Doesn’t Modern Worship Miss God?

No, not unless it’s telling you to miss God.

New Life (Colorado Springs, CO) worship leader Glenn Packiam is in the middle of a great two-part piece about modern worship, entitled “The Problem With Our Critique of Modern Worship.” Whether you’re a worship leader or a worshiper (hey, that’s every Christian) I would recommend reading it.

I know why Glenn’s writing this. It’s the same reason I would write something like this. Because when you’re in a place of leadership in an evangelical Christian church, every congregant has an opinion of how church should run, and their way is inevitably the “right way.” Much of this stems around the worship style.

Because we’re Christians, we can’t just tell people their ideas are stupid (even though plenty are). We need to be kind. And because we’re leaders, we must have a thoughtful response.

With regard to modern worship style and contexts, some people feel it’s missing God. They ask questions like, “Why do we need lights?” and “What’s up with all that bass?” which inevitably leads to “Are we running a rock concert or a church service?”

Assuming you already paused long enough to read Glenn’s article, his first point citing where critics often accuse modern songs of having “too many eruptions of repetitive monosyllabic sounds” is brilliant.

“Because it’s Biblical.”

And he brings in quotes from Fuller Seminary’s Old Testament professor John Goldingay to make the point. What might surprise many Christians today is that ancient Hebrew worship music was even more rhythmic and less melodic than anything we have today. And, if I might add from a modal study, our music has far more major chord voicings than anything they used in Middle East traditions, past or present.

But I’d like to offer a few additions to Glenn’s second point regarding the common accusation that our services are “too much like a rock concert.” Glenn does a great job of discerning how Christians can “inhabit the form” of something from the world while not being of the world. Like metaphor and diverse expression, the Church is a wonderful vehicle for an array of communications.

Here’s some more food for thought.

Firstly, what is so bad about a rock concert? Or any concert for that matter? Somewhere, the term “rock concert” has become synonymous in certain Christian circles as being “of the devil.”

News flash, and I know this might be a shocker, but I’ve been to hundreds of rock concerts and I’ve never seen the devil. I’ve never been encouraged to worship the devil. And I’ve never felt the devil. Granted, I may not have gone to the “proper rock concerts” to experience this, but even that proves my point: not all rock concerts are bad, and similarly, not all church services are good. So making a broad generalization is poor grounds for any argument.

Secondly, I’ve seen some amazing things in rock concerts. I’ve seen how lights can be used to minimize distractions and draw a crowd’s attention to something important. I’ve seen how quality mixing, thorough sound reinforcement, and poignant visual and video effects can provide an audience with a memorable, life-altering experience that they’ll never forget.

Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to do in the church?

So if the question isn’t one of style, but really—if we’re being honest—of content, then what are we promoting with all this technology?

I’m not sure about your church, if it falls into the “modern worship” context or not, but yesterday at mine, our worship leaders talked incessantly about Jesus, lead the church in songs about him, shared scriptures from his Bible, exhorted the church to pray and intercede for the perishing in our community, and prayed for the congregation.

Huh. I’ve never been to a rock concert where that happened. Unless you’re talking about a CCM concert, which I don’t think that’s what critics are trying to cite as evidence.

The truth is, I’ve been to secular rock shows where the front man was more humble than some pastors I’ve met on a Sunday morning. Again, not all, just some. Content always trumps environment.

Why am I so stumped when critics draw the awkward and ill-informed rock concert comparison? Because they’re choosing to use broad strokes when really all they need to say is, “I don’t like electric guitars.” Now at least that would be an honest, accurate statement that we could have a discussion about. Or just say, “I’m always going to think that things were better [in whatever decade they were saved in].” I can work with that! I’m sure that I’ll always think the 90’s were the best. (But they really weren’t).

When we use stereotypes in place of facts, it’s usually because we have not thought out our arguments and believe that generalizations will further impassion our plea. The opposite is true: they undermine our arguments and turn well-meaning people into cause-driven fanatics.

If we’re going to critique anything, let it be whether or not we see the love of Jesus at work among his people. Whether or not we see people using their creative gifts to full effect in directing attention to God and creating an unforgettable experience for others. And whether or not people walk away remembering how exciting it is to see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

En France: Update

Jennifer and I’ve had a wonderful time here in northern France for the last several days. In the mornings I’ve been teaching the students at EDEN discipleship school, followed by various activities in the afternoons, and nights of worship in the evenings.

I’ve been lecturing on redefining the gospel “according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:2), and its resulting impact on the function of evangelism. The discussions with the students have been wonderfully inspiring, and I’m excited to see them unleashed on local villages later in the week as we find creative ways to demonstrate sacrificial love personified.

As always, it’s not the places that we visit that leave a lasting impact on us, but the people we meet. Here are some of their faces.

Follow the pics here and here.

Beaucoup d’amour,












Guitars For Glory: Guatemala Documentary Short

Guitars For Glory Documentary: San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala from Sprig Music on Vimeo.


Giving stuff away is amazing. Way better than getting something yourself. (It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about).

Jennifer and I had the honor of representing Guitars For Glory during our recent trip to Guatemala last month. This meant surprising three people with brand new guitars. We made sure the cameras were rolling, and managed to produce something we’re all proud of. (Thank you, Sprig Music).

Sure, who wouldn’t like a free guitar?

But what the documentary doesn’t show is all the back-story behind the recipients. Like how Rudy’s father abandoned his family for the US, and Rudy was left to be provider for his four siblings and mother; today, he’s a pillar in his family and his church. Or Roger, who’s given himself fully to educating children, and makes in one year what I make in three weeks. Then there’s Willy, who’s always wanted to lead people in worship on guitar, but knew it’d be impossible, seeing as how it’d take him and his entire family over a decade to save up enough combined money to buy one.

The stories are real. The tears are real. Because the people are real.

And that’s the power we have as being part of the world’s wealthiest people.

Please watch the video. Then thoughtfully consider three things:

1.) Giving to Guitars For Glory so they can continue to spread the message of hope in Jesus through music.

2.) Sponsor a child with Inn Ministries, our hosting organization in Guatemala. I can’t say enough about these people. They’re the real deal, and you’re having a daily impact on children when you give toward their education.

3.) Let me know what you think—about all this. I’d love to hear.

You were born to rock. So get to it.


Sing Hallelujah

Mike Kim and Nate Cronk performing “Sing Hallelujah” at Red Booth Studios

My buddies Mike Kim and Nate Cronk just released their new single together, Sing Hallelujah. Go snag the track on iTunes, and watch the music video on YouTube. (You may or may not see a crazy bald white guy in the video). The video was shot on-location at Red Booth Studios in Rochester, NY – shout out to the notoriously good-looking Brian & Kim Moore.

Hope it blesses you and all those you know.


What’s the Opposite of Communism?

If you wanted to take over the world, what would your agenda look like?

Try this on for size:

Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.

Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.

Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. Eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.

Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

Are these shocking because of how brash they seem? Or is it because the reality of their materialization is a little too close for comfort?

Like, it’s already happening.

These are just eight of the Communist Goals as recorded by U.S. Congressman Albert S. Herlong, Jr. of Florida (Congressional Record Appendix, pp. A34-A35, January 10, 1963). The full list can be found in numerous places on the internet, including here, here, here and here.

Yeah, 1963.

It’s taken a while. But here they are. And here we are.

Knowing the enemy’s plan, however, is not only good for staying it off, but for countering it. Just try the inverse:

Support the freedom of press. Submit book-review assignments, editorial writings, and esteem policymaking positions.

Work to serve the public through key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures by creating virtuous content.

Continue affirming American culture by supporting all forms of creative, artistic expression. Eliminate all bad sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute beautiful, graceful and meaningful forms.

Proliferate art connoisseurs and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote beautiful, tasteful, meaningful art.”

Support all laws against obscenity by calling them “morally degrading,” and a violation of human decency and press-worthy virtue.

Build up cultural standards of morality by discrediting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “abnormal, unnatural, unhealthy.”

Promote churches and replace “social” religion with joyful worship of God. Promote the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual understanding and divine experience of the Lord.

Now that’s something to dedicate your life to. It’s called The Kingdom.


It Feels Like Preparing a One Point Sermon (Worship Song Writing with Brenton Brown Day 2)

This is a continuation of my 3-day series on notes taken from Brenton Brown’s workshop on worship song writing at CMS in Buffalo, NY.


It Feels Like Preparing a One Point Sermon

Songs are short. They use 100 words to make a point.

What’s the main point of your song, and the reasons (sub clauses) for the main point? How tightly argued are the successful songs you know/write? The reasons behind them?

How well a song is received is determined by how strong and concise an argument it makes.

-Brenton Brown

To lead people in prayer you need to give them a clear prayer.

Find out what’s not being said doctrinally around you. Because you’re actually responsible for teaching them doctrine in your songs. And even more severely:

People remember your songs long after they remember your sermons.

-Brenton Brown

Ask your teaching pastor where your church is lacking. Writing worship songs shapes the way people think about the Lord – it’s a teaching role.

The first gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to communicate with people in their own languages. Likewise, how are you pursuing trustworthy communication?

Writing a worship song is composed of three core elements:

1.) Have something worth saying.
2.) Say it in a way people will understand.
3.) Say it persuasively.

Don’t waste one word.

As you come out of a verse, just before you sing the chorus to a song you’re writing, say, “And that’s why I want to say…” Then you’ll have your chorus.

-Brian Doerksen

The song Here I Am to Worship has 11 sub-clauses to support the reason to worship right now.

Repetition also serves as a type of sub-clause.

Example: let my life revolve around you, be my focus, be the center, be the most important thing in my life. All saying the same thing, just different ways of saying it.

The Koran is not allowed to be translated; meanwhile Pentecost opened up Biblical (and dangerous but potentially powerful) re-interpretations.

David Wilcox (folk music writer) tries to fill 3 legal pads with a single theme of thought.

Storytelling worship songs are difficult to write, and not popular in pop music (almost exclusively in country, however). But they’re extremely effective. To work in worship, they must encompass a universal theme (Example: I Coming Back To The Heart of Worship: first the music faded, then You searched deeper, now I’m coming back, etc).

Universal themes are essential. During a particular songwriting competition we held back in England, we had one great entry that had a bogus ending: “God you’re amazing / Your power is awesome in the place / You heal your people / And my cousin Dave.”

How to chose your topic? Yes, some songs flow Pentecostally and just “happen” to us; but others we must labor over. Start to think about your songs as you would a sermon: it makes it easier. Like Alister McGrath said about writing sermones, at a certain point in writing a song you’re going to have to study.

Lastly, try lowering your goals as a writer. For example, yes, everyone wants to write a collection of songs in a week that are worthy of recording on a CD; but how about just vowing to write one good song a year – one song you’re really proud of and that stands on it’s own. Now that’s a solid goal.

It Feels Like Fishing (Worship Song Writing with Brenton Brown Day 1)

I had the privilege of sitting in on Brenton Brown‘s workshop on “worship song writing” this weekend at the CMS event in Buffalo, NY. He’s known for writing such memorable choruses as Your Love Is Amazing, Lord Reign In Me and Holy Holy Holy.

Aside from appreciating Brenton’s ability to articulate profound truth with effortless means both with regard to Christianity and in teaching song writing, he’s also an extremely personable man. The first time I ever met him, we were sitting in the VIP trailer at Creation, talking about South Africa, Boy Scouts and family. He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him; only later would I piece together just who he was.

His points on song writing for churches were profound enough that I felt lead to share them here over the next three days. I hope his words are as inspirational to you as they were to me, and that my notes do his talking points justice. I’ve taken the liberty to expound in places in the hopes of capturing what he was saying and eliminating the “chicken scratch” mentality of the moment I wrote this in.

Enjoy. And write well.



It Feels Like Fishing

Our goal is to help a large group of non-musician people who don’t normally sing at all to worship the Lord with music.

We need to write songs that are easy enough for a large group of diverse people to sing, but interesting enough that people will want to sing them again.

-Brenton Brown

This thing is art. It’s elusive. And songs are like hums:

You don’t find hums, hums find you.

-Winnie the Pooh

To get “found” by a song, you need to find head spaces that inspire you. This is because we’re essentially playing when we make music. It’s important to be in a playful mood when you write. The other head space we write from is pain, brokenness and desperation, and I don’t recommend actively looking for that one.

What things make you happy? What seasons where you most prolifically writing in? Take 30-seconds to think of these things and seasons in your life.

My wife tends to know what mine are better than I do; I love to be around water and to surf. She has always notices that I’m happier when I come home from surfing, and grumpy when I’m not. So she’ll kick me out of the house on occasion to go surf. I tend to write a lot of my songs while I’m sitting on the water. It’s a good head space for me. These are your fishing holes. Find good fishing holes.

Other fishing holes for me are movies. I love movies! I’m 4 years old again. I also get inspired by the sermons of Louie Giglio and James MacDonald.

Fishing also has a catch and release element to it. You must work an idea until it’s “done” and then put it away. Let’s songs gestate and mature. This practice ensure only your best stuff will come out. If a melody keeps popping back out and getting stuck in your head, it’s a keeper. If a particular lyric or phrase won’t leave you alone, it’s a keeper.

Stephen Covey talks a lot about the Scarcity Mentality and the Abundance Mentality. The Scarcity Mentality says, “Hold on to the precious, few songs you’ll ever get, and don’t share them with anybody, especially don’t share the credit.” The Abundance Mentality says, “There are plenty of wonderful ideas out there that I’ll discover. I need to share them to bless other people, and to let my ideas get refined, regardless of who gets credit – I’ll always have more.”

Write with the door open.

-Louie Giglio

This open door policy will help gain outside perspective. Anyone can critique a song; my mom can tell me when something sucks. But asking other writers for objective input will build your songs.

What’s makes you feel good in this song? And what makes you feel odd in this song?

-Paul Bloche

Remember that when you’re writing a worship song for people to sing, you’re actually contributing to an ongoing conversation between God and his people. What do people need to say to God? (Prayer). And what does God need to say to his people? (Prophetic).

Take 30-seconds to think about the 3 favorite careers you’d love to have. It’s in these personal states of “favorite” that we find the same inspiration to write out of as artists.

Praise Him As If You Couldn’t


Today I live in the United States of America.

Today is Sunday.

Today I was given the chance to freely worship God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

I often wonder what it would be like to have been born and raised deaf, only to hear for the first time as an adult, either through a divine miracle or modern technology. Or perhaps blind, only to see later in life. The fact is I don’t cherish my hearing or my vision like that person would.

Similarly I don’t think I cherish what I have at New Life the way a Christian from North Korea would.

Today, worship the Lord as if you couldn’t. Then take note of that person and the way they cry out, lift their hands, dance, celebrate and appreciate the presence of God. Because you’ll need reminding when you forget what you have. ch:

God Spaces


Last night Jennifer and I had the privilege of taking this stage in the mountain-ensconced city of Martigny. Christians from all over the region gathered together for their monthly night of worship, and we were so honored to serve them with our team. Jennifer in particular had some powerful things to share with the people and was used mightily in song.

One thing that impressed me was the Swiss team’s ability to transform an ordinary hotel ballroom into a house of worship. They worked tirelessly, imported a truck-load of gear, and managed to create an atmosphere where not only did people feel welcome, but the Lord did too.

Creating God-spaces in our lives is extremely important. They help facilitate moments of encounter and inspire long-term memories. Whether it’s a prayer closet, a stage, a forest-nook, or a church sanctuary, creating a physical space where people can connect with the Holy Spirit is not only something I’m passionate about forming, but God is too.

Of course His greatest space is that of the human heart. He’s very intentional about turning it from a dark, cold rock into a warm and inviting home. But he was just as passionate about prescribing specific instructions to builders of the Tent of Meeting – the Tabernacle – and the Temple.

What’s your role in preparing God-spaces? Being intentional with your preparations is not only good for you, but benefits those who are effected by your service. Minimizing distractions helps eliminate disappointments. ch:

Fait du Bruit


Our first three meetings here in Switzerland have been joy-filled and boisterous. Or maybe I’ve just been boisterous. Either way, as the Swiss say, I like to “Fait du bruit,” or make noise.

This shot, care of Fredo Bovigny, is from last night’s worship event in Escale. As expected I soaked through my shirt within the first two songs.

Right now I’m sitting on a couch tucked amongst some mountains in Sion recovering from an amazing post-church meal (merci Pastor Sandy and Laureline!) and hoping this espresso buzz kicks in soon. Tonight Jennifer and I will be playing with our band for a regional night of worship.

Thanks for all your prayers! ch:

The Snowflake Conundrum

What was your most recent “it will never be exactly like this again” moment?

I had the distinct pleasure of playing drums for a very talented and anointed worship leader this week, Miss Janelle Gmitter. Playing drums is the most lucid, natural musical expression of worship for me even though most people see me behind a guitar or piano. It’s effortless, and therefore lends itself to a spiritual connection that’s different than leading from the stage-center position.

As I was getting lost in the flow that Janelle was leading us in, it dawned on me: this moment of worshipping the Lord will never happen again. Sure, other opportunities will present themselves, but never precisely like this one.

My snowflake moments in life are becoming my most precious. How many snowflakes fall from the sky in northern New York in one storm alone? Untold billions, if not more. Yet it’s statistically impossible for any two to ever be the same structurally.

The common occurrence of rare moments is one of God’s most intentional conundrums.

By default we’re creatures of habit. As people our efficiency excels with repetition. Yet without the infinite possibility of the random we’d be bound to the torture of the mundane.

No two people are the same, nor are the relationships we’ll have with them.

No two works of art are exactly the same, nor are two work projects, two trips to the same destination, two dinners with friends, two encounters with God, with your spouse, or with your children.

I see my kids everyday, yet by virtue of their rapid growth I’ll never have again what I have at the present.

Snowflakes may be common, but that single one over there is one of a kind.

Make sure you take time to savor the rare moments of your common day. You’ll never have them again in quite the same way. By doing so we pay homage to the brilliance of God in giving us a mystery that simply falls from the sky. ch:


For Those Who’re Watching

Yesterday Judah and I worshipped together during third service at New Life. He’s often distracted by his older brother and sister, but since they were en route from Rochester with their mom, Judah’s singular focus was pretty neat to watch.

He would look up at me and do what I was doing.

It started with clapping.

Then some hopping.

Soon he was squinting his eyes, looking up at me to see what hand I was raising. I couldn’t figure out why he was squinting – honestly, it was super cute – until I realized I was squinting.

I couldn’t stand it any more and knelt down to hug him and tell him how good of a little worshipper he was being.

If you’ve felt convicted lately about not doing something you know you should be, please consider this: our deliberate efforts are often more about someone else’s gateway to success than our own.

While your actions may very well benefit you in some meaningful ways – financial, emotional, physical, or spiritual – they probably will benefit someone else far more profoundly.

So whether it’s the way you worship in church to that book you’ve always been getting around to writing to that exercise routine you’ve been delaying to that friend you’ve always said you’ll visit, do the people watching you a favor and start.

The best motivation is realizing some things we can’t do for ourselves. We can only do them for others. ch:


God Doesn’t Need Our Worship

God doesn’t need our worship.

We do.

God’s not suffering from an identity crisis in which He needs constant reminding of his attributes or character.

But we do.

God doesn’t benefit from the hundreds of Biblical commands outlining demonstrative, physical expressions of exuberant worship.

But we sure do.

Last night as I watched 33 Live’s worship team lead teens into passionate praise of Jesus, I was impressed with the simple fact that, of all the things this young generation needs – and all generations, for that matter – they need to worship a living God and experience His presence.

My father raised me with a powerful saying: “The worst place to be is where the Holy Spirit was.” I want to be where He is.

Exciting things are happening in Jefferson County, NY, and the Holy Spirit is here. ch: