This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well..
So, so true…
Worship Leading in Real Life –Jamie Brown The piano’s out of tune again. The sound board is possessed. The drummer’s belt pack just died, and over in his plexiglass space pod, he can’t hear a thing. The alto section decided to take the day off. The second verse of the opening song vanished from ProPresenter. The bulletin accidentally printed last Sunday’s hymn numbers.
And it’s only 8:45 am.
This is worship leading in real life…
The airbrushed images of worship leading that we see presented to us can warp our expectations of what we will experience in our own local-church contexts, and lead us to think that we’d have it easier somewhere else. Just like airbrushed images of a man or woman in a magazine or on the internet can warp our expectations of what a real relationship with a real person will actually look and feel like, and lead us to think we’d have it better with someone else.
One more for worship leaders…
It’s not about you: leading worship and loving others
–Matt Damico This is dangerous thinking for worship leaders and worship pastors. If you serve in that sort of role, you’re familiar with the temptation to evaluate and interpret a Sunday morning gathering in light of how it reflects on you. You must crucify that temptation. You don’t want to be the sort of person who, as Jim Hamilton said in a recent sermon, makes yourself the central reference point in every situation, considering “how this reflects on us, and how this makes us look, and how this makes us feel, and what this means about us. … We want to be people who, in every situation we find ourselves in, our central reference point is Jesus and other people.”
A Muslim chimes on on Bernie Sanders “religious test”…
Bernie’s Relativism Test Is Bad for Muslims and All Religious Believers –Ismail Royer I am a Muslim and thus obviously disagree with Vought that my theology is deficient. Rather, I believe his theology is deficient. I believe that Jesus is not God himself but a prophet of God, and I believe that worshipping Jesus alongside God amounts to polytheism. I worship, as Joseph did, the one and unitary God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the triune God of the Nicene Creed. I do not apologize for this belief.
Nor should Vought apologize for his. His statements were not crude bigotry, but a passionate defense of his creed entirely within the realm of discourse of reasonable, civilized men and women.
What I don’t know is the truth of the situation… I don’t know, and I’m content not to know. That’s because judgment is, frankly, easy.
It takes no time. It takes no real effort. And it certainly takes no sacrifice. It is based purely on assumption. This is why you could say that judgment, among other things, is a lazy substitute for intimacy. And this is not the way of Jesus.
Most of these are way too common…
5 Ways Ministry Leaders Start the Journey to Failure
–Ron Edmondson One of the hardest things I do in ministry is interact with those who are no longer in ministry, but wish they were. They’ve been derailed. They messed up and either they got caught or the guilt got the best of them and they confessed.
In recent years, I’ve had numerous ministry friends who lost their ministry due to moral failure, poor leadership, or simply burnout…
Watching this process over the years there appear to be some common reasons failure occurs. It doesn’t start at the failure. It starts months – and, perhaps years – prior. My hope is if we expose some of them we can catch a few people before it is too late.
I get where these comments come from. Matter of fact, I’ve said them myself. What I want to guard against is demonizing performance. If you play music in your local church, there’s no need to avoid the word performance or think of it as something less than true worship.
Performance and worship don’t need to be mutually exclusive…
So our goal is not to become flawless worship leaders… Our goal is simply to keep being humbled by our awareness of our imperfection, and to keep growing, so we can more effectively point our congregations to Jesus in the power of the Spirit, not the power of our own professionalism.
To that end, here are eight of the most common worship leading mistakes…
But never forget this, worship leader: you have no idea what’s happening in people’s hearts, you can’t possibly know all that God is up to, and you most likely won’t ever know the short-term and/or long-term impact of your faithful leadership in people’s lives over the course of years’ worth of Sundays that help them remember and proclaim the good news of the gospel.
…the revenge of analog does not mean that ebooks will now go away. It means that print is not dead, nor will it die, and what is printed may matter more.
There is no such thing as digital-only discipleship. It’s all analog, because we are embodied people who long for real life community that goes beyond virtual hangouts…
Disciple-making is accomplished by modelers, not just messengers. We develop not merely through cognitive transfer, but also through witnessing the lives and choices of other disciples we encounter on our way. Perhaps this is the reason why the Old Testament emphasizes the meditation and memorization of Scripture alongside conversations about the Law that take place in the daily rhythms of life.
The teachers who make the biggest difference on our lives are those who not only give us knowledge but who know us well enough to speak truth into the specifics of our lives, to give counsel from their vast experience and biblical storehouse.
For your consideration…
The Case for Free-Range Kids –Lenore Skenazy Basically, to be a good parent in America today you are expected to imagine the anguish and regret you’d feel if your child died and it was all your fault because you let him do something unsupervised.
My crime was that I hadn’t indulged in what I call “worst-first thinking”—imagining the worst-case scenario first and proceeding as if it were likely to happen. My old-fashioned belief in my son and my city earned me the title “America’s Worst Mom.” (Google it!)…
…So how can we give our kids back the freedom that gave us not only incredible childhood memories but a country bursting with innovation and entrepreneurship? After all, we can’t expect to raise the next generation of risk-takers if they are not allowed to take any risks!
Lots for worship leaders to think about here…
Let Worship Be Local Too: On the Influence of Industry on Sunday Morning –Ryan Mayo What are we asking Sunday worship to do for us? This is the root question behind the “worship wars” of recent decades, although that argument typically takes place a few inches above this root. Many American churches have asked at least two inappropriate questions to evaluate our worship ethos. The first is “what music makes us feel like we’ve worshiped?” The second is “what songs and sounds will grow our church?”
These questions have forced out better ones and reveal our real agendas for Sunday liturgies. We have asked our worship practices to bear loads they are not meant to bear, and they have succeeded… These new functions also allowed industry practices and industry pressures to crowd out the old functions, and we are worse for it.
Corporate singing can accomplish many tasks, and church leaders should take great caution when they assign a telos to Sunday music. Singing binds together generations of Christians through common song. Singing catechizes. Singing is also, as Marva Dawn has reminded us, a necessary-and-extravagant “waste of time.” Singing can also be conscripted to attract certain groups and/or repel others, or it can produce heightened feelings in our congregations. Singing can dwarf the preached Word of God and relegate it to the status of a lecture, or singing can prepare the ears to hear it. Whether through invitation or through neglect, there is an ever-expanding worship music industry that will exert pressure on our liturgies and, by extension, the theology and practice of our congregations.
Worship leader, is congregational singing a priority to you? Do you actively encourage it?
I ask because I understand that it may not be, and that’s ok.
I have attended churches where it was obvious that the leader did not expect me to sing. The service was moving, powerful, and well-planned. The sermon was engaging and challenging. The music touched me deeply. I worshiped.
But I didn’t sing.
Congregational singing was not a priority, and that’s ok.
It’s not my preference, but worship isn’t about my preferences.
But that’s why I asked the question. Because if congregational singing isn’t important to you, you needn’t read any further. This post isn’t for you.
However, if congregational singing is a priority for you and your church, as it was for me in my ministry, then I have a suggestion.
It’s more of a plea, actually.
Please put the songs in a more singable key.
Now, I want you to know that I don’t agree with most of what I read about why congregational singing is waning. I don’t think projecting the music along with the words will help. I don’t think the answer is to stop doing new songs. (I responded to one article which touches on many of these complaints. You can read it here.)
But I do believe this one thing with all my heart…
People won’t sing with you if you deliberately exclude them.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but the recordings of most popular music (including popular worship music) is pitched in a low range for female singers and a high range for male singers. The result is that the vocals end up in approximately the same range. It’s a range we like to listen to. Now we may let loose and do our best to sing along in the car when no one else is around, but we know we sound awful. Because the songs are in a range most non-musicians and inexperienced singers are uncomfortable with.
The thing is, most of our worship leaders are experienced musicians who are comfortable singing in the pop music range. In fact, they prefer it because it allows them to be more expressive.
But it doesn’t encourage congregational singing at all. In fact, it does the opposite. It discourages participation. People may even want to sing, but they won’t be able to.
I know this because I really, really want to sing. I want to belt out my praise at the top of my lungs. I’ve been around the musical block a few times. I know what I’m doing. So sometimes I can find a harmony that feels right, or an octave that works. But there are many times when I simply can’t participate. I’m motivated. I try. I know what I’m doing. But many times I still can’t find anything that I can sing.
I guarantee that most of the people in the congregation who aren’t motivated, who have to be encouraged to try, and who don’t know what they’re doing, won’t participate.
Now, because I’m a man, what I’m about to say isn’t known through experience, but it seems to me that the women in our congregations are somewhat more flexible in their vocal range than men. What I mean is, if a male worship leader is singing in a very high range a female congregation member can generally sing with him in her lower octave, in a prime unison with the leader, and it can sound awesome! The men of the congregation, on the other hand, must either choose to sing in a high falsetto to stay with the leader (which will feel silly to him), or resort to a lower octave which, for a man, just isn’t going to be as expressive because it won’t have enough power for him to really even hear himself.
The third alternative is that he simply won’t try to sing at all. When you factor in the cultural bias that singing isn’t a very manly thing to do anyway, you can see why so many will choose option 3.
So, how do you determine what key to use?
I’m glad you asked.
A congregation will feel most comfortable if you keep the melody of the song in a range from about Bb below middle C to the D in the staff. You can go a little lower in quiet times and a little higher at big musical moments. Locate the highest and lowest notes in the song and find a key that puts the melody closest to this range. (This would be easier if worship leaders would use lead sheets instead of just lyrics and chords, but maybe that’s another blog post.)
I realize that many younger worship leaders will likely pooh-pooh this advice, but before you do I challenge you to try it. Consciously pitch your songs this way for a couple of months. You might not feel good about it because it may not be in your own sweet spot, but yours isn’t the sweet spot you’re aiming for.
Please remember that our congregations are not filled with trained musicians or singers. We do them an extreme disservice when we expect them to sing along with a song that is completely out of their range.
This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...
For worship leaders and worshipers…
Stop Hating And Start Loving Your Church
–David Santistevan Here’s what I’ve noticed in my own life: when I’m closest with Jesus, the less I criticize and find fault in every environment and leader around me…
Of course, I don’t agree with everything. Of course, imperfect people lead me, pray for me, preach to me, and lead worship. But… Rather than defaulting to criticism, I pray for them, understand the struggle of ministry, and stay focused on the right things.
But when I wander, when I try to live in my own strength, I start to get offended and hurt by every little thing… I’m only concerned with how I’m served and treated.
Should I press in to the church or withdraw? I’d rather have a bias of pressing in. Of being who God has called me to be. Of loving what Jesus has chosen to love.
Five Ways to Grow a Culture of Trust –J.D. Greear Our natural tendency is to fill the gap with suspicion: He was late because he’s lazy; she didn’t consult me because she doesn’t value my opinion; he said that because he’s a racist. But cultivating a culture of trust means choosing to fill those gaps with trust instead.
We might think this is difficult, but there’s one person in our lives that we tend to treat this way already—ourselves… We “fill the gap with trust” all the time with ourselves. What we need to do is to extend the same kindness to others.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” right? Shouldn’t the Golden Rule extend to the way we interpret others’ actions?
I appreciate so much the hearts of the missionaries I know. I don’t know Stacey Hare, but it’s the same heart…
African Traditional Religion Keeps Them Poor –Stacey Hare Missionaries are generally disliked by the secular linguistics/anthropology community. Why? Because missionaries do not come to the field as neutral observers, but with a desire to see change. Missionary linguists do not come to merely preserve and describe languages, but to see the Bible translated and then confront the culture.
Do not get me wrong, there are aspects of Bakoum/Cameroonian culture that I love and miss…
But then there are some aspects of their culture that I cannot accept because they are harming the neighbors I have come to love. So much so, that they are actually ensuring that an already impoverished people remain in poverty. What I see around me in Cameroon is not a tribal religion that supports a rich culture among its people. Instead, I see a commitment to a system that enslaves its followers…
“We measure worship by how we feel as we worship. True worship is measured by what God thinks about our worship.” -Kevin DeYoung
“All we have to do is be the person we say we are. No need to shop for a better you, or to work overtime to make bigger promises. Keeping the promises we’ve already made is sufficient.”
Last summer there was one of those snarky “bash-modern-worship” posts making the rounds. I share the author’s concern about congregational singing and have some of my own thoughts about why it seems to be declining (I may share those in a future post), so, I read it. It made me mad. It just rubbed me the wrong way, so I just let it be.
Then one of my friends sent it to me and was interested in hearing my response to the article. I don’t like the article, but I like my friend, so I decided to read it again and jot down a few quick responses and send it to him.
I came across that document today.
It seems many of these same complaints (along with the same condescending attitude) still persist, so I decided my response to my friend might make a worthwhile blog post.
What follows is a slightly edited version of what I wrote for my friend…
“We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church.”
I admit that this has been a struggle throughout my career. Who do we plan Sunday morning for? Where I’ve always landed is that we plan the service as a time of worship for believers, but with the knowledge that unbelievers will always be there. Consequently, we do everything we can to help them understand what we’re doing and saying. We use new music, and modern art forms and references, not to appeal to unbelievers, but simply because we’re planning services for believers in the 21st century, not the 17th.
“…we’ve decided that the singing alone is the “worship,” followed by preaching or teaching time (NOT worship)…”
Again, I admit that I’ve heard the music set referred to as “the worship time” (I’ve even caught myself doing that) and that’s a mistake. But it’s simply not true to say that we teach that “singing alone is worship.” Every week we participate in the Lord’s Supper, give material gifts in the offering, listen to scripture preached and taught, sing together, listen as others sing, watch a video, celebrate baptism and more. We teach that everything in the service is worship and try to explain how that’s true.
“So, while music was once simply a way to add dimension to our sacred storytelling, we began to exploit its emotional appeal, suggesting the feelings it could evoke to be authentic spiritual connection.”
Seriously? I would suggest that music has always been used for its “emotional appeal.” And, why not? Certainly, worship is far more than an emotional experience. But how can worship ever not involve your emotions?
“Our cultural ability to make music has decreased steadily since the dawn of commercial recorded music…Now, most churches have given in to the cultural decline of music appreciation. Instead of training many of our own, we hire a few to stand up and perform from the stage.”
I think I know what he means by “make music.” It’s the music he likes and approves of. Anything else doesn’t even deserve the term, in his opinion.
Here’s the thing: We have a whole generation of young people who do know how to “make music.” Their notation style is not that of the classically trained musician. They may not be able to read notes on a musical staff, but they’ve learned to improvise from a lyric sheet and chord chart, and play by ear. Most classically trained musicians struggle with all these things. How is this not “making music”? The accusation he makes above about not training our own strikes me as absurd. Training our own is exactly what we do. And, in order to “make music” the way he describes, it would necessitate exactly what he decries: “hiring a few to stand up and perform from the stage.”
I suggest that the training of our own should also involve retraining some of our musicians to be able to hold their own with these young musicians who are improvising from a chord chart. Sadly, most of these folks are either unable, or unwilling to do this. In fact, many would consider it beneath them to do such a thing.
Most churches have trouble putting both types of musicians together in one team. I believe (in all modesty) that this has been one of my strengths. I have worked over the years to combine these people and train them to work together. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believe it has been worthwhile.
Also, as an aside: since when was the church’s mission to foster “music appreciation”?
Oh, and one more thing: he uses the word “perform” intentionally as a negative term. This really gets under my skin because it’s all performance. What we have to teach (and maybe don’t do well enough) is that the congregation is expected to “perform” as well. If the leaders (musicians, singers, preachers, tech crew, ushers, greeters, etc.) don’t “perform,” they’re not doing their job. We’re all there to perform worship.
“We have a rich history of hymns and songs dating back centuries, set to beautiful, singable melodies with a rich harmonic framework, a group to which each generation added their best. Then we decided we didn’t need these anymore.”
What about this generation? He can’t have it both ways. Either each generation gets to add their best or they don’t.
“So, we stopped empowering those among us who do read music to use those gifts. And we stopped expecting anyone else to learn.”
See my thoughts on reading music notation above.
“We used to have these majestic and beautiful instruments, with infinite musical palettes…”
“Majestic and beautiful instruments” that could only be played by a single, classically trained musician hired to perform.
“What’s more, few of these leaders it seems are capable of just plainly, accurately singing the melody. Some of them croon with a whiny, closed-mouthed tone, turning every vowel into an ee-ended diphthong.”
Ok, crooning? Really? For that I just offer you 3 words: George Beverly Shea. Also, I think his musical arrogance and bias really comes through in this paragraph and I would just stop reading here…
This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...
I’ll be following this series. Could be interesting…
The Diffusion and Influence of Contemporary Worship –Michael Lee In part one of this short series exploring research related to the diffusion and influence of the contemporary worship, I will point to some recent findings as it relates to current congregational practices and correlations to congregational growth…
Besides the rapid increase in the adoption of contemporary worship forms over the past 15 years, which will probably not come as a surprise to anyone reading this, more interesting are the conclusions offered in numerous iterations of the FACT studies that the adoption of contemporary worship is correlated to congregational growth and vitality. Here are some excerpts from several studies…
The always challenging and insightful Carey Nieuwhof…
7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People –Carey Nieuwhof
So many church leaders (staff and volunteer) struggle to lead beyond the preferences of the church members. And as soon as they try, they get inundated with complaints and angry emails. Too many Christians feel like it’s their right to have a church that caters exactly to their tastes and whims, and millions are paying the price for that (including unchurched people).
Catering to the preferences of members is a terrible idea for three reasons.
First, it’s killing the church…
Second, it’s an unwinnable game…
Finally, and most importantly, it’s just wrong…
When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences.
Here are 7 things Christians should give up to reach unchurched people…
Moms and dads change the world…
Maybe We’re Raising World-Changers –Melissa Edgington …maybe for now I just need to keep plugging away at the little things God has entrusted me with. This is where I learn to be more like Him. This is where He shows me how real love operates. This is where He demonstrates that His glory is all that matters. And, who knows? Maybe one day He will do something big through me.
Or maybe He already is, I thought, as I watched my firstborn’s eyes dance at the idea of changing the world.
Here’s a little gem that made me smile this morning…
What Every Pastor & Worship Team Needs To Consider Every Week –David Santistevan In no way do I want to disrespect this amazing family and the tragedy they are experiencing. I honestly have no idea. But I do know this – music, lights, coffee, and graphics aren’t the problem. The reason we make these aesthetic choices is to serve people.
It’s similar to saying at a restaurant that background music, tables, chairs, air conditioning, and decor doesn’t matter. Only the food matters. Sure, we go to a restaurant to eat, but the vibe aids in our enjoyment of the prime rib. Without the careful, compassionate thought that is given to the aesthetics, we might not return. Sitting on a concrete slab in complete silence with the best fish & chips in the world is fine, but not necessary.
Keeping Jesus at the center doesn’t need to be in opposition to programmed lighting. Pointing people to the Savior in the midst of their pain doesn’t need to conflict with a specialty coffee bar. The answer isn’t to strip our services of intentional programming, color, sound, songs, coffee, and the chocolate chip biscotti’s at the cafe counter.
All can work together.
I’ve been thinking about buying this book…
This Is Our Time –a book review by Darryl Dash It’s not enough to analyze common myths. “Christians who shine the light of the gospel on the myths of our world do not simply say, ‘This is right and this is wrong,’” Wax writes, “but ‘This is better.’ The gospel tells a better story.”
It is possible for us to live faithfully in our time. Wax not only teaches us how to recognize cultural myths, but he shows us how to respond and to point to a better story.
I’m a fan of someone who can think clearly and express truth beautifully. Wax has done us a great service by writing this book so that we can understand our time, and learn how to live with wisdom and faithfulness.“We live in light of the truth, trusting that the flame of faithfulness that passes from generation to generation will never go out.”
The Surprising Power Of Little Things –Matt Rogers I can’t control my life—and neither can you. People do all sorts of things we can’t control. Life throws us curves we’d never anticipate. It’s just the way things are. Sometimes these little things work in our favor—propelling us further, faster than we once thought possible. Sometimes the little things work against us—derailing our plans before we ever begin…
… The power of little things should make me more mindful of the affect the little things I do can have on others…
…These simple acts of worshipful obedience can have a profound impact on those around me. They can be the God-given means of orchestrating the steps of others so that they walk the path God has ordained for them.
Sure, in and of themselves, most of the things you and I do are little but that doesn’t make them insignificant. In fact, it’s the cumulative effect of little things that shape our future.
This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...
Some interesting thoughts for your weekend reading, not that it’ll change your mind at all…
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds –Elizabeth Kolbert Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted…
The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?
It’s a fact that people who consider themselves committed to their church actually attend much less often than they used to. I believe it’s an unhealthy development that we should fight to change…
Church Member! Fight to Attend Your Church Weekly! –Geoffrey R. Kirkland This is not just another paper urging the unsaved to just ‘get to church’. This essay is for those whom God has saved and who have obediently committed themselves to a local church and submitted themselves to the leadership of that church. This is an essay for the saved to reorient the focus on the Lord and on His church because this in our culture can distract and disrupt and cloud our minds at times.
My argument? Fight with all your might to attend your church weekly. I’ll provide 7 simple reminders…
To Give a Good Answer, Sometimes You Have to Change the Question –Melinda Penner As Christians representing God’s Word, we have to be able to explain the bigger picture. In the case of homosexuality, pornography, and sex outside of marriage, we need to explain what God’s plan is for human sexuality. The reason there are negatives in the Bible is to protect the positives…
…When confronted with direct questions about what the Bible teaches about sex, you probably need to answer a somewhat different question to give a good answer. Instead of answering the question, “What does the Bible teach about being gay?” it might be more effective to help the asker actually understand the answer if you respond to the more relevant question, “What does the Bible teach is God’s design for sex?” In that context, the answer to the question he asked will make more sense.
Worship leaders, this might be worth thinking about…
Pastors, parents, worship leaders: Are you teaching any songs that can be sung acapella around a hospital bed in 50 years? -Kevin DeYoung
Your Kids are Not Family Decision-Makers
–Melissa Edgington Somehow we have gotten it in our heads that kids want a say in everything. Wrong! Kids want you to figure all that life junk out and let them go play with bugs in the backyard…
Childhood is so short. Let kids be kids. I know many of you don’t believe it, but kids like to be told what to do. They like knowing you are in control. It gives them security. It makes them feel protected and taken care of and safe.
If I lived in the wild west…
between here and there, between now and then, between today and forever