Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where are you leading them?

So last time I posted, I asked why you do what you do.

(I realize that no one answered, but if you've ever been in one of my youth ministries you know that showing up is what I do best. I keep showing up until God does something... and I suppose that is what is happening with this blog. In my heart, I know there is a need for community among church plant worship leaders. This is my way of showing up. But I digress.)

I ask this because I've noticed that the answer to this question is ultimately the root of our successes and failures in worship leading. I have been tempted to lead worship in such a way that I please the most people, and get the most compliments possible. I don't stray into songs or activities that might be "too much" to someone. In this way, I follow the biblical example of... well, no one worth mentioning.

See, this isn't the way that David led worship. This isn't the way that the singers led worship before the armies of Israel, or the way early church leaders worshipped. David led in directions few of us would dare to follow (dancing naked, whining to God for several verses, asking for the destruction of his enemies). And yet... to be completely free of the desire to please others, and to be able to both lament and rejoice with an attitude of worship... to know that there is spiritual war on all sides, and that the battle for the human heart rages with a fury we can't handle alone...

This is worship leading at it's finest. This is the example we are given.

I am reading No More Christian Nice Guy as all of this is going through my head, and I am realizing that sterile, people-pleasing worship isn't going to cut it anymore. We were called to something more, and as a worship leader, it is my honor and privilege to lead without shame or fear. It is not about people-pleasing; it is about leading people into the holy, powerful, awe-inspiring, dangerous, beautiful presence of God.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Reason

What is your reason for doing what you do?

My next post will contain an answer, but first I want to give you a chance to talk. I feel like I'm hogging the conversation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tomlin vs. Smith

Chris Tomlin vs. Michael W. Smith

Who wins in a...

1. Guitar Throwdown?
2. Indian Leg Wrestling Match?
3. Freestyle Rap Battle?

Best answers get five points!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I used to think that getting sidetracked was a problem only bi-vocational, part-time, and volunteer ministers had. I thought that if I were able to minister for a living, I would be an unstoppable force for Jesus, like Chuck Norris in the spiritual realm.

Then I got the opportunity, for 15 months, to be “full-time” at a big church. As it turns out, I still got sidetracked from ministry on a regular basis. Apparently the problem was me, and not my situation.

This was a pretty disheartening revelation.

This is when I realized that God doesn’t “call the equipped”. I have the attention span of a 5 year old with a pixy-stick. I forget song lyrics at the most random times. I occasionally forget my own name. Yet, God has called me, and given me gifts and abilities that allow me to serve others through music, which is so fun that it almost isn’t fair. He has also blessed me to be able to work with teenagers, and be there the way my youth ministers were there for me when God changed my life.

Still, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves. So I pose this question… how do you keep yourself focused?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ridiculously Big Dreams

Sometimes my heart is bigger than my brain.

This isn't always a bad thing. I certainly believe that God puts dreams in our hearts for a reason. I am excited when I catch a glimpse, a hint of a bigger dream and a bigger purpose. I could extol the virtues of these moments, and it would probably make me feel pretty good. I'm sure the owner of the cart above felt pretty good about his packing job as he was hitching it to this unfortunate steed.

We put the cart before the horse. We expect that, conservatively, we can expect about 500 people in our church after six months. We dream that, given the proper amount of time (usually about a year), we will be starting a revolution and seeing people run forward weeping and begging for salvation, and that the thousands lifting their hands will make a special Jesus goosebump moment happen.

Or heck, maybe we just dream of the day when we'll be able to quit our day job.

Either way, when we live as though our dreams were a spiritual mandate from the very mouth of God, we tend to become disappointed and bitter pretty quickly. Sunday morning we close our eyes and see thousands of passionate worshippers, and we open them to see 30 people singing with all of the excitement of a dental visit. We go to sleep on Sunday knowing that another week of tedious work awaits us in the morning. Just before our eyes close, we hear of another pointless argument from those people that just can't seem to be supportive of anything (I mean seriously, if you thanked God for puppies and sunshine, they'd complain about dog poo and skin cancer).

We get frustrated, and we question where we are and what we are doing. We think that the dream is dead.
Only, the dream isn't dead. In fact, it is still in it's infancy. Dreams need to mature, to become visions that can shape the actions of those we have developed around us, those who are willing to strive with us for the long haul. Giving up on them early is like giving up on a baby for not being able to read or write yet, and for not accomplishing anything after six whole months!


Does this look like a failure to you?
Of course not. It is a cute baby. In fact, it is what came up when I googled "cute baby" and clicked on the cutest baby I saw.

So don't give up on your ridiculously big dreams. Feed them, and "teach" them by learning as much as you can about how they might some day become a vision. Feed that vision, until it grows up and becomes something amazing. Give it time.

Let the baby grow up.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Too Much Good Stuff!

Some people devote their lives to the ministry, working for a church and trying to reach people for Christ in their own gifted ways. Some people are career oriented, and work 40 hours a week to provide for their family. Yet others are scholars, who spend all of their time hitting the books and obtaining degrees.

The craziest of the bunch, however, are those who decide to do all three. Who has two thumbs and is just that crazy?

This guy.

Now each of these things, in and of themselves, is a good thing. Many of you who read this (or one of you, if only one of you reads this) are the same way, doing as much as you can, because in your best moments you can make it work. If one good thing is good, wouldn't two good things be better?

I relate to Martha in the "Mary and Martha" story. This is weird, because I used to relate to the Mary in that I loved to just chill with God. However, now I am the one looking down my nose at those who "only" do worship leading, or "only" do youth leading, and admonishing their laziness. I think this was Martha's main problem... not that she was busy, but that she was proud of her busy-ness.

I feel like I am often proud of my busy-ness, thinking that I am getting extra Jesus points for doing more (with bonuses for being in a church plant and being bi-vocational). Yet, in this pride, when we are focused on what we are doing rather than Who we are doing it for, we worship our own skill and endurance rather than our Creator's provision. The saddest part is, we get so busy we don't even know when He's in the room. We are too busy being busy.

Does anyone else struggle with this? I feel like Church Plant Worship Leaders would struggle with this, since we are usually doing this along with work and/or school. Am I right?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stepping Stone, Milestone, or Cornerstone

When you look at where you are at, what do you see?

Some people who lead worship for church plants see their position as a stepping stone. They want to eventually lead worship full-time, preferably in a big church. They may want the position to grow with them, or they may have another destination in mind. Regardless of the specifics of their situation, whether they are volunteer or paid, they saw an opportunity, and were glad to accept it. They have hearts that long to worship God, but maybe not through 3 hours of set up/tear down every Sunday. Also, they long for the day when they can have an actual church office, rather than just a room in their house with a computer, a guitar, and their collection of star wars memorabilia/vintage video games/vinyl records (whatever their spouse won't let infect the rest of the house).

Other CPWLs (this is what I will use for "Church Plant Worship Leaders") just happened to be able to sing, and perhaps play an instrument. They are musicians who responded to a need. This is probably one of the only times in their lives they will lead worship. For them, this is a milestone, a moment when they responded to the call to help a young church. They have hearts that long to worship God, but not necessarily on a mic from the front. They are also genuinely confused about the sheer amount of people who are interested in influencing their song selection. Who knew that "I Can Only Imagine" was still so popular?

Finally, there are a few who are called to both Church Planting and Worship Leading. Where they currently are is the cornerstone of where they want to be, and they are personally invested in the highest order to the health and well-being of the church. They are pastors who sing, ministers who play guitar, and builders at the core. They have hearts that long to worship God, and spirits that long to see something amazing happen, no matter how long it takes. They are also slightly crazy, as most people would not move to new cities or new jobs for what is essentially a part-time position at a currently tiny church. For some reason, when you call them crazy they get positively giddy. Don't be scared.

Each of these are commendable, and while I find myself as one of the third type, I thank God for the other two. I think the challenge that the Stepping Stone CWPL faces is one of patience and investment; patience in waiting for that opportunity God has created them for, and investment in where they are now. You will never regret the God-centered relationships you make, so embrace the chance the impact lives and make lasting friendships. I have a heart for such people, because I felt what they are feeling in reverse (in that, I knew I needed to be doing something that involved church planting, while God had me experiencing being a "normal" worship leader).

The challenge that the Milestone CWPL faces is one of confidence and humility; confidence to know that God will give you the strength to accomplish His purposes for you, and humility to know that it is God, and not your own sacrifice, that is truly impactful. Being in smaller, poorer churches for much of my life, I have a heart for these as well. In a way, we are kindred spirits, because to this day I pray for people like you in my first couple of churches.

However, it is the challenge of the Cornerstone CWPL that I will address the most, simply because this is what I know. That is not to say I don't want the others represented; in fact, I would prefer to have all kinds of contributors to this blog. I am simply letting you know where my own voice is, and the range of contexts that Church Plant Worship Leaders find themselves in. There are other subsets, like the fish out of water, or the leader in exile, or the do-everything worship leader (I am one of these, being also a youth leader). While this blog subject, Church Plant Worship Leading, seems like one that would be rather narrow, I can assure you that this is not the case.

Also, some things we post about will be general worship-leading stuff, like musings about why Chris Tomlin insists on singing so many great worship songs in such a high register, or why David Crowder songs don't sound as awesome without the beeps and boops (and perhaps stories of failed attempts to emulate said beeps and boops). Either way, I hope you enjoy this, and that you will consider contributing. I will write every other day until we have someone else who will contribute, but I am worried that I will run out of ideas pretty quick, so the sooner you decide, the better!

And seriously, is "I Can Only Imagine" to the 90's what Rich Mullins' "Awesome God" was to the 80's? I feel like I'll be hearing that song until I find myself surrounded by His glory. I hope I am dancing, and I hope He's pleased with my tremendous "sprinkler" and "lawnmower" dances.