Tag Archives: Pastor

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.

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I Appreciate You!

Many churches across the country designate October as a month to tell their pastor that they appreciate them.  I have experienced this in  each church I have had the privilege to lead as pastor of worship.  It’s difficult to express just how much a word of encouragement from someone within the congregation can lift my spirits.

Somewhere I heard these  statistics; Upon receiving good news, a person will tell 3 people but when receiving bad news, the same person will tell 11 people.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think the church as a body can take a different approach.  When someone does something well, we should tell them.  It matters.  It’s encouraging.  It’s instructed by God and recommended by Paul!

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Jesus words) Matthew 7:12

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

At the top of this blog is a picture of my collection of encouraging cards and letters I have received throughout the years of my ministry.  I keep them all.  During times of discouragement I pull them out to be reminded that I am doing something that really does have a positive effect on the lives of those I’m called to serve and lead.  But it’s not always a Dayspring card coupled with a favorite candy bar.

I also have received my share of criticism and hate mail.  I hope you are not familiar with this style of communication.  It usually looks something like this.  The letter is addressed to you, but your name is spelled incorrectly.  If it comes in the mail, there is no return address.  Most likely it was found by the secretary because it was left on her desk, however, it is more likely that stepped on it Monday morning because it had been slid underneath your office door.  It is not signed.  The subject matter is almost guaranteed to en-capsule an event – which you do not remember – that happened months ago.  The handwriting is barley legible because of the spots where the goading instrument broke its lead or forced the ink through the paper onto the other side. The letter continues with a generalized evaluation of your ineptitude and lack of qualifications and social graces.  Several names for your misguided leadership style are suggested.  It is not signed.  This is where I file these letters.

Thankfully I have not received a letter like this for a long, long time.  If you have a pastor or staff of pastors, it is likely that they have received one or two of these during their tenure.  But this is not a blog about unfair critics and hurtful comments.

Please take the time to encourage your pastors next month.  Ministry can be full of discouragement and it’s easy to become disheartened.  A simple word of encouragement from you can go a long way.  Consistent prayer can go even further.  When both take place consistently, your pastor will begin to feel like he could move mountains!  Based on some of the best encouragers I’ve known over there years, here are a few ideas on how to encourage your pastor(s).

  • Send a card that expresses how much you value the role they have as your pastor. (cards are easier to file than emails)
  • Let them know that they made a difference in growing your love for Jesus. (often times the enemy tries to convince us that we aren’t making a difference)
  • Be specific about something they said or did and how it benefited your relationship with the Lord. (sometimes the deceiver tries to convince the pastor that no one notices)
  • When offering spoken encouragement, look your pastor in the eyes. (it’s a nonverbal way to communicate that you are their friend) (-Pastors sometimes falsely believe that they aren’t allowed to have friends among the people they lead. – I reject this thinking!)

I know that this blog has readers who are in a lot of churches other than mine. So I feel comfortable offering this as a 3rd party intermediary.  Don’t say to your pastor, “hey, I read this blog and it said I should give you this.”  Feel free to leave me out of it and make your encouragement your own.  Be personal.  Be genuine.  And let me know how it goes.  Share here on this blog what you did to encourage your pastor (or what you intend to do since it is not yet officially Pastor appreciation month.)

Bill Hybels has said on many occasions that he believes “the local church is the hope of the world.”  It’s true because the local church – when healthy – carries the light of Jesus.  Healthy churches are led by encouraged pastors.

And to my pastors; Joe and Andy, I love serving with you.  Thank you for being pastors for me and my family.  Know that I’m praying for your leadership and I submit to you as brothers and leaders under Christ (Ephesians 5:21).  May God bless your ministries wholly and completely as He has blessed me through each of you.


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 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.


Using Technology to Deepen My Sunday Experience

Each of the last two weeks at FSBC, we have tested out the YouVersion app as a compliment to the worship on Sunday morning. If you haven’t heard of this app, it is available on any smart phone or iPad as a free download. It’s a new experience for me as I stated, so I thought I could take this opportunity to layout how I intend to make use of our live events, should we continue to provide them. The above pic is from my laptop, but the examples listed below will demonstrate the iPad since that’s what I’m using as I follow the sermon.
Before the pastor begins His sermon, I open the app and search for a live event. Since I have my app set to recognize my location it finds that live events closest to me. There’s only one and, of course, it’s our live event; FSBC Lawrence. So, I select it and it opens in the drop down bar you see below, on the left.  Each of the scripture texts the pastor is using are in the sidebar but beneath them is a link to turn to that page in my digital YouVersion Bible.  Selecting that link will take me to the corresponding verse in the specific translation being used.
This shows the drop down with scriptures and outline.
I can close the sidebar and
view the scripture separately.
 You may noticed in the above right picture that there is line in the drop down, highlighted in blue.  It says “Add your notes.”  Selecting this takes me to another drop down box where I can add my own notes and thoughts to the Pastor’s.  I tend to write tips to myself for later application.  It looks something like this;
I add my own notes to the drop down window.
At the top of the “added notes” box is a place for my email.  I won’t enter that until later.  As of right now, our live event is kept open until Saturday.  So I can go back and add more notes later, before sending a completed copy to myself.
Once I vote in the poll I can see the results.
The poll included this week allows me to consider the main reason behind what keeps me from showing more love to those around me.  I pray for Jesus to help me conquer this in my life, so that I  can get down to the business of “Loving Deeper.”
After the service, at home, I open the live event again, add a couple more thoughts to the “Add your notes” option and then I email it to myself.  I chose to email it straight to my Evernote account.
I email the notes to my Evernote account
The email includes everything that was in the drop down bar; all scriptures, the outline plus my added notes.  I don’t make any changes before I send it.  I can do all that easier once I open it in Evernote.
Here it is. (pulls out the dish prepared before the program)
In Evernote, I select a folder
3 different tags means 3 ways to
find this note at a later date

Once I open it in Evernote, I create a folder called sermon notes and tag it with the themes.  This time it it tagged “love” since the title of the message is “Love Deeper.”  Additionally, I tagged it with our pastors name and our series Title.  Now I know I’ll have at least three ways of finding my notes later.

After I create the folder and add the tags I decide to make some adjustments for easier reading. I bold the scriptures and italicize the notes I added so the stand out from the rest of the text.  I could delete the poll since now it just appears as text.  But instead, I chose to leave it and create bullet points for the five options.  Looking at those later might remind me of what I still need to overcome.
This is still new to us at FSBC Lawrence.  I may change the way I’m using this tool later on, but for now, I expect this will deepen the impact of the message for me and allow me to think about my action response throughout the week.
Have you tried the YouVersion live event feature?  Do you find yourself coming back to it later in the day?  Do you add your own notes and email yourself?  What do you do with that email afterward?

Live Like You Were Dying (a confession)

My church (FSBC Lawrence, KS) is beginning a new spiritual campaign. Building off the popular song by Tim McGraw, we’re asking ourselves “What would we do if we learned we had only 30 days to live?”
I have found myself inspired by this question. For 2 months I’ve prepared for the campaign and in my review of the studies, I recognized how often I take this life for granted. Days pass and weeks, where I put off the things that matter most, in the name of working harder. It seems valiant sometimes for ministers to sacrifice for the sake of their churches. Some churches have even come to expect it, having become accustomed to pastors who have given more than should be expected. But this blog isn’t about churches expectations on pastors. It’s about pastors unrealistic expectations on themselves. Or, to be more specific, this pastor of worship’s unrealistic expectations on himself.

I’ll say upfront that I’m much better than I used to be. There was a time when I felt guilty when taking a vacation. If I sat down to read a fiction novel I would get a pain in my gut because I wasn’t using my time to study. It was difficult for me to enjoy my time with my kids, though I loved them very much. During this time I poured myself into my job and wrongfully looked for approval from the church I served only to be disappointed over and over again.

I hid my disappointments from my wife and glued a fake smile on my face for my kids. This robbed Mel of the calling God had given her – supporting a husband in ministry. Being robbed of the opportunity to fulfill one of her callings was discouraging to her and made our marriage strain. My kids, I’m sure saw me more as worship pastor than as dad, and that is a mistake I can never undo.

My upside-down paradigm of leadership (work harder, longer – neglect family and self) also lead to professional frustration. I’m sure that most of my failings came not from lack of work, but rather from a lack of balance. It is not possible to be successful in ministry following a set of rules that are out of balance with God’s grace.

No one on their death bed ever says “I wish I would have made more money.” or “I wish I would have spent more hours at work and less with family.” On the contrary, more regret spending so little time with family or regret the selfishness of their lives. Ty Cobb, who achieved wealth and fame said this at the end of his life; “I wish I had more friends.” only 3 baseball players attended his funeral in 1961.

God has, more than once, brought it to my attention that, most of the time, I’m not the father, husband or Christ follower that I should be. Jesus died so that my life would be more than this. Why have I allowed status quo? Why have I bought into the “do more/try harder” nomenclature?

Father, help me stand secure in your grace. It is enough. My pride and insecurity lead me down a path of guilt. I feel guilty when I don’t produce the result I think I should, but you have simply called me to be faithful. I trust you for results that fit your plans. I will be faithful. I become defensive when I look to satisfy my insecurity with achievement or adulation from others. Help me to find all the security I need at the foot of your cross. It is enough. Help me to be humble enough to forgive others and courageous enough to seek forgiveness.

What does it mean to you do “Live Like You Were Dying?” In what ways do you want to see more of Jesus in the way you live? Please leave comments below.