All We Need

There’s a part of me that enjoys when plans don’t come together as expected. Although it can be stressful, it can also be an exhilarating and significant learning experience. When our best-laid plans crumble in an instant, it’s a great reminder that our sense of control is actually a fragile illusion. Our faults and humanity can be exposed as well as our strengths and weaknesses. When our plans fall through the cracks, our intentions behind them are often separated from all the insignificant noise we’ve unintentionally and unnecessarily added. 

If you happened to have attended the 10:15 service at The Fellowship Hutto campus on Sunday the 22nd, you experienced one of these moments first hand. In between the first and second services, our building lost power. This means no lights, no sound, no coffee, no easy listening music as you walked into the room. Our nice building, brimming with light and music and coffee only a few moments before, was now only a structure, almost a cave. We were all just… there. In that moment, I think most people were wondering what we were supposed to do. Frankly, when all the lights and music and comfort were stripped away, it seemed strange we were all gathered there. It was interesting how many cell phones lit up—not only for the flashlight, but for something comforting in the uncomfortable situation of waiting to be led in some way. It was in that moment that we were forced to realize why we were all actually there. Our plans had crumbled, our control was taken away, and our intentions were exposed. 

There’s quite a bit of planning that goes into a Sunday morning service at both The Fellowship and at churches around the world. Sermons are studied. Set lists are made, bands are rehearsed, bulletins stacked; transitions are planned, coffee is brewed, lights flipped on, sound is checked, Sunday school lessons are set—the list goes on and on. These things are not bad. Rather, they are enormous blessings and great tools for us to use to lift up Jesus in our cities, to outreach, and to help believers grow. Having a great Sunday morning service, a great band, and a great speaker in a great building with great coffee are all great things (especially the coffee!). But I also believe that as a church—congregation and leaders alike—if we begin to depend on these things, we’ve missed the point. Sometimes having control and comfort stripped away from us can be a blessing in that we are reminded of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. We can respond to Him in a new, simplified way that can sometimes be more meaningful. 

I want to share a few of my insights from these sorts of experiences I’ve had as a worship pastor. I hope to change the way we’re led into worship and to remind us of our real reason behind Sunday morning gatherings; I hope to remind us who is truly in control, and I hope to remind us that it’s a really good thing it’s not us. 

What Happens When We Take Control

Exodus is one of my favorite books in the Bible. That may seem like an odd choice, but God has taught me much about trust in its scriptures. Moses had to trust God would use him despite his own insecurities as a leader, which I can certainly relate to. Moses continued to trust God when he was placed in so many strange circumstances that didn’t make much sense. The Israelites also had to trust God to bring them out of Egypt and continue to trust while they wondered in the wilderness. They often had moments where that trust was lost, which I can also relate to. 

Every Sunday before the services start, the band, tech team, other leaders, and myself take time to pray over the morning. We don’t do this only because it seems like a good idea, but because we know we need God to be a part of the service and do things we are unable to do. Our Sunday mornings would be literally pointless without God’s involvement and control. We need God to draw hearts, to heal, to speak, and He doesn’t do that simply because we made an order of service with some worship songs and a message. We know we need Him, that He is in control, and He often uses us despite of us, not because of us. 

There’s a great example of this in Exodus 32. Moses was up on the mountain with God, and when Moses was gone, Aaron was in charge. Throughout Exodus we can see a clear pattern with Moses: every time the Israelites complained or there was a problem, Moses went to the Lord before acting and trusted God would work in Moses’s obedience. While Moses was on the mountain in chapter 32, the people began complaining again. This time, Aaron was in charge, and he missed a vital step. 

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. -v. 1-3

When Aaron was confronted with this problem, the first thing he did was rely on himself—his own ideas and experience—instead of relying upon and trusting in God. Without hesitation, he began to give instructions to the people. Hence, we have the story of the golden calf. In an instant, the Israelites turned from the Lord and instead began worshipping this calf made of gold from their own jewelry, giving it credit for their freedom.

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden[a] calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”  -v. 4

Often times, when we have a great Sunday morning experience where the band sounded great, the coffee was delicious, and all went well, we add value to those things and give them credit for doing the work only God can do. In a very real sense, these things can become idols to us. My desire for Sunday morning is for everything to go smoothly, but not at the expense of confusing those things for being the reasons God works. Rather, they should highlight who God is and what He’s doing and has done. They should enhance, not distract. They should constantly point to God’s work, and point to it with excellence, so as not to take away and blur the focal point. When I, as a leader, put my trust in my own abilities and talents, I’ve failed. When we all look to something else like good music to lead us in worship and give that the credit for a successful Sunday, we’ve failed. When Moses comes down from the mountain, the Israelites are having a huge worship service to the golden calf:

There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.

With or without a sound system, lights, or a great band, when we gather on Sunday mornings as a body of believers there should be the sound of shouting for victory for what God has done and the sound of the cry of defeat over our sin, which is also our victory in Christ. Otherwise, we simply have the sound of singing. Empty, misguided singing. My desire for our church is to not simply gather to sing, but to gather and respond to all that God is and what He has done for us. To shout in victory, celebrating our freedom from the grips of sin and death, with thankful hearts to God. 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.” -Romans 12:1

Worship is not what happens for 20 minutes on a Sunday morning. It’s more than a song. It’s our response to God with everything that we are. We are to be living sacrifices, constantly responding to everything God is with everything we are. And the truth is we don’t need me, a band, a sound system, or even music to do that. But it is most certainly a way we can respond, and we are blessed when we have the ability and privilege to freely gather together and sing in response to our God as a body of believers with great music and great coffee in a great building. But those things certainly aren’t our measure of success or why God continues to move in our cities. 

Our High Priest

With that in mind, we should consider the message from that Sunday out of Hebrews 2 (link here). Verse 18 says, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every aspect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Donnie touched on this Sunday—that Jesus was made our high priest, making a way for us to God by making propitiation for our sings. This is why we no longer have to put our sings on a lamb, a scapegoat, to settle our debt with God. Jesus died once and for all, for all mankind, as the perfect and spotless Lamb. As our high priest, he has therefore made a way for us to be in God’s presence. Before Jesus, only the priest would enter the holy of holies in the temple, where God’s presence dwelt, on our behalf. They would even tie a rope around his ankle in case he died as a result of being in the presence of a high and righteous God without the proper propitiation for sin—the sacrifice of a lamb. 

We read this in Hebrews 10, verse 19:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. -Hebrews 10: 19-23

When Jesus died, the curtain to the holy place was torn, signifying the barrier was then broken. As believers in Christ, we now have direct access to God’s presence, because of “the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain.” This is huge! We now have access to God through Jesus. 

Even as a worship leader, I do not lead us into God’s presence. I can’t. Nor can anyone, because Jesus already has! Worship music doesn’t do this, a talented musician doesn’t do this. Jesus already has. There’s a lot to this and you can read more about it here. For now, here’s what this means: ultimately, we don’t need a band, lights, sound, or even a great leader to be led into God’s presence. We already have access. If you walk into church and your worship experience is dependent on your being led a certain way, you’ll miss it. Your way to God’s presence is through Jesus, not a pastor or worship leader. It’s not through great music or talent. My job as a worship leader is primarily to do my best to point people to Jesus. Period. Yes, I often do that through song. Yes, my aim is for those songs to accurately and explicitly proclaim Jesus. But I am nothing special—simply a pointer, with an occasional microphone or guitar. Whether or not you want to engage with a holy God in worship and fully respond to who He is and what He has done, to offer yourself as a living sacrifice in worship, regardless of any band or lights or someone on stage, is up to you. Not even your sin is an excuse (v.22)! No matter how great the leader, they cannot force God’s presence to do anything, nor can they force you to engage or not engage. They can only set the stage for you to do so. 

Why We Gather

If we keep reading in Hebrews 10, it says this:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10: 24-25

When we gather on Sundays, whether it’s a “normal” Sunday or one where our plans fail (along with the power), our reason for being there remains the same. We are a body of believers and we gather to encourage one another, teach one another, grow in community, and worship our God. Colossians 3 says this:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3: 12-17. 

The word of Christ cannot dwell in us richly if we are not gathered to teach, be taught, love, forgive, and encourage. That’s why we sing hymns, songs, and spiritual songs together. Those are placed in the same sentence as teaching and admonishing for a reason. We are taught through worship. There’s a great amount of scripture that speaks into our gatherings and our being one body, but for now my point is that when plans fail, our reason for gathering remains the same as always. We can take confidence in the fact that we don’t need bells and whistles to remain obedient and pursue our purpose as a body of believers, though we are surely blessed when we have them. Let’s not miss the point and put our hope and confidence in our plans or in ourselves, but instead use those gifts to highlight the greatness of the God we worship—to proclaim Him and ask God to draw people to Himself in the midst of everything. Let’s make the best music, have the best coffee, have great facilities, and consider them bountiful blessings and tools for us to reach the lost and worship our God. And let’s do the exact same when we’re without them. 

The Post-Christian Worship Leader

There is a vast amount of conferences, books, blogs, tweets - you name it - that have taken on the challenge of making worship leaders more effective in their leadership by engaging the culture and society around us.  Over the last 20 years, worship has grown and morphed outside of the boundaries of just “church music” and has challenged worship leaders and musicians to be artists, to create, to write, and to represent God in His diversity, creativity and excellence.  I’m for all of this.  All of this growth is a good thing, and has lead to some great fruit and asked great questions of what it means to lead worship and how to engage an ever changing culture.  It’s challenged worship leaders musically and artistically, and it has opened the door for us to better engage our culture through worship and better represent Christ through it.  It has brought a lot of growth, but I wonder if it has perhaps opened the door for misdirection as well.


20 years ago, we didn’t have worship leaders as we think of them today.  20 years from now, whose to say we’ll have the same definition and need of that role as we do today? Our society and culture is continuing to change, and I wonder how this will affect worship as it continues to grow and attempts to engage this culture.  The values of the 1950 ‘s American Christian-based society are quickly being challenged and lost, and we find ourselves in a post-Christian culture, as it’s been called.  The general public has in a large part moved past Christianity, along with it’s values.  In the eyes of the world around us, to some extent Christianity has become a fad.  It’s become unauthentic and unimportant.  Society has become “smarter” than religion.  Self reliant.  Selfish.  Hedonistic.  Relative.  If you want to get married to someone, get married to them.  Marriage means whatever you want it to mean.  If you want to continue to enjoy sex but not the results, a life not yet lived is a small price to pay to keep living yours.  Those are just a couple of tangible examples of the long and growing list of how society’s values are turning directly against the values of the Bible.  Even the definition of a Christian has been distorted into someone who goes to church, or simply just calls themselves a Christian, and “Christians” themselves are being deceived into believing that  in light of scripture, some of these values are justified.  And how can we expect anything different if Christians go to church, but never engage people outside of the church and put to practice the teachings of the one they follow?


All of this makes me wonder if we’re headed in the right direction, if we’re training our worship leaders the right way.  Will they continue be successful leaders in a declination of Christian culture and values? Are we preparing them to lead congregations to Jesus in truth, to be invested in discipleship, to suffer for and proclaim the gospel, to love the broken, to go out and lead the way in engaging the culture around us with a life that looks like Jesus, or are we preparing them to be “successful” in this so called industry of worship music?  Ultimately, what does it really mean for a worship leader to lead in a post-Christian culture?


Much can be said on what a worship leader needs to do in light of a changing world, but I think the overarching theme would be a call back to the basics of what we’re called to as followers of Christ first and foremost.  You can’t be an authentic, Christ-exalting worship leader, or even a leader in the Church, without being a Christ follower first, a disciple of Jesus.  Sometimes we need to put down the books on how to write better music, what things should be said in-between songs, how to build a good set list, what new songs you should be doing to “keep up,” how to have the right transitions and how to sing better, and lead worship by showing that Jesus is worthy, real, and priceless by the way we live our lives and encouraging and teaching others to do the same.  We need to be living products of grace, justice, and redemption, not simply singers of them.


Here are some initial thoughts off the top of my head when thinking about this, so this certainly isn’t exhaustive.  Some may seem simplistic, and they are, but often times that’s exactly what we lose focus on when trying to pursue being a worship leader over a Christ follower.

Be A Theologian

I’ve written and talked about the importance of this so much, because it is so important!  Everything else in this post has the potential to be misunderstood without a foundation of sound theology.  Theology determines every aspect of our lives.  How we think, how we make decisions, and ultimately how we live our lives.  It’s impossible to lead someone to something, or to teach someone about something without having an understanding of it ourselves.  That’s exactly what worship leaders do.  We lead and point people to who Jesus is and what He has done.  We teach them truth through song.  If our theology is off, then our congregation’s theology is off, and worship songs are the easiest and sneakiest way for false theology to enter into the church.  We are told to love God with our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37).  We must be lovers and students of the Word.  Without this, we will be easily shaken and prone to give into the pull of being a culturally relevant worship leader, rather than a Christ-centered one.  And in a post-Christian culture where our values are constantly challenged and changing, we need leaders who’s values are rooted deep in truth. 

Follow Jesus

You might be thinking, “of course!”, but sometimes there is an overemphasis on being a worship leader and an underemphasis on following Jesus.  Meaning, we neglect the basic commandments of making disciples, sharing the gospel, loving the poor and broken, and spending time in His Word while we’re distracted with trying to be a better worship leader or caught up in the day-to-day tasks we call ministry.  In the end, we find our identity in leading worship rather than in Christ.  It’s sneaky and subtle, because we feel like we’re pouring ourselves into ministry and becoming better leaders, when that’s the very thing the enemy uses to distract us from being a disciple of Christ, of abiding in His Word (John 8:31), and carrying out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).  It’s easy to deceive the people we are leading, as well as ourselves, into thinking we are great leaders because we’re on a platform, we’re told we’re doing a great job, and/or we’re in a position of leadership.  I confess, I can’t tell you how many camps or events I’ve “led” where everything has the appearance of success, and I have the appearance and platform of a spiritual leader, but I’ve neglected my personal spiritual walk that whole week. We can get people to sing about justice and love and grace like they believe it, but we often fail to lead in the same things when we’re not on a stage and don’t have a guitar in our hands, hence failing to lead people to worship anywhere outside of a church setting or outside of a song, when that’s the essence of worship in the first place (Romans 12:1).  Truth is, we can’t lead without first following.  In a post-Christian culture, our leadership will be more and more defined by how we live our lives off a stage.  People will want authenticity, truth, investment, and a leader who lives out what he believes without hiding behind a guitar, leading them to lead lives of worship against popular culture and values because Jesus is real and better than this world, and so worth wasting our lives on.

Reflect The Gospel

When even the definition of a Christian is being defined as simply someone who calls themselves one, or someone who goes to church on Easter, there must be a distinction between what our society deems a Christian and what Jesus calls us to be.  When we follow Jesus, our lives will be centered around the gospel.  That’s the distinction.  That’s the unwavering truth of who Jesus is and what He has done.  Everything we do should be centered on it: the songs we lead, the things we do and say, the very way we live our lives.  We must be products of the gospel, actively mirroring the love, grace and redemption to this world through the way we live and the way we love.  Through the gospel, Jesus redeems, so we should be agents of redemption. Through the gospel, Jesus justifies, so we should be agents of justice.  Through the gospel, Jesus loves, so we should be agents of love.  Through the gospel, Jesus has pursued us, so we should be in pursuit of the people around us.  The gospel changes everything, so we should be agents of that change.  When we see the injustice of murdered babies, those trapped in the sex trade, our only hope is the gospel, and we are the messengers and activists of it.  Not for the sake of social justice, but for the sake of the gospel to bring hope to the broken, poor and oppressed (Amos 5:21-24; Matt. 11:28-30).  If we believe God’s heart for justice rather than songs or feasts as implied in Amos 5, when we lead worship we will lead with the gospel, both in song and with our lives.  If the church has any hope in a post-Christian culture, the gospel, the story of God’s grace and love towards a fallen world, must be our message.  It must be in our pulpits, and in our worship, and we must take it beyond there to our neighbors and people around us. Relevance, entertainment, excellence, or anything else we lead with will never replace the truth of the gospel, no matter what culture we find ourselves leading in.  Amidst the tension of changing cultural values, the gospel must remain at the center of the church and of her leadership, and that heavily includes the leadership of our worship.

Put Down Your Guitar

People need authentic leaders willing to lead the battle down the hill, not a leader who commands people to go to battle from the hilltop.  If worship is more than a song, we need worship leaders who do more than sing.  A leader who will lead people in worship while not on a stage with a guitar, but in the trenches of ministry, proving that what is sung on stage is true, valued, and worth living for.

Be Bold

Our world is bold.  The challenges facing Christians are bold.  Jesus also was bold, and leaders facing the darts of the enemy and the world need to be bold.  I often notice worship leaders shy away from truth for the sake of getting their foot into a certain door, or to please people, or perhaps simply out of ignorance.  When we face bold challenges, we need to be even more bold in the way we counter them, not wavering from the truth of the gospel and who Jesus is.  Our best defense is a bold offense not ashamed of the gospel.


All in all, worship leaders must remain faithful to Jesus and faithful to truth in their leadership.  These are the things that will have an influence that will transcend time, culture, and ourselves.  



Entering In

"In view of all that has been accomplished for us by Christ, let us

confidently approach God in worship, let us maintain our Christian

confession and hope, let us help one another by meeting together regularly

for mutual encouragement, because the day which we await will soon be


-Bruce, on Hebrews 10:19-25

I was leading worship for an event a while back, and the speaker did something I’ve never seen or heard before.  He basically relieved me from any pressure of leading people to “God’s throne” or “into His presence.”  He stood up before I began to sing, and said I have nothing to do with whether or not we can enter into God’s presence in worship, and it’s foolish for them to depend on me to make that happen for them. This ended up being freeing for me, as well as the audience.

 Not too long ago, I tweeted a question along the lines of what it meant to lead worship.  About 99% of the feedback I got dealt with the worship leader leading people “into the presence of God,” or something similar.  I want to put some friction to this phrase, and here’s why…

 First, it is simply impossible for a worship leader, preacher, the pope, whoever, to lead you into the presence of a holy God.  Before Christ, only the priests were allowed into the presence of God, but very carefully (Exodus 28:31-35; Leviticus 16:2-4).  And animal sacrifices were made for the forgiveness of sins.  But that’s just it.  Christ came!  He was the sacrifice once and for all!  This is a huge deal for innumerable reasons, one being the veil in the temple, the holy of holies, was torn and we as believers can not only enter into the presence of God freely, but enter boldly (Hebrews 10:19).  We (believers) are the priesthood now.  Through Christ’s sacrifice, we received forgiveness of our sins, and we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (2 Peter 2:19).  We are free to enter in and worship boldly, and a worship leader has NOTHING to do with that, Jesus is the one who made a way for us to enter into His presence, he has already led the way.

 The main Biblical basis for this is found in Hebrews 10:19-25.  I’m not going to post it, because I think if you are reading this as a believer you are perfectly capable of opening your Bible and reading along with me.  Ready, go…

This idea of entering into His presence might change our perspective a little, both for the believer, and for the worship leader or pastor.

First, for the believer who finds themselves in congregational worship, we need to understand that it is not the worship leader’s job to make us “feel” something, or to “take us in.”  That was already done 2,000 years ago.  God’s presence is already here/there...He’s everywhere.  It is unrealistic to depend on the worship leader to make us worship, to lead us to a place we call God’s presence.  He/she simply points to Jesus, the one who is worthy of it, and the one who made it possible.  Too often, the only thing keeping us from worshiping is ourselves, because we are waiting for the worship leader to do it for us, but he can’t.  He has no power to lead you into the presence of God, besides, it’s already here. We also see in Hebrews 10 that we can go into His presence with a clear conscious, knowing that our sins are not held against us (v. 22-23).  Nothing can separate us from His presence, or His love (Romans 8:1-2; 38-39).  We are FREE to enter in BOLDY, we are free to worship boldly, and we no longer need anyone but Jesus in order for us to do it.  Don’t let your guilt, the enemy, or anything hold you back from the pursuit of Him and His presence.  It’s already been taken care of.

Second, to the worship leader or pastor.  Let this truth be freeing for you, and let it bring your vision and leadership to pursue more precise goals. Our job is not to lead people into His presence, but to make His presence known, which sets the stage for people to respond to it, and to see who God is, and what He has done.  We are pointers to something immeasurably more worthy than ourselves.  Lead people to Him, not into Him. There is nothing we can do to make God do anything, including giving the congregation the “warm fuzzies” of His presence (not that His presence is always warm and fuzzy).  We are utterly dependent upon Him to work, and we are utterly dependent on His Spirit for us to do anything at all (John 5:15).

So in light of Hebrews 10:19-25, let us always go boldly into His presence, without dependence on anything or anyone other than Christ, and what He has done.

What Is A Worship Leader?

A few days ago, I was spending time with a church member from my new church home, Real Life Austin.  This was my first time to hang out with him on a one-on-one basis, so I got to know him a little.  He’s just a normal guy, mid-30’s, single dad who loves his kid, brand new to the faith and the church world, and I love that. Our conversation was unbelievably refreshing.  Since he was new to the church world and was never “religious”, and I was new to his church, he began to ask me a little about what I do.  He got right down to the basics.  “What do you do?  What is worship?  What does it mean to lead worship?”

When it came to worship, his mind was a blank slate, so “uncorrupted” by church jargon and business ethics in ministry.  He didn’t know who Chris Tomlin was, or any other worship leader who Christians have given “rockstar” status to.  And to him, I was  the guy who sang a few songs about Jesus on Sundays, and Chris Tomlin was some sort of Christian celebrity who somehow had the same job title as me.

So I did my best to explain what worship was, that it was ultimately a response to God, not only in music and singing, but in literally every aspect of our lives (Rom. 12:1Col. 3:16-17).  (See more previous blogs for more explanation on worship).

So then the question came, what does a worship leader or worship pastor do?  What does this job title mean?

I found it almost humorous that it took me a second to figure out what to say to him after this long explanation on what worship was.  Mostly because so much didn’t make sense- that when Christians think of the title “worship leader,” they also think of they guy who leads worship or music on Sundays.  Or they think of Chris Tomlin, or David Crowder, or that guy at summer camp last year.  I’ve found no one that has challenged me on the fact that worship is a life we lead, not a song.  In fact, that’s probably not at all the first time you’ve heard that.  The idea that worship is a life we lead seems to be pretty popular, but I rarely see worship leaders lead the way.  That may sound critical at first- and it is- but to be honest, I often find myself pursuing what people, even Christians in the church, think a worship leader should be instead of simply leading these people to worship in it’s true definition.

So if worship is so much more than the songs sang before a sermon, more than an experience at camp, and more than a CD or a title, what exactly is a worship leaders role?

I actually believe it’s much simpler than we often think.  If you are a Christ follower, you’re a worship leader.  A worship leader is someone who simply points to something greater than themselves, something more worthy of attention, affection, or praise.  If you follow Christ and recognize Him for who He truly is, then you can’t help but do this; even more so for a worship leader- someone who shows people the essence of Christ for who he is, and provoks people to respond to Him.

With this in mind, I think the churches view on what a worship leader should be is terribly small.  It’s easy for worship leaders to “get away” with just covering a popular worship song on Sunday morning, getting some people to sing along, maybe even raise their hands and call it a worship service.  Not to say that this is a bad thing, it’s a very good thing.  But to be constantly satisfied with a song each week and call that a response to the God we sing about, if we really believe the words we are even singing, we are selling ourselves short by putting worship in the box of Sunday morning, and it’s worthless (Amos 5:23-24; Isaiah 1:11-17).  Our response goes far beyond the walls of church, beyond the time of Sunday mornings, beyond our church community.  This reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis-

"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Our worship should not leave us satisfied, but in awe and wanting more.

As I travel around and lead worship at different places, I often encounter many up and coming worship leaders.  But their goal in becoming one is often a mud pie.  It’s getting on a stage in front of more and more people, becoming more popular, more CD’s, more time on the road.  All these things are huge mud pies made unbelievably enticing by the enemy.  Not that those things are bad in and of themselves, they are great and God absolutely uses them, but it’s not the goal!  It’s easy to make mud pies our goal when our eyes are not fixed upon the true prize. If you call yourself a worship leader, if your goal is anything but pointing people to the never ending fountain of grace, love, goodness, holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, power and might of Christ, you’ve missed it, and all you’ll have to show for it is a big fat mud pie.  Worship leader, if your love is music, go be a great musician in Jesus’ name, but don’t hide behind the image of worship leader in doing so.  The simple fact that a holy, righteous God not only allows us into His presence, but let’s a sinner with a guitar get up on a stage and lead the way constantly puts me on my face and puts what I’m really doing in perspective.  So if you’re a worship leader, be mindful of what your title is.

-Thanks for reading

The Joy Of Jesus Carries Pain


I tend to be a fan of Charlie Hall.  He is one of my favorite worship leaders because not only is his music good and creative, but I mostly like him for his writing.  He always has these little phrases that are so good.  His last album was called “The Bright Sadness.”  I’m not trying to write a review of Charlie or anything, just roll with me.  Anyway, just from the title you can tell something doesn’t seem right.  How can sadness be bright?  Most of the album tends to deal with suffering and sorrow and Jesus being the only brightness to the darkness or the only hope when everything seems hopeless.  I think that’s a huge truth about who Jesus is that is often overlooked.  He is the only thing that exists that is innately good, yet we often look to everything else to find goodness before realizing this, especially when we’re dealing with sorrow.  It seems like something drastic has to happen and we literally have to feel completely helpless and hopeless before we look to Christ to be our everything.  I’ve written several blogs in the past dealing with the issue of suffering, so I’m writing this one assuming you have read those.

One of my favorite lines Charlie writes in a song in that album is “peace is found in troubled days, and the joy of Jesus carries pain.”  Let that sink in a second because there’s a lot in there.  Got it?  Good.  When do we ever look for peace when everything is going great and we don’t need any?  It’s only in trouble do we seek out peace.  Yet when trouble comes, we often get all hot and bothered and start questioning God about why he is letting this happen instead of realizing it’s only by his great grace he is even allowing it to happen, allowing us to experience pain so that we can experience his peace, experience wounds so that we can experience his healing, experiencing want so that we can experience his blessing, experience death so that we can experience life.  It’s hard to like things we don’t understand and can’t control.  It’s then we find our peace in Christ.  And chasing after and experiencing the great joy of Christ, involves pain.  But the joy of Christ far outweighs anything he, in his sovereignty, allows us to go through to find it.




The Guy I Follow Was Crucified

How to become a better worshiper:


I was listening to a podcast by Mark Driscoll and it sparked some interest in my mind about the relationship between worship and suffering.  I have written on this in the past, but hopefully this will be somewhat of a different perspective. 

If we call ourselves Christians, we would be fools to think that life should be peachy because of it.  Just read 1 Peter 4.  Not only are we to expect suffering, but we are to “rejoice, be glad, and glorify God” in the midst of it.  But instead we often view suffering as something to avoid, and if we are in the midst of it, we try to find the quickest way out of it. 

Suffering isn’t really something we aim for. 

But it is!  Because we aim for Christ, and we are most like Christ when we suffer, and we grow in worship through suffering.  Suffering and trials test our worship and our very identity.  Suffering can be a gift that leads to a greater good.  What greater good? Worship.

If I were to ask most Christians if they would like to be better worshipers, I would assume that at least the majority would say “yes.”  So then I would tell them to suffer.  And then I may lose a few votes because of that.  But suffering is what we aim for.  Why?  Because we follow Christ.  Christ Suffered.  Not that we are to actually seek out suffering and beat ourselves with a golf club or throw ourselves off tall buildings, but that when suffering in our lives come, we embrace it because it’s a great opportunity to glorify God.

The person we claim to follow and want to be like and strive to be like died a horrible, painful, humiliating death on a cross. 

Why should we expect something in the opposite direction?  Especially if we are the ones deserving of that death? 

That we can feel the weight of our sin that was placed upon the shoulders of a spotless and pure sacrifice, and our realize our depravity and desperation for Christ, and embrace the suffering of Christ in our lives and in the midst rejoice, be glad, and glorify God- that is my desire.  Because when we do, it enhances to glory of God, the glory of the cross, and ultimately our worship.  And when we suffer, we become like Christ.

 Some of my best worship experiences have came from the midst of suffering or a trial, and based on conversations I’ve had, I’m not the only one.  And the majority of our most popular and cherished hymns were written after the author suffered greatly.  There’s a beauty in the midst of suffering when we respond to Christ with joy and gladness.  My challenge is that whenever a season of trial or suffering finds itself in our lives, that instead of trying to fix it quickly or get depressed about it, we rejoice in it because of the great opportunity for spiritual growth and it’s great potential for the ultimate glorification of Christ.

Here is another great post dealing with the same issue.


-thanks for reading

It's A Beautiful Thing

I was out running the other day (as per my new healthy habit) and I passed an older foreign gentleman out on his front lawn.  I'm not sure where he was from, but it wasn't here.  Most people I pass while on the sidewalk won't even look up at my eyes.  I've always wondered why.  But as soon as I made eye contact with this guy, the biggest smile I had ever seen came across his face, and then he threw his arm up in the air and gave me this very awkward looking wave.  It was awkward looking because he seemed very excited about this wave and put all of his effort into it.  The range of motion from side to side in the wave was just incredible.  It caught me so off guard that I almost tripped and fell right there in front of him.  It was interesting to see how exited he was just to see someone and be able to say hi.  He kind of reminded me of Mr. Bean.

This guy made my day.  Far too often I forget how much a simple smile can make someone’s day.  I know that's not a new concept or anything, but for some reason it's easily forgettable to me. I felt like I could ask this guy if I could come over for dinner and he would invite me into his home with open arms.  Who knows if this guy was a Christian, but I could tell he loved people.  How much more so should Christians love people?  I'm not saying every Christian should walk about giving these crazy waves to people, but I hope that people around those who follow Christ know they are loved.  Love is a powerful thing.  I have been privileged recently to witness this personally when people come to Christ.  It never gets old to see people respond to the grace and love of God.  Not only in seeing lives changed, but in worship as well.  When people respond to the love of God, whether in a worship setting or daily life, it's a beautiful thing.  

I Prefer Worship

I had the privilege of sitting through a "traditional" worship service today. What I mean by traditional is that we sang out of a hymnal and an organ and piano were the only instruments being played. Before the service began, the organ player was playing through some old hymns that I recognized from being brought up in Southern Baptist churches all my life. Since the room was full of hyper college students, I can't say for sure if anyone was enjoying listening to the organ as much as I was. The organ filled the entire room, and it was a pretty big room. If I had to guess, I would say that the building was built in the 1930's-40's, and in that time it would have been considered a mega-church, being in the middle of downtown Dallas. As I sat there and listened as this very skillful organ player was playing, I began to think about how different this was from "contemporary" 5 piece Chris Tomlin-like worship, which I would say is becoming the preferred thing.

The organ sounded amazing to me. It was as if the sound was all around me. It was full and majestic and beautiful. And the songs we sang were full of much more theology than I was used to singing. It captured different aspects of worship than usual. Even the sound of the organ sent a message of the greatness of God, the fullness of God, the majesty of God.

It seems to me that this type of music in a worship atmosphere is pretty unpopular amongst people my age, and I wish it wasn't. I do not mean that we should forsake "contemporary" worship, I mean that we should incorporate this into our worship. I put words like "contemporary" and "traditional" in quotes because I feel as though these are practically unnecessary because all styles of worship respond to the same God. There is not the new, cool God, and also the traditional, old-school God, depending on what worship service time you attend. It is the church's job, and more specifically a worship leaders job to display the greatness of God in our worship. The greatness of God cannot be fully portrayed on this side of glory, but we should strive to display it as best we can. Traditional worship is no better, nor any worse than contemporary, African, Chinese, art, or instrumental worship. All of these portray different dimensions of the greatness of God. An organ is much different than a flute. A guitar is much different than a drum. A hymn is different that a chorus. Perhaps it's all of these things combined, and then some, that could give us a greater portrayal of who the triune, all powerful, everlasting, majestic, graceful, merciful and loving God is. My point is that there is beauty and God in each setting. There is truth in worship with an organ and a hymn as well as worship with a guitar. The same God is being glorified whether we happen to enjoy the music or not, because the last thing worship is concerned about is whether or not the people enjoyed the music. Perhaps we can practice self denial and appreciation for our neighbors worship, even though it may not fit our fancy, by participating and glorifying God anyway because the fact that God deserves all our worship, regardless of style, never changes.

I was browsing through the job postings at my school earlier today and came across two that were asking for worship leaders. In the first one the description went as follows..."we are looking for someone who can take both of our worship services (contemporary and traditional) and combine them into one and make everybody happy." The second one had the title "Gen X Worship Leader." As opposed to a baby boomer worship leader? In that description it even specified "must lead with a guitar."

Here are some words from Marva Dawn in her book A Royal Waste of Time:

"There are many fights in churches these days over what kind of music to use, but I am convinced that most of those fights could be avoided if we faithfully reflect upon the questions given to us...Instead of asking what kind of music will appeal to the world around us, we must ask, What will enable us most deeply to dwell in God's Word? What will best express that Word? How will the Word's beauty and mystery, it's infinity and generosity be best conveyed?"

Worship is far beyond a matter of taste, and I fear that that is where the church is headed- to be more concerned about pleasing people rather than God, about drawing in the lost with "cool" music rather than drawing in the lost by loving our neighbor and denying ourselves to bring in the lost, and then displaying the greatness of our God through our worship. By giving them truth through our worship.

Hospital Scrubs and My Mother

I’ve gotten to know the emergency room at the hospital pretty well this week it seems. I am sitting in it as I type this, and was just here a week before as well.

I was here last week because I have a lovely little thing called diverticulitis. It’s actually not as fun as it sounds. Very painful actually, and I would not recommend it to anyone at all. And I don’t get to eat anything I like for the next few weeks. But it’s always fun to be on tons of medication that has crazy side effects, like hearing voices for example. That was not on the warning label (seriously, I heard voices. Strong stuff).

Anywho, I now find myself right across the hall from the room I was in a week ago. What are the odds? And strangely enough, this whole situation leads nicely into what I was going to write about anyway, which is the thing that I alluded to in my last post.

In my last post I kind of talked about how God puts us in places and situations that we don’t really like, but turns out to be part of the plan He has for us. We may never even see the outcome of what God is doing, which is where I am in the situation with my mom. I do not understand why or what good things could possibly come from it, and I don’t really think I ever will.

It’s a terribly long story so I’ll try and spare as many details as I can. A little over two years ago, my mom fell down a flight of stairs that left her badly injured. I was at a summer camp at the time but came home to spend the next few nights on the ICU waiting room floor, where we were woken up by the janitor each morning so he could mop, all the while waiting to find out the outcome of my mom. It was all too surreal. She was in ICU for a few weeks, all of which was a blur of different doctors and hospital hallways we chose to explore in our free time to distract ourselves since the magazines weren’t enough. Eventually my mom had to have brain surgery to save her life, which meant they had to take out part of her brain. I had no idea that was even possible. Throughout this whole time we did not have any guarantee she would even survive. We were told there was a 50% chance of her surviving. The doc said she would probably never walk or talk again, but praise God she is doing both fairly well! I distinctly remember the doctor coming into the room after her surgery and saying she was a “living miracle,” just that she made it through surgery. Since that time she has had to undergo a few other things, like another surgery, for the same thing I have now. Except hers was much worse. She was still very much recovering when she got hit with a completely different illness that put her in the hospital for another week and left a month and a half of recovery time on top of her brain injury. She was already in a wheelchair and the outcome of this surgery only made things much more complicated to deal with. She has also had to put up with a life-long struggle with migraines, which literally paralyze her. But it’s not only extreme physical pain I have seen my mom endure, but also emotional. She has had intense battles with a large number of emotionally stressful things, including a painful divorce. The things I have seen my mother go through are astonishing, and from what I can tell, she is completely innocent. All I can ask is “why?” Or at least can’t it be just the migraines, or just one surgery?

I don’t tell you this to make you sad or so you’ll sympathize. There are numerous stories of bad things happening to good people. But again, the question I cannot help but ask is “why?” Why must this happen to my mom? And not just the head thing, but the surgery on top of that? The headaches? The stress? The pain and suffering? Spending so much of her life in doctors offices and hospital beds doesn’t seem fair. I hate that doctors are such a huge necessity in her life. I hate that she can’t live a normal life. I hate seeing her completely broken because she can’t perform a task that is simple to ordinary people. I hate seeing the handicap sign in the car. I even selfishly hate all the time it takes away from my life and my family’s life. But I cannot tell you how much I love my mom. Feel free to call me a momma’s boy. Truth is, I probably am. She has gotten me through many tough times myself, even literally saving my life. I can honestly say I would not be here if it wasn’t for my mother. She has always encouraged me. Despite all of her struggles and pain, she still gave herself, and still does even today. She can even still drive me up the wall with her “momness.”

So how do we see the good in things when it seems like we are surrounded with so much bad? How do still believe in a good and loving God?

That’s a loaded question, but I’ll give you the reason why I am still crazy about God.

God is sovereign. Even in the bad. We can always go to the book of Job and see that His purposes are so much greater than out own (Isaiah 55:8). I may never know the reason for my mom’s injury, but I have trust in a God who knows exactly what is going on, the God who created her, the God who sustains her, the God who separated the water from the land, the God who created the very universe, the God who spoke the earth into motion, the God who gave himself as a ransom for many, the God who creation constantly praises, the God who’s glory the heavens scream, the God who has no beginning and no end, the God who is beautiful, the God who holds everything together, the God who by his grace gives me and you each and every breath, the God who satisfies our restless hearts. I trust Him. I know he can heal my mom instantly, but trust that He will be more glorified otherwise. I know He could come back right now and destroy all the evil in the world, but He has a plan for his glorification and the redemption of His people. For these reasons I can still call His name blessed. And I will praise Him still, because He is on His throne. Even though He surraounds me will evil, He is still good. He will never cease to become worthy of my everything, whether I choose to recognize that or not.

I do believe that God uses these times so much to mold who we are. That concept is all over scripture. I can look at this situation from a practical level and already see so much good. For one, my mom is alive. She still keeps a large part of my life from being chaotic just by her being around. I learn something from this situation everyday. I still get to buy a present for Mother’s Day. I am learning to love in sickness and in health.

I could go on and on about this, so I guess this is a good stopping point. But I hope this encourages people to let God work in their lives. Let God work through your loneliness, depression, crappy job, broken family, broken hearts- whatever. It has been my experience that not trusting God leads nowhere pretty fast, even though I’ve been taught that so many times. Each time I am faced with a difficulty I run away from God. So I guess I can be taught something over and over but not really know it’s significance until it becomes such a reality.

The Least of These With the Most

I recently volunteered to lead worship for the homeless in downtown Dallas. This came about because recently I have had the desire to actually do something without anyone telling me or persuading me, or the assistance of any organized thing. The great commission simply says go. And as Christians we are told to do, to serve, and to love, especially the least of these.

I was first caught with a special burden for the homeless when I was walking in downtown Dallas from my school to Starbucks. I walked right by a homeless man sleeping on the steps of our chapel. I've seen homeless people before, but for some reason the picture of that man laying there alone and almost lifeless got to me that day. There I was with my Starbucks talking on my cell phone walking past this man who had nothing. I wondered what his life was like, who loves him, who he loves, what he does, what he cares about, and why he now finds himself sleeping on these steps in the middle of the afternoon.

Shortly after is when I discovered this opportunity at the Dallas Life Foundation. So I took it. I was a very strange experience, but a good one. I was brought way out of my comfort zone on many different levels. For one, I was alone. I don't usually sign up for stuff all by myself to go somewhere I've never been and do something I've never done. Also, I had no idea what to expect or what to do when I got there. But long story short, I was blessed to have been there. The first song I lead was "Blessed Be Your Name." I can't tell you in words how great it was to see a room full of people who had next to nothing singing so loud about the goodness of God, about suffering, and that even though God gives and takes away, He is still blessed and worthy and good. Then later about how Jesus paid their debt on the cross, and the about the vast greatness of God. At the end, there were 5-7 people who came down to see who this Jesus was, and what He did for them on the cross. And to talk and interact with these people was great. I wish I could have done it more. They were some of the best encouragers I've met and they probably don't even know it. Bottom line is, God works when we are obedient. Although it was hard and awkward at times, I was thankful to have had that kind of experience. Hopefully it will happen again.

Myriads of Inspiration

I happen to be a big fan of art. Anything that can communicate something with the use of some kind of visual representative or arrangement I consider to be very cool. The use of words, whether in a poem that creatively arranges words in order to communicate something greater, or an underlying theme, or just an array of words that provoke thoughts or feelings or anything. A picture that actually "says" words or symbolizes a story, feeling or emotion. Music that creates atmospheres of all sorts. I absolutely love creativity. And I admire anyone who can create these types of things, whether a painter or photographer or musician or actor.

Of all the categories of art, I suppose I would consider my self in
the music category. But I don't consider myself to be much of an "artist" yet, meaning I do not write tons of songs or anything, although I am working on it. Sometimes I feel as if I have no inspiration. A lot of people write songs about significant others, of which I have no material for yet, or love, or even political stuff. But at the same time I have more inspiration than I could ever need. Being a worship leader, not only am I crazy passionate about music, but I am also passionate about God. When those things come together, it's my favorite. If you have read some of my older blogs, you know I crave creativity in the arena of worship, specifically music. Music by itself communicates and connects with us greatly, and also words by themselves communicate and connect, and when they come together to communicate the same idea, it's the coolest thing ever.

I have been reading through a book called Vintage Jesus. In part of the book, Mark Driscoll talks about Jesus' influence on the world of art. It's interesting to see how Jesus was an inspiration to some of histories greatest artists:

With the Bible teaching that God is both Creator and creative and that
God created us to be creative like him, it is not surprising to see the great
connection between Jesus and many of the greatest artists in the history
of the world.
In architecture, cathedrals are widely appreciated as some of the
most inspiring places on the earth. In the world of music, the works of
Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, along with the many great hymns of the faith,
all flowed out of the fount of inspiration from Jesus. In art, Christians
such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci remain the standard
by which all others are measured. In literature, Dante, Chaucer,
Shakespeare, Donne, Dostoevsky, Bunyan, Milton, Dickens, Tolstoy,
Eliot, Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers, and Solzhenitsyn all wrote out of their
faith and were greatly influenced by Christianity.

I remember leading worship in a very old church in a downtown area of a small town in Missouri. The church was pretty big, and the inside had high ceilings and stain glass everywhere. It was only me and my guitar, and it was one of the most memorable worship times I can think of. I remember at one moment a man closer to the back of the sanctuary was laying face down in the middle of the isle. That in itself is something you see in worship services today. At the back of the church was a big round stain glass window and the light came through almost perfectly on the man in the isle. It was a very cool picture. It's crazy how even the architecture of a building can have such a huge role in worship. Churches and cathedrals back in the day were designed like they were on purpose. Usually they would have pillars in the middle so that they could put more windows around the church, full of stain glass that often portrayed pictures of God's grace or redemption. As light shined through, it was a symbol of God coming down to meet them in that place, since God is light (1 John1:5). And they would often had high pointy roofs and such to symbolize humans reaching up to God, and also God's transcendence.

How awesome is it when so many things come together for one
purpose and create a myriad of inspiration that points to the glory of God and enhances our worship.

It encompasses so many senses and emotions. I hope to one day create some type of atmosphere in our culture today that would have the same effect. And I hope to one day be able to create art that is inspired by the thing I love most, much like the great artists of the past who were so greatly influenced by Jesus. But I can't do it by my own means.

-thanks for reading

Jesus Is My Friend

Christian culture is just...interesting sometimes. But this has to be my favorite song at the moment. Definitely going to work this one up soon. I think the last verse is where it really hits home. You have to give it to them though. At least they are original. The electric guitar player is definitely into it. I could use a guy like that on my team. Enjoy.

This is also interesting...

Bird Calls and Missions

So I was outside just a bit ago and a bird whistled at me. I know what you're thinking. And yes. I'm serious. But it wasn't just any whistle. It was the "you're hot" whistle. The whistle you make when a pretty girl walks by that goes up then down. Yeah. It was strange. It was a perfect "you're hot" whistle. From a bird. I mean, it's not unusual for birds to chirp. You hear that everyday. But this bird whistled at me. Not a chirp. There's a distinction there. Then it looked at me and flew off. It was such a tease. I got the whistle which captured my attention, then the fly-away. As if it was saying "yeah, I notice you there. But you can't hang with this." It's a sad day when even birds play with me as if I were a big yo-yo of emotions. But now that I got that off my chest we can talk.

"Missions exist because worship doesn't."
-John Piper

Now if you're like may take a second for that to sink into your brain. What does that mean? Well according to Piper, worship is the primary reason missions takes place. What I mean by that is that we live missional lives and share the gospel so that the people we share with will in turn live lives of worship.

Worship in a simple definition would be response. We live a life of worship by responding to who God is and what He has done for us. We respond by loving our neighbors and denying ourselves for the sake of the gospel. We respond by building relationships with non-believers and being Jesus to them. By genuinely loving them. Maybe buy them lunch. We go to work and work diligently. We spend time in prayer and meditation with our Creator. We sing. We invest in lives. We learn. We do everything we do in an attitude of response of who God is. Everything.

The most important thought you will ever think is what you think about God because it will determine every aspect of your life.

So why does missions exist? So that others may hear the gospel and in turn respond with a life of worship. So wherever worship doesn't exist, there lies the need for missions. It's bigger than giving somebody a trac and then walking away. It's training them to live a life of worship. That's what missions is. It's learning God's heart for the nations, so that they not just hear the gospel, they worship Him. It's making disciples. We are the one's who are called. By "we" I mean those who are called Christians. Those who claim to follow Christ. Not the ones who are "called," as if there is only a select group of people that are supposed to go. We are all told to go and make disciples in the Great Commission. And we are all called to lay down our lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel. We are all called to worship and make worshipers. At some point we need to get off of our comfortable pews and leave our great music behind and worship.

-thanks for reading

Entertaining Intimacy

I love watching TV. It’s relaxing. It requires no effort of my own, except pushing the buttons on the remote. And it's entertaining. It puts me into another world, whether it be a world of 5 friends living in New York, or a world of thousands of football fans. It’s as if you are there.

I often think we underestimate the power of television. I know I do. It has the power to take us away from our element, our world, our worries. It takes us away from community and lets us get by without thinking. It's fast paced, because that is what it takes to keep our attention. We live in a culture where anything is available to us in an instant, and where we can be entertained with the push of a button, and can get by in our day with very little human interaction. It’s a culture that often desensitizes the world around us. It doesn't challenge us, rather, tells us to go the easier way. It weakens our brain muscles rather than strengthen them by deep thinking and interaction. It’s no wonder people don't like church. It makes you think. It challenges you. To think about the vast greatness of God requires some critical thinking and reasoning that just isn't "useful" now days. We have the internet to do that for us. People can't process these things. They want a quick sermon full of humor and skits, something that requires a small attention span...something that looks like TV. People judge a church service they same way they would a TV show. Think about it. They want to feel like there was interaction, but subconsciously it was very passive interaction. Nothing stuck, because nothing was thought about. They don't expect to be challenged and walk away changed. No wonder there is a decline of youth getting involved in playing an instrument or engaging in social clubs. They can do all that on aim, myspace or facebook. This is now the way many people find their social intimacy, whether they realize it or front of a computer screen or TV. And this culture is what many churches use to make God appealing to the unchurched.

I recently had a close friend come to visit from out of town. It was great. There is nothing I enjoy more than the fellowship of my close friends. It’s often where I am challenged and where I learn and where I gain experience and wisdom and accountability. While my friend was here, we spent most of our time out doing stuff, whether it be going to the lake to try and fish, or walking around the mall. Very little of our time was spent in front of a TV. It was spent conversing and simply hanging out. I value those times with my friends. The times I have a chance to get to know them better. I would much rather sit at Starbucks over a cup of coffee with a friend for two hours rather than go to the movies (not that I don't enjoy going to the movies). The reason for this is the quality time I get to spend with that person, and maybe get into a conversation where we have to think and dialog. It’s rich and refreshing. And I walk away closer to that person.

There is a derealization occurring in our culture. Where we can get away from the realities of our world with ease. Where we can go to church and not have to think too much or actually change the way we live. We are used to 30 minute sitcoms where we can be entertained then walk away and forget about it. But then we do the same for a 30 minute sermon on the doctrine of God. We can sit through a worship service and not engage in it. The church uses lights and cameras and big screens with cool videos. This portrays that the reason they do these things is so that we can feel good about church. The reality is that it feels like everything else, entertaining and disconnected.

There is something that the postmodern church is on to. Often in a postmodern church, you will find a passion for community and a passion for the people around them. A genuine care for others. They seek an intimacy with others that's beyond sexual intimacy, which is where the world tries to find intimacy. No wonder casual sex is widely accepted. People long for some kind of deeper intimacy with the people around them. They go straight to sexual intimacy because that is all they know of what true intimacy is. It’s as if sex is just an excuse to look deeply in another human being’s eyes. They skip to sexual intimacy because their skills of real intimacy have been compromised. As I said earlier, they find social "intimacy" on myspace or facebook. So when enticed with sexual intimacy, they are quick to give into the lie because their skills of real intimacy are never practiced. The reason is because their social engagements are found on the internet rather than face to face interaction. So they fast forward to physical intimacy to become "closer" to the other person because they are ignorant of what intimacy with others really is.

The more time we spend in our sects of communities with superficial associations outside of the people we care about, the more we lose touch with the real world around us and start losing our skills of intimacy with others.

What does all this mean for how we worship?
Should we attract the unhurched people around us by this culture of quickness and entertainment and shallowness? Or should we explore the depth of who God really is, of what community and intimacy really is? The former may reach more people thus bringing record numbers to worship, but the latter will actually change people without regard to numbers, or how attractive worship is.

It is not that these things (technology: video, lights, cameras, etc.) are wrong in and of themselves. The issue is that we need to ask better questions about their impact on us as a society which leads to better decisions about how we use them.

Here is an interesting article I found that has a celebrities view on the media now days, what what drives our culture...

Gadgets and Gadflies

Broadcasters' conference showcases cutting edge technology, as well as cutting words from keynote speaker Tim Robbins


In 1961 FCC commissioner Newton Minnow described television as a "vast wasteland" of game shows, gangsters, formula comedies and commercials. Forty-six years later, actor Tim Robbins thinks little has changed.

As the keynote speaker at the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas, the actor and activist decried today's news and entertainment content as driven by a "pornographic obsession with celebrity culture."

Actor Tim Robbins delivered a controversial keynote at this year's NAB conference.

"We love distraction," he said, reading from a speech the organizers reportedly tried to talk him out of giving. "I don't know about you, but show me a starlet without panties getting out of a car, and suddenly the world seems like a better place. Show me 'Knight Rider' drunk on the floor eating a hamburger, and I won't ask why my kid has no health insurance. Let's stop burdening people with facts."

A few people walked out, but Robbins finished to a standing ovation. And regardless of opinions, he did succeed in raising a powerful question, made more poignant by the acres of gadgets on the exhibit floor: Why, in an era of mind blowing media technological advances, does good content sometimes seem to lag so far behind?

Suffering Worship

Suffering and worship. Not really seen a whole lot in the same sentence. After all, isn’t that what the Christian life is all about?

Matthew 22:37-40 is a popular passage. This is where Jesus sums up the “Law and the Prophets.” And here’s what he says: “’you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love you neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

So ultimately, the Christian life is not about us being loved, but us being the lovers. It is a denial of ourselves in order to give the love we would have for ourselves to our neighbors.

So here’s where the suffering part comes in. To deny ourselves and give to others is a form of suffering. It is going without. Not seeking ways to get help, but seeking ways to help others. Or as Richard Nixon would say, not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Not how Christ can serve you, but how you can serve Christ. A denial of our desires in order to feed the desires of others in love. So this might require some inconvenience on our part. Sweet.

So when we love our neighbor, we are suffering for them, and ultimately for Christ. We are denying ourselves.

So then what do our lives look like when lived like this?

Jesus lays it out some more in Luke 9:22-23…

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day….if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

So there’s the denying thing again. Christ gives us a pattern here. Deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow. This is a good thing. Here is our life of suffering, just a Christ did. The Son of Man must “suffer.” He must be rejected, killed and raised. And if we are to follow him, we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him.

So this is interesting. The cross is about suffering. And so are our lives.

How does this show up in worship? Well I’m not really sure. When we mention the cross in worship songs, it is usually what the cross did for us. It brought us salvation. Which is very true, and should be celebrated. But Christ died ultimately for the glory of God, not for our glory. But through it we receive salvation, which also ultimately glorifies God. I just wonder if there could be a worship song written that focuses on suffering. I think maybe songs like “Blessed Be Your Name” and ”It Is Well” actually touch on it a little. I love those songs. But even in those, when it comes to the part about the cross, it is about what it did for us. It is the most powerful verse in the song. As it should be. I love that part, and I’m not trying to downplay that at all.

I think it would be cool to sing a song about suffering. About denying ourselves. About the cross of suffering, not just the cross of salvation. It would certainly be a challenge to write one. And it would certainly surprise me if it became the most popular worship song on the market.

This could pose some other questions as well. For example, if we are loving our neighbors, how might that look like in a church that doesn’t play our “style” or worship music? Just a thought there. Feel free to think about it for yourselves.

-thanks for reading

The "Raw Response" To Theology

class="p1">i wonder what would happen if i came up to you and started rubbing your head, scratching behind your ears and rubbing your belly all while telling you what a good girl/boy you are. then threw a stick and tell you to go get it. would you think i was weird? i mean, unless you're into that kind of thing, i'm gonna guess you might be a little uncomfortable. then i would turn to your dog, toby, and strike up a conversation about the up coming presidential election and his opinion on the best candidate, and then discuss neurophysiology and the new developments on stem cell research and nuclear energy. probably not the best way to interact with my surroundings. but thank goodness, i know what a dog is, what they do and how to respond to them, and i also know how i would interact and respond to a human being. i respond differently to different things because i know better, and i have a knowledge about those things.

so given that random illustration, how should we respond to God? do we have to know God, and know about God, who He is and what He has done to respond to Him accordingly? I'll let you decide that, but i think absolutely!

so this is where theology must come into play. "theo"- God, "ology,"- the study of. put that together and you have the study of God. so in my own words, my general definition of theology is the study of God and who He is, His characteristics and attributes, for the purpose of knowing Him, about Him, and what He has done. and there is a lot to know about an infinite being.

now how might this come to play in worship? i'm glad you asked.

if you have read any previous blogs of mine, especially "Raw Response," or talked to me about this subject, you know the word i often fall back on with regards to worship is "response." worship is your response to God, to who He is and what He has done, and this response goes far beyond music, as a lot of us are trained to go to music at the thought of that word. but life life should come to mind. It is the response to God in your everyday life by the giving of your whole life because of who He is and what He has done. so how can you do that without theology? good question. we cannot accurately and truthfully respond to something with out a knowledge of it that is grounded in truth. so now we know that there is a crucial and ongoing relationship between theology and worship.

but how does it work? is the relationship between theology and worship a two way street or one way? and if one way, which way? in other words, does theology teach worship or does worship teach theology? i tend to think it goes both ways. how can you expect to have a good worship experience with out any kind of theological foundation? and how can worship be grounded in truth without teaching truth about God, for instance, in the lyrics of a worship song? so what i'm saying is that these two things go hand in hand. i think it is tragic when i go to a worship service and everything is driven by our emotions. sure, it feels like something good happened, and perhaps it did. emotions are there for a reason. but it's easy to get distracted by us rather than who God is.

i have a hard time sometimes when i lead worship and there is that person who is just sitting there, starring. my first inclination used to be that they are just "not into it." what does that mean anyway? and how the heck do i know what's going on with them? it wasn't long until i found myself sitting in a worship service. a great one. everyone around me was singing their hearts out and totally in tune to what was going on, why they were singing their hearts out, because of Christ and the words being sung in response to Christ. and there i was, just sitting and starring. i probably looked like i was having a horrible time or something. but i can say in confidence that i was engaged in worship. i may not have been singing like everyone else, but i was listening to the words being sung, meditating on them, because they were teaching me new things about God, a new view of looking at God perhaps, and therefore i had this new knowledge. a whole other reason to worship God because He alone is worthy. therefore, worship also teaches theology. but that brings a whole new responsibility to the worship leader.  he needs to be a theologian himself in order to write songs or sing songs to a congregation that are in accordance to who God is so that they can know what and why they are singing. now i do realize that throughout this discussion there are a ton of trails that we could go down and a tone of unanswered questions that could have been asked. there could be a very large book in the theology of worship and vise versa.

if you haven't read my last blog, "for an open door," i would suggest reading it so that this next part makes sense, along with revelation 4-5.

this is from a book i am reading right now by Richard Bauckham. it was cool because he stared talking about Revelation 4-5, and then made a staetment that totally got my attention. i just read this about an hour ago so i had no intention of writing this blog when i wrote the last one. i'll just put up the whole paragraph to put it in perspective. and it's good anyways. here he is talking about the book or Revelation, specifically chapters 4-5.

"Like most apocalyptic visions of the divine throne, John does not dwell on the visible form of the One who sits on the throne. All that is said of God's appearance is that it was like precious stones (4:3): this was one of the traditional ways of evoking the splendour of a heavenly figure. The unknowable transcendence of God is protected by instead focusing on the throne itself and what goes on around it. It is in these features of the vision that what can be known of God is expressed. Especially prominent is the continuous worship by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. It is a scene of worship into which the reader who share's John's faith in God is almost inevitably drawn. We are thereby reminded that true knowledge of who God is is inseparable from worship of God. The song of the four living creatures and the hymn of the twenty-four elders express the two most primary forms of awareness of God: the awed perception of his numinous holiness (4:8; cf. Isa 6:3), and the consciousness of utter dependence on God for existence itself that is the nature of all created things (4:11). These most elemental forms of perception of God not only require expression in worship: they cannot be truly experienced except as worship."

so theology teaches worship so that we can accurately respond to God, and good worship also teaches theology. in a perfect world anyway. thoughts?

-thanks for reading

Raw Response

what if you didn't care about anything during a worship service? imagine you're at church or wherever, and it's that time. the bands gets on stage, lights go dim. but take away the people around you, the band, lights, and put just you there, and your realization of who God is. would you worship differently? would your response to God be more real? more raw? that's for you to decide, but sometimes i wonder if people, including myself, would be different in a setting where nothing else mattered.

we have this image in our heads of what worship is. it's good music with words that provoke thoughts about God. or a time to meditate. and that's a good thing. prayer, music, meditation, scripture- all great things during a worship service.

but if worship is our raw response to God, the possibilities are endless.

but first, in order to respond to something, we must know what it is. so responding to God could be a number of different things. overall, it's a lifestyle. maybe your response for God's heart for the world is to go on a mission trip and share Christ's love with people who have not experienced it yet. or it could be the way you treat people. the way you spend your money. why you have the morals and values you have. maybe it's your daily time with God. during the worship service. the way you do your job to your best ability. these are all just practical ways we respond to God with the way we live. the list could go on and on, big things and small things. i'm just wondering if we've found that response, specifically in a corporate setting. i wonder if we could respond to God without any music. that would be interesting. possible? i really think so. effective? not sure. i'm not sure because of what we are trained to do. we are trained to sing, close our eyes maybe. i would love to see people literally floored because that is all they can do in light of who they are and who God is. that is their physical response at that given moment. or clapping, dancing...whatever. these actions are mostly associated with the charismatic mindset, but you can't argue that it's not a biblical response. david dance in a stinking leotard for crying out loud. that's intense. i'm not recommending that, especially if you're not in shape, but just think about it. and the book of psalms talks about clapping, the use of instruments, shouting for joy. what kind of joy could provoke actions like that? what kind of power can floor us? what kind of friendship could be so intimate? what kind of love would die to save a sinner?

i always think about people in africa or china. different cultures of the world who have completely different worship styles. it's an amazing thing to see people who have nothing, but are full of so much joy and in love with God, worship. because they don't care. it's great. it doesn't matter what they sound like, they sing loud. they clap. bang on random objects. dance. raise their hands. get on their face. it's their response. and it's genuine. it's not a show. i love that.

i feel like sometimes we put God in a box and create a setting that only allows certain responses. to respond with all you are means to worship with all you are, whether that means living your life to the fullest for God's glory, loving people, working, or a 30 minute worship service. i'm not really saying we should go out and act all crazy or something, just that our response to God should be real and true. whatever that response might look like. just something to think about.