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Rory Noland has written a book that I’ve heard a lot about called “The Heart of the Artist“.  While I don’t necessarily consider myself a really artsy or creative type, I do think that there is an artistic element to a time of worship and that as creatures created in the image of an infinitely creative God, there is something deep within us all that desires to create. We just create in different ways.

Besides the obvious example in writing worship songs, I often see creativity in how the flow of a worship set and how the entire worship service goes together. When everything fits together, a worship service is a beautiful harmony of congregational participation, song selection, Scripture reading, sermon, giving, fellowship, prayer, and ministry. All to the glory of God. It’s a marvelous thing to see the Holy Spirit bringing together your efforts of creativity, along with His perfect love, and mixing the seemingly different elements together into one smooth flowing river of purpose and meaning. Honestly, for me as a worship leader, being present when God takes my feeble efforts and ties them with others and creates a glorious time of worship and revels truth to us; there is nothing more satisfying or confirming than that. I love it!

Check out what Rory has to say about the “worshiping artist”, taken from Chuck Fromm’s blog.

I adopted the term “worshiping artist” partly because the label “Christian artist” has proven inadequate if not altogether confusing when discussing Christians in the arts. I agree that the term should be inclusive so as to include both professionals and amateurs, those who serve inside the church as well as outside. However, I do suggest we limit the term to those who have artistic gifts. All human beings have a capacity for creativity because we’re made in the image of a divinely creative God, but that doesn’t mean we’re all artistic. The Old Testament refers to the artists as “skillful ones” (Exodus 28:3 and 36:1-2). So an artist is someone who has an artistic skill and, therefore, does something artistic whether it be music, dance, drama, poetry, prose, video, film, audio, etc. If you do anything artistic, you’re an artist, even if you don’t consider yourself particularly “artsy”… And it doesn’t matter whether one is gifted prodigiously or nominally. In the parable of the talents, one is given five talents, another three, and yet another just one. The point is we are called to steward whatever gifts and abilities God has bestowed upon us.

I also like the emphasis on worship that the term “worshiping artist” carries. As you are well aware, we all worship something or someone. The danger for many artists is that we tend to worship our art, our latest work, and/or ourselves. The worshiping artist, therefore, is someone who does his or her art as a deliberate act of worship to the Triune God. As you eloquently put it, the worshiping artist is uniquely gifted and stirred up to do God’s work. You are also right on to suggest that servanthood plays a vital role in the discussion. The worshiping artist is intent on serving the Lord, the congregation/audience, and finally, his or her art. So the questions every worshiping artist needs to ask include:

  1. What has God gifted me to do?
  2. How can I do it skillfully, with excellence? (Or, how can I continue to grow in my skills?)
  3. Who is my audience?
  4. How can I better serve my audience/congregation?
  5. How can I glorify God in the process?

So those are some thoughts off the top my little sunburned head. I’m very excited about you devoting an issue of Worship Leader to this topic. I think it’s long overdue among Christian leaders today…

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Yesterday we had the second of our prayer and worship nights. It was another powerful time of music, prayer, and meeting with the Lord. Last night’s time was really special in that we were praying over and commissioning Randy for his medical mission trip to Haiti, which he will be going on in a few days. Several of those in attendance gathered around Randy, and laid hands on him, and offered up prayers for strength, wisdom, protection, and trust in the Lord. Then Pastor Larry anoited his head, heart, and mouth with oil and prayed over him. It was really cool!

We also had several different people lead us last night which was really neat  too. I led some, Jack and Cody had some time leading worship, and Sandra and Paula led in some songs too. It was good to be able to put my guitar down for a time and go pray, and I actually went back and was able to write some prayers/lyrics in my journal during that time.

Another cool thing about the prayer and worship nights is it gives us a little space to seek God and then do what we feel like the Spirit is leading us to do. I know some last night felt led to pray for others that were there, and it seemed to just really open up people’s hearts to God and each other and I hope that people were blessed.

 

Wow, I have Bibles in different translations within arms reach all around me right now.  I could go to http://www.biblegateway.com and bring up a favorite verse in mere moments.  We can get the bible as an app on our iphone or blackberry.  It’s amazing to see the celebration in the video below when the Kimyal people finally get the long awaited New Testament in their own language.  They must know first hand the power of the Word to save, heal, and transform individuals and society. May we love God’s word like them!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/17025038″>The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user2404878″>UFM Worldwide</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Usually when I hear worship leaders talk about Psalm 33 they highlight the play skillfully part. I think the article below does a good job of reminding us why we should play skillfully. From Junjie Huang:

 

 

If you want to end a conversation amongst church musicians, ask them “What’s the Scriptural reason for wanting music skill?” More often than not you will get blank stares.

Of course, having music skill is a practical consideration. We want musically skilled people playing for the Lord in worship. But it’s interesting to hear what reasons many in the worship ministry give for music skill.

The most common one is derived from Malachi 1, the idea of not offering God a blemished sacrifice. Though I agree with the idea that our musical offerings to the Lord are part of our sacrifices of praise to him, if we take upon ourselves the burden of keeping our sacrifices unblemished, that means ONE mistake renders our offering unacceptable.
Is that a burden you’d like to carry? I’ll pass, thanks!
It’s interesting that in the entire Bible there is only ONE reason given for music skill. Check it out:
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song;  play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. (Psalm 33:1-5, NIV)
It’s not about the offerings and sacrifices we offer to God. It’s about His Word, His faithfulness, His righteousness, justice and unfailing love. When that becomes your motivation for pursuing music skill, you find that there’s a greater freedom and joy in your worship life and ministry. Which is how it is supposed to be.
My working definition of ‘worship’ is ‘ascribing worthiness’, which implies paying attention to the object of worship. And I’ve seen so many worship ministers become so focused on perfecting their offerings, so obsessed with making sure their sacrifices are unblemished, that they end up paying more attention to their ‘worship’ than the God they are supposed to worship.
It’s a dead end road, devoid of joy. People can end up bitter with God and burned out when they go that way. I don’t want that to happen to you!
But if your focus is on the wonders of his Word (Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws – Psalm 119:164, NIV), faithfulness, righteousness, justice and unfailing love, there is a strength and joy that rises within you as you play skilfully unto the Lord. You start to be filled with the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10, and you will also find courage to face the challenges of life.
Take this week to meditate daily on Psalm 33:1-5 (memorize it if you can) and let the Word of God change your heart and breathe fresh life unto your praises and offerings to Him!
If you like Junjie thoughts on worship you can get more of them at http://www.invisibleworshipmusician.com

 

 

Putting sermons online.

I think this is one of the greatest things about the internet age.  With all that is bad about the internet, there is also loads of potential when you view it as a mission field and a communication tool.  I love to listen to sermons on my ipod when I am working out so when I came to New Life I wanted to be able to find a way to start recording sermons and getting them on the website, for people to be able to download and listen to.  Space to save sermons on a website can be hard to come by, but I found a site at http://www.sermoncloud.com that lets you save up to 52 sermons (a years worth) on their site for free, and then you can simply link those sermons to your site. It also creates an RSS feed for people to subscribe to, and did I mention it’s free?

But first you need to find a way to record your sermons. Here is what we do.  Run a line out from the sound board to the 1/4 inch microphone jack on your laptop. (The light green is a line out and for headphones, the orange or pinkish one is the line in recording jack). Download a free recording software called audacity.  Download an application for audacity called a lame converter (weird name huh?) which will convert the recorded file into an mp3 file, and then you can load that mp3 sermon file that you just recorded onto the sermoncloud website. Create a direct link from your church’s website to where your sermon is being hosted on sermoncloud and people from your church can then listen to sermons that they missed or download them to share.

Another neat feature about sermoncloud is there are a lot of people searching for sermons on there and you will be surprised at how many downloads your sermons get from other people out there in internet land. Probably only about 20% of our church’s sermon downloads are from people that go to our church.

Good stuff! Next time we will look at a free service planning application that I use that may or may not be as good as planningcenteronline.com but will do the job nonetheless.

Chirst is risen from the dead

Trampling over death by death

come awake, come awake

Come and rise up from the grave

Those are the words in the chorus of Matt Maher’s song Christ is Risen, which is one that we will be working on as a worship team in the next few weeks in preparation for Easter. I really love the words in this song as well as the passion and the build up to a really great final chorus. Here is what Matt has to say about it from his website:

“God really is a genius (duh!). He used death to destroy death. He did not even have to lift a finger. He literally tricked death into destroying itself. Jesus used the process of death to completely eradicate it. So now it just becomes a process of transformation, now it is a window or a doorway. Every Easter in the Ukraine, congregations chant the phrase, “Christ is risen from the dead trampling over death by death, and redeeming us from the grave”. I thought, “that is an amazing thought to sing. We should sing it in the west.”

Check out the song below:

 

Brenton Brown is one of my favorite worship songwriters. He is kind of like Matt Maher in that he combines really great melodies with good theologically strong lyrics. Combine that with an eye towards writing songs that allow us to express ourselves to God and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful song. That is why we end up singing quite a few songs by Mr. Brown including:

Wonderful

Joyful (The One who saves)

Hallelujah (Your love is amazing)

Everlasting God

So, if you’ve got a few minutes check out this podcast on gotworship.com and listen to what Brenton has to say about what kinds of songs are important to include in our worship sets.



I’d like to start a series of posts about audio/visual/website stuff that I use as a worship leader that help me a lot and most importantly are free or really low cost.  Since I lead worship at a small church, we don’t really have the budget to have a lot of the worship leader tools that larger churches use,  and some of it is not that we couldn’t go ahead and purchase them or that we won’t purchase them in the future, but that at this point if there is an application that happens to be free and does the same thing, why not save some resources and use the free version!

Today’s featured product is dropbox.com.  This one I’ve only been using for a few weeks, but it is proving pretty handy. With dropbox you get 2 GB of space free of charge upon registering. You can install the application on any computer that you want and it will add an extra folder to your menu called dropbox. Anything you put  in can then be brought up from any computer you are at that has internet. You can also put the application on other computers that you have (like laptops) and it will sync the files for you. The big advantage is that it will automatically update new files that you put in so you don’t have to mess with transferring new stuff into your dropbox folder.

As a worship leader here is how I use it:

1) All of my chord charts, powerpoint slides, etc. are saved in dropbox. Now no matter where I am at, I can work on church stuff.  (Wait, Is that a good thing?, Of course it is!)

2) I don’t need to back up all those things to a flash drive every few months because dropbox does it for me.  I’ve had a few close calls with computers suddenly dying on me and then having to get the hard drive put on DVD by a computer place to get all my song charts back, etc. Not fun. (You would think I would learn my lesson from that)

So dropbox is pretty cool. If you think you want it,  do me a favor and get it by clicking this link:

http://db.tt/N1198z1

That way I get 250 MB of extra space for everyone that signs up from that link.  Heck of a deal!

You can read a more detailed review of dropbox here.

http://www.onlinebackupsreview.com/dropbox.php

Next up: Recording sermons and web-hosting up to a year of them for free!

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