Thursday, January 30, 2014

The three C's of worship...part 1

I have a document on my computer that is titled "FOTP Worship Values".  In the document, we outline what we feel is important to a ministry that is called to lead God's people in the worship of his holy name.  The first line is our purpose as worship leaders and worshipers:

To create an environment of worship where craft, culture, and commitment help others realize their role in the story God is telling.  (Psalm66:1-2, 1 Chron. 16:4-7)

Those "three C's" are the values that make up FOTP worship.  (Yes, I realize that my Baptist roots are showing with my "three C's".) They define what it means to be a lead worshiper and to be a part of a team that ministers to the hearts of God's people via music. I believe that not only do these values relate to us as worship leaders, musicians, and vocalists, but they also can relate to all of us as regular attenders gathering to worship Christ together.  Over the next few weeks, I'll unpack these three values and talk about how they can relate to us all.


We always bring our best.  Excellence honors God, inspires people, and eliminates distractions. (Psalms 33:1-3, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17)

Our Culture honors God:

Every place or environment that you can enter or be a part of has a culture.  When you go into a new work place or visit someone's home, you immediately begin analyzing things and trying to figure out the culture of the place.  As worship leaders and worshipers we want to cultivate and create an environment that is constantly pointing people to Jesus.  We should have a culture and habit of worship on and off the stage.

As lead worshipers (worship leaders, musicians, vocalists):

This area is what could be considered the "spiritual development" side of what we do.  Before you throw stones at me, I do realize that all elements of what we do are spiritual in root.  However, some things have more of a practical nature to them.  Anyway, the most important thing for us as lead worshipers is to realize that worship is not for us nor about us; it's all about Jesus.  We want to do everything we can to point others to Christ and show him as the true guest of honor.  The best way to assure this, is to continue growing in our personal relationship with Jesus.  If we aren't growing spiritually by prayer and spending time in the Bible, our worship leading will suffer for it.

Another way to cultivate a great culture of worship as a lead worshiper is to keep a positive attitude.  Acknowledge that you'll get feedback from your team members and you'll give feedback as well.  As with any relationship, you have to trust that you all have each other's best interest at heart.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself!  It's important that we see ourselves as lead worshipers.  If we aren't engaged in the moment and worshiping our Savior, people know.  We have the honor to worship alongside them and lead them in their prayers via song.  The coolest part about it is that it is fun!  Music is an incredible gift that God has given us, so when you're on stage, look like you're enjoying it.  When you have joy in your heart and on your face, people see that and it engages them.  It helps them see and believe the message that we are singing and playing about.  

As worshipers (audience, crowd, guests)

As with worship leaders and band members, the most important thing that any of us can do to help ensure that we are having an incredible experience on Sunday is to prepare our hearts during the week.  A.W. Tozer wrote, "If you aren't worshiping God on Monday-Saturday, I seriously doubt that you are worshiping him on Sunday."  That may seem a bit harsh, but his point is that worship is more than the 25 minutes of music and 28 minutes of sermon on Sunday.  Worship is how we live our lives in response to what God has done for us.  We live a life of worship when we love our spouses and kids well, when we are friendly to our neighbors and co-workers, when we're nice and honest, when we show grace to others that may not deserve it.  In short, we live a life of worship when our lives begin to reflect Christ.  

As worshipers, our weekly worship culminates on Sunday (or Saturday) when we can come together as one church and sing to Jesus and thank him for what he's done.  It's like healing to our hearts to have those songs, prayers, and words from the Bible preached and sung over us.  In Ephesians 5:19-21 we read that we are to address one another in songs and to do so with a thankful heart.  That is what our corporate worship services on the weekend are.  We sing together and for one another.  We worship through the teaching of the Bible and share and affirm that truth with one another.  

In closing, I encourage you to do your part this weekend as you prepare to come and worship at your church.  Pray.  Pray for God to speak to you through the song and the message.  Pray for your pastors that God would speak through them and use them well.  Read the Bible and continue to grow in your spiritual journey.  And most importantly...have fun doing it and worship loudly!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

More than just songs...

There have been times in the church where the time of worship via music was viewed as less important and valuable than the time of worship through teaching and preaching.  Occasionally, that can still be found to be the case in some of our churches.  I believe that concept is part of the problem that has led to the "rockstar worship leader".  Many worship leaders fell that their primary responsibility is to put on a show and make the music sound incredible.  Please do not get me wrong; I am in no way advocating that music be mediocre or the excellence bar be lowered.  Our Savior is worthy of our best and we should thus give that.  What am I saying is that somewhere along the way the idea that the worship leader was, is, and should be a student of Scripture and a theologian has been lost.

I remember sitting in a meeting with several church planting pastors in Dallas about four years and there were all commenting on issues with their worship leaders not taking seriously the role of pastoring and teaching their people to worship.  The pastors said that their "worship guys" seemed to be more interested in "putting on a good show".  I was the only worship leader in the about awkward.  I suggested to the pastors that they hadn't clearly laid out the expectations for those worship leaders and encouraged them in the right way.  I said, "the only difference in what you guys do and what I do is that I have a guitar in my hand while I'm doing it."

This is so very true.  The music that we play, sing, pray, and worship to on the weekend should reflect the glory of our God and tell the story of the Gospel of Christ.  I heard Micheal Bleecker, the worship pastor at The Village Church, say once, "If the songs you're singing aren't telling the story of the Gospel, you need to be singing different songs."  It is very important that the songs we sing share the story of Jesus in the same light that the Scriptures do.  In 1 Timothy 4:16 we see the words of the Apostle Paul telling us to "keep a close watch" on ourselves and on "the teaching"..."for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers".  We have to be sure that the songs we are singing line up correctly with the Bible.

For example, it's great to sing songs about how if we follow Christ all things will be wonderful and sunshine and daisies.  It makes us feel good to think that being in church and trusting Jesus will magically make everything better.  However, in reality, it doesn't always work out that way here on earth.  When we sing songs in this fashion, we are walking dangerously close to the side of prosperity gospel which basically says, "come follow Jesus and you'll have everything you could ever want".  That's just a lie.

Colossians 3:16 states that we are lift one another up in by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankful hearts.  There are many songs found in the Bible.  We can look at the book of Psalms and see LOTS of them!  Our song is important to the Lord.

The songs we sing are more than just songs.  The music and the lyrics paint a picture of who God is.  They portray is glory and majesty.  In our pursuit of excellence in the song we display his creativity.  The words in the songs we sing teach our church about God.  They teach about his grace and his mercy.  They teach about his power and might.  "The Lord is My Rock", a song by Elevation Worship that we do regularly at FOTP, teaches us that though the world may be crazy around us, God is a firm foundation for us to rest on.  We can find our footing with him and he will never move.  He will give us a place to rest.

The hymn, "Jesus Paid it All" teaches about the process of redemption.  It helps explain that only the blood of Christ can take away the darkness of our sin.  It teaches that there was a price to be paid and that Jesus paid that price for us.  It moves us to worship with a thankful heart because Christ has paid a price for us that we could not pay and now we are found holy, redeemed, and right before God.

Our songs teach about God and how we should worship him.  It is important that worship leaders see the importance in that as we choose songs for our churches.  It is important for our churches to see and understand that because it will help them continue to grow in their relationship with Christ.  It will help them to learn the Bible more through the songs we sing and grow their faith as thankfulness increases in their (and our) hearts.

They are more than just songs...they are tools given the church to teach about the greatness, holiness, and glory of our Almighty God and King.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Secular songs in church?!

For a little over a year now, we've been opening our services with a secular or mainstream Christian song (that may even be found on pop radio).  We've gotten a handful of questions about why we do this.  We've been hit with the accusation of profaning the holy and taking away from the sanctity of a worship service.  When discussion began around this topic, there were a lot of "hot sports opinions" on it.  If I'm honest, I wrestled with it quite a bit myself.  In the past, I had definitely found myself on the side of arguing that secular music had no place in the church.  Much prayer and discussion went into making this decision.  It was not something that was done simply for the sake of "being cool".

We are blessed with the privilege of being a church that has many "non-church" folk on the weekend. Each weekend, we have many visitors that are estranged from the church.  There are those who have been burned by the church and/or simply have a bad taste in their mouths toward it for one reason or another and there are some who may have never even heard about Jesus.

That being said, we feel that Jesus was very clear in his instruction of the Great Commission.  "Go."  We are to "go" and tell the good news of Christ.  We are to share the Truth that has been imparted to us.  In the world and context in which we live, it is important to relate to people before you begin to share with them.  The apostle Paul got that and we see him modeling that idea in Acts 17:22-34.

Paul is in Athens and he's talking to a group of Athenians and probably some other Greeks.  These Greeks would have been intelligent.  Some were philosophers, others may have been business men passing by.  They all had one thing in common.  They were not Christians.  They were worshipers of either intellect, money, or the pagan gods like Zeus, Ares, and Athena. (particularly Athena...Athens...hello?)  As Paul was walking through the Areopagus, he noticed the shrines built to the different gods and noticed the one "to the unknown god."  He used that moment to tell them of God Almighty.  In telling them he references two Greek poets, with these lines,

"In him we live and move and have our being."
"For we are indeed his offspring."

The writers of these poems would've been seen as Greek pagans.  They worshiped false gods.  They would not have been seen by the church as "wholesome people".  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that bands whose songs we cover are not wholesome people.  Nor am I saying that they are evil pagans.  I'm just giving an example.

Paul used the truth found in these to poets writings to point people to the truth of who God is.  When we cover secular songs before our services, we are doing the same thing.  We use songs that relay truth.  We use the truth in those songs to help disarm the walls that people put up when they walk into the doors of the church.  Today's music artists are in many ways our modern day poets.  When we cover those songs, we are basically saying, "as your own poets have said".

We want to do anything and everything we can to help people feel comfortable as they walk into our party that we throw every week for our Savior.  We want to show them truth that they may recognize and then show them where that truth truly originates from.  We want them to meet guest of honor, Jesus.  After that, we want them to use those same methods to tell their friends and family about this Great Savior.

So in a nutshell...that's why I believe doing secular songs in church is a good thing.Acts 17:22-34