Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When Worship Becomes the God

     It's been ages... AGES... since I last posted on here.  Maybe it's because with two kids, life is crazier than ever, and maybe it's because I'm not that bright and don't really have all that much to say.  I tend to think that it's an amalgamation of both.  Busyness and lack of knowledge is definitely not a state that gives one the confidence to speak into others' lives.
     My dear friend, Jon Skaggs, asked me to write a blog on the topic of worship and I love him dearly as a friend, so I figured, "Yes!  It's for a friend, and if there's anything you're an authority on, it's how to screw up worship-haha!"  All kidding aside, I've been a full time worship pastor for over a decade in several different denominations, and I've had the privilege of leading corporate worship times for my church family and for other gatherings in the name of Jesus, and I have to tell you-it's such a complicated dynamic.
     You deal with so many aspects that it can become overwhelming, but when you boil it down, corporate worship is either about God or it's about you.  That's it!  This is a post for all my friends in ministry and all of my friends and family and those who gather weekly to worship God in whatever building you call a gathering place.  This is nothing brilliant, because, quite frankly, I lack the intelligence and clarity to say something mind blowing.  I also must admittedly come before all of you and let you know that I struggle with worship becoming imbalanced and I can make worshiping Jesus become something that turns toxic and becomes about my pride and my insecurity.


     Worship leaders live in one of the hardest tensions I've ever seen.  All eyes are on YOU, yet it's not about YOU at all.  That can get so blurred in just a matter of moments, and it can become a very prideful, ego feeding thing, BUT..... it can also be the most freeing experiences of your life.  First of all, to any worship pastors out there, I want to implore....no...I want to beg you to consider your calling.  Your calling isn't those few moments on stage when you're under the lights leading congregations of people in praise and worship...  Those moments are are a small part of who you are and who God has called you to be.  Your calling is to be a PASTOR.  Your calling is to love the ones you lead, and that manifests itself in many ways, but I have to tell you, if you call yourself a worship pastor or worship leader at a church and you tend to not give a rip about people, then I have to tell you.  Your calling is not to lead people of God.  This may sound harsh, but if you're only there to be heard and to live in the adrenaline and joy and ecstasy of those fleeting moments of performing, then you need to get out of the church setting and go on tour and share your gifts in other avenues.  You can absolutely use your gifts for the Kingdom in ways that are effective and by touring and sharing the message of God's love with others.
     Worship pastors have a different calling than just to perform.  In fact, leading worship is a very small part of what I feel called to do.  I have to tell you...There is so much joy and peace in Christ in loving His people and serving them.  When you do that....When you love the ones you lead, you'll be shocked at how more transforming and Christ-focused your times of corporate worship truly are.  I find that when I am burdened beautifully by the love for those I lead, that I tend to put more prayer into my preparation, and I put my best efforts forward because I've personally seen how God leads and loves our people.  I want my best efforts to be poured out in God's service for those He has entrusted me with the privilege of leading.
     If you are leading out of a selfish need to be heard or seen, what's happening is a ministry is focused around you as opposed to a ministry focused on God.  A good question to ask is... DO I really care about the contributions of the musicians I lead....or ... do I just care about them as a means to an end for me to be heard?  Is it their job to support me or my job to support them?  The correct answer is that we are called as worship pastors to support them-develop their gifts-equip them to serve and release them into a deeper relationship and ministry that edifies Christ alone.
     I can always tell pretty quickly if a worship leader is a pastor or simply about his own name.  Here are a few tell tale signs:
     1.  He/She leads EVERYTHING!  No matter whose on stage-this person leads every song even at the expense of using the people who are already on stage.  Why even have people up there if you're not interested in using their gifts?
     2.  The team is incapable of functioning without him/her.  When this toxic leader is unable to be there for whatever reason, the team suffers because they've never been given the chance to lead nor have they been given the proper tools to lead on their own.  A true pastor will train them to lead better without him around.  True Worship pastors train themselves out of a job!
     3.  Transitions and prayers become very shallow.  These moments of transition become very repetitive or shallow or surface because the leader lacks depth because he's not developing himself for the Kingdom, instead his time is spent on himself.
     4.  He/She is not a team player.  When the service is over, this person is the first one out the door so they can spend their time on things that are apparently more important than serving God's people.  People who work with him/her rarely have anything nice to say about this person.
     5.  They are transient!  They rarely stay in a place longer than a year because they've burned bridges and are in a constant state of unrest trying to climb a ladder that gets their name out there even more.


     This is an open comment from a guy whose trying his best to be a good worship pastor.  I have to tell you.  I've made about every mistake you can make as a worship pastor at least twice!  I admit openly that pride and ego has always been a struggle for me as has insecurity in my abilities due to very gifted musicians who I am lucky enough to call friends.  I want to start by saying, I get things wrong a lot, but I do not have a personal agenda when it comes to worship ministry.  Let me say that again.... I do NOT have a personal agenda for worship ministry.  Now, of course, I have a direction that I feel God has called me to lead our body towards, but that's never driven out of personal preference or an innate condition to tick people off.
     For some reason, music can be INCREDIBLY divisive in the church, and I'm here to say that it has no reason to be so.  I don't ask if it's "contemporary" or if it's "Traditional."  I ask:  "God is this relevant to the word You are bringing to your people?"  We sings hymns, and new songs, and funky songs, and easy songs and hard songs and songs of praise and songs of mourning, but ALL are planned and prepared with one goal in mind...How do we honor God honestly and authentically in our times of worship?  And secondly, I ask...how do these songs support the Biblical teaching and are they accurate to scripture?  And thirdly, are these songs God focused or me focused.
     That's the whole process, so before you get offended that we didn't sing your favorite song, or we didn't do enough hymns, or we only sang hymns and not enough newer songs....I want you to ask yourself... "Would I be happy singing praises to God to the song I hate most?"  I know, HATE is a strong word, but in this case, it is my experience that people use STRONG language when it comes to music.
     Because I have to be honest with you, we sing a ton of songs that I don't particularly consider my favorite tunes.  We sing them because they are dripping with Scriptural and spiritual truth and are VITAL to the Scriptures that we will be teaching on that particular weekend.  I don't pick my favorite songs, I don't pick blindly out of a hat and just throw it together.  True Worship Pastors are planning and preparing with the Holy Spirit weeks in advance to make sure that we are presenting a deep narrative of doctrine that aligns with the Word of God and has purpose to create tension or brevity in our times together.
     Good corporate worship experiences are God focused and they tell a story that creates tension that the Message and Word are used to resolve and call us to deeper obedience and deeper love and practice.  So to my dear churchgoers who gather weekly to worship...I just want to implore you...Make it about God.  Don't make it about you.

We ALL-onstage and off-have the dangerous temptation to make worship the thing we focus on instead of WHO we are actually worshiping.  Don't buy into the lie that worship is about you.  PLease understand, I am possibly the worst worship pastor to be giving you this advice because I know my own struggles with self worth and pride, but I come from sadly a place of expereince...Worship leaders need to be PASTORS first and musicians second, and the body of Christ needs to worship Jesus-not worship the WAY we worship Him.

    For the Kingdom and the King,


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kids.... Wow!!!

It's amazing how life changes when you have children-in fact it's amazing how you're perspective changes on a whole array of things. Those of you who are parents will instantaneously know exactly what I'm talking about, but please allow to me to expound on this for a few moments:)
Since Liv arrived 8 months ago, I've become more aware of my selfishness and the true heroism that exists in my wife. I've lived my life trying to please God, but also I've done a lot of things that I, myself, enjoy doing-which isn't completely horrible, but now that Liv is here, I find myself really not caring about some of those fringe things I loved to do because I honestly want to spend my time with her and with Claire. But I am also realizing the tension that exists between what I feel God calling me to do and what I want to do. I guess where this leaves me is at the threshold of contentment.
God has blessed me beyond measure with salvation through Jesus, with a great wife, an adorable child, great family and friends, a wonderful church to pastor and even the opportunity to coach some great high school kids in tennis, and yet I find myself wishing for more. It's been a dream since I was in college to tour the world and lead others in worship, and I get a small opportunity next week to go do that, but at the risk of sounding cheesy and self effacing, I know the musicians who are out there in Christian music-they are more talented and truthfully they know the right people. I'm average t best, but I think that means I rely on God more because I know I'm incapable. I know no one that's considered important in the music industry and that's honestly how a lot of people get recognized and famous-SO HERE'S WHERE I AM GOING WITH ALL OF THIS:

I think I'm finally content with that:) I'm content with being the worship pastor at what I feel is the best church in the United States(I've been to a lot and Grace Community Church is special). I'm content with not knowing music industry powerhouses as long as I know my friends who are near and dear to me and are radiant. I'm content with playing at other churches from time to time but knowing that fame will not come and that's a GREAT thing because it means GOD gets the glory and that my fame is not the point of the Christian call in my life. I'm content with barely making ends meet at the end of the month as long as I get to share that lifestyle with Claire and Liv-that makes me the richest man I know. I'm content in knowing that God's plan works infinitely better than my own and that I may not possess constant happiness, I do possess neverending joy!

So may you find contentment in the blessings that God has called you to, and look in the face of your child and see the selfless love of Christ and the picture of joy:)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stuff Christians Like

I'm reading an absolutely hysterical piece of literature right now called "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff, and I have to say, I LOVE the sarcasm and tongue in cheek look into the culture of Christendom here in the 21st century. There are such insights as how to break up with your small group, the four "positions" of worship, how to properly administer a side hug, etc...

This book got me laughing and it also got me thinking: Why can't we look at ourselves every once in awhile and realize that just like the rest of the world, we can be ridiculous, judgmental, quirky, humorous and sometimes just devoid of self awareness? I look at my life a lot more with each passing day and I realize that I'm extremely flawed, and that God loves me in spite of that. I gaze into society and I see a people that are for the most part trying to do the right thing, and that in itself isn't bad at all. In fact, sometimes society tends to be way more loving, compassionate and honest than the Christian world, but the only difference is WHO.

WHO are you living for? I would say that our culture promotes that we should live for ourselves and our own self worth and happiness, and that's a VERY attractive idea, but honestly, I want to live for something MUCH BIGGER than me. I want to passionately pursue the calling of God so that hopefully when I look at my life in retrospect, I see a messy, quirky, sometimes ridiculous guy that was at least TRYING to follow the call of God in his life.

We need to take a look at ourselves, church, and realize that we don't have it l together, and that we are missing a vast amount of answers, but the remedy and the answer to a society that is questioning is sincerity and most importantly love!!! It's good to take a fun, honest, even sarcastic look into our own lives to see how the world really does view us, because it gives us a vantage point and a clarity that can help us be more loving and compassionate!!



Tuesday, April 13, 2010


"How high-how wide-no matter where I am
Healing is in Your hands!
How deep-how strong-now by Your grace I stand
Healing is in Your hands!"-Christy Nockels

Today is a good day-it really is:) It's a day I celebrate the birth of my brother, which also makes it bittersweet. I find that farther away from his passing that it gets, the more I realize that the wound of losing him hasn't really healed at all. In fact it's still very bruised and tender, but I'm learning to realize that that in itself is a GREAT thing! It means that Shane was such an amazing man and that our bond was close and deep. It means that our relationship as brothers was real and that he changed my life. If it didn't hurt, that would mean that we weren't that close or that my memories of him were not fond ones. It hurts because Shane was everything he was advertised to be: a great father, a great husband, a great brother, a great son-a GREAT MAN of God!

Whats been constantly helping me is the fact that God's grace is sufficient for me. It's sufficient for all of us. SO when I'm emotionally exhausted and can't cry any more due to lack of tears, God is there reassuring me that He is with me in this brokenness and in this pain. That's the big misconception about being a Christ follower: I hear a lot of people preach that once you become a Christian life is easier, and that's simply not true. Life is life friends, and we are a fallen people, God never promises that things will be easy or that life will be full of sunshine-He promises that no matter what He's there right by our side, hurting with us, crying with us, breathing with us and loving us! That's the healing power of Christ!!! It's knowing that no matter what life throws our way, God is there with us and we can rely on Him. God's not a cosmic vending machine Whom we can just ask and He will give us whatever we want, He's our FATHER. My dad loves me and let me tell you something, he didn't give me a lot of things that I thought I had to have, he gave me what I needed and loved me thats it!!! I wouldn't trade him for anything and that's how we need to picture God.

He is a healer of the brokenhearted and a friend to the mourning and He is comfort in a world full of pain. SO if youre going through something rough right now, just remember this-God isn't abandoning you, he's drawing closer to you!



Friday, April 9, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bear...really?

Having gone to college in the state of Kansas, I can't escape the comments that are directly related to "The Wizard of Oz." Yes, it gets old, but when you've lived in Kansas, everyone seems to think a Dorothy or Toto comment is plausibly needed at any time. If it snows I can almost bet on hearing this statement: "Not in Kansas anymore are you Dorothy-haha." It's really not that funny, but to each their own. I've seen the movie WAY too many times and there is one thing that annoys me but also brings to life something that I think is very awesome!!!

What annoys me is that they are scared of lions and tigers and bears, and not 5 minutes earlier, the TREES WERE TALKING AND THROWING THINGS AT THEM!!! Personal opinion: That would scare me way worse than normal carnivores. At least with lions and tigers and bears you have a puncher's chance to survive, but when the trees start attacking you, it's over because there are WAY more trees in OZ than animals(I don't count flying monkeys because that's just creepy).

Here's the REALLY cool thing about the trees: they are supposedly inanimate objects and they are speaking and full of action!!! I find this fascinating because quite often I find myself looking at the beautiful western Colroado stars and I sense that they are talking. They are proclaiming the beauty of their Maker and they are speaking of God's infinite greatness:)

"Tonight the stars speak of your infinite love, and it serves to remind me, that what I am means nothing at all compared to your glory!"-Glorious Unseen-

This isn't a new concept we read in the Bible that the heavens declare His glory, but I have recently tried to be more aware of my surroundings and I can tell you that the entire planet is speaking. It's crying out, practically screaming to how good God is. I see my pregnant wife and the beauty and anticipation overwhelms me with how blessed I am. I see the massive amounts of snow that are still on the mountains and I see the majesty of God as well as the idea that all things are in His timing not mine. I see windswept trees that are still standing, and I see the raw power of God and a picture of encouragement that whatever life throws at me I can sustain it through His power. I hear the birds chirping PERFECT melodies and I realize that God will take care of me because he lavishes them with need. I see flowers that are so beautiful that nothing man can design can match the beauty, and I see God's beautiful attention to detail and passionate pursuit of us!!!

I know you might find this incredibly dorky, but that's who I am! I know some of you don't believe in a Creator and I want you to know that's ok:) We all have to find our own path and own beliefs, and my personal belief that something comes from something, not something from nothing. At the beginning of the inception of this galaxy I choose to believe that God spoke it into being and we are an offspring of divine intervention. I believe we came from somewhere:) I'm not dogging other theories, I promise, my fault with other theories is that something came from nothing which happens no other place in the scientific realm. So it's a question of faith, and it's a beautiful thing that we get to choose. I choose to place my faith in God, and some people place their faith in other theories, either way faith is involved, and I think that's powerful if we can all realize that faith is unavoidable. We all have faith-I have faith that my car will get me from point A to point B safely, and it usually happens, it's only when I drive wreckless or someone else drives wreckless that that faith is tested:)

I want to challenge you to be aware to your surroundings, I think you just might catch a glimpse of the Savior's handiwork and it can change your life:)



Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Space Between...

Many of you know I'm an absolutely HUGE Dave Matthews Band fan. I appreciate the complexity of his music and the uniqueness of his sound, and I find myself listening to his stuff whenever I need to chill or when I need a spark of creativity. One of my favorite tunes by DMB is "The Space Between" because it portrays relationships and people for that matter as fallible and flawed. I very much like the honesty in characterizing us, as a human race, as imperfect people who are hopefully trying to make things work!

"All we can do, my love-is hope we don't take this ship down"

GREAT LINE!!! There's a kind of insecure hope that's dripping from those lines. It's optimistic, yet at the same time is aware of the circumstances and whats going on around them.

In my faith, I hope I portray this authentic kind of truth and transparency. I think we as Christ-followers should not live in shame or fear, but we should also not live in a forced utopia where everything is alright. We should live in the space between:) A space that shows compassion and mercy to the world, knowing full well that we need that same compassion and mercy in our own lives. A space where we don't have to pretend that everything is alright or that we even knows what's going on for that matter, rather we live in authentic optimism of what life could be like. A space that realizes our own limitations and weaknesses and doesn't try to portray our lives as put together or figured it. You can't fake life, all that leads to is emptiness and a hollow soul.

I want people to know "ME" not a version of me that I'm manufacturing to make myself look better or holier than thou. Many people who have walked away from Christianity have done so because what they see is either a masquerade or its a person hypocritically telling them how to live their life. Being genuine isn't something to shy away from, rather something to aspire to. When we understand that we are ALL in this world together and that our insecurities and our fears and our scars and our mistakes are what makes life beautifully chaotic, we finally realize and can grasp the life changing grace that's offered to us.

I very much love the life in the space between perfection and fallen. It's a place where reality can occur and we can daily rely on Christ and realize that none of us has all the answers nor do we need to. It's a place of beautiful brokenness:)



Wednesday, April 7, 2010


It's incredibly frustrating to live in a small town when it comes to having late evening eating habits-haha. I enjoy the occasional 9pm dinner due to circumstances of working late, tennis practice, rehearsals, etc... It limits your options when you live in a small town because you essentially have to settle for fast food, which isn't always bad, but I like having options-Make sense? Case in point, I had some dear friends in town a few weeks ago and I wanted to treat them to a late dinner at a great Italian food joint here in town, but to my sadness we approached the doors at 9:03 and they were closed:(

This DIRECTLY correlates to our Christian faith friends!!! How often are we closed because something that God might be calling us to do is not fitting in with our schedule or routine? The consequences can be severe when we do this because just like food options in a small town late at night people have to settle. They go to whomever is"open" and that can be scary. Working on a church staff has really helped me develop this discipline of ALWAYS being open to being used. Sometimes you get a call at 2 in the morning and that's when you forsake yourself and your EXTREME desire to curl up in the blankets and say "We're Closed!!!" Instead, you put on mismatched socks and you go to the hospital to be a calming, peaceful-half-asleep presence, or you go to grieve with a family thats lost a loved one.

We are all called to this not just pastors-haha. We are a "Priesthood of saints" according to God's word, and one thing I can tell you as a "pastor" is that I'm just as flawed if not more so than those who don't consider themselves pastors. We are ALL called to compassion, and to love. That's the beauty of reading the New Testament, and about reading of who Jesus was. It's not only a picture of our salvation, its a blurring of that and also showing us a picture of how to live. In Jesus' kindness and compassion and love and forgiveness, we see not only a way to live but also we catch a glimpse of who God is.

When you catch just a tiny glimpse of God's goodness, you can't help but to be changed!!! We tend to be closed to the beauty of God and as a result we tend to be closed to the world. We barricade ourselves in fear of the world because it may not share our same beliefs-Thats absolutely opposite of what Jesus called us to. He was not of the world but He was DEFINITELY in the world. He was showing compassion and grace and mercy on a daily basis to a world that desperately needed to be loved. Has anything changed? This world is seeking to be loved and I would argue that this time and this place is a world that really does care about life and they look to the church to co-opt with them and all they get in return is venom spewed at them by a people living in fear of actually making a difference.

We're too closed church. It's time to open the doors of compassion and forgiveness and grace and beauty!!! Jesus changed the world and modelled it for us, and I'm afraid to say that we are doing the exact opposite by creating segregated country clubs of faith and refusing to share the mind blowing, life altering power of Christ's love!!!

Stop being closed church. I BEG you to open up. I dare you to love!