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Make it a Journey

When I was at the National Worship Leader Conference this year, Paul Baloche gave a piece of advice that I will never forget. He encouraged us to structure our worship set to take the congregation on a journey. He suggested we build a flow of thought that people can follow through the songs. He gave an excellent demonstration of this on the first night of the conference as he played “You Gave Your Life Away” then praised God in prayer for His sacrifice for us. He then said his only response could be praise and transitioned into “What Can I Do” (but Praise You)… The flow of thought from song to prayer to song really carried you on a journey closer to God. It involved the congregation…I was praying as he prayed. I was singing the words to God as he sang. I was thinking, not just singing a song. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” (emphasis added)

Last week we played a set of songs while reading Psalm 33. We started with a reading, then played part of “Unfailing Love” then read more of the psalm and played “What Can I Do” then read even more and transitioned to “Mighty to Save” then read the rest of it and finished off with the ending of “Unfailing Love”. The songs went with the words that were spoken in the Psalm. The music never stopped, but got soft as the Psalm was read then transitioned to the next song. I was amazed at how God used that time of worship. He truly showed up, and people were really worshipping Him. I am so blessed to have such a great God watching over and loving me. Yet I am humbled knowing that without Him, I could do none of this.

“Praise You God of earth and sky, how beautiful is Your Unfailing Love!”

-Chris

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“Service in the Round” Results

Follow-up to: Trying Out a Different Setup: Service in the Round.

We tried a new layout for our service last Sunday evening for our “Leadership Community” special service. It was very different. The first noticeable thing was the intimacy. When I was leading worship, I was so close to the worshippers, I could really relate to them. It felt more like I was worshipping with them than before. At the same time, I also felt more like a shepherd, pointing them to God than when I was on a stage in front. It was very inspiring to see each person worshipping.

It required me to turn in different directions to include the whole congregation. This was nice. It encouraged movement on the platform, and the movement was very natural.

Some people disliked the fact that, while on the center stage, someone was always looking at their backside. Not intentionally, mind you, but when you have people are all the way around you, your back half is always going to be facing someone. It didn’t bother me much, but others were a bit uncomfortable.

A big disadvantage of having someone behind you is that they are unable to see your face as you speak or sing. And if you are not intentional about including everyone equally, one part of the congregation can easily feel neglected. In our case, what would normally have been the front left quarter of the room, was to the backside of the speaker about 90% of the time. They just never looked in that direction for some reason.

Since people were in a circle, they were facing people on the other side of the circle. Having the people face one another was very good for community. You got to really see the other people in the congregation. This could help faces quickly become familiar. More importantly, you can hear the other half of the congregation singing back at you…which is a great encouragement to sing yourself. I feel it would help song participation.

All in all, I really liked the layout. We are considering doing a 3 sided stage instead for the next time. More like an elongated stage coming out from the main one. This way your backside can still be to the wall, and we can still get in intimate setting. We’ll see how it goes.

-Chris

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Trying Out a Different Setup: Service in the Round

We have been thinking of trying a different physical layout for our church service where the stage is in the center. We decided to try it out this weekend (tonight) for our “Leadership Community” service. This is a service we have every quarter to encourage those in ministry, and let everyone know where the leadership feels called to go with the church.

Here is the layout as we planned it:

Service_In_The_Round_-_Stage_Setup 

This requires the worship team to be on the ground (the yellow circles) and only the vocalists on the platform. This would only work well with multiple vocalists so the worship leader’s back is not to part of the congregation. I’ll post after the service and let you all know how it went.

By the way, the image was drawn using Gliffy (www.gliffy.com) which is a great tool for doing Visio-style diagrams on the web. Check it out, its free to try.

-Chris

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Drawing Near and Crying Out

I’m currently going through the book of Exodus. In chapter 3, Moses sees the burning bush and determines to go see what it is. Then, verse 4 says, “And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush…” God didn’t call out to him till he had turned aside and drew near. I can’t help but think that God shows us a glimpse of Himself often, yet we never turn aside and take the time to draw near to Him. We are either too busy, or not watching.

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8

This verse really made me think of when Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water in the midst of the storm. “…and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out” Mark 6:48-49 (emphasis added). Jesus “would have passed by them” had they not cried out. What does this teach us?

As I read further in Exodus 3, I came to verse 7, “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows”. God saw their affliction. He knew what was happening to them. He knows all. However, it appears that the motivation for Him to act was their cries to God. As long as we remain silent, how can we expect help?

“…Ye have not, because  ye ask not.” James 4:2

God knows your suffering. He knows everything you need before you ask for it. Are you crying out to God? Are you drawing near to Him? Don’t let Him pass you by. Call out and draw near. He is faithful.

-Chris

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Work On Your Weaknesses

I have realized lately that God has been putting me in situations where I have to exercise leadership skills that I am very weak in. This is happening both in ministry, and at work. I realize that I need to be working on my weaknesses. If I know I am weak in a certain area, that is where I need to focus my efforts to improve.

I would encourage each of you to focus on strengthening your character in the areas it is most weak in. Make sure you ask God for His help or your efforts will be in vain. The unchanging God seeks to change us sinners to be more like His son Jesus Christ!

-Chris

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National Worship Leader Conference 2008

Last week I attended the National Worship Leader Conference here in Austin, TX. It truly was a blessing.

National Worship Leader Conference 2008

I started the conference on Monday feeling burned out and weary. By the closing night (Thursday) I felt so recharged and ready to lead worship on Sunday. That Sunday was by far, the most worshipful and God-encountering worship service we have had at our church so far. God truly used the conference to bring himself honor and praise.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting on many of the things I learned in an attempt to help the few of you who read this blog to help your congregations draw nearer and nearer to God.

Here are the sessions I attended:

  • Creating Flow in Worship: Leading a Journey – Paul Baloche
  • Theology of Expressive Worship – Ross Parsley
  • Licks, Tricks & Cheats for the Acoustic Guitarist – Andy Chamberlain
  • Rehearsing Your Team – Tony Guerrero
  • Creating a Culture of Worship – Buddy Owens
  • Building Worship Teams for Small Churches – John Chisum

The two sessions I found most useful were: Creating Flow with Paul Baloche and Creating a Culture of Worship with Buddy Owens. They really changed the way I approached leading worship and choosing songs. I am excited to share what I learned in the next few posts.

Below is a picture of the closing night with Israel Houghton.

Israel Houghton leading worship at NWLC 2008

God bless you and His church!

-Chris

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The Priority of Prayer

Many months ago, we went through a very difficult season on the worship team. We were all struggling…instrumentally, vocally, personally…it was an all around difficult time. There were weeks where we just felt like giving up. We worked and worked, but it seemed to no avail.

Then God moved! God placed it on our hearts to pray for our worship team, our talents, our hearts. We prayed for each other, for the church, and for the team as a whole. We prayed for the rehearsal, for each other’s personal practice time, for the services on Sunday. We did this all throughout the week. That Sunday, God answered! It was one of the best worship sets we have had. As if by instinct, everyone seemed to play with much more dynamics, feeling, and zeal. People were trying new things on their own, and they sounded great. And the congregation was worshipping our Great God!

Like a light switch, we went from wanting to quit, to wanting more. God had lit a fire in us that we could never kindle on our own. Before this, I was trying to teach dynamics. I was asking people to play different parts. I was trying so hard. The problem is, I was the one trying…it was all about me and my effort. Once I let go, and ASKED God to take the reigns, I didn’t need to try so hard. God took care of it. James says “You have not because you ask not.” So if you haven’t asked God to bless your worship team, do it!

“Not by my strength, but by my Spirit”, says the Lord! And “If you, being evil, know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Make prayer a priority! We can’t serve Him out of our own power…we need His Spirit. He invites us to ask, take Him up on it!

-=CE=-

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