Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is Jesus the Conductor of Our Worship?

A few years ago I watched a video sermon based off Louie Giglio’s ‘Stars and Whales’ (if you’ve never seen it before, here’s the link https://vimeo.com/54384759.)  I was in complete awe. I had no idea that the stars in the galaxies thousands of light-years away had an actual sound. That the sun or the earth spinning on its axis made a sound—the thought never crossed my mind. Isn’t it amazing to think that God, the creator of the universe, is the Conductor of the most magnanimous worship choir EVER?!? I was so overcome with emotion to hear the stars in the galaxy and whales in the ocean literally singing praises to their Creator.

As I watched and listened, I realized that I don’t always allow Jesus to be the Conductor of my worship and my heart. I want to do the leading, and I always end up feeling lost and frustrated. A conductor’s job is to lead and guide, to keep time, to ensure correct entries by members of the ensemble, and give instruction. Without the conductor, everything is going to go awry—because without their guidance and instruction, we cannot possibly give our best performance. Just like we need a conductor in music, we need to let Jesus be the Conductor of our worship and our hearts. A passage in Called to Worship by Vernon Whaley states: 

“Without a conductor, there is no hope for unified presentation, but rather, dissonance and rhythmic chaos—in short, a musical mess."

But in our worship, we must see Jesus as our Conductor, who came to this world to direct a magnificent symphony that puts us in harmony with God and each other. And if we let Him, Jesus will restore order out of chaos and transform our ugly discord into beautiful music for the glory, honor, and praise of the Most High God.”

That seems so simple, right? Let Jesus conduct and we live in perfect harmony. Obviously, Satan doesn’t like that, and tells us to take Jesus’ baton and lead our own lives…and it NEVER works. We get on our high horses; we become boastful, arrogant, and conceded. We say things we shouldn’t, we think things we shouldn’t, and we lose focus on what truly matters—Jesus. We take our eyes off Him and we stumble, or worse, we cause our brother to stumble.

Maybe today would be a good day to hand the baton back to Jesus. Let Him lead and guide and direct our hearts and our worship. After all, we were never qualified for the job in the first place!



Friday, May 12, 2017

Music Stands on Stage?

Should we allow music stands on stage?  This can definitely be a question with several answers but not necessarily a 100% correct answer.  As in any other decision making process, I'll lay out some pros and cons of music stands and maybe even a helpful alternative. 

First, let's look at the cons of having stands on stage...

1.  They're ugly.  That has to be the biggest complaint of a traditional style music stand.  You can try to put them off to the side, lower them some, but they're still just a black orb taking up space on stage and depending on how many you have, it can almost be distracting.

2.  A/V Teams.  For the same reason as number 1, I can only imagine that camera guys despise them.  They get in the way of desired shots and hide musicians instruments.  Also, lighting crews aren't always thinking about allowing light on the stage for a musician to be able to see their sheet music.  

3.  Musicianship.  This can be a large part of the argument, and a tricky one.  It's debatable that the use of a music stand can injure the musicianship of someone who plays an instrument.  Having the sheet music and/or chord charts can be relied upon too much and can lead to just playing through the songs and never REALLY learning them.

4.  Distraction.  This can go hand in hand with Musicianship.  If you're just playing along and following a chord chart and are focused on it, then are you able to do your part to engage the congregation in worship?  This entails personal practice, which I think our teams are good at and take that responsibility upon themselves.  When relied upon to get you through the song, having a chord chart on a music stand in front of you can be very distracting, especially with trying not to lose your place on the paper.

You may be able to think of more cons, but here are a few pros to having the music in front of you.

1.  Piece of Mind.  Having the music there as a reference and a slight reminder can be comforting.  We have 3 Sunday morning services and do a sound check before 1st service.  During soundcheck, we run through all the songs, just like service.  So on Sundays, the band does the same set 4 times.  Needless to say, things can begin to run together after some time.  As a keyboard player or bass player, knowing that you're such a foundation to the music, having the music readily available can be very comforting because at some point or another, you will blank for a moment.  It's just going to happen.

2.  Perspective.  I think it's really important that we put these things into perspective.  What's the point of what we do?  To lead people into the presence of Jesus.  If having the music can make you feel more relaxed knowing you do have that safety net, that's great!  You're more likely to engage people when you're comfortable.  The point is to worship.

If you're on the fence on whether to ditch music stands, you're not alone.  We stepped away from music stands a couple of years ago, but not completely.  For a long time, we would print off chord charts and make folders for each band position for the songs for that week.  One reason that we moved away from that was just the amount of work involved each Monday or Tuesday.  The other reason, you guessed it, visual.  There's no way around it, music stands are ugly.  Upon doing some research, we discovered something called OnSong.  OnSong is an iPad app that takes chord charts and puts them in an easy to read format that you can follow along with.  We even have ours set to auto-scroll so there's no pesky page turning between songs or the worry of losing our place.  They have a low light setting so there's never a worry of being able to see.  One of my favorite parts is that since it's ran on an iPad, you don't have the sheer bulk of a traditional music stand.  For us, this is the best of both worlds and our team really embraced it.  If you would like to know more about it, check out http://www.onsongapp.com/.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Grant Norsworthy

I'm really looking forward to this upcoming weekend. MPBC will be hosting Grant Norsworthy (speaker, musician, Australian-now based out of Nashville, TN), who will be leading a workshop for our worship team on Saturday and then speaking and leading the team on Sunday during our services.  Grant is a Dove Award Winning and Grammy Nominated musician who now has his own ministry, "More Than Music Mentor", in which he travels around the country helping churches and worship teams and also provides free resources through his website:  www.morethanmusicmentor.com.

I first met Grant about 4 years ago at a conference in Florida.  I was there for a Songwriting Workshop and he was my group leader.  He was easy to work with and really had a lot of good information and insight into songwriting.  I ran into him again last summer at another conference and took one of the classes he was teaching.  Once again I was impressed with his knowledge of worship and ideas and ways for improving how a worship team and a worship ministry functions.

After this second encounter with him, I started thinking about how he could help our team and ministry here at MPBC.  And so, we're bringing him in.

But, he's not just here for the worship team or worship ministry.  On Sunday, he'll be speaking to the entire church at all 3 morning services.  Here's a quote from his website that I think clearly sums up what you'll get to experience this Sunday as he shares:  

"Through an engaging blend of illustrations, storytelling, solid Bible teaching and songs, Grant Norsworthy possesses a rare ability to reshape sometimes-overwhelming concepts into deep-yet-simple thoughts that propel listeners to realization and action."

So, I hope that you'll make plans to be here.  I promise that you'll enjoy it and get something out of it.  

Worship Big!


Monday, April 24, 2017

Create in Me a Heart of Genuine Worship

Worship…that word means different things to different people.

Ole Mr. Webster says that “Worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”.
And yes, I would agree worship can be an outward expression of our love for the Father. It should come to that! But the question lies…What do you personally consider worship?

I remember as a child watching a lady in our church raise her hands every time a certain song was played and she would just bawl. At that time, I was afraid of her (I was 4) she was different. (Granted she pinched my cheeks every time I got close, which could have been the reason for my fear). But it was an odd thing for me to see for some reason. In an entire church of “Christians” there was this one lady who would go all kinds of crazy at random moments. The truth I would grow to understand….she had a heart and desire to experience God in her own way, with no worries of another thinking she was insane. The rest of us could have used a bit of that reverence and accountability. 

Over the past few months, I have been experiencing a “shift” in my walk with the Father. And in a wonderful way. It’s no secret that I deal with medical issues and a new diagnosis caught me off guard. But in it all I felt peace, His presence, and I had overwhelming Joy! God was allowing me to have another opportunity to Praise and Worship Him through another struggle. You see, the struggle is only a tiny portion of the story (His Story). He ordained my days and allowed this not for my destruction but for His glory. I knew I was to make sure that he received what I was called to give. 

Sometimes, I think we as Christians ignore our calling.  While everyone has a different plan, we have the same purpose. We are called to serve, share, and glorify God for who He is.
While facing another little giant in my life I began to feel more conviction regarding what I allowed or ignored. When I truly sought Him, He gave me the clarity to see Him. (Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you-James 4:8).

I would get what I call “spirit checks” (discernment) more often in situations I might not have seen before. I began to funnel my actions/words more carefully knowing that I had failed miserably to do so lately. I asked God to provide me with a genuine heart of worship. 

It didn’t come immediately. I had to allow the hardened build up to be broken away. Feelings of resentment, frustration, and plain anger had seeped into the cracks and filled the void where my praise should have been. It is so easy to allow this to happen. It’s a very slow fade! 

As a member of our praise team I am fully aware that how I worship can affect those around me and I wanted to ensure I was genuine and not just being routine. Its sometimes easy to focus on the physical v/s the spiritual when you sing. In my case, sometimes my injuries make themselves known or the technical aspects of performing can be pushed in the forefront of my mind. To ensure that I didn’t allow the “stuff” to cloud my view of The Father, I begin my time in prayer. From the time I arrive, to the moment we step off the stage for the day, I am in constant conversation w/the Father. 

I don’t share this to say, “Look at me and what a good Christian I am”. I share this because I am a broken child of the King who needs correction on a daily basis!

I drag the weekly junk into church wit me on Sunday morning just like everyone else! We are all hit with difficulties (work, finances, health, and other people). It tears us down and we bring what’s left of us to church. In my case that’s not a lot left to give! 

I understood that my personal temperament (one who is a straight shooter/calls it like she sees it) would need to have a clean slate before I stood and sang. I would need to ensure that my focus wasn’t on the ones around me, the music, the struggles or even the people in front of me. That it was on the ONE who blessed me with the ability to sing. So…I pray. I pray that God would remove any ounce of “self” I have left in me, that he would remove my focus on the physical struggles and point me to Him. Since I began to do this I have experienced Him in a way I can’t describe. Worship became more personal than ever before and it was genuine and ALL for Him. 

You may not always see my hands being raised (sometimes physically its difficult).  While that is our typical expectation of outward praise, our inward approach to worship matters the most! When my heart is truly on the One who created me to serve, worship is being given! When your heart is completely engulfed in His presence something begins to change. Your outward expressions clearly show your intent. You begin to stand alone in His presence (no matter how many others are around).

You can worship in your mundane moments, your ugly moments and those of despair. Your heart can be healed in the most difficult of situations. You were bought for a price and are priceless in his sight! How awesome to know that we have such worth!

If you are finding yourself dragging the “junk” of the week/world around with you and feel that despair is the only form of emotion you can bring to the surface take heart in knowing that God is already fighting your battles. He’s already ahead of your situation.  He’s aware and in control. 
Casting Crowns perform a song called “Oh my Soul”. Its lyrics speak so clearly when times seem rough and worship seems impossible…

Oh, my soul
Oh, how you worry
Oh, how you're weary, from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing, you didn't see coming
And no one would blame you, though
If you cried in private
If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows
No one will see, if you stop believing

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
'Cause you're not alone

Here and now
You can be honest
I won't try to promise that someday it all works out
'Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

I'm not strong enough, I can't take anymore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
And my shipwrecked faith will never get me to shore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
Can He find me here
Can He keep me from going under

My sweet brother’s and sister’s in Christ. If you take anything away from today’s blog know that You are not alone. You are loved and created for a purpose. One that requires genuine and personal worship. Take today's struggle and give Him the glory! I will be right alongside of you doing the same.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Let It Be...

Have you ever just stopped everything you were doing to sit in awe of God? Just think: the God whose hands keep the planets from smashing together wants to hold our hand every day... wow.

I know many of you know the verse Psalm 46:10, "be still and know...". Well I like the beginning of that verse even better. In the AMPC version, it says "Let be and be still..."

So many times it is easy to "give" something to God, but we are still holding on to it. I know I've found myself doing that a lot lately. It is so hard to completely walk away, but sometimes that is what God is telling us to do.

I know, I get it. I've been clinging to my struggles for a while. But the moment I was finally able to say "God, I'm letting this be. I'm not only being still and waiting for You, but I'm letting this be." That was when I was able to truly open my heart to worship. When we hang on to these things it clouds our minds and the devil is allowed to steal our heart of worship. But when we let be... God can show us amazing things!

I encourage each of you to just let be! Be still and make yourself available to God. I promise He never disappoints!



Thursday, April 6, 2017

It's Okay

"It's okay".  That's a phrase I seem to use a lot around here on the first Wednesday night of each month.  See, on the first Wednesday night of each month, the praise team/band and worship choir lead in worship during our service.  On the other Wednesday nights throughout the month, we don't do anything.  Our goal is that the "First Wednesday Service" will be a special time of worship that people can look forward to throughout the month.  

So, that's the goal.  Unfortunately, we keep having issues during our First Wednesday Services.  For the most part they aren't major, just annoying.  Like last night, an innocent mistake was made and we lost our click track for one song (the band plays with it to help keep us all together).  And in the process to fix it, we had some loud "static" sounds come through the speakers.  Last month we struggled with some rhythm issues.  The month before that, I completely forgot the lyrics on a verse.  I just blanked on them.

Now, I'm sure there are some reasons that these issues continue to flare-up.  The biggest of which is probably our lack of a significant sound check on First Wednesday Nights.  On Sunday mornings we sound check for 25-30 minutes and run over each song in it's entirety.  On First Wednesday Nights we sound check for about 2 minutes and basically run over intros and transitions.  Unfortunately, that's all the time we have.  

And when there is an issue, everyone comes up to me afterward all upset.  Sometimes they are apologizing for their part in the issue.  Sometimes they are just upset that things didn't go as well as we hoped for.  But here's what I tell everyone:  it's okay.  Don't get me wrong.  I HATE it when things don't go well.  Part of my job is putting people in positions where they can succeed and do well.  And on First Wednesdays, that's hard.  

But ultimately, whether or not our worship is "successful" is not determined by how smoothly everything goes or our lack of issues.  Our worship is determined by the condition of our hearts and the sincerity of our praise.  And if those 2 things are right, then even the biggest issues won't hinder our worship.

So, we'll keep working towards getting all of these issues handled, but until we do, if you show up one First Wednesday Night and things don't go perfectly:

It's okay.

Worship Big!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Concert Highlights

This past Sunday morning our worship team had the honor of doing a worship concert for all 3 morning services.  It was a tremendous time of worship and I truly believe that people experienced Jesus and the hope that He has called us to (Ephesians 1:18).  I want to thank everyone who participated (the Praise Team/Band, the Worship Choir, and all of the A/V Team).  Everyone did an OUTSTANDING job!

To watch the entire concert go to:  http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/d7fmjlx

Or to see some highlights from the concert, click on the video below:


Worship Big!