Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Is the Future of the Choir in the Past?

I'm in Gatlinburg, Tennesee this week for a worship conference put on by Lifeway Worship.  One of the major points of emphasis of the conference is the importance of the choir.  I totally agree.  I think that choirs are an extremely important element in corporate worship and a wonderful way to get people in church involved in ministry.  But that's not the way they are being presented and utilized here.  

So far, I've seen 2 choirs perform here and that's exactly what they were:  performances.  They were billed as
"worship" times, but were in reality, just opportunities to show off.  Don't get me wrong.  They were excellent choirs.  Very talented and extremely prepared.  But they just performed for us.  At no point in time were we invited to participate with them.  

Is that the future of choirs? I'm going to be honest with you.  It kind of feels like the past.  That's what choirs were doing when I was a kid.  Where is the corporate worship?  Where is the worship leading?  A choir is supposed to enhance our worship.  They are supposed to encourage, inspire and lead us in worship, not worship for us. 

Here's the thing, I don't have it all figured out.  Music and worship ministry is changing all the time.  And I'm like everyone else, I'm just trying to figure it all out.   But listening and watching people here, you'd think the best course of action for the future of music ministry is to revert back to 1975:  choir robes, anthems and organ music.  There's got to be a better way.

That's one of the reasons that I'm so grateful for our choir at MPBC. They love to lead in worship.  I really do believe it is their favorite thing to do.  Now, that doesn't mean that they won't ever do a "special" during a service.  In fact, I'm planning on them doing one each month during our First Wednesday services beginning in the fall.  They will also participate in our Christmas Candlelight Celebration in December and lead most of the songs during the 2018 Mt. Pleasant Passion Play. But, their main role is to lead, inspire and encourage in worship.  And that's what they do BEST!

Worship Big!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Just How Big He Is...

Do you ever just sit & wonder... "wow, our God is so big." After VBS this past week, I've been contemplating that quite a bit. We have the most awesome Father who created the galaxies, yet He still thought that there was room for me. For 5'2, all of 110lbs soaking wet, me. Just think about that for a second...

In Psalm 147, it says:

“He determines and counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord and of great power; His understanding is inexhaustible and boundless.”

‭‭This wasn't the memory verse for the week at VBS, but I made sure to teach it to my little ones. So as to remind them, that our God has numbered each and every star, as well as each hair on our heads. To tell them that, His knowledge passes all understanding, yet all He desires is to be close to us--for us to draw near to Him. 

And I think that's what I've been stuck at lately. That it is beyond any comprehension that the Maker of the entire universe asks nothing of me, but to be close to Him. He holds all this power, and all this knowledge, and asks nothing of me, but to walk in love with Him. How awesome is that. 

I hope each & every one of you have a blessed week! 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

When Your Voice Is Loud, But Your Words Are Empty

When your voice is loud, but your words are empty.  Do you ever feel that way?  If you're human, you do.  Whether in your job, a relationship or any other area of life involving people,  you're going to feel that way at some point.   For Christians, that may be an all-too-familiar feeling that seems to come in seasons.  Do you ever feel like you pray, read and seek Jesus with all your heart and yet....nothing?  You may be seeking Him on how to handle a situation or praying for someone and their health or salvation, or it may just be a normal day and you just don't hear or feel anything.  You're not alone.  But, what if you're a worship leader in your church?  What if it's your week to sing or play and you aren't hearing from God about an issue that you need some help in.  You feel nothing.  You seem to be screaming at Him for an answer and you get complete silence.  What then?

I've been there.  It's a hard place to be in when you feel that God isn't hearing you and you're needing an extra dose of patience and understanding at that point in time.  You sing and play on a platform in your church, knowing that you still aren't hearing from Him.  It's quite a lonely feeling isn't it?  It drains you spiritually, mentally and sometimes even physically.  In my case, the thing that helped was beginning to learn the art of listening.  In some ways I can be terrible at listening.  I can hear, but I don't always listen.  Sometimes it's the fact that I think I'm not hearing from God, but in reality it's that God isn't speaking to me in a way that I feel like He should.  So, my prayer as of late has been for Him to help me be more aware and to do a little more listening and a lot less talking.  

I'm often drawn to think of Elijah.  What a relationship He had with God and what a longing he had to be with Him. God used Elijah to hold rain from the people for over 3 years because of their sin. I can imagine how Elijah was dis-liked.  Yet, he was faithful and preached all this time, but he heard nothing from God.  God just seemed to be inactive.  But, seemingly out of nowhere.....

                                          "After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land."    1 Kings 18:1

That's an encouraging story for me.  The Lord took care of Elijah, giving exactly what he needed, exactly when he needed it.  The "when" can sometimes be the hard part. 

Recently, I was at a worship conference and was listening to Paul Baloche speak.  Someone asked him about continuing in worship while going through somewhat of a drought in your walk with God.  He gave a simple, yet perfect answer.  He said, "You're going to go through this, and sometimes you just have to put on your tool belt and go to work".  What a great answer to a seemingly complicated question.  At that moment, our jobs as worship leaders is about something far bigger than ourselves.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are creating a meeting between God and His congregation.  Seek Him even in the dark and in the silence.  I've also found encouragement in the fact that a teacher is always silent during a test.  God is doing something.

In these times of silence, no matter how painful, no matter the level of anticipation you have, know that you are in God's best interest.  When you read, pray and seek Him; listen.  Do a little less talking and a lot more listening.  Don't ignore the silence. Quiet your voice and lessen your words.  Sometimes God's biggest moves come after periods of silence.  Think about Elijah.  In the fullness of time, you will see His power displayed.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Unfailing Everything

I’m going to make a confession… music is an extremely important part of my life. Naturally, I have genres and styles that I prefer, and I have favorite songs.  I love the music we do at MPBC.  It always has a way to move me whether I’m on stage playing it or not.  We just started doing a new song called “King of my Heart” and it’s my absolute favorite!  The musicality is fairly straightforward, and the choruses repeat the same phrase, but the message in the verses is what never fails to inspire.  In my limited experience as a songwriter, I’ve come to the conclusion that lyrics define a song and absolutely determine its power.  Without depth, a song is just sound that doesn’t actually move people.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I crave music that means something!  Words are some of the most influential things in creation. But, there’s a certain paradox in words. They can be used to comfort or wound, to strengthen or discourage, as weapons or as shields.  Worship music uses words in a way that, to me, nothing else ever has or ever will.  In addition to the power of words, I think accompaniment enhances the emotion of certain points in a song.  What I love about the song “King of My Heart” is that it’s not only a balance of so many musical components; it ministers to people. The music never overpowers the lyrics, but it compliments them in such a beautiful way that the resounding message of the song is unmistakable. I think my favorite part of the song is the last bit of the second verse: 

“Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days, oh He is my song”

These lyrics perfectly encase my life prayer. It’s literally my benediction to Jesus. I relate to those words on a spiritual level, and every time those words roll off of my tongue, I feel them with every ounce of my being. I think the reason music is so powerful in general is that it is so very relatable. When people can relate to something in some way, they open up their heart to it, and that’s how God moves. Whenever we play that song on a Sunday morning, I love seeing how people respond to it. It brings my heart inexplicable joy to see that something so dear to me (music) is something that God uses as a vessel to bear witness with hearts in the room. That’s another reason why I love the song so much. It’s approachable to a congregation because of it’s simplistic depth. (How’s that for an oxymoron?)  The words of this song are the heartcry of the body of Christ... the declaration of praise!  Like the song says, He will never ever let us down, because He is good! Every lyric in this song provides me with unspeakable comfort and perfectly describes my desire for Christ in my life. The verses that come to mind when I hear this song are from Psalm 47:5-7: 

“God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.” 

He is our King, our everything and He’ll never let us down. So, may the message of unending love and unchanging grace forever fill our hearts and may Christ be the resounding echo of every single one of our days, because He is our unfailing everything!!

Keep smiling,