What is Guiding You?

Every successful organization has goals…

Every successful organization also has a set of guiding principles that it bases its decisions and endeavors off of. These principles are the foundation of what they do and they keep them on track to accomplish their goals. Having guidance prevents frustration, burnout, and the “side-routes” that often suck up much of our time and energy.

To any church “leaders” or ministers I would ask: What principles should guide our decisions regarding the worship ministries within our respective churches? To the average “church-goer” or layperson I would ask: What principles should you be noticing within your church’s worship ministry?

There is obviously no single “set-in-stone” list… but I believe there are four basic principles that provide for us a good foundation to build off of. I will discuss them below.

  • Exalt the Lord

Psalm 99:5 says,

Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

That same Psalm continues in verse 9 to say,

Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!

This couple of verses does well to form a foundation of where our worship ministries should begin. They set forth an obvious goal…

All of our efforts in music ministry begin with the priority of exalting the Lord.

We strive for many things within the Body of Christ. We know that we have one purpose of glorifying God, but we tend to take many routes and avenues to get there. That is fine… but in all of our goals we should have a priority of exalting the Lord. We should be continually striving for excellence in our efforts to exalt the Lord.

Psalm 96:1-13 says,

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

Psalm 95:1-11 says,

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Ultimately in our worship ministries, and services, our music is offered to glorify the Lord.

1 Peter 4:11b establishes that very line of thinking where it says,

In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

In our planning, leading, singing, and living we should be focused on helping other people to get a glimpse of the great God that we praise, so that they themselves may see that He alone is worthy of exalting.

A last side note to this point is that we should be living humbly and teaching an attitude of humility and service to our choir/ praise team members, soloists, and instrumentalists – so that God alone receives the glory.

  • Edify the Saints

Let’s acknowledge the facts…the world is a fallen place and Christians are bombarded all week with discouraging words and events. It is far too easy to live in a constant season of discontentment, discouragement, or in we need if refreshment. In our weekly congregational worship gatherings we need to intentionally be working to encourage those around us with the Gospel.

My advisor, Greg Brewton, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary once told me,

If what you are doing doesn’t encourage you personally then there is either a problem with what you are doing or with your heart.

I think as leaders in our respective churches we all must ask ourselves: is our worship encouraging the people in our church? I hope so! After all, this is the Body and Bride of Christ that we were, and are, entrusted with to care for until His final return.

1 Corinthians 14:26 says,

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

We all have been given something! This gift isn’t for ourselves… it is for Christ and for sharing with those around us to build them up!

Romans 14:19 shares this thought when it says,

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Ultimately, every song, element, and aspect should have a purpose… and that purpose is to build up the church. All things that take place when we are gathered together are to be shared by Christ and His Bride (the church). Our songs and elements should build each other up… they should teach and admonish.

In fact, Colossians 3:16-17 says exactly that,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  • Equip for Ministry

Another foundation or focus we should have within our churches and ministries is to be equipping others for ministry!

I often have said that my goal is to replicate myself… in NO way does that mean I think highly of myself or that I have it all together. I just want to know that I am pouring into someone else and that if something were to happen to me then the particular ministry I am involved in could continue on without missing a beat.

Imagine yourself away from your ministry… what happens? Does it fall apart?

That is the true test on how you have equipped others in your ministry. The leading of the music is the easy part… the equipping is the hardest part. Ultimately if all we have is a band and no leaders of the Gospel then we have done nothing more than a public school band director. That isn’t a sucker punch at band directors… but that isn’t our job! We are ministers… which means we are to be ministering!

Ephesians 4:11-14 says,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

This passage in Ephesians tells us that as leaders we aren’t the lone rangers of the Gospel. We aren’t to carry out ALL of the ministry. As leaders we are to be equipping others to do ministry. We are leaders who lead by example and equip those around them to live out the Gospel.

For us who are “ministers” this is a challenge because sometimes it is easier to just do the work ourselves… but our job is to equip, so we need to spend time enabling and trusting others.

As a “church-goer” or layperson this is also a challenge because it puts some of the weight back on your shoulders. Ministry isn’t just a minister’s job! You share in the responsibility… they are there to provide instruction, guidance, and support.

  • Evangelize with the Gospel

We all know the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The act of going takes priority in all other actions. If you are “going” somewhere then it is typically apparent to everyone around you. Sometimes we tend to forget that this is a commandment and not a suggestion. That commandment doesn’t exclude our worship ministries either!

The great commission is a commandment and worship ministry is not an exception to it.

Our worship services are also outreach opportunities! Our music ministries should support the overall vision and goals of the church – outreach, missions, etc. In the end, the worship ministry is a part of the church as a whole and not a separate entity. We are ALL to be evangelists in ALL things.

Let’s commit ourselves to not just focusing on our ministry or preferences!

We need to be singing and selecting songs that express the Gospel story in clear terms, and we must also be concerned with the spiritual condition of those within our music ministry – choir members, instrumentalists, children, youth, etc.

My advisor, Greg Brewton, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has also told me this,

We have failed if we have produced trained musicians and a congregation full of music lovers, but have not produced Christians growing in their walk with the Lord.

So… what principles exist and guide your worship services?




It’s Family Time!

When we gather together as a church “family” is that really what it looks like? From an outsiders perspective what do our Sunday morning experiences exhibit or demonstrate? Do we look and act like a family? Do we operate in unity towards accomplishing the same purpose or goal? Or… are we a bunch of individuals gathered in the same place doing roughly the same thing?

What are our corporate gatherings supposed to look like? What about our corporate worship?

Dr. Ed Steele once said,

Congregational worship is more than just a group of individuals having quiet times in the same place. It is the Body of Christ gathered together in unity and diversity centering adoration on the King of kings and Lord of lords and responding in obedience to Him. The emphasis is not on “my personal experience,” but “our obedient response” to His revealed nature and character.

Ralph Martin further drives home that same thought when saying,

The thought that the Church at worship is an accidental convergence in one place of a number of isolated individuals who practice, in hermetically sealed compartments, their own private devotional exercises, is foreign to the New Testament picture.

In a culture that is completely wrapped up “self,” corporate worship is the black sheep. It isn’t meant to be done alone. Personally I believe that it’s important to remember that worship songs are intended to be sung with others!

When speaking of corporate worship Eric Benoy said,

We gather together for corporate worship, a group of people to do something in one accord. If that is the case, then why do some worship leaders today want to make corporate worship a personal experience? It is oxymoronic in a way. If we have gathered intentionally for corporate worship, then should we not then be striving for a corporate offering of praise, adoration, et al and hear from God as a body of believers? We have come together specifically to be the church gathered; to worship and become equipped to be the church scattered.

If our worship isn’t a time for ourselves… then what is it a time for? Obviously it is a time for praising and worshipping our God, but what purposes does it serve for the body of Christ? Let’s think together below.

  • It’s time to teach.

As humans we are observant people. Often I can learn more from watching a situation or experience unfold than from being told about it after the fact. Think about it… would you rather read the directions or watch the task being done in order to learn how to take part in it or do it?

What would you say if I told you that your worship isn’t just for you and God?

I would dare to say that while your worship is for God, others also can gain from it. The people who worship alongside you can learn in the same way that you can from merely being around each other while you worship. It is a powerful and natural teaching method!

1 Corinthians 14:26 says,

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

What I find encouraging in these passages is that nobody comes to the table with nothing to give!

1 Corinthians clearly says that each person has something to offer and those offerings will by used for teaching and admonishing each other as we are told in Colossians. Continue to seek God in your worship and you will naturally teach and instruct those around you while doing so… even if you don’t feel like you are adequate to instruct or lead.

  • It’s time to learn.

Theodore Roosevelt once said,

You may worship God anywhere, at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship Him somewhere in some particular place, at some particular time.

As you were growing from childhood to adulthood how did you learn how to handle yourself or behave in public? You observed people all around you doing it… and you were instructed. The same thing can be said about our worship… just like we teach each other (talked about above), we also should be continually learning from each other.

For me it’s not necessarily learning the aesthetics of worship… but rather the heart of worship. By worshipping alongside people you know you learn from their experiences and you share in those things together.

I love the idea that as worshippers we are never not adequate enough to teach through our actions… but also never “advanced” enough to stop learning. Our corporate worship is a give-and-take amongst a community or “body” of believers. We are all learning and all teaching. We are strengthening, up-building, and guiding each other. You worship isn’t just for you, but rather, it serves many purposes.

  • It’s time to encourage.

Have you ever just sat back and watched your local congregation worship?

It’s amazing.

What is amazing isn’t the “professionalism” of the sound… perfect 4 part harmonies with great pitch and tone. It is amazing that worship breaks down the barriers that this world and culture so easily build. People of all races, skin colors, economic classes, social statuses, and backgrounds all come together in the same way before God… unworthy but loved.

If that doesn’t encourage you in your faith then you might want to check your vital signs!

I am encouraged on a weekly basis by the people worshipping around me. I know their stories… their hardships and their victories, and when I see those people humbling themselves before God and crying out in praise to Him I am reminded of how fleeting this life is and how eternal our Savior is. God is bigger than any situation or barrier and congregational worship draws us together to be encouraged by each other in recognizing just how big and great our God truly is.

Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to be encouraged weekly!

  • It’s time to fellowship.

Acts 2:42-47 says,

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

What this passage out of Acts shows me is that corporate worship can help us avoid the “me and mine” mentality and can help us see ourselves as Christ sees us. Being mindful that we are part of the Body can also help us avoid delusions of our own importance before God. Stephen Miller said,

We exchange the glory of the Creator for the created and eventually replace God with ourselves. And as we become the object of our own worship, these subtleties start to creep into our worship services. They creep into our songs and the way we interpret and preach Scripture. They creep in as a consumer mentality that says we must bend over backwards to please the consumer Christians who are attending.

By seeing ourselves as the Body of Christ we are not demeaning our personal experience, but rather we are guarding ourselves against an unintentional shift in focus to “our” personal experience rather than on who Christ is and what He as done. If we are not careful the desire to achieve a “personal” worship experience becomes a goal and we miss the object for which the worship should have been directed.

A consumer mentality in our worship can cause us to desire the “experience” more than the “Savior.”  

Our worship teaches us our place in the Kingdom of God… as the body and the bride. We come together congregationally to live out those designations as the body and to fellowship in that mutual calling and purpose.

We can even see an example of this “fellowship” and unity in the body of Christ in Matthew 6:9-13 where we are given the “model prayer” or the “Lord’s Prayer.” Look below and take note of the congregational wording where I have added emphasis.

This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive usour debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Worship is personal… but it is also meant to be shared with others in the body.

Ephesians 5:18b-21 lays it out simply by saying,

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Don’t neglect your church family or congregational worship… but rather delight in it and see it for all that it truly is!

God will be Worshipped

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the one of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Throughout His earthly ministry it was rare that people recognized Him and worshipped Him for who He really was: the Son of God.

But… in this case they did. Here comes Jesus riding in on a donkey and the people are lining the road and praising Him as the Messiah. The people are crying out “Hosanna!” This word was originally an appeal for deliverance, translating to “please save.” But here we see it being transformed into an expression of joy and praise for deliverance that only the Messiah brings.

The crowds that lined the roads recognized whom Jesus was and were moved to praise.

The reason this is such a big deal is because at this point, the people still believed that the Messiah was going to be a warrior king who would overthrow the Roman government and raise Israel to a place of political and military power. However, we now know that Jesus accomplished the will of God in a way that they didn’t expect. But… their preconceived notions or thoughts about the Messiah didn’t prohibit them from recognizing Him and His power and worshipping Him for who He was.

The story is continued in Luke 19:37-40 where it goes on to say,

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Did you catch the end of that verse?

The Pharisees were religious teachers of the day, but they let what they thought they knew about God completely blind them for seeing God right in front of their faces. Their religion was their God. It is what they worshipped.

Are we sometimes so caught up in the things that we “know” about God that we miss the workings of God taking place right in front of us?

If Jesus were to ride into our churches today would we be moved to worship and praise Him or would the rocks have to cry out?

This triumphant entry is the beginning of the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and when the Pharisees tell him to quiet the crowd, his response is simply amazing:

I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

What Jesus is saying is that because He is who they say He is, that He is worthy of their praise. Do we realize that? Jesus IS God, and He is worthy of all praise we can give Him and more!

So much that if people fail to praise him, then the stones themselves will because He is worthy of it! God WILL be praised. Regardless of willingness, circumstance, cultural acceptance, or even your participation!

This is one of my favorite stories in Scripture because it reminds me of how awesome God is, and it serves as a job description for all believers! Our job is to be worshipping God and bring Him the glory due His name. We should be constantly worshipping him!

Imagine hearing a rock cry out the praise of Christ. How incredible would that be? It is nothing more than a rock… but God is so amazing, that even it MUST acknowledge and give him praise. To be honest though, I don’t want the rocks to sing God’s praise because if they do, that means I’m not doing my job!

Our job is simple.

Psalm 150:1 says,

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Psalm 98:4 says,

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.

1 Peter 1:8 continues along with this pattern and says,

Let your love of the Lord Jesus pour out; rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy.

The crowds who had seen Jesus ministry, his miracles, heard his teaching, and had their lives touched were eager to speak and cry out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Their words were a confession, an acknowledgment that in Jesus they were placing their hope, their future, their security, and their salvation.

Has Jesus changed your life? What are your words confessing?

Brothers and sisters… will you confess God’s goodness and salvation message each and every day despite your circumstances, emotions, or what the world might say?

Will you cry out or will the rocks take your place?

Psalm 95:1 says,

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Is our “Worship” Self-Centered?

Every Sunday churches around the world sing, pray, preach, and fellowship together. Many of these churches do these same things in drastically different ways.

  • Some sing hymns. Some sing choruses.
  • Some have full bands and orchestras. Others have organs and choirs… or even sing a cappella.
  • Some dim the lights. Others don’t.
  • Some sit in chairs. Others sit in pews.

What is the difference and why has such importance been placed on our tastes?

I am not suggesting that having variety in our worship styles and environments is a bad thing! I am actually a huge proponent of it… but we have to be careful when having so many choices to make in regards to where we worship, who we worship with, and how we do it that we don’t allow it to cloud out who we are worshipping and why. When faced with so many choices we have to be intentional in remaining centered on what worship is… we have to fight the consumer mentality that plagues the masses of our culture.

We must change our worship culture. We have to fight the “what can I get from this” mentality. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… The primary focus of worship isn’t to serve us!

Nowhere in Scripture is worship described as something primarily focused on OUR enjoyment? So… how do we fight to change our worship culture into one that glorifies Christ? Let’s think together.

  • Stop evaluating corporate worship off our opinions.

“Worship wasn’t very good today.”

What does that statement really boil down to… and whose fault is it

Worshippers and worship leaders alike have to fight this mentality. Do we judge our worship based off our opinions on how “well” the songs were executed, how “well” the congregation received it, or how “outwardly” people displayed their worship?

Are we judging then based off our preferences and emotions, or the truth spoken of and the praise poured out to God?

Let me speak to the worship leaders for a second… Do we pick particular songs because our band plays them good or they transition well into each other to create a seamless experience? Obviously neither of these things should be entirely ignored, because as faithful leaders we should strive for excellence… even in our planning! But, they shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. We shouldn’t target or aim or services around songs that we know “go over well.” Instead we should be designing services that reveal things about God and allow our congregations to pour out raise according to those revelations.

Sometimes it is a real battle to use our music to both glorify God and serve the body while fighting against using it to glorify ourselves and serve our needs and preferences. Sometimes as congregations we have to move past the outward “sound” of our worship and evaluate the heart and purpose behind it.

  • Put the “Us” before the “I.”

Do we neglect to sing along in worship or dislike songs just because they aren’t our “cup of tea?” I mean… I totally get the worship was debate going on. New versus old… contemporary versus traditional. But in the end don’t all of our “worship” songs seek to fulfill the same purpose?

Move past yourself and allow God to create in you a love of serving others…even when it means in worship style!

My pastor once used an illustration where he said that a pastor of a church in the middle of a worship war asked the adults in his congregation one Sunday morning who was willing to die for their kids. Every single hand went up. Then he followed up the question with the question of who was willing to change their traditions and worship styles/ preferences to better reach and serve their kids.

That thought is sobering.

What are we doing? Who are we truly serving when our worship is self-centered? Our purpose is ought to be simple: to worship in spirit and truth, glorify the Father, and encourage the body. That takes sacrifice and a shift in priorities away from satisfying our own interests and preferences.

  • Theocentricity.

God-focused. God-centered. Theocentric.

Robert G. Rayburn once said,

It is fundamental that we recognize that all true Christian worship must be theocentric, the primary motion and focus of worship are Godward.

What does having a theocentric focus in a worship service mean for us? Its simple… our services should not be about the lost, the saints, or any experience. Instead it should be solely focused upon God. Now obviously in a service that is focused on God there will be much to glean from for the lost, the saints, and it is likely to be full of encounters and experiences… but we aren’t focusing on or targeting those things!

As worshippers our concern should be both His praise and His presence. We are drawing near to Him not only to glorify Him but also enjoy Him. True worshippers have the desire displayed in Psalm 27:4-5,

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

Church worship isn’t something done for the congregation… it is something done by the congregation!

Hebrews 13:15 says,

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

We should seek to “draw near” to God in worship… not seek to satisfy ourselves.

James 4:8–10 says,

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Hebrews 10:19–23 says,

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

In Scripture we aren’t called to make ourselves comfortable or to be “seeker sensitive.” Instead we see passages like Psalm 29:2,

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96:7-9,

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

And Psalm 100:1-2,

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

In Matthew 4:10 Jesus said,

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”

Who does your worship serve? Yourself or God?