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“Worship Wars 2020” – Guest Post by Jonathan Mason

We are honored to bring you this guest post by Jonathan Mason, the director of Word Worship Music, on a topic that is central to all worship leaders. And be sure to read more about the new initiative “The Church Will Sing” at the end of the post.

When I evaluate a song for the church, my question isn’t so much whether or not it sounds like everything else we call “worship,” but rather whether the song invites the hearts and minds of believers to see and savor Jesus as he really is.

Worship. This one word in today’s church culture holds massive connotations. We’ve heard it said over and over again that worship doesn’t equal music and music doesn’t equal worship. The reality is, for better or worse, we have created a whole sub-culture of Christian music and have labeled it “Worship.”  Whichever side of the fence you fall on, it’s important that we think about the place of music in the church, lest history repeat itself again.

A significant turning point in my life occurred when I traveled to Jamaica to help lead worship alongside a missionary team. With my acoustic guitar, I played many contemporary songs that were very well known back in the United States. The church body joined in the best they could and showed appreciation for my being there. When I had finished, a woman in the congregation stood up and burst into a song. Immediately, I heard tambourines and other percussive instruments join in, followed by the rest of the congregation’s voices. I looked around and saw the church gathered and connected in a way I was not used to, around a song I did not know, with a style that didn’t seem common to me.  To this Jamaican church, the song was normal. To them it was familiar. It was a musical language that worked within their region and context. There was no acoustic guitar. There was no bass guitar. There was no drum set. Was this not worship? It didn’t sound like everything I was used to. They had only their hands for clapping, voices for singing, and a few instruments for percussion. The song was in a style that Westerners might call simple, trite, and repetitive, but with it, I had witnessed a powerful, loving worship of God.

Standing on the other side of the many years of “worship wars,” I question how it was ever a battle to begin with. When we gather as a congregation, we are told to do all things that edify or build up believers (1 Cor. 14:26). This entails loving one’s neighbor as themselves.  We are called in our gatherings to unite and sing “to one another” (Ephesians 5:18-19). Have we ever stopped and pondered what style best accomplishes that in our context? Much of the bickering about musical style stems from our individualistic bent in Western culture. It is concerned mainly with the vertical (me and God) to the detriment and neglect of the horizontal (me and my neighbor) as well as the missional (how our unity in song looks to those outside the church).

We gather to remember (because we need to be reminded) that the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient. Sometimes the way we treat our music in the church we act like it’s the new medium for us to connect to God. Simply put, the Christian’s sacrifice and offering has already been accomplished (1 Peter 3:18) and it’s Jesus who brings us to God.

When I evaluate a song for the church, my question isn’t so much whether or not it sounds like everything else we call “worship,” but rather whether the song invites the hearts and minds of believers to see and savor Jesus as he really is. If we are only looking for one musical style within worship music what is preventing us from creating a new norm that we will be fighting to break free from in the years to come?

Jonathan Mason is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and former student of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. With the academia background, working within a local church as a music director, and traveling with a nationally touring worship band, Jonathan has developed a deep passion for music ministry. He is currently serving as the director of Word Worship Music, a label imprint and publisher under CURB|Word Entertainment in Nashville, TN.

The first song from Word Worship Music’s new initiative, The Church Will Sing, incorporating churches from all around the United States as the featured vocal, is available now.  “Even Louder” is a collaboration between Bethel Music’s Tony Brown, Housefires Jonathan Jay, and Word Music’s Matt Armstrong and Benji Cowart. The song was performed as part of this year’s “The Bible Tour” by hip-hop artist Steven Malcolm.  There are 9 more songs in the works and churches can still record themselves singing to be the congregational voice for what’s yet to come. For more information visit www.TheChurchWillSing.com / http://smarturl.it/EvenLouder

Merry Christmas

Christmas Card

 

2016 has been a crazy year for most of the world.  But our Lord is unchanging and provides a constant source of hope and love, despite the circumstances. We know many of you work hard during this (and every) season to reflect that constant hope and love at your church and in your community. Our prayer this Christmas is that you will experience the hope and love of Jesus, not just by being a reflection of Him, but by encountering Him.  And I think I speak for all parishioners around the world in saying: Thank you for being the light of Jesus!

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

-tom and the worshipplanning.com team

What to Do When You Mess Up

What-to-Do-When-You-Mess-Up

I hate messing up. In fact, as a recovering perfectionist, I can honestly tell you I used to be terrified of it. But, as I’ve grown as a leader, I’ve realized that the scariest thing isn’t making a mistake, it’s NOT making one.

Because if I’m not failing, then I’m not taking enough risks. I’m not being as productive or effective as I could be as a leader. If my main goal is just to avoid any error in my ventures, conversations, and leadership decisions, then I’m playing it way too safe. Messing up actually isn’t a plague to be avoided; it’s a regular part of being a growing leader.

If you examine the biography of any great spiritual leader, there will be plenty of mistakes in it: premature commitments, short-sighted calls, and immature mindsets – yet they were still inspiring and influencing their people for God’s Kingdom.

When you look into these stories even closer you’ll find that HOW THEY RESPOND to these mistakes and mishaps is the factor that makes the difference. Winston Churchill says, “Success is jumping from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” And Rick Warren reminds us, “Failure isn’t a character quality. It’s just an event. How you respond to failure is your character.”

So, what’s your strategy for failing forward? How will you use the moments you discover you’ve let yourself down to ultimately build yourself up? Here are three tips to ensure that you make the most of your mistakes, and let them help shape you into an incredible leader.

1. Admit it 

Leaders that can admit when they’ve been wrong about something inspire a culture of honesty and true humility. Often, the people you’re leading know it anyway, so cease the opportunity to acknowledge it and show them a good example of purposefully and publicly altering your course now that you have more data about what works – and what doesn’t.

What would happen if you just came out and said it in your next team meeting? My guess is, it may feel more liberating and respectable than you may have guessed, and you’ll be providing people with a chance to show you grace, to relate, and to see you as a “flawed protagonist” as they say in screenwriting. They’re more like-able than the perfect ones.

If there’s anything you can apologize for, do it. Even saying, “I apologize for my part in this” or “my ignorance of the situation” goes a long way! It’s a mature and respectable approach.

Side-note: This blog is more about mishaps and “green” decisions in ministry than big moral failures or secret sins. If you have a continual major struggle or have failed in a big way on the moral front, some more fitting advice for your situation can be found by seeking wise Christian counsel from a trusted leader or friend and with their help, beginning a more intensive healing journey than the scope of this article covers. Whatever you do – don’t keep covering it up.

2.  Make the necessary adjustments and try again

Take serious note of what you’ve learned from this event. There is helpful data for the future in this experience! Journal it, discuss it, read up on it, and remember it. Then, apply your learning to your next attempt! You have way higher chances of succeeding now.

If you took the wrong approach in a conversation, take that information to heart and plan your improved approach for next time.

If you started a worship night with your ministry team, and no one came after the third one, dig in and figure out why! Adjust the time, frequency, location, people involved, people leading, format, duration, and anything else that could help, and then re-launch.

That’s what the best leaders do when they mess up.

3. Learn to love the process

There is much to thank God for in the aftermath of mistakes. Process and growth are beautiful things, found all over creation, and it’s time we learn as leaders to enjoy the ride.

Don’t be embarrassed that you didn’t walk in to your leadership role already knowing everything. Let the people around you in on your story – use their feedback to fuel your development as a leader and influencer.

I love this little saying in James 4: “But He gives us more grace.” We do dumb stuff sometimes, but God’s power is available to us. That’s the reason we can persevere, learn, grow, and even thrive after messing something up.

Don’t be discouraged by a silly decision, hiccup, or mishap. Be encouraged that you’re now that much closer to your goal.

Andrea Hamilton Binley
Worship Director at Inland Hills Church and Songwriter at HopefulPop.com

I Don’t Need to Practice

i-dont-need

Alright, all you amazing, awesome, worship team members & leaders – I’m talking to you! You are, quite literally, God’s gift to me. The ones who can just always pull it off, no big deal. You can improvise on the fly, you can play by ear, you can pick up the musical theme in a heartbeat – you are flipping awesome. I love ya. And I love having you on my team. I love how easy it is to play with you, how easy it is to get our band gelling with you around, and how fluidly you pull it all together.

But.

I’m so sorry to say there is a “but.” BUT. I’ve known so many of you. I AM you. I am not being boastful, here, just honest. I can realistically walk into practice completely unrehearsed and pull it off, no problem.

But there is a problem. Just because we can technically “pull it off” without practicing, does not mean that practicing is unnecessary. Let me reiterate here – I am you. I am all of these things below. I did not read this in a book, I learned it from my own mistakes and frustrations by being you. So, calm down, Stevie Ray.

1. Practice makes perfect

Is there anything more cliche in the music world? Probably not. Does that make it less true? Definitely not. I’m sorry, but neither I nor you are being recruited to go on tour with or BE John Mayer so I just see no reason to assume that we don’t need more practice. If I’m wrong and you’ve got that offer coming in the mail, then this doesn’t apply to you because you already know this simple truth: John Mayer and those like him did not get that way by accident. It was… you guessed it… practice. More practice. And then once they got it perfect, they kept practicing. When John stops practicing, you can stop practicing.

2. Whoa, didn’t see that coming

Yeah, but you know who did? That guy on the other side of the stage who practiced. I have seen this countless times (me). One of us (me) is just cruising along, doing what everyone else is doing, until that one part. The part that everyone else listened to a hundred times and mastered and therefore played in sync. But you (I) didn’t. You (I) breezed right over it in your (my) practice time and so you (I) forgot just now when they all played it right. I don’t care who you are (I am), if you (I) don’t know the song inside and out, to a band, you are (I am) useless.

3. The band always knows

You know how your mom always knows when it was you? Your bandmates can always tell when you haven’t practiced, when you’re making it up as you go. And more often than not (especially for those of them who had to practice relentlessly to get where they are) – they are not impressed. It is uncourteous to show up unrehearsed, no matter how “good” you might be. The reality is without practice, you won’t be as polished as you should be. No ifs, ands, or buts. Honour your leader and your band by showing up prepared.

4. Your version isn’t the same

Most of the time, worship teams are learning from a recording. That’s what everyone else in the band is listening to. Unless your worship leader has given you all instructions to come up with your own version, you have to be familiar with whatever arrangement everyone is learning, otherwise its going to be difficult to play cohesively with your team.

5. Honor God with your gift

Practice is intentional. It means time playing and thinking through the songs you’re learning. It is a sacrifice of time. Taking the time to practice, especially when you don’t need it, says to God, “I want to offer you the absolute best possible that I have to give” as opposed to, “that’s good enough, right, God?”

Someone reminded me of the parable of the talents, once (found in Matthew 25). Talents back then referred to silver but the parable is about abilities, interestingly enough. A master was going away and left three servants in charge of his property. One servant received five talents, one got two, and one received one. The first man doubled the talents by trading. The second also doubled his talents, though he had less. But the last man dug a hole and hid his master’s money. When the master came back, he rewarded the first two and said, “Well done, good & faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much.” To the lazy servant, he showed disappointment and cast him away. He basically says, “you knew I was coming back, you could have at the very least invested the money in a bank so I would get interest” (Matthew 14-30 paraphrased).

God gives us gifts and talents which he has left to our safekeeping. He doesn’t want us to squander them, we are to grow them. Going back to the first point – there just is no point at which we are off the hook – there’s always room to be better when it comes to music. Shouldn’t we be setting an example to those around us that we A) do not take our gifts for granted B) do not think we have musically arrived and C) believe God is coming back to claim our grown up gifts for Himself? The parable explains to us that when our talent grows, God’s glory grows. He expects us to steward our gifts well, not hide them in the ground and say “that’s probably good enough.”

If nothing else, make practice your humble response to God’s gift of talent to you. Steward the gift well and he will set you in responsibility over more and more.

-Molly Broomer (originally posted on itsallrighthere.org – used by permission…Thanks Molly!)

Worship Leader Stage Presence

guitar player on stage
Stage presence is important when you are in front of anyone and your desire is to connect with and engage with them. Whether it’s through music or speaking, there is a basic need for the person on the platform to possess at least a minimal amount of awareness when it comes to stage presence.

Does it mean that stage presence is the end all be all of leading worship? Not at all. Worship is the primary focus of leading worship. Connecting with and engaging with others is part of our desire to be useful in the Kingdom. God has gifted us musically so that we can worship Him and to help others express their worship to Him.

Read the full article over at TheWorshipCommunity.com

Breathing Fresh Air Into Worn Out Songs

Breathing Fresh Air Into Worn Out Songs

Do you have worship songs in your repertoire that need a breath of fresh air?

We all have songs that we love, but maybe sang one too many times. Here are some great insights from David Santistevan:

Oftentimes that older, more familiar song is exactly what is needed because it connects. People don’t have to think so hard. They can be more free to engage.

The truth is, worship leaders and band members get sick of a song much sooner than someone in the congregation. When you combine personal practice, rehearsal, and playing the same song for multiple services on a weekend, that makes sense. But just when the band is getting sick of a song is right when people in the congregation are starting to grasp it.

The problem isn’t with how old the song is. The problem is that we do it the same way all the time. Doing songs like your favorite records is fine, but you need to shake it up from time to time.

Our songlists should be crafted on the foundation of two questions: 1) Are we celebrating and declaring the truth of the Gospel? and 2) Are we helping people engage with heart, soul, mind, & strength?

Cool and cutting edge is great if it accomplishes that purpose. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time.

So here are 5 tips for taking a worn out song and breathing some life into it:

1. Speak in the middle – Sometimes pausing in the middle of the song to either encourage, exhort, or read a Scripture can completely change up the feel to a song. It helps to reconnect with the worshipers in the room as well. For example, oftentimes I’ll tie a particular verse of a song to a Scripture, like the final verse of Cornerstone:

“When He shall come with trumpet sound. Oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone. Faultless stand before His throne.”

Before I sing that, I’ll declare 2 Corinthians 5:21:

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

If there’s one thing I know, there’s nothing that lights up a worship service like the Word of God. It is power and when it lands on hearts filled with faith, explosive things can happen.

Try this with your songs. Speak out. Declare truth. Plan your songs to be an experience with the Word rather than just a sing-a-long.

Visit David’s blog to read the entire post.

Are You A Song Leader or A Worship Pastor?

There are a variety of titles churches use for the person who leads the “music” on Sunday mornings. Worship leader, worship director, music director, song leader, and worship pastor, are just a few of the titles you may have heard of.

I think for the most part though, the role can be categorized under these two main titles: Song Leader and Worship Pastor. Your church may use a different title, but you probably fit into one of these two. Let me explain…

A Song Leader is someone who…singer w guitar
-just leads vocally during the corporate worship time
-puts together the setlist each week
-doesn’t do much talking in between the songs
-doesn’t have much interaction with the congregation or the worship team during the week
-spends more time with their instrument and music than with their church people

A Worship Pastor is someone who…
-leads not only vocally, but spiritually
-engages the congregation during worship
-has a shepherd’s heart
-is more concerned about the people they lead than the songs they sing
-pastors people during the week
-trains up other worship leaders in the church

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but it helps us see the differences between the two types of “worship leaders”. Which one are you? Which one do you want to be? Which one does your church want you to be? And, most importantly, which one does God want you to be?

Maybe you’re a worship leader at a church that sings out of the hymnal, so they just need you to lead vocally with a microphone and a piano. There is nothing wrong with that. However, if you believe God is calling you to pastor/shepherd your people, alongside your senior pastor, you will probably feel frustrated in that limited role.

Take time today to ask God about which type of worship leader He is calling you to be. It’s not about the title that your church puts on your role. That’s not important. It’s about living out the calling God has put on your life. If you feel called to be a “Worship Pastor”, start exploring what that looks like. Start pastoring people. Ask The Lord to give you a burden and a heart for the people, not just a passion for music.

Being a true worship pastor has nothing to do with how skinny your jeans are or how stylish your hair is. It has less to do with knowing all the trending worship songs and more to do with knowing and loving your people. That is my prayer for all of us worship leaders, that we would desire to know and love our people well, and that we would love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

-Mark Logan

Why Your Church Should Have A Facebook Page

Why Your Church Should Have A Facebook

The fact is we are in the digital age, but with most things The Church is behind the times. Sad, but true. Even with the most popular social media platform (Facebook) we have good excuses why our church doesn’t engage on it:
-We don’t have the time.
-We don’t have the resources.
-We don’t see the need for it.
-We want to focus on “real” ministry.
-On and on the list goes…

Here’s the reality: most people looking for a church will make a decision about whether or not to visit your church based on your online presence. That means that most people will never even step foot on your church campus if you don’t make a great first impression.

Your first impression in today’s world is your online presence. This includes your website and any other online platform you have. Let’s all agree, first of all, that it is a MUST that your church has a website…a nice website at that.

Second, I believe that every church should have a Facebook page. It’s a no-brainer…I hope. We cannot deny the fact that social media is a huge part of our American culture. However, some churches may still feel it’s not relevant to their congregation. Maybe their congregation is older. Just last week I was at the local Apple store and couldn’t help but notice a workshop that was going on in there on how to use your iPad. The workshop was full…with senior citizens. I’ve heard pastors say, “We don’t need a website. We don’t need to be on social media. Most of our members are old.” Sorry, you can’t use that excuse anymore. Even “old” people are on Facebook and surfing the Internet these days.

Still not sure if your church should invest time and energy into creating and managing a Facebook page? Maybe these statistics will convince you:
-1.23 billion monthly active users
-757 million daily active users
-Percentage of Internet users 65 years and older that use Facebook: 45%
-48% of users 18-34 years old check Facebook when they wake up
-There are over 54 million Facebook pages

Creating a Facebook page is free. However, I would recommend that you utilize someone who’s knowledgeable with creating Facebook pages and Facebook marketing to help you get started. As followers of Christ, we should go where the people are. Today, billions of people are on Facebook. Why should your church not be? Be where the people are. Engage with them. Encourage them. Use the technology to connect with the people and to spread The Good News!

One last thing: if you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all. Meaning, if you’re not willing to put the time and effort into doing Facebook the right way, it would be better for your church to not have a Facebook page at all.

Does YOUR church have a Facebook page? Feel free to share the link in the comments below!

-Wisdom Moon
Wisdom is a husband, father, worship leader, songwriter, podcaster, and social media consultant. He has been involved in worship ministry for over 20 years. He is the Founder of All About Worship and The Songwriter’s Cafe. You can connect with Wisdom on Twitter @WisdomMoon and Facebook.com/wisdomaaw.

Merry Christmas from WorshipPlanning.com

WP christmas

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)

For most church leaders this is probably the busiest season of the year. With service planning, Christmas programs, Christmas Eve service, along with finding Christmas presents for family and friends…it can get pretty exhausting.

We want to invite you to take 5 minutes today to pause and reflect on Jesus Christ – the true reason for the season. He came into the world as a baby, yet our Savior had no place to lay His head. We worship this humble, selfless King.

From all of us at WorshipPlanning.com, have a Merry Christmas as you celebrate the Lord’s birth!

What is God Worth to You?

Thanksgiving has come and gone. And, the biggest shopping day of the year is also over…for 2013 at least. I heard there were some great deals out there! For me, personally, I like to stay home on Black Friday and just relax and enjoy some family time.money

When we shop for things like Christmas, which is just around the corner, most of us try to find the best deals. That’s why Black Friday is so huge! We consider not only what the person likes, but also how much money we have to work with. Interestingly, in a way, we also look at how much that person is “worth”. Are they worth spending $20 on? $50 on? $100 on? Most of us don’t spend as much money on our friends or co-workers as we do our family members…because our family is “worth” more to us.

In the midst of this busy season, with all the shopping and festivities, I’d like to challenge you with a question that I recently came across: “What is God worth to you?”

In the book The Way of A Worshiper, Buddy Owens (Teaching Pastor at Saddleback Church) writes, “When we worship God, we declare His worth. But in order to declare God’s worth, we must first discover His worth.”

Then he presents the question: “What is God worth to you?”

What a powerful question! As we enter into this Advent and Christmas season, consider that question. It’s a question that all of us must ask ourselves.

-Mark Logan