Friday, September 2, 2011

Worship Song Writing Nuggets

Song writing is one element that is a huge part of my vision for the church where I serve as worship pastor.  To me, the more original songs of worship that flow from the local vision, the more personal, powerful and impacting our worship services will be.  Bellow are a few nuggets I've gathered over the years about taking the craft of song writing for worship seriously.

1. Live a life of worship and allow songs to be birthed from that place.  Allow them to rise above the static of ordinary life in a way that flows naturally, unforced, uncontrived.

2. Live in a Mary place (at the feet of Jesus) but do the Martha stuff (hard work and preparation required to maintain excellence in your art form.)

3. Sing in the secret, own the song totally before launching it out into the world.  Ensure your life is modeling the focus of the song, that it is congruent with who you really are.

4. Center your song in scripture firmly.  Doctrine is vital to any song worth it's salt.  When people sing your songs, they are speaking out truth into the atmosphere.  If it is false doctrine you are responsible for leading many astray.  Don't do it!

5.  Don't copy, recreate or model - originate.  Originate!

6. Be an idea magnet, collect and aggregate the utterance of the Holy Spirit in your life, and the world around you as it shapes your experience and walk with God.  Be ready at any moment for an "epiphany" that shapes those moments into a song.

7. Write, rewrite, scrutinize, analyze, criticize your own work. Share it and get feedback, don't be afraid to tweek the song further. It isn't a child you gave birth to, it's one of a billion songs written over the history of mankind.  Live with it a while until it feels right and is right.  Don't be afraid to shelve it until a later date.

8. Great songs often sound ridiculously simple, yet are the product of careful crafting and good choices made musically, melodically, harmonically, and theologically.

9. Can your average Joe sing your song?  If it is for congregational worship, it's a good idea to put it in a singable key and range.  My litmus test of a great accessible song is usually, "How would Diane Zschech sound singing this song?"  As a general rule, most tenors/baritones can lead the songs she leads, and most altos/sopranos can as well.  They seem to fall right in the sweet spot of vocal accessibility.  There is a reason the whole world sang "Shout to The Lord."

10.  Write a song everyday.  Consider most of them practice material. When you hit 1000 songs, see what has taken place in your song writing savvy and your ability to write great "hooks" and great lyrics.  Resolve this;  if no one ever sang a song you wrote, you will have done it as an act of worship and sacrifice in an intimate relationship with your Lord.  And nothing else really matters beyond that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blind Spots

I was in my senior leaders home for a regular meeting one day when I came out and found my side view mirror broken in pieces and on the ground beside my car. I was really shocked. No one stopped and left a note, and the guy who came in after me didn't even mention it.  While in the grand scheme of things this really isn't a big deal it was upsetting for a number of reasons. 

1. We have one car to share between my wife and baby and I, and it's a small hassle to have it out for repair.

2. It wasn't worth reporting to my insurance because it wouldn't cover the deductible, which means the cost of repair is coming out of our pocket; an expense we aren't ready to part with.

3.  For me it was somewhat violating because I've always had this thought that bad things don't happen to me or my stuff when I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, in the center of God's will.

At the writing of this post, I still haven't gotten the mirror repaired and we actually have an emergency fund for such expenses, so I have no excuse for not getting it done.  It just becomes a greater annoyance and frustration as time goes on.  Through it all, a very clear spiritual implication has immerged.

We all have blind spots, those areas that are larger than life to those around us, but we refuse to see them for ourselves objectively.  Side view mirrors on our vehicles are supposed to help limit those natural blind spots and help us safely navigate through traffic. 

It seems like the mirror of God's Word is supposed to help reveal our weaknesses and blind spots, not for the purpose of exposure, but so that we can allow the Greater One to work in us.  The antithesis of reliance, is self-reliance-independence. 

We are kidding ourselves if we think the enemy isn't out to isolate us and make our blind spots even bigger.  He will make us believe we are alone, that we have all our issues taken care of and that we don't really need anyone's help let alone God's to navigate the issues of life. 

This little object lesson has made me very aware of areas in which I need the Holy Spirit to constantly be my covering and voice of truth.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Purpose Driven or in Pursuit of Promise?

The phrase that brought fresh revelation to people everywhere in the last decade was, "Purpose Driven."  Not a new concept but one that was focused upon and "driven" home by well known evangelical pastor and influencial leader Rick Warren. 

What if we missed something ever so sublte in our focus on purpose?  Much good and healthy re-focus was gained in the whole Purpose Driven movement.  Yet I'm impressed to see God's sovereignty, His redemptive work throughout history, and His narrative in the story of man as promise driven, not merely purpose driven.

We tend to "drive" our lives around goals that we think have been derived from a revelation of personal purpose in terms of dreams, hopes, goals, plans and pursuits.

I may very well be splitting hairs, yet I feel strongly that even a subtle mis-alignment in our understanding on this subject would be wrong for us to embrace.

So God's purpose isn't a great mystery, it is one of redemption.  His means to that end are facilitated by covenant.  He makes a promise, He establishes it through covenant, then calls men to pursue the fulfillment of His covenant promise by way of individual calls, and narratives through redemptive history.

I believe this idea of pursuing promise, held by covenant relationship, to be a healthier, freer, approach to life mapping.  In contrast to the "purpose driven" model.  This subtle difference in viewing our brief time on planet earth could revolutionize the lives of individuals, families, and organizations.

What if your church found a fresh vision based on God's promise, or unique voice to them about their role in the community?  What if the many individuals that comprised that church were free to see how the voice of God to them and the many promises He has spoken to them, flowed seem-lessly into the greater pursuit of God's unique promise to their local church? 

The challenge with purpose, is everything gets driven to death by purpose until there remains no unity or agreement on purpose.  For my purpose to make money and look after the well-being of my family, by pursuing my prophetically spoken purpose as the next great, author, song writer, business man, whatever the case may be; will continually contend with all the other "purposes" floating around in my community and local church. 

The beauty of promise, is that promise is generational, and covenant relationship plays a huge role in fulfilling promise, until His return.  As we endeavor to "occupy" until He returns, we should be free from being driven by goals and dreams, and released to enjoy God's interaction with us as His people.  We should set less goals, and live freer covenant lives as He leads us into victory in the many trials and triumphs of life.

We have the benefit of hindsight when we evaluate scripture, yet consider the redemptive story in the heroes of the faith throughout the Bible.  Did Moses draft up short term, mid-term and long term goals?  Did Joshua really have long term strategic plans, or was he really following the daily voice of God in pursuit of the same promise that was spoken to Moses, and prophesied through Abraham centuries before?  Did Peter have a life map and 7 strategic steps to a purpose driven pentecost?  Did the Apostle Paul have as a life goal to author most of the New Testament and spend the majority of his life in persecution, prison and homelessness?

Perhaps we have forgotten how to hear the voice of God in our lives leading us daily.  Perhaps we get too obsessed with building a building or a relevant church and we forget that the promise for all of us is the same.  Our mandate to be disciples and duplicate ourselves is a covenant promise fulfilled, in a covenant relationship with Jesus, led by the Promise of the Holy Spirit as Truth, Helper, and prophetic voice of the church.

Personally I have often gotten discouraged and frustrated because none of my personal ambitions were fulfilled.  Those frustrations are fueled by  a great sense of "purpose" that has been emphasized in recent years.  When that kind of frustration is collective throughout the body, it seems like less would be accomplished.  It seems like a bunch of frustrated people would stop living a daily life and being used by God to see His promise fulfilled.

I am challenged by this to re-frame the focus and structure of my life, and the ministry I lead.  What do you think would change if you could throw away all your present goals, and look at life from this perspective?  Would you set new goals?  Would you be as disappointed if God's plan trumped yours?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Worship as Relationship

Christian worship takes many forms.  Describing worship is sometimes like describing the known universe.  So for this post, the scope is narrowed to the relational aspect of Christian worship.

Worship could be defined in part as the most important relationship in one's life.  Whatever I invest my time, energy, love and devotion to-is the recipient of my worship.  I elevate that relationship to a place of honor.  That relationship receives most of my time, attention and affection.

So an interesting thing can happen.  People transfer their understanding (or lack thereof) of relationships to their worship of God.  But if we do that.  Our worship universe is small and incomplete.  It revolves around us.  In essence if we believe the world to be flat, it is flat.  If we believe God to respond towards us like our abusive earthly father, or our comatose spouse, our worship remains dysfunctional at best.

With earthly understanding of relationship as our worship paradigm, worship remains in the realm of our control mechanisms.  We bring strings attached.  We expect God to respond only to our offering because after all, He loves us best as experienced in the privacy of our prayer closet.  His only action towards us is to fill a void or wound.  This would be the perpetually wounded worshipper.  While He will heal us and bring us out of hurt, God doesn't desire for us to remain in that place.

The challenge lies in the fact that many of us aren't really honest with ourselves, and with what God is requiring of us in a sacrificial relationship.  He desires to lead us, speak to us, and take us from where we feel safe and predictable, into the unknown and uncomfortable. 

If we allow God the right to do those things in our personal worship time, then we are primed for a greater participation in corporate Christian worship.  I would guess many worshippers never enter into corporate worship, but merely do "private worship" in a public place among other private worshippers.

As a result, worship wars ensue.  People often battle for the right to articulate what God said to them, or what song we should sing at a certain moment.  People argue over worship expressions, to dance or not to dance, to wait or to move on.  People fight over musical style, instrumentation and a myriad other things that have nothing to do with what the singular voice of the Holy Spirit desires to say in the context of a specific corporate body on a specific day.

When individual worshippers give way to the corporate anointing.  Something entirely different will occur. Something awesome, something transcendent.  Lord take us into your heavenly place together as one!