Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Entrepreneurial Church

What a great idea! Eastside Foursquare Church in Portland has purchased an old, run-down hotel, cleaned it up and remodeled it. The crime rate in the neighborhood dropped, profits go to social programs in the city and church members who work there have the opportunity to minister to guests.

Read more about it

See a clip - they were named "Church of the Week" by the 700 Club

I've suggested before that pastors put down their theological tomes and start reading a few marketing books. Here's an example of a church that has put a clever entrepreneurial idea into action. Can you imagine how their community is being changed as a result?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Death Threats

Every so often I write an article that really upsets traditionalists. A few months ago I posted one over at, basically saying that since contemporary worship is the norm these days the traditionalists are panicking. It's all about control and they're no longer the majority. You can imagine the hate emails I'm getting!

I always hear sad worship war stories when I teach at conferences, and I heard a shocking one this past weekend at's Eye Max Conference. Right before a worship leader was ready to lead worship one Sunday before church, an old lady stopped him and said "I hope you have a heart attack."

Guess the traditionalists are resorting to death threats these days. And churches, you wonder why it's so hard to find a worship leader!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Catholics, Creeds and Compromise

Today's issue of USAToday had an interesting editorial by a Presbyterian minister who bemoaned the decline of mainline churches. What's worse, churches are dropping "Baptist," "Methodist" or whatever from their names in order to attract a wider audience!

One reason mainline churches are dwindling is because the average unchurched person in America (and the average person in America, by the way, is unchurched) can't understand the mysteries of the mainlines. When to sit, stand, recite or respond. There should be a user's guide next to the hymnal.

I was the music director at a Presbyterian church for a few years. It was a contemporary, seeker-friendly-type church planted by a very traditional Presbyterian church, but the plant still had serious Presbyterian overtones that sometimes hindered ministry.

I'm a church growth enthusiast, and to my amusement I realized that the more the church became less Presbyterian, the more it would grow and reach the unchurched. (You might need to diagram that sentence for it to make sense!)

For instance, for years I battled the Nicene Creed. Presbyterians, as well as most mainlines, are fixated on creeds. I had no control over whether we did them or not. Oh, I like the concept of creeds, but the problem with the current batch is that you might as well be speaking Latin (close - it's Shakespearean English.) The archaic language just doesn't gel with a contemporary service. When was the last time you used or heard phrases like:

Very God of very God.


The quick and the dead. (Sounds like a great title for a horror movie!)

You get the point. The most confusing part of the creed is the "holy catholic Church" section, which would freak out any of our visitors, both churched and unchurched. Of course, in this context, "catholic" Church means "universal" Church, or the Body of Christ... the Church as a whole. Not the Roman Catholic Church, specifically. But your average Baptistish South Carolinian doesn't know that. I heard continual complaints and questions from both unchurched and non-Presbyterian-culture attendees about the creed.

So I argued, "why can't we just change it to 'universal Church' or something? Find another word that means 'catholic'?"

"No!" came the answer. That's the way the creed was written, historically! The elders refused to change it.

Instead, a compromise. The pastor will now have a short sermonette before we recite the creed, explaining that "catholic" does not mean "Catholic," but universal.

The first Sunday he did this explanation, a young [target market] couple rushed up to him after church. I saw the whole thing. "Is this a Catholic church?" they gasped. In staff meeting the next week, the pastor was incredulous. Why, he had explained the whole thing! Didn't they listen?

Guess not. Never saw that young couple again.

This went on for about 2 years. I wonder how many people visited and never came back.

Then, one Sunday, a new guitarist came up to me after church and said he'd like to play in the praise band. (Yippee! You know hard it is to find good guitarists...) "My wife and I almost decided we wouldn't attend this church, we thought it was Catholic or something." I nearly had an aneurysm.

That next week in our worship committee meeting (committees are another Presbyterian fixation) I exploded. "Why the HECK are we still insisting on using the word "CATHOLIC" in that creed? I nearly lost a good guitarist!"

Then, a dear soul on the worship committee named Tim quietly spoke up: "Funny how it's okay to translate God's word from the KJV to the NIV so modern people can understand it better, and use it in our services, but we can't translate the Nicene Creed."

The pastor threw up his hands. "I give up."

We never used the word "catholic" again. Thanks, Tim.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Christmas Worship Song

Contemporary worship leaders know what an awkward shift is made at Christmas - going from singing Here I Am to Worship to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

Christmas carols, like hymns, are usually ABOUT God. They don't help us sing TO God like worship songs do.

UK worship leader Tim Light and I have written a Christmas worship song, I Adore You, that you can add to any Christmas praise set. It's easy to learn and sing, and will help move your Christmas worship in a vertical (singing TO God) direction. Try adding it to the end of your Christmas praise sets.

Coming soon will be a Christmas Service Ideas guide, with song, service and sermon ideas that will help you craft meaningful worship experiences based on the verses of I Adore You.

Download a free chord chart and MP3 of I Adore You at

Christmas Ideas Website

How did it get to be October already? The Christmas season is only two months away! I've just created a new website,, to help you navigate through all the worship media out there. I'll be updating the website each week with new ideas, links and downloads.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NewSpring Church Is Coming to Town

Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC announced Sunday that they'll be the latest church to enter the multi-site church arena.

He said about 1200 people drive 30 minutes or more from Greenville and other surrounding towns to attend (around 8000 attend every Sunday.) I'm one of them. A few months ago I visited NewSpring on one of my "churching" trips (I enjoy visiting churches to see what they're doing) and fell in love with the place. They hope to have the new Greenville campus ready to launch around Easter 2008.

Last summer I visited worship media guru Greg Atkinson in Dallas. He shares my enjoyment of church-visiting and took me to several Dallas megachurches, as well as LifeChurch in Oklahoma City.

Churches out there are of a different breed - we have nothing like them in South Carolina. Things seem to be done on a grand, professional and quality level. The closest thing I've found around here is NewSpring.

Many of these churches are starting to do the multi-site thing, and LifeChurch has been doing it very successfully for a few years.

I'm seeing two trends in the multi-site world. Churches like Seacoast and Andy Stanley's North Point do things less expensively - usually meeting in rented facilities instead of building buildings. The North Point plant here in Greenville, Catalyst Church, as well as Seacoast Greenville are healthy, averaging a few hundred (I think Seacoast had around 325 the last Sunday Chris Sligh led worship before he went on the American Idol tour.) Catalyst meets in a rented theater, Seacoast meets in a rented middle school.

On the other hand, churches like LifeChurch spend big bucks on their plants. They try to make the plant nicer than the mother church - the theory being that they don't want people at the plant to feel like they're missing out. I visited both the "mother" LifeChurch and a plant and I actually liked the plant's facilities a little better.

You'll hear good men on both sides of the fence tout their philosophy - to build or not to build. Sure, it's cool to not spend money on buildings - Saddleback met in elaborate tents for years. But take it from someone who's been there - it gets real old real quick when you don't have a permanent home and have to set up from scratch every Sunday. A church where I worked met for a few years in a public school and it was all we could do every Sunday to make sure everything was plugged in and worked, let alone worry about music quality and worship flow. If you're not in a permanent home you're always in danger of being kicked out.

Big, beautiful buildings can draw the crowds. What mother can resist sending her child to a children's program that looks like something from Disneyworld? Look at my LifeChurch pics at Flickr. I used to be a fan of the cheap route but after my trip to Dallas I'm not so sure. It's only money, after all. If a nice, new building attracts the masses, great. More to hear the good news.

NewSpring staff visited LifeChurch a few months ago and I assume they're following that model. NewSpring is hoping to lease an old grocery store in a prime location (seen from a major highway near downtown) and renovate it with a state-of-the-art 1000 seat auditorium, complete with children's and youth facilities. Like most multi-site churches, everything will be "live" - a campus pastor and band - except for the teaching, which will be a real-time satellite link of Perry's preaching.

Since Greenville hasn't really seen anything like this (there is a WillowCreekish megachurch in town, but they don't seem to hold the same high standards as NewSpring) I'm eager to watch what will happen. Will it flop or fly? I've already heard grumblings from the church crowd, but they're not NewSpring's target, anyway (over 800 people professed Christ at NewSpring in August - that's their target!)

I suspect NewSpring Greenville will be a hit - great visibility plus an instant large congregation made up of a good majority of those 1200 Greenvillians who trek to Anderson every week. InstaChurch - it will appear like it's been going for years.

Perry's fantastic preaching doesn't hurt, either (I took my dad to NewSpring one week and he said Perry's sermon is the only sermon he hasn't slept through.)

Greenville churches: if you're bickering over music style, carpet color or other nonsense, you'll soon have much more to worry about.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Committing Murder

I've heard it said that the average tenure of a worship leader is two years.

I own several subscription websites, and sometimes I'll personally call the church when their subscription is up for renewal. I'm shocked at how often I hear "the worship leader no longer works here" - it seems like every other call!

It makes sense - the music director job is one of the worst jobs in Christendom, right next to youth pastor and being a missionary to African cannibals. With long hours, little to no pay, and constant complaints from finicky congregations, it's no wonder worship leaders don't last.

Like any ministry job, you really shouldn't be a worship leader/music director unless you're called [see next post]. In the midst of worship wars in churches where I've worked, I learned the only way to survive is to remind myself that I'm doing this to serve the Lord.

The bright side to all of this is job security. Churches are in desperate need for good worship leaders and music directors, and some are willing to actually pay a decent salary. If a church is ready to fire you because you don't do enough hymns, they'd better think twice - just where do they think they're going to find a replacement? Worship leaders do not grow on trees.

Churches are, in fact, so desperate they'll hire seemingly anyone.

I know of a guy who's been fired from three church music director jobs, has had two extra-marital affairs and has had two divorces. He's now leading worship at a church, and they know his history.

I know of a guy who was the music director of a major denominational church and made big bucks, but spent most of his day locked in his office looking at porn. And he had an affair with a married woman on his praise team. He's now leading worship at an even bigger denominational church and making more money.

And these aren't liberal, Reader's-Digest-preaching churches, either, but what you would consider hard-core, Bible believing evangelical churches. I scratch my head in amazement. Oh, I know we're supposed to forgive, but really. Are churches that desperate that they'll hire a guy who's been fired from his three previous ministry positions?

Is there no one else?

I guess you can almost commit murder and still find a worship leader job these days.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Calling

Many years ago I was coaxed by a pastor into being a worship leader at a small church near Nashville. I was miserable and it didn't last long. Then, a few years later, I felt God nudging me into a worship leader job and I loved it. What an about-face! Out of that ministry experience blossomed all kinds of ideas, music and websites.

Same job, different reaction - the difference was with who did the nudging! Has God truly called you into the worship ministry, or are you doing it because someone talked you into it? (Hint: are you happy or unhappy?)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Free Worship Backgrounds

Download free still backgrounds you can use with PowerPoint, MediaShout and other worship projection software at my new website

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Indian Food & Church

I love Indian food. There's an Indian restaurant here in town that has the best Indian food I've ever had, and I've had Indian on both sides of the planet.

However, most Indian restaurants I've been to have a lunch buffet, and I love buffets of all shapes and sizes. This one does not. For years I've told the owner he needs a buffet, but he staunchly maintains that Indian food is not good sitting around in a buffet tray and must be prepared fresh.

Two months ago a brand new Indian buffet opened in town. It's packed. You can't find a parking spot. I go there at noon and it's packed. I went there today at 1:30 and it's packed [on Memorial Day, no less!]

I went to the non-buffet Indian restaurant last week. Empty. My buddy Cliff asked the owner "how's business since the new place opened?"

"Terrible!" he replied. "Look at this place! It's usually filled at lunch and no one is here." He also reiterated how Indian food must be freshly prepared.

Well, I can see his point, but I do love buffets. I suppose a lot of people like buffets. And the new Indian buffet sure tastes fresh to me, especially when the place is packed and they're continually bringing out new food.

So I guess the non-buffet owner will go out of business, sticking true to his principles of freshly prepared Indian food. A shame, really - Greenville is big enough to support two Indian buffets.

Hey churches - what dumb things are you staunchly upholding that are obstacles to growth? I'm not talking doctrines of the faith here, but man-made rules that turn off visitors. If you can't think of any, try asking some people in your congregation that question and keep an open mind.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Postmodern Watch

In Dan Kimball's excellent book "The Emerging Church" we learn that one aspect of the post modern mind is that it accepts contradiction. 1 + 1 does not always have to equal 2, and that's okay.

I read something the other day that reminded me of this. MTV's popular live show TRL (Total Request Live" will no longer be entirely live - they'll tape the show two days a week. The show's name won't be changed, says spokeswoman Marnie Black. "We're not changing anything. The spirit of the show is going to be exactly the same."

So a live show, titled as such, will no longer be live. Sometimes. And that's okay.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Are you involved with the music of your church? Do you play an instrument, sing or lead worship?

Are people regularly becoming believers through the efforts of your church? Or are established believers connecting to God through your efforts?

Or are you entertaining a bunch of church people? Are you required to choose/play/sing certain songs to make certain people happy?

If you're merely entertaining a bunch of church people, why not merely entertain a bunch of non-church people and perhaps make more money while you're at it? Maybe you'd also get a chance to be a light in a dark world?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Preacher Dress-Up

Last week I heard about 2 different baby boomer pastors who dressed up in costume for their sermons. One dressed up in full football uniform and preached on Super Bowl Sunday. Another dressed up in combat fatigues and preached about spiritual warfare.

If that happened at my church, I think the congregation would collectively barf. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chris Sligh's Communion Song

American Idol contestant Chris Sligh has written "Communion Song." It's a really nice contemporary ballad.

Download a free MP3 and order and download sheet music.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Where did the time go! My websites and both celebrate their 5 year anniversaries in 2007!

Read more about the anniversary.

Read more about the anniversary.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I'm really geeking out and have created another website. I discovered Google has developed a new search technology that will fine tune searches depending on the flavor of the website.

I created to test this new technology. It's a website for worship leaders who are searching the Internet for worship resources. As searches continue, search4worship, using this new Google technology, will supposedly fine tune worship search results. Give it a spin!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Google Community Church

Some companies have people begging to work for them. I've just read "The Google Story." What an amazing company. Top programmers are leaving top tech companies like Microsoft because Google is such a fantastic place to work.

They say it's like working at a resort - the best chef [gourmet] in town works for Google and meals are free. Other unusual perks like free oil changes, fitness classes and dry cleaning make for a bunch of loyal, happy employees. And these happy employees have built one of the most remarkable companies ever to be on the face of the earth.

Why aren't most companies remarkable? Why aren't most churches remarkable?

Other companies are tired, old, visionless. Who wants a dead-end job? Who wants to be in a dead-end church?

Pastors, do you have people begging to work with your ministry, or is your staff quitting? Are volunteers not volunteering? When I visited Erwin McManus'
Mosaic Church last year, I heard such stories... like an assistant pastor who quit his paying job and moved to LA to be an unpaid janitor [or maybe it was a parking lot attendant] at Mosaic simply because he wanted to be part of a church that was on the move.

Just as there are a few companies out there, like Google, that have a buzz and attract people, so there are a few churches out there who attract congregations and top staff talent.

And don't bother to blog "it's not about the numbers." That's an excuse for a lame ministry. I'm not talking about megachurches here, I'm talking about growth. Something that's healthy grows, whether it's gradually or in spurts. Look at the facts of your own ministry - if your church had 100 people attending last year this time and last week you had 175, chances are you're healthy.

Take the phenomena known as
NewSpring Church in nearby Anderson as an example. I have a friend that goes there and he told me last week he never ceases to be amazed at how together the place is. The children's ministry... small groups... tech team... whoever's running that place knows what they're doing. People don't fall through the cracks. Maybe that's why NewSpring is one of the fastest growing churches in the country.

While not forgetting the spiritual element that only the Church can offer, let's take a few cues from successful businesses. What can you do to make your church the kind of place where people want to work and worship? And come back?

Check out my article about church marketing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Website for Worship Leaders

Check out a website I've designed for worship leaders - the It has features like free emailing large files [MP3s and chord charts, for instance] to your praise team, free worship pics from flickr, the best worship resource links, culture news links and logins.