Archive | —Leading a Congregation

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How Exciting Should Our Sunday Meetings Be?

Not too long ago a friend who leads the music in his church mentioned to me that his pastor wanted their meetings to be more exciting. Webster’s says exciting means “causing great enthusiasm and eagerness.” Certainly, nothing should cause greater enthusiasm and eagerness than meeting with the church to recount what God has done to save us from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All our sins are forgiven! We have been adopted into God’s family! Jesus has triumphed over sin, death, and hell! We are new creations! We are part of God’s  unstoppable, unchangeable, unrelenting plan to have a people on earth who …

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A Call for Musically Gifted Pastors

In 2008, I suggested in Worship Matters that the title of “worship leader” needed to be defined to be helpful. So I defined it this way: A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory. I still like that definition, but I’m less sure the term “worship leader” is serving us. It’s taken on a life of its own and continues to be associated with stardom, predominance, the spotlight, good looks, hipster-ness, and in some cases, …

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Who Turned the Lights Out?

A while back Brad sent me this question: We seem to be developing a debate at our church in regards to turning down the house lights to “set the mood” for better worship. What is your take on that? Later I received this from Jeremy: I was wondering if you could offer any commentary regarding the use of lights at any of the WorshipGod conferences. I have memories going back to the “Psalms” conference [in 2008]. In each of the conference settings, it has struck me that the lights in the house are left active during the music-worship time of gatherings. Is that intentional? Is that unintentional? Is it because no one is available to run a lights …

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Thoughts on a Call to Worship

For most of the thirty three years I’ve been involved with Sovereign Grace churches we’ve had a fairly free and simple liturgy. Singing, welcome/announcements/offering, sermon, ministry time. While simple liturgies have some advantages, there are good reasons to consider including liturgical elements that have been used in church gatherings for centuries. One of those is the call to worship. I remember being less inclined to use a call to worship after reading Harold Best’s thoughts years ago in his insightful book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith: There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete …

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Do I Lead To Impress or To Serve?

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about moving to Louisville two years ago and helping to plant Sovereign Grace Church is the opportunity to train interns from Southern Seminary and Boyce College. I meet weekly with a group from each school to talk theology, focus on heart issues, and work on music and leadership skills. They also serve on Sundays and help out with Sovereign Grace Music. Young musicians and leaders are often overly self-conscious and nervous. While confidence comes with experience, we don’t want to overcome self by becoming more assured in ourselves. So one of  my goals for the interns is that they get to the place where …

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Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

  I’ve been thinking about the use of generic syllables in congregational singing for a while now. It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember singing, “Lai lai lai lai lai, lai lai lai lai lai lai,” as the last verse of the song in the 70s that was called “Then shall the virgin break forth into dance.” I think it was supposed to be the dance section. We sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la” and don’t think twice about it. And the Beatles did just fine with “ob-la-di, ob-la-da” and the epic ending to Hey Jude (Na Na Na Na na na Naaaaaaa). But recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature …

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What Kind of Songs Should You Lead in 2014?

I’ve read a number of posts and articles about how to determine what’s best for your congregation to sing. Kevin DeYoung did a two part series a couple years ago here and here that was excellent. As the new year began three thoughts came to me about the kinds of songs we should be leading in our churches or ministries. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but it might serve as the bare minimum for how we choose our songs. 1. Choose songs people CAN sing. This should be obvious. But important things often are – obvious and neglected. In one sense people can sing just about anything. I’ve been in concert setting where crowds are belting …

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Exposing Perfectionism

This semester I met with a group of interns on Friday afternoons (when I was around). Along with developing some musical skills we read selected chapters from Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. If you haven’t read it and you’re a Christian involved in congregational worship or the arts, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy. At our last meeting someone referenced this quote from chapter 11: “Authentic worship is not perfect worship. It stands in continual need of examination, repentance, increased depth and humility as well as outpouring meekness and humility.” That led to an extended conversation on the topic of perfectionism. Most Christian …

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A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

Today I want to salute the average worship leader. Why? If YouTube videos and conference worship bands are any indicator, we’re unintentionally (I trust) cultivating an understanding of musical worship and its leaders that draws more from rock concerts and Entertainment Tonight than biblical principles. We can start thinking that the “best” corporate worship context is characterized by bright stage lights, a dimly lit congregation, Intellibeams, fog, high end musical gear, multiple screens, moving graphics, and loud volumes. We can start to think the ideal leader is good-looking, sings tenor, plays a cool instrument (usually guitar), sports …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 3

The past few days I’ve been posting on issues related to God’s “active” presence, especially in corporate gatherings. A couple people suggested that “active” isn’t the best word to use. When we say God is “present” we are implying He is active, whether that’s to sustain, illuminate, bless, convict, or something else. What I call God’s “active” presence is often the evidence of his “promised” presence. I agree. But most Christians will acknowledge times in corporate gatherings when we are physically or emotionally affected and God seems “present” in an unusual way. This is in line with the many examples in Scripture when one or more …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I posted thoughts on attempts to manufacture and market the presence of God, both wrong responses to God’s experienced presence. One person commented that what I wrote seemed to “create hesitancy about pursing His presence” and encouraged me to “stir people’s faith to encounter God and His presence.'” Today, I want to do just that by addressing a third way we can approach thinking about God’s presence wrongly. 3. We don’t want to minimize God’s active presence. God has always intended to dwell with his people. We see this with Adam and Eve in the garden, in God’s command to the Israelites to build a tabernacle so that he …

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Jesus and the Songs We Sing, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I shared bullet points from the first part of a message I recently gave at the Doxology and Theology Conference and the Christian Musicians Summit. I was seeking to highlight the centrality of Jesus in congregational singing. My first point was that Jesus is the leader of our songs. Here’s points 2 and 3. 2. Jesus is the content of our songs. Col. 3:16 says we are to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16) That word of Christ is the word about Christ – who he is and …

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Jesus and the Songs We Sing, Pt. 1

The past few weeks I had the privilege of speaking at the Doxology and Theology conference in Frisco, TX, and the Christian Musicians Summit in Seattle, WA. One of the breakouts I did at D&T was called The Worship Leader and Christ. I shaved about 40 minutes off that message, renamed it “Jesus and Our Songs,” and gave it again at CMS. Here’s a summary of what I shared. Christians worship a triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit. All three person are equally God and equally worthy of worship. That’s one of the many things that distinguish us from Buddhists, Muslims, and Mormons. But the three persons of the Trinity possess unique roles …

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Leading Worship in Song When You’re Not a Musician

I’m often asked if it’s possible to lead worship in song if you’re not a musician. In my response I usually make the point that leading corporate worship is pastoral function before it’s a musical one. So the answer is, “yes.” Through the years I’ve had the privilege of training the men in the Pastors College of Sovereign Grace Ministries  in the area of music and worship. Most of the guys have at least one opportunity to lead the rest of the class in song, whether they’re musical or not. It helps them see what really goes in to leading, and also enables them to evaluate others in a more informed way. They learn that you …

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From the Archives: Can Singing About the Gospel Become Rote?

One of the drums I will never tire of beating is this: All biblical worship is rooted in and made possible by the cross of Christ. In my experience, the contemporary church (and any church, for that matter) is always in danger of neglecting the gospel in its songs. I said it this way in my book, Worship Matters: The gospel is not merely one of many possible themes we can touch on as we come to worship God. It is the central and foundational theme. All our worship originates and is brought into focus at the cross of Jesus Christ. Glorying in Jesus Christ means glorying in his cross. That doesn’t mean looking at some icon or two pieces …

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