I Always Feel like Somebody's Watching Me

A friend recently called me to say their niece was at event where I was leading worship.  The niece told my friend her thoughts on the music and proceeded to describe in detail the songs, the way I sang, my mannerisms while on stage, etc.  My friend finished by telling me, "So in case you didn't already know, people are watching you!"

The reality that people are paying attention to me and how I act is becoming more real as the years go by.  It's especially become obvious that people are watching even when I'm off stage.  I find more and more as that I get recognized by people when I'm out and about.  I find myself having a lot of "You don't know me, but I know you..." types of conversations.  I'm very thankful for those conversations and the kind words that are exchanged, but the more it happens, the more I realize that I never know who is watching me and observing how I'm behaving while I'm out living life.  I want my character to be consistent with who I profess to be, so there can be a bit of pressure that comes from a lack of anonymity because of course, no one is perfect.  My friend Lee McDerment has shared the wisdom, "Your talent can take you to a place where your character can't sustain you."  The awareness of our own deficiencies should compel is to pursue building up strong foundations that can withstand the scrutiny of spotlight, no matter how bright it is.  We all fall short, but a lack perfection should not mean lack of action in faith.  When your public platform increases, so does the importance for the integrity with which you live your private life to match your public faith.  

Reflecting on it more, I also realize that this is not just a call to those for those with public platforms; this is a call to every Christian.  By definition, our faith is public.  The book of James says "Faith without deeds is dead."  There has to be action to your faith that is outward and public.  So if we are following Jesus, then we will inherently be going public with our faith; and people will be watching.  We need to be living lives that are worthy of imitation, and the only way we can be living those lives is when we are trying to imitate Jesus.  Be people of love, unity, and grace; and don't be those people only when you know people are paying attention.  Be those people when you think no one is watching

Reviving Classic Hymns Part 3 of 3

Something that can add a lot of value to leading worship are to use classic hymns.  For those who grew up in the church, these hymns and the memories associated with them come rushing back when singing them and you are immediately engaged and participating.  For those who did not grow up with classic hymns being sung, these hymns often contain a level of lyrical depth that can reveal new understanding of God.

Using these classic hymns in a modern setting can be intimidating, because we equate hymns with organs, choirs, or simply a more traditional church setting.  So we either don't feel worthy or equipped to use them!   But again, they can be an enriching addition to any time of worship.

 So I've compiled a list of some tips that I've found useful in reviving the classic hymns.  

In part 1 and 2 of this series, I proposed the following tips:

1. Simplify the arrangement

2. Simplify the instrumentation

3. Slow down the tempo.  

4. Adding a modern band instrumentation

5. Combining original content with classic hymns

In Part 3, I wanted to suggest some hymns that you could try out and modernize for your own setting.  These are all hymns that I've found success with using in modern worship, and a couple of which I've recorded and you can access on this website.

1. All Creatures of Our God & King (available in the "audio" section)

2. His Eye is on the Sparrow (available in the "audio" section)

3. How Great Thou Art

4. Holy, Holy, Holy

5. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

6. It is Well With my Soul

7. Nearer my God, to Thee

Reviving Classic Hymns Part 2 of 3

Something that can add a lot of value to leading worship are to use classic hymns.  For those who grew up in the church, these hymns and the memories associated with them come rushing back when singing them and you are immediately engaged and participating.  For those who did not grow up with classic hymns being sung, these hymns often contain a level of lyrical depth that can reveal new understanding of God.

Using these classic hymns in a modern setting can be intimidating, because we equate hymns with organs, choirs, or simply a more traditional church setting.  So we either don't feel worthy or equipped to use them!   But again, they can be an enriching addition to any time of worship.

 So I've compiled a list of some tips that I've found useful in reviving the classic hymns.  This will be part 2 of a 3 part series.  

In part 1 of this series, I proposed the following tips:

1. Simplify the arrangement

2. Simplify the instrumentation

3. Slow down the tempo.  

4. Adding a modern band instrumentation- you could always drift away from the simple philosophy, and add more modern instrumentation; it usually depends on the lyrical tone and content to help determine whether to go this route.  If the hymn is more a praiseworthy and exultant hymn, then usually adding a band really supports the hymn and can make for a powerful moment.  

5. Combining original content with classic hymns- sometimes you might look to a classic hymn to help with finishing an original lyric that you're working on, or sometimes you might be inspired to write an original lyric to fit with a classic hymn.  Maybe you have verses to a song, but can't figure out a chorus?  Or you have a chorus but no verses?  You can mine the hymnal and find gold!  Sometimes a hymn will inspire a whole new refrain that you can tag into a song that helps bridge the gap between past and present ideals.  

Stay tuned for part 3!

 

 

Reviving Classic Hymns Part 1 of 3

Something that can add a lot of value to leading worship are to use classic hymns.  For those who grew up in the church, these hymns and the memories associated with them come rushing back when singing them and you are immediately engaged and participating.  For those who did not grow up with classic hymns being sung, these hymns often contain a level of lyrical depth that can reveal new understanding of God.

Using these classic hymns in a modern setting can be intimidating, because we equate hymns with organs, choirs, or simply a more traditional church setting.  So we either don't feel worthy or equipped to use them!   But again, they can be an enriching addition to any time of worship.  So I've compiled a list of some tips that I've found useful in reviving the classic hymns.  This will be part 1 of a 3 part series:

1. Simplify the arrangement- with a lot of hymns, once you start diving into adapting them for a modern setting, you'll find that you can simplify the arrangements (specifically the chord structure) to suit a more modern sensibility.  The classic hymns sound intimidating musically because the instrumentation is playing the each melody and harmony note.  But once you simplify it you'll be able to pick a more simplistic chord structure suited for any modern worship band!

2. Simplify the instrumentation- stripping away a lot of the instrumentation to just a simple piano or acoustic instrumentation not only removes the barriers of no organ/choir/orchestra common to modern worship, but it often can help the words to stand out even more.  Additionally, when members of the congregation grew up with these hymns, they often will immediately start joining in at the top of their lungs, and having a more scaled back instrumentation makes for an incredible moment to hear the congregation singing loud!

3. Slowing down the tempo- so often adjusting the tempo to a slower, more moderate pace, allows for a little more breathing room in the arrangement which again helps with making the lyrics stand out, and helps modernize the arrangement.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!

Three Big Takeaways from Psalm 48:14

"For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end." Psalm 48:14

This is one of those passages that just has staying power with me.  It was an easy one to memorize, so I can always refer back to it at a moment's notice; it has inspired songs in me; and it contains basic truth about God's character that I've needed to lean on countless times.

There are 3 big things about the passage that are great reminders to me:

1. "For this God is our God"- Our relationship with God is personal.  We belong to Him, and so He belongs to us.  To claim ownership of that relationship by saying that God is "our" God is truly an awesome thing!

2. "For ever and ever"- it's a never-ending relationship!  His faithfulness knows no end, and when we are His, that's it!  There's no changing that.

3. "He will be our guide even to the end"- God is with us for all time and in all times.  I like to look at the words here and imagine that God is our God until the end of time, and also to the end of our circumstances.  So it's both describing the duration of his love, and the expanse of his Love.  Deep and wide.  When we come to the end of our circumstances; when we hit rock bottom; He is with us, and will serve as our guide, walking us through any ordeal.

I wrote a song called "This God is Our God" inspired by Psalm 48:14.  You can hear it on by the audio page!

How to Lead Great Band Rehearsals: Part 2

One of the best ways to set yourself up for a distraction-free Sunday service is to have rehearsals that allow for more freedom on Sundays.  God deserves all glory for services that usher people into His presence, but he's all also called us to lead his church so there are steps we can take to steward that responsibility well as musicians.  

Part 1 was about the difference between "rehearsals" and "practice" and how a simple tweak of language can cast vision to your team.  Once your language is adjusted, the next step is to back up the vision with preparation. Preparation begins and ends with the leader. You have zero credibility to ask your team for preparation, if you don't lead the way.

Here is how to breakdown preparing for a song:

1. The Beginning! How does each song begin?  Know what instrument starts the song.  Know the timing of chords so that you can communicate.  

2. The Map!  Know the verse, chorus, bridge order.  Where are you trying to take song dynamically?  Know when certain instruments enter/exit.

3. The Standout Sections!  Are there any special elements that demand attention?  Often there's a guitar riff, or a drum fill, vocal run, etc. that takes a song to the next level.  Make sure you are prepared to coach through those parts or at least remind the musicians that you want that part to the stand out.  

4. The Ending!  Have a plan for how to end the song.  Are you going to end abruptly?  Are you going to a big rock and roll ending?  Are you going to end gently with a swellabration (guitars and cymbals milking the swell to encourage celebration)?  

If you have those 4 areas nailed, then you should be prepared enough to navigate through any song and instill confidence in your band that they can trust your direction.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

1. Be Decisive- even if you don't have an answer for something, or have overlooked something in your preparation, just be decisive in the moment.  You can always adjust something in between rehearsal and the service.  

2. Have accurate lead sheets- make sure your lead sheets for your band are accurate.  The map and chords need to be exactly like the reference

3. Plan ahead- make sure you are giving your musicians enough time for prep.  A good goal to aim for is to have all prep materials accessible for them 2 weeks prior to rehearsal 

How to Lead Great Band Rehearsals: Part 1

One of the best ways to set yourself up for a distraction-free Sunday service is to have rehearsals that allow for more freedom on Sundays.  God deserves all glory for services that usher people into HIs presence, but he's all also called us to lead his church so there are steps we can take to steward that responsibility well as musicians.  This will be a series of posts, as there many tangible things we can do as leaders of musicians in the church.

The first thing to do is ensure that your language is accurate by using the word band "rehearsal" rather than band "practice."  Practice is something you do individually at home, rehearsal is something we all do together where each member brings their part.  Using the word rehearsal itself implies there there has already been work done beforehand, whereas you can practice something without any prior history on the subject.  

Think of it as actors in play...if they come to play rehearsal without any history with the script, the beats and rhythms of the play, how to act off of other people's lines, etc., then your rehearsal is going to be long, frustrating, and fruitless because you'll find that the actors will be individually working on the nuts and bolts of their parts.  Individual preparation does not require meeting together as a group.  It can be done individually!  

The same idea applies to a band...each musician should respect the time and talent of their band mates by not using rehearsals as a personal practice time, but as a time to put their puzzle pieces together to create art.  If you have people using rehearsals as practice time, then you're going to end up with frustrated band members who feel disrespected and don't trust each other.  How can you expect to have the people on Sundays put their trust in the leadership of the musicians, if you the musicians on stage don't trust each other?.  A simple adjustment of your language to calling it "rehearsal" and being consistent with explaining the vision of rehearsal time to your musicians will go a long in not only having efficient rehearsals, but it will also increase the capacity for trust, freedom, and creativity. 

Of course, the leader has to lead the way.  You can't simply adjust your language, and expect your musicians to understand.  In Part 2, we will talk about the importance of preparation and how leaders need to go first.