Worship Books For Pastors

I’m blessed to work with a pastor who not only understands the importance of corporate worship, but also regularly stresses its importance to the congregation. He also participates in worship in the front row for all to see, which is a great model for the flock.

I realize that not all worship leaders have it this good. I know that there are pastors out there who don’t value what the worship leader brings to the church service, and that breaks my heart. In those cases, what should be a cooperative, collaborative relationship can become distant or even combative.

So even though I’m not that particular boat, I was encouraged to read Yancey Arrington’s post Five Reasons Why Pastors Should Read Worship Books. Yancey is a senior pastor who knows how important is it to have a deep understanding of corporate worship.

Yancey’s whole list is good, and well worth reading, but two of his points really grabbed my attention:

It will improve your communication about what corporate worship is to your congregants. Free your congregants from the ubiquitous error abounding in churches each Sunday that says worship equals music. Maybe the reason your church will be different is because a good book on worship finally helped you see that other elements such as the sermon, the offering, and the prayers are worship as well. It might lead you to stop calling your music leader the “worship pastor” or move you to continually help connect non-musical elements to the heart of corporate worship. It might lead you to do a lot of things you’re not currently doing or vice versa.

And this one:

It will tell your worship leader that worship isn’t only important to him or her, but to you too. It’s a small but weighty token to have your worship teams see that you are interested in what they are interested in. And why shouldn’t you be? It’s worship we’re talking about. Reading worship books is one small way to communicate that you both want the same thing – to honor God and lead people in such a way that they have the best opportunity to honor him via corporate worship each week. So, as the one who oversees the element of “Worship via Preaching,” you also want to hone your ideas about worship for the sake of the church.

Really good stuff. Aside from his list of reasons, Yancey also offers a list of books on worship that would be good reading for any pastor or worship leader. Honestly, I’d have linked to his post just for the list of books. Go check it out.

A Tribe Of Cats

I recently had to turn down an offer from a friend. Not just any offer – an offer to help lead a worship and prayer service. And not just any friend – the worship pastor at the church that planted my church. I hated saying no, but I had already committed to something else that evening, and I felt it was important to honor that commitment.

I’ll miss being at that prayer and worship service, because it’s always a good time. There’s another church that his has planted as well, and the three of us trade off songs during the service. It’s a lot of fun, but more importantly, it gives us a chance to connect with each other.

A lot of worship leaders don’t get that kind of fellowship with other worship leaders. The three of us only manage to get together a few times a year. But it’s so encouraging when we do.

It’s easy to start feeling alone as a worship leader. Usually there aren’t many of us working together in the same church. But being in community has so many benefits, from bouncing ideas off one another to sharing our hurts with one another to encouraging one another. That’s part of the reason I started this blog: to help worship leaders connect and be encouraged.

All of that to say that I enjoyed Rich Kirkpatrick’s latest post, Local Worship Leaders: Connections Can Save Your Life. It’s all about building relationships with other worship leaders. Rich writes:

Worship leaders already are a tribe of cats, so when you also consider the different expressions it may seem hard to find connection. You could not be more wrong to think that. In fact, not only do these connections provide immediate encouragement, they might save your life. After all, there are some hidden things about the role of leading worship that those not in your shoes miss. Let’s not get tired in our work simply because we are not there for each other.

Rich brings up some questions that worship leaders should be discussing with each other. They’re all good, but this one really struck me:

What are your wounds? Every leader has wounds. And, we must keep the depth of these hidden–or so we think. The pain of rejection, spiritual abuse, harsh micromanagement, misunderstanding, and missed expectations weigh on you and I. The myth is that we are not allowed to bear our own wounds in ministry. Worship leaders are supposed to be invisible, after all. Having a safe place to share these might be the ticket to healing and to expressing your wounds in your ministry in a redemptive way.

On Misdirected Passion

I have spent most of my adult life working in information technology for school districts. My friends and I have often joked, “This would be a great place to work if it weren’t for all the students and teachers!”

So when Jason Castellente opened his post Relationships And Misdirected Passions with a play on that joke, he had my attention. But his post is no joke:

I’m going to be very forthcoming, open and vulnerable in this article. In fact, some of this, I’ve taken from my journal so it may be a little raw. Quite honestly, I stink at managing relationships and situations where things get sticky. I think it’s something a lot of tech guys struggle with. But admitting is the first step to recover, right? So, I’m going to address some of my personal weaknesses and what I’m learning along the way as I work through these issues.

Even though Jason is writing as a tech director and I’m a worship leader, I found myself relating to a lot of what he says. He writes of times when it’s simply passion for the work that carries him through:

Sometimes, the only thing that keeps us going is just how passionate we are about what we do. If you’re super driven by how passionate you are about tech, it’s easy to forget about the people we’re working with are way more important then the tech gear we are working with. We’re also all problem solvers…we conquer and destroy. That may be awesome when it’s a problem with a piece of gear or a lot of work that needs to be done for big event, but it’s probably not a good thing if it’s a person that you don’t see eye to eye with.

He also addresses those times when we’re so driven that we “forget” everything else:

But, if I make this a habit (which it can easily become), and push myself that hard all the time, it’s destructive to me in ways that are more then just physical. My relationships and other aspects of life will begin to suffer because I simply have nothing left to give. I’ll start skipping out on other things that I probably should be doing and I’ll miss other parts of the journey that God has for me. The emotional toll of the pressure and stress will eventually get to me and I’ll break.

I’ve seen that in myself in my ministry and in my day job. It’s easy to fall into and really, really hard to crawl out of.

Anyway, I’ve quoted enough. You should really go check out Jason’s post. It’s really good, and as he said, pretty raw. I highly encourage you to read it and examine yourself. See if you can find these qualities in yourself and identify areas you need to work on.

Weekend Links

Worship leaders, pastors, and everyone serving this weekend: know that I’m praying for you! I pray that God will bless you and stretch you and use you to grow His kingdom and expand His family.

I found lots of great links this week that I wanted to share with you. I hope you find them encouraging and challenging.

Mike Harland: My assistant set it all up and I left that afternoon with a bag full of goodies from LifeWay Worship, including an SBC commemorative edition of the new hymnal. Entering the assisted living facility, I was immediately greeted by the receptionist who said, “Oh, you’re here to bring him the hymnal.” I thought, He’s been talking about this.

Angie Lendon: I found myself looking into a mirror where the only thing looking back at me was my own insecurities that said I was washed up, finished, of no use to God or His kingdom. I had to stare at that face and make a decision. Was I going to roll over and die to the enemy or kneel down and die to my Saviour? It took a while. I didn’t want to admit I’d become a text book example of how not to walk this narrow road!

Rich Birch: We’ve all had “one of those Sundays” when nothing seems to go right. The sound system was giving you all kinds of trouble. Videos were being fired at the wrong time. Team members didn’t know their music. Feedback. Frustration. Feelings hurt. It was far from the kind of experience that you want to have for your guests. To put it plainly … it was a train wreck.

Chris Johnson: Do something dangerously different. Dangerous. Pray… I mean really pray. And not just the prayer list from your church. Ask God to give you something fresh, new, and dangerous to your current way of thinking. Journal. Keep a record of what God has spoken into your life.

Josh Bellamy: But is that a good thing? As Christians, is our focus in the wrong place? Do we take our example of what good musical worship is by what our example of good music is. Top production values, fine equipment and a ‘Grade 10 only’ approach to our musicians can be found in some churches, with liturgy-filled Common Worship services in others. It’s not the instruments or production value we should be looking towards however, it is God.

Elbert LaGrew: Don’t worry about thanking Him for tomorrow. We may never even be there. Just thank Him for now, always now. If we arrive at tomorrow…well it won’t be that any more will it? And neither will we.

Callie Burnett: Sometimes I stare blankly at a screen and sing harmonies with grasshoppers chirping in my mind. How can I take part in something so sacred and be bold enough to not pay attention to the significance of these beautiful, adoring words crying out to God? I want to be fully engaged or just not sing at all.

How To Make Sure You Stop Growing

Temptations abound for worship leaders. There are so many ways to fall apart, and they’re all pretty easy. So we need to be intentional about our own spiritual development. As leaders, we need to be especially careful, because as I noted yesterday, careless leaders can all too quickly lead people to ruin.

As I read Daniel Darling’s post How NOT To Grow Spiritually, I recognized that everything he listed applies to all believers. But two of his five items really jumped out at me for worship leaders. First:

4) Keep patting yourself on the back… If you don’t want to really grow spiritually, keep thinking you know stuff. Wisdom only comes after you’ve bowed your knee in humility to the God who knows all things. As long as you think you are the master of your universe and that you don’t need any help with anything, you will ensure that you will not grow.

That’s a strong temptation for worship leaders. Not to brag, but God has blessed many of us with great talent, and we get to be “on display” with those talents on a regular basis. Seeking the praise of men becomes easier and easier as we elevate ourselves further and further. But as John The Baptist put it, “He must increase, but I must decrease.

This point also struck me:

5) Chase trends and dis faithfulness… If you want an insignificant life of spurts and starts and stops, keep chasing the next big thing, keep avoiding the hard choices, the sweat, the grind of daily life. Keeping your hand at the wheel, year after year, ensures a life of depth, of weight, of character.

Part of our job as worship leaders is to help our congregations “sing a new song,” and often that means researching new worship music and keeping up to date. But we need to be careful, as Daniel writes, that our pursuit of the new doesn’t overwhelm the rest of our spiritual walk.

You should check out Daniel’s post for the full list.

Taking Down The High Places

My personal reading plan has me right in the middle of 2 Kings right now. The journey from 1 Samuel through 2 Kings is a heartbreaking one. And the thing that keeps jumping out at me this time through is idolatry. The story repeated over and over shows that the king’s idolatry leads the people into idolatry, ruining their worship of the Lord and ultimately bringing their destruction.

And in many cases, it wasn’t even the active worship of false gods that led to downfall; it was failing to remove the high places, those locations where false worship took place. By failing to remove the high places, the leaders allowed the enemy a foothold. It’s a sobering reminder that we need to slay our own idols totally and completely. As worship leaders, this is crucial to our ministry. We can’t lead people in worship if we have idols of our own.

We all have different idols in our lives, those things we chase after that take our attention away from God. So it’s hard to say, “Here are the idols you need to remove and here’s exactly how to do it.” But David Peach’s list of Ten Idols Of Your Heart To Remove is a great start:

Please consider these idols that can set up a stronghold in the heart. Look carefully at your own life and see which ones might apply to you and need to be removed. Maybe you struggle with something completely different than what I mention. I pray that this list will be used by the Holy Spirit to show to you your own personal need.

His list contains some of the usual suspects for worship leaders (and anyone else, really): pride, entertainment, self. I highly recommend that you check out David’s list and follow Paul’s advice in Colossians 3.