Monday, July 28, 2008

Called To Music Ministry

We’re home from camp and after about 15 years of doing this kind of ministry; I can truly say that this was one of our best years ever. The band was great, staff was great and I personally felt so good in my skin. Leading worship is unquestionably where I’m supposed to be... In the church, on the road, in the community and around the world… that’s still my calling. In light of the kind of ministry we do, there are a lot of students who get called into ministry, many into music ministry. I get a lot of music ministry questions and requests for advice on getting started, so here are a few tips that might help some of you who are called to full time music ministry. These principals have helped sustain my passion for God’s calling on my life.

1. Take your calling seriously. Do not give yourself an out. Abandon a plan B philosophy. If you’re called to music ministry, then go for it faithfully until you cannot physically do it any more. Ignore disappointment and negative influencers. The One who calls you is faithful (1 Thes. 5:23-24)
2. Practice and pursue excellence. 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. A little at a time goes a super long way. The real secret here is to use your brain. Challenging your skill on a weekly basis is essential to sparking the imagination. You’ll be amazed at how much more creative you become when you consistently practice.

3. Write your own material. Learn how to write songs and exercise your imagination for the glory of God. Don’t just copy others; make something for others to look to as an example.

4. Find a mentor, be a mentor. Always be under someone who can pour wisdom into your life. Always be kind enough to give what you know out to another.

5. Make music. As soon as you can, produce a consumable music product. CD’s, mp3’s, put it up on itunes… Whatever it is, just record something and make it available. It’s the only way you can be 1000’s of places at one time and it makes your ministry grow right where people are. Technology is way too cheap and accessible for you to be telling people they can’t consume your songs.

6. Be humble. Seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and everything else will be added to you (Matt. 6:33). Jesus was not a diva, he was a servant. Don’t demand honor, let it be a reward from those you serve with your music and ministry (Prov. 26:1). You define how you’ll be known; so write that definition “servant”. There is not a better model for the Christian musician. Here is the danger in a music career…as you go “up”; God conversely gets smaller amounts of space in your life. Stay humble. So, try to be like John the Baptist. Although he had all the trappings of a famous, influential, “out there”, artsy, rock star, he said, “I must decrease and He must increase”.

7. Plant yourself in the Church. The local church is the hope of the world and the institution Christ established on the earth as his bride. Let the end game of everything you do be to serve the church. Write to her, sing to her, love her humbly. The Christian music industry is not the hope of the world, put your efforts into serving the church and it’s interests (Jesus) before you chase after getting signed by a label that might not last into tomorrow. (This does not mean I would discourage anyone from forming a mainstream band that played clubs or stadiums or Vegas. My admonition would still remain the same however…love ands serve the church.

8. Play often. Take every opportunity you are given to make music to God’s glory. Especially in the early stages of my ministry, I saw great value in taking advantage of each chance to minister, not shrinking back from the opportunities presented to me. Along with serving regularly in my church, here are a few notable gigs…grocery store openings, numerous rest homes and a show where only 1 person showed up. (I played my guts out)

9. Memorize the Bible. There is little to explain about this, but much to be gained by the practice. Your mind, equipped with the Bible, is an amazing weapon against moral failure and other sin and a beautiful instrument of peace for the world around you.

10. Practice generosity. This would be the same for any ministry calling, but it’s often over looked, so I mention it here. Giving and specifically giving your money is a cornerstone of biblical behavior and the doorway through which blessing walks. Don’t ignore generosity or generosity will ignore you.

For other information or questions you have, please let me know.
thanks so much for reading...CC

Monday, July 21, 2008

Epidemic Worship

I have recently been reading The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell and it is a fascinating book. It has nothing to do with worship music, but it’s a study of human behavior and how the actions of a small group of influencers can tip any kind of behavior or trend into mainstream, epidemic proportions. One case study that has really fascinated me was about the horrible problem of suicide. The study found that when a suicide happens that gets front page attention in print or television, the rate of suicide in that area goes up by several percentage points (some times as many as six or seven points) after the initial “publicized” suicide. When Marylin Monroe committed suicide, the national average of self-inflicted death went up by around seven percent for a few weeks after her death. The same phenomenon happened with death of prominent rock star Kirk Cobain. The idea suggests that the public behavior of one influential person gives permission to a whole culture of people to follow suit. The actions of one influencer “tip” the actions of a culture.
Applied to worship teams, this concept has remarkable potential to impact the Kingdom and for the one who leads the way in expression of affection to our God this idea is challenging. Does the way you lead tip the dynamic around you? Are you the kind of influencer who carries a passion for Christ so contagious that is starts an epidemic? What about the way you lead drives people into an expression that is uniquely theirs, but has it’s roots in your influence. Sometimes all people are waiting for is the teacher to tell them it’s OK to make their move.
The nature of worship leadership comes with built in influence. Most musicians have been walking through the reality that such a public and people oriented gift creates. Some do it well and others do it horribly. Most of us have been in both places. Influence is obvious for leaders; the question is what are you going to do with yours? I challenge you to start an epidemic. Use the gifts of God and position of influence to tip worship over the edge in your community. The way you live your life may be the spark that lights the faith of those around you into blazing fire. Lead loud, calling those around you into the light of Christ…pointing the way from death to life. The way you worship could be the one point in time that God uses to start the next great outbreak of salvation and awakening. Be a tipping point for an epidemic of worship.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Creative Christianity

Yesterday I attended a seminar on this topic during the camp where I am leading worship (excellent job Jeremy, Kaitlyn and Robbie!). It got me pretty fired up about some things that have been on my mind. Living creatively for the glory of God and how that idea could give flight to the faith of millions. Here is the thought: we’re built to imagine and our brains are designed to do so much more than sustain life. They are wired to bring things into existence. Because of our unique creative and imaginative potential, we have been designed to give birth to things that never existed before. Not reproduced things, but introduced things…something from nothing kind of stuff. It is the part of us the Bible refers to when it says we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). You don’t look like God so much as you might your mama, but you surely are assembled with the capacities to think like a creator. Your imagination is what sparks you to act in faith. Every “what if” starts in your brain as an imagined thought and your faith is what brings it to an answer.

Every call of God starts with the Spirit of God speaking the rumors of potential into your mind. “Go, Send, Lead, Run, Fight, Fly, Sing, Preach, Give, Love, Plead, Risk, Change, Dance…” all of that starts in your head, and struggles toward to surface of existence, compelled by faith in the God who calls you…and remember the one who calls you is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9)

So, consider this as you live and worship creatively today…your imagination is the place where future greatness gets planted. It’s the soil where God sows influence and hope, revival and art, community and passion, all for His great glory. Your imagination unleashed for the glory of God is the most unstoppable weapon against the forces of darkness and by the same measure the most liberating force for the worshipping Christian. Bob Pierce imagined World Vision and that compassionate thought feeds, clothes and heals hundreds of thousands every year. Billy Graham imagined an evangelistic ministry that shared the Gospel with the world…now millions know Christ because a “what if” was answered. John the Baptist believed he was the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy, was not afraid to express what he felt from the inside out and he made a pathway for Jesus to take center stage. All of these were very imaginative ideas and wildly creative people.

Here are five tips on unleashing God’s potential for your life through your imagination.

Use it…let your brain in on what your heart comes up with and see how far “what if” can take you. Write a song or a book or a poem. Build a museum. Dream something and then do it.

Feed it…consume beauty. Fill your mind with things of great aesthetic value. Music, art, literature, sermons, songs, dance, heroism. Flood your mind with things already born of great imagination. Launch ye therefore from these!

Surrender it…abandon your safe places and default modes of thought. Explore new territory and test the boundaries of who you are now. Look beyond, to see a different potential for your life. Let go and fear not. (Psalm 27:1)

Engage it…your thoughts are meaningless until expressed. The old phrase, “it’s the thought that counts” was probably coined by a person who never bought birthday presents and failed to leave a mark on the world. Impact happens when what you imagine collides with how you live. That’s when you start seeing God’s glory revealed in your life for Him.

Defend it…the enemy wants to kill you and I think he always starts in your imagination. Envy, strife, corruption, lies, jealousy, hatred, indifference, greed and lust are all sins sown into the mind. Planted by Satan to subtly corrupt your imagination until who you are and how you live ultimately serves his interests…to shame the name of God. Stand firm…Eph. 6:13

Think creatively. Act courageously. See “what if” happen in your life.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Team Mulan

I am leading worship at Crossroads Camp in Boiling Springs, NC and I played in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament with the camp staff today. Rain soaked, I walked back from the fields of battle a defeated man. My team went 0-3 to end my day early. As a truly competitive sportsman, I hate to loose at anything, but I ain’t mad. I even wish good will and many more victories to the ones who beat us and I hope they make it all the way to the finals. Team Mulan, (every team was named for a Disney princess) my team, was full of some world-class people and I was so encouraged to hear them talk to teammates and opponents. The spirit of competition was great and bested only by the spirit of community. These were great people to be around, balcony people as Heather calls them. These are the people that lift your spirits and encourage endurance. I asked several of them who they were or what they were into and I found it so refreshing to hear them turn to matters of faith and the Kingdom within two or three minutes of talking. It was not forced, but as casual and logically arrived at as Seinfeld talking about sarcasm. It’s as much a part of their DNA as it is something they’re into. My faith in Christ’s mission and call on my life has been inspired by my 0-3 teammates. DNA makes me express things that are at the core of who I am…I have blondy brown hair because it’s an expression of my core…same goes for my light eyes and the nose I have. All are expressions that I rarely give thought to, but they manifest themselves to the world around me and express details of who I really am inside. When what you are on the inside matches what you are on the outside, the space around you gets filled with the sweetest peace. Even in deepest adversity and stress the substance of character is revealed in how closely a person looks like their true self. I was tossing pies with some “true selfs” today and I loved who they were.

Thanks team Mulan for letting me watch you as you naturally loved, encouraged and equipped today. Nice DNA