Tag Archives: Contemporary worship

Obstacles to Worship 3: Guilty Heart

I wish Worship Leaders and Pastors were perfect, but truth is; we’re not.  Is it an act of hypocrisy when we lead songs declaring an unwavering commitment to God’s call and purpose, when we know in our hearts that we have failed to be obedient?  Is it right that we should proclaim God’s goodness and at the same time struggle to acknowledge his goodness within a specific circumstance or personal trial?  How many times have you tried to lead worship and in the middle of a song remembered that you have unconfessed sin?  Or is it the case that you  have confessed your sin to God, but have not yet forgiven yourself?

Worship leaders don’t get the same opportunity to cease our singing and go to the altar and “lay it down.”  I’m not saying that it would be inappropriate, but I think that in the spirit of preparedness worship leaders should deal with our “stuff” before we take the platform.  But what about the times we fail to prepare?  What if – in the middle of leading a song – we sing a phrase only to realize that it doesn’t line up with the way we have been living?

It’s important for us to lead and sing songs of commitment when we worship such as the song, Everyday, in which the lyrics speak;

Everyday 
It’s You I’ll live for 
Everyday 
I’ll follow after You 
Everyday 
I’ll walk with You my Lord 

Let’s say I am leading this song and the epiphany strikes me that last Tuesday I made a decision that was clearly opposite from living for Christ.  Personally, in light of my conviction, I now feel like a liar singing this song.  My sung testimony is nothing but a lie and I’m standing and singing it in front of God and everybody as if it were true.  Too harsh? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.

3 things you probably shouldn’t do.

  • Don’t dismiss it or take it lightly – Our Lord is not silent about hypocritical worship, nor does he take lightly the Pharisees “the show must go on” attitude.  Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees in Mark 7:6;  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’
  • Don’t stop the song and the service and deal publicly with it.  Just as it would be unhelpful for someone to walk up from the back row, take a mic and begin to confess each sin from their previous week, worship is also not the place for you to catch up on your quiet time.
  • Don’t beat yourself up or believe that there’s nothing you can do.

3 things you can and should do.

  • Even as you are leading worship, this is your time for corporate worship too.  If you are dealing with something that you have already confessed and the enemy is seeking to remind you of your failures, then remind yourself and your congregation of the truth about which you sing; that Christ has redeemed you and made you new; that his blood has washed away every stain and “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
  • Pray as you sing.  You do it all the time.  Confess in your prayer how you’ve messed up and seek for God to realign your heart and actions back to Him. “Father, as I sing these words, I recognize that there have been times that I haven’t lived like it. -Like last Tuesday. Remember that, Lord. Yeah, I’m sorry.  Please forgive me and help me to live in you and trust you more.  I really want to live for you everyday and walk with you everyday.”
  • If you have sinned against someone else, seek that person as soon as you can.  Apologize and confess that you were wrong.  Seek to restore that broken relationship.  Oh, how sweet it will be to worship with them the next time you gather.  That’s what his grace can do!

You’re not a qualified worship leader because you have it all together.  You are a qualified worship leader because you have come to the Father by the way of Christ’s cross.  And as a worship leader you get to point others to the Savior, who is worthy of spirit and truth worship.


Obstacles To Worship: The Unfriendly Face

Worship leaders face many obstacles when leading worship.  These obstacles can deter us from setting our hearts on Christ.  Obstacles can also derail our focus from leading His followers in worship.  One such obstacle reared its ugly head (pun intended) for me recently. Let’s call it the Unfriendly Face.

If you lead worship or lead a team of worship leaders, you are constantly reminding your worship team to smile, show joy, make eye contact, let your light shine!  I’m sure I make this reminder to my choirs and praise team weekly or at least every other week.  A simple friendly smile from the worship team or choir can melt away the pride that sometimes keeps a congregant from joining the song.  Sure, we should all be ready to jump right in to praise singing on Sunday morning because God is good.  He has commanded us to sing his praises, and we are his obedient and thankful children, right?  Unfortunately, we are seldom ready to just jump right in to singing His praises.  Life is hard, and we get distracted.  We have doubts.  We need encouragement.  This is why we need the friendly smile from our worship leaders.  It encourages us in the Lord – most of the time.

The Unfriendly Face I’m speaking about is not one from the choir or praise team.  Not that we have mastered smiling – we haven’t.  I continue to be amazed at how slowly a smile can evolve on some faces.  People who smile all the time open their mouths to sing, and that delightful smile disappears into the abyss.  We’re working on it, but that’s not the obstacle to which I refer.

Unfriendly Face is a person in the congregation who refuses to participate.  Their posture implies that singing God’s praises is somehow beneath their dignity.  And the look on their face communicates that they wish you would hurry and conclude this silly singing business and get to the important stuff.  I’ve learned over the years that I can’t look at these people and not have it effect me as worship leader.

I’d prefer to look at those who smile back.  The way they sing praises to God and smile encourages me.  I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I often need to be encouraged by psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19.)  Those in the congregation whose praise singing shows in outward enthusiasm often lead me in worship. But then Unfriendly Face…

I’m not complaining.  That’s not what my blog is for, so please hear me. I’m NOT complaining.  We have great participation almost every Sunday morning at my church. I know that I have brother and sister worship leaders who have dozens of those Unfriendly Face worshipers weekly.  I’m NOT complaining.  Also, it is not my place to judge what goes on in the hearts of other worshipers, but sour faces have their effect on worship leaders.  So what do we do about it?  Here are a couple of my things that I do.

  • First, realize that you can not force anyone to smile or open their mouths to sing or stand or sit up straight.  Each individual is responsible for their own action (or inaction) when it comes to worship.
  • Second, don’t get pious and think “Thank You, O Lord, that I am not like that man or woman who refuses to offer You praises.”  This opens a whole other obstacle to worship leading – Humility or the lack there of.
  • Third, pray for that person – by name if you know who they are.  It just might be that their silence is not a refusal to praise but an opportunity to reflect.  God is doing a work in them and it is different than what he is doing in you.
  • Fourth, pray for yourself – you know who you are.  You know the times you have failed to worship through action during the past week.  Confess it.  Repent.  Worship is more than just singing.  Singing loudly and smiling big does not mean that your worship is complete.
  • Lastly, seek out that person after the service.  Perhaps they need a more personal, one-on-one encouragement.  Our broadcast-style worship leading effort is an attempt to lead a large group  from a stage.  Get off the stage.  Go get to know that unfriendly face; encourage them.  Don’t stop leading worship when you leave the platform.

Have you been distracted by  Unfriendly Face while leading worship?  How do you overcome your distraction? As a worshiper do you ever feel like you just don’t want to sing?  When tempted to withhold your praise, what do you do? 


Don’t Tell Me How to Love God

To many, the term worship has become a smorgasbord-word and the definition varies with each individual according to how they fill their plate.  Successful worship then is judged according to how the song arrangements makes them feel.  To allow more people to “feel” like successful worshipers, we ask pastors and worship leaders to become short-order cooks and prepare only the favorite dishes week after week.  We might be extremely disciplined in our physical diets because of our desire to live healthy lives, but when it comes to the spiritual we only want what tastes good.  Caught in the trap of this mindset we reject any disagreeable exhortation from fellow worshipers.  We think it a comfortable compromise to say “You love God in your way and let me love Him in my way.”

Matthew 22:37-39 is referenced a lot as a foundation for building a healthy worship philosophy.  I’ve used it many times when leading worship.  Most worship leaders, if asked for a two word definition for worship would very likely answer “Loving God.”

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-39 NLT

This is an important statement by Christ and because we acknowledge that Christ is the Son of God, we know that this greatest commandment is God revealing what He expects of us, His people.  But what does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Is He talking about feeling love toward God? If I have a happy feeling about God does that mean I am worshiping? Though our God is Righteous, I can’t see Him warning us that we’ve “Lost that lovin’ feelin’.” Would we dare to define true worship with the words of Blue Swede -“Hooked on  a Feeling?”

There’s more to it than just feeling love for God.  Worship isn’t meant to be passive.  It’s active.  Over and over again Christ reminded His disciples that they should obey.   John 14:5 relay’s Jesus’ instruction most clearly “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” How do we love God? WE OBEY.  This is successful worship.

Obedience is a worship dish that is best served hot!  We don’t go at this obedience half-hearted.  And we don’t with grumbling in our spirit.  We serve God with a glad heart and with our whole heart.  It is our desire to demonstrate our love to God that should motivate our obedience.  It’s easy to obey when there is a reward, but what if our obedience was simply obedience.  My kids are much more obedient when they know they are earning a special privileged or if they know that Christmas is getting close.  This obedience demonstrates a love of self.  We are all guilty of this when it comes to our worship.

I have had occasions in the middle of leading worship when I sing a lyric such as “all of you is more than enough for me” and I know that I haven’t lived as if that were true. While I keep singing, I begin to pray in my heart and repent from the times I’ve lived for myself rather than for God.  If all of Jesus is more than enough for us then we demonstrate this by pursuing him with relentless obedience motivated in love.


A Bit About Blogging

After took a break from blogging during the month of July, I heard from many of you who read my blog.  Thank you for asking me when the next blog would come and for encouraging me with your kind comments.  I would love to hear from you in the comment section and benefit from your voice in the conversation.

Blogging is not easy.  I enjoy writing and fleshing out my thoughts, but believe me when I tell you that it takes constant discipline on my part to sit down at the computer, take the ideas spinning around in my head and organize them into, what I hope to be, a clear and useful blog post.  With my six week blogging hiatus behind me, I need to remind myself again what it is that I hope to accomplish with the Schoeneblog and why I started the blog in the first place.

My hopes and dreams for the Schoeneblog:

  1. As I post weekly about Christian worship, I hope that the process of meditating on and articulating scriptural truths about worship will make me a better worshiper and a better worship leader.
  2. I would like the Schoeneblog to be a place for conversations about worship, both personal and corporate.
  3. I hope that the ideas shared here will aid readers in their personal growth and help shape the way they think about worshiping God.
  4. As readers add their comments to the blog, I hope to discover from them resources and ideas I would otherwise miss.
 
 
Do you read other blogs about worship?
What other blogs to you read?
What do you seek to gain when you read the Schoeneblog and other blogs like it?
If you are a blogger, why do you blog?

Do I Care What Others Think?

When it comes to corporate worship we can’t escape the fact that we are in the presence of others.  Wherever we sit or stand, we are surrounded by other worshipers. (And non-worshipers) In a world where image is everything, do we concern ourselves too much with what others think, when we should be focusing on God?

“What if they see me crying?”

“If I raise my hands, they will judge me.”

“Remember to turn the offering envelope upside down, so no one sees what I give.”

“Nobody complimented my shoes!”

“If I put the envelope in slowly, everyone can see how much I give.”

With the popularity of social media formats such as facebook, twitter and pintrest, etc… we are more concerned than ever before about maintaining an acceptable image.  Haven’t we taken this image conscious mindset to an unhealthy level?  Social media can be a great place to interact with friends, but in our humanness, we tend to only put forth the image we want others to see and we hide our real selves. I’m sure this isn’t true all of the time, but it’s true enough of the time.

Does this same tendency toward image influence our corporate worship?  Scripture teaches that God is the audience of our worship, not others.  When we make God alone our audience, we will care less about maintaining our image in front of others.  The next time you participate in corporate worship set aside the image you want others to see and lay your life open before God.

When we drop the image facade, our worship can be a testimony.  Let us be Spirit and Truth worshipers who enter His presence without our masks and worship the Savior without pretense.


Evaluating Our Personal Worship

Pastors and Worship leaders evaluate the Sunday morning worship hour each week.  Many times that evaluation is intentional and facilitated by a list of evaluation questions.  Other times the pastor enters his office on Monday, sits behind his desk, buries his face in his hands and mutters, “Well that didn’t go well!”  Clearly, intentional evaluation, done well, can be used to guide leaders to make necessary adjustments and improvements.  Reactionary evaluation, however, offers little or no building blocks for the leader to improve the plan.  There is no opportunity for the evaluated one to discover “a better way.”

I have been a part of many conversations on how to evaluate worship.  All of these discussions have been from the perspective of the ones who plan or lead worship services.  But I have not aware of many conversations which our own personal worship.

Worship leaders can attend conferences, enjoy conversations with fellow worship leaders, participate in webinars on worship leading, all in an effort to be better worship leaders.  But what process is there for disciplining all believers to become better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?  Sometimes I wonder if we just expect that developing and training better worship leaders will automatically translate into having churches full of better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

If Pastors and worship leaders don’t intentionally guide their evaluations process, the default will takes us to the ABC’s of Sunday morning evaluation.  Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash – though these are important to the church’s ability to continue to grow and function, they are not very good indicators that Spirit and Truth worship has taken place.  So what is?

In our modern church cultural, we tend to ask questions like:

  • “Was there and attitude of excitement?”
  • “Did we enjoy ourselves?”
  • “Did I sing all the notes correctly?”
  • “Did I sing harmony?”
  • “Did the sermon move me?”
  • “Did the prayers motivate me?”
  • “Did the leadership inspire me?”
  • “Was twenty dollars enough? Should I have given more? The usher kinda glared at me.”

I won’t say that I’m a divinity expert, but I don’t think that there is a biblical standard for these kind of questions.  In fact, when I read through them a second time, they seem rather self serving.  These questions, however represent the unwritten worship rules in most church worship services.  Perhaps there’s a good reason they are unwritten.  If we were to examine ourselves using the gift God has given us – His Word – then we would commit to a completely different standard for evaluating our own personal worship.

  • Did I present myself with HUMILITY  -Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.(James 4:10 ESV)
  • What about my worship offering communicated to God that I am COMPLETELY HIS?    -I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Romans 12:1 ESV)
  • Did I offer HONEST CONFESSION or try to deny and justify my sin to God?     -Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. (Psalm 24:1-4 ESV)
  • Does the LOVE I claim to have for God in this moment overflow to the other areas in my life?     –Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
  • Are others encouraged and uplifted in Christ, because of my TESTIMONY?       – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
  • Did I express my THANKFULNESS to God or merely complain about all my misfortunes?     –Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
  • Do I SUBMIT myself to everyone else within the family of faith?         –Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 ESV)

What if we began evaluating worship using the second list of questions? What it that became our new normal?  Would it reform the way we think about worship?  Would it bring revival to our own walk with God?


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 2)

Last week I posted the standard questions we ask when we evaluate the worship PLAN from the previous Sunday service.  As promised I am putting up our questions we use to evaluate the PRESENTATION layer of Sunday morning worship leading.  The reason we distinguish our questions between PLAN and PRESENTATION is because the work is done by different individuals or teams.  Therefore, the solutions to problems that arise will be handled by different teams.

The regular evaluation is done by the pastors and the creative planning team (the ones who create the PLAN.)  The PRESENTATION is done by the worship team (worship leader, choir, band, vocal team, drama team, sound team, video team.) They are the ones you follow and execute the plan.  I know it can sound kind of sterile to use these terms, but Christ is our center as we plan and we always seek to follow the Holy Spirit throughout the process. He works in Monday planning team just like he works in Sunday worship team.

When we evaluate the PLAN we want to know if it was a good plan?  Did put the pieces in place that allow and encourage biblical Spirit-and-Truth worship to be offered.  When we evaluate the PRESENTATION we want to make sure that we did everything we could do (or not do) on Sunday morning to engage the worshiper and invite them to join us in worship before the throne of God.  Here is our non-exhaustive list of questions;

Evaluating the PRESENTATION

MUSIC

  • Was the music presented at a high level of quality? Introductions? Transitions? Song Endings?
  • Were the transitions in and out of the singing portion appropriate? Clear? Well executed?
  • Did the musicians work well together? Did the band gel? Did the singers blend?
  • Was the volume of the music appropriate? Individual instruments and voices? Too loud/too soft? Overall?
  • Were the songs achievable and enjoyable to sing? Complicated melody? Key too high/too low? Too fast/too slow?

DRAMA

  • Was the drama presented with a high level of quality? Actors well prepared? Enough time given to prepare? Where actors believable?  Was the scene believable?
  • Was there smooth transition between drama and the elements surrounding it?

VIDEO

  • How was the transition into and out of the video?
  • Was it introduced (if needed) or set up properly?
  • Was the volume set well from the start? Was a special sound check performed for the video before the service?
  • Were the lights adjusted to an appropriate level during the video?  Was the sound person prepared/informed?

For follow worship leaders reading this, I hope this will help you the way it helps our team.  Feel free to use any of these evaluation questions for your teams.  If you don’t lead worship, but are a worshiper yourself, I hope this list helps you feel that worship is such a high priority for you church that we spend a lot of time making sure that we do our very best to steward the hour on Sunday.  Speaking for myself and many other worship pastors out there, we have a passion to see that the body of Christ worships the person of Christ for His benefit and for the encouragement of one another.

Do you have additional evaluation questions that aren’t covered in our non-exhaustive list?  Feel free to bring them into the conversation in the comment section below.


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 1)

Most worship leaders and pastors have a process of evaluating the Sunday morning service.  For some it may be as simple as sitting down Monday morning and reflecting on the events of the previous day.  For others, they have a group of people they trust who will give loving, honest feedback.  These people have a healthy understanding of what the goals are on Sunday morning.  They also have a nurturing and encouraging relationship with the worship leader or pastor.  There are also those worship leaders who have a set list of questions they go over, from time to time, to make sure their worship planning efforts are focused and balance.  As worship pastors, we continually want to make sure that we plan and lead worship from a healthy perspective – one that makes it easy for the church to focus her attention on Christ .

I am fortunate enough to have all three evaluation mechanisms in place. 1) Time on Monday to reflect on Sunday. 2) A team who I trust to give loving and honest feedback. 3) A list of questions to help us evaluate the planning and leading efforts for the hour on Sunday.

My list of questions used for evaluation has two sides; On the left side are questions to evaluate the Plan and on the right side are the questions to evaluate the presentation.  In essence; 1) Was it a good plan and 2) Did we successfully carry out the plan?  Following is the list of questions we have used to evaluate.  We don’t keep the list in front of us like we used to because we have developed the practice of asking ourselves these questions as a part of our evaluation procedure.  It took a few years of evaluating for this list to take shape and all the members of my team contributed, but it  hasn’t changed much over the last five years.

Evaluating the PLAN

MUSIC

  • Were the song lyrics biblical? relevant? appropriate to the sermon topic? encouraging? enriching?
  • Was an appropriate variety of songs utilized? variety in instrumentation? variety of tempos? balance of new and old?
  • Did we rejoice AND adore AND reflect AND commit AND pray?
  • Did we reinforce the essential truths about Jesus AND the cross AND the trinity AND eternity AND our sin?
  • Was the music portion too long? too short?
  • Did the music portion lead to meaningful congregational participation
  • Did the overall service have a logical flow? Did the order in which we progressed make sense?

DRAMA

  • If we used drama, was the message of the drama piece relevant?
  • Did the sketch set up the theme? Was it applicable?
  • Could seekers with the theme and characters?
  • Was the content of the sketch appropriate with the theme and audience? Too juvenile or mature? Too abstract or simplistic?

VIDEO

  • What was the purpose of the video? Prepare worship? Present the theme? Highlight upcoming event?
  • Were appropriate backgrounds used for songs and theme?  Was background motion too busy? Did theme art help the listener understand what the sermon was about?
  • Was video relevant for the way it was applied?

As stated, all these questions help us evaluate the PLANNING aspect of worship leadership.  I have a separate list of unique questions specifically geared to help us evaluate the PRESENTATION aspect of worship leadership.  I’ll share that list next week.

As a worship leader, do you have a process for evaluating the hour on Sunday?  Worshipers, do you evaluate your personal worship offering or do you expect that since worship was lead well, then you must have worshiped well?  Do you have any questions you would add to evaluate your worship service PLAN?  Please leave a comment.


What’s In It For Me?

The following is a fictional memoir and does not reflect the attitudes of anyone I know personally, though it may reveal the inner struggles we are all trying to overcome as we become the church He died for us to be.

Worship to day didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t inspired. Worship is there to inspire me and motivate me and I just didn’t feel it. People around me were raising and clapping their hands. A couple in front of me stood up and I couldn’t see. I mean, the worship leader did’t  even ask us to stand up. I was doing it right and they were doing it wrong, yet they seemed inspired and I went away feeling worse than before.

The scripture must have been a good one, because I heard a lot of “Amen” and “That’s Right” from folks around me but I guess I just didn’t get it. It was from 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us.”

To me church should be about helping me be successful as a person. I mean, God wants me to be successful right? That way I can show him how good I am.  Being more successful means I can upgrade my wardrobe.  As I dress nicer for church, people will know that I really love God.  When we dress nice for church, it’s like we’re telling God “thank you for the blessings,” right?  I want Him to be proud of me and pleased with me. If I’m successful, then I’ll give credit to God. Wouldn’t he want that?

The pastor kept saying that as “jars of clay” in the hands of God there will be no doubt that the power comes from him. Then he read from Luke 9:24-25 “For whoever would save his life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” I couldn’t make sense of this, because God gave me this life, why would he want me to give it up? That doesn’t seem like good stewardship to me.  And I KNOW for a fact that God want’s us to be good stewards. He said so.  I think it’s in Genesis or Deuteronomy.

Lose my life for God’s? On purpose? That’s just not the kind of message I’m looking for. What’s in that for me? I’m looking for a church where I can feel good about myself and my ambitions. I think God wants me to feel good and be successful for Him. This “jars of clay” idea just doesn’t fit my idea of God.

I think I’ll have to look elsewhere for the kind of inspiration I need. I don’t mean leave the church! Good heavens, no. I have some really good friends there. They’re humble, simple people, never who complain about what they don’t have, but give thanks for what God has given them. They are true servants. If I had a nickel for every time they brought me a meal when I was sick or when our baby was born or my mother passed away, well then I’d have a lot of nickels. I’d probably be able to start tithing! Ha-Ha- I’m just kidding. Anyway, I wonder why worship can’t get me inspired enough to be more like those people.  I guess God just hasn’t opened the right door yet.
For now, I’ll just have to rely on myself for my own inspiration and work my hardest to get ahead in this world to make God proud of me.
Do you find anything here that resembles your own struggle to understand who you are to be “In Christ?” Do you value your own success. Do you devalue the “jars of clay” in which God has chosen to store His richest treasure – (you)?