Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just a Donkey

Since I returned from my conference a few weeks ago I've blogged twice about things that I learned or experienced at my conference.  I do this because I had a great experience at the conference (hence the name "Experience Conference") and I just want to share some of the things I learned, experienced, and heard while I was there.  Today's post will be no different.

One of our speakers was James MacDonald. 
He is the Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago.  He is also the head of "Walk in the Word" ministries.  You might have even heard one of his radio broadcasts.  He has a tremendous heart for worship and worship leaders, and so he came and spoke to us at the conference.  Now, one of the main themes that each of our speakers shared with us during the week was humility.  As worship leaders, pastors, musicians, etc... we are to remain humble in what we do.  Being on a stage with hundreds (for some there, thousands) of people watching you, it can be easy to become proud and boastful in what you do.  James MacDonald also spoke about this and closed his message to us with this story.

He said that one day he received an angry letter from a church member who blasted him (as the Senior Pastor) for what one of the other pastors had supposedly done (foul language in a pick-up basketball game).  Now if you've ever worked at or served in a church, you've probably received a letter like this before.  James said that he normally would have just discarded the letter and forgotten about it, but there was something in this letter that bothered him.  He said that at the end of the letter, the church member called him a "donkey".  I'll be honest with you, I'm not even sure what that really means.  Who calls someone a donkey?  I mean really.  A donkey?  That's just sad.

Well, he said that being called a donkey really bothered him.  He said that he just couldn't shake it over the next few days.  He kept saying to himself, "I'm just a donkey" and "I'm nothing but a donkey".  So, by Friday of that week, he realized that he had himself a problem.  He had to write his sermon for that weekend and all he could think of was that he was a donkey.  Well, on Friday he met a pastor friend of his for lunch but didn't mention the "donkey" letter to his friend.  When lunch was done, he walked his pastor friend to his car and his friend said this:  "James, you are doing a great job at the church, but you know what they say about the donkey?"  To which James (in astonishment) replied, "No, what do they say about the donkey?"  And his pastor friend said, "Even the donkey knew that the palm branches and coats laying before him were not for him but were for the one riding on his back (referring to Jesus' triumphal entry)". 

He  told us this story to remind us to be humble and stay humble.  The lights and applause and adoration that sometimes get poured on us aren't for us at all.  They are for Jesus.  We're just the donkeys that He is riding on.

Worship Big!


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Drama Team

In last week's blog post I talked about some things that I learned from my worship conference.  In this week's post I want to talk about another part of my conference that I really liked.  During each of the general sessions (morning and evening) we always started out the session with a comedian.  They were Christian comedians and were extremely funny.  I'm not going to say that they set the mood for worship, but they did put everyone at ease and helped everyone relax.  

Now, as someone who has been in worship ministry for over 20 years, I've learned that one of the hardest things to do is get people to relax and just let God take over a worship service.  Sometimes, the best thing that can happen is for someone (normally me) to have a total and complete train wreck musically that makes people laugh.  It breaks the tension and gets people to relax.  And that's what the comedian did for us each session.

Now, here at MPBC we don't get to have comedians in our services (at least not intentionally).  So, we have to find different ways to get people to laugh and/or relax.  One of the best ways I've found is skits by our drama team.  We try to do one skit per month (during the school year) and typically they are pretty funny, although sometimes they can be serious.  They break up the monotony that sometimes can happen in church services and generally set people at ease.  Plus, we have some really talented actors in our church.  I'm actually kind of amazed at the amount of acting talent and ability that is in our church.

With all of that said, I want to show you a skit that our drama team did yesterday at church.  Now, what makes this skit really interesting is that they talked me into being a part of it.  I am not an actor.  AT ALL.  But fortunately, I didn't have a lot of lines.  The hardest part for me was not laughing at Travis.  So, I hope you enjoy!

Worship Big!


Monday, September 15, 2014

What I Learned at My Conference

For each of the past 4 years I have had the privilege to attend the Experience Worship Conference in Orlando, Florida.  The conference is designed for worship pastors by worship pastors.  So, it is basically set-up for people just like me.  They bring in some of the best worship teams, teachers, preachers, and worship artists from around the world for us to experience.  This year they brought in groups/artists/preachers like Hillsong United, Vertical Church Band, Chris Tomlin, and James McDonald.  It was a wonderful time and with this week's blog post I wanted to share a few things I learned while there.

1.  Technology in worship is always changing.  Twenty years ago, if you had a hymnal, you were set for worship.  Now worship involves ipads, computer programs like Ableton, multi-tracks, loops, and in-ear monitor units.  I can't even imagine what worship will look like 20 years from now.

2.  Rock Star worship leaders are OUT.  There was a time, recently even, when the worship leader acted like a rock star trying to get everyone excited and jumping around.  They never sang the same song twice and typically acted like the "show".  Now churches and pastors are looking for worship leaders who have a true heart to lead others to Jesus.  They want people who are "authentic" and "real".

3.  Postures in worship are becoming big.  What I mean by "postures" is kneeling, bowing, raising hands, clapping, laying prostrate, heads bowed, etc...  They are physical expressions of worship that are listed in the Bible.  It seemed like every time a worship group or leader would start a time of worship, he/she/they would have us start by getting into some type of physical posture of worship.  I have to admit, it does seem to help prepare the heart to enter into a true time of worship.

4.  Worship Conferences are REALLY LOUD!!!  At MPBC, a really big worship song will be around 85-90 decibels.  At this conference, the really big worship songs ran around 115-120 decibels.  That's the equivalent of being underneath an airplane as it takes off.  After 45 minutes of this, your ears would definitely get a little bit tired.  I went outside one time while the music was playing and could still hear it.  It was just LOUD.

5.  If your Pastor is not a worshiper, your church will not be a worshiping church.  It doesn't matter how good your music is, if your Pastor (Senior, Lead, Teaching, or whatever you call him) isn't a worshiper, your church won't be a worshiping church.  He will set the example even more than your worship team or worship pastor.  I'm thankful that MPBC has a Pastor who worships!

6.  MPBC has a LOT of talented people!  In fact, for a church of our size, we have way more than we should.  I talked with a number of worship pastors at the conference who were desperate for musicians, singers, and tech team members.  And these guys worked at very large churches (well over 1,000 people in attendance).  Most churches our size don't have half as many musicians, singers, and tech team people as we do.  We are very blessed!

7.  Our tech team is AWESOME!!!  The conference had a lot of cool lights and effects (apparently money is no object for them), but they consistently had the wrong lyrics on the screens and would struggle with playing videos and sometimes even getting mics on.  I'm grateful that our tech team works hard each week to avoid these types of issues.  That's not to say that they never make a mistake, but the amount of mistakes at the conference, by professionals, was scary.

Worship Big!


Monday, September 8, 2014

What Makes A Worship Set Successful

Today I want to talk about the success of a Worship set.  Many worship leaders may gauge the success of a set in different ways, but is there a way to tell if it was truly successful?  First, we must think about the goal of a set.  We know that the goal of the music is to set up a meeting between the congregation and the Lord.  Also, it's to create an atmosphere in which people feel free and open to worship God without having to worry about who's looking.   So, every time we have a worship set, we must ask if that happened.  However, the answer may not always be crystal clear.

Sometimes, we look out at the congregation, especially at our 8:30 am service and see many people like this:  

Sometimes, this can be frustrating, especially if you're the one on stage smiling and singing almost as if you're begging these people to at least stand up.  After that particular set is over, it's easy to write that one off as "unsuccessful", but is that really the case?  Even though people are still sleepy at 8:30 am (I am too, half the time), that doesn't necessarily mean they got nothing out of it.  Just because they weren't all raising their hands, jumping up and down and singing out doesn't mean they didn't have a quite, intimate time with God.  Most of the time, the people that are still half asleep, sipping their morning coffee during the service are the ones that come up to you afterwords telling you how much they enjoyed it.  Usually when that happens, that tells us that they did have a meeting with God, even if it was only to acknowledge and focus on Him for a moment.

On the other hand, this is a similar image to what our 11:00 am service often looks like in the middle of a set:

Are they "worshiping better" because this group of people are more in touch with, or closer to God? Are they more in tune with Jesus than the 8:30 am group? Or is it because they have had a couple of hours to get woken up?  I'm going with that one.  After a worship set at the 11:00 am service, it's easy to say that it was a success every time, but is that true?  Not necessarily.  Hear me out, I love our 11:00 am service and they may be in a great worship mindset every time, but I'm saying just because they were raising their hands and singing out doesn't always mean they had their total focus on God. They could have been just enjoying the music or the liveliness but had God somewhere in the middle or even back of their minds.  In this case, even though it looked good from the stage, if no one truly met with God, then it was a waste.  

So, with all of those things said, try to keep in mind that during worship, what's going on on the outside of a person may not be an accurate representation of what's going on inside.  If someone seemed half asleep, sipping coffee drifting in out of consciousness, but met with God and became closer to Him, then it was a success.  If someone was jumping up and down, singing to the top of their lungs with both hands raised as high as possible and enjoying the music, but didn't reason with Lord, then the goal wasn't met. 

To reinstate our goal, we are to attempt to set up an atmosphere in which people are free to worship Jesus and is supposed to be a special time.  We don't always know what goes on inside the individual person, so when we see something like this...

....let's not always write it off as unsuccessful.  :)



Monday, September 1, 2014

Blasts from the Past

So, this past week I was looking on YouTube for a piano tutorial for a song that I'm currently learning and I remembered that our worship team has a YouTube channel that I haven't checked or updated in a few years.  So, I pulled up our channel and watched some old videos of our worship team from 3 and 4 years ago from concerts that we had done.  Needless to say, I believe that we have come a long, long way since then, but still, there were a couple of videos that I wanted to share with you.

The first one is "Sweet Home Up in Heaven".  Geoff Farmer rewrote the lyrics to "Sweet Home Alabama" and we did this at our first concert as a team.  I wasn't sure how people would respond to it, but judging by the hooting and hollering, I believe they enjoyed it.  It has actually been viewed over 1300 times on YouTube.  Unbelievable!   What's even more unbelievable is how some of us looked.  My hair was down to my shoulders and I was 30 pounds heavier than I am now.  Jordan (electric guitar) looked like he was 12 years old (he was actually like 17).  So, here it is.  Don't judge us too harshly on it.  We were just trying to have some fun.


This next one might be my favorite.  It's "Manic Sunday".  Geoff Farmer once again rewrote the lyrics to a well-known secular song ("Manic Monday") and this is what we came up with.  What's truly amazing is that I talked the ladies into dressing up in '80's garb and even wearing horrible wigs.  Once again, unbelievable!  So, here you go and enjoy!


I hope you've enjoyed this walk down memory lane.  I know I did.

Worship Big!