Weekly Worship Thought – TUNE UP Recap

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Thank you to everyone who attended the TUNE UP gathering on Saturday, August 5, 2017. Thank you to the volunteers and Messiah Lutheran Church for hosting us. Thank you to Larry Bose for capturing our day together with photos. This was our fifth year of TUNE UP and we are so blessed that you came and learned with us.

We had over 70 participants from 19 different churches all around the Houston area join us for this day of training and networking. The gathering began with opening worship and presentations from Brian Hehn, Clayton Faulkner, and Richard Birk. They covered the subject of diversity in church music with each presenting on genre, selecting songs pastorally, and why we should incorporate hymns into band-led worship. Then everyone divided into instrumental/vocal/tech tracks, and conceptual tracks. The instrumental tracks were divided by specific area (worship leader, acoustic/electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, and sound tech). Conceptual track offerings included sessions on improving your worship band, running an effective rehearsal, increasing congregational singing, and using video technology. During the “Coaching for Bands” session a volunteer church band from Autumn Creek Baptist Church in Houston received feedback and help with their music from a panel of track leaders.

We want you to know about these helpful resources from some of our track leaders:

Thanks for a great event and stay tuned for future event announcements…

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Weekly Worship Thought – Worship Leader FOMO

Do you know what FOMO is?

Wikipedia says, “Fear of missing out or FoMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social angst is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.

I think worship leaders can get weighed down with FoMO. There is this subtle voice in the back of the worship leader’s mind that suggests there is new music and it needs to be sung this week. There is a fear of missing out on the most current worship songs. “If I don’t use this song that (popular Christian artist) released this week, then people are going to leave and go to the church that did.” Or, “If I don’t use this song that (mega church) used last week then people are going to feel like we aren’t relevant anymore.”

Or perhaps the actual fear is not being able to post to social media that you were on the cutting edge of using that song first?

Instead, I feel our call is to select songs pastorally. What does that mean? That means that songs are selected for worship that will reflect and meet the needs of the people who are actually assembled with you. Which is different than selecting songs for the sake of staying ahead of a trend. Our call is to lay down our preferences and lift up others preferences for the sake of the church being the embodied hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

Weekly Worship Thought – Three Leadership Tips

I think a leader is someone who does three things very well:

  1. Listens well – Leading is about relationships. If no one is following you, then you’re not a leader. In order for people to follow you, you have to be a listener. You have to know what people care about, what motivates them, what concerns them, and what will be best for them. That all comes by listening.
  2. Loves well – Because leading is about relationships, leading is also about love. You cannot lead well if you don’t love the people you are leading. A leader has to be motivated by love. The ability to do what is best for someone else is rooted in your love for them.
  3. Serves well – Jesus is our model for servant leadership. Jesus takes the towel and basin and lowers himself to the servant’s role. Jesus tells us that in God’s way of structuring the world, the last will be first and the first will be last. Anyone that wants to lead has to put themselves underneath everyone else.

Weekly Worship Thought – Spiritual Gifts

giftWhat are your gifts? What do you bring to the table? What are your spiritual gifts? We believe that God gives the church every thing she needs to grow and thrive, through the spiritual gifts of the assembled body of Christ. What gifts has God given you that make you uniquely useful and beneficial to God’s people and for the good of the world? Have you ever taken a spiritual gift inventory? If you haven’t I invite you to take the one in the link. Obviously, church musicians are usually gifted in the area of music and worship leadership. That is why we do what we do every Sunday. But what other gifts might you have? What do you bring to the table that makes you unique and makes the church better? We can’t do the work of ministry unless we have resources. Our biggest resource is you – and God has gifted you to be a resource.

Weekly Worship Thought – Eye Communication

Our eyes communicate a lot. Even though our mouth is often obscured by a microphone, our smile can be generated through our eyes just as much. Connecting our eyes to those in the assembly can be an encouraging gesture of invitation, to join us in worship, especially during songs with horizontal lyrics like, “we will glorify” and “we worship you.” Try not to focus on those people sitting closest to the front of the room. Make visual eye contact with everyone by looking toward the back of the room. I occasionally look at the front of the balcony on the back wall, so that my sight is inclusive of the whole assembly. Our eyes also can communicate focus and attention. If someone is speaking, turn your body and look directly at them. Doing this will be a visual cue for anyone looking at you that their attention should instead be focused on the person speaking.

Weekly Worship Thought – Leading the People’s Song

474910_381360428576470_143418169037365_1103926_791013435_oYour chief role is to lead the people’s song. You can do this from any instrument in the band: drums, bass, keyboard, guitar, or vocalist. Being a leader includes knowing the skills of the people and preparing well. Leading also means being a steward of the beat and breathe of the assembly’s song. Maintaining a good, steady tempo is most essential for effective leadership. Successful musical leadership does not need to be complicated and fancy, but it needs to be steady and take into account that people need to breathe together in order to sing together.

(excerpt adapted from “Musician and Cantor Overview” in Leading Worship Matters: a Sourcebook for Preparing Worship Leaders (Augsburg Fortress, 2013), by Jennifer Baker-Trinity, p. 177.)

On the Tenth Anniversary of My Ordination

OrdinationOn Sunday, December 8, 2002 I was ordained at Pedernales Valley Baptist Church in Spicewood, TX.

On Saturday, December 8, 2012 I am celebrating the tenth anniversary of my ordination.

Some things are the same. A lot has changed.

Pedernales Valley Baptist Church is now Pedernales River Fellowship (PRFellowship.com). Most of this post is for the folks at PRF, where I served in 2001-2002. They’ve got the same great pastor that was there 10 years ago. Greg was a wonderful mentor and friend. I was just geting my feet wet in professional church ministry and Greg shaped my ideas of leadership with servanthood and sensitivity. I am grateful for all the time he poured into me, taking me to lunch, studying, reading, traveling, and dreaming together.

Pedernales River Fellowship is a rare church. 10 years later, it is still one of the most generous and loving congregations I have ever seen.

When I came on the scene at PVBC in 2001 there was a pianist, an organist, and no pastor. I experienced some “pulpit supply” Sundays that could only be described as abysmal. When I left, PVBC had started a worship band (with some *really* good musicians), a tech team, was using projection, started a drama team, a children’s choir, and had renovated the sanctuary platform and built a sound booth. It was a lot of fun! I remember driving back to San Marcos after rehearsals feeling completely ecstatic that I got to do what I was doing. I’m fortunate to have found a calling that I would do for free.

My fondest memories of PRF are eating with the Scotts and Manchacs, spending Saturday nights in the Draper’s spare bedroom, making music with Nancy Pickens, teaching guitar lessons, fish frys, Christmas pageants, fall festivals, getting my guitar stolen out of my office, getting my guitar graciously replaced by the folks at PRF (my Martin 000M acoustic that I still play today)…and of course our wedding ceremony. The church was incredibly generous to Margo and I as we started our life together.

Having my ordination at PRF was very special. One of the things I cherish most from it was some words from John Shine.

John Shine letter

John spoke at my ordination and also wrote these words:

You have been so important in my walk with Jesus. You taught me how to worship and praise Him and how to call upon Him to make His presence known to me. Before you come to PVBC, I just enjoyed singing in the choir. It was more for me than my Lord. You brought me to a point of REAL joy through worship and I am eternally grateful.

John’s words had a profound impact on me then. I realized that a 22-year-old could make a difference in a person’s life. And those words carry even more weight for me since John passed away.

After leaving PRF I went to Fort Worth to attend seminary and prepare for a calling that I’m still following today. Since then I served in an independent baptist church, made the (polar opposite) switch to Lutheran when we moved to Houston, started a non-denominational church in Katy, and am back in a Lutheran congregation now. (And there was a brief stint in a Salvation Army church as well.)

I still feel the same call from God that I did 10 years ago. I still am thrilled to be serving God’s people in the church, equipping the saints for works of service. I’m glad PRF was my first church to work for and where I was ordained. Going for 10 more years, and more…

Evaluating Worship

(HT: Lester Ruth and Dean McIntyre from whom I borrowed)

(Download: EVALUATING WORSHIP Questionnaire)

Worship is always being evaluated. Although it may be informal, everyone that is sent forth from an assembled worshiping body has evaluated that service in one way or another. Evaluations might be based on any number of things: the number of people in attendance, the length of the sermon, the pronunciation of the lector, or the number of flubbed notes by the musician.

These questions are designed to move beyond surface-level evaluations into the deeper substance of worship. These questions help us consider things that are essential for all Christian worship, things that are faithful to a Lutheran heritage, and things that are biblically rooted. As a means of evaluation these questions can be applied to all types of worship regardless of time, contextual location, leadership, demographics, or style.

After each statement, select the response that best applies to your church/service. 

1 – Strongest agreement

2 – More agreement than disagreement

3 – Neutral, no response, don’t know

4 – More disagreement than agreement

5 – Strongest disagreement


  1. Our worship is richly Trinitarian (names the Trinity and all three Persons). 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  2. God’s story of salvation is central to our worship. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  3. The ministry of word and sacrament is at the core of our worship. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  4. The primary symbols of communion table, baptismal font, and ambo/pulpit are present in our environment for worship. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  5. There is enough Scripture and scriptural content in our worship to tell a full, broad, deep, rich story of God’s salvation. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  6. Our worship is reflective of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ, risen and active today. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  7. The content of our prayers is true to Christ’s character and the breadth of his Lordship. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  8. Our worship seeks the full, conscious, and active participation of all people assembled. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  9. Our people are filled with the Holy Spirit in worship (they talk about what the Spirit tends to talk about and are filled with love). 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  10. Our worship is sensitive to the needs of visitors and guests and takes their participation in worship seriously. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  11. The leaders of our assembly are reflective of the Body of Christ that transcends class, age, ethnicity, and gender. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  12. The language of our worship includes a balance of addressing God and addressing people. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  13. Our worship helps the congregation experience its relationship with God. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  14. Our worship is contextually relevant to the culture and setting of our people and community. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  15. Our worship is a feast for the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell). 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  16. Our worship is filled with life, vitality, and joy. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  17. Our worship offers opportunities for reflection, confession, and lament. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  18. Our worship welcomes and calls people into the baptismal life (united with the death and resurrection of Jesus). 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  19. The word of God, read, preached, and sung by the assembly, is essential to our order of service. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  20. Our worship regularly experiences Christ’s presence at the table with bread and wine. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5
  21. Our worship sends us out as disciples of Jesus, following his mission of serving, blessing, and loving the world. 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5

Quality Worship Leadership

“If you miss your notes, if you are flat when you sing, if your prayers are self-absorbed, if your song choices are predictably narrow, if you read Scripture poorly, if you prepare your sermons on the fly, then it’s unlikely that your people will worship well. They will be distracted and uninspired. On the contrary, if you perform with musical excellence, if you pray with thoughtfulness and authenticity, if you choose songs that reflect the breadth of God’s revelation, if you read Scripture with the reverential awe or interpretive depth due the Word of God, if you tell God’s truth with insight and conviction, then your people will be encouraged to offer themselves to God in genuine worship.”

~Mark D. Roberts, Worship Leader Magazine, July/August 2012, p. 10