Don’t Eat the Chocolate: Why Contemporary Worship Music is Dead, Dying, and Decaying

1It’s become clear to me that contemporary worship music is dead, dying, and decaying. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. Here’s my proof (read it and weep. Really. Please weep):

1. The new songs aren’t nearly as old as the older songs
“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” was written in 1779! “Ten Thousand Reasons” was written in 2011. These new songs aren’t even close to being as old as the old songs. The old songs have been around for several hundred years! These new ones? Not nearly that long!

2. Some of the new songs are trying to pretend they’re old hymns
Have you read some of the new songs? They’re trying to act like they’re hymns, with their deep theology and everything. It’s ridiculous.

3. Whatever happened to singing Isaac Watts?
Hasn’t he written anything new lately? Why aren’t we singing his new stuff? Even more ridiculous. We’re missing out on new material from the old hymn writers.

4. Bad stuff
Some of the new stuff coming out is really bad and unsingable. You think the old hymn writers ever wrote bad hymns and ended up throwing them away? I doubt it. How do you spell infallible? S-P-A-F-F-O-R-D, that’s how.

5. Look in the old hymnals…
See any of these new songs in the old hymnals? Nope. They’re not good enough to be in there.

6. Repetition is never appealing
These new song writers have never studied great compositions like the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Psalm 107” to see how you don’t need to repeat phrases to emphasize something.

7. No time for filtering
We need to wait another hundred years (at least!) before we event think about singing these new songs being written, so we can make sure they’re safe for us to sing. Once these new songs are 100 years old, if they’re still around, then maybe we can sing them. Maybe.

8. There aren’t as many new songs as there are old songs
We have more material from the last 2,000 years (not to mention all the years BC) than all of the songs written after 1970 combined! I think that says something.

9. Our forefathers didn’t sing these new songs
If these new songs weren’t good enough for our forefathers to sing several hundred years ago, then they’re not good enough for me. My great-grandfather had never heard of Chris Tomlin when he was alive.

10. We’re done being creative
There’s nothing more to be said that hasn’t been said, there are no new melodies that need to be written that haven’t already been written, and there’s no need to be creative anymore because we reached our creative quota in about 1913. Except for “In Christ Alone”. That one earns an exception. It slipped through just in time. Barely. But don’t tell anyone. We’re done. Really. Stop it.

In closing, contemporary worship music (hereafter referred to as CWM) is like a box of chocolates that you got for Christmas, and then forgot about, and stuffed it away with all the Christmas wrap, and found it the next year, still shrink-wrapped, and wondered to yourself “will I die if I eat this?” The answer is “yes”. Yes, you will die, and the last thing you’ll ever have run through your mind is “I didn’t know this one had the disgusting strawberry liqueur filling”. Yes, you did know, because I’m telling you. Stay away from CWM and eat the older chocolate instead. Oh no my analogy just broke down…

How to Play Well with Organists

1One of my favorite organist jokes goes like this:

What’s the difference between an organist and a terrorist?
You can negotiate with a terrorist.

It’s a funny joke that quickly gets at the heart of the reputation organists have of being unbendable, inflexible, unwilling to take direction, and impossible to work with.

Many “contemporary” worship leaders would nod their heads at that last paragraph, immediately thinking of organists who have refused to play along either out of disdain for “pop” music or an inability to work off of chord charts or simple lead sheets. Because of this disconnect between organists and contemporary musicians, a dividing wall is built up (with varying levels of hostility depending on the egos involved) that results in the worship team standing on the side lines while the organist does his/her thing, and vice versa.

And because of this, when organists get together to tell their own jokes about guitarists, the punch lines in the other direction aren’t any more gracious than the one I told above. We each equate the other person to being (worse than) a terrorist and go on our own way not negotiating with them out of a matter of egotistical security.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Contemporary musicians and organists can (and should) play well together. There is no reason to take an “either/or” approach to organs and guitars, or organs and drums. Organs don’t have to be seen as a relic, and amplifiers don’t have to be seen as the enemy. We can laugh at our reputations (and sarcastic jokes) with good humor, reaching out to each other in mutual submission. The results might be a bit messy, and we might break some musical rules, but the Church will be edified, and the musical traditions that have been passed down won’t be abandoned.

As a life-long Anglican, almost every church I’ve ever attended has had an organ as a central instrument in its worship life. And in every one of those churches where organs have been central, I have come along with my guitar, (and usually my drums-playing brother too), and tried my hand at the “playing well together” approach.

I made some huge mistakes early on.

  • I assumed the organist couldn’t/didn’t want to play along, so I didn’t even give them music or communicate with them.
  • If I did give them music, they were simple chord charts (lyrics and chords), which, for many organists, are complete nonsense.
  • I didn’t try to build a relationship with the organist.
  • I secretly wanted to see the organ disappear.
  • I looked at my (at that point) 1-2 years of experience leading worship for a youth group as being superior to their decades of playing, lessons, studying, and degrees.
  • I saw things in terms of superior/inferior.

Needless to say, in those early years, the organists and I saw each other more like terrorists and less like partners.

There came a shift for me when I came (as a high schooler) to Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, where I’m now (God has a sense of humor) the Director of Worship and Arts. It was the first time I had seen drums/organ/guitars/strings/descants/synthesizers all “blended” together without killing each other in the process. It was messy. But it was wonderful.

I drank it up for a few years before God called to me to another church, The Falls Church Anglican, where for a decade I would continue along as the contemporary guy attempting to bridge the divide with the classical guys. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. But most of the time it worked, and I learned some lessons about how to play well with organists.

Here are ten of them.

  1. Be humble. Organists have been taught (seriously) that you are the enemy. Disarm them (if they believe this) by being humble.
  2. Be winsome. Kill the elephant in the room by making fun of it. You’re a guitarist. You don’t read music. They’re an organist. They can play Bach for hours without messing up once. You’re trying to work together. It’s hilarious. Laugh about it.
  3. Ask them specifically for their help. You have a guitar. Or you have 88 piano keys. They have an entire orchestra at their fingertips for crying out loud. They have something to add, and the fact that you’re humbly and winsomely asking them for help is even more wonderfully disarming.
  4. Give them specific instructions. Don’t tell them how to play organ (since you have no idea), but at least try to walk them through the whole song and say “on the intro do something like this, on verse one don’t play, on the first chorus how about something like this…” and so on.Some organists like improvising. Most do not. But all organists are quite used to having very specific music with every single note, every dynamic change, and every volume swell specifically laid out. If all you give them is a chord chart strewn with mistakes, then they’re going to politely slide off the organ bench and be frustrated. They will appreciate (and do better) if you’re very specific about what you want.
  1. Embrace the awkward. It might sound a little muddled. There might be too much bass in the room if the pedals are walking all over the bass guitar. The organist might get a little loud. Whatever. Who cares. You’re demonstrating something very sweet and God-honoring. In ten years no one will remember how it sounded, but they will remember such a powerful display of musical unity.
  2. Music matters. If their brain is able to improvise off of a chord chart, then that’s wonderful (maybe). But organists usually like a little more than lyrics or chords, so be willing to go through the work to get them sheet music, and to tailor your arrangement to work with the sheet music they’ve been given. If the song you want to use is a hymn, you can use the hymnal arrangement and ask the organist to write out the chords for you. Or if the song is on CCLI’s SongSelect, you can print out the lead sheets or 4-part vocal score. Or (gasp) actually buy the actual sheet music.
  3. Include them as a member of your team. It’s hard for you all to consider each other enemies when you’re getting pizza together after rehearsal, or hanging out together in between services eating donuts. Mmm. Pizza and donuts. Now there’s a winning combo!
  4. Turn them loose. Let them do their preludes and postludes with as much bombast as they want. Give them hymns and anthems to accompany that let them use all their skills to their fullest. Then ask them to play with just as much intentionality (yet more constraints) on the songs you’re leading.
  5. Don’t talk, socialize, or set-up and tear-down equipment during their preludes or postludes. It annoys them.
  6. Learn from them. They probably have some really good arrangement ideas. They might be able to teach you a lot about music theory. Who knows – they might even be willing to give you organ lessons. Then you’ll become one of them and they will have won!

Do what you can to try to make this work. It will be awkward. You’ll be speaking different languages. But it just might be a wonderful blessing, and a practical demonstration of the reconciling power of the gospel.

Grateful for Harold Best

Ministry is like a roller coaster. And for me, one of the lowest lows I’ve ever experienced on this roller coaster was a season when I was in the caught in the middle of a “worship war” and didn’t know how to get out. Some fairly vocal people were making noise that the kinds of music I was introducing (i.e. contemporary worship music) at a particular service were worldly, evil, Satanic in origin, and unable to be used for God’s glory. I knew in my heart that they were misguided in their thinking and theology, but I didn’t have the vocabulary with which to respond to them.

That’s when Harold Best’s book Music Through the Eyes of Faith came long. It rocked my world. It helped me see music in its proper biblical context, to embrace it as a gift from God, to see my pastoral duty to carefully steward this gift to serve the church in my context, and to appreciate the different kinds of beauty across a wide spectrum of musical expressions. Bob Kauflin always told worship leaders to read this book, and once I finally did, I knew why.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the excellent Doxology and Theology conference in Louisville. One of the reasons I wanted to go was because Harold Best was going to be there, and I hoped I’d have the opportunity to meet him.

That opportunity came when I saw Harold sitting in a pew all by himself. I introduced myself and asked if he had a few minutes. He was incredibly kind (and even knew who I was which I think is ridiculous) and I was able to tell him, face-to-face, how his book changed my life. Later that night, and even the following day, I was able to spend more time with Harold and hear his wisdom, counsel, and excellent critiques.

1This picture is of me with Harold at about midnight in the kitchen in Bob and Julie Kauflin’s home. Having the privilege of spending time with those two men, both of them heroes of mine, is one that I will always remember and cherish. I was almost unable to attend the conference, but thanks to a friend’s generous gift of Delta SkyMiles, I was able to go at the last minute. God provided, if for no other reason, than so I could have the chance to say “thank you” to Harold Best.

Buy his book.

And here’s a whole bunch of quotes from it, in case you’re interested:

Chapter 1: God’s Creation, Human Creativity, and Music Making
“God is directly and continually engaged with his handiwork. Natural laws continue to work because Christ is now saying so; the galaxies continue to speed away from each other because Christ is now saying so; we continue to live, move, and have our being because Christ is now saying so.”
God’s Names and Creatorhood, and Human Creativity, pg. 13

“Had God not made the creation, God would still be the Creator, self-caused, entirely complete. In a way that eludes us, the triune God can be eternally at work within himself, disclosing the fullness of himself to himself and infinitely rich within those disclosures. What does this mean to our creativity and music making? Above all, it means that we should not make music in order to prove that we are or to authenticate ourselves. God created in us the capability for understanding that we are authenticated in him, not in what we do.”
God’s Names and Creatorhood, and Human Creativity, pg. 14

“As glorious as the creation is, it was merely created and not begotten. A strawberry, a galaxy, a dolphin, and a sea lion are not in the image of God. They are handiwork, pure and simple, thus of an entirely different order.

The next point is crucial. Having made the creation and having created us in his image, God has given us particular assignment that could not have been given to any other created beings. In telling Adam and Eve to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground (Genesis 1:28), God was setting down a basic principle. Man and woman, created in the image of God… are neither the same as the rest of creation nor subject to it. While materially they can be outweighed by a mountain or overpowered by the force of the ocean, and while they are incapable of changing the speed of light, they cannot be morally, spiritually, or behaviorally overcome by anything in the creation around them.”
The Creator Is Not the Creation and the Music Maker Is Not the Music, pg. 16

“Let’s concentrate on something that almost never comes to mind: the music that Jesus heard and made throughout his life – the music of the wedding feast, the dance, the street, and the synagogue. As it turns out, Jesus was not a composer but a carpenter. Thus he heard and used the music made by other, fallen creatures – the very ones he came to redeem. The ramifications of this single fact are enormous. They assist in answering the questions as to whether music used by Christians can only be written by Christians and whether music written by non-Christians is somehow non-Christian. But for now, it is important to understand that even though we don’t know whether every piece of music Jesus used was written by people of faith, we can be sure that it was written by imperfect people, bound by the conditions of a fallen world and hampered by sinfulness and limitation. So even though we do not know what musical perfection is, we do know that the perfect one could sing imperfect music created by fallen and imperfect people, while doing so completely to the glory of his heavenly Father.”
The Fall, Creativity, and Music Making, pgs. 18 and 19

“The creation, at first glance, appears to be full of anomalies. Because there are lobsters and hummingbirds, deserts and rain forests, turtles and people, we might be tempted to believe that a mixture of creative opinions has been at work, as assortment of deities, if you will, who have either compromised with each other or concluded their business in outright disagreement. How could the same Someone think up a hippopotamus and then turn around and imagine an orchid? Is God inconsistent? Does God have any taste? Or is he a Creator whose sense of rightness and beauty are so complete that we will have a more comprehensive way of integrating all of the supposed anomalies and contradictions in human creativity? Is there a way for us to see if or how the music or Eric Clapton or Beethoven can fin a place among the musics of Japanese kabuki, the Balinese gamelan, the songs of Stephen Foster, an anonymous dreamer of songs in Africa, J.S. Bach, and Blind Lemon Jefferson? We need to find ways to validate artistic pluralism without becoming so sloppy as to allow anything.”
God’s Creation, Stylistic Pluralism, and Music Making, pg. 24

“…We may have no more aesthetic right to say that a sunset is more beautiful than an artichoke than we do to say that classical music is more beautiful than jazz or Gothic preferable to Bauhaus. Perhaps we need to compare Gothic with Gothic, jazz with jazz, folk with folk, and so on, before we get involved in trying to decide among them.”
God’s Creation, Stylistic Pluralism, and Music Making , pg. 25

“If the same God can think up a cucumber and a falcon, the same potter can make a vase and a free-form object, the same poet can make a simple couplet or an extended drama, and the same composer a Scripture song or a symphony.”
God’s Creation, Stylistic Pluralism, and Music Making, pg. 26

“A galaxy and a blade of grass may differ, but only in the expanse of quality. This should give us no excuse for overlooking the wonder in a blade of grass. The galaxy and the grass are put together in the same way: elemental particles are chained together, in the one case to make something small and, in the other, to make something exceedingly vast. It is the elemental parts, the “simple particles,” that, yet to be explained, remain the greater mystery. We can make the same mistake with simplicity and complexity that we do with worth and function when we see one as better than the other. What is simplicity in human creativity? Complexity? If complexity means more and simplicity less, then the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is complex and Braham’s “Lullaby” is simple. If complex means complicated and simplicity clear, then Karl Barth’s writing is complex and C.S. Lewis simple. And if the cathedral of Notre Dame is complex, the great pyramids of Egypt are simple. Which of these is better? More profound? … Which is more profound, the brevity of the Golden Rule, or the cumulative rhetoric of the book of Romans?”
God’s Creation, Simplicity, Complexity, and Music Making, pages 30 and 31

“When Jesus Christ became flesh, he became a part of the creation in exactly the same way that every human being has. That is, even though he was fully God, he came fully human… In a way, God was simplified. And as with so many simplicities, this deepens the mystery. While this emptying means everything to our redemption, it applies to our artistic and musical creativity with nearly equal force. An analogy may help. Let’s say that before Christ became human, he could be likened to a symphony, in all its complexity and power – magnificence carried out over a grand expanse. But when he became human, he became a folk tune, simple and shortened… His becoming a folk tone was not a compromise, a dilution, a put-down, or a thinning out… Becoming a folk tune was a uniqueness in itself, with its own wholeness, integrity, and usefulness. Putting it this way prevents us from saying that a folk tune is a thinned-out or reduced symphony. Rather, it is an emptied symphony, completely possessed of its own wholeness, integrity, and uniqueness… Each musician must come to experience the dignity, rightness, and eventual joy of putting things aside, of emptying oneself and taking the form of a servant. Such musicians must be able to move back and forth, gracefully, servingly, and willingly, from the symphony to the folk tune, back and forth without complaint, compromise, or snobbery, without the conceit that doing an oratorio is somehow more worthy or more deserving than doing a hymn tune. All servant musicians must be able to be in creative transit, serving this community and challenging that one, all the while showing grace, power, elegance, and imagination.”
The Incarnation, Human Creativity, and Music Making, pages 32 and 33

“Which is the greater mystery, that Christ is God or that he could empty himself while remaining God? Likewise, which is greatest mystery, that we are artistically creative or that we can remain just as fully creative while emptying ourselves?”
The Incarnation, Human Creativity, and Music Making, pg. 34

I’m grateful for Harold Best, and I’m grateful for the Doxology and Theology conference making it possible for his voice to be heard by a new generation of worship leaders.

The Sky Is Falling! OK, Maybe Not

1I’m afraid I might have started something…

Back in May I posted some reflections on the current state of evangelical worship. You may have read it.

It had a picture of a worship band on stage. It had a dramatic title. I shared my observations and concerns. And it went everywhere.

Here’s how I intended it: as a loving word of caution from the inside the movement. Here’s how some people received it: “the sky is falling!”

I’ve been a card-carrying member of the “integrating contemporary music into traditional contexts” scene since I was thrown in front of a small Episcopal congregation at the age of 13. I’ve been labeled “the contemporary guy” (even though I love hymns and classical music) or “the guitar player” (even though I can also play piano) for as long as I can remember. I kept a file at my previous church of the angry emails and letters I received (especially in the early years) of the pointed/personal criticism that got directed towards me because I was pushing the envelope.

But I’ve seen how, over time, peace can appear, defenses can be dropped, genres and copyright dates can become less important, and instrumentation can become less of an altar on which to die. Consistently exalting Jesus, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year, has a way of putting music in its proper place, thus cooling down the heated conversations.

So it was with that heart that I offered some concerns, observations, and questions for those of us in the “contemporary” scene. From the inside, from a guy who has some battle scars from the war, and from someone who’s experienced the labels and been guilty of the labeling at times too.

Some people got what I was saying.

But all that some people could see was the picture of the worship band on stage. And the dramatic title. And they surmised that I was throwing rocks at the “contemporary” scene, that I was writing the post from behind my personal harpsichord while practicing sweater knitting, and that the subtitle of my post should have been “let’s go back to Gregorian chant”.

That wasn’t what I was saying.

So now I look with interest and some concern on a shift (that I perceive) in some corners of the worship blogosphere which errs too much towards the “this is good, and this is bad, and what is bad is really bad” line of thinking. I know these kinds of things have been swirling around since long before I ever added my voice to the mix, but in the event that my post has contributed to any sort of free-for-all of criticism, I apologize.

I see the pictures of the worship bands, the dramatic titles, and I think “oh no, not another one”.

I see the traditional camps sharing the articles saying “Ah ha! I told you so!” and I think “that’s tragic”.

I see the contemporary camps fighting the articles saying “This is nonsense!” and I tend to agree.

I don’t regret offering my concerns like I did several months ago. If I had to do it over again I’d probably say the same things. And I think it’s good to have tough conversations, ask deep questions, and say difficult things. Loving words of caution can be lifesavers.

But what’s not good is a new crop of content that runs the risk of perpetuating division and instigating the wrong kinds of conversations. Some things should be talked about with a mentor or a brother, not posted online for the whole world to see. Some instincts we have should not be delineated into firm principles for others to live by.

The goal should be building-up, not tearing-down. The goal should pushing one another on to exalting Jesus better, more clearly, and more consistently. Focusing on the means ad nauseam will make us into dogs chasing our tail. Focusing on the ends of seeing and savoring Jesus more clearly will help us all grow.

So here’s to progress in our conversations, charity towards one another, an embrace of a variety of expressions, and a Christ-centeredness in our worship regardless of the context.

Leading Effective and Enjoyable Rehearsals

1Ineffective and unenjoyable rehearsals are worship team morale killers and congregational engagement limiters. The more your team is out of sync with itself, the less your team is able to function like a healthy body, operating in the way that it should, and unable to meet its responsibility to the congregation it stands before on Sundays.

I’ve led all sorts of different kinds of rehearsals, on different days of the week, at different times of the day, in a variety of venues, and with different time constraints (or the lack thereof). I’ve made lots of mistakes in the process, and I’ve also learned some lessons that have come in handy. Learning how to lead rehearsals that are both effective and enjoyable, no matter what your setting or constraints, is crucial to your success and your team’s success at leading worship  with musical skill for the purpose of exalting Jesus Christ.

Here are some pointers:

Rehearsal should start before rehearsal. Communicate with your team before rehearsal, getting them the music well in advance, and giving them links to listen to/watch any new songs. Your expectation needs to be that your team is ready when they arrive.

Start on time. If rehearsal is at 7:30am on Sunday morning, ask your team to get into the habit of setting up at 7:20am. Start at 7:30am. Of course things happen, traffic is bad, people oversleep, or a boss makes someone stay late at work. But do your best to start when you said you’ll start.

Start with a proper sound check. If you’re rehearsing in your worship space, with a sound engineer, start with a sound check. This starts with letting the sound engineer set the gain levels on each channel, and then should progress with setting monitor levels. When you begin to have your sound engineer set monitor levels, do two things: first, have your drummer start to play and keep playing. Secondly, add different instruments one-at-a-time in a certain key.

For example, after we set gain levels and we’re ready to work on monitor mixes, I’ll say to my drummer “alright, can you play a rock beat in 4/4″. Then he’ll start to play. If we’re using in-ear monitors, and everyone’s belt pack is at the normal spot, I’ll say “raise your hand if you need more drums”. Then I’ll wait until the sound engineer has addressed the requests. Then “raise your hand if you need less drums”. Same drill. Then add bass. “Raise your hand if you need more bass”. Then, “raise your hand if you need less bass”. If you have any panning requests (i.e. put the bass in my left ear) you can do it now. Then add the different instruments on top, while the already-added instruments keep playing, but not overly so. Finish with the vocals. You’re running this whole sound check, keeping it moving, talking into your mic so everyone can hear you. It shouldn’t last any more than 3 or 4 minutes.

Then you’re ready to run through the songs.

Drive the bus. Lead the rehearsal with intentionality, with order, with decisiveness, and with authority. Yes, foster a “team” atmosphere by asking for ideas, feedback, etc. when it’s appropriate. But rehearsals aren’t the time for lots of free-for-alls. And when those moments come, unless you keep them moving, they can grind rehearsal to an ineffective and unenjoyable halt. Keep your hand on the wheel, respecting people’s time, and addressing the parts that need to be addressed.

Avoid playing every song through from start to finish several times. You should only play songs from start to finish if they’re brand new, or if you’re re-arranging them, or if you’re working with new musicians, or if you’re preparing for a live recording. Most of the time, playing through a verse and chorus (and then skipping the second verse and chorus) and jumping to the bridge before cutting it off at the final chorus. Get comfortable with the phrases “you guys know this one” or “when we get to this point in the song we’ll do it this way” or “we’re fine with this one, right”? Few things are as painful during rehearsals then getting bogged down for another 4 minutes playing a song all the way through again.

Work on transitions. Transitions are huge. Smooth transitions make such a positive contribution to the cohesion of a worship service. Instead of wasting time on unnecessarily playing through entire songs again, take time to work on how you’ll finish a song, how you’ll transition to the next song, and how the team will enter that next song. You can go over things like this several times. It will help you relax, and it will help the whole team be more in sync during the transitions, as opposed to just flipping pages on a music stand and looking around like confused tourists.

Make jokes. If you’re all-business and all-serious, then you’ll be missing out on the key ingredient of laughter. People love to laugh. And musicians love to laugh at themselves. Yes, keep the train moving down the tracks. But look for strategic moments to let the train stop, to make jokes, to have some fun banter, and to foster a sense of family.

Review. Don’t get to the last song in your list and let everyone go. Go back through the set list, have your team follow along in their music, and talk through what’s going to happen and when. Talk over key parts. Play through any tricky spots. This review time is key to reminding everyone what to work on between the rehearsal and the service.

Make rehearsals about Sundays. Rehearsals for the sake of rehearsal isn’t a compelling reason for people to care about rehearsals. Rehearsals for the sake of being ready for Sunday is a reason for people to be on their game.

Pray. Maybe it will work best for you to pray with your team at the end of rehearsal. Maybe at the beginning. Maybe after the sound check. Don’t worry so much about when to pray, but make sure that prayer is part of each rehearsal, no matter how tight your time constraints. Encourage the team to pray for the service, for the congregation, for the tech team (and have the tech team join you, by the way), for the pastor(s) (and have the pastor(s) join you too if they can), and for your role. Humbly ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, unify you, and empower you.

Maybe you rehearse in your worship space, with a sound engineer, and have the luxury of being able to go for 90 minutes (never go past 90 minutes even if you can!). Or maybe you’re downstairs in the choir room, gathered around a piano, with your drummer practicing on the bottom of a chair, with 15 minutes to talk through the songs before you can quickly set up for your service and launch right into it. Whatever your rehearsal situation, and however ideal or not-ideal, you can’t expect a rehearsal to run itself, or for a team to organize itself.

Lead rehearsals with clarity and strength, with good humor, with an eye on the clock and an ear tuned to the Spirit’s guiding. Your team will thank you and the congregation will ignore you and focus instead on Christ.