Philosophy of Worship Ministry

I was asked to write this during an application process, and it made me think about what my practical goal is as a worship leader. This is what I came up with.

I believe that Worship is a lifestyle, and a constant choosing of God over everything else. As such, I believe that corporate worship has the responsibility to be both a heart’s cry and a challenge, a means and an end. When we embrace the dual nature of worship, both the inward and outward aspects, we can effectively lead a congregation in a corporate worship service that helps every type of person move closer to God.

I think it is easiest to think of corporate worship as the heart’s cry of the believer, and that many people stop at this point and try to minister to only this group. However, I believe that when we minister especially to the personal experience of these people, we are actually being detrimental to their spiritual growth. There are many “me and Jesus” songs that leave out the key part of the equation, the love for others that Jesus puts on equal ground with love for God (because it is the natural result of love for God). I believe when you spend time in “adoration”, it should always be with one eye open toward the Jesus that may be begging for food or crying out for love.

Therefore, the aim of worship should be to cause movement. This accomplishes two goals, one for both the believer and the non-believer. Toward the believer, this aim is beneficial in reinforcing discipleship lessons and providing fresh inspiration to live the life of a disciple. Toward the non-believer, this aim reflects the purpose of Christianity and shows what the church values. Non-believers have trouble relating to traditional church when it becomes about the business of running itself. A community of believers is valuable, to be sure, but that community should not be insular.

In practice, the planning of Worship services should take the approach of Paul, who saw God in everything good. Everything that can be used to magnify God is within the worship artist’s scope. It is the responsibility of the artist to use the different media and gifts available to him, in the most culturally coherent way possible, in order to achieve the aims of the ministry. It is important for there to be coherence in the message of each service, from the speaking to the music and other creative elements. It is also important for this coherent message to be consistent with the ultimate aims and direction of the church.

As far as this relates to Music specifically, the worship leader should realize the power of music. God created us in such a way that a powerful chord progression, combined with a certain melody, can drive the right lyric straight to the heart of the listener. We must learn the musical language that speaks to the hearts of those we are ministering to. In some places this may be R&B, Hip-Hop, Modern Rock, Pop, or Indie Rock/Folk, and if you are not gifted in that place’s form of music, you should take that into account before taking on the responsibility of leading worship in that place. For example, my strengths are the Indie Rock and Modern Rock sounds, and I am versatile enough to play some Pop and some hymns. However, when I’ve tried to lead gospel tunes in the past, I’ve been less than stellar, and I know I would not be the best to reach people who are touched by that sort of music.

When we’ve begun speaking to the hearts of our congregation, worship leaders must then supplement the music with whatever other media is available to them, as discussed previously. We must always be sensitive to which forms of art will resonate with those under our leadership, and strive to weave those into the worship services seamlessly and, once again, coherently. We can’t force a certain creative element simply because it is available to us, or because we want this or that artist to be satisfied. We must have that one coherent aim that we stick to and strive for.

Finally, we must be practicing what we preach. A coherent, outwardly focused message can be undermined by an immoral or simply selfish lifestyle. Us “on-stage” people, who are seen and known by the congregation, have the special opportunity to make the message a reality through their service.

Mercy (Catherine Rohr)

How hard is it for us to have mercy on someone?

Well, it's fairly easy when their actions don't directly affect us.

It's also easy when their talent is more apparent than their shortcomings.

It's hard, though, when we've emotionally attached ourselves to something.

When a redemption story goes wrong... when a hero falls from great heights... when someone who is an advocate for something we believe in does something unthinkable, something...


Catherine Rohr was an advocate for those no one else cared for. Catherine Rohr was a hero, someone to look up to and learn from and admire. Catherine Rohr recently did something unbearably human. In the midst of the incredible pain of divorce, she sought comfort in those who had been helped by her "Prison Entrepreneurship Program" in Texas prisons. Now, bear in mind that these were former inmates, men who had gotten their lives on the right track through hard work, who had paid their debt to society. Still... she had "inappropriate relationships" with the four men, and is no longer allowed to work in the program she spearheaded.

So how is the church going to react? Will the Willow Creek Association stand behind her and help her find healing, or have they gotten all they need out of her? Will all of those who attended the Leadership Summit speak of her as some sort of villian, another in a long line of disappointments? This woman ultimately gave up her marriage for the good of others (and we don't know anything about that situation)... she was feeling alone and abandoned and confused, and she looked for comfort.

Will we have mercy on her? I am not a big leader in the church. I am not some sort of theologian or philosopher, and I don't have a Doctorate in Ministry from some well-respected ministry. I am not one who will shape public perception. So all I can do is pray.

Pray that we have mercy on Catherine Rohr.

Pray that we stand with her as she struggles to find healing and closure.

Pray that one day she can use her considerable talents to once again do amazing things for God.

And finally, pray that God will forgive me for my own lack of mercy in the past, for the time when I stood with the rest in judgment of a fallen brother.

Hey, wait for me!

On my way to work today, I looked to my left and saw a city bus at it's stop. As I turned right, I saw a tiny asian lady running frantically towards the bus, and still maybe 100 yards away. I was thinking "she'll never make it", and I looked in my rear-view, expecting the bus to drive off and the lady to be left in a frazzled mess of bags and disappointment.

But then, something unexpected happened. The bus didn't move. The lady began moving even faster, as she realized that the bus was going to wait. You could almost see the hope in every step... although she was still quite frantic.

Now, while all of this was happening, "How He Loves" was loudly resonating inside my car. You can't listen to that song and drive without being amazed at how He loves each and every person you see. I started thinking about how it feels when someone waits for you... how being waited for makes you feel wanted, and special, and loved.

God waited for me. He waited through my yelling and my anger and my cursing the idea of being up early on a Sunday Morning. He waited for me to get past the problems that followed me wherever I went, to see past my broken world to the one who could fix it. He waited because He loved me, because He knew that more than anything, I needed Him to take on what life had thrown at me. He loved me, fathered me, and gave me an identity.

But how many times do we get impatient with Him, and run off to do our own thing? We are like children, thinking that our parents are moving too slow, running forward toward something that looks super cool, and suddenly realizing that we are lost, crying out to be found. A few things begin to hurt us (shape us, grow us), and we want to throw in the towel and condemn God for abandoning us. We suck at waiting.

Still, He loves us. He waits for us, because He's seen this before. He knows that we will learn, that one day we will thank Him for how He used that dark night to shape us. He knows that soon we will come to the end of ourselves, come to our senses, and come running back into His arms. He knows this, because we are His children and His creation, and He is our Savior and Creator and Father.

So He's still waiting, and it's not a sign of weakness. Impatience is weakness. Patience is strength, and His strength is limitless. So is His love. Are you the one He's waiting for?

Don't take more than you can carry...

In Exodus, the Israelites were fed manna (which literally meant "what is it?"... thanks Don Sailer!), and told to only collect enough for that day. But instead, they would try to collect for the next day as well, so they didn't have to go out every day. They did the exact opposite of what God told them to do, because they were lazy and impatient, and the manna turned into maggots the next day. It was stinky and gross.

I think debt is the maggot of our day. See, God promises to provide what we need for the day, "our daily bread", and that should be enough for us. Often, however, it just isn't, and we feel the need to buy more stuff than we can afford. We get into debt, paying for the toys of today with our futures. I know a lot about that. I got into quite a bit of debt when I was younger and am still paying for it today. The funny thing is, I've got pretty much nothing to show for it.

"Don't spend what you don't have."

It seems like such a simple principle, and for most of history it was the only honorable way to live. Debts unpaid would mean time in prison, or in servitude. It was disgraceful to live in debt.

But now, it's almost considered disgraceful to not have credit. Our culture is one that tries to gather more than we can carry, and that leads to burdens we can't lift on our own, burdens we weren't meant to have. When we can't carry them, someone else has to... and that's how the economy was destroyed, but that's another subject.

The point to this is, we must trust in God to provide us with what we need, and trust that what we are provided with is enough and that we do not "need" more. This is really, really hard to do when it seems like your "daily bread" is way smaller than your appetite, but God knows exactly what He's doing. When you diet, your stomach gets smaller as it gets used to less food, and perhaps our appetites for shiny new things would also get smaller if we'd just get on a budget.

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't save money, because that is more of a stewardship issue. We are told to handle our money wisely. No, this is about stuff... and how we need less of it. In fact, if we'd just save and not spend every last "extra" dollar we have, we may be able to buy something pretty sweet when it's all said and done...or maybe even change the world.


To those who see me lead worship at Central or at Desert Haven, I am a worship leader. To the ones who only come to Central once in a while, I am the guy who sings or plays bass/electric guitar/keyboard. To those looking for the best service out there, the "consumer" Christians here to check out the service, I am either an asset or a detriment... depending on their preference in musical styles and how well I "performed" that day.

My residency ends in less than three months. To the churches I am sending resumes to, I am merely a list of facts, a History major trying to pass himself off as a worship leader. Too little experience. Too little classical education. I couldn't possibly be who they need. There are dozens of churches (and it may get into the hundreds) who will miss out on a passionate, creative, and competent worship leader, simply because they can't get past a list of requirements and their interpretation of the arbitrary facts on a resume. This isn't pride, it's me coming to terms with who I am and where God has gifted me.

This post is more personal than normal, and I apologize if that makes you uncomfortable. There are two points to this post, and the first is this: You always need to remember who you are, where God has given you strength and where He has given you help in your weakness. It's easy to get discouraged, to let your surroundings or constant rejections and slights weigh heavy on your shoulders and cause you to stumble. Don't take that easy, painful road. If you are going to go through pain, let it be from the friction of your passion, calling, and hard work leading you past the threshold of what should be possible.

The second point of this post is that when you are a slave to your own perceptions, you miss very important realities.

P.S. To those of you who would like to help change the way people "perceive" you, social networking sites are important tools in this process. Connect with me on LinkedIn and let's work on changing perceptions.