Scott Jasmin

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Getting From Here to There

Words of Wisdom From One Worship Leader to Another

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  • Try On Everything You Own

    Posted by on March 16, 2013

    One of my guitar students is also a budding worship leader.  The other day, he called me because he had written his first worship song and wanted to share it with me.  So, of course, I invited him to stop by.  When he arrived at my home, I invited him inside, we grabbed a guitar and sat down by each other on a sofa.  He presented me with a piece of paper, on which he had written some lyrics:

    “Take this life that I have given you (I have given to you)

    Take this life that I have given you (I have given to you)” … etc.

    They were beautiful, worshipful lyrics, and they had a natural rhythm that suggested to me a tempo and even a melody.  It was good stuff, and I was really impressed with this, his first attempt.  He wasn’t really sure, though, how the melody would go.  He was even more unsure about the chords.  He asked me, “How do you decide which chords to use?”  I told him that when I write, I can usually visualize the melody and corresponding chords in my head–that it just ‘happens.’  This was not helpful to him.  So I tried to demonstrate.

    Being a songwriter, it was easy for me to just take his lyric and automatically give it a time signature, rhythm and melody.  It all just kind of seemed obvious… to me, that is.  But what I came up with wasn’t at all like what he was imagining for the lyric:  I had interpreted it as a ballad; he had envisioned it as an uptempo, folksy, Mumford-esque sound.

    “Cool!” I said.  I was genuinely excited by the fresh perspective.  It was original.  It was unexpected.

    We continued working, playing and singing in the style he suggested, and as we did, we started getting closer to what he was envisioning.

    I suggested that we work within the key of G, explaining that it wouldn’t necessarily be the final key, but that it was a comfortable range for singing and a workable key for figuring out chords.

    Next, we nailed down the actual melody of the opening line, which would go “Take (G note) this (D note) life (G note), that I have given you (G B B B A G), I have given to you (B B B A G A).”  Then we sang the melody over some chords.  We started with a G chord (starting with the tonic chord is common)  for the words “Take” and “this” because their notes (G and D) are within the G chord (notes G, B, D).  For the word “life” we tried both a G chord and an E minor chord, because its G note falls into both chords (G chord: G, B, D and E minor chord: E, G, B).  I was initially playing the song very straight-forward and simple, using just G, C and D.  After a bit more playing around, it evolved into a 1, 6, 4, 5 progression (G, Em, C, D).  We decided to stay with that for the time being.  He was liking the overall feel of the song, but he still wanted to explore more with the chords and be more creative than the somewhat predictable 1, 6, 4, 5.  So we kept working and experimenting.

    The next words were “that I have given you.”  The word “that” was more of a transient word/note, making the main words “I have give(n)…” which were all a B note.  I explained how a B note fits nicely into a G, E minor or B minor chord, all of which are chords in the key of G.  I showed him how those chord variations sounded.  I also explained how a B note is the Major 7th note of a C Maj 7 chord (which I thought sounded a lot cooler than he thought it did… but hey, it’s his song!).  I started to get the sense that I was confusing him with all of my music theory when… he said, “You’re confusing me with all of this music theory!!!  There’s like a billion different chords… how do know which ones to use?!?

    So I explained that when I write a song, I usually get a cup of good coffee, put the lyrics in front of me, grab my guitar and find a comfortable place to work.  Then I  just dabble with the lyrics, melody, phrasing, chords, timing, etc until something clicks.  I said, “Think of the parts of the song (key, melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, phrasing, time signature, etc) as different parts of a clothing ensemble (shoes, socks, pants/skirt, shirt/blouse, tie/scarf, etc.)  Try on everything!  Mix and match.  Be creative.  Take chances.  Have fun!”

    He said that that made sense, and that he was going to give it a whirl.

    Songwriting can be done in many ways.  My way is not the right way… it’s just MY way.  You just need to develop YOUR way!  I hope this article has been helpful.

    Now go try on everything you own,

    Scott

  • One Life at a Time

    Posted by on July 2, 2012

    From hearts that long to care
    Comes a willingness to share
    To reach out to those in need
    And offer all that we’ve received:
    Experience, knowledge and compassion
    Those words may seem old-fashioned
    O, but they still are the stuff
    When the road is rough
    That will guide these hearts in action

     

     

     

     

     

    One life at a time
    To offer hope when there seems to be none
    Let our faith and energy unite
    To change the world one life at a time

    There’s a resident who’s tired
    Pager’s going off again
    And there’s a nurse who’s drinking coffee
    On her break at 2 a.m.
    And there’s a host of other people
    Who keep lifting up our shields
    No one greater than another
    We are sisters, we are brothers
    And we will never lose our zeal

    One life at a time
    To offer hope where there seems to be none
    Let our faith and energy unite
    To change the world one life at a time

    Let our faith and energy unite
    To write our legacy… one life at a time

  • Deadly Whispers

    Posted by on February 12, 2012

    Several years ago, I was a staff worship pastor in a vibrant, growing, worhsiping church. One Sunday morning, the worship was especially powerful, and the Spirit of God was thick, nearly tangible in the room.  It was a beautiful, glorious, worshipful moment that pulsed with passionate worship of Almighty God.
    For years before that day, I had struggled with little thoughts that would creep into my head while I was leading worship:
    “Who are they?  They must be new.”
    “Why doesn’t he sing?!?”
    “She is beautiful!”
    “I just don’t think they like me.”
    “I wonder what’s wrong with them today.”
    “Where is everybody?”
    It’s not that these thoughts consumed me, they would just crop up here and there at inappropriate times, distracting me from the issue at hand: leading God’s people into worship.  I realized that they were seeds that the Devil himself was trying to plant in my brain to get me off track.
    There’s an old saying: You can’t help it if a bird poops on your head, but you don’t have to let him build a nest there.  It wasn’t a full-on attack… it was more insidious.  Satan was pooping on my head.
    But that morning, Satan brought his ‘A’ game.  At the end of the worship set, the congregation erupted in spontaneous praise, lifting their hearts, hands and voices in new songs of praise and adoration.  I stood there marveling, thinking how beautiful and wonderful it was.  I felt humbled and honored.
    And as I stood there, Satan slithered up next to me and whispered three deadly words in my ear:
    “You’re so cool.” Immediately, a wave of nausea swept over me as I realized what was happening.  The Liar himself was trying to take a beautiful moment of worship and make it about me.
    “You’re so cool.”
    You’re:  He wanted to make the moment about me.  It had always been my intent to lead worship in such a way that I would diminish and God would be magnified.  I would decrease and Jesus would increase.  The Enemy would like nothing more than for me to seek (and take) glory for myself.
    Cool: He knew that I have always struggled with feelings of insecurity and inferiority and that now, as a worship pastor, many people put me up on a pedestal, or even treated me like a celebrity.  He knew the battle that waged within me to remain humble.  I had grown in my confidence and self-esteem as I was fulfilling my calling to lead worship, but Satan knew my past and he knew my weaknesses, and he knew how to push the right buttons.
    So:  He wasn’t just telling me that I was cool, he was telling me that I was so cool.  Cooler than the rest of the worship team…  Cooler than other worship leaders…  Too big for my small church and my small town…  Destined for greatness…  SCOTT JASMIN: The next big worship-leading sensation!  Blllaaarrrgggghhhhh! (my best puking sound effect.)  He was preying on the weakness in my flesh that longed for acknowledgement and approval.
    It gets worse.  As I thought about what he had said: “You’re so cool,” I realized that he had chosen his words very carefully.  This was no haphazard jab.  It was a carefully calculated attack.  He had deliberately and carefully chosen to attack me at my weakest point because… he knew me.  He knew my fears.  He knew my weaknesses.  Like a savvy warmonger, he had studied his target and planned his attack based on my weaknesses!
    And Satan is no slacker.  He is surgically efficient at what he does.  He is not called ‘the Accuser’ for nothing.
    I had to admit it… he was right. Because of my insecurities, I did have a deep-seated longing for acknowledgement and approval.  My flesh craved it.
    Regardless of the health and strength of my Spirit-Man, the Enemy knew my fleshly weakness, and he was attempting to exploit it.
    But he is also the Father of Lies.  So even though he was right about me, he was also lying to me.  “You’re so cool” was an attempt to subvert my integrity and humility.
    I share my story in an attempt to help (and warn) you, my fellow worship leaders.  Satan continues planning his strategy to trip me up in an attempt to destroy my walk, my ministry, my marriage and every aspect of my life.  It’s who he is.  It’s what he does, and he’s not going away.
    What about you?  Where is he attacking you?  What is he whispering in your ear?
    Don’t be fooled.  He knows you too.  He’s been studying you.  He wants to take you down.  So be innocent as doves, yet shrewd as snakes.  Be aware that the Enemy is determined to take you down, along with your ministry.
    But… greater is He that is in you than he that is whispering in your ear. Let me say that again… Greater is He that is in you than he that is whispering in your ear!
  • Listen, Obey, Flow

    Posted by on November 26, 2011

    This past weekend I was leading worship in a small church in rural Minnesota. We played an opening song and then sat down for announcements and the children’s message. During announcements, a lady near the front shared a couple of heavy burdens in her life, including a family member with newly diagnosed cancer. She struggled keeping her composure as she vulnerably asked for prayer. Following her plea, another announcement was shared and then the children’s message commenced.

    As I listened to the children’s message, I couldn’t quit thinking about her tearful plea and what courage it must have taken for her to share it publicly. I thought how wonderful it was that her church had heard her and would pray for her, but I couldn’t also help feeling that we had possibly somehow missed the mark by just moving on with the service.

    After the children’s message, the band again took the stage and we started our worship set. As we sang “Crash This Place”, I thought about the lyrics: “Holy Spirit, would You move in power? Come and crash this place with love, come and crash this place with love… King of Glory, would You have Your way here? Come and crash this place with love, come and crash this place with love!”

    As I was leading the song, those lyrics kept running through my brain as I looked out at the lady in the front who was lifting her hands in worshipful surrender. I thought, “What does ‘Crash this place with love mean?” And I thought that we, as Christ’s body here on earth, needed to reach out to her in love.

    After “Crash This Place” we sang “Everlasting God.” Again, I thought about the lyrics we were singing: “You are a shelter for the weak; You comfort those in need; You lift us up on wings like eagles.”

    I could sense God was trying to tell me something–that he wanted to do something, something more than just following the set list. As I listened to His still, small voice, I heard him say, “Pray for that lady.” Not audibly, mind you, but I heard His voice loud and clear nonetheless. I hesitated for a fleeting moment. Then I decided to obey.

    As we finished the chorus, I turned to the band and told them to keep playing the chorus quietly. I turned back to the congregation and told them that I felt God was calling us to gather around our sister in Christ in her time of need. I encouraged the ladies in the congregation to gather around and lay hands on her. I asked for one of them to pray for her out loud while the rest of us joined in silent prayer.

    Several ladies gathered around and laid hands on her as one prayed aloud. The congregation closed their eyes and prayed. Some of them lifted their hands or extended them in her direction. As we stood there praying, we simply flowed in the moment that God had ordained. And as we prayed, she wept. Tears ran down her face and she wept very hard.

    I could tell God was ministering to her powerfully in that moment–a moment we could have missed.

    As you lead, make it your intention to listen to the Spirit as He leads you. When He speaks, obey. As you obey, flow with it, and He will make it all work together for good. It may be a little awkward at times, but that’s the way Spirit-led worship goes.

    Listen. Obey. Flow.

  • Are you wearing someone else’s pants?

    Posted by on November 26, 2011

    This past weekend, I traveled to Minneapolis to be a guest worship leader at my friend’s church. As I got ready, I packed (or so I thought) my comfy brown sweater with my new pair of Levi’s. On Sunday morning, I got up, took a shower, then opened my suitcase and pulled out a pair of… shorts.

    I was incredulous! I couldn’t believe that I was 100 miles from home at 6:30 in the morning and I didn’t have pants! And I had to lead worship in about three and a half hours! So I decided to head across town to the church and look for an open store along the way. As I drove, I remembered that my brother Paul lives nearby. And not only that, but he wears a similar pants size to boot!

    So I dialed him up (it’s 7:30 by this time) and asked if I could swing by on my way to the church and borrow a pair of pants. He said “sure,” so I headed to his place, where he outfitted me with a sweet pair of Eddie Bauer brown corduroys. They looked good with my brown sweater and they were a good fit, so I thanked him and wore them as I led worship. But as I stood on stage leading the opening song, I couldn’t get past the fact that I was wearing someone else’s pants! I stood there feeling rather fashion-awkward, and it occurred to me that there was a spiritual analogy here…

    You see, I was wearing someone else’s pants… pants I had not intended to wear… pants that were not meant for me.

    And then it occurred to me. How many times do we end up wearing spiritual “clothing” that we never intended to wear? …clothing that was not meant for us?

    Trauma, sin, and circumstances beyond our control leave us reaching into our spiritual “luggage,” only to realize that the “outfit” we had intended to wear (the life we had intended to live) simply isn’t an option for us anymore. Instead, we end up wearing “outfits” we never intended (nor were created) to wear. Shame, fear, depression, anxiety: these “outfits” are not God’s design.

    “Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.” –Ephesians 4:21-24, Amplified Bible.

    We were not intended to wear some old, torn, dirty, borrowed, stained, ill-fitting life. It is God’s will for our lives to be new, whole, pure, specially-designed, untainted and custom-tailored. It is God’s will for us to put on Christ.

    What about you? Have you been living a hand-me-down life? Are you weighed down by Shame, fear, depression or anxiety? Do you wonder how your life ended up being what it is?

    Take heart. There is hope in Jesus Christ. He is the Life that God intends for you to wear!

    “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” –Romans 13″11-14, The Message.

  • Leading worship: be intentional yet flexible

    Posted by on June 10, 2011

    Last Sunday I led worship with my house band.  And when I say ‘house band,’ I mean: a bass player I’ve played with less than ten times; a percussionist/background singer I’ve sung with for about a year; a drummer I’ve played with twice, and a teenage lead guitarist making his debut.  But I have to tell you… they rocked.  I received many positive comments after the service about how good my band sounded and how it was such a worshipful service.  I would like to address those two issues: (1) the band sounded good and (2) it was such a worshipful service.

    1– The band sounded good:

    I email my set list to my worship team some time mid week before the upcoming service.  This may fly in the face of some who likes to plan weeks or even months in advance.  “Beaver” types  prefer to plan ahead, even way ahead, which is probably a good thing.  It’s just not my style, probably because I am not on staff at a church, but am rather a freelance worship leader who never knows who his band will be from one week to the next.  It seems to be helpful to the band members to add the YouTube link to the video to help them learn their part.  YouTube allows me to pick a version of the song that will fit best with the band for that week.  Sometimes there is a video posted by a local church that works better than the commercial version.

    Next, each band member receives a personal email with any special instructions, such as: “this song is ‘four on the floor’ (bass drum on the quarter notes) with no snare on the verse, snare on 2 and 4 in the chorus, ride the crash on the bridge” for the drummer, “keep it light, one or two notes here and there on the verse, no power chords, lots of delay” for the guitarist.  The bass player and I usually just confer during rehearsal about whether he should play quarter notes versus eighth notes, etc.  When there is more than one singer, I usually tell them to either sing only on the chorus or, if they do sing on the verse, to just sing melody and then break into harmony on the chorus.  If a singer likes to ‘riff,’ I usually tell them to keep it to a minimum, making their riff like a ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds.  All in all I remind them that less is more…

    We rehearse on Sunday morning, starting somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m.  The service starts at 10:00, so we have to be efficient.  During rehearsal I take charge of the song and lead it strongly from acoustic guitar, playing definitively to set the tempo, rhythm and feel, then backing off  as the band joins in so that the acoustic guitar doesn’t step on everyone’s toes.  We rehearse the band’s entrance several times so that we all understand and will get it right during the service.  Plus, I usually turn around and give them a visual and/or audible cue.  My high school choir director taught us that if you nail the start and the ending of a song, the middle will usually take care of itself.  It seems to be good advice.

    Other than that, we make sure everyone has their songs in order and a song list placed where it can be easily seen for easy reference.  We run through the songs and quickly work out any bugs.  For me, keeping it simple makes it easy.  After all, we’re not trying to impress anyone; we’re leading them before the throne of Almighty God.  And I don’t think He really minds if someone plays a stray note… rather, I think He just enjoys spending time with His children as they gather before Him in worship.

    Lastly, but not least (in fact, foremost!) we pray.  It is so important to meet before the service to pray with the pastor, worship team, technicians, ushers, etc.  It sets the tone for the whole service.  I have had services where rehearsal went great, but the prayer time was a struggle, then the whole service was a struggle.  I’ve also had times when rehearsal was a struggle, but then prayer time was refreshing and then the service went great!  The prayer time is such an integral part of pulling the whole team together as a unit.  We bathe the service outline in prayer, lifting it up, asking God to bless it and to pour out His Holy Spirit.  Which brings me to my next point…

    2– It was such a worshipful service.

    Again, I want to stress that putting together a worshipful service is about 10% musical and 90% spiritual.  Perhaps I should say 1% and 99%, but you get my point.  It’s really not about the music.  It’s not about the singers.  It’s not about expensive instruments, sound systems, video projectors or staging.  It’s not about getting everything right.  don’t get me wrong: God is worthy of our best.  I’m not advocating throwing things together haphazardly.  I’m just trying to say let’s not forget the point of the worship service.  Keep the main thing the main thing.  And the main thing is meeting with God and glorifying Him.

    When I lead worship, my main focus us not on the music.  Think of the worship leader as a bus driver–the worship bus driver.  The band and the music are the wheels and the engine.  The Holy Spirit is the fuel.  It is the worship leader’s job to load the people on the worship bus and take them to the throne room of God.  They may make some observations along the way (if you look out your window, on your left is a beautiful thought that has just come to mind… on your right is a short piece of scripture from my devotionals this week) but their main goal is to get the congregation on the bus and take them to their destination.

    And when the worship leader leads worship, they must lead.  They must be seeking God themselves if they are going to take anyone else with them.

    Try to keep distractions to a minimum.  Keep breaks between songs as short as possible.  Make sure you don’t become a worship DJ: “that was, ‘Come, now is the time to worship’… and now, let’s all sing, ‘You are holy.’  Try to progress from horizontal songs (songs about God, i.e. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”)  to vertical songs (songs to God, i.e. “I love You Lord”).  You can also progress from plural songs (i.e. “We stand together”) to singular songs (i.e. “I need You more”).  The idea is to keep the congregation on the worship bus and focused on the destination.  If and when anything is said between songs, try to stay in the proper tense.  If it’s early in the set and you’re still singing Horizontal songs, you may make a comment directed at the congregation like, “God is so good, let’s lift our hearts in worship today!”  But that would be a distraction later, during the vertical section of the song list.  Then it would be more appropriate to say something like, “Father, we love You today, and we just so much want to meet with You.”  Or if the song is vertical/singular you might say, “Lord Jesus, I love you.  Blessed be Your Name.”  You see?  Keep the tense of the interaction in keeping with the song being sung or about to be sung.  In closing, take charge of the band and yield to the Spirit.  Be intentional, yet flexible.  Connect with people and help them connect with God.

  • Angels in our midst

    Posted by on June 1, 2011

    Does preparing for worship leading ever get old?  Now be honest, does it?  If you’re like me, preparing for worship leading week-in and week-out can get mundane.  It’s an occupational hazard.  You may think that I’m about to offer some helpful suggestions to help keep things fresh and new, but I’m not.  Instead, I want to share a revelation I had.

    One evening our congregation was gathered for a special worship and prayer service.  Our band led the worship as usual.  As I was worshiping, I noticed that I could hear something out of the ordinary.  Over the drums, guitars, and keyboards, over the percussion and voices I could hear something I had never heard before… a flute.

    As I continued to play and sing, I listened to this beautiful, wonderful descant.  I was struck by how heavenly it was.  It was the perfect part being played flawlessly.  I loved it.

    Then my thoughts turned to wondering about the flute’s source.  Where was it coming from?  I knew there was no flautist in the the band.  In our church it wasn’t too unusual for members of the congregation to bring their own instrument, like a tambourine.  I looked around the congregation, but no flute.  And yet it continued to play.

    I gave up wondering about the flute and just enjoyed it.  It’s lilting melody ministered to my soul with heavenly brilliance.

    Finally, the service ended.  I turned around and asked my band, “Did anyone else hear…”

    “A flute!” came the excited response from our percussionist.  She had heard it too!  I was relieved to know that I was not the only one who had heard it, because I had actually considered that I had just been hearing things.  We asked the rest of the group if they had heard it too, but they hadn’t.  Apparently we two were the only ones who had heard it, but that was enough for me.  I was just thankful that God had allowed me to hear it, and that he gave me just one other person who had heard it too.

    Now I can’t say for sure that it was an angel playing that flute.  I mean, flutes require breath, but angels don’t have lungs.  And you have to have lungs to breathe, don’t you?  Or maybe angels play special flutes that don’t require breath.  I don’t know.

    What I do know is that there was some sort of heavenly flute being played that night.  And it made me keenly aware that there are heavenly hosts in our midst when we worship.  I’ve always known that the Holy Spirit is present.  It shouldn’t surprise me to think that angels are in our midst as well.  And it’s not that angels are somehow better than the Holy Spirit; they’re not.  It’s just that it has made me even more appreciative of the fact that during worship there is so much more going on than meets the eye.  Angels are worshiping with us!

    So the next time your worship planning is feeling stale or mundane, remember this: you are not just leading worship for humans…there are angels in our midst.

  • Leading worship: Have some fun and roll with it…

    Posted by on May 13, 2011

    Recently I was leading worship at a church whose usual format is to start with one or two gathering songs followed by announcements and a children’s message by the pastor’s wife.  On cue, all the children of the church scurried to the front and sat on the floor.  This Sunday was Palm Sunday, so the pastor’s wife sat on the front of the stage and told the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt.  She described how the people of Jerusalem who had gathered for the Passover were waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna!” The next part of her message was going to be for the children to walk around the sanctuary waving palm branches, rattling noisemakers and playing kazoos.  Before she passed out the palm branches and noisemakers, she leaned forward and said quietly, “You know what, kids?  Today… we’re going to get excited!”

    The children remained focused, yet quiet…all except for one boy who let out a long, “yessssssssssssssssssss!”  I couldn’t help but smile.  A few chuckles echoed throughout the adults.  Bobby, my lead guitarist, leaned over and whispered, “Napoleon Dynamite!” in my ear.

    The pastor’s wife gave the children their directions, then passed out the palm branches and noisemakers, and their jubilant parade commenced.  Applause and shouts of “Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!” rang from the congregation.  Finally, the Sunday School teachers corralled the children out of the sanctuary and into their classrooms.  The worship team and I resumed our places on the stage to begin the worship set, but that “yessssssssssssssssssss!” was still playing in my head, and I was having a hard time collecting myself.

    I decided to just roll with it and have some fun.  I explained to the congregation what had happened up front where only few of us could hear.  I said, “from the mouths of babes… isn’t that kind of honesty wonderful!?!”  Then I told them that we as believers ought to be that honest and excitable.  “Our King is here!”  I said, “We have reason to be excited!”  Then I gave them a little coaching.  I told them that I was going to say, “Today… we are going to get excited!”  I told them that their proper response was to say, “yessssssssssssssssssss!”  There were a few giggles and insecure looks, but when I said, “Today… we’re going to get excited!,” right on cue they responded with a loud whisper, “yessssssssssssssssssss!”  It was flippin’ sweet, and we all had a good laugh.  It lightened our mood, allowing us to worship our King with joy and freedom.

    Now I’m not suggesting that you break out some stand-up every Sunday, but there are times–depending on your style and the style of your congregation–when a little levity is in order.  Heaven knows life is serious enough!

    Rolling with it,

    Scott

  • How should I stand?

    Posted by on April 22, 2011

    I have a posable artist’s mannequin that sits on my desk. I keep it there because it used to belong to my Grandmother who was an artist. Occasionally he makes a cameo during a Skype session, but mostly he (I’ve personified him) just stands on my desk in whatever pose I last gave him.

    As I looked at him today I thought about what pose to put him in to make him look like a worship leader. I could have him holding a little guitar. I could put a little handmade boom stand in front of him. Or perhaps he plays keyboard. I could live out my keyboarding dreams vicariously through him. I could raise his arms to the heavens and tilt his little wooden head to the sky. I could place him in a kneeling position or even face down and prostrate.

    No matter what the pose, however, he never really looks like he’s worshiping, just posing.  I guess part of it is that he has no face, and therefore no facial expression. Also, he’s inanimate, so he never moves. The fact that he’s silent doesn’t help either. But I think perhaps the biggest reason he never looks like he’s worshiping is because he’s not alive! Any and all appearance of worshiping is being projected on him by me!

    Then I thought, “Am I any different?”

    I mean, do I do the things I do when I lead worship because of what I think others are expecting me to do? Do I raise my hands because of that Carman concert I went to in the 90′s? Do I kneel because we’re singing a song that talks about kneeling? Do I lie prostrate to impress others with my humility? (Let that one sink in for a while…)  Lord, I hope not.  I want to live a life of genuine worship.

    God created me, Jesus saved me, and I am thankful.  That thankfulness gets expressed at various times and in all sorts of different ways.  Here are a few top-of-my-head examples: the warmth in my heart that I feel when my wife of 25 years smiles at me as only she can; the connection I feel when I hug my kids; the fulfillment of caring for patients recovering from surgery; the serenity I experience when I’m all by myself on a lake in northern Minnesota casting for pike;  the enchantment of going for a walk in Autumn, the mixed emotions felt at the loss of  a loved one.

    God is omnipresent.  He is as much a part of our songs and prayers at 10:30 Sunday morning as he is when we cut a peanut butter sandwich or clean out our gutters.

    Life is worship.  And it doesn’t matter how we stand.  The only thing that matters is the condition of our heart and our relationship with the God that created it.

  • What it’s all about

    Posted by on April 17, 2011

    This past weekend I led worship at a church that has three services: one Saturday evening and two Sunday morning. Just before the first service on Sunday, the worship team gathered in the back room to pray. We prayed that God would draw the worshipers to Himself so that He would be glorified.

    As we sang, I felt the Spirit moving. I hushed the band so that we could hear the congregation singing, “Amazing love, how can it be that You, my King would die for me…” It was beautiful. The more we hushed, the louder they sang, filling the room with worshipful melody. Now I was moved. We finished the next-to-last song, and the pastor flowed into the communion time with a brief meditation and prayer. As he ended his prayer, I began playing The Old Rugged Cross on my guitar in a slow, cowboy-around-the-campfire style (dum janga langa, dum janga langa…) As we sang that final song I scanned the congregation, thinking how people seemed to be really into the moment…really connected. Then, way in the back, I could see my friend Val. Next to Val was an older gentleman with white hair. They were too far away for me to make out their facial expression.

    On Monday I ran into Val at work. She thanked me and said that she really enjoyed the service. She explained that the gentleman next to her was her father Richard who was visiting from Iowa. Then she told me that as I started playing The Old Rugged Cross she looked over at her dad because she knew that it was his favorite Hymn. She put her arm around his shoulder and he looked back at her with tears welling up in his eyes. He didn’t say anything. She said he looked like he was just trying to hold it together. As the song progressed, she looked over at him again and tears were running down his face. She said how it was so meaningful for her to have been there worshiping with her dad that morning. She also said that her dad expressed a similar sentiment.

    As I walked away from my conversation with Val that morning, I thought to myself, “that’s what it’s all about.” It’s about a group of individuals coming together as the Body to sing God’s praise. It’s about fathers and daughters worshiping side by side. It’s about older gentlemen being overwhelmed with emotion as they are touched by the Spirit.

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