“Dumb” Worship?

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I was recently at a conference and attended a workshop about worship. The conference began with what some would call “contemporary” worship. I quote the word contemporary because everyone has a different definition for what that really means. The workshop was well done and the content was solid. At the end, there was a time of Q and A. Some people questioned the church for reading scripture on the screen instead of passing out Bibles. Another person quite dramatically went to the front of the room and took the microphone to get their “two cents” in. He began to criticize churches who have a “contemporary” style and began to say that every church that he’s ever been in that had “contemporary” music, the congregation didn’t sing or would only mouth the words. I immediately thought to myself, “obviously this guy has never been to my church.” He further stated that by not giving the congregation printed music, we were “dumbing down” worship.

That comment took me a second to digest. How do you dumb down worship? What does that even mean? Does worship have to be intelligent in order for God to receive it? Can we be so arrogant to think that anything that we offer is intelligent when we compare ourselves to the infinite knowledge of our Creator?

It was obvious that this person had an opinion on “Contemporary” worship and it wasn’t necessarily a good one. I was kind of sad that this person felt like there was only one good way to connect with God. That he somehow believed that our God of infinite possibilities would somehow limit acceptable worship to one style even though God Himself created all styles. As I reflect on the coming Holy Week, I am reminded that Jesus is the way. Not music. Not a style. Not an order of worship. Not even the Bible.

We have been in the middle of the “Worship Wars” for years as each coming generation finds a new and seemingly controversial way to express their love for God. When did worship become the things we did and not the posture of our hearts? Why is it OK to sing How Great Thou Art now with an organ or piano but 40-50 years ago (i could be off….I wasn’t around then), it wasn’t? Why is it even OK to sing How Great Thou Art when it wasn’t written until 1953? How did people worship before 1953!? The same goes for every other expression/ song of worship.

I don’t think that Traditional worship is “dumb.” I don’t think that any version of “contemporary” worship is “dumb.” I don’t think that 1st century middle eastern worship is “dumb”. I don’t believe in “dumb” worship or “dumb” worshipers. I believe in worship from the heart whether it’s singing How Great Thou Art or How Great is Our God or any other song that fixes your eyes on the glory of Jesus Christ. Let’s stop the name calling and finger pointing over worship style. For every finger pointing out, there are likely more pointing back. 

 

For Him,

Brian

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Worship- the concert experience

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Recently somebody made a comment after worship that they felt like they were at a concert. Immediately my soul was crushed and I began to panic as I tried to reflect and figure out what I did wrong to make someone feel like they were at a concert and not at worship. I don’t remember jumping off of my guitar amp and dancing around as the spotlights follow me around the stage. I don’t even remember the lights doing anything to stick out and draw attention to themselves. I don’t remember talking about myself….. but I do remember talking about Jesus and what He has done for us through His crucifixion. So what made it feel like a concert? Is that a bad thing? I believe the answer is Yes AND No. Please read the entire blog before passing judgement on me 🙂 .

The person in this particular instance was excited when they made this comment. They were on fire from worship. They didn’t want it to end! I don’t think that’s bad. They were relating the excellence of our entire worship service to that of a professional concert. Make no mistake about it, our focus is on Jesus. The world sees church worship as boring, awkward, fake, etc, etc. They picture us sitting around holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” with smiles on our faces as we sway back and forth together worshiping an entity that they believe is not involved in our world or doesn’t exist at all. It doesn’t have to be that way. When someone goes to a secular concert of any music genre, they expect excellence since they probably paid money for their ticket. When they leave a concert they want to be able to tell their friends, ” Yeah, ####### put’s on a really good show! I would definitely go back to see them!” or “I had such a great time at the concert last night!” When a person leaves a concert they almost feel a certain connection with the performers having seen them live and spent a few hours in their presence. You share an energy with the performers that you don’t get when you listen to a CD or Mp3. What can we do to make people feel an even greater sense connection with Jesus when they leave worship? Maybe some already do. Maybe some don’t. How do we make worship as excellent as a concert but still maintain the reverence for God that He is due?

This is not always easy to achieve. It begins with YOUR heart. The purpose of a concert is to entertain. You go expecting to GET something in return for purchasing a ticket. The purpose of worship is to GIVE. We GIVE our attention to Jesus and we edify (build up) our fellow believers. That doesn’t mean that worship should be mediocre because we didn’t charge a fee at the door or because our musicians on the worship team don’t make millions of dollars! In fact, the opposite is true. Worship should be excellent because Jesus is worthy of our best efforts! Worship should be better than any concert you can go attend. Millions of fans scream their heads off when their favorite performer takes the stage. They jump up and down and their heart rate goes up and they sing so loud that they can’t talk for the next 3 days. Some of us prefer Metallica and others prefer the Gaither’s. Our reactions to what we love are the same even if they are expressed differently.

When have we EVER been THAT excited about Jesus?

Jesus is the real “Rock Star.”

It’s OK to get excited about your favorite performers and it’s OK to attend concerts. It’s NOT OK when we elevate those people above Jesus. A “Rock Star” performer is on stage saying, “Look at me!” In worship, we should be saying, “Look at Jesus.”

I’m still very cautious when designing a worship experience that keeps Jesus in the center of all things. I don’t want to draw any attention to myself. That’s not my job as a lead worshiper. My job is to point people to Jesus but if we can make worship a place that highlights Jesus as the “Rock Star” of our lives and we can do that in a tasteful and excellent way…..I’m OK with it feeling like a concert if people associate concerts with excellence.

Consider what you are GIVING this week as you worship.

As always, I would love to hear what YOU think about worship feeling like a concert. It’s a touchy subject and there is a line that is easily and probably often crossed in some churches when they take the “concert” experience too far. What do you think?

For Him,

Brian

The Problem With Worship

Problem with worshipEvery week millions of people attend a faith gathering of some kind. We get up early, get ourselves and our families together and try to get to our church on time for worship. Usually, it’s a day like any other day. Just another part of our weekly routine. That’s the problem. For most, it’s just another part of our routine. We tell ourselves,

“It’s Sunday, (or whatever day your church gathers) it’s time to go to worship.”

That doesn’t sound bad right?! What’s wrong with going to worship? The problem is that word…..”worship”.  Are you thinking of “worship” as a noun or a verb? Is “worship” the place you go or is it what you DO at that place?

I’ve heard it a billion times, “I’m not being fed.” ” I didn’t get anything out of worship today.” “That just didn’t do anything for me.”

That’s what you say when worship is just a place you go. A place you go expecting to get something in return for your presence. What if we thought of it differently? What if instead of “the place you go expecting something for your presence” you went to a place expecting the presence? The presence of God’s spirit flowing throughout the room. Now we are not going to worship, we are going TO worship. Do you hear the difference?

It’s not entirely your fault if you’ve thought of worship as a noun. That’s the state of our hyper-consumer culture. We pay for entertainment and good food. We pay for a good time. It’s hard to shut that mentality off when you walk into a space that is intended for you to give instead of receive. When you see a band on stage and the music isn’t up to par, you feel like you’ve been let down. When the message doesn’t make you cry or feel some sort of extreme emotion, you feel like you weren’t fed. In reality, the music and the message are not meant to make you “feel” a certain way, it’s intended to call your attention to the purpose of our gathering…..Jesus. When your attention is focused on Him, we learn how He wants us to live our lives and learn about His unwavering love for us.

Worship is a place you go expecting to GIVE, not receive. What are you giving in worship? Do you come to worship expecting to see Jesus or do you just expect Jesus to see you?

It shouldn’t be the music or the message that brings you to your knees. It should be the recognition of who Jesus is and what He has done for you in love.

Our mission statement as a worship team at Wesley Chapel is “To lead people into a passionate encounter with Christ.”

It’s not, “to play the most popular music” or ” to impress people with our incredible gifts.” or even “make the congregation feel good.”

We seek, as a team, to worship in such a way that causes people to forget that we are on stage and to see Jesus.

When your church gathers this week, don’t just go to worship…..go TO worship.

Let me know what you think about worship by replying in the comments section. Peace!

Encouragement for Leaders

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Good leaders are not scared…..

Good leaders always know what to do at the right time and never make mistakes…..

Good leaders always have a vision for what’s next……

Good leaders are trendy….

Right?!

No way!

In fact,  the exact opposite is true.

The Bible is full of leaders that made mistakes, showed points of fear in their lives, and went through times when they prayed that God would give them vision and direction. I included #4 because I’ve heard  many people feel they have to dress a certain way to be effective or successful. A friend of mine addressed this with Doug Fields (Youth Director at Saddleback Church and author of Purpose Driven Youth Ministry) and Doug’s response indicated that the most effective ministers he knew where middle-aged, over weight, and wore polo shirts. Go figure!

You’ve probably heard this before……”God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” Yeah you are shaking your head right now…….aren’t you :).

It’s true though. Most of the leaders in The Bible didn’t ask to be a leader or grow up hoping to be a leader. They were handed, or called to,  a responsibility and tried to do what God asked them to do. You really can’t expect more out of leader than that. Do what God tells you to do.

Personally, I have almost everything going against me and my successful leadership except one thing and it’s the one thing that matters more than any other thing……..God.

I didn’t grow up in the church. I’ve never been asked to lead a large group of people. I started two degrees and only finished half of each (wish I could combine them). I don’t dress trendy, I get scared, I’ve gone through periods when I didn’t have vision but I can’t deny the calling that God has placed on my life. I can’t begin to tell you all of the things that God has worked out to pave the way for me to do His will (Romans 8:28).  All I can do is remain faithful to Him and go where he sends me. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what your skills are. God has a purpose for you. Maybe He isn’t calling you to plant a church outside of town and grow it into a mega church but He IS calling you to do something.

Leaders have weaknesses because we are human. Leaders MUST rely on God. We don’t have to fear because God can do anything but the fact is, we will fear…..in our weakness. The cool thing is that God makes us stronger and we will fear less the more we walk with him. Our weakness brings us closer to God because our weakness forces us to rely on God.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

 

Leaders- the point here is this. If you have fear, don’t dress a certain way, go through times without clear vision, or make a mistake……it doesn’t make you a bad leader. It makes you an honest human. A bad leader ignores God’s direction.  Don’t beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes and allow your weaknesses to draw you closer to God. That’s how you turn a weakness into a strength.

Now get back out there and change the world…….if God tells you to 🙂

 

For Him,

Brian

 

 

Dare to be Different

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If you want to be unique, just do what everyone else is doing.

I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous but when you think about it, how many people/churches have you come across that, in their pursuit of “uniqueness” have just ended up looking like all of the other “Unique” people/churches?

My struggle, in a creative environment such as worship ministry, is that when I see something cool that someone else is doing, I don’t just celebrate the fact that God gave them a different set of skills/talents/people, I feel like I have to replicate it myself. This is not how God designed us to behave with the gifts and talents He gave us.He gave us all different gifts and different passions so that we can express our true hearts to Him in our own way.

John 4:23

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

See? It’s not about what Hillsong or Jesus Culture is doing right now. Worship is about the state of your heart in response to God. We can draw inspiration from other creatives but we don’t have to be confined to THEIR creative environment. Free yourself and your mind to express yourself to God in your own way.

Worshiper- You are unique. God made you unique. Express yourself.

 

For Him,

Brian

Worship Leader Vs. Lead Worshipper

I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve been called a Worship Leader. Not that it’s an insult to be called a Worship Leader, I just don’t think that that title fits my purpose. I know, now your asking yourself how in the world does being a Worship Leader fit my purpose? Allow me to explain.

Being a Worship Leader implies that my responsibility is to lead other people in worship. Nothing really wrong there right?! But that’s not my entire role. If I’m so focused on “leading” worship I’m constantly thinking about the congregation and making sure that they are following and that I’m leading in such a way that they can follow. Don’t get me wrong, that is definitely part of the job description but I hunk there is more to it than that.

What if my primary purpose was to worship God myself and do it in such a way that brings people along the journey that I’m on? Now I’m a Lead Worshipper. I’m not exalted above the congregation. Being a Lead Worshipper implies that I am one of them, on the same plane with the same purpose.

Game changer.

As a Worship Leader, I’m thinking about what the band is playing and what the AV team is doing in the back. I’m thinking about how/ if the congregation is responding to what is happening. As a Lead Worshipper, I’m just thinking about God. The real art in being a good Lead Worshipper is being able to focus completely on God while doing it in such a way that draws the congregation closer to God with you.

I won’t be angry or upset when I’m called a Worship Leader because every time I hear it, it reminds me of my real purpose.

If you participate in any capacity of a worship experience, I believe that you are a Lead Worshipper. How do you view your role?

For Him,
Brian

Close to Cross, Far From Jesus

crossThroughout history, the cross has been a symbol of torture and pain. Now, the cross is a symbol of redemption and a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice.  I was reading through Matthew this morning and read the crucifixion story.  I thought about the soldiers who mocked, beat, and ultimately killed Jesus. How could they be so close to Jesus physically but be so far away in their hearts?  How could they deny who Jesus was? Jesus did so much for so many. He did nothing for His own benefit. He taught and healed. He showed God to people in a new way.

Close to the Cross, Far From Jesus- The soldiers were physically there at the cross when they crucified Jesus but their hearts were far from Him.

 

Do you ever feel that way? Maybe not to the extent of killing Jesus but do you ever feel like you’re there in the flesh but not in your heart? Are you going to church but not feeling any different when you leave? Are you just going through the motions? Take a moment today to open your eyes and see the miracle of God’s redemptive plan. As He was dying on the cross, Jesus forgave those that were persecuting Him. If He can forgive them, He can and will forgive you. God loves you. No matter how far away you feel from Him, He is always right beside you. You can leave God but He won’t ever leave you.

You are redeemed….

 

For Him,

Brian

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