Sneak Peek: Worship Article

Recently I was asked to write a short article for my church‘s newsletter on worship. I did, and then I said to myself, “Frank,” (Sometimes I call myself Frank), “why limit this article to just the newsletter. It’s an amazingly concise and spot-on article, and anyone who reads it will immediately think you’re cool. Put it up on your blog.” So here it goes:

Romans 12 teaches that our spiritual act of worship to God is our whole lives. Not music – but our lives. Authentic Christianity sees worship not as a moment on Sunday but a committed life to Christ. The most important expression we can give to God should be seen by the way we live our lives. I don’t think God is nearly as impressed with our songs as He is a life devoted to Him (Psalms 51:16-17).

Then why do we use music on the weekends? Great question – I’m so glad you asked.

Firstly, because God said to. Psalm 150 is very clear.

Secondly, I’ve never heard anyone deny the power of music. Those that couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and even the deaf still greatly enjoy music. Our mind communicates with words; but our heart communicates through art. Music is a great artistic vehicle to help us express our heart rather than just our thoughts to God.

Lastly, we use music to worship in our services because it promotes church unity. Even in remote indigenous cultures, they use forms of music to promote a sense of community among themselves. I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something wonderful about lifting my voice to God in the midst of others. When we assemble together on the weekends, I’m not worshipping – WE are worshipping.

Does the Style Matter?

If you haven’t read the post immediately before this, “Why Music?,” go read that first. Let me also add that I’m writing some of this TO other worship leaders, but obviously I want others to hear my thoughts.

Does the style of music we use in a church worship service matter? Yes – I DO think it matters. Absolutely, no doubt about it. Don’t misquote my motives though – read my explanation. 🙂

Firstly, I think we need to consider what matters to God since its for Him anyhow. Does our style matter to God? Nope. I don’t think he gives a hoot. I don’t think so. God will hear our hearts (and specifically our attitude of excellence, for those of us with the specific Call to play skillfully (Ps. 33:3)).

So if it doesn’t matter to God, why should it matter to a worship leader? That’s a great question. Let’s consider what does matter. Emotions towards God matter. Devoted lives to Him matter. Our expression of worship to God matters (worship cannot exist without an expression of some sort, otherwise its just music). An assembly worshiping together matters to God (Unity), which is a great reason we use music in the first place. So if those things matter to God, how can our music meet that goal? Wouldn’t the style choices help us meet these goals?

Consider this lyric: “No hay nadie como dios.” For most of you, it will be impossible for this lyric to help you encounter God. But when I translate it into English, “There is no one like our God,” that changes everything. With this lyric you understand the meaning and actually stand a chance at joining me in magnifying God. It works this way because I’m speaking your language.

Can you imagine a church in inner city Los Angeles hee-hawing in a worship set with a banjo, mandolin, jug, and spoons? Can you imagine a church in the back hills of Kentucky connecting to God with an Urban-Jazz Black Gospel style like Yolanda Adams? Can you imagine any church in the Western World doing a worship service using the Asian “Gamelon” style of music; which has absolutely no regard for the 12 tone system (throw your “scales” out the window). Is it possible for people to connect with God with a musical style they’re not used to? OF COURSE IT IS! And the spiritually mature should be able to handle it. But as a worship leader I’m trying to HELP PEOPLE experience God, not make it more difficult for them because “they should be able to handle it.” In a large assembly I have to consider that people are at different spiritual levels; I’d be irresponible if I constantly throw artistic styles that don’t connect with my group. Can you imagine a missionary being so dense as to go to a foreign country and require their church to sing all worship songs in English?

So at this point, I think its pretty obvious that style does matter. It is something to consider. Now comes the messy part.

Musical styles are subjective. People come and go to church every weekend. Only SOME of them have a specific opinion of the carpet, chairs, paint, lighting, or even the sermon. But EVERYONE has a different opinon of the musical style. Which one is the right one? Which opinion is the one the worship leader needs to listen to?

See why its messy? There’s no good answer for this. The worship leader must consider the direction of their local church, the needs and demographic of their congregation, and the voice of the Holy Spirit. I’ve learned that the voice of the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS right and is ALWAYS going to work (isn’t it sad that I had to learn that? lol).

Does our music style matter? Yea, I think it does. It doesn’t matter to God, but our styles can help us accomplish the things that DO matter to God.

Why Music?

We all know (or you’re at least learning right now) that worship is not “music.” There’s a lot more to it. Worship is your entire life as a sacrifice to God. This is ultimate worship (Romans 12:1-2). Worship is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. Worship is connecting with God. Worship is carrying out God’s will on the earth.

If that’s the case, then why do we use music (mostly) in church “worship” services? I think that’s a good question.

Let me answer with another question: what else would we do?

Can you imagine a large group of people getting together in one assembly, and having a “non-music” worship service? What would it look like? Maybe hundreds of people raking a lawn — one leaf per person! Or we can all go down to the soup kitchen and serve food to the needy — the line to serve the food would be longer than the line to receive. Or maybe we can all assemble together and have a worship service by choosing NOT to look at bad stuff on the internet simultaneously. Now all these things are good – and all these things are worship. But we can’t do things things corporately very easily – you may have even laughed at my sarcastic examples.

What could the church do to worship God corporately in an assembly?

Music. THAT’S something we can do all together to worship.

Church history supports this, even back into the Jewish roots. There was a period of Church Music where all worship music was written for professional singers, and the choir sang with lots of polyphony (every part singing a totally different line, often with different lyrics). It was beautiful, but totally NOT intended for everyone to join in singing, it was meant for the general people to worship in their heart while listening. Bach wrote lots of that busy junk, and of music he said something like, “Music has no other purpose than to glorify God and for the enlightenment of the human spirit.” I don’t want to bother looking for exact references (and you probably don’t care), but there was one dude who started changing that trend and began writing music so people could sing along together. It was “congregational.” (There have always been congregational songs in Church history – I’m referring to the MAIN movement of music history.

This isn’t exclusive to the church either. In fact, MUSIC as a means of DOING SOMETHING TOGETHER transcends religion and culture. Take Indians for example – we have all heard of a rain dance, where they danced/prayed for rain. But the Indians also had songs and dance for no purpose except to build community – to be doing something TOGETHER.

Music needs to bring the church together to help the Body experience God together. Let’s worship God with our entire lives, including our thoughts and actions. Let’s worship God together in smaller groups with community building and accountability. Let’s worship God together in a large assembly with music.

Word Up.

I just wanted to touch base with everyone about the past few days of my life. I’ve been in Indianapolis (still am) for a worship convention. It has been fantastic.

Just imagine, if you get several hundred worship leaders in a room and want to lead them in worship — you can expect the worship leaders are TOP NOTCH (although they wouldn’t need to be – I mean the worship leaders should be okay with a vocalist and a kazoo… if you’re too big to be led you’re too small to lead). They have a few worship leaders here that I’ve never heard of – Joel Auge (from Canada) and Mia Fieldes (from Hillsong). There was also the guys at Lakeview Church in Indy (Eric Cooper and Nathan LaGrange), and Ross Parsley and Jared Anderson from New Life Church in Colorado Springs. All of their ministries were top notch. Mia Fildes blew my socks off; her voice is spectacular. If you’re in my worship team you can expect to see some chord charts with her name at the top. 🙂

This is a worship conference by Integrity Media. Integrity is unique because they have.. integrity. They’re the only Chrisitan music supplier that’s not owned by a secular company. I’ve been told by several people that they aren’t out to “sell me stuff,” they want to “resource me.” That’s exactly how I’ve seen it as well. Another thing that sets them apart is that they don’t generate new worship “artists.” They aren’t a label that looks for the greatest band … they’re a label that searches for churches that have got “it” going on, and then network with them. I just love Integrity. (Attention Integrity Staff: if you send me free stuff, I’d be happy to write more blogs about how great you are… HA!!)

I’ve been greatly challenged at this conference. When I came down here I was more-or-less “vision-less.” I searched and prayed, but I couldn’t see where the worship in my church was going anymore. I seemed to have ran out of this leadership fuel about 2 weeks ago. But like I said, I’ve been greatly challenged.

I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things regarding worship at New Hope. Some of them weird and diverse. I’ve got so much to think and pray about.

Gimme That Relevant Faith …

Do you remember the old song that was simply sang:

Give me that old time religion. <br>Give me that old time religion. <br>Give me that old time religion. <br>It’s good enough for me.

What kind of song is that? I sang it repeatedly when I was younger, but now I’m thinking about it and I can’t help but laugh out loud. If you love this song I am truly sorry, but lyrically this does not have good implications. (It’s quite possible that this song meant something completely different 40 years ago and had very DIFFERENT implications than what I will be discussing in this blog. But as everything else, this is how I see it.)

On a positive note, it’s truly important that we look at the roots of our faith. God gave instructions in the old testament for His people to look back and remember the paths that brought them to where they were. That’s still important today; no question.

But this song seems different – almost defiant. It’s almost like it could be said, “My grandfather’s expression of faith was right. Yours is wrong.” Or worse yet, “I want a religion that’s so deeply rooted in old time history that I will stay negligent to the lost world or even bother to look around and notice that my religion is no longer effective.” Wanting “old religion”can only imply that you are rejecting any new expressions.

Any song that supports the widespread belief of the world that Christianity is irrelevant is a horrendous abomination.

In case you were wondering, my random rant of this song has absolutely nothing to do with anything anyone has said or done recently. I was just brainstorming “old songs” from my childhood and I thought of this one, and then realized how unbiblical it could be taken.

We need to be cautious of the songs we sing in our churches. Choosing songs based solely on the beat or musical construction is simply a horrible idea. People are singing and experiencing their theology during a music worship service — that’s no small priority.

God is Bugging Me.

Earlier today I was hungry, so I went to “Steak ‘N Shake” and took care of it. The Frisco Melt platter took care of my hunger.

This past week I spent on vacation in Kansas City where I spent time at the International House of Prayer. This is a prayer meeting that started in September 1999 and has never stopped – 24/7. We’re talking over a hundred people praying all the time – even in the middle of the night. It was an incredible experience. The first day I arrived in the evening so I just spent a short hour and a half with God at the IHOP before I was tired and needed to sleep. The second day I was there for 3 – 4 hours. By the end of my trip I was so hungry to just be with God that I would stay at the IHOP prayer room for 14 hours straight. There was nothing that I wanted to do besides be with God. The more I was with God, the more I had a hunger for Him. I learned that you never really “finish” at the IHOP, you just “leave.”

Before my vacation, I would often spend my evenings doing more work (or at the very least planning for the upcoming days). Now that my vacation is over, my brain is trying to get back into my typical work patterns – I keep trying to think of another project I can work on, but I’m constantly distracted by God.

That’s right – I’m distracted by God. I guess you could say that God is bugging me right now. My brain wants to “get stuff done,” but my Spirit is so excited to spend more time with God. I need my brain to understand that spending time with God is the most important thing in the world.

Often we consider prayer the boring thing every Christian must endure. That’s not at all the paradigm of prayer (and worship) that David shared in Psalm 16, “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” (Emphasis mine).

Eternal PLEASURES? Yea… pleasure.

I like pleasure. I’m going to go get me some.

For Worship Teams
Unity and Teamwork.

My worship team is a really weird group of people if you think about it. Some of them are tall, some of them short. Some of them wear their feelings on their cuff, others of them are content never saying an extra word. Some would like to express their worship by jumping up and down, others would prefer to quietly meditate. Each of them have different musical strengths and weaknesses. Each of them have a significantly contrasting emotional makeup. My first inclination is to see differences as a weakness because we all tend to think others should be like us. Every time I really ponder on how everyone on the worship team is so different from everyone else I can’t help but say out loud, “Yea, I’m pretty sure I serve with the best worship team in the world.” (That’s no joke, I say that nearly every weekend).

I’m glad my worship team has figured it out. I hope we always remember the importance of unity on a worship team. In 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 there is an example of how the Holy Spirit totally knocked the Believer’s socks off when the worship team was in complete unity.

The number one destroyer of worship is a dis-unified worship team. Staying unified takes more work, but if we don’t do it – we’re kind of like the Amazing Precision Marching Band. Check out this video

Lazy and Stupid?

I get bothered when Christians are lazy. When they’re lazy and stupid its even worse.

Many Christians are big whiners – but they’re “Godly whiners.” They whine about wanting God’s presence, they whine about wanting a revival, they whine about not seeing God move in church or in lives.

Yet they do nothing. That’s where the stupid comes in.

Somehow we have come to the conclusion that the lack of a revival is God’s fault . . . “why must He tarry?” That makes me sick when I think about it. Jesus is coming back for a glorious bride, not a whore! The lack of spiritual renewal is YOUR FAULT, if you do nothing.

If we don’t pray, seek God, or worship Him with our lives – we will not find Him. Do Something.

Code of Honor.

I hate long blogs, but this is long for a reason. If you’re interested in volunteerism, church ministry, or worship programs (OR IF YOU’RE ON A WORSHIP TEAM) – you ought to read the whole thing. It’s long on purpose.

I found one church’s Music Ministry “Code of Honor Pledge.” Anyone who is involved in the music ministry must sign the pledge and be willing to be held accountable to it. I thought this was interesting and wanted to share it here.

I pledge to keep the commandment Jesus said was the first and greatest — to love the Lord my God with all my heart (being submitted to His Lordship) and with all my soul (my will, emotions, thoughts, affections, and desires) and with all my strength (physical expression of my worship) and to love my neighbor as myself.

I pledge to walk in integrity and in love. I will not lie; I will not steal; I will not curse; I will not be a talebearer or participate in gossip. I will walk in integrity with my financial commitments.

I pledge at all times to place moral and ethical restraints on my life. This would include keeping myself from all immoral and illegal acts and communications. I will not engage in or attempt to engage in any illicit, unscriptural sexual acts, which shall include sexual intercourse with one who is not my spouse through ceremonial marriage and any homosexual activity. I will not live with a person of the opposite sex who is not my spouse whether sexually involved with that person or not. I will not participate in or view pornographic materials.

I pledge that I will not engage in other behavior that is contrary to Biblical standards of Christian living not listed above. I will not participate in any form of gambling either for money or not for money. I will not take any illegal drugs or misuse any drugs. I will not drink alcoholic beverages of any kind; I will not use tobacco.

I pledge to maintain an integrity of “openness” to God’s claims on my life, to do my utmost to know and follow His will for my life, to grow in my spirit in developing my own relationship with God, and to maintain relationships of accountability.

I pledge to attend rehearsals and services as required of me and to willingly submit to the leadership and follow all requirements with a good attitude. I recognize that among other things, the following are required of me: to turn in a volunteer application and await approval of my application before beginning to participate in services and outreaches; to be at rehearsal each week if I plan to sing or play my instruments in services that week; to stay for the remainder of service after praise and worship; to follow the dress code given to me for services; to be faithfully involved in a music cell group; to arrive at the times appointed before services to participate in prayer and sound checks; etc. I will commit to being flexible and maintain an attitude of humility and willingness to serve to the best of my ability wherever I am needed within the Music Ministry.

Is this overkill? Are they being too specific? The answer to those questions aside — I think the more important question is “Why are they being so specific?”

8 ) Expressive Worship.
Part 3: Emotion.

I am “for” Expressive Worship. One of the greatest things about expressive worship is the emotion that often comes with it. Emotion is most certainly a way that we can worship God (see the scriptures listed in the post prior to this). We worship God with our emotions, but we do not worship God because of our emotions. That’s an important difference. We should worship God whether we feel like it or not. Sometimes in our Christian walks, we have “high spots.”

I think all Christians can relate to the high spots.

Some Christians go on a missions trip, have an amazing God-encounter, and then come home and within a few days or weeks everything is just like it was before the trip. What a waste.

The most common example is probably church camp. I recently heard one young man refer to it as a “camp high,” where you have a massive God-encounter at camp and come home and everything goes back to the way it was before. He came back from church camp excited because he did not experience a “camp high.” He said he did not want a “camp high” because there was just emotion attached to it. He is not alone. I’ve heard this attitude over and over again — people don’t want a “high spot” because it goes back to the way it was and is surrounded on emotions.

Every time I hear that I feel sick. Seriously — I just puked a little bit in my mouth. That’s stupid, folks.

The stupid thing is NOT the mountain top experience. We should strive to give God everything we have and to have mountain-top, emotion-filled experiences. Mountain-top, emotion-filled experiences are all throughout the Bible. If we read through it quickly without chewing on it, we fail to realize the emotion that occurred in some of the Bible stories. When the Ark of the Covenant came into Jerusalem, David danced naked — certainly that was a result of emotion! There are numerous examples of the disciples’ emotional responses after their encounters with Christ in the gospels. People that were healed got up and danced and shouted about how they were just healed. Kings ripped off their clothes and and covered themselves with ashes to be humble before God — certainly there was emotion there. They all worshiped with their emotions! We should seek God-encounters and embrace the emotions that may occur with it. That’s not stupid.

The stupid thing is that people let their life go back to the way it was before. What a complete waste! The examples in the Bible of people who had mountain-top experiences — those experiences changed their lives. We need mountain top experiences — its part of life. When you have a God-encounter take advantage of it. Maybe there is emotion involved . . . there probably is! Who gives a rip? It’s a God encounter! Are there seriously Christians who are so intellectual that they will avoid a God encounter if emotions are involved? That’s sad, but its true.

I realize some people are more emotional than others. The emotion “standard” is not “jump six times, raise hands for 10 minutes, and shout during the songs.” That mindset is exactly why “emotion” has a sour taste to many Christians. The emotion “standard” is that we each appropriately express what is on the inside of us. I am “for” Expressive Worship, even if it includes emotion. The line is crossed however, when the emotion becomes the worship. We worship God with our emotions.