Practice vs Rehearsal

This weekend I had the real privilege of leading my church in worship today. Obviously part of the preparation is just learning the songs we’re going to play. There are other aspects to being prepared as a worship leader (prayer, conversations with your pastor, thinking through transitions, etc) but don’t neglect the work of actually spending time with the songs you are leading.




Remember that practice is not the same as rehearsal.


Practice is time for me to learn to play the songs. 

Rehearsal is time for the band to learn to play the songs together.


As someone replied on instagram: Practice is personal, rehearsal is relational.


Vertical Church Band – “Church Songs” Giveaway

Vertical Church Band (web|facebook|twitter) from Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago is releasing their new album, Church Songs, this week. I’ve been listening for a couple of weeks and I’m excited for you to hear these songs! They are strong, Jesus-centred, Jesus-exalting, lyrically rich songs of worship for churches around the world.

Led by Andi Rozier, Harvest’s worship pastor, Vertical Church Band has been writing and recording songs for several years and I’m pretty sure there is no local church producing more songs that I love to sing than Harvest Bible Chapel and Vertical Church Band.




Church Songs features great new songs written by Andi Rozier, Meredith Andrews, Jacob Sooter and other great Harvest songwriters plus collaborators including Mia Fieldes and Jason Ingram.

Check out this webcast from Vertical Church Band to hear a bunch of the songs performed live, some of the stories behind the songs as well as some of the heart of the worship ministry at Harvest and how God is working in their church.


January 20 the album will be available in iTunes but I’ve got 3 copies of Church Songs from Vertical Church Band to give away! The giveaway is open NOW and I’ll announce three winners tomorrow.

Not only that but one of those three winners will win a copy of Church Songs PLUS the two previous albums from Vertical Church Band, Live Worship from Vertical Church and The Rock Won’t Move. These albums are full of great songs that you will want to sing at your church.

One more preview. Here’s a song session of one of my favourites on the album, “Lamb of God”


Good luck! All of the instructions on how to enter the contest are below. Winners will be announced after the contest closes on Tuesday, January 20 at 3pm eastern. Thanks again to Vertical Church Band and Essential Worship for providing the CDs!

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Music is at its most powerful when inhabited by God as His people are gathered. The core purpose of worship music is the church. When God's people come together to lift the name of Jesus, anything is possible. The heartbeat of Vertical Church Band is the local church. Their third recording "Church Songs" was designed with that one end in mind: to serve local church worshippers with singable and accessible songs.
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Excellence and Perfection

Excellence has moved from lofty goal to buzzword to expected performance level when it comes to our times of gathered worship in the church. Of course we want quality and we want focus and we want cool lights (admit it!) and we want people to meet Jesus. Of course.

Last week I was spending some time writing an article on excellence in worship and how to attract, expect and develop excellence. I became pretty convicted over my own definition and expectation of excellence:

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
    with skillful hands he led them.

Psalm 78:72

We make no apologies for high skill and high integrity. When it comes to people serving and leading in our worship ministry we care about heart and hands, character and capability.

And yet we can’t take that desire for excellence all the way that we expect perfection. Excellence and perfection are different things and as leaders we need to decide how much of a gap between those two we will allow. We will never get perfection from ourselves or from anyone on our teams, so where you place the expectation bar will be somewhere below that. The only question is how low.

We ought not to confuse excellence with holiness

Powerful quote. Remember that your expectation for excellence from your team is not equated to their own personal holiness. Don’t apologize for excellence, don’t pretend you’ll get perfect, pray that God will give you much grace.

email audition signupIf you want to read more about this heart and hands concept from Psalm 78 and how you can implement it in your worship ministry I’ve written an ebook called Audition for Change that you can download free here:


Elevation Worship “Wake Up The Wonder” Giveaway

Wake Up The Wonder is the new worship album from Elevation Church based in Charlotte, NC. This collection of new songs recorded live at Time Warner Cable Arena by Elevation Worship is one more step forward for this church, these worship leaders and their vision to see people far from God raised to life in Christ.


Wake Up The Wonder from Elevation Church will be available on Tuesday, November 25 but I’m happy to say I’ve got THREE copies of this album to give away! Enter now and make sure you share the giveaway with friends to get extra entries. Winners will be announced the morning of Tuesday, November 25.

“Wake Up The Wonder is a prayer believing for revival”, explains Elevation Worship. “It’s the stunned and speechless shift from darkness into light, from unconscious into conscious, from spark into fire.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to this album for the last week or so. The lyrics are strong, the focus is on Jesus and the voices are loud. There are some familiar themes here and also some new ideas. I keep coming back to “The King Is Among Us” and really think there is just something special about this song:

Good luck!

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This is one of many stirring declarations of praise to our Creator from the latest Elevation Worship project, Wake Up The Wonder. The new live album was recorded on August 1st in front of an electrifying crowd of 16,000 worshippers at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. The energy of that night, along with the powerful creative expression of each song make this an album full of congregational anthems for churches around the world.

Based on Genesis 28 and the story of Jacob waking up to realize he is in the presence of God, Wake Up The Wonder calls the modern church to do the same. This album seeks to encourage listeners to rediscover the wonder and "Wow Moments" of God in the midst of their everyday lives. Through intricate songwriting and passionate delivery, Elevation hopes to inspire listeners to view their lives as a series of God moments where all things are possible. With upbeat songs centered around freedom and celebration (Look How He Lifted Me, Already Won, Unstoppable God) as well as powerful moments of reflection and gratefulness in the midst of difficulty (Jesus I Come, The King Is Among Us) Wake Up The Wonder is a must have soundtrack to celebrate a risen, living, active God.
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Tutorial: WordSwag and Instagram to Share Songs from Your Church

I’ve been sharing songs we are singing at C4 Church on social media (twitter|instagram|facebook) for a while and people were asking me how I was putting these graphics together. I thought I’d record this quick video to show you how you can use free apps to make great looking graphics to share with your community what’s happening at your church.

PS How much do I love that I can record videos right off my iPhone with Yosemite/iOS 8?? Crazy.

Check it out:


Hum – Songwriting App Review

Every photographer will tell you the best camera is the one you have.

Every songwriter will tell you the best way to capture songs is the device you have. For most songwriters that’s an iPhone and that has meant a jumble of different apps in the songwriting process – Notes, Voice Memos, Evernote, etc.

Hum has changed all that.


Hum is a beautiful all-in-one app for songwriters that pulls together lyrics, melody, notes and high level song data which is catalogued and searchable.

My journey with Hum started when I backed them on Kickstarter about a year ago. Even though their fundraising seemed to be going well they cancelled the pledges on Kickstarter and decided to go the traditional route of producing the app and having customers buy once it was live.

I was more than happy to be a paying customer and my love for this app has grown since it was released.

Continue reading…


3 Dangerous Assumptions for Worship Leaders

Worship leaders, in general, are artists. Artists, in general, tend to be emotionally invested in their own situation. Emotional investment, in general, results in assumptions which have varying degrees of truthiness.

And we all know what happens when we assume.


Tweet this: 3 Dangerous Assumptions for Worship Leaders. Don’t be a donkey.

I’ve been leading worship for almost 20 years and I certainly fall into the category of emotionally invested artist. Time and time again I’m reminded that there are assumptions I make, there are assumptions I used to make and there will be assumptions I will make in the future which are wrong, unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

Not dangerous in the sense of “look both ways before you cross the street” or “don’t stick that fork in the electrical outlet” but dangerous in the sense that our hearts can become callous, our passion can fade and our sense of entitlement can grow over time. Dangerous, especially for those of us called to lead God’s people in worship.

So let me outline three of these dangerous assumptions that I have seen worship leaders (including myself) make and give some solutions which will be helpful for you.

Continue reading…

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When You’re Out of the Picture

I’m sure mine is not the only church with a running joke about staff only having to work one day a week. Worship pastors get to take this to the next level when we say, “And all I have to do is play guitar!”

If only this were true.

Worship leaders are passionate about leading. We love to be involved on Sundays. We love creating moments where people can experience the presence of the Lord and passionately express their worship to God. Worship leaders are also human and we have very real, physical limits.

We need times to rest and recharge or else eventually we’ll be dead. Whether we choose to or not, there will be a time for our church when we’re out of the picture. The choice we have to make is how we’re going to prepare our teams and our church for those Sundays when we aren’t there, either because we’re away or because our time at that church is done.

Earlier this year I moved from the church where I had been the Director of Worship for 8 years and came on staff as the Worship Pastor at my new church. Over the last few years at my previous church I had the unique opportunity to prepare my church for the reality of me not being there.

I want to share with you three very specific habits you need to develop if you want to prepare your team for your absence.

Commit to Equipping

A few years ago the pastoral staff at my church decided together that our roles needed to be primarily and explicitly about equipping. Ephesians 4 needed to be more than just a nice idea. The words of that chapter needed to be the hallmark and the standard of how our staff spends our time, energy, and focus.

You can often take the call to equip the saints for the work of the ministry to one of two very negative extremes: first, the perception that staff are trying to offload the work they were hired to do; and second, the perception that staff are simply trying to burden other people with more work.

What does good, healthy, biblical equipping look like? Ephesians 4 tells us that the equipper knows their calling, giftedness, and purpose and the fruit of the equipping is that more work of the ministry gets done.

In their book The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne develop the image that in church work there is trellis (the supporting structures to see growth happen) and the vines (gospel ministry). Staff, building, programs, events – these are all trellis. Equipping, discipleship, worship, fruit of the Spirit on display and in action – these are the vines.

The goal and ideal relationship between these two in any church is to have as much vine as possible with as little trellis as possible. Have as much gospel ministry taking place with as little official structure required.

What’s the most effective way for this to happen? A small group of equippers developing a larger group of co-laborers who can then, over time, become equippers of equippers and so on. How do we do this as worship leaders within the context of Sunday morning? Three ideas:

  • Have a two-way commitment with a group of leaders who are current or potential Sunday morning worship leaders. Ask them to read specific books and meet with you to discuss them. Ask them to commit to a certain number of Sunday mornings per month or quarter. Prioritize feedback and conversations with them about worship and leadership. Pray for them as you do this together.
  • Include your whole team in discussions on what you are trying to accomplish. Normally, during our Thursday evening rehearsal, I walk through our Sunday service with our team and let them know what kind of experience we are trying to create and if we are going to be calling for a certain response. They begin to see why I’ve chosen certain songs or how I’ve laid the service out to achieve this.
  • Co-lead with them. When I’m developing a new worship leader, I schedule them for a couple Sundays in a row or maybe three Sundays out of four and ask them to co-lead with me. At first it may be to simply introduce one song, speak through one transition, or pray at one spot. The next week it might be to lead a set of songs or do the welcome and call to worship. Each time I work with the person leading up to that weekend to make sure we’re setting them up to succeed.

If there is no culture of equipping at your church, you can forget about your teams being prepared for you to be gone – either in an emergency situation like sickness or in the eventual situation that God calls you away from your church.

Clarify Roles

As a worship leader, I know you do so much more than choose and lead songs for your church. You’re scheduling communion servers, choosing backgrounds for lyric slides, asking people to lead congregational prayers, making sure the thermostat is set to the right temperature, going out of your way to meet new people who show up, making sure the person doing announcements knows where their mic will be… and that’s all before you get up and say “Good morning!” on Sunday.

When a Sunday comes and you aren’t there, it’s important to have clarity for these tasks and know who’s responsible for making sure all of these things happen. In the summer of 2012 I had the great opportunity to be on sabbatical from my church. I was away for 3 months – 13 Sundays.

Before I left, part of my job was to make sure I had people lined up to carry the extra workload brought on by my absence. I wasn’t responsible for planning three months of Sundays, but I was responsible for making sure the right people were in place for that to happen while I was gone.

Obviously this took time and work. We actually began working on my sabbatical plan about 18 months out and putting some of the details in place 12 months out. We had a commitment to quality for Sunday morning and we wouldn’t let something like me not being there be an excuse for poor quality.

Clarify Expectations

When I know I’m going to be away for a Sunday, I now have confidence in my team and the people we have developed that they can carry the majority of the work to make Sunday happen. We’ve committed to equipping and we’ve clarified roles with the right people, but it’s still up to me to clarify expectations. Here’s an example of unclarified expectations:

“Hi Tim. I’m going to be away on Sunday six weeks from now and you are scheduled to lead. Can you plan the service? Mark is preaching on Colossians 3 and there’s a missionary visiting.”

What have I done? I definitely haven’t set Tim up to succeed. I haven’t supported my pastor in making sure we’re going to have a great worship service when I’m gone. And I’m not serving my congregation very well by doing everything I can to make sure they are given the opportunity to worship. What would be better? Here are clarified expectations:

“Hi Tim. I’m going to be away on Sunday six weeks from now and you are scheduled to lead. Can you plan the service?

  • It would be great if we could have a call to worship using Psalm 121, then two upbeat opener songs.
  • During announcements we’ll have a report from one of our missionaries. Julie is taking care of details and I’ve asked her to be in touch with you on how this will happen.
  • Out of the missionary report, let’s do a song that talks about God’s love for the world and move into a time of just singing about and celebrating God’s love.
  • Mark’s preaching on Colossians 3 and you should connect with him about his outline and what he’d like as a response section. I know he’ll be talking about the importance of encouraging one another’s faith when we gather.”

See the difference? I know this is a simplified example and life doesn’t always work out this way, but if you’ve created a culture of equipping and are having conversations like this with worship leaders and people on your team, they will be ready and able to step in during a week when you’re out of the picture.

the worship bully

The Worship Bully

Lift it up! Sing it out! Raise your hands! Get your praise on!

Sometime worship leading can sound less like encouragement and more like jazzercise.

Worship leaders, I get it. I completely understand. You want nothing more than for your congregation to revel in and drink deeply of the blessings God has for them in worship.

Your heart burns for them to experience joy and peace and satisfaction in the presence of God as they passionately pour out their praises to Him.

You long for the day when your church would be known as that place where 1 Chronicles 16 worship happens, where your services are described by Psalm 96, and where Colossians 3 worship is expected and happening.

Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
1 Chronicles 16:9-10 (NIV)

Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Psalm 96:9 (NIV)

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.
Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

We long for this as artists and worship leaders because somewhere along the way we’ve tasted and we’ve seen. We’ve stood still in the thin place between heaven and earth. We have seen what can happen when the people of God turn back to the cross, lift their eyes to God, fall on their faces, confess their deep need of grace and mercy, and celebrate the goodness of God in every circumstance of life – this is worship and we want everyone to experience this!

Somewhere along the journey something clicked for us. “I’ve experienced this and know this is true and good and possible. I want nothing more than for other people to experience the same thing and find this same reality of the presence of God.” We were given opportunities to do that, encouraged, trained, developed and resourced so that now we are in the scary-yet-secure position of standing before people and helping them to do these things we know can be possible.

Turn from your sin.

Lift your eyes to God.

Celebrate His goodness and His grace.

Drink deep from the blessings He has for you.

Please. I beg of you. You need to do this.

In our desire for our congregations to seek the good things of God in worship, we can sometimes make the focus about the experience and not about God. We make it about the songs and not about the Savior. We make it about the art and not the Artisan.

We’ve all done it and we’ve all been there. We base our success as a worship leader on raised hands, weepy eyes, decibels, and broken strings.  We may have unintentionally created some kind of worship success formula that looks like this:

(Raised hands + Tear-streamed cheeks – arms crossed) x Peak dB level / number of people = Worship Success Ratio

And because of our humanity and our desire for our people to enjoy and express their passion of God, we become worship cheerleaders – Jazzercise for Jesus instructors.

Lift it up! Sing it out! Raise your hands! Get your praise on!

Is there anything wrong with encouragement and exhortation? Of course not. On some level, our congregations need exactly that, because worship is not our first tendency. Singing is not a regular part of our culture, and your people are not as focused and ready as you probably think they are.

So we should definitely make encouragement part of our worship leading. Psalm 121 has been so instructive and helpful.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)

Part of leading corporate worship is encouraging and helping your people to turn their eyes away from the things that have been begging for their attention and affection all week.

Turn away from the hills and lift your eyes to God.

Turn away from the distractions and look to the Creator.

Turn away from your own uncertainty and despair and questioning and return again to our firm foundation, our only hope, and our solid rock.

As we do that, we certainly want to encourage expression and engagement. But there is certainly a tightrope to be walked here. Part of our maturing and growing as worship leaders is being able to see and recognize when our encouragement is more about generating a response from the people rather than directing our attention and affection toward Jesus.

So how do we actually do this? Let me give you three ideas that may be helpful and allow you to use them as a starting point as you explore this.

1. Talk with your pastor

Whether you have a great relationship with your senior pastor or not, you need to realize and remember that he or she has put their trust in you to lead the flock they are called to shepherd. We submit to the authority of our pastor and this is one of those areas. Ask your pastor how you are doing in this area. Are you helping to lead and encourage genuine worship on Sunday mornings? How can we do this better?

2. Call people to worship

Many contemporary evangelical churches have swung the pendulum so far away from liturgy that we are terrified to even go there. Spend some time thinking about the first thing you are going to say on Sunday morning to open your service. How will you call people away from distractions so they can turn their eyes to God?

3. Instruct strategically

Find one spot in your worship set where you can call for a specific physical response as an expression of a spiritual reality. It might be raising hands to signify our desire for God to be lifted higher than all others in our lives. It might be kneeling to signify our submission to the will of God. It might be singing loudly to show our willingness to celebrate the goodness of God.

You can do this. God is with you. He wants nothing more than for your church to experience those things that you understand so deeply. God wants to meet with your people as you gather to worship Him. He promises to do exactly that.

Lead the way. Don’t bully.

This post was originally posted over at Sunday Magazine which is an incredible resource for worship leaders and creative directors. Make sure you check it out!