Our Transition to Calling our Vocalists Worship Leaders

In our church family, we’ve typically used a female vocalist each week to help lead our people in worship through song. We recently stopped using the term “vocalist” for these female singers, and have instead begun to call them “worship leaders.”

There’s a few reasons for this change. I hope in this post to lay out a few of the reasons why, ultimately, we feel this change is the best way to help our people to know and love God more through music. 

To start, here’s what I don’t mean by the term worship leader. 

I don’t mean that these people are exercising the position of an elder in the church, or exercising spiritual oversight over the church body. Instead, they are exercising their role under the authority of our church’s governing body. Our worship leaders are not exercising a pastoral role. 

Our worship leaders are free to direct a welcome to our people at the beginning of our gatherings, as well as to direct them to stand or sit at different points in the gathering as we prepare to sing. Our worship leaders are also free to give our Call to Worship (a small time of exhortation and scripture reading between our first and second song), and to lead the vocal melody of any number of songs we sing during the gathering. They also have the freedom to plan for, prepare, and lead our musicians through practice for Sunday gatherings. 

Since these individuals are called to lead our church family in these elements of the gathering, it’s extremely important that they seek to live and walk in a way consistent with the truth of the Gospel. Their lives, like any other leadership role in our church, should be marked by spiritual, relational, and emotional maturity. They must be leaders on and off the platform – in their pursuit of holiness, in their accountability and involvement in our church family, and in their doctrinal faithfulness and knowledge of the scriptures. This isn’t to say that our worship leaders live lives of perfection. Rather, their lives are marked by a consistent, faithful pursuit of Jesus and of repentance over sin. 

Our worship leaders must affirm and seek to uphold our five Citylight Lincoln Worship Values.

Practically speaking, this means that we will have less individuals leading worship. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. The qualifications and expectations for worship leaders naturally limit the amount of people qualified for the role. 
  2. We want to offer an opportunity for qualified men and women to consistently lead. By leading consistently, these people are given an opportunity to better develop and grow in their role, and better develop their skills. 
  3. We want women and men in our church to be able to look at the lives and example of our worship leaders and seek to emulate them. We are able to maintain a higher level of accountability with fewer leaders. Because there are fewer leaders, our pastoral team can better invest in our worship leaders to help ensure that they are living lives in step with the Gospel. 
  4. We want to ensure that our worship leaders are not only qualified to lead spiritually, but are also qualified in their skill as vocalists. We need our worship leaders to embody the marriage between character and competency. We want them to exemplify faithfulness to Jesus and giftedness from Jesus as a singer. 

Why does it matter?

Ultimately, our vocalists are leading our people in worship. Why not call them what they are?

People in our church are looking to our vocalists as examples of what it means to follow Jesus. Each Sunday, our vocalists are delivering content through song. They are consistently teaching our church family who they are, who God is, and how to properly respond to God. Because of these things, we must set the bar high. We must attach the proper weight to the position – and this starts by calling the people in this role to do more than just sing. They are called to lead. They are worship leaders.

We want to empower people in our church to use their gifts – in whatever capacity that may be. 

Most of the people who serve our church family as vocalists are female. My hope in creating a platform for more consistent female leadership in worship is that we will empower women in our church to want to serve in the ways God has gifted them – whether that be in the realm of music or not! Each one of us is specially and uniquely gifted by God to serve His body. When we begin to live this out and allow individual members of the body to use their gifts, it spurs other members on to better thrive and serve as well. 

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What is Worship?

Worship is the full-life response to who God is and what he has done.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5 – ESV)

Worship encompasses every area of our lives – the things we say, think, feel, and do. In that sense, worship is not limited to engaging in song on Sunday mornings. We are always worshiping. 

“All of life is ceaseless worship. Practically, this means that while worship does include corporate church meetings, singing songs, and liturgical forms, it is not limited by these things, defined solely as these things, or expressed only in these things, because worship never stops. Rather, we are continually giving ourselves away or pouring ourselves out and what we pour ourselves into in worship is someone or something other than the Creator God…human beings are unceasing worshipers. We are not created to worship, but rather we are created worshiping. Everyone worships all the time. Atheists, agnostics, Christians, and everyone in between are unceasing worshipers. Everyone, everywhere, all the time, is always worshiping. While the object and method of worship vary, the act of worship does not.” – Mark Driscoll

In other words we are, every second of our lives, worshiping! The question isn’t when we’re worshiping – rather, it’s what are we worshiping at any given point in time? The Christian is one who has been taken from the domain of darkness as a worshiper of creation, and transferred into the kingdom of light as a worshiper of the Creator. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our faulty, misplaced worship of creation is forgiven and paid for. Jesus’ perfect record of obedience in worship is credited to us as our very own. As we believe on Christ, we are filled with His Spirit who daily empowers us to love and worship God rather than the creation. 

It is only through Jesus’ sacrifice that our ever-worshiping hearts are made acceptable to God. 

[12] he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. [13] For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, [14] how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:12–14 – ESV)

Only Jesus can redeem our worship and bring it from death to life. Only Jesus’s work on our behalf can guarantee that our misplaced worship won’t be counted against us – that we are fully forgiven and loved by God. 

So, you might ask – what does this have to do with worship through music? 

It’s only when we rightly understand that worship encompasses all of life that we can begin to rightly lead our people in worship through song. When we sing, we call our people to turn their hearts away from worshiping worthless things to worshiping God. Throughout the week, we have been guilty of worshiping the wrong things. Our affections have been misplaced. Our desires have been self-serving. When we sing, we confess these things. We turn our eyes to Jesus. We declare and remember the truth. We spur one another on as we lift up our voices – we remind each other that we’re not alone in our pursuit of Jesus. 

Worship is the full-life response to who God is and what he has done. May our whole lives respond to God in a way that pleases him – with whole-hearted, endless devotion and praise. 

The Citylight Lincoln Worship Mission Statement

As a worship family at Citylight Lincoln, we want to embrace a mission statement that allows us to serve our people well and glorify God in everything we do. In light of this, we’ve adopted a mission statement:

Our mission is to serve our church family by helping them to know and love God more through music, media, and art. 

Our aim is to help our church family see and experience the beauty of God through creativity.

Psalm 27 says this:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple. – Psalm 27:4

We have the amazing privilege to lead people to taste, see, and behold the beauty of the Lord, that they may know and love Him more. We recognize that God has given us skills and abilities that we might reflect and bear His image and beauty to the world, especially to the people that make up our church family.  We seek to serve through three primary means – music, media, and art.

Music

We want beautiful truths to be paired with beautiful melodies. As a team of creatives, we want to sing, write, and lead music in a way that inspires our people to engage in undistracted, authentic worship of God.

Media

We want beautiful truths to be paired with beautiful video, audio, and design. We seek to tell stories through video that point people to the greater story that God is writing – the story of salvation through the Gospel. We want to produce audio that inspires our church family to participate in undistracted worship through song. We want to design and produce media content that allows our people to fully engage with the truths we proclaim, that God may be known and loved more.

Art

We want beautiful truths to be paired with beautiful art. We want the artistic imagery that we create to echo the beauty and skill of our Creator. Whether we’re engaging in digital artistry, or using a paintbrush and palette, the goal remains the same –  we seek to draw people’s minds and hearts to the beauty and worth of Jesus.

Citylight Lincoln Worship Values

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

 

As a worship family at Citylight Lincoln, we want to embrace a vision that propels us to engage in worship, media, and art in a way that honors God and serves our people well. With that in mind, we’ve adopted a mission statement and five values that we hope will allow us to honor Jesus in everything we do.

OUR MISSION: To serve our church family by helping them to know and love God more through music, media, and art. 

1. We choose servanthood over stardom. 

We choose to see ourselves as servants both on and off the stage. We believe that the only person who deserves a platform, audience, or spotlight is Jesus Christ.  Our purpose is to direct glory away from ourselves and toward Jesus in every way possible. We plan, prepare, and practice for Sunday in a way that serves our people well – that they may be led in engaging, undistracted worship of Jesus. We are motivated to serve out of love for Jesus, and out of love for our people. We want our hearts to break for our people to know and love Jesus more, and so we seek to serve them in any way possible – beyond just playing music on Sunday morning. Like Jesus took initiative in laying down his life and serving us, we seek to take initiative in serving the people God has entrusted to us.

2. We value character over competency. 

We choose to be ruled by God’s Word. Therefore, we aim to have every facet of our lives, including our worship, be shaped by the heart of God. We lead from a place of humility rather than pride, from brokenness rather than being “the complete package.” We are broken, sinful men and women who 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. We care far more about the inner person than an outer performance.

3. Development is our heartbeat. 

We always seek out opportunities to develop ourselves and others. We never “arrive” or make it to a place where our growth as men & women of God or as musicians is complete. Because God is always at work in us, we are always a work in progress. We actively seek out opportunities to develop our character by investing in the life of our church (Citygroups, Sunday morning gatherings, etc.). We are committed to developing as musicians by practicing our instruments, growing in our knowledge of music & music theory, and participating in events like Worship Team Nights and other training opportunities. As much as we desire to be developed, we seek to pour into others in our church family that they, too, may develop as musicians and followers of Jesus.

4. We are passionate worshipers throughout the week. 

None of us come in on Sunday morning and “flip a switch” to go into worship mode. It’s apparent that we’ve been worshiping Jesus in the way we live throughout the week – in our private devotions, in the way we conduct ourselves at work, and in the way we treat our friends and family. Every moment of our lives is a chance to passionately worship Jesus in our thoughts, deeds, and attitudes. Sunday morning is a continuation of what we’ve already been doing throughout the week. We seek to passionately worship with our body posture, demeanor, and with the way we sing on Sunday morning. We believe that our posture in worship sets the tone for the entire room. We believe our God is worthy to be worshiped with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – and so our passion for Him is evident in the way we worship on Sunday morning, and throughout the week.

5.  We strive for Godly excellence in everything we do. 

We want to do everything that we do for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:13). We don’t expect perfection from each other, but we encourage one another to do our best every time we prepare, practice, or lead worship. We value each other’s time and commitment by coming to practice and worship on Sunday prepared and ready to serve. We work outside of band practices to learn songs and develop our skills. We recognize the potential in each other and seek to draw it out of one another in healthy ways. We feel comfortable doing this because ultimately excellence isn’t about us – it’s about God being glorified through our music. We believe that God delights in using our hard work to bring himself glory and to bring us joy.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.