4 Ways to Be a Better Worship Pastor This Weekend

Every worship pastor can improve in their leadership.  There's always room to grow, do better, or serve more effectively.  Here's 4 ways to be a better worship pastor this weekend:

Pray for your people.  Take time to walk through your auditorium and pray for the people that will be filling the seats on Sunday.  Pray that they will experience the presence of God as you worship and hear the word.  Pray over your musicians, singers, and tech staff.  Ask God to meet them as they prepare for weekend ministry.  Pray that God would bless their families and give them favor in their workplaces.  Pray for your pastor-that God would fill them with his Spirit as they prepare and write their message for the weekend.  Ask God to speak to you and lead you as you lead the people in worship.  The work you do is so important. Don't neglect the true source of power for your life and ministry because you have a lot to do. 

Do you know why you're singing the songs you're singing?  Have you spent time getting the truth of the songs into your heart? Seek God for something specific that he might want to share in your worship sets.  Take time to think/pray through your transitions.  What verse could you share?  What exactly would you feel like God is leading you to say?  Being Spirit-led and being unprepared are not the same thing.  Take time and seek God before you step on stage. 

The worship pastor should be the one that knows the music the most.  It's frustrating for everyone if the worship pastor or worship leader is unprepared musically.  Sit down and run through the songs before you get to rehearsal.  What creative elements could you bring to the songs you're singing this week?  Memorize the music so you can listen and direct without having to focus so much on playing/singing the right chords and words yourself.  It might sound weird, but the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to be spontaneous in your worship.  It takes a lot of work beforehand to be spontaneous.  When you and your team know where to go musically, you can begin to think about expanding creativity within your songs.   

Be Present
Worship pastors have a lot of things to think about on any given Sunday.  But let's not forget the main reason we're there-to shepherd God's people.  It's tempting to check out, hit the green room, and browse on your phone between services, or disconnect during the message.  Resist the urge to disconnect from your people, and get out there and greet them. Pray with them.  Hear their stories.  Show support for your pastor by sitting in the auditorium and listening to the message.  Your greatest ministry of the weekend might just be something you say to someone while you're not on the stage

Let's remember that what we do is much more than notes, chords, and lyrics.  We're in the business of life-change, of leading people to declare the truth of God's word in their lives, to look past their current reality to God's greater reality for their lives.  It's our honor and privilege to be filled with the Spirit, on our game, and ready to do whatever God may ask us to do.  Let's not neglect the "ordinary" moments of tuning our hearts each week to hear what God would say. Let's prepare the soil of our own hearts to be able to lead effectively. 

When You Feel Burned Out...

Burn out-the "I can't take anymore, how am I going to make it through the day, the magic is gone, I'm just not feeling it anymore" feeling, is something that everyone, at some point, will have to deal with.  "Wait, even pastors?" Yes.  Most definitely, yes.  

Here are a few questions that will help you identify where your burned out feelings may be coming from:

1.  Am I doing too much?
Sometimes, we just take too much on our shoulders.  Ask yourself "What, in my day, could be delegated to someone else?"

2. Am I compromising what I believe?
Integrity, or lack of it, can be a contributing factor to feeling burned out.  Are you being faithful to keep your prayer/quiet time?  Are you making small compromises in other areas that weigh on you mentally and spiritually? 

3.  Am I being true to myself?
You know yourself better than anyone else.  Are you taking on tasks that drain you emotionally?  Are you spending most of your time working in an area that you're strong in?  Or, are you expected to function mostly in areas that are stretching you beyond what you can handle?

4.  Am I taking time to recharge?
Are you consistently on the go, or do you take time to be quiet and relax?  Too much stress on a continuous basis will lead to burn out or worse.  Try to build time in to each day to disconnect, read a book, listen to music, or do whatever recharges your batteries. 

5.  Am I making healthy decisions?
Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting some form of consistent exercise for your body? What are you eating?  Sometimes we sabotage ourselves by continuing in unhealthy habits in the name of productivity.  Take the time you need to make healthy decisions and take care of yourself. 

6. Do I have proper support around me?
The "Lone Wolf" mentality will lead to isolation and disconnectedness.  We all need people who can speak the truth to us when they see issues or problems.  We need someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, to just listen.  Who are the people in your life that are mentoring you or coaching you?  Sometimes seeing a counselor is the single best thing you can do for your mental and emotional health.  Pastors/people who work in ministry should be required to have a few sessions with a trained counselor each year.  Take time to evaluate your relationships and figure out if there is one or two people that could mentor you on a regular basis. 

Pastor/leader/ministry volunteer, your work is important!  You are leading people to greater knowledge of Jesus, and the truth of the gospel.  Everyone will deal with burn out, but let's take time to evaluate our lives, and make changes to avoid being sidelined in our work for the kingdom. 

3 Reasons Stage Presence Matters in Worship

Stage presence is something that gets misunderstood in our church settings.  "Stage presence, isn't that for rock bands and stage actors?"  Yes, but it's also a crucial missing ingredient in many worship settings. 

Stage presence is defined as "the ability to command an audience with an impressive style or manner."  In those who seek to lead others in worship, there really isn't any place for the "star mentality", or leaders who seek to be on stage to boost their ego, make themselves look good, or advance their careers.  Our motivation and goal in leading worship must be to lead others to lift up the name of Jesus.

Stage presence, however, can be a powerful tool in our leading of services and worship sets.  Here are 3 reasons that stage presence matters in worship:

1. Worship Leaders Must Demonstrate:
When we seek to lead others in worship, we need to demonstrate what it looks like to worship. Throughout scripture there are many different ways that worship is expressed.  Clapping, shouting, singing, kneeling, jumping, dancing, and even being quiet are all listed as proper physical postures of worship.  I've talked with many worship leaders who are frustrated with the response of their congregations in worship.  My first question is "How are you leading them to respond?"  People will reflect what they see from the platform.  If your band/singers are stationary and unemotional in their presentation of worship, your congregation will be, too.  Challenge yourself and your team to demonstrate different postures of worship, even if it feels awkward. 

2. Worship Leaders Must Engage:
Leading others in worship is different from leading yourself in worship.  When you are leading a group of people, you need to be aware of what's happening in the room and how your congregation is responding.  You can't just get up on stage, clench your eyes shut tight, and expect to lead.  Open your eyes. Be aware of what's taking place as you sing.  Smile. Take time to really think about what your body language is communicating.  A great song about having joy in God's presence being sung by a stationary worship leader with a scowl on their face comes across as not being authentic. If you're serious about improving your stage presence, video your team during your next worship set and watch it together.  Take note of how your look: are you inviting people to worship or do you appear disconnected from the room?  Is your body language demonstrating what it looks like to worship?  Are your eyes closed the whole time? 

3. Worship Leaders Must Worship:
This is the most important point.  If we're not worshiping, sincerely expressing our hearts to God, then we're walking the thin line between leading worship, and performing with impure motives.  Our love for God and our worship must be sincere, coming from a place of love and devotion.  Our worship in front of a crowd must be first cultivated and developed in the quiet place where no one sees except God.  We are leading others in worship when we sincerely express our hearts to God.  It's not enough to get up and do whatever the popular worship teams are doing.  Develop your own relationship with God, and let that shine in your public worship. 

In 1 Samuel 16:7 God said to Samuel:
"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

This is a great verse for worship leaders.  At first glance, it might seem like I'm arguing against the whole point of this post.  "Wait, it says it right there-God looks at the heart!"  We can't forget, however, the part about "...man looks at the outward appearance."  Remember, we are seeking to lead people into the presence of God. Let's remember that our outward appearance matters, our presentation matters,  and let's take steps to improve the way that we communicate the greatest message of all time! 

Song Story: Your Blood Is Enough

The song "Your Blood is Enough" was written in 2014/15.  I was listening to a podcast while training for a half-marathon, and the speaker kept repeating the phrase, "His blood is enough." Over and over, it kind of stuck with me throughout the day, and came out in a writing session. 

The bridge ("You never fail me") was taken directly from a song written by my friend Tony Meyer.  You savvy Midwest band people are probably going, "Oh, that's why it sounds familiar" right about now.  The section of his song fit so well with the theme of the song I was writing.  I asked him if I could use it, and what you hear is the product. 

Be encouraged today that no matter what you're facing-challenges, problems, or issues-the blood of Jesus that was shed for us has paid the ultimate price for us.  We can know the source of all strength and hope in Jesus. 

Your blood is enough for me
Your blood is enough for me
Forgiveness and grace are all that I need
Your blood is enough for me

When darkness arises and fear fills my eyes
I know that in You I can stand
For the lamb that was slain is the One who will reign
There is victory here in Your hands

Your blood is enough

You never fail me
Lord You never fail me
You never fail me
You’re the One that I cling to
— Your Blood Is Enough

Listen to "Your Blood is Enough" on the EP "Quiet Place" available on the Resources page.

New Music: Quiet Place EP

I am so excited to release this project, "Quiet Place EP".  This is a collection of 6 songs meant to help encourage you in your devotional time.  It's not over produced or overly polished. Instead, I used very sparse instrumentation and arrangements for acoustic guitar, piano, and a few other instruments.

I was extremely honored to feature my friend Chris Schuster on the saxophone on most of the tracks.  He's super talented and majorly anointed. 

Check it out on the "Resources" page to purchase or listen to a few samples below. 

Song Story: Run To You

"Run To You" was written in 2014 during a time of great uncertainty in my own personal life.  During this time, there was a great amount of stress and feelings of upheaval and instability.  It was during this time that I read verses like:

"Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his..."   2 Tim 2:19a

"The Lord’s name is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and find refuge."  Proverbs 18:10

As I read these verses, I realized that instead of retreating from God during times of stress, that what God wants from us is to bring our feelings of uncertainty to Him, the one who holds our lives in His hands. 

So, this song is basically an expression of trust in God and His good plans for my life, and my future. 

When the way is dark and I cannot see
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet
When I cannot feel and I don’t believe
You are the One that will never leave

I will trust You, God
You are my All in All
Your promise is my hope
Your word will never fall
When the trials come
It’s You that I will run to
I will run to You

When the waters rise out of control
You are the anchor for my soul
When I am afraid and my hope is gone
You are the promise that I’m standing on

Forever I will trust in Your love, in Your love
Even when I can’t see
No matter what You are God, You are God
You will deliver me
— Run To You (2014)

Check out "Run To You" on the recording "Quiet Place EP", available on 6/12/15.

Your Worship Service is Too Boring. Here's why...

As worship leaders, we need to guard against falling into a stale, predictable pattern in our worship leading. Reading the gospels, it's clear that Jesus' ministry was anything but predictable!

But we can easily do things over and over again, just because "that's the way we've always done it."

On the flip side, there can be times where too much unpredictability can lead to confusion and chaos, which is counter-productive as well (1 Corin 14).

Our goal is to "do what we see the Father doing" (John 5:19), and speak words of life and love to those around us-to lead others to the cross, and perhaps share something fresh that God has done in our lives, to model what it looks like to worship Jesus, and be moved by His presence and power.

As worship leaders, we're called to serve, not to be served. So pray, seek the Lord, and bring something fresh to your congregation this Sunday!

I Just Ran A Half Marathon

I recently ran a half marathon.  13. 1 miles.  It was sort of horrible.  I've ran 5 half marathons in my lifetime, and 2 full marathons (that's 26.2 miles).  Each race has been similar: most of the time I think, "Why did I ever think this was a good idea?", and then I cross the finish line and get pumped up that I accomplished such a great task.  Then, by the time the next race rolls around, I forget how horrible it was and sign up again.  It's sick.  I may need help.

After this last race, I spent some time thinking about how there really are many similar concepts in the physical that can be applied to our spiritual "race" as well. 

Here's a short list:

What you put in is more important than what you put out.  I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted because, hey, I was running a lot of miles.  Well, I've come to learn that when it comes to fitness and health, specifically for weight loss, that physical exercise accounts for only 20% of the progress you'll see, while what you eat accounts for 80%.  So, you need to be very careful and intentional about what you put into your body.  In the same way, what you do for Christ can be tarnished by what you put into your mind and into your spirit in the forms of thoughts you dwell on, media you watch or listen to, or patterns of thinking you allow to influence you. 

There are some days you just don't feel like it.  Do it anyways. Getting up early to run or hit the gym is a great habit, but one that's very challenging.  It's easy to stay in bed or justify skipping a work out. Too many skipped workouts lead to goals that veer off track, good habits that don't get formed, and bad habits that get reinforced.  With your spiritual disciplines, there's always some benefit that comes from spending time in the Word, or in prayer, even if you don't feel like it.  Take a cue from Nike: Just do it.

You need a plan. Walking into the gym and just doing whatever you feel like may have some benefit, but a well thought out plan will get you results in less time.  Spiritually, if you just kind of meander through the Bible, reading wherever your finger lands, you'll get some benefit out of it, but you'll see more benefit if you have a plan of attack.  Make a list of things you want to learn/study about.  Get a Bible reading plan or attend a Bible study.  Be intentional with your spiritual life.  If your goal is spiritual growth, intentionality wins every time.

Slow and steady change is better than all of a sudden change. I'm the guy that will hit the gym and then check the mirror for the results.  The reality is that you probably won't notice the results of one workout.  What you WILL notice, though, is the results of workout after workout after workout after workout.  Spiritually speaking, you may not feel like your changing or improving, but if you stay consistent in your pursuit of Christ and your intentional cultivating of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, you will be able to look back and see change taking place. 

There are many correlations between physical and spiritual growth.  Slow and stead wins the race and remember: Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.

Listen to a talk I gave at Evangel on the subject of physical health.