Looking Back On 2014

1In mid-2009 I started this blog in the hopes of offering practical help to worship leaders – by a worship leader – for whoever would find it helpful. I started off aiming to write out of a place of transparency and vulnerability — dealing with my own day-to-day experiences/mistakes in ministry — and sharing any tips/advice/thoughts that God prompted me to share. I’ve been incredibly encouraged and humbled by how God seems to have used this little piece of internet real estate to encourage worship leaders.

It’s been over five years since I began, and blogging here continues to be an incredibly rewarding exercise for me, mainly because of the great conversations and friendships that have been struck up. 2014 was no exception. To all of you who read, share, and/or comment on this blog, please know how grateful I am for you! Thank you for helping my desire for this blog come to fulfillment.

Interestingly, the top five posts on this blog in 2014 were:

1. Are We Headed For a Crash? Reflections on the Current State of Evangelical Worship. In this post I shared some of my concerns and warnings for those of us in the evangelical worship movement. To say that this post struck a nerve is an understatement.

2. Top Ten Ways to Annoy Your Sound Engineer. Even though I wrote this post in 2011, it took on a life of its own this year and seemed to make a lot of people chuckle. Mission accomplished.

3. Oh Magnify My Face with Me. A post in which I attempt to articulate my concerns about the common practice in mega churches and Christian conferences of magnifying the worship leader’s face during the singing. To quote myself: it’s awfully hard for you to decrease when your face is the size of Honda Civic.

4. Ten More Ways to Annoy Your Sound Engineer. I like poking fun at sound engineers. It’s because I love them so much and think their role is so crucial. Thank you, sound engineers!

5. Sing a New Song (But Not Too Many… And Not Too Many of Yours). I had three major points in this post. First, we should sing new songs! Second, we shouldn’t sing so many new songs that people stop singing along. Third, we shouldn’t ask our congregations to sing so many of our original compositions that they can’t sing along.

The four countries that most commonly visit this blog are: the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. I have yet to receive any invitations to speak at a conference in Hawaii (or the Bahamas), which is one of my top-five lifelong ministry goals. There’s still time…

1I was honored this year to receive Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for one of the top worship blogs. This was a very kind gesture by Chuck Fromm (the editor of Worship Leader Magazine) and I was honored to have this blog named amongst so many other good ones. Sadly, this award did not get me out of doing dishes every night at home (I tried but Catherine said she wasn’t that impressed), and the police officer in Falls Church who gave me a speeding ticket a few months ago didn’t seem to be impressed when I flashed my “TOP WORSHIP BLOG” badge in his face.

This was quite a momentous year for my family and me, as I left The Falls Church Anglican in July and came on board as Director of Worship and Arts at Truro Anglican Church in August. Our oldest daughter started kindergarten, our middle child started preschool, and our youngest (now one-year old) continued the Brown-baby tradition of not sleeping through the night even once. Because of all of these exciting things, I didn’t post as frequently or substantively as I would have liked, and I hope that I can get back into a more normal blogging rhythm in 2015.

So again, thanks to all of you who read, share, comment on, and subscribe to this blog. I’m thankful for you! I hope that this blog can continue to be a place of practical encouragement for worship leaders, a place to have meaningful conversations about practice and theology, and maybe even a place to laugh once in a while — especially at ourselves.

Happy new year!

Update

I’m back! 

These last couple of months have been very full – and this blog has been very quiet – as two seminary classes’ coursework due dates coincided with a couple conferences and retreats I was taking part in, in addition to my usual responsibilities at my church, and then a wonderful two and half weeks in sunny southern California with Catherine and our girls. We got back late Friday night.

This weekend I’m leading the music at my church’s annual retreat in the mountains of West Virginia where apparently they got five inches of snow two nights ago. Yes, summer is now officially over and I’m slowly getting my bearings.

I just wanted to say that I haven’t forgotten about this blog and I’m sorry the posts have been few and far between. As always, I’ve been learning a lot about worship leading thanks to my occasional (!) mistake, some good time over the summer with other worship leaders, teams, and churches, and some time off to step back and take a look at what I’m doing and how I might be able to do it better.

Tomorrow I’m going to share a little bit of what I talked about when I spent the morning with the worship team at my father-in-law’s church in California a couple of weekends ago. Then later in the week I’m going to reshoot and repost a video tutorial on “strumming and picking at the same time”, since in the original video you couldn’t actually see what my hands were doing. Minor problem.

Next week after I’ve recovered from our upcoming church retreat (lesson #178 of worship leading is that retreats aren’t actually retreats when you’re leading the music at them) I’d like to begin what will probably be a ridiculously long series on the Holy Spirit. I think too many worship leaders don’t really know what to think about the Holy Spirit and I’d like to do my part at helping us think about him biblically and lead worship with his power and anointing and gifting and help.

As always, thank you so much for reading and I hope this blog is an encouragement and help to you.

Happy Birthday to Blog

One year ago, after sensing God’s prodding for quite some time, I started this blog with the simple hope and prayer that it would be a helpful resource for worship leaders who just want to be more effective in serving God and his church.

I wasn’t sure if starting it was a good idea, so I sent a link to a few friends and asked for their input. Since I hadn’t done the official stuff like reserve a domain name yet, I asked them to keep it private. Bob Kauflin didn’t read that last part and recommended this blog via his Twitter and Facebook feeds. I wasn’t expecting that!

I’m grateful to Bob for that little push (not to mention his friendship and mentoring), and for encouraging me to just go ahead and write! I’m grateful to all of you who read, comment, and share this blog with others. And I’m grateful to my church for supporting me and encouraging me in branching out in this way.

My amazing wife, Catherine, has been a constant encourager, cheerleader, editor, and support. She is my partner in ministry, my best friend, and a lover of Jesus.

I really do pray that this blog helps worship leaders – average, humble, faithful worship leaders doing the hard work in regular churches across the world – and encourages us in our passion for the glory of God.

Thanks for reading!

What’s in a name?

“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

This prayer is known as the Collect for Purity and it comes at the beginning of the communion service in most Anglican churches. It was translated from Latin into English by Thomas Cranmer and Christians have been praying it for centuries.

It’s a prayer to our Father: “Almighty God…”

It’s a prayer of surrender: “… to you all hearts are open…”

It’s a prayer of confession: “…all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts…”

It’s a prayer that God would be at work in us: “…by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit…”

It’s a prayer of commitment: “…that we may perfectly love you…”

It’s a prayer of adoration: “…and worthily magnify your holy name…”

And it’s a reminder that we can only approach the Father because of Jesus: “through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

We worship a God who is worthy “to receive glory, honor and power, for (he) created all things, and by (his) will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11, ESV)

And we want to “magnify” our worthy God – not in the way that a magnifying glass makes something small look big – but in the way that a telescope helps us see up close something so magnificent and amazing. If you’ve ever seen a distant star through a telescope, you realize that, in the words of John Piper “we are not made to be made much of. We are made to make much of something great.”

My job as a worship leader is to help the church “make much of” or “magnify” the greatness of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. And I can only do it by the power of his Spirit.

My prayer is that this blog will help those of us who serve as worship leaders – in all sorts of different capacities – skillfully and humbly help our congregations “worthily magnify” our Almighty God.

Introduction

Does the world really need one more blog?

No.

But I think worship leaders could use one more.

Especially worship leaders who, whether we are full-time, part-time, or volunteer, lead worship in the context of a liturgical church.

This blog is a response to (a) God’s prompting over several years, (b) worship leaders and Pastors (particularly from liturgical – and especially Anglican – churches) who have asked me what resources are available to help in worship leading and worship team building, and (c) my desire to see congregations served with skill and humility by their worship leaders and worship teams.

We have a great joy every week as we stand before our congregations and lead them in exalting and encountering God. It’s a great responsibility too. I hope this blog helps us all experience that joy more fully, and handle our responsibilities more skillfully. Thanks for reading.