Numbers 6:24 – 26, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

This was not just some slap on the back with the words “Good Luck!”  This was life-altering.

In verse 27 it says, “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (NIV)

As Aaron and his sons proclaimed these words over the Israelites, things began to shift and change. This benediction brought about transformation.

And so it is today as the benediction is proclaimed over God’s people, they are prophetic words of God’s ongoing actions to change our destinies. When the scriptural blessings are spoken over the congregation it is a Shalom that is founded in the ever-changing Word of God.

Perhaps it’s time for us to reclaim the power and promise of the benediction in our services.

My next posting will offer some suggestions for pronouncing the benediction or blessing.

Until then, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” - 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17: 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Twenty Top Tips For Corporate Prayer in Worship: Part 2

This is Part 2 of Twenty Top Tips for Corporate Prayer in Worship. To read Part 1, click here.

11.    Match the mood and delivery of the prayer to the mood and placement within the service.

12.    Pray a song. Many songs (both ancient hymns and contemporary choruses) are actually prayers. There are many forms this can take such as praying a verse or chorus together, speak the prayer antiphonally (responsively) alternating between lines from leader to congregation, or singing a verse and chorus and then being instructed to quietly pray thematically about the words in that verse.

13.    Have a quiet time of meditative personal prayer, often with a quiet music bed underneath for cohesion. You may wish to give suggestions on this to help those who are new to prayer or to create a unified prayer voice within the congregation.

14.    Break your prayers down to one short thematic sentence with a 10-30 second silence in between for people to pray for that need or to thank God for that gift. Repeat for several minutes.

15.    If your church’s comfort level is high enough for this, consider breaking up into small groups of 2 – 5 people for prayer. You can either leave the prayer format to the groups or ask someone to volunteer to lead in prayer within the group. Please be cautious with this format if you are dealing with new Christians or seekers.

16.    Again, if your church is comfortable enough with this, have a prayer walk by walking around the church exterior and/or the interior where people are prompted to pray for what they sense in front of them. (for example, the children’s Sunday School rooms may prompt them to pray for the children and their teachers, the bulletin board may prompt them to pray for events, the foyer may prompt them to pray for visitors, etc.)

17.    Focus on being a “sent people” within your church, reaching out in prayer to the community, the nation and beyond.

18.    Definitely pray for those in need within your church body but make sure that this isn’t all you are praying for. Generally speaking, the older and / or smaller the congregation the more you need to watch this with caution so you maintain a healthy “mission” ratio in prayer.

19.    Consider use of prayer ‘helps’ such as prayer painting (like we will offer at Break Forth Canada 2012), icons, scents (i.e.- fresh baking bread), prayer bowls, listening to sounds (running water, thunder, wind in rustling leaves, etc.) or other helps.
20.Total, complete, utter, ultimate, uninterrupted silence.  

Corporate prayer was one of the cornerstones of the early church gatherings as we see in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  I pray that it becomes a critical cornerstone of every Christian church around the world.

One of your most important callings in the worship service is to enrich and engage your church in meaningful corporate prayer. God will richly bless your leadership in this area.

Where do we go from here? Over the next couple of weeks I'll cover closing songs, benedictions and postludes.  Then we're wrapped on worship service elements. After that, it's on to practical application. I'm looking forward to sharing all the things I've learned with you from the many mistakes I've made.  

If you're interested in digging in deeper on Prayer consider attending Break Forth Canada 2012. Join 15,000 people from over 1,000 churches from all over the world!

As a part of our 170+ classes and workshops we are holding an All-Day Pre-Conference Intensive Learning Workshop on Prayer as well as elective classes over two days. We usually sell out fast so I encourage you to check it out right away if you are interested. Rates start as low as $99! 

We also feature worship leaders and artists including Paul Baloche, Robin Mark, Brenton Brown, Jared Anderson, Audrey Assad, Third Day, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Camp, Starfield, Downhere and more. Featured speakers include Erwin McManus, Anne Graham Lotz, Tony Campolo, Nick Vujicic, Wess Stafford, Josh McDowell, Jill Briscoe, Stuart Briscoe, Bill & Pam Farrel, Bill Donahue, Sean McDowell, Colin McCartney, Kenny Luck, Panic Squad and many more. 

Click on the logo below for more information:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Twenty Top Tips For Corporate Prayer in Worship: Part 1

Twenty Top Tips For Corporate Prayer in Worship: Part 1

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."  - Martin Luther.

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God." - Brother Lawrence

"Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." – Matthew 18: 18-20 MSG

Prayer in worship is a wonderful opportunity to listen and to respond. It’s the spiritual breath of a congregation; the inhalation and exhalation of God’s blessings and our praise and requests. It is life. It is sustenance. It is power.

Even though there are similarities between personal prayer time and corporate prayer time, there are also differences. Here are a few quick pointers for leading corporate prayer in worship services:

1.    This may seem obvious but it truly is the starting point. Have a personal prayer life. This will not only help prayer to emanate from your heart, it will give you a greater flow in leading.
2.    Pray out loud sometimes in your personal prayer time. This is a wonderful way to aid with concentration, to get used to your voice and to make prayer sound more natural and conversational.
3.    Study prayers. There are wonderful prayer resources that date back through history that are rich with content and can serve as a catalyst for developing your own rich public prayer content.
4.    When you are reading corporate prayer, look for a natural and yet well projected and engaging voice.
5.    Consider the placement in the service. Is this an opening prayer, a prayer before communion, a closing prayer or other corporate experience? Your content should change to reflect that.
6.    Be aware of what is going on in the world, the community and the church. You don’t have to read every newsfeed; this is not a sermon, it’s a prayer. You can ask people you serve to let you know if there are any major events going on that should be prayed about corporately. Sometimes in the flurry to get ready we may miss a major catastrophe in the news, the community or the congregation that morning.
7.    Don’t be obsessed with yourself. The rest of the world isn’t. They’re not evaluating every word, every turn of phrase, every grammatical error. You are blessed just to have their attention. Relax.
8.    You don’t need to pray for everything in every prayer every Sunday. Be led by the Spirit of God in your prayer times and then ensure that over the course of time there is diversity in your prayers.
9.    Tie the prayer into the sermon, the sung worship time and other themes that are dominant in the service.
10.Consider purging some church phrases that have lost their meaning or impact.

This is part one of Twenty Top Tips For Corporate Prayer in Worship. I’ll be posting part two over the next few days.

In the meantime, if you are interested in joining my wife Elsa, myself and powerful teacher Hans Weichbrodt of Sweden on the pilgrimage of a lifetime to the Holy Land we would love to invite you along. This is more than just a ‘tourist trip’ – it’s a conference, a time of worship, and a gathering of joy-filled believers in the most sacred places on earth. We will also unpack the Hebraic practices within worship in order to enrich our worship today. We’re almost sold out so please visit our site today at  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Break Forth Canada 2012 Schedule

OK . .  I couldn't help myself. I'm so thrilled about the conference schedule that I wanted to post an overview for you. Remember that there are 170 classes and workshops as well with more than 2,500 people just in the worship and creative arts tracks! Plus a total of 15,000 over the weekend.

I'll come through with my promise with a post on corporate prayer in worship. Coming soon.


NOTE: Click on the image below to see a larger version.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Break Forth Canada 2012

I know, I know. 

I promised that my next post would be on public prayer in the worship service but we're going to press on the Break Forth Canada 2012 brochure and I wanted my readers around the world to get the first glimpse. At 3:00 AM, hundreds of thousands of brochures will be rolling on the presses. 

Here is the cover of the brochure. We would love to see you here:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Offering

The Offering:

“Take a look at your own heart, and you will soon find out what has stuck to it and where your treasure is. It is easy to determine whether hearing the Word of God, living according to it, and achieving such a life gives you as much enjoyment and calls forth as much diligence from you as does accumulating and saving money and property.” - Martin Luther

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 16:21 NLT

The Offering Game: Yes, I know . . . try to look like you wrote a really, really, really big cheque . . . do a massive circuitous hand wave as you drop it in the plate . . . and then gleam at the person beside you with a visual dare, “Match that, buddy, if you really have faith as great as mine!”

Somehow, the offering must be more than that.

It is.

The offering truly is an act of worship as we offer our complete selves in response to what Christ has done for us.

Perhaps, let’s start with what the offering is not:
1.      It is not just a convenient time to present the announcements
2.      It is not just a convenient way to pay the bills
3.      It is not a way to gain favour with God
4.      It is not a way to feel good about how sacrificial or superior we are
5.      It is not a way to increase our health or personal wealth 

Just as offering our songs and prayers to God in our public worship services is to be a communal experience, the offering in worship truly is an experience for the entire gathering of believers.   We hear the great truths of God and then respond through gifts of gratitude. It’s like breathing in and out. Both are necessary (If you don’t believe me, just try to leave out either one). Unfortunately in many churches, the only opportunity for expression is in the singing of select worship songs and perhaps standing up and sitting down on cue. Sally Morgenthaler writes, “In some contemporary churches, the worship all comes at you from the stage, TV-style. The opening 20 minutes of singing is the only interaction that worshipers get. But liturgy by its very nature is interactive."

The traditional placement of the offering in the worship service also indicates this breathing in, breathing out and its communal experience. We prepare our hearts together (served through preludes, quiet reflection and call to worship), we confess together and hear the assuring words of forgiveness in common, we respond with songs of praise, we hear the Words of scripture (often the Old Testament reading, the Epistle, and the Gospel), we hear the great news of the Gospel through the sermon, and we respond in a resounding expression of thanksgiving for all God’s gifts in our offerings.

We acknowledge that we are simply giving back to God what is His in the first place as a small gift of value to He who is infinitely invaluable.

The offering is one more way that we can involve the entire body in a common expression of worship within our services. It reduces the spectacle of ‘presentation’ from the platform and allows everyone to share of themselves.

It also allows us to drive a stake in the ground, proclaiming that that which so easily becomes our greatest snare (our wealth) will not be our greatest treasure. As we give to the work of Christ in gratitude, we proclaim that God Himself and the work of His Kingdom are our greatest treasure. (Remember: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Matthew 16:21 NLT)

Try to remember to reinforce the truth that the offering is truly an act of worship. Unless we are reminded, we soon forget the higher purpose. When we forget the higher purpose we lose the act of worship. When we lose the act of worship, we lose worship itself. When we lose worship, we forget the Creator, for we begin to focus on the creature and not the Creator; we become but shallow breaths rather than God-breathed life . . . . and that is a hollow existence far beneath God’s purpose for us all.

Some points from Arlen on the offering:

·      There are many creative ways to receive offerings and not all of them involve the passing of the offering plate. More and more churches are setting up auto-withdrawal systems (EFT – Electronic Funds Transfer), a plate at the back, credit and debit card machines in the foyer as well as other electronic forms.
·      I believe that more and more churches will employ the digital wallet capabilities of cell phone giving.  
·      Micro-giving by cell phone texts is widely used when natural catastrophes happen but are generally very small amounts and the administration of setting up micro-giving can be onerous for most churches.
·      Large bins can be set up for large item collections such as non-perishable food items for those in need
·      Small offerings taken in Sunday school are a wonderful way to teach children about the principles of giving to God as an act of worship.
·      Online donations are growing in popularity. Our own ministry uses CanadaHelps to receive donations online and to issue instant tax receipts. You can see how it works here.
·      I won’t share my opinion on tithing here as it’s too contentious of an issue. If you want my opinion we can go for a venti decaf skinny sugar free vanilla latte and we can chat at length.

Next entry – we’ll chat about public prayer.

If you'd like to learn more, why don't you join 15,000 of us at Break Forth Canada 2012, January 27 - 29 in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Many of the top Christian speakers, authors, teachers, artists and worship leaders come together for the largest event of its kind in North America. You can learn more here