I am so excited right now about what God is doing in our Worship culture! It has been a slow process, but I see people starting to come with a sense of expectancy every week. By this I don’t mean an expectancy for excellent music, videos, sermon, etc. (which I hope are a by-product of our efforts), but rather an expectancy to truly meet with the Creator on a deeper level. Obviously the bigger picture here is personal discipleship, and daily personal Worship among the congregation (which has been our focus over the past year). We are making our way from the mindset of having a weekly “service” to more of a “Worship gathering” of mature followers of Christ, and it is a beautiful thing to watch! I hear people singing out things such as “I may be weak, but your spirit’s strong in me”, and “If Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us”. The Sunday “masks” are coming off and people are starting to see our need for something greater!

So now that we all have the right idea about Worship, what’s next?

I think we can all agree that God can really speak to us through the arts in a way like no other. Nothing speaks of creation like things created by His Holy inspiration. One area that I feel strongly can enhance our weekly corporate experience is the technical arts. Yes we should be able to Worship God anywhere, anytime, and in any environment, but how special is it when we put our BEST efforts into creating an environment that allows us to freely express our corporate Worship however we feel led? When I come into a house of Worship, I desire to have the freedom to get lost in the spirit of the Lord. I want to feel like I can sing out, raise my hands, & shout his praise. I want to feel like it is just me and God no matter how many people are in the room. I want to be in awe of everything about this experience! While I don’t think we can “create” these personal experiences, I DO think we can enhance the environment for them to take place. I think we can use the resources God has given us to create such an environment that can truly speak of his glory, power, & creativity!

So that’s the “what” and the “why”, but what about the “when”?

I feel like the BEST time for these creative enhancements are when we are all growing the most. During the upcoming “Not a Fan” spiritual growth challenge, we will be adding these creative elements (new lights) to simply add to the corporate experience of growing together. Regardless of personal preference, or even spiritual maturity, I hope that we can all enjoy this new environment together as we continue to seek the face of God on a weekly basis. My prayer is that it will never become for us about any environment, but rather the God who is in it.

Worshiping Him with You,

Kris-

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

In my short two years of being a Worship Pastor I have stumbled upon quite a few mistakes. Some were learned very graciously, while others seemed to be only learned through heartache & experience. My goal for this blog is to encourage those starting out in ministry and/or those on the track to full-time ministry.

Lesson #1-People Matter!

I started my full-time ministry journey as a Tech Director (my other passion!). From the time I was 12, I ran sound, setup all sorts of systems, etc. in the church. At the time I was hired, there was already someone in the Worship Pastor position, so naturally, I was brought on as part of that team to add structure and constancy to it. My first day on the job, I was running sound for practice when the sound volunteer came in. I then proceeded to explain to him that I needed to truly get a feel for this particular sound system, bands, etc, and that for the next couple months or so the volunteers would become the “A-2” or assistant engineer. He then responded with “so what am I even doing here?”. Being the caring, considerate, ministry minded person that I was, I responded with “I’m really not sure”. WOW! Really? That’s all I could say to this faithful volunteer that was here before I was even on the radar of this ministry? Classic programs over people comment! This guy all but left the ministry that day! If it was not for the heart of the Worship Pastor at the time, we would have never heard from this guy again!

Since this time, God has shaped my heart into truly caring, loving, and encouraging volunteers. While we never settle for any less than giving our “best” to God, we also never put excellence over people. This my friends HAS TO BE a “both and” scenario to be successful in Worship ministry!

Lesson #2-Authenticity Matters!

Coming straight from college as a music major, my first priority (even in the tech position) was EXCELLENCE! Yes I had a relationship with God, but it was nowhere near the depth it needed to be for full-time ministry. At every turn, I was pushing for the best equipment, musicians, practice times, etc. We would certainly pray before practice, meetings, etc. (but really because that is what we were supposed to do). After fighting what seemed to be an uphill battle, I finally opened my heart to God and asked Him to simply “fill me up” with his spirit, strength, wisdom, etc. I knew in my head that “you can never lead someone spiritually where you have not been yourself”, but I guess I just thought of it as some sort of spiritual guide rather than an absolute truth. Since this time, I have had a weekly time of personal “Sanctuary” every week where I get alone with God and ask for His spirit to be present in my life both privately and corporately. I cannot tell you how He has revealed his character, love, comfort, etc. through me (tech directing, naturally tactic, me) to others. Corporate Worship has seemed to continue to become richer in both intimacy and response. I KNOW THIS IS ALL DUE TO SPENDING TIME IN THE WORD & PRAYER, AND BEING DESPERATE FOR JESUS IN MY LIFE!

Lesson #3-You’re Presence Matters!

This lesson was actually learned this past week as I stepped out during a video that was brought by one of our guest speakers. This guy was from India and was sharing about persecution of Christians in his country. I knew he was talking about some of these things before I left, but I had no idea that he was going to show a very graphic persecution video after his message. I came in during the prayer (you know, because that’s how we do), put on my guitar, got my mic ready etc. I then proceeded to lead “Send me Out” by Steve Fee. Not only was the mood of the song totally wrong (real happy & fast) after this video, but it literally has the line “I wanna give my life away for your kingdom’s sake” in the verse. To make matters worse, I was then still peppy during my offering talk and light-heartedly thanked the missionary for all that he does in his country for the gospel. I received blank, non-responsive stares from everyone in the room and I had no idea why. After first service, one of the guitar players pulled me aside and said “that didn’t feel right”, did you even see that video? At was then that I knew we had to do something for second service. I felt the tension during the song, but just thought they didn’t connect with the song. We changed the song to “Our God”, which sent out a whole different message about “if our God is for us, than who could ever stop us”. Much more fitting than the previous. The point here is BE A PART OF THE REST OF THE SERVICE, NOT JUST THE WORSHIP TIME!

4-Your’e Relationship with the Lead (Senior) Pastor Matters!

Whether it is connecting the dots for a service, planning sermon series, or simply having the same ministry “heartbeat”, the relationship between the Worship Pastor and the Lead Pastor has to be awesome! This for me was one of those “extra good” lessons I learned. What I mean by that is our services, programming, themes were OK before this was true of the Worship ministry. However, now communicating regularly with the Lead Pastor, it seems to be more excellent than ever. By having the series’ planned six months out, we are able to stay on top of the creative process with videos, graphics, skits, songs, etc. By having our weekly programming meetings, we are able to truly hear the “heartbeat” of the upcoming message for that week and formulate our thoughts, transitions, etc to compliment it. And lastly, (most importantly) we are able to stay in sync with the overall vision, mission, & “movement” of the Worship culture. This relationship is priceless, and a MUST for having meaningful weekend Worship gatherings!

Lesson #5-Making Disciples Matters (but it starts at home!)

The missions statement at Eastridge is “We exist to make disciples who Love God, Love People, & Reach the World”. For the past two years, we have put almost all efforts towards discipleship. We had extensive weekly discussions on who we were discipling, how to disciple them, and how to teach them to do the same. While it took me nearly six months to form these discipleship relationships, it has proved to be the most effective use of my ministry time. On the contrary, I slowly felt myself being pulled away from my family. Obviously like any other initiative, discipleship came with a cost. I found myself spending most of my time, emotional energy, and spiritual focus on these men I was discipling. While it was beneficial to them, it weighed on my family life. I would come home exhausted from the day, and have zero emotional or even physical energy left. THIS WAS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I then realized 2 things: 1) I needed to set discipleship boundaries & 2)I need to not spend another second of energy discipling anyone, unless I was first discipling (and spiritually leading) my family. DISCIPLESHIP STARTS AT HOME!

I hope you can learn from “my lessons” in ministry, without having to experience them first hand! The life of a minister is both the most fulfilling, and one of the hardest things on the planet. There has to be a balance of time, energy, focus, & heart to go around. If we ever miss the mark, it is usually because one of these areas are out of balance.

How about you…have you experienced some of these same “lessons” in ministry?

How can I pray for you in your current ministry journey?

Posted: November 15, 2011 in Technology, Uncategorized, Worship

OK…so I am usually not big on writing practical blogs, but here of late I have had a few friends asking for the secrets I have found along the way in my pursuit of excellence in Worship through music. Some are tangible things, and some are just areas that are crucial to any Worship environment. So, here are my Top 5 non-negotiables in creating excellence from the musical side of the Worship environment:

1-Click Track

We just started using click track on a regular basis about 6 months ago. Let me tell you, IT HAS BEEN THE DIFFERENCE MAKER when it comes to setting a tempo that achieves the desired outcome. I’m sure you have been a part of a musical endeavor where the song was either way too slow and ended up dragging along, or somewhere along the way hit the “boost” button and spun out of control. With click track, you can set the desired tempo to the exact groove, rock/pop, or “dreamy” speed that you want to create very easily. Click takes the pressure off of the drummer to begin with the right tempo, and to maintain the proper tempo. I actually tell the drummers that everyone (including them) is to follow the click track, and if at any point they get off of it, they will probably be by themselves. I always make the joke with the band that “you gotta have your priorities straight…you know…God, Family, Click Track”. Seriously the best practical thing we have implemented thus far.

2-In-Ear Monitors

Obviously, you cannot run click track through wedge monitors & certainly not through the house. In-Ear monitors for me are another one of those things that can make or break a Worship environment. You can bury guitar cabinets (which I strongly suggest), put a shield around the drums, and line-in the bass, but if the audible wedge monitors are still blaring, the house WILL suffer every time. To add a layer to this, I would also suggest (where the budget allows) adding an Aviom system to the mix. This can eliminate the need for a monitor sound engineer (or in most circles, the need for the main engineer to be present for rehearsal). This helps tremendously with being tight as a band, on pitch as a vocalist, and allows everyone to obtain their desired mix.

3-Planning Center

We have been using planning center online for about 2 years now. Before that, it was literally all we could do to keep up with band/tech schedules, song/service elements, practice times, etc. Not to mention the physical delivery of material (CD’s & chord charts). Now we create a standard schedule for these things and email it out (for those who like to plan ahead), and then post the same things on Planning Center. Bascially PC serves as a living, breathing schedule, resource center, & hub of communication for our ministry (and others within the church). Everyone on the plan receives an invitation email to which they can either “Accept” or “Decline”, thus giving us instant feedback. This information can then be automatically put on their iCal or Outlook calendars. They can also pull the plan up at any time to download the materials or even stream the songs directly from the plan. This has been a vital part in the planning of services and the scheduling of the band & tech team.

4-Transitions

Probably the #1 most neglected element of a Worship set I have seen is lack of true musical transition in a Worship set. It can literally mean the difference between a meaningful worship experience and an abrupt (3 songs, a communion thought, a sermon, and a closing song) service. Great worship leaders/pastors think through the details of getting from one worship element to the next. There should always be a plan for this. Whether you have a few musicians you trust to provide some atmospherical transition (typically the keys player or electric), or maybe you are advanced enough to have the worship set mapped out with loops, you should have a plan. The worship set should never feel like several different sections of the service, but rather one continuous movement. For that matter, it should also lead smoothly into and out of the sermon, video, etc. that is planned for the day. The bottom line here is that the beauty is in the details!

5-Dress Rehearsal

A wise music professor once told me that “anything done in public deserves a focused practice”. This is another element that we have always taken very seriously. Every week before we execute the service plan we go through a Dress Rehearsal that includes every element of the service with the band, speaking pastor, announcement person, and tech team to ensure that everyone is on the same page. (The obvious catch here is that the speaking pastor simply runs through his points with the media person instead of preaching the entire sermon.) We have a separate music practice beforehand where we work out transitions, parts, etc. This has been key to achieving the next level of excellence in the services.

So there you have it. These are five non-negotiables for me in planning, rehearsing, & executing excellent services. These can obviously never come in front of the spiritual aspect of things (discipleship, community, & prayerful dependance), these are just a few tangible steps toward giving God our best in Worship.

Bitter-Sweet Desperation…

Posted: July 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

So many times I ask God to make me desperate for Him. I ask him to remove all distractions and to help me do nothing without His power. However, when everything in my life is going well, it’s hard to be “desperate” for Him and to truly allow Him to invade my heart/mind/soul. This past thursday night I was leading Worship at Celebrate Recovery, and out of nowhere my voice seemed to all but disappear. There were no warning signs (I experience voice fatigue & pain from time to time) or anything. Just as I was singing these words: “you make all things work together for my good”, there it went. I knew those words to be true. I knew that trials only bring me closer to Him, and that He is greater than any of my problems.

Knowing that I was set to lead again on Sunday, I put myself on two days of vocal rest. After a day went by, I still felt no relief and felt like my issue was actually getting worse. And so, I began to pray. I prayed that God would allow me to be used by him on Sunday. I prayed that He would sustain my voice and allow it to sing loud and clear for Him. I told Him that I would give all the glory to Him through this situation.

We practiced for an hour or so on Saturday, and afterwards I felt like I had a 50/50 shot at having a voice for Sunday. It was then that I asked my fellow pastors and family to pray for me. I really felt like it was God’s will for me to lead, but was I was going to have to completely trust Him for the strength and endurance to do so. Sunday morning I woke up, and while there were some signs of vocal fatigue, I still had a good feeling about it. I could feel God’s presence on me when I walked into the building. As we began to rehearse, I felt my voice becoming stronger with every note. It was like God just wanted my full attention. He wanted me to be desperate for Him and to lead out of my faith in Him (not my skill, knowledge, etc). We had two AMAZING services, and the Holy Spirit seemed to move like never before. It was the sweetest time of Worship I think I have ever been a part of. I realized that it was so much easier for me to lead out of my desperation for Him, instead of simply being connected to Him.

I experience the same intensity amongst the people at Celebrate Recovery. They are so very desperate for God’s power in their life. It is obvious that they truly trust Him to deliver them from themselves and/or situations. In a room with no more than 150 people, the volume is louder during the worship set than the usual 300+ crowd on Sundays. If you ask me, they get it! They are so hungry to give back to God for what He has done in their lives. The masks are off, people are real about who they are and they are not ashamed to give it ALL back to God is praise. This unhindered, desperate, whole-hearted praise to God is so contagious! I really wish we could all learn to pursue God’s presence in this way without having to be at an all-time low. I know it is not easy to ask for desperation when things are going well, but the pay-off is priceless!

So…do I change my prayer? Do I ask God to do something even though I know it might come with anxiety and pain? After my experience this past weekend, the answer is NO! I will pray this prayer until I’m blue in the face. There is no greater place to be than face down before God in need of His sweet invasion. There is no more meaningful Worship you could experience, than to be so desperate for His presence in your life.

What about you…will you pray for this bitter-sweet desperation?

What is keeping you from truly experiencing the power and freedom in this lifestyle?

Do you truly believe that God will be able to speak to you if you are never truly desperate for Him?

Here of late I have really been doing some thinking on this idea of eternal assurance. I have been brought up to believe the “once saved, always saved” principle. However, after having this idea challenged through reading “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, it really got me thinking. It clearly states in the book that there is no room in heaven for a luke-warm Christian. In fact, it says that there is no such thing. I have heard scripture many times in my life, but never heard it spelled out that bluntly.

The truth is that none of us are perfect, and that most of us have been luke-warm at some point in our lives. So this brings about the question, what if I died during one of my luke-warm seasons? Would I go to hell because I was not on fire for God at the moment? If it were true, then by that principle, we would also lose our salvation every time we sin. We know that this is not true, because none of us would actually make it to heaven.

So…what is the truth about assurance? Here is what I believe: When we initially ask Jesus to reside in our hearts, there should be a transformation that happens. We should act differently, speak differently, have an unexplainable joy, etc. We should feel remorse anytime we wrong our relationship with God (which will probably happen often). However, the forgiveness is asked to right the relationship, not to get our salvation back. Sin just gets in the way of our relationship with the father.

What about “Christians” who blatantly live in sin and feel no remorse. Will they lose their salvation? My opinion: they never truly received it. I do not believe someone can do anything to refuse God once they have truly received Him as there Lord and Savior. We can obviously sin, and fall short of the glory of God, but never truly lose our salvation all together. We can, however, go through the motions to accept Christ without it being sincere. If someone has ever truly accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, even in the midst of the blatant sin there would be some since of remorse, if not, I would question the initial acceptance. If we are a true follower of Christ, there should be fruit from our relationship, if not, we might just be a fan of the idea.

Based on these thoughts, are you a follower or a fan?

Is there fruit from your relationship with Christ?

What can you do today to create more intimacy in your relationship with God?

Breaking the “To Do” Cycle…

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Worship

Ironically enough, the hardest thing for me to do as a full-time minister of the gospel is to find alone time with God. I can so easily get caught up in “doing ministry” that I overlook the reason for doing what I do to begin with. Recently I have simply made this a priority in my life. Before I do anything (especially ministry things) I take the time to go before Him and proclaim that “I can not do anything apart from him” (the John 15:5 principal). I have also made this a “normal” part of every band rehearsal, meeting, etc with the team. I have found that the more time that we spend in prayer (which usually cuts into actual practice or meeting time), the more fruitful and productive the event is, and the more relaxed, the team is as well.

After seeing the fruit of this time with God both personally and corporately, I wanted to take it to the next level. My new goal is to spend as much as an entire day “away” weekly to simply be with God. To be out in his creation (away from the office), to listen, to acknowledge His presence, to read His word, to lay down my burdens, and to allow him to be creative through me. I realize that in order to be creative, I will need to breakout of my routine, and spend more time with the one who is the most creative.

Like any other goal, there will be tension. The tension to “get things done” will always be there. The tension to “plan accordingly” will always be important. But when I ask myself “what is the most important thing I can do?”, it is certainly not things on a “To Do” list. The single most important thing I could do with my time is to find “Sanctuary” with God. It doesn’t have to be a certain place or time (in fact it is good to keep things fresh), but it is the best thing I could do to develop intimacy with God. We can only pour into others what is already within our own spirit. We can only speak, act, and lead out of the overflow of our heart if it is filled with Him. We can only make true disciples of Jesus Christ if we know him intimately. While Sanctuary only works in conjunction with daily “abiding” in Christ, it is a vital part of the journey that too often gets overlooked.

When is the last time you found “Sanctuary” with God?

What things on your “To Do” list seem to take priority over this time?

How can I pray for you specifically to find this much needed time with God?

With every new year comes a since of excitement, but this year I am especially excited. I am excited because I am really starting to see a glimpse of the change happening in the Worship Culture at ECC. At one time preparing for our Sunday Worship gatherings consisted of trying to make sure all of the details were worked out and trying to find the “next big thing” when it came to songs, service elements, visuals, etc. While these things can enhance our experience, it can also become what we think of as “Worship”. I have heard it said that “what you win people with is what you win them to“. This can be especially true when talking about a church service. If we focus more on the presentation of the gospel, rather than God’s revelation and power of it, then the presentation can become the reason for the gathering. If there is no room for the Holy Spirit to move on the people because of all the plans we have made, then the whole thing is in vain.

We now start our planning by asking God how He wants to use these elements to get His message in the hands of the people. Since this decision, God has truly honored our efforts. There has been an obvious change in the way we Worship on Sundays. People show up expecting God to speak to them (but not for the first time that week, but in community with other believers) Every week is no longer about getting people to “participate” in congregational singing, reading of the word, and prayer, but rather simply creating environments where the Holy Spirit can move among us.

Obviously the Worship Culture is a direct reflection of the spiritual depth of the people. We (the leadership) spent the last year going through discipleship training (which focused more on the spiritual health/growth of the individual rather than the group) with Chad Hambrick. This proved to be the best thing for our corporate gatherings. More people are “self-feeders,” as my good friend Brad Rutledge would say. They own their faith daily, and are constantly multiplying the same lifestyle into other believers. You could never imagine how much this has already changed the Worship climate at ECC!

While we still have a long way to go in our understanding of true Worship, our expectancy of God’s weekly revelation, and dependency on the Holy Spirit, I am so excited about the direction we are going in re-defining the Worship Culture at ECC. The Worship Arts team is getting together this weekend to talk about where we are in this process and where He will take us as a team in 2011. I can not wait see where He takes us in this next year as we continue to focus on Him, His plans, and His spirit to guide and direct us on a daily basis!