Monday, May 23, 2016

Worship Is A Weapon

fter consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
     “Give thanks to the Lord 
        for his love endures forever.”
2 Chronicles 20:21
I love this story in Chronicles, where the Israelites are so confident that God will fight for them that they decide to send the choir out to the front line. This is some serious faith. On their own, the Israelites know that they cannot defeat the armies amassed to drive them out of their land, the land of Israel. However God is indeed faithful and rescues the Israelites by defeating the armies before them, as He told them He would.

Recently I've heard a couple people bring up how they've been thinking about the worshippers of the Old Testament being on the front lines of battle. As a team that assists and leads in praise & worship, we play a role in engaging the darkness that is so prevalent in the world—for praise rallies heaven. It breaks people free of chains, symbolically and physically. Praise is spiritual intersession for governments. It lifts oppressed and hurting people. Most of us may not face any physical armies in our lives, but the apostle, Paul, articulates well what we are facing:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesian’s 6:12
Spiritual warfare, folks: It is a thing. And we are taking it head on.

I have personally experienced God’s interceding power in the context of praise & worship: from being freed of bitterness, to experiencing indescribable peace in trying circumstances.

Consider this passage from the book of Acts—a passage in which God uses a mighty act of power to bring salvation to many:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 
Acts 16:25-26
This stirs inside my soul. People are listening and witnessing God’s power. Let’s not hold back, but
let His praise be glorious.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Couple Songs (newish) From Jesus Culture

It's been a while since I've posted, but it's been a great month!...especially coming off our April team meeting. Wow, God showed up in an amazing way, and what a privilege hearing those words from Ivan.

Here are a few youtube links to some songs I'm enjoying from Jesus Culture. I've included Song Cafe links from Worship Together if you're interested in learning a little background or how to play them:

In The River (Jesus Culture)

In The River (New Song Cafe)

Fierce (Jesus Culture)

Fierce (New Song Cafe)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This Is How It All Went Down!

Hi Team,
What an incredible week we've had! And how good was our all-team meeting last week? Our turnout was fantastic, and John Uhrig led us in a deep and sincere time of worship. In case you weren't there, don't worry; I'm including some notes of what transpired and what I shared. Also, you can be looking out for our next one! It was the start of what I hope will become regular (every month) all team get-togethers. The format will be simple: worship, a brief inspirational talk (stay tuned because our very own Ivan Bastidas will be sharing from his heart in our next one), and prayer together...praying for what's right ahead of us and also for the glorious things in our future. It was brought up in the meeting how important it is for us to gather and connect regularly in order for the team to flourish. Kris Koscheski illustrated it as a garden that can grow and become beautiful or dry up and wither away if not tended to. Original songs of worship were brought up as big hopes for our future, amongst many other things.

So without further ado, here are some thoughts that I shared and also what we're gearing up for so that we can launch from a solid foundation:

Firstly, who is the team?
Many improperly view the team as only those who they see up on stage. I want to change this false perception. Many churches have already overcome this, but we're just getting started. The team is for everyone who has it on their heart to encourage and assist in any way with the dynamics of the worship service. It is not just a band. I envision it looking like a bunch of people on and off stage who have creative ideas from music, sound, lighting, and beyond. People who love hanging out, praying, and being in fellowship. This includes those who help with youth or children's worship. It includes people who commit to simply show up on time for church and stand in the front, encouraging others in worship by worshipping freely and enthusiastically (strategically placed worshippers). Let's begin to expand our own perceptions of what the team can be.

Approaching Sundays holistically
I want Sunday services to be approached differently. We really practice and prepare for specific upcoming Sundays...basically taking each week as it comes. I don't believe this has been a good system in helping the team progress and achieve new standards. We need to start approaching Sundays holistically by thinking about the season ahead. What kind of songs will we primarily be doing? We might start by looking at the top 25 off Song Select or CCLI for instance, as well as by looking at specific favorites for our congregation. The outcome of this is twofold. It means that once the musicians have practiced together and learned the dynamic of the songs, our practices could focus more on what's ahead: not simply the upcoming Sunday.  Obviously the list would change as we progress through seasons. Also I should be clear that I'm not saying that every single song in a service's worship should be pulled from the roster, but I am saying that the bulk of them should be. This way Sunday mornings are for sound check, a simple roadmap of the worship time, and any other songs that need to be touched on. I envision limiting the roster to 20 songs at a given time. If we usually do 5 songs per service, then theoretically we could go a whole month without even repeating a song off the list: not even considering 1 or 2 being pulled into a set from outside the roster. So overdoing the songs isn't a big concern

We need a regular and committed core
In order to have the team dynamics discussed above where everyone knows all the songs inside and out, we need a committed core for Sunday worship. Ideally this would be having 5-6 people up on stage (this is about the max before it starts feeling a little crowded), and having a total core of about 12. That's 2 for each instrument (i.e. Keyboards, Drums). This is small enough that it won't require an overwhelming amount of practices to keep quality consistent, and large enough that when one person is unavailable, it's likely the other can fill the spot. Same as with an ever-changing song roster, the core team roster would also change through the seasons, as people's personal lives change in availability and dynamic. My big dream for the near-future is to have a healthy core in place with enthusiastic people that can be brought in to fill the voids.

The heart of worship
Recently, I've been privileged to be able to step back and gage the climate of our congregation. This is what I've noticed: While often the team is performing well, and the songs are dynamic and engaging, the music doesn't seem to be stirring the congregation. Drums, microphones, lights, are all tools we use to praise God with, but at the heart of it all; its all about Jesus. If the church is not often engaging freely in praise in light of the tools which are being utilized, it's possible the heart of worship isn't very well established. Meaning, if we stripped everything back, would Christ and all He represents simply be enough to sing wholeheartedly? It's strongly been on my mind that it may be important for us to plan services where we intentionally step back in order to establish a foundation for authentic worship. I have experienced many churches that have fantastic and engaging music, and I know they were built on this.

Finally, 8:00am: be there or be square
This is for those scheduled for Sunday morning prep, and it literally means arrive in time to be in the sanctuary at 8:00am. Sound-check and down-beat gets postponed every minute the later one arrives. If you're somebody who is set-up and ready to go faster than others, still be there at 8:00, and enjoy hanging out and chatting while others get plugged-in, tuned-up, etc. I know there are some strong opinions about meeting time, and they're not all in agreement. So please bring a positive attitude!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Let's Dream Big

Hi Everyone,

Having officially stepped in to lead/direct the music & worship early in the year, I've had it on my heart to share a few thoughts. First, so that you all can get to know me a little bit, and also to provide some food-for-thought for our upcoming team meeting.

I grew up in the church, but it was really as a teenager, and in the context of worship & singing about Jesus and His character that led me into a deep faith and revelation of his love for me. As a result, I love scripture, I love singing hymns packed with profound truths about God, and I love singing choruses found in modern and contemporary worship that draw us so near to His heart. Ever since I encountered Jesus, I have had it on my heart, passionately, to lead others in worship in a way that they would know the love and value they have in Him. The church that I envision in the future is one that is so vibrant in its praise that people will have to take notice. It is not always an easy dream to pursue, but I know its something God has placed in me to pursue with my whole heart. It is from that place that I share some of these thoughts:

There’s mixed emotions across the board. I’ve been picking up on the climate over the past couple of months, and some people are discouraged and disengaged, some are on cruise-control, and some are really pumped and full of optimism and dreams for the future. Wherever you land on the spectrum, I hope that this will be encouraging.

No one should feel phased out. I have an acquaintance who is a solid musician, plays a variety of instruments, leads worship, and has an amazing and sincere heart for the ministry. He was recently telling me a story about how years past he was the drummer in his church. He was used to doing it most Sundays and enjoyed being a part of a dynamic team under a talented director. When the church was gaining traction and getting all sorts of momentum, he found himself being passed over and eventually on the roster only occasionally. This was disappointing, but he understood the dynamic of a growing church that was changing quickly. His story saddens me because even though being second (or third) choice is a fact of life, it’s in my heart that nobody will ever feel phased out or not involved simply for not making roster! One thing I really appreciate about my recent experience with Hillsong’s worship and creative team is that they generate a culture that is inclusive…whether you're exceptionally gifted, moderately talented, have lots of time, or little time. That said, that doesn't mean everyone is going to be scheduled for their Sunday worship. Only a handful of people get scheduled regularly. But the team is much more than that. It is for everyone who is in it to support one another through prayer, relationships, and everything in-between.

I know being passed over. I remember at my parent’s church as a teenager years back when their regular bass player was unavailable, and I got contacted to play. I practiced the songs, went to the rehearsal, and was excited to be on the team. The night before the Sunday services, I got called off because their regular would be there after all. It was disappointing, and I was mad about it! But I had to step back and look at what I was mad about. I can tell you that it wasn't because I felt that the church’s worship time would be diminished because I wasn't going to be contributing. In fact, if I’m honest, the other player was hands down more accomplished. I was upset that I had been passed over in my chance to show the church that I could play well too. I had many other let downs that were church-related, but God was teaching something in my heart about humility. In this case my frustration actually didn't have anything to do with my role in a great worship experience, but rather everything to do with me being recognized.

Mistakes will happen. After all, this is a church…and FULL of people! The previous statement implies imperfection. Similarly, the worship leaders in both examples above didn't really plan out the process perfectly. Be understanding of the goal: which is to try and see the big picture in facilitating a great worship experience. I want to try and be more relational in areas where others have fallen short. I know that sometimes talent can fall through the cracks and also finding a fulfilling ministry for everyone won’t always go perfectly, but know that I will always do my very best. For those eager, I want to come alongside and try and find places for them to refine and thrive in their gifts. That may not always be from the stage in Sunday morning Worship, but there are so many other venues. Are you gifted in hosting? There’s a place for you! do you have a joyful and engaging demeanor in worship? There’s a place for you! I’m interested in people who have it in their hearts to serve and can weather out the storms so to speak.

The goal is excellence. There are so many types of people, and I’ve played with many of them in various church settings, including here at BCC. There are people who are inexperienced, people who have some experience, and people who are experienced. Obvious right? However, less obvious to many is that one of the most common scenarios in churches I see across the board are teams largely made up of musicians and vocalists who are well established, who've found their stride, but have difficulty branching out in order to move up to a new standard, or vision, that's being established. Having an eager and enthusiastic demeanor is often more valuable than experience! The vision is excellence, and there is a journey to get there, so not being exceptional from the get-go is NOT a disqualifier. But having potential is key. I love to work alongside people who are enthusiastic and eager to accomplish something great.

If there’s one thing that I want to leave you with, it is if God has put something on your heart don't be afraid to let yourself dream about what can happen. We are a little church. But believe me, God can do BIG things. I’m not envisioning team meetings being a big discussion time where everyone voices there opinions: unfortunately, when it comes to the process, we don't all agree. I will be sharing what the process is more for informational purposes. Rather, we will be getting to know each other a little bit, doing some worship together, praying for small things, and for things beyond what may seem possible.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Check This Out

Hey Team,

I've created a blog for the purpose of sharing thoughts, posting links to new songs, and anything else that might be applicable. Every so often, I'll add something and will text out a reminder to check it out. This is for musicians and singers and also for everyone who has any creative ideas for the team and worship service...including sound, media, lighting, and beyond.