Free Song: Father, Open Our Eyes

As we find ourselves yet again at the sacred days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, I wanted to share a song that I wrote last year (which was included on our recent album) in the hopes that it helps you appreciate even more the great love of God the Father in sending his Son to the cross in our place.

Last April (2013) I was sitting in my office, live streaming The Gospel Coalition’s conference, which focused on “Jesus in the Gospel of Luke”. During the last plenary session, they had a man named Gary Millar give the final message on “Jesus Betrayed and Crucified”, using Luke 22:39-23:43 as the text. I had it on in the background but after just a few minutes I had to stop and devote my full attention to this remarkable message. I had never heard the story of Jesus’ crucifixion preached on with such clarity, tenderness, and conviction. Here it is in its entirety (and you should watch the whole thing sometime before Easter).

One of the things I was struck by was Gary’s beautiful, poetic delivery (his accent didn’t hurt either). He described Jesus as a “strong Lion for our defense” and a “humble lamb as our sacrifice”. He talked about how Jesus was in complete control the entire time, when everything else was falling apart. And he kept coming back to this refrain: “How can we take Him for granted?” I was deeply affected.

I asked Gary for his permission to borrow liberally from his sermon for my song, and he was very gracious.

Here is a lyric video of my song, inspired by Gary Millar’s message, entitled “Father, Open Our Eyes”.

The lyrics are:

Infinite grace and mercy, tenderness deep and wide
A strong lion for our defense, a humble lamb as our sacrifice
How can we take Him for granted? How can our hearts become hard?
Oh, that again we would run to our friend, embraced by the grace in His arms

Father, open our eyes, help us to savor Jesus Christ
Father, level our pride, show us the one who gives us life
Help us to love Your Son

Innocent, perfect beauty, met by our wicked sin
The King eternal becomes the judged, His enemies to be made His friends
How can we take Him for granted? How can our hearts become stone?
Oh, that today we would fall on our face, undone by the love He has shown

Come, Holy Spirit. Lead us to Jesus. Help us to worship

Jamie Brown. Copyright © 2013 Worthily Magnify Music. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

If you’d like to download the mp3 for free, click here.

Here’s a chord chart in F (recorded key).

Here’s the sheet music in F.

Here’s a chord chart in E.

And here’s the sheet music in E.

You can purchase the whole album here.

My good friend and gifted worship leader/composer/orchestrator Joshua Spacht has arranged this song for a string quartet, and if you’d like the score, contact me. I owe Joshua big time for transcribing this song into sheet music form for me!

I hope this song (and Gary’s teaching) are a blessing to you, and even your congregation, and that you would see afresh the glory of Jesus. How can we take him for granted?

When You’re a Time Hog

1Every worship leader goes through a phase when they’re a time hog. It’s an inevitable part of their growth, development, and maturity. It’s unavoidable and understandable. Some worship leaders go through it once and learn their lessons. Most worship leaders grow up out of it but revert back every once in a while. Occasionally, worship leaders are known to remain as perpetual time-hogs, gaining a reputation among their colleagues and congregation that becomes hard to shake off.

When worship leaders first start off, they’re happy to keep it short and sweet. Doing one song, and being on stage for five minutes, is quite long enough, thank you very much. Those five minutes feel like an eternity and you’re sure that everyone in the room is staring at you, judging you, talking to each other about you, and making faces at you, thus you squeeze your eyes closed as tightly as possible.

Then they start to feel more comfortable. They start to settle into their role and begin to lead a sequence of songs. Five minutes has turned into 15 minutes, and they begin to think that the longer worship goes, the more songs in a row there are, the more people will worship God, and they can begin to ignore the clock, becoming a time hog, and still squeezing their eyes closed as tightly as possible.

I know there are some churches where worship can go as long as the worship leader wants, and the service can go as long as the preacher wants, and everyone is OK with a two-hour service being the norm.

But most churches don’t have two-hour services as the norm, and there are very real considerations (not the least of which is the Sunday school teachers and nursery workers who can start to get antsy at the 75 minute mark, if not before) that worship leaders can’t ignore when they’re on the platform.

A worship leader who isn’t sensitive to the clock, and consistently goes beyond the time allotted, will find two unfortunate results:

First, he’ll be working against himself, and he’ll find himself being allotted less and less time to lead worship, as the pastor and/or service planners try to reign him in.

Secondly, he won’t be trusted with additional responsibilities or leadership, since he can’t prove himself trustworthy in the “little” (yet major) area of time management.

A Sunday here or there when you go a little long can be excused, particularly if you’re a church that wants to be open to adjusting things as the Spirit leads. But even in the most flexible of churches, being a consistent time hog as a worship leader is not a good idea, principally because you owe it to the other members of the body of Christ to not act as if you’re more important than them.

So, don’t squeeze your eyes shut so tightly that you forgot to look at the clock. Be aware of your people, be respectful of your parameters, and be sensitive the Spirit. The more balanced your leadership, the better.

What Pastors Shouldn’t Tolerate

1The relationship between pastors and worship leaders is notoriously tricky. On the one side you have the person responsible for shepherding the church. On the other side you have the person who thinks he’s the person responsible for shepherding the church. In a healthy pastor-worship leader relationship, that elephant is named and tamed, and the pastor and worship leader partner together in friendship. In an unhealthy pastor-worship leader relationship, that elephant is ignored and allowed to run destructively rampant.

Pastors should rightfully expect their worship leaders to follow their lead. Worship leaders have a responsibility to serve their pastor, love him, respect him, and help him implement his vision. When this isn’t happening, a pastor is within his rights to address this dysfunction until it either improves or the worship leader steps aside.

I once met with a pastor who told me how his worship leader was consistently late on Sunday mornings, didn’t help set up any of the equipment, ignored his song requests, went around him to church elders and complained, and hadn’t improved in any measurable way in over five years. Luckily for the worship leader, this pastor was a deeply gracious and patient man, willing to bend over backwards to make this relationship work. But I shared with this pastor that, from my perspective as a worship leader and lifelong preacher’s kid, he had every reason in the world to expect (if not demand) that his worship leader shape up or ship out.

The tricky relationship between pastors and worship leaders is, in most cases, easily solvable by the mutual lines of communication being as open as possible. The pastor should be able to speak freely and candidly with his worship leader. And the worship leader should experience the same level of freedom and candor towards his pastor. When it works both ways, then the relationship works. But when it doesn’t work both ways (i.e. either person in the equation is unapproachable, inaccessible, or unquestionable), then the relationship is broken.

When the relationship is broken because of the worship leader, the pastor shouldn’t tolerate this. He should do what he can to fix it. But at the end of the day, a pastor should expect his worship leader to have the characteristics of a servant, not a diva. And when the relationship is broken because the pastor has allowed the lines of communication to deteriorate and break down, then he should do everything in his power to repair them. He shouldn’t tolerate this either. It’s not always the musician who’s the difficult one to work with!

Find the elephant. Name it. And then tame it. A loose elephant shouldn’t be tolerated, regardless of whether it was the pastor or worship leader who first set him loose.

Know Your Destination

1Occasionally my wife and I will get in the car (i.e. minivan), with all three kids successfully fastened into their car seats, with the diaper bag appropriately packed with snacks, drinks, diapers, wipes, back-up clothes, etc., and the correct shoes on the correct feet, and have absolutely no idea where we’re going.

I’ll back out of the driveway and Catherine will ask me something like “where are we going?” I’ll respond “I don’t know“. And then we’ll proceed to decide if we want to go to Starbucks, or the grocery store, or the mall, or to a playground, or some other errand. We knew we wanted to get out of the house before we all went crazy, but we hadn’t quite figured out where we were going to go. Minor detail.

I think worship leaders can foolishly approach service planning like this sometimes. We get to the service with songs picked and rehearsed, a band/choir arranged and ready, a service outline printed out and ready to be followed, and the congregation coming to fill the seats. But we have absolutely no idea where we’re going.

I’ve heard preachers say that they know they’re in trouble when they can’t tell their spouse in one sentence what their sermon is going to communicate. I think the same is true for worship leaders. If we can’t articulate in one sentence what our songs (and whole service) is going to communicate, then we’re in trouble.

I’ve talked a lot about this idea in recent months. I used the example of the writers of the TV series LOST who obviously had no idea where the narrative was heading and just started throwing in nonsense. And last week I talked about how, when planning a service, you can approach it from the perspective of a core and an angle.

I just want to add that, just like on a successful trip in the car requires that you know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, what turns to take, and what route is best, an effective worship leader will know where he or she is going, how they’re going to get there, what turns to take, and what route is best. Choosing songs without knowing how they make sense in the larger narrative of your service will result in you driving around aimlessly for a while and burning lots of gas.

Know your destination! Your passengers will thank you.

Interview with Worship Links

1Worship Links is a great website with tons of good resources for worship leaders. A few weeks ago they asked me a few questions and today they’ve posted the answers here. Check it out.

(You’ll also get some chocolate chip cookie dunking advice in there as an added bonus.)