Seeking a sign: Is our modern worship an idolatry of experience?

We all need signs. Where am I? I love the arrows on maps that tell me exactly where I am and the context. Real life scares us because rarely are signs this clear. When it comes to faith, signs were sought by many of our Bible heroes. Whether I am praying and leaving out the fleece at night or putting my fingers into the holes in the hands of Christ, it is all the same. I need to see. Those that truly saw God like Isaiah wreathed in the fetal position. Honestly, I may ask for a sign, but may not want the real deal. If God truly shows up, it seems I might have to change as anyone is “undone” in his presence. This is the reason why Christ came as a baby. God knows we just can’t handle it. 

Has Christmas Become a War on Advent?

There has been a lot of dialog in the Evangelical world in recent years about a war on Christmas. The cry was to say “Merry Christmas” in defiance to something like “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” Regardless of the words we use, the war on Christmas is fed from law suits to remove civic-sponsored Nativity Scenes and school prohibitions about mentioning the Jesus of Christmas. However problematic the external forces of our society press against a Christ-centered Christmas it may be our in-house disregard of Advent that sets us back. Could our fight for Christmas be a fight against Advent?

Worship Leaders: Musicians are more than fillers for your multitrack loop!

There are just so many amazing technology advances today to aid the average church musician. You can get the original multitrack stems from the best recordings of modern worship music and do everything from rehearse with them, sweeten a live set with them, or fill an empty band spot with them. I applaud all of these and actually currently employ them in worship settings. However, how we lead our modern worship musician requires us to ask a couple questions. Are we dumbing-down our ability to lead by relying too much on tech and not enough on musical skill? Are we using musicians to fill a slot in a machine rather than inspiring them to create?

Worship Team Administration 101: 5 tips to solve the details dilemma

No matter the size of your church or worship team, you will have administrative tasks that require diligence. In my book, The Six Hats of the Worship Leader, I make the argument that the job of being a worship leader is beyond being in front of people as you lead them in music. You all know this. However, how do you deal with the details and still remain an artist? This where the hat of the administrator must either be worn, shared, or given away. It is the task who requires hidden work, yet visible results. Imagine if no one shows up for rehearsal. No one gets the calls or emails you make, but the consequences are obvious to all.

The biggest advice here is that administration is all about priorities. One does not get more organized by having a clean desk. We are successful when the right things are performed at the right time. Here are 5 tips to help you solve the dilemma of details for the worship leader.

Five Tips for Massively Productive Worship Rehearsals!

Yes, you know you hate to love these top-five or top-ten lists. One fact I state clearly before I teach leaders and worship leaders is that I have made many mistakes over many years of leading music and worship. The list I below comes from such real-world experience. I know the ideas may not be news to many of you. But, having the basics articulated for both yourself as the leader and your team greatly improves your game. Also, teams need to have unity. Unity must be intentional, not randomly executed. 

Here are five simple tips will massively produce better results if attended and followed. Why am I so sure? Well, did you not read in the above paragraphs about my many mess-ups? My pain is your gain!

Influence versus Popularity: What drives you as a leader?

In ministry leadership at times you must make a clear choice. Will I be influential or will I be popular? When both are possible–which is a rare occasion of fortune–you have a windfall of capital to leverage. However, popularity and the power that comes from it is acquired by the minutia of the direction of the wind, and is as fickle as the latest fad. Influence, on the other hand, is based on time and the reputation that results. To maintain popularity requires a crisis management at every threat. To maintain influence simply means you keep a steady hand.

Church Announcements: Tell a story, invite people into it!

As a church communications director, I have learned over the years that people respond to stories better than information. As a speaker, I know this is true. In fact, the Bible is almost three-fourths narrative. Jesus used stories as his teaching, almost exclusively. Why is it then that we look at announcements as just announcements? My proposition is that announcements are invitations to join in the larger story of God’s work in our church and the world. Are we thinking too small of our announcements in worship?

A Church Worker’s Easter Hangover Story: God Sees You!

There are times when we can feel invisible. People pass us by and we are but furniture–our words ambient noise masked by the busy cacophony of our own industry. In my work, I have produced, led, and created experiences for crowds of thousands. I have done this since I was young. Being in front of people would rattle me, but that feeling wore off long ago. The grandeur of even a well-produced church Easter celebration where people are in wonder can be deafened by the inoculation of years of such effort. It is not cynicism where belief sours. It is being lost. It is feeling unseen.

Alone In The Crowd: A leader’s curse or blessing?

Am I the only one? Sometimes a crowd will be moved magically by a phrase in a speech, a hook in a song, and the vibe in the room which all may work to enraptures the majority. I’m perhaps alone at times. I see other things that might not be quite as flattering.There are several reasons for this, perhaps. When you have been a speaker, a worship leader, and one who produces events on a regular basis, the magic of losing yourself in the crowd wanes. The behind-the-scenes life dodges hazards and dulls the senses. Or, does it? Some of us simply live as observants to a different layer of activity. Leaders see things others may not.

Five Critical Tips for Modern Worship Keyboardists

I get asked a lot about keyboards in modern worship, as I have played in worship teams as well as been a worship leader for many years. So, I thought I’d give away some practices  that have allowed me to succeed in that role. Whether you use a traditional keyboard like a Nord, Korg, or Yamaha or a soft synth from your laptop or iPad, these tips should apply. By the way, I have written a couple other posts specifically on the differences of using these: Modern Worship Keyboards: Laptop vs. Traditional Synth or Modern Worship Keyboards: My setup for loops, clicks, and keys with MainStage.

Playing to Lose: The Jesus Way to Lead Ministry

 

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. – Jesus, Matthew 10:39 (NIV) 

I have thought for many years that playing “not to lose” was the game. Then, after being a leader in several very tough situations, I acquired an idea that is less trusted–playing to win. A team must play to win, right? Yes. That is the goal. But as even more time has passed and life lived, I found from Jesus an even more rare thing in ministry leadership these days that is counter-intuitive yet powerful. It’s playing to lose.

A friend of mine led a youth ministry that I was very familiar with. His youth group began to grow, but that success seamed to cause more trouble that you would think. Why? While he was fulfilling his church’s clearly stated goal to expand and reach kids whose families did not attend church, the existing kids and their parents began to complain about the changes. The once popular youth pastor fell out of favor of the base. He was playing to win. Or, so he thought. Surely, the inwardly focused families were playing not to lose. He is no longer a youth pastor in that ministry.