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)"


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



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.


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


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:

"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.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Worship Leading Tips: EXPRESSION


Here in Denver, every season is filled with some sort of fanaticism over a sports team.

I'm an NBA fan, so I love to go to Nuggets games. In the spring, the weather's amazing and it's fun to go to the ball park and cheer on the Rockies. Last but not least, the NFL season brings on the undeniable force of the Broncos.

One thing that's common with each team is people in attendance expressing their adoration.

So, I ask myself, "Why doesn't that expression follow them to church?"

If you're a worship leader, I want to encourage you to keep asking that kind of question, because your church needs you to.

There's different answers to that question and I've heard a lot of them over the past several years. If I were to pick the most frequent response, it would probably sound something like, "I'm just more reserved and quiet in my worship."

The only problem with that statement is that it's less about what God desires and more about what the person prefers.

The responsibility of the worship leader is to lead people to experience and participate in the worship of the one, true God in spirit and in truth, because that's exactly what God wants. (John 4:23)

That kind of worship has nothing to do with our comfort and everything to do with God's desire. I love to let my church know that God doesn't NEED our worship. It's way better than that. He WANTS our worship. As sons and daughters of the King, God's desire should supersede the need for own comfort.

Expression is not always comfortable, but I've come to understand that it's very important to the corporate worship experience of church.

If you've experienced the power of expression, you probably agree. The challenge of it all is convincing your church of that, especially if they haven't fully experienced that kind of freedom in worship.

If you've ever led worship in a church that's less than expressive, you're not alone. I've been there and many other worship leaders have too. I've been really blessed to lead worship in churches where the pastor has shared my desire to see God's people break free in praise. It's amazing to see the spiritual growth happen in corporate worship as your people slowly, but surely, let go and embrace biblical expression to their God.

As a worship leader, you can be a catalyst for that growth.

Here's some tips I've learned about leading your church toward expression in worship:

1. TEACH IT - There's many ways to express ourselves in corporate worship. The best ways are the biblical ways. Start with the bible and study what it says about expression. You'll find out quite a bit. You'll find the motive for expression and that it's not about drawing attention to yourself, but about pointing to the glory and presence of God. You'll also find specific instruction, and some would say, mandates about it. Psalm 47:1 says "Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy." This definitely doesn't seem to be optional. The churches I grew up in were not comfortable with rhythmic clapping and definitely not shouting, but they sure were proud about their "stance" on God's Word. There's freedom in expression and we need to teach our church about what the Bible says about raising hands(Psalm 134:2), clapping (Psalm 47:1), bowing down (Psalm 95:6), shouting (Psalm 95:1) and dancing (Psalm 150:4). We can teach and educate our church during a worship set, and even better, a strategic sermon every once and a while. Remember that the pastor of your church is just as much or more the worship leader as you are. A sermon or message series will teach and lead your church to understand biblical, expressive worship way more than a song or worship set can. Look for teaching moments and opportunities anywhere you can. If you don't teach, the majority will never learn, therefore you can not expect them to be expressive at church.

2. MODEL IT - When it comes to expression, you have to model what you want to see happen. If you're on a guitar or a keyboard, plan specific moments in a song where you can free up your hands and model expression for your church. Showing people what to do can be more effective than telling them what to do. Think about those moments as you're planning your service and running through rehearsal. Be intentional about it. The next step is directing your team to model it as well. One of my songs, "Alleluia (Our Praise is)", has a pre-chorus that says, "Lift your hands to the One that you were made in image of." At that point of the song I direct my band and vocalists to model that. If you have a choir, they are a huge model of expression. I've directed choirs behind me to model expression at specific and non-specific times and it's incredible to see it spread from the stage to the crowd. Expression is contagious. When you model it more and more, you'll see a slow and gradual emulation of your expression take place in your church.

3. ENCOURAGE IT - Some people come to your service and they cannot wait to express their adoration to God. Others will come and they're going to need a nudge. They may have come from more conservative, reserved churches or they may just be brand new Christians. It's funny how effective a timely nudge or encouragement can be in a worship set. As a worship leader, you need to understand HOW to encourage your church to expression. Learn to encourage them without badgering them. Prayerfully plan moments in your set to encourage your crowd to lift their hands or shout to God. If you do that during every song, then you run the risk of losing them. Timely encouragement will effectively bring a unity of expression to your crowd and will also create special moments in worship. Plan these moments at different times in a set. There's times where you'll start a song with expression. There's times where you'll end a song with it. There's also those moments during a song, where all it will take is a quick "Lift your hands!" or "Shout to God!" Encouragement will nudge those, who normally don't express themselves, to join the crowd. 

Everyone gets excited about something. Shouldn't we be excited most about God? I've jumped, shouted, danced and fist-pumped about a lot of things, but there's nothing or no one more deserving than God.

II Corinthians 3:17 says, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Expression is one of the biggest catalysts to freedom in corporate worship. When you stretch out your hands, dance, shout or bow down, you're boldly proclaiming your love for God.

Worship always requires a sacrifice. Expression can definitely be a sacrifice of self, preference and comfort.

As the worship leader...it starts with you.

Teach it, model it and encourage it. It's worth it.