The Thing I Do

Welcome back. You belong here.

I’ve been updating my Ministry Philosophy and Distinctives for the Rest of My Life. It’s been clarifying.

I’ll begin to write these distinctives out over the next few weeks.

Generosity is what drives me to equip other worship leaders in the local church context. Why should I as a paid full time worship pastor have the only chance to serve, minister, etc? The Body is much broader than that. I believe in diversity of sounds, styles, personalities and gifting. My existence in the Body of Christ is to equip (Eph. 4) the saints for works of ministry. My work is worship arts. I’ve also developed a “Worship Artist’s Matrix” with the help of Erwin McManus as our foundational values and goals. It includes elements such as theology, gifting and character.

Currently within our local church, we have equipped four worship bands and I directly lead a fifth. I oversee all five worship ministries and we’re now developing a sixth. What this has allowed for is to have our lead pastor feel comfortable with whomever is leading up front. This takes time, but it has been an intentional effort to multiply myself and develop leaders.

Let me tell you, most worship artists and leaders don’t want to do this because of ego, power, control, position, salary and fame. It’s been a long road for me, and sometimes I still struggle with all of the above, but God’s Spirit and Word has changed me forever. I believe in GENEROSITY and giving away all I have so that others can grow and find meaning and passion in life.

The benefit is that if your church decides to add more services, or do a video venue or send bands missionally to the world, you’ve got them. You don’t have to pay, hire more worship leaders or work with an agent. They’re right there, homegrown in your own back yard. That’s my commitment. The problem is that the senior staff can see you as expendable. Hey, this other guy does as good a job as you, why don’t we just keep him at half the price? What the senior staff don’t get is that what guys like me bring is not just the stage and Sunday service stuff, but the environment of developing, multiplying and discipling leaders which got you to this place to begin with. You remove a guy like me, and you lose more than a stage guy. Of course, if I’ve done a good job of mentoring others, the new guys will have a heart for leadership development, so there’s hope. But you get my point. Equipping eventually leads to moving up or moving out.

But here’s the rub. In our contemporary/modern churches, you get paid to DO MORE, not to EQUIP MORE. No one pays to develop leaders in the local church. Not in the worship arts. North Coast has a vision for this, so I’m glad someone is doing it out there at the local church level. There are many parachurch organizations that have committed their lives to this, I think they’re right on track. But the local church is lagging behind. I am a revolutionary (a’la Barna) in this and sometimes it gets tough, but I’m committed to it.

The traditional model in worship is if you run the choir, play the band, rehearse the bells, lead the children, build the set, sing the solo, play the piano, write the song, write the script and record the CD, then you’re seen as worth your pay. I’ve experienced this first hand and it’s painful.

Next generation leaders are those who will lead at a high level themselves, but will model and give all they have away to others so that the Body will be built up and the Kingdom of God will expand through shared power, shared control and shared creativity. The age of the centralized, one main figure worship artist is coming to an end. I can lead worship for 2,000 or 10,000 people but I can also equip and train, mentor and release leaders.

So you write songs and play a mean EG or piano? Great, so does my friend’s 15 year old. Can you help him? Do you equip, do you have a heart for character formation in the lives of worship artists and the Church at large, do you love the Word, have a theological background and release and train leaders to preach the Gospel locally and world wide through the Arts? That’s what I do. But the local church still for the most part, doesn’t get it. So it’s an up hill battle.

The lead/senior pastor. What does he want? A rockin’ band, upbeat/genuine music and a Christmas program that is fun and relevant. Yeah….been there. So the worship artist reduces himself or herself to that, while deep inside them is this passion for the nations, for the lives of people, for the poor, for local service, for developing leaders and multiplying himself. But no one will pay you for that. And if you do it on your own time, the candles better be on and the band better kick some butt on Sunday morning!

At the recent church consultation I went through, the evaluator told me, “I’d rather have a worship pastor that develops leaders to one who builds big Christmas programs.” Sigh….I agree.

But still, I’ve committed myself to this, my life is crazy, my schedule is hectic, but I do it for the love of God and the TRUTH of it, the fact that this is RIGHT and it’s what God is calling next generation leaders to do – to surrender our own success, our own rights and to equip, train, release, lead, serve all along while producing beautiful worship that impacts the world for Jesus Christ while keeping a tender heart, not taking yourself too seriously and realizing that it’s all a gift of Grace. Not to Us but to Your Name be the Glory.

That’s what I think about at night.

So bringing it down to daily life, here’s a little of how I do this….

We call our equipping ministry Reimagine. These worship ministries range in their scope – some can now lead a congregation of 300, others of 500, others of 2,000. This has been an intentional ministry focus in the last 5-6 years. Each band is led by it’s own unique worship leader with their distinct sound and style based upon their worship artists. They lead in any and all of our worship services. I have an intentional relationship with all these worship leaders and their members. We train them together with our best music, vocal and spiritual coaches every year. We’ve seen over 100 people come and be a part of Reimagine and over 50 of them have joined worship bands and found a fit. We’ve also seen over 100 students take classes and get started in worship arts.

The way we organize our overall Worship Arts ministry is as follows:
1. CREATIVITY – Everything dealing with our main worship services, outside events, environment, atmosphere, Christmas, Easter, tech, lighting, recording, podcast, web design, etc. This one area has many sub areas under it.
2. CHARACTER/COMMUNITY – Everything dealing with small groups for artists, “Heart of the Artist” Retreats, mentorship and discipleship, all things dealing with growing as followers of Jesus Christ. This is so needed in the lives of our worship artists.
3. EQUIPPING – We call this Reimagine, everything dealing with developing the next generation of worship leaders and worship bands for our main services, small groups and life stage classes. We eventually expect our artists to be sent from us to other churches, Disney, Hollywood, etc. according to their gifting and calling.
4. MISSIONAL – We call this uLeader, everything dealing with our artistic training/evangelistic trips to Russia, Nicaragua, Hungary, Africa, South America and the local Rescue Mission and helping emerging local church planters. We are not iLeader, but God (You, u) are our leader – uLeader. Here we pray for people to follow Jesus as a direct result of the Gospel and worship.

Let me talk specifically about #3 – EQUIPPING or REIMAGINE.

The way we organize our Reimagine Equipping ministry is as follows:
1. Reimagine Worship Bands – Equipping artists to lead large group worship at the local church level, while emphasizing their uniqueness.
2. Reimagine @ Home – Equipping small group worship leaders, high school worship leaders, life stage (adult classes worship leaders). This is for leaders that lead in small group environments. We’ve seen a great hunger for this.
3. Center of Music and Arts – Teaching music, acting and dance classes to children, youth and adults. A recital happens at the end of each term.

I do this with all volunteers and high level leaders of character and skill. We need one or two paid interns in the near future.

What I have recently found, is that two years into the equipping relationship (or so), the worshipper wants to come back and spend time training some more. Initially, after the beginning time of intense training, relationship, accountability, etc. the worship leader needs his/her own space. I’ve noticed that for a period of about a year, the worship artist needs to grow on their own, to prove yourself, to confirm your abilties, anointing, allowing the greater community of Christ (local Church) to affirm your call and gifting. I’ve seen that happen over and over again in our worshippers. It’s been fun.

There are also difficult moments along the way. Just a few weeks ago, one of our bands led and after watching them they are in need of a musical director, a backbone keys or AG player that can provide a musical flow between songs. Also, one of their original songs started slow, took too long to open to the more accessible second half. Our lead pastor asked me how I thought the band did, and I gave him my feedback, 10 to 1 ratio, positive versus things they can work on. Sometimes, someone in the church will say ‘I missed you up there…” I am okay with that, but during those times, I share the vision of equipping, of developing leaders within the local church, of sending and placing these worship artists in their context according to call.

Whether talking to our lead pastor, or to a wondering constituent, I am committed to these bands and their place within the Kingdom. I must admit, the relationships get tough at times, because I have to go deeper and deeper both in character and purpose as the months and years go by. I can’t mentor a first year worship leader in the same way that I mentor or advice a 10 year veteran. It’s fun. I love it and I feel God uses me in those roles.

The scheduling can get tricky, how often do you put your beginning band to lead your main services. How often do you give them the opportunity to grow into their own, to get better you have to play and yet keep the integrity of the worship gatherings. One thing I’ve done is create alternative places, Concerts in the Park, Belmont Shore Christmas Parade, Halloween Outreach, to give bands some reps and opportunities. And you know what, certain bands do performance type events better than others! That’s such a gift to see people find their fit and use their gifts uniquely. For example, the band that recently played at the Belmont Christmas Parade won the Civic Award Best Float Award! Awesome. I see that as the right fit for the right event and it showed. Not all worship leaders and bands can do everything, some can, but imagine being secure enough as a leader to allow others to get the spotlight and win the awards. That’s what I do.

We’ve also committed to equipping worshippers for the high school group, children’s ministries and life stage adult classes. We call this Reimagine@Home. This is a new aspect of our Reimagine ministry and we’ve seen a huge hunger for it in our church, especially at the small group level. We’ve joined forces with our spiritual formation pastor to bring worship to our small groups. We expect a great 2006 in this area. It’s an area I’m very excited about.

Next time, I will talk about #2 – CHARACTER.

Have a great day.

Into the future,


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