Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Postmodern Path

A few weeks ago I talked about a new phase of my life - I'm now working with the music team of Seacoast Church here in Greenville. You can read more about it at this blog.

At my first staff meeting, campus pastor Chris Surratt announced that the Seacoast campuses were going to make a big change - head pastor
Greg Surratt wanted to implement prayer, Communion and offering stations into the worship.

I was so excited I nearly jumped out of my chair. After reading Dan Kimball's "
The Emerging Church" a few years ago I became interested in this new wave of worship and thought it would meet a need in the Greenville area. A big rule in marketing is to find a need and meet it - and since no church that I know of in Greenville is doing the stations thing, why shouldn't we be the first?

Greg takes a few weeks off each summer, and last year he visited many of the leading postmodern ministries in the country. He felt that God was nudging him to help the people of Seacoast experience a richer, more involved time of worship.

It's rare that a pastor of a megachurch would be willing to rock the boat and try something so radically new, but I suspect that's why Seacoast is as successful as it is - they're not afraid of new things.

The first Sunday, Greg reported that the new format was a hit - he witnessed a shift from a few people participating to hundreds. Since the main campus is a week ahead of the rest of us, we saw the results the following Sunday. The beauty of the stations concept is that people can choose to actively participate (or not) by moving forward to take Communion, give their offering or have prayer, all options during the praise set. I'll describe these stations in more detail in the future.

Now that we're having Communion every week we're keeping an ear out for more Communion-ish worship songs. Chris Sligh, one of the talented worship leaders here in Greenville has written a fantastic Communion song. I don't know why this guy doesn't have a record deal yet - he wrote the music and lyrics, sings on the demo like a Nashville session singer and played the guitars on my track. It's my first collaboration with a Seacoast artist, and you can download a free mp3 and lead sheet here:

Worship leader, visit and learn how your Internet connection can make your life easier. It's a paid website with over 100 practical articles about contemporary worship as well as weekly resource links and downloads.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Preparation Makes Perfect

This week's WorshipIdea original appeared in the 08.12.03 issue. Read the entire archive of past issues at the paid website

As I've said before, it seems everyone and their brother is starting a contemporary worship service. Unfortunately, I've heard that many of these new services are failing. Often the reason is poor planning and execution.

Here are two key points to consider if you're involved with praise and worship:

1. Plan ahead. I can't believe it when I hear of churches that meet thirty minutes before the service and throw together a song set.

A well known worship leader states that he never plans his worship song set. Rather, he has a list of all the songs his congregation knows, and he keeps this list on his music stand during worship to jog his memory. Then he lets the Spirit move.

While there's nothing wrong with this free-flowing method, I'm sure a worship leader of his stature can attract the finest musicians in town. Frankly, you'd need top musicians to pull off a service like this - musicians who know the songs by heart or can sight-read a chart perfectly. Pretty unrealistic for you and me, unless you want to lead worship all by yourself - strumming your guitar or accompanying yourself on the keyboard.

Remember, the more you plan, the more people can be involved. Flying by the seat of your pants (or skirt) can often result in a musical train wreck. Multiple train wrecks tend to make people in the congregation think you don't know what you're doing. If the service isn't worth planning, maybe it isn't worth attending.

Planning ahead gives you time to work out your praise set like a puzzle, fitting songs together in a perfect flow. It also makes your rehearsals more efficient, which leads me to my next point:

2. Rehearse. I'm also surprised at the number of churches that don't have a rehearsal! Rehearsals give you time to prepare both musically and spiritually for the coming Sunday.

If you're doing the praise team thing with 3-6 vocalists, I recommend having a separate vocal and band rehearsal. Each group has their own problems, and I'd rather concentrate on one group at a time. Then, put the whole thing together during your pre-service run-through. If you have just a worship leader and a background vocalist or two, let them rehearse with the band.

Your musicians might balk at rehearsing. Rehearsals are a must if you want to succeed with a quality worship service, so don't back down. However, people need to know your reasoning if you expect them to give you their valuable time.

Try making a deal with your musicians. First tell them your strategy: that you believe rehearsing will only improve the music and bring about a better worship experience for the congregation. Careless goof-ups distract people from connecting with God, whereas smooth transitions help usher them into His presence. Ask them if they'll try rehearsing for a month. When they see the positive results - better blend and a tighter band - they'll be more apt to become committed team members.

Blended worship on a budget. is the best sheet music value on the Internet. Download a free contemporary hymn arrangement.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


This week's WorshipIdea is by Tom Lane, and was an article in the excellent Christian mag "Worship Musician Magazine." I recommend this practical magazine and subscribe to it myself: subscribers receive a 20% discount off the subscription:

Two things I remember from very early in my life, one is I loved my music and two, my identity was heavily attached to it. It was a challenge any time someone else got promoted or was praised besides me. I felt less than for some reason, funny how it starts early on.

Later I learned there's so much talent in this big world and how sad if my worth is based on a comparison to any other. A friend who's a legendary guitar player in his own right helped change that for me. He would stop in mid performance as if he was amazed at something I played or look at me across the stage with such affirmation and praise in his expression. It floored me because I knew in truth he was the amazing talent. What I realized is that it didn't cost him anything to acknowledge and build me up. It made him stand out all the more and freed me to do the same with other players, feeling good about just being the best me I can.

We each can take steps to move over and make room for those around us. It's a good practice and helps us to see who we are more honestly. It may be hard to prefer someone or pass an opportunity along that will lift another's spirit but it will always come back to you! Give these a try if you haven't already:

1. Adopt a younger Muso you know that needs encouraging in their gifts and talents.

2. Schedule regular time with them, to befriend and teach them anything you know and that has helped you. Pass it on!

3. Affirm their strengths and praise them any time you can. Gently encourage their weaknesses!

4. Bring them with you to do what you do, let them learn from you in a professional or ministry situation.

5. Develop your own internship program where they can begin to assist you on a regular basis for a specified time with any and everything from small to big.

6. Model and teach responsibility in all areas of life. Be available!

7. Give them the platform and opportunity occasionally with the grace to learn and fail in the process, fade into the background and let them shine!

8. Train your own replacement or sub.

9. When you've done all you can, help find another mentor or opportunity to usher them onto.

10. Commission and bless them as they go and let them go!

Mentoring sounds like and old man's job really, that's at least how I always thought of it. Sadly it took me too long in life to wake up to the truth that it's a part of discipleship we're all commissioned to do by Christ Himself. In fact the youngest of you can impact someone in your own world.

Hopefully you don't feel threatened or guilted into anything but excited that what you have as an individual musician and as a band in any setting can be given away! Make it a part of who you are and what you do-you're Vision!

Our positions and titles only entitle us to serve. Move over and make room!