Archive for Leading Worship

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!”



Are You Underestimating The Value Of Hymns?

Are you underestimating the value of hymns? I did. But now I have seen the light.

We planted our church just over a year ago. During that time I only scheduled hymns occasionally. To be honest, I always feared them for several reasons: The chords were extremely difficult to play. The words (i.e. “Thy”, “Thee”, “Fount”, “Ebenezer”, etc.) seemed so antiquated and confusing. They just weren’t the latest “new shiny thing”. But most of all, I wasn’t familiar with most of them.

I was wrong. If you look at the reasons I didn’t schedule them more often, each one comes back to me. What is easier for me? What type of lyrics ministered to me? Was I getting to play those new songs everyone else was playing? What music was I familiar/comfortable with? All of these are the wrong criteria for evaluating what songs to select for the congregation God has put in my care.

Music is a part of the people

At the National Worship Leader Conference I attended a session by Buddy Owens (Pastor of Spiritual Growth at Saddleback Church) called “Creating a Culture of Worship”. One of the biggest things I learned during this talk is that songs become a part of the people who sing them. Think about the music of your high school days: It brings back many memories. When you hear it, it puts you in that frame of mind. That music is a part of you. Hymns are the same way. But the memories they invoke for those who have sung them in the past are memories of worshipping God. It puts them in a worship frame of mind. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?

The music we select teaches theology

I also have been reading Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin and Paul Baloche. From it, I have realized that the music I select will affect the beliefs of the congregation God has placed under my care. The congregation is going to remember the words and take them as truth. What truth am I choosing to put in them through the music I choose? And is it true? Hymns are deep with truth. Some contemporary songs are as well, but hymns are historically deep with teaching and theology.

The book made the comment that your iPod is a poor place to select songs from. Its not about the musical feel, but the lyrical content. Check the content first, without the music. If you just wanted musical feel, you could pick whatever secular songs are popular and call that worship. It doesn’t work that way.

The Result

So for the last two weeks, I have started including hymns in our services. The first week was an amazing time of worship, for that, and for other reasons. This last week was great as well. We played “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and I was blown away by how loud the congregation sang. I could barely hear them through the other songs, but when we hit that hymn, it was as if everyone decided to sing loud! My wife was in the congregation and observed a lady near here weeping with tears of joy! It affected the congregation a lot.

I stand humbled. Worship is not about what I like. Its not about me at all. Its all about God. Its about bringing praise and glory to the creator of the universe. Get to know your congregation, not just those your age, but the older people as well. How can your song selection help ALL of them to worship God more fully? Do not deprive any segment of your congregation with the opportunity to worship in a way that fully engages them.

If hymns honor God, don’t neglect them. And don’t underestimate their value based on your own preferences.



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!