Friday, July 31, 2009

Worship Friday 7-31-2009

It starts in the mind...

Okay, so here we are and its another Worship Friday. After having my world rocked at the National Worship Leader Conference in Overland Park last week, I have spent a lot of time trying to sort out what really happened. I will probably never fully figure it out, but even my voice is different in the way I sing. I have been spending time meditating on what worship really is. In the church I attend, (and I did not “grow up” in church!) for years “Praise” and “Worship” were used almost interchangeably. I don’t want to create a doctrinal thesis on the definitions for each, and I spent some time on my thoughts on that difference in my last post. In short, worship is an expression of mindset; an expression of an attitude, that makes real praise possible and meaningful. A recognition that God is “WORTHY” and truly deserves our praise.

God does not force us to love him, or even to get saved. We are the ones who choose what we love. There is no involuntary “falling” in love. It is always a choice. God made it that way on purpose. The apostle Paul said in Romans 6:16 “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Before we were saved, we were servants of sin unto death by default, but once saved, we no longer are required to serve sin (though we still choose to do so sometimes). Verse 18-19 “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” The old King James version uses “members” to refer to any part of your body, including your mind. In order to yield ANY of your members, can we not agree that you first have to gain a certain level of control of them? And as the mind controls the rest of the body, once you gain control of the head, you get the whole package. This is soberness. If you are a believer, your ‘new man’ can rule, and you can then cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ.

To tie it all together, as I reflected on the National Worship Leader Conference, I realized that I can yield my mind, the talents He has given to me, completely to Him. Sounds pretty simple, but I challenge you to meditate on this, and see if indeed your mind, your heart, your talents and your time are yielded to Him and his plan for your life. Most of you reading this do not even really know what it is God wants you to do. For those of you that do, what are the obstacles holding you back? What is keeping you from fulfilling that which God showed you at the NWLC? Perhaps we can learn from each other. I know what is holding me back, and its me. I saw that more clearly than ever before last week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Rant

I have spent a lot of my musical life focusing on “excellence.” Thinking back to my days in All-State Band in high school, where ¼ of a point many times would separate first and second chair players. What is the difference between those folks, really? It is such a hard thing to put a finger on. I do know that I made first chair my sophomore year over folks who were older than me and had been there before. How, why? I think it was a perfect storm of drive, talent and the time to prepare/practice.

So, now that I am a Christian, in particular, a Christian who is involved in leading worship each week, what does that mean? Do we put forth a lukewarm effort because “God will make it sound better out front than it does on stage”? I think that is absolutely the wrong way to look at things. I have heard so many folks use excuses to cover their lack of respect for their calling (if indeed they are called to that), and ultimately, their Lord. What happened to the charge to play “skillfully” on your instrument?

Indeed the first mention of worship in the Bible is in Genesis 22, where Abraham and his son, Isaac went to go “worship.” Well, you know the story – Abraham was being obedient to God and would have sacrificed his son Isaac. For our purposes here, it is just interesting to note that the first time worship is mentioned it is in context of a sacrifice. Remember that – we’ll come back to it in a moment.

Paul, when writing his letter to the Hebrews, used some language that the Jews would be familiar with regarding a continual sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15 calls it the “Sacrifice of Praise”, then defines it as “the FRUIT of our lips giving thanks to his name” (emphasis mine). The old testament sacrifices were to be continual, ongoing. Hmm. Interesting.

Okay, so far both Praise and Worship, which are indeed distinct, are both associated with sacrifices. Now you’re looking at me like the lights are on, but nobody’s home…stay with me for a little bit more.

If “praise” is the words of our songs (fruit of our lips, physical or spiritual), or the words of our heart, then “worship” is the less tangible attitude of ascribing to someone or something a “Worth” higher than our own. We flippantly throw around the phrase “We are not worthy!”, but that is exactly what worship is. God created man with the desire to recognize that God is greater than man, but the sinful man takes that desire and tries to satisfy it with false gods, materialism, riotous living, none of which fulfil the promise of satisfaction (yet that is their primary selling point!!).

So, why the “sacrifice” part? This really applies to everyone who is a believer, but specifically we are thinking of this as musician-worshippers. Someone at one point coined the phrase “lead worshippers”, and I think that is appropriate. We should understand this better than anyone. What requirements were put on sacrifices in the Old Testament? God spent some time and some words telling Israel what kind of sacrifices to make. Firstfruits (Ex. 23:19), meat offerings (Lev. 2:11), burnt sacrifice (Lev 1:3, 10, 3:6), and many many other examples. The sacrifice was to be without blemish. The very BEST they had to offer. A lot of us already know much of this already and apply it.

Let’s wrap this up and put a handle on it so you can take it with you. Those of you who believe you are called to this ministry but don’t spend any time making your musicianship better (“nah, I can’t read music”, “I don’t have time to practice”, “how do you finger that chord again?”, “I can’t remember the words”, “I don’t know what notes are in a C minor seven plus eleven flat thirteen chord”, or for some of you, “What do those little ‘bees’ on your music mean?”) are in need of some self-evaluation. What if you discovered your pastor prepared for his sermons like you prepare for your song service? I’m just sayin’!

Praise and Worship is indeed a sacrifice. The criteria for a sacrifice require the best of the best. If the best you have is not cutting it, have your pastor help you find the area of ministry that is better suited for you. For the sake of God, as well as for the sake of you finding what God really intended for you and flourishing in it and living abundantly, get with your mentor or pastor and get it straight. If you have responsibility, don’t just drop it. Confess this to your pastor, do your job and pray for God to bring the person to the forefront to do this that He has provided. For those that KNOW they are called, you also know you have abilities. Learn and stretch. Be prepared to offer a sacrifice of praise and worship without blemish. Not just great music, but the worship part needs to be in place too. Worship is more internal, more in touch with the emotional side of us. The way I look at it is that I can Praise God with my music because it comes from an attitude of worship that starts on the inside. The sacrifice comes in the practice, the preparation, and knowing what I’m doing.

I saw at the National Worship Leader Conference how infectious this style of worship leading can be. Those whom God has called to be a lead worshiper should be infecting their congregations with excellent praise.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday Setlists - July 26, 2009

After a week of the National Worship Leader Conference, it can be hard from some perspectives to get back into the swing of things. 2,000 people who can and want to sing, and sing well surrounding you while standing just a few rows away from the biggest names in worship music doin’ their thing live in a huge auditorium has a tendency to spoil you a bit. But, we had a great service, and an equally great message from our pastor, Dr. Jeff Adams at Kansas City Baptist Temple (

Because of Your Love – great Paul Baloche tune. We added a punctuated horn section part to the essentially “Balochey” arrangement.

My Redeemer Lives – a rocky version of the Reuben Morgan classic song. We indeed have reason to sing because our Lord HAS conquered the grave, and right now, he LIVES!

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms – Great hymn by Elisha Hoffman, given a bluesy shuffle treatment, starting with a sax riff by me, then into the chorus, and 3 verses.

I Give You My Heart – The Reuben Morgan tune on reflection of wanting nothing more than to honor the Lord, and praise Him with all we have within us. This is the first step to really dealing with all of the ‘crap’ in our lives.

The Church’s One Foundation – a vocal-heavy arrangement of the hymn about the true foundation of the church, Jesus Christ our Lord. A sax interlude solo after the second verse helped to reflect on the first verses and prepare us for the last two.

King of Wonders – Matt Redman song, the last song of our set, before the message by Dr. Jeff Adams. Standard arrangement, nice muted trumpet fills by Jesse Bowman. What a song to end our set, leaving off with thoughts about the King of Wonders, who knows the way to our hearts.

That led into the message, which was a continuation of the series in Nehemiah, “The Men Behind The Wall.” Today, we were in chapter 3, verse 14, talking about the dung gate. Now how many churches can you go to and talk about a “dung gate?” Yes, its what you think. Short story is that we all need a dung gate to deal with the “crap” in our lives. This was a dirty job, and no one really wants to deal with this stuff. What a picture – we certainly know that dealing with the dirty baggage in our lives is not fun, but through humility and a relationship with God through his Word and the Holy Spirit, we can take our load of you-know-what to the dung gate, where there is a continual burning fire to consume it. Could spend a lot of time on it, but better to actually watch the video online here: KCBT Video Page

This Sunday Setlist is part of the bigger #sundaysetlist carnival on Fred McKinnon’s Web site. Check out other Sunday Setlists on Fred McKinnon's blog.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Worship Friday!

This doesn’t mean that every Friday I will have a Worship Friday post. I’m really not that much of a blogger (yet). But, who knows? This might turn into something regular! Anyhow, I wanted to give a recap of my week and the National Worship Leader Conference at Church of the Resurrection in Overland Park, Kansas. I was most encouraged that such emphasis was placed on the reality behind the music, and the recognition that the church is in danger of becoming irrelevant. To continue our mission, we really have to return to things that we should be doing and start being an impact in our communities. People won’t give a rip about our message if we won’t feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and go to those in prison. In addition, to be “out in front” and communicate the way most of the world has figured out how to communicate. How do we get the attention of people these days? I was very encouraged by the answers I heard this week.

First of all, I think for me personally, what I got most out of the conference had nothing to do with the workshops or general sessions specifically. The entire event had the effect on me of making me re-evaluate my musical goals. Do I want to refocus my music career in worship music recording/performance/production exclusively? Do I want to do some of both? Today, as I am back at my regular job, I still have all of those emotions, facts, thoughts and stirrings fresh in my mind. I had an UNBELIEVABLE urge to go home, get my sax, and park it outside and play to the Lord all day and find SOME WAY of getting up on stage to worship with some of those folks, even if just during the rehearsal times. At the risk of sounding like I want to glorify myself, I have never felt stronger that I belonged with those folks onstage – not to try to “impress” people, but to follow that which is set before me as a vision, a calling. Almost out of fear, I purposely left my horn home on the last day of the conference and told folks I just forgot it. I regretted that decision later in the day when our worship team assembled on a grassy hillside under some trees and had some spontaneous worship with a very out-of-tune guitar. To sum up that portion, I had my eyes opened to another part of this big vision I have for music. Just Wow.

I started the conference by attending a session with Frank Hernandez on inspiring kids to worship, which I am going to use with my own children. Next, I went to a class with Dr. Leonard Sweet on Reaching Out to Where People are NOT: The Missing “Lead” in Leadership. I really got a clue on the use of words, pictures and technology for different generations there. To close out Tuesday, I took a songwriting class with Tommy Walker. I felt pretty good about that, and the evening worship was with Aaron Shust, Laura Story and Mac Powell. Very cool.

Wednesday was also good as I started with Tony Guerro and team rehearsal techniques, then attended a class with Laura Story and Randy Schlichting on Mentoring for All Ages. Very similar in philosophy with our own church, KC Baptist Temple. The evening was unbelievable with Meredith Andrews, Matt Maher and Paul Baloche. We could have gone all night.

Thursday started with a great set by Christy Nockels, then a sobering message by Iranian pastor David Nasser. That was followed by a very pivotal break out session with some of my KCBT co-laborers. After lunch, I took another songwriting class with Matt Maher, and finished things up with Worship + Web 2.0 with Fred McKinnon.

The lessons I learned and their lasting effects will be detailed in future Praise Fridays. I just might make this a regular deal! J