Category Archives: contemporary worship

The Importance of Technological Competency for Leaders

dj-865173_1280I’ll admit. I’m a bit biased as I have a natural bent toward technology and gadgets. For the most part, they have served me well and an overall knowledge of what is possible through the use of technology for communicating with excellence as well as culturally engaging ways, has proved to be a useful leverage for my ministry. But this post is not about me, but the benefits that this knowledge has brought me over the years. I would love to share a few thoughts with you, that whether technology is your natural bent or not, on how a better knowledge of it can serve you and your team better. The truth is, while many of us may not be “techies”, technology itself is not going away. In a very real sense (good or bad–that’s another post entirely), it has become the language in which the world speaks.

It helps you connect with your staff and volunteers

One thing a decent overall view of technology will help you do is communicate better with your tech staff and/or volunteers and help you speak their language. They live in a world that the evangelical church for the most part is still struggling to understand, and as a result, they often feel misunderstood and underappreciated. Having at least a cursory sense of what their responsibilities entail and knowing how to communicate reasonable expectations to them, can make a world of difference in your church culture and the practical outcomes that you experience each week. People who feel understood and appreciated will work exponentially more effectively than those who do not. And the truth is, it’s difficult for them to feel truly appreciated if they believe you have no idea what they actually do. By speaking their language, you open up a door to deeper relationships and increased productivity from those who are so vital to the effectiveness of your ministry.

It helps you set reasonable expectations

When a leader has very little concept of what is entailed in a creative project, it becomes very easy to set unreasonable expectations and/or get less than stellar results. Your tech and creative staff by nature are often “people pleasers” in that they truly want to please those whom they serve. Because of this, they will often not communicate how they feel about your expectations even when they know they are unreasonable. The result is often either burned out staff and volunteers (at best), loss of morale in the overall creative culture, or disastrous and less-than-desirable results, or all of the above. When you have a general understanding of what is entailed in technology and creative projects, you will set better expectations for your volunteers and staff as well as get more consistent, quality results. I believe you would agree that our people and our ministries are worth it.

It helps you save resources

In many church cultures, the attitude is often that “technology costs money, therefore we don’t value it, because we can’t afford it.” The truth is actually often quite the opposite. A well known financial radio host often says “Never spend more than $300 on something you don’t fully understand.” This is great advice. However, as with much technological advancements, when fully understood, what costs you $300 could save you thousands or more over the long run.

There are many things in life that technology, no matter how advanced can never replace–mainly meaningful human interaction. However, I’ve seen so many processes in churches that don’t increase the value of human interaction but are human resource intensive or costly that otherwise could be simplified and streamlined through the use of technology. Why would I take good people away from meaningful ministry with others to perform dull, monotonous tasks that a computer and some relatively inexpensive software could leverage at far less personnel costs or the sacrifice of meaningful ministry interaction. Yeah, I wouldn’t and you wouldn’t either. But we don’t know what we don’t know. As a leader it’s important to seek out input from our staff, volunteers and those outside our church walls to gain exposure to ways we can make our ministries more effective by helping people to do what only people can do–make more and better disciples of Jesus. Let people do what only people can do and let’s leverage other avenues for accomplishing some necessary, but less important tasks.

It helps you ask better questions

When you have an understanding of the technological options available and what is possible through those, it helps you ask better questions of your team. While creatives and technical staff seem to often want to color outside the lines, the truth is, most of the time they need (and want) boundaries. Yes, they hate to be micromanaged, but they also enjoy the freedom of working freely within well-defined expectations. When you know what is possible, you are free to ask the questions of your team that they love to hear. One of the greatest questions I’ve learned to ask in creative meetings is “How might we (fill in the blank)?”. I usually don’t ask the question without having a few ideas of my own to help prime the pump, but I also realize that rarely are my ideas the best ideas in the room. Having a general understanding of what is possible through technological means, can help your team enjoy more creativity and achieve better results.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful in gaining a greater understanding of how to better leverage technology for ministry:

I’m glad that at BBC, where I serve as faculty, we are addressing this through more focussed classes on technology in church music and ministry. If you haven’t had an opportunity, click the link above and see if could be right for you. Several online opportunities are available as well.

What would you add to this list? What are some ways in which technology has hurt or helped your ministry?


With Thanksgiving approaching, you may find yourself in a place where you are wondering what in the world you’re going to be thankful for this year. For you, this year may look very different from last year–it certainly does for me. Maybe you find yourself on the mountaintop or maybe you are wondering what in the world you’re going to do next. Maybe you’ve lost a marriage, a family member, a love,  your job, your sanity or maybe all of the above.Thanksgiving Crossroads

You may have more to be thankful for than you know but it may look very different than you think. Don’t stop. Keep looking. I’m looking too.


Does God Care About My Preferences?

applesIn discussing corporate worship, the idea of preferences comes up a lot. While our preferences help to shape us into who we are, not all preferences are created equal. I’m not speaking of whether someone likes rock, hip hop, or classical (though this definitely applies here), I’m speaking more that there may be better questions.

In a recent Facebook post I made a brief statement thanking my wife for picking me up a bag of cortland apples and made some offhand, tongue-in-cheek remark of how those apples can “change your life”. Several responses (much more than normal for me) followed of both curiosity about these particular apples and several opinions of why another’s choice of apple was superior to my own. While I will never understand why anyone would not enthusiastically agree that a Cortland apple is, by far, the best apple on the planet, this brief exchange between me and a few of my Facebook pals may have something to teach us all. Below are three thoughts that I hope can help to inform us to ask even better questions.

1. God is far more concerned with His purposes than with our preferences.

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” – Psalm 33:11

Does God know that I like Cortland apples? Sure he does! He created me and whether the propensity for this preference is somehow genetic or the result of the region in which I grew up or some combination of both, I’ll let the scientists decide that. However, it is no secret to God. However, in the grand scheme of God’s kingdom and His greater purpose, does my preference of Cortland apples really change the world? —No, most definitely not (as much as I hate to admit!).

In regards to how we look at corporate worship, I think there are also some applications here as well. In Kingdom and covenant living, it is important that we be asking the better questions of “what is God’s purpose and how can I join Him in it?”. Also, “…what is the greater good of the faith community of which I’m a part and how can I help fulfill my calling and gifts to serve the body?”

2. God knows there is a greater joy that is far deeper and more meaningful than our own personal, temporal pleasure.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1b-2

There is no greater example of the life that is offered to us, than what we see in Jesus. Christ’s ultimate purpose was to glorify the Father by reconciling the world to Himself. He has called us to join Him in that purpose as well and has given us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). When we align with God’s greater purpose, seek to know Him and make Him known, we set ourselves up to experience a far deeper and greater joy than any temporal preference could ever offer us.

God has called us to build bridges with the culture around us as we seek to engage in the conversation of reconciliation, and often, that means that we may be inconvenienced and uncomfortable as we seek to relate and get involved. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to leave His rightful place in Heaven to come to earth to live, move and walk among us. It was a great sacrifice, but He also knew there would be a greater joy.

3.  Our personal freedom is not primarily for self-consumption, but for the context of a covenant relationship

In the garden of Eden, God presented a choice to Adam and Eve. Without the ability to choose, love is not love. Love is a choice to seek the good and welfare of another ahead (and often at the expense) of our own. That is what our freedom should ultimately be about. Living in affluent materialism in the West has inadvertently taught us that our primary and most patriotic duty is to “consume” while the Kingdom economy is more about creating and giving. We all have preferences and that is totally ok!  However, our preferences are not created as much for consumption as they are for us to enjoy the grace of giving (and receiving) in a covenant relationship.

In my story of the apples above, this story may look a lot different if I took a different approach to my preferences that looked like this: 1) I like Cortland apples 2) Everyone should like Cortland apples 3) As head of my home, I demand that all of my family not only eat, but prefer Cortland apples. Boy, that sounds fun, doesn’t it?

I may get what I want more often, but at the expense of all of the relationships around me. However, my wife’s simple thought at the grocery store was way more fun for both of us. I don’t think she even ate one of those apples, but she was thinking about me and I think that’s pretty cool! If I know her, she probably got even more pleasure from giving them than I did in eating them.

A Better Way

In our culture and in our churches, it is a good reminder for all of us to be reminded of our covenant relationship with God, His Church and our ministry of reconciliation. How do our decisions, choices and preferences play into God’s greater purpose and how can we join Him in that?  These are the better questions. And in the mean time, as we are busy making much of Him and becoming the people He desires us to be, in His infinite grace, He may just surprise us with some “apples” of our own.  So. Does God care about our preferences? —Absolutely, but maybe not the way we may have thought. How do you like them apples? :-)

How have you seen this in your own life?  What other questions should we be asking?

Vision, Values and Lowell Mason

Park Street Church

Boston is a great city. Every time I have the opportunity to visit, I’m brought face to face with its blend of remarkable history and its current relevancy and influence in the current affairs of today. I’m currently sitting in the Thinking Cup Cafe (hoping this really helps me!) across from Boston Common reviewing notes on the life of Lowell Mason, a great church musician,educator,entrepreneur and Boston native. I’m presenting some of this research as part of an intensive class I’m currently teaching at Boston Baptist College. Yesterday in class we were discussing the importance of having a working philosophy of music and worship for those in worship leadership. I came across this summary of Mason’s outlook on church music which I found to be interesting. This was compiled by Carol Pemberton based on a lecture Mason gave in 1826 at the Hanover Street Church in Boston.

  • Church music must be simple, chaste, correct, and free of ostentation.
  • The text must be handled with as much care as the music; each must enhance the other.
  • Congregational singing must be promoted.
  • Capable choirs and judiciously used instruments, particularly the organ, are indispensable aids to services.
  • A solid music education for all children is the only means of genuine reform in church music.
  • Musicianship per se is subordinate to facilitating worship.

While some of the relevancy of his thoughts above may be questioned today (though much of it is quite valid), I would also suggest that his influence continues because he took the time to write it down and share it with others. I would like to share a few thoughts for worship leaders who are currently working out their own thinking regarding corporate worship and encourage those who are not currently thinking about this to begin to work it out in their own minds and begin to incorporate it into their ministries. If the majority of evangelical churches spend close to half of our corporate worship gatherings being involved in congregational music and expression, I believe it is important that we have a sound rationale for why we behave this way. I think there are some important things we can consider regarding working out our values for corporate worship and why that matters today.

A working worship philosophy will prevent you from being forcefully bound to antiquated traditions.

If you’ve seen the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, you can recall Tevye and his uncompromising love for “traditions….(insert Russian music)…traditions.” Like Tevye, often we find ourselves blindly bound to the way things have always been. Now, there’s nothing wrong with traditions, necessarily. They can provide us with structure and stability so that we can pour our energies into the most important things in life. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. Occasionally, however, it doesn’t hurt to question these “wheels” and evaluate their effectiveness. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad the Wright brothers thought outside the “wheel” and found a better way to travel. As was the case with these revolutionaries, anytime you question established norms, you will have your critics and skeptics who wish you anything but the best. But based on principle, good information and determination, they pressed on and now most of those critics, if they were alive today, would gladly get on an airplane for a far away trip when given the option. When our traditions stand in the way of our core values, it’s time to rethink the tradition. Jesus, in Mark 7, had some things to say about this as well. The Pharisees had taken the Law and added their own interpretations and applications to it. While the creators of the traditions mentioned in Mark 7 may have had the best of intentions, by the time Jesus gets on the scene, these traditions were standing in the way of real life transformation. When our traditions do the same, it’s time for honest reevaluation.

A working corporate worship philosophy will keep you from being aimlessly swept around by passing fads and public opinion.

Most of us can probably hear our mother saying with that certain tone, “If the rest of your friends [insert rediculous metaphor here], would you do it too?”. You have to admit, “mamma” had some wisdom there, as annoying as it may have seemed at the time. Many of us should ask the same question of our leadership now as well. Often we make mistakes when we try to emulate others’ success in a different context and thoughtlessly apply it to our own. There are some exciting trends and advancements in the arena of corporate worship today. Using modern instrumentation, visual aids, creative planning and communication can all be excellent tools in sharing the timeless message of the gospel. The danger is often, that because prominent ministries are using certain tools and techniques, and have an appearance of “success”, without thinking, we assume that these same tools and techniques will work in our context as well. They may. They may not. Borrowing from the words of Stephen Covey it’s important that we “begin with the end in mind” and not get too quickly awestruck by the latest and greatest methods when they have little value to our own context or environment. At the same time, staying current with the latest trends and developments in your field can help you to be more informed and often more effective. Don’t be afraid to think outside the “wheel” on your own as well or you might might miss the next “flight”. Who knows, maybe you will be the next trend setter! Having a working worship philosophy will free you to be innovative while ensuring that you also remain effective.

A working corporate worship philosophy will provide purpose, freedom and direction for the future.

One of the questions I’m asked most often is “where are we going with the worship program at our church?”. This is a valid question and may indicate that I have not been as effective as I need to be in communicating the vision and principles that drive us. Having a working worship philosophy and set of values that you faithfully communicate to your team can go a long way in making sure that this question is answered for your people as well as creating better by-in for your ministry. It helps to ensure that your decisions are made on purpose and can help give some of us “creative types” better confidence in the decisions that we make by knowing that we have made decisions based on timeless principles, rather than letting our desire to be creative get in the way of being effective. In those times when your creativity makes you more effective, then by all means…create away! This does not mean that there is no room for creative expression for its own sake (and for God’s glory). It simply means that in the context of community, creativity should always be employed with the responsibility to edify the church as a whole.

Your vision and values will also help give you freedom to explore all of your creative options without the fear of nullifying your current progress. Once you have effectively identified your purpose, you have the creative freedom to explore every possible option that can help you and your church express a greater love and devotion to the Lord. Our nations founding fathers knew the value of marrying freedom and responsibility. For example, the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy and consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. A certain Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Much like the implication of responsibility in Franklin’s answer, our spiritual freedom in worship is best exercised in the context of serving and edifying the church.

In the same way our nation’s founding documents help to preserve certain values, they have also helped to provide direction and vision for the future. Your vision and values can work for you in much the same way. While our nation has strayed from many of the principles that were established early on, because of the effort of these men and the providence of God, we still have a constitutional republic that is free from tyranny and stands as a beacon of freedom and opportunity for many. Even though the early founders of our country probably could have never imagined airplanes, cell phones, or the internet, the principles they laid down helped to pave the way for the freedom to innovate in the future. Your vision and values can do the same for you. I may not know exactly what corporate worship will look like 5-10 years from now for the congregation I serve, but I do know that I am committed to the core principles and vision that will help us to be intentional, effective and creative for future generations.

What are you doing to develop and communicate your core values and vision with your team? Please share your thoughts and anything that is working for you. In the next post, I will lay out the process I have used to develop these resources for myself.

ChurchLife Worship Band “Our God”

ChurchLife Worship Band release "Our God"

I am looking forward to the release of the ChurchLife Worship band project “Our God” on April 7th!  It is the culmination of an idea to be able to share some of the music that students will enjoy at the conference and be able to take part of their experience home with them. We also are excited to showcase several original songs written by Trinity students and alumni (including “Isaiah 53”, “Cry out Your Name” and “Only Hope” among others) and share with others the blessing that we have already experienced as God has used many of these songs in a powerful way in several of the different worship venues within our ministry.

We will be hosting a CD Release event on Friday, April 8th in the new E-Theater on our campus at 9pm during the “after hours” activities at the ChurchLife Student Conference. You can RSVP by clicking here. We’ll also be hosting a song review of your own original songs for a scholarship opportunity as well as the opportunity to have your song featured on the next recording. You can pre-order the album for $10 by clicking here.

The album features the ChurchLife Worship Band as well as “Lifesong”, one of our traveling groups from Trinity Baptist College.  All of these will be leading live at the ChurchLife Student Conference. It was an honor to work with these talented students and band members. We had a lot to do in a very short amount of time, but all of these guys worked hard and brought their best at every session (even singing through sickness!). I’m proud of everyone that had a part in making this album a reality including those who gave sacrificially to make this possible. We are indebted to so many who shared in the vision of how God could take a small idea and magnify it into something that will bring glory and honor to Him. We hope that you will enjoy listening to “our God” half as much as we did in making it!

In future posts, I will be chronicling some of the details of the process from our first days in the studio to final completion along with a link to a free download from the project. Stay tuned!

“Our God” Track listing:

1. Our God
2. We Belong to You
3. Forever Reign
4. Cry Out Your Name
5. Glorious Day
6. You are More
7. Isaiah 53
8. Only Hope (click for a free download)
9. How He Loves
10. Open Our Eyes
11. Greatness of Our God

Quick Mix Fix

The Problem

You present the greatest message known to man, week in and week out. You’re attracting more and more talent to your church. You think you have a great band and you work tirelessly to prepare, but what happened this last Sunday–the mic squeel, feedback, bass guitar out of control, acoustic guitar distorting–is just proof that Satan does not only inhabit deacons, but sound systems as well (just kidding on the deacon part–I think).

There is no question the devil wants to battle every inch of ground that you take for the Kingdom’s sake, however, let’s not give our enemy more credit than necessary. Often, good sound can not only come from a successful exorcism, but a well-trained sound tech that knows how to use the tools he/she has.

Often, churches will usually purchase about 3 sound systems before they end up with the one that meets their needs. Sometimes this is due to poor purchasing advice (or worse, none at all), and sometimes it’s due to putting technicians in places that musicians belong. If a person cannot discern what good sound is (quality/balanced sound appropriate for the genre), then no matter how many knobs they turn, you will not get pleasing results–and after all, music is supposed to sound good.


One way to help curb this issue is to audition your sound personnel before you invest any time/money in training them. Make sure they know what good audio sounds like. One resource is the S.A.T. (The Soundman Aptitude Test). You can find this resource at

Once you’ve qualified your personnel effectively, another resource that can be of immediate improvement to your sound is a training website called Own the Mix. These guys have compiled a significant library of training videos in real-life situations that will help your volunteers to dial in to good sound week after week. You can find them at There is also a forum and other networking tools to help your team to connect with others that are on the journey to better quality sound. For a very reasonable price, you can give your team the tools to succeed week after week.

It helps to have a quality car and driver to win a race. It’s not a lot different when it comes to church sound. If you put a 6 year-old in a Formula One car and expect them to break any records, you may be a little disappointed. On the flip side, Mario Andretti in a Yugo…well, you get the point.

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