Category Archives: church life

Worship=Life Podcast

I want to invite you to subscribe to my brand new Worship=Life podcast. Each episode, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of worship ministry in today’s church – the technological, the visual, the musical, and the spiritual.

My goal is to help worship leaders develop their ministries, their leaders, their teams, their environments to provide the best possible opportunities for God-honoring worship in their churches. I’ll share what I’ve learned over the years, as well as what I’m in the process of learning. I’ll bring in experts to share their wisdom with you as well.

In the first episode, I begin a series on ministry structure, starting with the values our ministries embrace. Check the episode out at the link above. I’d love to get your feedback!

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Relevant Worship

But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

God is no longer concerned about the place where you worship because worship is about more than location and prescribed rituals. God seeks worshipers who will worship Him from the heart under the initiation and guidance of the Spirit as informed by Scripture. This is the only real worship.

God seeks worshipers who will genuinely worship Him in a way that is initiated, guided, and empowered by the spirit and informed by His truth, His Word. He is not concerned about worship happening in a particular location. He is not interested in worship that is simply a rote reenactment of prescribed rituals that is not done in spirit and truth. In fact, because God is spirit, there is no other way to worship Him but in spirit and truth.

God seeks worshipers. Therefore, He initiates worship. He has allowed us the honor of worshiping Him.

But many of the things that concern us in worship are not important, not even relevant. What is relevant? The Spirit, His guidance, and the Word of God as it informs our worship. We must focus on these things.

When we forget these things, we go through the motions in our worship. Those of us who are worship leaders are sometimes just trying to get through a Sunday. We get overly concerned about all the details.

But what each of us needs, regardless of our role in corporate worship – whether leader or participant – is to focus our hearts on God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we worship privately, we must begin with a focus on God’s Word and His Spirit. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we are.

It is not in our nature to be this kind of worshiper, but His grace can change our nature.

Father, let us be the kind of worshipers You seek.

Love Covers All Transgressions

Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all transgressions.

Proverbs‬ ‭10‬:‭12‬ NASB

We need love, and we need to give love. God has shown us love, and He has shown us how to love through Christ, His Son. He wants us to love as He has loved us.

God doesn’t want us to stir up strife, but to love one another, forgiving sins, preserving peace. Sadly, though we have seen His love for us through the blood of Christ spilled on the cross, we must be reminded to love rather than hate.

When fellow believers sin, we often look for ways to expose their sins, to bring them to justice. (Now, there comes a time when – if a believer refuses to repent – sins must be exposed in the course of biblical church discipline. We have not reached that point – we’re talking here about beginning this process from a place of love.) Instead, let’s ask God to change our desires. Ask for the desire to love them, forgive their transgressions, and keep peace.

Love. Don’t hate.

Forgive. Don’t condemn.

Review | Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God | Timothy Keller

I recently finished Pastor Timothy Keller’s latest book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, and wow. What a phenomenal work. It’s got a permanent place in my library, now, folks, and I highly recommend it to each of you.

As a Christian, and especially as a worship pastor, I believe prayer is of utmost importance, but I’ve always struggled with it. That’s why 2014 was the year of prayer for me. I pray everyday, but I made it a personal goal to find the prayer life God had for me.

I read two books last year that had an impact on my prayer life:

I’d recommend them both to you without hesitation, but Keller’s book is the one that’s left the most lasting impression on me.

Keller provides the reader with a deeper understanding of what prayer is scripturally and historically, as well as what it is not. And he gives practical tools that focus your prayers on God, rather than your own needs and wants.

In the couple of weeks since I finished the book, I have applied Keller’s wisdom, and I’ve seen the difference. In all honesty, I’ve experienced God in my prayer time in ways that I never have before.

There’s no magic here. Keller simply points us to Scripture as our source for the power of prayer.

National Worship Leader Conference 2014

Last week, I traveled with four members of my worship team to the National Worship Leader Conference in Centreville, Virginia.  If you’re involved in worship ministry, and you have never been to NWLC, you need to go.  It’s an amazing time of learning, spiritual refreshment, and fellowship with others who are involved in what can be a lonely line of work – something we all need.

I shared last night with my team three takeaways that I think are going to have a huge impact on our ministry.  It was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to just three, but here they are, readers!

  1. In his workshop on inductive worship leading, Tim Timmons posed the question, “How would Jesus lead worship?”  (First off, Timmons is real, hilarious, and great fun to spend an hour listening to.) Jesus, he said, invited people into their own stories in such a way as to help them really own their response to Him.  Think about the woman at the well or the rich young ruler.  He asked them questions about their own stories that brought them to (very different) realizations about each of their places in the kingdom of God.  This is what Timmons called Inductive Worship Leading. So, as worship leaders, How are we helping people respond to Jesus? Are we just speaking to them and expecting agreement, or are we looking for ways to draw them into a genuine, personal response to Jesus?
  2. We are all in the mission field.  That’s what theologian and author Leonard Sweet told us.  And the first job of a missionary is to learn the language of the culture. This culture communicates in story. The church has tried to build an identity on words, but story is our original language. A strong identity is built on narrative, and if we can begin to rebuild our identity in our original language, we can reach this culture.
  3. Probably the most important thing I came away with is something that we all ought to know anyway, but it’s something that we forget to easily. Again from Tim Timmons: the only job I have is to seek first the kingdom of God. I can’t make people respond genuinely to Jesus.I’m just a branch. The Father is the gardener. He’s doing all the work.

Bless the Persecutor

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. – Romans 12:14

In the middle of Romans 12 – a very specific list of ways in which these Roman Christians can strive to live as true disciples and true worshipers – Paul writes this one very simple command. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

We consider it an evil that people are persecuted for their ethnicity or politics or religious beliefs, and it is. But it’s one that we should expect. Paul tells us here how to respond when it comes. For me, this begs two questions:

What is persecution?

Growing up, I was taught in Sunday School that when people made fun of you because you went to church, that was persecution. Sure people in other parts of the world faced more extreme versions, but for us, in our culture, getting picked on was persecution.

This is not persecution.

On September 22, a church in Peshawar, Pakistan, was attacked by suicide bombers. Scores were killed or injured. Why? Because they were Christians.

That’s persecution.

I believe that we are moving inexorably toward a day when American Christians will face real persecution.  Laws are being changed that reflect our nation’s march away from tradition Judeo-Christian morals.  It seems all are “tolerated” except Christians.  One day, we’ll be persecuted, but it’s not today.

Are we responding as we should?

In America, we Christians fight for our rights.  We refuse to be persecuted.  We will not be looked down on.  Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek.  Paul tells us to bless the persecutor.

When the persecutors took Him, Jesus walked willingly to His death.

Does this mean we should simply give in?  I don’t think so.  But it does mean we need to do a much better job of keeping our egos (our pride!) in check.  It’s not about our rights.  It’s about blessing those who persecute you.  It’s about being Jesus to all those around us – even (and maybe especially) those who hate us.

What can we do differently?

We can be blessings, even when others hurt us.

We can attempt to share in (to what extent we can) and relieve the suffering of those in the world who are persecuted.  How do we do this?  Take the time to learn what is happening to Christians around the world, and help them.

Watch this video, created by a pastor in Pakistan with a direct link to the church in Peshawar that was bombed.  (Warning: it is graphic.)  Learn about what the folks at Voice of the Martyrs do, and then join them in their work however you can.  Pray for those who are persecuted.  Visit or write the prisoners.

Let’s stop fighting for our rights and start fighting for the souls of those who need Christ.

A Little Sad. And Really Happy.

I’m a little sad today.

I left a job at NASA’s Johnson Space Center today for the third time. I started work with the Public Affairs Office Web Team in May of 1999. I left in 2003 to pursue ministry in Florida, and I returned to the web team in 2008. I was laid off last September and returned to a different position at JSC in November.

As I head to my exit interview in a few minutes, I can’t help but think how big a part of my life the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been, how much I’ve learned there, how many great people I’ve gotten to know.

I’m a little sad today. But I’m also incredibly excited.

Monday, the movers come. In a little over a week, Kacy, the girls, and I head to Maryland to begin a new adventure. I’ll be serving as Pastor of Worship and Media at Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury. This is a move orchestrated by God – no one involved in the process has any doubt about that. There are fears, questions, concerns as there always are with a move of this magnitude. (We’re leaving family, friends, and church for an opportunity 1,500 miles away.)

But I’m excited about the challenge and the joy of doing ministry full time, of embarking on the journey God has for me and my family.

I’m a little sad today. But I’m really happy.