The Holy Spirit and Worship (Part 1)

What does being filled with the Spirit have to do with worship and worship leading?  My goal with this, the first of a series of posts about the Holy Spirit and Worship, is to introduce the person of the Holy Spirit, and to look at how the experience of being "Baptized in the Holy Spirit" impacts our worship of Jesus.  So, put aside what you may have heard or experienced, and let's let the Word of God shine His truth into our hearts and lives.

Who Is The Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is a member of the Trinity.  He's present at the beginning of the Bible, moving and working even before anything had been created:

The earth was an empty waste and darkness was over the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was moving over the top of the waters.
— Genesis 1:2

The Holy Spirit has a mind.
Romans 8:27
"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God."

The Holy Spirit has a will.
1 Cor 12:11
”All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

The Holy Spirit has emotions, such as love and joy.
Romans 15:30
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”

Galatians 5:22
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,"

The Holy Spirit comforts.
Acts 9:31
"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers."

The Holy Spirit speaks.
Hebrews 3:7
"So, as the Holy Spirit says, Today, if you hear his voice...”

I Tim 4:1
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."

The Holy Spirit teaches.
1 Cor 2:13
"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words."

The Holy Spirit can be made to feel sorrow.
Ephesians 4:30
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

The Holy Spirit can be insulted.
Hebrews 10:29
"How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?"

The Holy Spirit can be resisted.
Acts 7:51
"You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!"

The Holy Spirit can be lied to.
Acts 5:3
"Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
In looking at the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, it's helpful to look at what Holy Spirit baptism is NOT:

1. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not necessary for salvation.
When a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are made new!  The old has passed away and the new has come (2 Cor 5:17).  From the accounts of Spirit baptism in Acts, we see that there was not a doubt about the salvation of those who were baptized in the Spirit.  
(See Acts 8:16-17, Acts 19:4-6)

2. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a new idea.
From ancient times, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit has been predicted (prophesied).

In the last days I will send My Spirit on all men. Then your sons and daughters will speak God’s Word. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see special dreams. Yes, on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
— Joel 22: 28-29

3. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not only meant for a select few.
Acts 2:4-"ALL of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..."
Acts 2:17- "I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people."
Acts 4:31-"And the were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit..."
Acts 10:44-"...the Holy Spirit came on ALL who heard the message."
1 Cor 14:5-"I would like EVERY ONE of you to speak in tongues..."

4. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not meant to be a one-time thing, but rather a daily filling.
Ephesians 5:18 says, 
"Do not get drunk with wine. That leads to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit."

We need to daily ask the Holy Spirit to come and take the reigns of our lives (if you're like me, you want to drive every now and then). When we are directed and led by the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can truly know the heart and mind of Christ and live our lives in a way that embraces the Spirit's power, instead of relying on our own.  This needs to be a daily experience. 

This is where we need to lay aside our preconceived notions of what being baptized (filled) in the Holy Spirit looks like.  For some, the phrase "Baptized in the Holy Spirit" brings up thoughts or pictures of wild, uncontrolled, spiritual frenzy, but true baptism in the Holy Spirit can be as simple as a prayer of "Holy Spirit, come fill me this morning."-allowing the Holy Spirit into our lives, our schedules, our routines, our families to help us live and think and act in line with God's word, and being led through our days with the help of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

We've seen that the filling of the Holy Spirit is meant for all believers, that even though the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not necessary for salvation, the person of the Holy Spirit desires to work in and through us, giving us tools to effectively live our lives for Christ. 

As worship leaders and worshipers, any opportunity to be more surrendered to Christ and less to ourselves is something we should jump at.  Being filled and led by the Spirit is the ultimate goal in any worship setting-to speak the words we hear the Spirit saying, to lead with Godly confidence that comes from closeness with Christ, and to worship in the anointing and presence of God.  Let's allow the Holy Spirit to change the way we think and act because of His work in our lives and in our churches. 


3 Ways to Have a Better Sounding Worship Team

Are you looking to improve the way your worship team sounds?  If so, here are a few suggestions:

1. Organization
How do you communicate your worship sets to your team?  How far ahead do you plan?  I've been a part of many teams where the first time I saw the set list was an hour before the service started.  With worship planning sites like Planning Center, or others similar, worship planning has never been easier.  For the ministry I lead, we try (TRY) to have song lists up a month or more ahead of time. Each song in our database has the chart (multiple keys), the audio file, a Youtube link (if it exists), and any tracks or extras that go with the song.  It's not a perfect system, but I want to give my worship team members every opportunity to be prepared when they are scheduled to serve.

2. Rehearsal
When does your team rehearse?  What's the format of your rehearsals?  Are you adequately preparing your team to succeed?  Usually, what you do in practice, you do in the game.  That is to say, if you don't spend time rehearsing, you shouldn't wonder why your worship sets aren't sounding as good as you'd like them to.  Our rehearsals are divided into two sections: the band meets while the singers team meets at the same time.  After 30-45 minutes, we join together to run the list.  I've found that this eliminates a lot of confusion for the singers, and gives the band time to ask questions or try different things.  How much time has been wasted in rehearsal while singers try to nail down there parts as everyone else stands around and watches? 

3. Educate
Are you training your team? Do you tell them what you expect of them?  Often times when I've been frustrated in the performance or sound of my team, I've found that it comes back to a failure on my part to communicate what I want.  Your team can't read your mind.  Of course, communicating what you want assumes that you've spent the time to determine what you want. It requires work, prayer, and consideration on your part to be able to communicate clearly and effectively your expectations. 

Take a look at these areas and see if there are any opportunities to improve how you are serving your team.  As you work to improve your organization, your rehearsal times, and how you communicate to your team, you'll find that your team will respond, and your serve will improve. 

Hymns vs. New Songs: What Does Your Worship Style Preference Say About You?


Before we begin, I want you to say something with me: "The author of this article places high value on the great hymns of faith."  Please, say it out loud.  Maybe do it again.  

In my ministry experience, I've found no greater "hot-button" topic than hymns vs. new songs in worship.  For every person that is excited about new songs, there are those that want the classic hymns of the faith, and vice-versa.   Often their comments on both sides are passionate, and accompanied by great emotion. 

As with many different preference related discussions, this topic leads us to deeper, farther reaching matters of the heart.  Is a hymn more spiritual than a new worship song? No.  Are new worship songs somehow better than hymns of the past?  No.  Remember, "Amazing Grace" was a new song once, too...

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when evaluating your own worship preferences:

1. Am I seeking to be spiritual mature?
When has it ever been mature to demand your own way? The idea that, "if the church doesn't do things the way I want I'm going to just leave and take my tithe with me," is not a mature way of thinking.  Please hear this in love: The church doesn't exist to cater to your personal preferences. What church should be, with God's help, is a place to grow together.  To be challenged in the way we think about God.  To learn and apply His Word to our lives more and more each day.  

2. Am I ministering to others, or am I simply consuming?
Mature believers should be coming to church to be ministers, not only to be ministered to.  Are you committed to the vision of your church?  Are you active in furthering the mission of your church?  When we get involved in the larger, life-changing mission of the church-when we see people's lives actually being changed-little things like our musical preferences don't seem like such a big deal.

3.  How is my relationship with Jesus?
If you're not hungry for more of God, maybe it's because you're already full of yourself.  We can't spiritualize our preferences. The minute we say "My preference is more spiritual than your preference," we've lost the essence of worship all together.  Worship shouldn't be about what pleases me, or my preferences.  It should be about pleasing God.  When we make worship about our preferences, our eyes turn inward, to what we want. If our eyes are on ourselves, they aren't looking to the One we're there to worship. 

1 Samuel 16:7
God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

Your reaction to worship in a style you don't particularly enjoy can tell you a lot about your spiritual condition.  If you just can't worship to hymns, there's a deeper spiritual problem.  Likewise, if you can't stir your own spirit to worship to new songs, you need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you evaluate the condition of your heart.  Let's pray, as David did, that the Lord would reveal to us the attitudes of our hearts, and help us to love Him more!

Psalm 139:23-24
Examine me, God! Look at my heart!
    Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!
Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,
    then lead me on the eternal path!


3 Steps to Developing Vision in Worship Ministry

Proverbs 29:18
"Where there is no vision, people get out of control." 

Having a vision for your worship ministry is important.   Having a specific vision for your team gives you something to rally your people around.  It also gives you something to evaluate your performance by.  Here are 3 steps that will help you develop your vision for your worship team.

1.  Know your pastor's vision for your church.
God has placed your pastor as the leader of your church.  Make sure you are on the same page as your pastor when it comes to the vision and direction of your worship ministry.  The last thing you want is to run forward, spending time and energy pushing towards a direction that your pastor is not comfortable with. Spend time with him.  Ask questions.  Listen.  When you are comfortable with the vision your pastor has for your church, you can begin to move forward in defining the direction for your worship ministry. 

2.  Know what God is doing in your church.
What is God doing in your local church?  "Because [insert the latest mega-church here] is doing it", is not a good reason for your church to pursue something.  Seek the Lord and try to discern what God is doing that is specific to your church.  God doesn't move the same way in all churches or ministries.  What season are you in as a church? Is it a rebuilding season?  A celebratory season?  A season of update and change?  What type of people do you have on your team?  What does your pastor see happening in your church?  Where do you want to go as a church? What's the next step for YOU? 

3.  Know what God has called you to do.
You are going to be the most effective when you are acting and pursuing things that are authentic to who you are as a leader.  Try, as much as you can, to know who YOU are.  If you're not a crazy, in your face, super energetic communicator, don't try to act like you are.  It's ok to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but you need to be true to who God has made you to be.  He's created you on purpose for a purpose.  What gifts has God given you?  Are you an encourager?  Are you someone who loves to intercede for others?  Do you enjoy getting out into the community and serving others?   (There are many resources that will help you learn about yourself.  You can learn a lot from some simple personality tests designed to show you about yourself.  Check out the book "Strength Finder 2.0" for more info.)  

Having a solid vision for your worship team will rally your people around what God has called you to do in your local church.  Let God speak to you as you seek Him! Let's continue to do the good work that Jesus has begun in us by having a God-given vision for the future! 

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 " 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!