Saturday, November 22, 2014

Worship Leading Tips: LOUD or PROUD CROWD


LOUD or PROUD CROWD

As a worship leader, I can't help but constantly see the comparison and contrast between sports and church. I love sports. I love leading worship. When I lead worship, I challenge and push my church to be as excited and loud about their passion for God, as they are about their favorite sports team. I push them to get even louder about their love for God!

When you think about college sports, it seems to be another level. If you've been around college football fans, they're beyond loud. They're loud and proud! They're much like Texans. If you've ever spent any time with Texans, you know that they're loud and proud about their home state. "It's God's country", they say! I don't necessarily think that it's a bad thing. I admire their geographical enthusiasm. One of my favorite movie scenes about Texas is from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure:



Generally, when people are proud of something, they're loud about it. Loud and proud isn't horribly awful in our society. In church world, though, the proud part can really get in the way of worship. It can, in turn, affect the loud part.

It's a good and biblical thing to be loud in our praise. Psalm 150 talks about "loud symbols". Psalm 98:4 says, "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music!"

That doesn't seem to encourage a quiet atmosphere.

There's no place for pride in worship. Pride is the main thing that will hold a person and some churches back from joyfully and freely proclaiming their love for God.

This brings the worship leader to the question, "Is my crowd loud or proud?"

What I've found is that if we can get our crowd past being proud, we can help them get loud in their worship of the Lord.

Here's some tips I've learned about helping our crowd get more loud and less proud:

1. CHALLENGE THEIR MOTIVES - If the "WHAT" of church is the gathering together of God's people, then the "WHY" is worship. The purpose of going to church as the Church is to glorify God together. That must be our motive. If that's not our motive, then we have some serious problems and they're all mainly rooted in pride. Remind your crowd about that. If we go to a game with the intent of cheering on our favorite sports team, then let's go to church with the intent of expressing love and adoration for the Lord. It's ok to do a heart check with our church on that. It's one hour of the week and most people need to be reminded of that. When we do that, we challenge their motives in a healthy way.

2. NUDGE THEIR VOLUME - If you want something louder, you need to push the volume. The way we do that with our crowd is the same way you do that with a sound system...a nudge at a time. If you just push the volume slider all the way up, you'll get some major feedback. If you push your crowd too much in their volume, you'll also experience some major negative feedback from them. Take opportunities each week to nudge them along. Look for open doors to address it, but have fun with it in the process. It's a baby step process. If their motives are in the right place then you can nudge their volume at the right pace.

3. SHOWCASE THEIR VOICES - There's nothing more amazing to me than to hear a congregation of average voices lifting praises to our Lord. There's so much beauty in that. A big factor I've experienced in getting a louder crowd, is stepping off the mic and letting the voices of my church fill the place. When a crowd can hear themselves singing, they start realizing that they're participators instead of spectators. When the worship leader steps off the mic, the place not only hears that, but they also see it. It's my signal to the crowd that it's time for them to take the lead vocals on the worship team. When my vocalists on stage see me do this, they know to step back as well. This is the time to showcase the voices of our church. The beauty of it unifies us all into a choir singing praises to our God.

4. RECOGNIZE THEIR PROGRESS - As you challenge and push your crowd, don't forget to encourage them. Recognize their progress each week. It's amazing what a little encouragement does to people. Encouragement fuels momentum. I've seen worship leaders get up and ridicule their crowd for being too disengaged. Guess what happened....the place got quieter. Remember that they don't have to be there. They are there because they want to do the right thing. Worship leaders have the power to really encourage that. It's necessary to challenge your crowd, but don't neglect encouraging and recognizing them and their progress. It will only motivate them in their pursuit of God.


Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that volume is the main validator of hearts. I don't believe that a loud crowd is the end game here, but I do see a problem. The problem is that there's a lot of excitement amongst Christians about other things in this world, and suddenly, that energy seems to dissipate as they walk into a church building.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says,

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”

declares the Lord.

There's no place for pride in worship. We will either boast about God or ourselves. It's never simultaneous.  If our churches are generally quiet about God, that usually means that pride is getting in the way. Let's teach our churches to boast about how great God is! When it comes to the worship of the Lord, let's teach our crowds to be more loud and less proud.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Album Review - Back to the Start


The band Delirious? was worship music before worship music was cool. The frontman was a guy named Martin Smith. One of the best concerts I've ever been to was a Delirious? concert. Martin and the band truly knew how to write, record and lead songs that set the stage for an amazing encounter with our God.

Now, he's solo and has a new release called Back to the Start. Here's a description from Integrity Music:

Former Delirious? frontman, co-founder and primary songwriter, Martin Smith releases Back To The Start, Oct. 21 though Integrity Music exclusively throughout North America. Combining favorites from his 5-star-acclaimed solo debut, God’s Great Dance Floor, Step 01, and second, full-length installment, God’s Great Dance Floor, Step 02, the resulting collection reintroduces songs recently heard on Martin’s tour with Bethel Music to North American audiences.

If you're a Delirious? fan, you'll love this project. It's pure Martin Smith writing and a very authentic feel in the production. My favorites were "Back to the Start", "Emmanuel", "Waiting Here For You", "Awake My Soul" and "Song of Solomon" which is a beautiful, intimate, biblical ballad. There's also a much better version of "God's Great Dance Floor"...no offense Chris Tomlin and Passion. :)

Here's a couple cool concept videos from the album:

"Back to the Start (God's Great Dance Floor)"


"Emmanuel"


Thank you Martin Smith and Integrity Music for this release! Loving it!!!


Click Here to download it on iTunes today!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Album Review - Coming Alive


I always love when a record label and an artist put out projects like this. What I mean is, projects that truly give the local church songs to sing that they CAN sing. All of the songs that Dustin Smith has released on his past album and his newest projects are songs that are singable, accessible and scriptural.

His new project kicks off with the title track and it serves as a great call to worship. It continues from there like any worship set should...a beautiful journey of songs for God and for the worshiper.

The standouts for me were "Coming Alive", "Now and Forevermore", "He's Alive", "Extravagant Love" and "You are the Fire".

That being said, they're all great songs. I'm excited to see how God is going to use these songs in churches across the world. I'm excited to see how God is using an artist like Dustin.

I know the people at Integrity and their philosophy about the music business. They have a heart and a focus to see these songs used in the local church. That's super encouraging to me.


Thank you Dustin Smith and Integrity Music for this release!




Click Here to download it on iTunes today!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Worship Leading Tips: DEALING WITH CRITICISM


DEALING WITH CRITICISM

I recently went to the National Worship Leaders Conference. Naturally it was crawling with all kinds of creatives with different expressions and styles...and there was a lot of skinny jeans, of course.

Skinny jeans is definitely worn by many worship leaders, but there's one thing that all worship leaders wear every time they get up in front of a congregation. It's not something you request to wear, but it is something you're required to wear. It's simply part of the worship leader attire.

Every worship leader wears a TARGET.

When you get up in front of a group of people, you're not going to please everyone. Not everyone is going to give you encouragement. You are going to get scrutinized and criticized. You're an easy target.

I've pretty much heard it all. I've been criticized for my song selection, musical style, tempo, volume, lighting and even clothing.

When you surrender to the call of leading God's people, you are also surrendering to the call of receiving God's people's criticisms.

So, how do we deal with criticism?

Here's some tips I've learned about dealing with that oh-so-wonderful criticism:

1. HUMBLE YOURSELF - You have a very important choice in life. You can either humble yourself or God will humble you. The Bible is clear on which option to choose. James 4:10 says, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." Pride is that nasty thing inside of you that will turn a criticism into a crisis. Humbling ourselves means laying down the defenses and trusting that God will lift you up, just as He has promised. In my experience, when I lay down my defenses, it will often disarm a situation and enable some resolution. Every worship leader will be criticized. It's part of it. If we are to lead people to worship God, we must lead by example. Humbling yourself is an act of worship. It's God-honoring. Criticism can hurt, but pride will destroy you. When a worship leader succumbs to the temptation of pride in the face of criticism, nobody wins, except the enemy (Ephesians 6:12). Humble yourself...you won't regret obeying God's instruction, especially when He's lifting you up.

2. LISTEN - Al Pacino was once asked what the most important aspect of acting is. He immediately replied, "Listening. If you don't listen, then you won't know how to react." Listening to criticism can sometimes be painful, but it is a very mature response and a healthy way to deal with it. Everyone has an opinion and what most everyone wants is just to be listened to. Hear them out! They may say something profound, even if they don't intend to. Years ago, a man came up to me after a service, who I knew didn't like anything I was doing. That particular morning, I introduced a song that I had written. I remember really getting lost in worship during that song. The man asked me if I had written it. I said yes, and he said he could tell. I then asked how he could tell, and he said something that has stuck with me since that day. He said, "I could tell, because you were really into it as you were singing it, but can I tell you something? Don't forget about us." At that moment, God spoke to me through that man's words. God taught me, right then, that as a worship leader, I am never to forget the crowd. The worship service was not about me worshiping. I can do that on my own. It's about leading all of us in worship. When you hear criticism, humble yourself and listen to it. You never know. God may be speaking to you through someone you never expected.

3. CONSIDER THE SOURCE - It's healthy to listen to criticism, but it's unhealthy to believe everything you hear. Criticism can be such a blow and a downer. The truth hurts, but there will be times that you will hear things that are not true. Some of the criticism you will receive may be completely ridiculous. That's when it's important to consider the source. Don't let one church member cloud your view of all the good that God is doing through you. If your heart is right and you have a humble spirit, remember that you will not please everyone. Some church members are spending too much time inspecting your actions rather than expecting God's actions. Humble yourself and listen, but don't let anyone steal your joy. Consider the source. They may be in a rough spot in their own life or they may have an unresolved issue with you. Your response and reaction could potentially help them, and that can be an amazing and God-sized victory.

Criticism is not the enemy. It can be a tool of the enemy, but only if we allow it to be. The same power that conquered the grave lives inside of us, and there is no criticism too big that we can't overcome.

Criticism will either make you bitter or better. It's totally up to you. Make it a good thing!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Album Review - Dance Again


It's not too often that I listen to an album and like every song, but I can definitely say that about this project.

Sadly, I seldom pick up a worship album anymore and find a bunch of songs that are fresh and accessible for my church to sing, but Dance Again by Life Worship UK is a solid collection of original, powerful, singable songs that most church worship teams can pull off.

I truly enjoyed every track, but I'll give you my absolute favorites.

"We Believe" - I love the Trinitarian theme here. Great anthem for the Christ-centered church to sing. By the way, the Newsboys have a version of this song currently being played on Christian radio. I'll just say that they should be playing Life Worship's version instead...I'll leave it at that.

"Dance Again" - Powerful, encouraging song - "Tears will dry. Your heart will mend. Scars will heal and you will dance again."

"Jesus' Blood" - Beautiful song of surrender to our Savior who gave it all.

"His Kingdom is Here" - Just try not to get goosebumps when you hear this song. "He reigns! He reigns!"

"I Lift My Hands" - Simple and infectious. I find myself walking around singing this one.

"This is My Surrender" - Heartfelt song of surrender and devoting our life to God.


If you're a worship leader, get this album and get ready to find songs for your church. I can't wait to incorporate some of these into our rotation. If you love worship music, you'll love belting these anthems out to God in church, your car or wherever else you listen to music.

I'm always thankful for these kind of projects. They don't come around that often.

Thank you Life Worship UK and Integrity Music for this release!




Click Here to download it on iTunes today!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Album Review - All Sons & Daughters


From the first time I reviewed their debut album for Integrity, I have always loved a new All Sons and Daughter release. I've had the privilege of meeting them and hearing them live. There's definitely something very special about the duo which was birthed out of their home church.

On their new self-titled project, we get a very mellow collection of songs, with a few exceptions. It actually reminded me of the classic Sixpence days, especially with Leslie Jordan's beautiful tone.

As a songwriter, I appreciated the evident growth in their musicality. It's certainly "easy on the ears."

The stand-outs for me were "God With Us", "Christ Be All Around Me", "For Your Glory and My Good" and "Great Are You Lord".

If I were to pick one I could see being sung in my church, it would "King Of Glory (You Restore My Soul)".




Download it on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/all-sons-daughters/id863150354

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Album Review - The Art of Celebration


Anyone who listens to Christian music has probably been introduced to Rend Collective because of their breakout hit "Bring Your Kingdom Here" from their album Campfire.

If you like that song, I think you'll love their new album, The Art of Celebration.

If you're a true music lover, you'll appreciate the artistry of this album. If you love worship, you'll love the spirit that these songs bring.

The standouts for me were "Joy", "My Lighthouse" and "Finally Free".

By far, my favorite song was the simplest song...hence the title "Simplicity". It's one of those songs kept playing over and over. Not because of the musicality, but because of the effect it had on my personal worship to God. I'm even looking at using it at my church.

Here's a lyric video:




Download it on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-art-of-celebration/id816543831

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Expendables


Recently, my worst nightmare as a church leader happened. I woke up at 1am on Sunday morning...and...let's just say...I was very sick.

Obviously, this is never a good thing, but when you're a leader in a church, that's pretty much the worst time to get sick. I'm the main worship leader at my church. I also handle all the media...and our church is portable. Sundays are pretty wild and my attendance is somewhat crucial.

So, there I was...sick at 1am...wondering how I was going to function at 6am setting up equipment at a high school. I was also trying to decide if I was going to be able to lead worship for three services.

Fortunately, God is in control and He knew all about this apparent crisis.

It just happened to be my recently hired Worship Leader Assistant's first Sunday with us and he was actually co-leading with me. He stepped up and led worship for the morning, which allowed me to lay in bed all morning and be sick.

Amazingly, everything went great.

God's Spirit moved in people.

People worshipped God...and I wasn't even there.

Long story short - I'm expendable.

Before I was born, God was doing His thing. His will and His Kingdom are not dependent on me or on my in-giftedness. Sure, I serve God and His Church and I strive to contribute, but if I die right now, God will fill my spot.

The definition of expendable is "capable of being sacrificed in order to accomplish an objective."

That's me...and, um...if you're a church leader...that's you too.

It doesn't mean that we can't be valuable or impacting. It simply means that, at the end of the day, it doesn't all depend on us. God's got big hands and he's holding it all together. (Colossians 1:17)

So, what do we, as church leaders, do with this information?

Some leaders will fight it in their insecurity. Some will sulk in self-pity.

What I would like to see happen is leaders embrace it in humility, and, in turn, proclaim it loudly for God's glory.

"It's not about us!"
"It's not up to us!!"

Those are freedom cries. Those are statements of deepest honesty and self-realization.

God is dependable and we are expendable.

His plan is perfect and ours is flawed.

When we don't grasp this as church leaders, we are operating under a warped mindset of narcissistic tendencies. I heard Rick Warren once say that we too often walk around saying, "If it's to be, it's up to me!"

I'm pretty sure the people who make God laugh the hardest have to be control freaks...and I have to confess that I'm one of those people.

At the heart of worship is surrender. When we surrender to the fact that God is dependable and we are expendable, we will find great freedom and a peace that goes beyond our understanding. It's a recognition and resignation to God's sovereignty. He lives, He knows all and He doesn't need us.

The beauty is, with all that being said, He wants us.

Expendable, broken and sinful people are the target of God's intense pursuit.

He desires our worship and is jealous for it. The God that was and is and always will be, wants me.

As church leaders, we tend to lose sight of this. We forget where we came from and find ourselves in delusion and confusion, thinking that we are making it all happen. When this sets in, we stray away from recognizing WHO God is, and start leading our church away from God's glory and toward our own.

It doesn't have to be this way. There's a better Way.

We need to recognize our expendability and understand where to find our true value:

1. Our value lies in the fact that we are children of God. We have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Almighty God...the Creator, Sustainer & Owner of it all! How often do we sit and think about that? How often do we forget that or take it for granted? That's a pretty big deal.


2. Our value lies in replacing ourselves as leaders and empowering others. If you don't think your church or ministry could function without you right now, then it's only as big as you are. FYI...that's pretty small. You will find great joy and fulfillment in mentoring and empowering a future young leader. It will be something to celebrate the older you get. It's the ultimate way you can contribute to what you're leading.

So, church leaders...

...embrace the title.

We are THE EXPENDABLES!

God is dependable.

His glory is incomprehensible.

It's a beautiful thing and it's something we can find great value and joy in.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Worship Leading Tips: SONG SELECTION


SONG SELECTION

I've had a lot of people ask me about how I select songs each week.

It's a valid question.

There's a lot of songs out there to sing in worship. There's more than ever. There's also a lot of preferences and motivations to select songs.

Song selection is one of the most important responsibilities of a worship leader. If we truly want to lead people to recognize God's presence, it's important that we get song selection right.

Here's some tips I've learned about selecting songs for worship:

1. SUPPORT THE SERMON - Most worship services, any where you go in the world, consist of a few varying elements. The center piece element is usually the sermon. That's why most people are there. I love to support the sermon with the songs I select. When you theme a worship service, there's a better chance that the church will walk away intent on applying God's message to their everyday life. It's an awesome service to your church when you can support that sermon with the songs you select.

2. PRAY - The best worship sets consist of the songs that God wants us to sing to Him. One way to determine that is by asking God for wisdom and peace in your song selection. If I don't have a peace about a certain song, I ask God for wisdom and He always gives it to me. (James 1:5) I can't tell you how many times I've changed a setlist because God has interceded in some way. A worship setlist should not be an opportunity for worship leaders to perform their favorite songs. Prayerfully select your songs. Each song is important to your church and you need God's wisdom and guidance with that responsibility.

3. VIEW IT AS A JOURNEY - Whether you have 3, 4 or 5 songs in a set, view the setlist as a chance to take your church on a journey for 20-30 minutes. Design the order to be a succession of songs that support each other, that will take your church to specific destination. Anybody can throw together a random conglomerate of tunes, but it takes care to make a setlist a journey. Make sure that each song flows to the next lyrically. Consider keys of songs and tempos as well. It's an opportunity for art and God can use you as the brush. Here's an example of a setlist as a journey through the idea of God's unfailing love:

"Unchanging"
"Not for a Moment"
"You Never Let Go"


If someone in your church asked you how you select songs, what would your answer be?

It doesn't have to be the same as mine, but make sure it's more about God's leading and less about your latest favorites. Song selection can make a huge difference in what happens in your church.

That's a huge responsibility.