Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Coffee Cups and Yawns

With this week's post I would like write a word of encouragement to everyone who leads in worship here at MPBC and in other churches everywhere.  One of the hardest parts of leading in worship week in and week out is seeing people each week who don't participate.  They stand there with their arms folded and mouths closed and we get discouraged.  Why aren’t they singing?  Why don’t they have their hands raised?  Do they not love Jesus?  And if they do love Jesus, why do they seem to love their coffee cups more?  Why is it that the only time they open their mouths is to yawn? 

I think that anyone who has ever led worship has asked those questions.  But, here’s the bigger issue.  We look out and see the same faces each week not singing (missing it in our eyes) and we assume that God (the Holy Spirit) isn’t working because He can’t possibly be present and working when the people are so indifferent during worship.  But that’s not true.  In his book, Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin writes:

“The Holy Spirit is indeed present and at work every time the church gathers.  We just need to understand biblically what that means.  When people grasp something of God’s glory, the Spirit is at work.  When people are convicted of sin, the Spirit is at work.  When people receive hope and strength in the midst of a trial, the Spirit is at work.”  Kauflin goes on to say that the Holy Spirit may also choose to reveal Himself through “a heightened awareness of His nearness”.

God probably isn’t going to reveal Himself in some type of spectacular way each and every time we meet to worship together.  But, He is going to show up!  We just don’t know how.  So, we have to trust in His plan and His way.  We don’t know everything that our people are going through.  We don’t know all of their struggles and fears.  But God does.  And we have to believe that He will use us, our music, and our times of worship to minister to each individual situation. 

I’ve been astounded and amazed many times after a service when someone comes up to me and tells me how much the worship time meant to them that morning.  God touched their heart and gave them comfort and peace.  And many times, these are the same people that I thought didn’t care.  They never once sang or lifted their hands or closed their eyes.  They just stood there like statues.  But God was moving and working as only He can. 

So, this week as you lead in worship, and it looks like people are half asleep, just remember that God never sleeps and He’s always present and working.

Worship Big!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fresh Air

Here at MPBC, we have what I consider to be a massive worship and music ministry. It includes everything from a children's choir to a full-on recording program where we're a month and a half away from releasing our 3rd album.  We have several teams of musicians and singers and an awesome worship choir who love doing what they do.  Sometimes within these things however, it's certainly nice to give an area of our ministry a breath of fresh air.

Recently, we wanted to bring new life into the way we do our weekly choir practices.  In the past, choir practice was 45 minutes to an hour of banging out parts and harmonies and putting a polish on blending 30 voices together as one.  As nice as the final product can be, it can become a bit stale week after week.  So, last night, we attempted a new idea that Pastor Brad came up with.  Choir practice was a time of worship.  Guess what? was awesome. 

The first 5-10 minutes was spent working on new material, then we did something we never get the chance to do as a large church; we got into groups and prayed.  We prayed for each other and for our church.  Pastor Brad lead us in prayer and the Spirit of God was tangible. If only I had a picture!   After that, to practice the songs for the upcoming Sunday, we had a time of worship.  We had a lead singer, 2 acoustic guitars and a guy on a djembe.  Nothing complicated or complex.  Nothing huge.  It was a small and intimate time.  We sang, we prayed and read scripture.  It was clear to see that people genuinely enjoyed their time in choir practice.   From now on, this is what we go for.  Not only are we being productive in getting parts right, but we're spending time with Jesus.  

So if you think you may be interested in choir and want to give it a shot, come up and join us on Wednesday nights in the Reach Center right after service.  We would be delighted to have you!



Friday, January 13, 2017

The Art of the Song

Today, I am going to be writing simply about the art of songwriting. How I take part in it, and why I love it. Fun fact about me: I love writing, and I love singing, and I love unique sound. So, naturally, I fell quickly in love with songwriting. See, when I listen to music, I listen intently. My ear goes beyond the surface of the music I listen to, and it listens for soul. When I hear music, I want to hear the very essence, the very heart of the artist who composed it. I, personally, crave music that means something, which can be quite rare in the world we live in today. This is why songwriting is so important to me! I can be as unique, original and deep as I want when I take what I feel in my heart and pour it out on the pages of my journal. 

Songwriting is a raw process but, to put it simply, I just don’t think too hard about it. When I write a song, I don’t try to make it perfect. I take what is in my heart, and I put it down in words. I believe God blessed me with the ability to do what I do. 99.9 percent of the time, I write about what God has done for me in my life, His love, and His being. That’s a fun one by the way. It’s hard to even wrap one's mind around God’s being, but finding the words to say about it… Like I said, it’s a process. 

In my limited experience, some of the best songs come from the most raw and emotional circumstances. When my heart is overwhelmed, I sit down with my song journal and I take whatever emotion I have, and I use that energy to write a song about the essence of Jesus. If I feel joyful, I write about how wonderful He is. If I feel angry, I write about His peace and comfort. If I feel totally broken, I write about His never failing, never changing, unending LOVE. Words are my release. In fact, I think words are the best release, when used in an uplifting, positive and God-glorifying way. It reminds me of a passage in scripture that comes from Psalm 33:3:

“Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings with loud shouts.” 

Songwriting literally is creating a new song to sing to the Lord. But I’m going to go a bit further in this chapter to show why this verse is relevant and why I believe what I do about songwriting. Verses 4-7 declare “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!” That is why I feel so strongly that music should be meaningful. I’m not saying all music should be deep and have lyrics that go way over the head of the listener, because music is individual and unique to each person. But God, as the passage described, is so vast and wonderful, I want to tell the world exactly what is in my heart about Him.

Sometimes it makes me nervous to present new songs to anyone, simply because I feel exposed. When I pour myself into lyrics, everything I feel is open to critique. But I don’t mind. As long as people know how much I love Jesus, and as long as He is honored by the words that leave my tongue, all is well. So, my friends, that is how I write songs and why I love to do so. (Sidenote: I can be spontaneous and write a fun and happy little song every now and again, but for the most part, I write songs like I described. Just so you know!)

Keep smiling!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Where's Your Heart?

To start off the new year, I began rereading a book by Bob Kauflin called Worship Matters.  It's a great book on worship and I highly recommend it to anyone involved in worship leadership.  In one of the beginning chapters Kauflin talks about all of the things that we have made worship out to be:  music, techniques, liturgies, songs, traditions, methods, technology, etc...  Kauflin then points out that while each one of those can certainly contribute to worship, they are not what true worship is all about.  Ultimately, worship is about our hearts.  It’s about what and who we love more than anything. 

Jesus said in Matthew 22:37- “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (emphasis mine).  Jesus wants our hearts.  He wants us to love Him more than we love music, our ministries, our loved ones or even our own lives. 

So, as a worship leader, where’s your heart?  What or who do you love the most?  Is it Jesus or is it someone or something else?  I think if we’re being honest, we can all think of times that the # 1 focus of our hearts during worship hasn’t been on Jesus.  And here’s the scary part that Kauflin describes so well from his own struggles with this in his book:  “I learned that I could lead others in worshiping God and be worshiping something else in my own heart”.


Just think about that.  We lead others in worshiping Jesus while at the same time our hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13).  And what’s sad is that I know that I’ve been there and done that far too many times.  It’s so easy for my focus to be on the other things in life that I enjoy, love, or am looking forward to.  And there’s nothing wrong with loving or enjoying other aspects of our lives (family, friends, sports, vacations, etc…).  But you can’t really enjoy and love those things the right way until you love Jesus the most.  And so as worship leaders, our main concern each and every time that we lead can’t be on what songs we are singing, what the lighting will be, or what the song transitions are.  Our main concern has to be the state and focus of our hearts.

So, where’s your heart?

Worship Big!