3 Big Things That God Has Taught Me Through My Worship Residency

With my worship residency at the Austin Stone drawing to a close, and my new position as Worship Director at Citylight Lincoln in Lincoln, Nebraska beginning soon, I want to take an opportunity to reflect on what God has taught me over the past year as I’ve been immersed in worship residency. If I were to name off everything I’ve learned, I could write a novel! For the sake of time and efficiency, I’ll name off 3 of the biggest things that God has taught me.

1. I am not self-sufficient. I am reliant upon God. 

The support raising process early on in my residency made me quickly realize my inadequacy at supplying my own needs. Every time I asked others to partner with me in giving, I was leaning into God’s provision. Every phone call, every face-to-face meeting with a potential supporter, was a declaration – “I am not capable of doing this on my own.” I needed God to put it on people’s hearts to give, and to give generously. I was reliant upon God in those moments more than ever.

Early on in residency I also realized that my schedule was going to be packed, and that I was going to be pushed to the brim in my capacity. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle all that was expected of me in my own strength. I had to lean into God and ask for energy, courage, and perseverance. I had to daily rely on God to provide. I continue to need it every day and in every circumstance, but the residency brought home that realization in a profound way.

2. I can be confident in the gifts God has given me and the things He’s called me to. 

When I came to the Austin Stone I wasn’t confident that I could memorize a worship song. I wasn’t confident that I could could lead a band well. I wasn’t confident that I could learn enough about music theory, or become a good enough guitar player to keep up with the amount of talent at the church. And to some extent, that may all still be true.

And that’s okay.

I can still walk in confidence, because I am fully able to do the things that God has called me to do, to the best of my ability. My confidence lies in God’s calling and in His provision. Failure is a friend if I’m able to learn from it. It’s a friend that stings, but a friend nonetheless. God is sovereign in the midst of my successes and in the midst of my failures. I can trust that He will work in every circumstance for His glory and for my good. The residency has helped to bring me to the realization that my confidence cannot lie in something as shaky and fickle and small as my own skills or abilities. God is my confidence. And that’s a solid, never-changing, big confidence to have.

3. I will never stop growing, improving, and learning. 

I’m never going to “arrive” as a worship leader. I will always be on an upward trajectory in my knowledge and skills. Watching the seasoned worship leaders around me at the Austin Stone has taught me that the best people in their fields are the ones who have the humility to recognize that they have a lot of growing left to do. They pursue their growth relentlessly, not for their own sake, but so that Jesus will be more glorified and honored by their lives. This pursuit of growth is a life-long endeavor. It’s exciting. It’s a reminder that the best things in life are yet to come. By God’s grace, the best things are certainly yet to come for me.

 

 

 

 

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My Next Step: Transitioning From Austin Stone to Citylight Lincoln

The second year of worship residency at the Austin Stone is a time when us residents are trying to pin down the “next step” of our lives as worship leaders. Where should we look to serve long-term after the residency, and in what capacity? In what type of church should we seek to serve? Who should we seek to serve alongside? When, exactly, should we transition out of residency?

I’ve asked all these questions, along with my supervisors, and we’ve come to an exciting, conclusive decision as I’ve looked into several job opportunities over the past few months. Beginning in late October, I’ll begin to transition out of my position at the Austin Stone and begin working in November as the Worship Director at a church called Citylight Lincoln in Lincoln, Nebraska! I’m super, super excited for this transition, and look forward so much to serving on staff there!

To help inform everyone of the transition process and on the position I’ll be stepping into, I’ll structure the rest of this post in a Q & A format:

Q: What is Citylight Lincoln, and what will your role there look like? 

A: Citylight Lincoln is part of a group of churches planted out of Omaha, Nebraska. The Citylight family currently has five different church locations throughout Iowa and Nebraska. The Citylight Lincoln church was planted a little over a year ago with the vision to “glorify God by multiplying Jesus-centered disciples and churches.” My specific role on staff will be as Worship Director. I will oversee all things music and worship-related, as well as invest in and raise up future worship leaders for future church plants. I look forward to joining with the current staff in helping shape the overall vision and culture of the church! 

Q: What type of position have you been looking for during your residency? 

AI’ve been looking for a position as a Worship Leader. Essentially, I want to pastor people by helping them to know and love God more through music. It’s important to me that I work for a church that I agree with theologically, who has a solid leadership that I can see myself laboring alongside long-term, and that is in a city/location that I enjoy.

Q: What made you choose Citylight Lincoln?

A: I visited the church in Lincoln several weeks ago to meet the staff, learn about the church, and lead worship on a Sunday. After many conversations with individuals on the church staff and in their leadership, I felt strongly like things “clicked.” I was totally on board with their team, their mission, and their vision as a church. I also love the Midwestern, college-town culture of Lincoln. I left my visit feeling like it was a no-brainer to accept the position! 

You can learn more about the church by clicking the link to their website here.

Q: What do your supervisors at the Austin Stone think about you leaving your residency early?

A: I have five supervisors who oversee my worship residency. All of them agree that this is the right time and place for me to transition out of residency. Their goal is to send us residents out to serve where we believe God is calling us – so they’ve been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and helpful in both the decision process and in my transition! The Citylight churches have had a strong connection to Austin Stone over the years, so my supervisors have been excited to see me transition and serve at Citylight. 

Q: How do you feel about leaving Austin?

A: I have had the privilege to serve alongside so many amazing people in Austin, and I will miss them so much! I’ll particularly miss the Austin Stone Worship staff team, my North Campus Students worship band, and the close friends that I’ve lived with and grown to love over the past year. I’ll also miss the incredible food in Austin. 

I’ve learned and grown so much over the past year, and I’m so thankful for my experience here! I’m sad to leave, but excited for the new friendships and new opportunities that lie ahead in Lincoln! 

Q: What does your transition from Austin Stone to Citylight Lincoln look like, specifically? 

A: I will be transitioning out of residency in late October, and hope to move to Lincoln to begin working in November. 

Q: Where will you live in Lincoln? Do you have any friends or family there?

A: I don’t have any relatives in Lincoln, but I already feel like I have a lot of friends there! The time that I spent visiting Citylight assured me that there were lots of people in the church that I would be able to form deep bonds of friendship with. Beyond that, I felt like a member of the Citylight church family from the moment I stepped off of the plane during my visit! 

I’m currently planning to live in a house in Lincoln with several other Christian guys in a similar stage of life as me. Very similar to the way I’ve been living the past 8 or so years. 

Q: What does this mean if I’m supporting your residency financially? 

A: Your payments will automatically be turned off at the end of my last month of residency (October). Please do not end your support until I officially transition out of residency! Your support has meant the world to me, and has opened up so many doors of opportunity, including this job at Citylight. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

 

This is the part where I thank YOU…

There are so many people who God has used to be an incredible part of my residency journey. I wish I could name every individual specifically, but please find where you fit in this list, and know that I’m thinking of YOU as I write these words.

  • Thank you to my family members who gave sacrificially to see me pursue the things that I believe God has called me to – both in giving me your blessing to move across the country and in helping me financially along the way. Being away from you has made me realize more and more how much I love you.
  • Thank you to the Austin Stone Worship staff team, past and present, who have taught me so much about faithfully leading worship. I still cannot believe that God allowed me to be a part of this staff family – you are a daily reminder that God always gives me so much better than I deserve.
  • Thank you, Logan, for taking me on as your resident. You have no idea how much I respect you, and how much I hope my life and ministry looks like yours moving forward.
  • Thank you to my North Campus Students band, who have been the epitome of faithfulness in serving our Students ministry. You have been my favorite part of residency, and God has given me so much through you. You have incredibly bright futures ahead of you because God is writing your story, and He’s not done yet.
  • Thank you to the guys & girls at Providence House who have made Austin feel like home. I was able to be myself with you from the first day I moved in. You are my best friends and I love you.
  • Thank you to my church family in Illinois who have prayed for, encouraged, and supported me during this residency so faithfully. You reminded me that God had something in store for me before I knew what it was or where I was heading.
  • Thank you to so many of my friends who gave their time, energy, and resources so that I could have the strength to continue here. You prayed, or gave, or took a minute to encourage me, or did any combination of these things at some point in my journey, and it put a fire in my bones. In the process of carrying out these things you have become such a big part of the story God is writing for my life. You know who you are.
  • Thank you, God, for being the Author of my life and for being really, ridiculously kind to me always. But that’s just the way You are. You’ve been good  even when I haven’t seen or acknowledged it. Every good gift, every reason for saying “thank-you” that comes out of my mouth, is from You. You’ve invited me into a story so much better than I could have ever dreamed of, and You’ve only just begun.

 

 

***If you have any further questions about my residency or the position I’ve taken at Citylight Lincoln, feel free to message, call, or shoot me an email! I’d love to chat!

 

 

 

Value #4 Part 2: Jesus is the True Worship Leader

In my most recent series of posts, I’ve been describing 10 values that have been shaping my worship band.  My last post was part one of two, explaining that we believe that Jesus is in control over every circumstance of our lives, including our worship. In this post, I aim to explain that we trust and believe that Jesus is the one and only true Worship Leader.

Leading worship is a tricky thing. On a typical Sunday morning, I can look out across a sea of people in worship and see so many things. People with their hands raised and faces smiling. People with their arms crossed and eyes closed. People with their hands in their pockets. Some singing out loudly, expressively, passionately. Others with their faces down, contemplative, and motionless.

What are they thinking? 

That thought has run through my mind hundreds of times as I’ve led worship over the past few years. Is the person with their hands raised really worshiping Jesus, or just caught up in a moment of excitement and emotion? Is the person with their hands in their pockets and downcast face disengaged from worship, or are they experiencing a powerful, intimate moment of reflection with the Lord?

It’s impossible to tell. People are like loaves of bread. Sometimes they look flawless from the outside, but inside they’re stale and tough. As a worship leader I can only see the crust, the outer shell. And while looking at the outer shell is certainly a good indicator of what’s going on inside, it can never tell the whole story.

And even if I knew the whole story, even if I knew every nook and cranny of the hearts of the people I’m leading in worship, I’d be helpless to produce any change. I don’t hold the power to sway them, to lead them to worship in spirit and in truth. But there is one who does hold that power, and He is the true Worship Leader. Not me. Not my band. Not the preacher. Jesus is the true worship leader. My band and I look to him to lead our people to worship in Spirit and in truth each week.

Worship pastor Zac Hicks explains what it means to say that Jesus is our true Worship Leader in the book “Doxology and Theology”:

“Where we fail miserably in our feeble attempts at worship, Jesus succeeded fully. The perfect worship that the Father demands has found all its qualifications met in the Son’s righteous living – both in His personal piety and His fully obedient participation in corporate worship – while on earth. By the power of the Spirit, we are united with the Son, clothed in His righteous worship, such that the Father sees His worship as we worship. Jesus worships for us! This should make ‘worship leaders’ pause every time they assume that title. There is only one true Worship Leader, and His name is Jesus Christ.”

Jesus’s perfect obedience in ours by faith. The Father sees Jesus’s life of sinlessness as our very own when we trust in Jesus as our Savior and submit to Him as our Lord. Not only is Jesus’ perfect record ours by faith, but His once-for-all death in our place, bearing the weight of God’s wrath for our sin, is ours as well. He did this all willingly, that we might be brought near to God.

[11] And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. [12] But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, [13] waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. [14] For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV)

Jesus makes true worship possible. Because Jesus has dealt away with our sin to the fullest, the Father doesn’t hold our sinful dispositions and attitudes in worship against us. Rather, Jesus makes our worship precious and perfect in the eyes the Father. It gladdens the heart of the Father to see us worshiping Him because of the work of the Son. Thank you Jesus!

We trust and believe that Jesus is the one and only true Worship Leader.

 

 

 

Value #4 Part 1: Jesus is in Control

Have  you ever been annoyed by someone who always seemed to get their way? The kid in school who all the teachers favored? The friend growing up who always got everything they wanted from their parents? The co-worker who can do no wrong in the eyes of their employer? The neighbor down the street who seems to have every circumstance of life play right into their hands?

These things eat at us. We’ve all felt this way because somewhere, deep down, we believe that these people don’t deserve what they’re getting. We’ve seen a different side of them – a side that the teachers, parents, and employers haven’t. And if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, we know that we don’t deserve to get our way either. We may spend our time daydreaming about what things would be like if we had power over our circumstances and control over every situation, but none of us actually believe that we’ve earned that place of authority.

But what if there actually was someone who deserved to get their way in everything? Someone whose perfections, if added up, could never be counted. Life would leave your body and oceans would dry up and stars would stop burning before you finished naming them off. And what if that person not only deserved to get their way, but actually did? Always. In everything, all the time. And what if that person was limitlessly,  universe-encompassingly in control of everything that ever happened? No circumstance or situation was outside his realm of absolute influence. And what if this person was life-changingly, world-alteringly, perspective-shatteringly good? Without exception. Ever. So good that there’s no one you would rather have get their way. And so trustworthy, and so wise, that you never had to second guess what came to pass in your life. Because when he got his way, you benefited. His way coming to pass is always your good. His way is never separated from his love for you.

This is Jesus. He is in control, and he is good.

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (ESV)

And in the midst of pain, and suffering, and hurt, and hardship, Jesus is still in control. We cry tears because we don’t understand. We see death and we fear because it’s the end of everything that we know. We grow angry and resent God because we wonder how anything good could come from things so horrible and broken and twisted. Our hearts cry out with the writer of Ecclesiastes – “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted” – Eccl. 1:15.

But we can cling to one thing when darkness pushes in on us – that Jesus is good. And he will never deny us his love. He will never hold back from us what is good. Ever.

“If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

– Tim Keller

We are not God. Do we really wish that we were? Would existence be better, would the world be rid of pain and hardship and evil if we were in control? How could it be?

In the furthest corners of our heart, attached to the deepest longings of our being, we ache to know that Jesus is in control. We need to believe that he is good. We need to believe that his love and justice and mercy will conquer everything in this world that brings death and hurt.

And we need to experience this knowledge, this simple trust, this child-like faith in Jesus in the everyday things of life. From our foggy-eyed waking to our dream-drenched sleeping. In our bigger-than-life moments to our mundane, seemingly meaningless blips of rut and routine. We need to know that Jesus is in control of every facet of our lives, whether big or small.

For my worship band and I, we rest in the fact that Jesus is in control of everything we do in worship. We work hard to give our best, and trust Jesus with the outcome. Jesus doesn’t need us, but he has been kind to choose us to lead our students in this season. He will accomplish his purposes every time we lead worship, even if it seems like we’ve made no impact. We sow the seed, and entrust him to produce the fruit. Even if (and when) a worship set is crashing down around us, Jesus’s plans will be carried out, our good will be realized, and his glory will not be diminished.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

We believe that Jesus is in control.

 

— For the past few months I’ve been been writing about ten values that are shaping my students worship band. This post is part one of two covering the fourth value that is shaping our band.

3 Surprising Things My First Year of Residency Has Given Me

I need regular time for reflection. My sanity depends on it. As I approached the end of my first year of residency at the Austin Stone, I knew that I needed to step away from my usual rhythms and contemplate what had happened over the past 12 months. That’s one thing that the residency doesn’t give you – much time to slow down and process. It’s one reason why I’m thankful for this blog – it’s an opportunity for me each month to take a small step back and reflect on what I’ve been learning.

For the past few weeks I’ve been in my home state of Illinois, intentionally trying to slow down and reflect over the past year. Don’t get me wrong – in some ways I’ve still been busy. I’ve spent lots of time reconnecting with family, friends, and supporters. I’ve been leading worship regularly.  But my mindset has been slower, more reflective, and purposefully aimed at recharging myself for the upcoming year – assessing the last year and taking stock for what lies ahead.

“So,” you might ask, “what has the past year been like for you?”

There are a lot of things that I could tell you. I’ve grown in my abilities as a musician, in my ability to lead a band, to cast vision, and to pastor people from a worship platform. I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the theology of worship and how that theology plays itself out practically in different contexts. I feel like I’ve been well equipped to lead worship wherever God calls me after the residency!

But some of the ways that I’ve grown might surprise you. As I’ve reflected on the past year, these are things that the residency has provided that I didn’t expect. When I came into the residency, I never thought these things would be such a big part of what was in store for me. It’s sort of like opening the refrigerator at a strangers house – there are some things in there that you’d expect to find (ketchup, eggs, milk), but there’s always a few things that you couldn’t have guessed would be there! There are unique things in every fridge – because each fridge is unique to a particular person or family. Similarly, the residency has its own unique flavor. It certainly has provided a lot of things that I expected to find (growth as a musician and pastor), but there’s a couple of things particular to this residency that I couldn’t have guessed would be waiting for me. They are unique to my residency, and they are part of the reason why my residency has been so special.

1. I’ve been surprised by the network of worship leaders I’ve developed. 

Like I said before, it’s not that I wouldn’t expect for this to be a part of my residency experience – it’s just that I couldn’t have guessed that it would turn out to be such a big part of it. One of the cool things about the Austin Stone is their commitment to developing healthy relationships with other churches and other worship leaders from different places. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great worship leaders from all over the country – and it’s allowed me to develop and grow a healthy network.

2. I’ve been surprised by my growth in personal evangelism.

The past year has provided me with the opportunity to take a class through the Austin Stone called the Men’s and Women’s Development Program. This class is designed to teach theology in a way that allows students to communicate biblical truth to others in a clear and winsome way. Every time I step out into the city of Austin, there’s a good chance I’ll get into a conversation with someone of a different faith or belief system. People in the city are friendly and generally open about what they believe, and it’s led to a lot of opportunity to develop genuine relationships and share what I believe with people throughout the city.

3.  I’ve been surprised by the close friendships I’ve formed.

Before I moved to Austin, I was unsure about how many deep relationships I’d be able to form. It’s hard to tell whether you’ll “click” with a group of people. Especially since my residency is capped at two years in length, I didn’t know if there would be enough time to form genuine, fruitful relationships with others at the church. I feel like I’ve “clicked” with the people at the Austin Stone from the first day that I started my residency. God has gifted me with great relationships, great accountability, and with lots of friendships that will last a lifetime.

 

Thank you…

The past few weeks of reflection have impressed upon me many ways that I’ve grown during my first year of residency. As I continue to reflect and take stock for what lies ahead in the remainder of my time at the Austin Stone, my mind goes back to you. Without your prayers, encouragement, and support, none of this would be possible – so THANK YOU!!! I am so grateful and so proud to have such a great team of people supporting me and cheering me on.

Here’s looking forward to the remainder of my residency!

Value #3: We Value Character Over Competency

We are fascinated with people of great skill.

As a kid, I remember watching Michael Jordan dance his way around defenders to take the game-winning shot of game 6 in the 1998 NBA finals. I was awestruck. To my young mind, MJ was the greatest human being on the planet, the pinnacle of human perfection. I wanted to be like Mike.

Jordan was the most competent player to ever compete – both in his skill and in his knowledge of the game- and this competency led to his larger-than-life legacy and multi-million dollar status.

Our culture idolizes people of great competency. We love to cheer on the worlds best athletes, to buy from the worlds most pioneering businesspeople, and to send our kids to learn from the worlds best and brightest scholars.

Competency gets you places.

But competency alone won’t get you very far in God’s economy. In fact, it’ll get you nowhere without something that God desires more – character.

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV)

As broken humans, we struggle to see beyond outward performance. We value our competency in a particular skill set because it brings us recognition and respect. But Gods vision and understanding goes so much further. He sees and knows the heart. He wants people of character. He wants us to want to be people of character.

It’s only when our competency is directed, shaped, and ruled by God-honoring character that it truly becomes pleasing to God. It’s only when our competency is combined with this kind of character that our skills become sharpened arrows for God’s use.

In the Austin Stone Worship Manifesto, our lead pastor of worship at the Austin Stone, Aaron Ivey, writes:

“Artists tend to focus on skill level over character, but character is a necessity for anyone with influence. The size of the platform doesn’t always equal the size of the inward character. Platform typically illuminates skill sets, but the eyes of the Lord see the condition of the heart. Worshiping teams realize that character always trumps competency.”

My students worship band and I recognize the need to lead from a place of humility rather than pride, from brokenness rather than being “the complete package.” It’s when we take on an attitude of humility that we can see our gifting and skill sets properly – as a gift from God to be used for His glory and the good of others, not as a means of self-promotion or gain.

Although my band-mates and I are broken people, we belong to a holy, overwhelmingly kind and loving God. He sees our hearts, and wants them so much more than he wants our songs and skill sets. As a band, we care far more about the inner person than an outer performance.

We value character over competency.

 

 

— For the past few months I’ve been been writing about ten values that are shaping my students worship band. This value, “we value character over competency” was borrowed directly from the Austin Stone Worship Manifesto.

Value #2: We Choose Servanthood Over Stardom

In the first post of this series, I listed 10 values that are shaping my students worship band.  I’ve loved being a part of this group of musicians, and so I set out to list some of the things that we want to continue to value and develop moving forward. My aim is to develop a culture among us that glorifies God and serves the students that we lead well. In this post, I’ll try to describe our second value, which is taken directly from the Austin Stone Worship Manifesto.

Value #2: We choose servanthood over stardom. 

In an article posted on the Austin Stone Worship website, our Pastor of Worship, Aaron Ivey, succinctly describes what it means to choose servanthood over stardom. He writes:

“Leadership is for service, not status…the only person who deserves a platform, audience, or spotlight is Jesus Christ. We resist the temptation to promote ourselves and we die to a desire to be the greatest.”

My band and I’s purpose in worship is to direct glory away from ourselves and toward Jesus in every way possible. This means that we aim to craft our setlist, faithfully practice our music, and lead with a level of excellence that seeks primarily to serve our people and not our own reputation or ego. In other words, our ultimate aim isn’t to direct our students to notice our musicianship – a screaming guitar solo or a fat drum fill – we seek instead to point our students to Jesus. Jesus alone is worthy of being exalted. Jesus alone deserves our attention and admiration. We seek to point our students to him by the way we plan and execute our music.

But faithful servanthood goes far beyond our ability to make excellent music that points people to Jesus. It reaches down into the very lives of the students that we serve. This means that we are willing to step off of whatever platform we’re on to “get our hands dirty” – by offering a kind word, a helping hand, or just caring enough to remember our students names and form relationships with them. Sometimes it means playing ping-pong with the same girl for the fortieth time in a row. Sometimes it means googling the newest video games so that you can have a coherent conversation with a sixth grader about his hobby. Sometimes it means letting a sweaty kid with grubby hands and a pizza-stained t-shirt play your guitar! Like Jesus took initiative in laying down his life and serving us, we seek to take initiative in serving the students in our ministry.

Ultimately, we are fueled for servanthood by the example of Jesus.

Jesus was the epitome of a servant. The only one who ever deserved to be pampered chose instead to wash his disciples feet. The only one who ever merited the right to live in the lap of luxury had no home on this earth and no place to rest his head. The only one truly worthy to sit on a throne in the presence of royalty chose instead to sit on a dusty floor, eating with sinners and crooked government officials. The only one who claimed the right to ornament himself with the finest that the world had to offer was instead ornamented with the naked ugliness of our sin. And the only one who truly deserved to be lifted up in admiration and praise was lifted up on a Roman cross to be derided and ultimately killed.

I wonder if, in Jesus’s dying moments, his followers remembered these words that he had spoken to them:

whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (ESV) – Mark 10:43-45

Jesus chose this kind of servanthood knowing that it would cost him everything. And he calls us to do the same. There’s no room to clamor for recognition and no space to seek after stardom in God’s economy – there is only one Hero of the story, one Savior, and one King who alone is forever declared worthy of honor and glory.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” (ESV) – Revelation 5:11-12

We choose to embrace servanthood because Jesus did. We choose servanthood because Jesus is the true star. We choose servanthood over stardom.

Value #1: We Are Passionate Worshipers Throughout the Week

In my last post, I listed 10 values that are shaping my students worship band.  I’ve loved being a part of this group of guys, and so I set out to list some of the things that we want to continue to value and develop moving forward as a band. My hope is to develop a culture among us that glorifies God and serves the students that we lead well. In this post, I’ll try to describe our first value.

Value #1: We are passionate worshipers throughout the week. 

I’ll begin by explaining what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that my band and I are aiming to constantly sing, raise our hands, and expressively gesticulate in a religious fashion throughout the week. I also don’t mean to imply that this value takes preeminence over the other nine values because it comes first on the list. It doesn’t.

With that being said, here’s what I mean by saying that we aim to be passionate worshipers throughout the week:

None of my band members or I come in to lead music for a service and expect to be able to flip a switch to go into worship mode, as if we can somehow summon up a sense of “worshiply-ness” about us that wasn’t there before. Passionate worship isn’t something we muster up in the moment of a song, it’s something we’ve been incubating, fostering, and living out through the entirety of the week. We rightly want to recognize that our time of worship is a weighty occasion (there’s a gravity that comes with singing praises to the Lord of the Universe as a collected body of believers), but we also don’t want to pretend that our lives outside of those moments of corporate worship are any less important to God than the moments inside of it.  We want to recognize that what we are doing is incredibly significant without neglecting the fact that our character outside of corporate worship is just as important as our demeanor inside of corporate worship. We want to passionately worship Jesus in absolutely everything we do, not just in the way we lead through music.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

All of our lives, every nook and cranny, are meant to be filled in worship to God. My band and I want it to be apparent that we’ve been worshiping Jesus in the way we live throughout the week, not just during a Sunday worship service. We want everything we do to ring out in praise to God – in our private devotions, in the way we conduct ourselves at work, and in the way we treat our friends, family, and roommates. Even the incredibly mundane moments – driving to work, buying groceries, or changing diapers (for some of my band-mates that’s all too real!) – we recognize that every moment of our lives is a chance to passionately worship Jesus in our thoughts, deeds, and attitudes. Ultimately, our Sunday worship service is a continuation of what we’ve been doing all week long.

We are passionate worshipers throughout the week. 

Ten Values That Are Shaping My Students Worship Band

My worship band is special. Seriously. I know that everybody thinks their band is special (sort of like the way a parent always thinks their kids are the best), but I really mean that my worship band has been a gift from God. Shortly after I moved to Austin, I was told that I’d have to assemble a worship band to lead with me at our North Campus Students ministry. I was absolutely clueless – how am I supposed to form a band in a city where I know so few people? 

I prayed for God to send musicians my way. Within a few weeks I had a hodgepodge of guys who had never met each other, but who all seemed to be able to play their instruments, and who all seemed to want to use their talents to worship God. I had no idea of their skill levels, or how long they would want to stick around. I had an audio guy who had never touched a sound board, but who was willing to learn. In other words – we were all faced with a lot of unknowns. I mean really, was this gonna work out?

It did.

I can’t explain why, but by God’s grace that hodgepodge of guys turned out to be a mini dream-team for me. They have proved faithful, hard-working, and talented. But it got me thinking – what about this group makes them special? What attitudes and values have we been implicitly living out that have made us the way we are as a band? 

So I started writing down things about my band that, I think, make us special. I came up with ten things that I think set this band apart with the hopes that, in writing them down, these values would become explicit rather than solely implicit among us. These are some of the things that we want to continue to value and develop moving forward as a band.

In this post, I’ll share the ten values that are shaping my band. Some of them are borrowed from the Austin Stone Worship Manifesto , but have been repurposed for the context of my band.  In posts to come, I’ll try to describe each value in detail.

 

  1. We are passionate worshipers throughout the week. 
  2. We choose servanthood over stardom.
  3. We value character over competency.
  4. Jesus is in control, and he is the true Worship Leader.
  5. We will fight for contentment in every circumstance.
  6. We’re thankful for our roles in the band.
  7. We are primarily brothers in Christ, and then band-mates.
  8. Development is our heartbeat.
  9. We’re passionate about making passionate worshipers.
  10. We strive for excellence in everything we do.

My Ministry is Far From Sexy

I lead worship most Sundays. And most Sundays my band and I look out at a small group of somewhat awkward, glossy-eyed sixth-graders. Okay, I admit it… sometimes they’re painfully awkward. Students often meet our music with blank stares and slumped shoulders. It seems on Sundays our students are way more interested to open their mouths for the next bite of pizza than to open their mouths to sing. It’s something my band and I have had to learn to take in stride.

It’s far from sexy. In fact, it’s a ministry that goes relatively unnoticed. There are Sundays where I wonder whether the work I’m putting in is worth the impact I’m making. And in the midst of a modern worship culture that’s constantly clamoring for a bigger stage, brighter lights, and an ever-widening web of people to influence and lead, my band and I are fighting to believe that God is present and working in our humble little room, on our humble little stage, within our humble little students.

In the thick of it all, some of my bandmates and I have adopted a phrase –  There’s no place we’d rather be.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course there are times when we would love to play on a big stage, in front of big(ger) people. We certainly wouldn’t mind better equipment, a big budget, and a flashy environment to lead in. Of course we’d love to lead people who sing loudly, expressively, and passionately.

But the passionate, Spirit-filled worshipers of tomorrow are awkward sixth-graders today.

And I am privileged to lead those sixth-graders. I am privileged to look out at a group of worshipers whose potential for the Kingdom of God is unburdened by the cares and difficulties of adulthood. In fact, Jesus tells us that these young ones are blessed, because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs (Luke 18:15-16). They receive the Kingdom of God into their hearts in a way that God delights in – with the humble faith of a child (Luke 18:17). These young ones have their entire lives in front of them – lives that we pray will be entirely spent on Jesus.

They may feel awkward in worship, for now. But my band and I are privileged to teach them what expressive, passionate, Spirit-filled worship looks like. And one day, by God’s grace, I believe many of them will worship without abandon. The thought of it fills me with hope, and joy, and the overwhelming feeling that what my band and I do matters. I love the ministry that God has entrusted to us. It’s precious in His eyes, and it is enough for us. What I mean by enough is that our work is valuable to God, and so we can find contentment, peace, and purpose in it. He could have called us to lead thousands, but He has called us right here, right now –  to a small room in a forgotten corner of the church that smells like sweaty kids.

And so we labor on with joy.

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.

– Psalm 145: 3-4 (ESV)

God has entrusted to us the task of declaring His greatness to the next generation. And so we fix our eyes on the little image-bearers before us. We are called to be faithful in selflessly serving these young ones. Our awkward, pizza-wielding kids. Our eternal-souled, brimming-with-potential kids. May Jesus break our hearts for them to know Him in our tiny room, in our forgotten little corner of the church. We know that He is with us there, powerfully working.

There’s no place we’d rather be.