WHY MUSIC?

songs as modern liturgy

Why do we worship through music in church?

... And why does it feel weird sometimes?

In this short video we discuss the importance of music as modern liturgy- the stuff we do in church; and why it must change! We also briefly cover what praise looked like in ancient biblical times and how we can appropriately express those things today.

This teaching was given at Redeemers Church in Redmond, OR. July 8, 2018. https://redeemersredmond.com/ For more information on worship and music, or if you'd like to have Michael come speak at your event, please click on the YOUR CHURCH tab at the top.

Songwriting Your Love

Check out the acoustic version lyric video for

Your Love_songwriting_2.png

Tips

Here's some more details behind the songwriting process of Your Love.

Songwriting

The song didn't happen over night. And what I'm about to share is still the abbreviated version. Songwriting is most often 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. It's a life long journey with an ever changing scenery. The process below should help encourage and inspire you to keep exploring.

In continuation from the story behind the song [part 3 - UNEXPECTED]... the students and I spent a few hours constructing the first verse.

2 hours. 1 verse.

Why? Because we challenged ourselves to create an AABB rhyme scheme. 

It's not easy. Let me show you what I'm talking about. Here's the rhyming words we decided on.

 words, burn, overflows, soul =  A  A  B  B

First, you'll recognize we used some imperfect rhymes. "Words" and "burn" aren't perfect rhymes. This keeps it from feeling cheesy and to too predictable.

Furthermore, we worked really hard to load the content of the lyrics preceding each rhyme. This is supper important. I would argue, it's more important than rhyming at all.

Lyrics should have layers of depth, continuity and integrity, while still feeling relatable.

A poor example being something like:

We can never be apart

You really want my heart

How could this love be

Now I can finally see

It just... hurts.

Unless you're going for the Dr. Seuss thing. #fan But one would still critique the lack of continuity above.

In our verse, there's a sense of story being told. Each line nuances the last, and anticipates the next.

On my drive home that night, I started singing what would become Chorus A. I safely opened the iPhone voice memo app and recorded some ideas so I'd remember them later.

Fast forward a few months.

I'd kept working on the lyrics and adding verses while keeping the students involved in the process. But there was something missing. I felt it. And when that happens, I've learned that enticing Evan Wickham into a songwriting session usually results in a positive outcome. 60% of the time, it works every time!

The trick is relatively easy- you simply start playing something while Evan is present in the room and he'll naturally be drawn to wherever the music is being created (Hint: he really likes Disney and Sting) 

Like a cat to string! He can't help himself.

Evan is a fantastic songwriter like his brother Phil. He gets it. It's always nice to know someone like him who you can bounce ideas off of. His addition to the song was exactly what it needed.

This is when the Chorus B would arrive. Naturally, it comes after the Chorus A section- "Lord, I need Your Spirit to fill my heart again." Some people might call this the hook. It's the part that goes "with Your love... lo-ve, lo-ve".

I remember Evan said something like, "I've been listening to the new Adele record. She'd totally do something like that."

Influences. fun!

Fast forward an entire year!

We grew enough confidence in the song to start playing it live for our college group. This helped a ton! 

First, it allowed us to feel out how people would respond, and to be frank, if the song was any good. Secondly, it let us develop some of the production elements like what sounds and rhythms to use. We also searched for an arrangement that best suited the song.

What did we learn? The Bridge was way too word-y

It was really more like a 3rd verse that became a Bridge. So during the recording process we scratched the wordy Bridge it and tried something more simple.

We kept the alternate chord progression and melody because it provided a nice variation (or lift) from the rest of the song, but the lyrics got reduced to what I will call a simple praise moment- "Let Your Glory fall, Hallelujah!".

Repeat. 

"Let Your Glory fall, Hallelujah!"

Feels good.

Done.

So much more I could say about all the decisions that went into this song becoming what you hear today. Hopefully you caught all the indirect tips as well like - the value of co-writing, variants on lyrical depth, or using voice memo.

Please share comments. I'd love to know what has been most challenging and most helpful for you as a songwriter. 

Your Love

If you haven't heard the song yet

watch the lyric video below

Literally Jesus?

[Part 1]

How this song was written is fascinating, but first I need tell you a strange story.

My wife Monica got a text from Jesus once.

It read:

“Hi, this is Jesus. I’m at the door. Can you let me in?

Without immediately disregarding the validity of the text, she asked me “what should I do?”

A few months prior we experienced an incredible encounter with God when the Spirit directly told us to move to San Diego to help our friend Evan Wickham plant a church.

Crazy, I know! And I totally understand if that invokes some skepticism. It’s probably healthy that it does.

For us though, it meant we were already having to reevaluate our preconceived ideas of how/when God speaks. Fast forward 3 months down the road, we’re living in downtown San Diego, still settling into our new neighborhood when the unexpected Jesus text was received.

But I had a sobering hunch.

“Hey babe, you know the apartment maintenance guy- “Chuy”… I’m pretty sure it’s his nickname. I think his real name may be Jesus?”

We thought about for a second then I added, “Either way, we should let him in!”

And we let Jesus into our home.

Turns out it was the maintenance guy. Not the carpenter from Nazareth.

Bummer.

However, our spirits were lifted when Jesus fixed the faucet in the kitchen. #blessed

Wouldn’t that be cool though. Like, if we actually received text messages directly from Jesus the Christ? It’s easy to think that way- what it would be like if we had direct contact with Jesus. Almost as if He was still walking on earth today.

And this brings me to the lyrics of the second verse…

Sometimes I wish You were here

Still You’re moving everywhere

It’s true. I wish He was here. Literally here! Doing Jesus stuff.

I don’t think I’m alone. But here’s the shift we can take in our thinking: as westerners, we wish Jesus was still in the flesh because we think it would benefit us.

Reality is, Jesus finished His work and (PAY ATTENTION!) He left us with “the way” we can follow in His footsteps. He lived His life to perfection.

Then He left earth (the Ascension) and now He is enthroned as King and Lord over all. The implications of this are huge!

His kingdom is continually spreading.

His love is on the move.

The Spirit is even empowering us as we partner with Jesus’ rule.

Make sense?

When you and I day dream of Jesus walking the earth in our day to day life, the dream is actually giving us an image of what He intends to do through us.

The Holy Spirit is now active all around the world through His church, doing things that one man in flesh would be incapable of.

You heal the sick and cure the blind

You even raise the dead to life

We often see and feel the effects of this power, like the wind through tree branches, or the deep burning that fills our hearts with His love.

So it’s for our benefit that He’s gone. And we can rely on His teachings and The Gift (Holy Spirit) to guide and empower us every second.

His words. His love.

Does God actually make a difference in my life?

[Part 2]

There’s a small window in the back room of our church. Every time we gather there to pray, my eyes are drawn to the trees outside. Often there’s just enough breeze to keep the branches swaying.

This is my moment of peace from the tyranny of the urgent.

The room I’m talking about most musicians know as the “green room”. Or sometimes called backstage. It’s the room where we often meet with the production team and leaders to go over details for the gathering. Sometimes it’s the place where the musicians circle up before rehearsals. In both scenarios, the room is prone to bring out the stress of preparation and the messes of life that we are in conflict with. So in some ways it’s like the Situation Room beneath the White House - there’s very pressing work to be done and nobody wants anything to blow up!

It can often sound like this…

“We start in 5 minutes, is everything ready to go?”

“We need to start on time this week!”

“Do we have the slides for that one thing?”

“Did the batteries get replaced on that mic?”

“Where is so and so? Do they know they’re leading for that part”

“What’s the transition going to look like?”

“We’re late! Let’s pray!”.

Pray? Oh man! You can imagine the amount of weight and pressure that builds up to that moment of prayer.

But that’s when my eyes instinctively drift towards the window, searching for peace and stability, longing for something human. You’d think I was an astronaut in space looking back towards earth, wanting to feel gravity again.

Those trees bring me back to stability, making me fully aware of what I need most. The Spirit of God.

“'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty" (Zach. 4:6).

Even though we don’t control exactly where or how the Spirit will move, we can anticipate the when. We can see and feel it like the wind.

His love is known in the presence of His power.

His love is spoken through His Word and Spirit.

His people are moved like the branches on a tree.

Lord, I see You
Feel You
Moving like the wind

We don’t need to fear or doubt His presence. Instead, we can expect Him to come. The Spirit is with us always. Even when 2 or 3 aren’t gathered (Psalm 139). Where could we escape from His presence?

If you’re a part of those meetings before your church gatherings, you know it would be difficult to justify canceling or avoiding them. So what can you do?

Here’s one very practical idea. Our team has learned to pray and seek God much earlier in the morning; which makes the production meetings simply details. And details can easily get hashed out when everyone is in peace.

We don’t want to settle for last minute Hail Mary’s- “Lord, just bless us and everything that happens for Your glory. Amen… (unison clap) let’s go!”

Yikes.

He’s the God of shalom and He invites us into Himself…let’s make sure we’re in that space first before asking others to join us.

I need Your Spirit
To fill my heart again
With Your love

Let this song be a window to remind you of His presence- like wind in the trees. And I pray it will stir your soul to expect the Spirit to move.

Window+Palm_blank.png

 

Unexpected

[Part 3]

When Jesus spoke to a few disciples on the road to Emmaus, they said something that I resonate with, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

I love that!

You know, those unexpected conversations when we know God is with us. And we know He’s actually making a difference in what will happen next.

My heart longs to hear Your words
When You speak I feel it burn

I want Jesus to come surprise me more often, especially in the low moments, when like those two disciples, I’m a little confused and discouraged.

This song was certainly unexpected.

I was teaching a group of Worship Stream students whom I inherited with my new job when that afternoon, we split into smaller groups to get a feel for co-writing songs together. We randomly split up into groups of 2 or 3 and headed into separate rooms.

Once settled, I asked if anyone had come ready with a song idea that they’d be willing to share. One of the students had a strong verse melody and chord progression, so we started in on the lyrics, asking repeatedly- what is this song really about?

We applied all the basic principles: writing with passion and honesty while embracing tension. Not easy stuff of course, but we went for it. You might say, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Seriously, anything could have happened, but one thing unified our group: we all wanted more than our imaginations could give us. We wanted Jesus to surprise us with His words.

You can hear it throughout the whole song- the genuine longing for an encounter with God. The kind of encounter that will lift any weight, crush every doubt and love beyond our own capabilities.

Let Your glory fall
Hallelujah

It happened to Jacob in Bethel (Gen. 28:10), it happened to the disciples, it happened in Acts (on like, every page) and it’s happening all around the world right now.

This song isn’t for apologetics (reasoned arguments for something). We weren’t trying to boost Spiritual belief. I’m a natural skeptic and I’ll admit, I don’t easily believe something is of the Spirit quickly. Even the biblical examples above have real people in them, just like you and me, laden with doubt.

But again, there’s nothing to prove here in this song. It’s not a “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief,” but rather a prayer for the person longing for more;

more of His presence,

more of His voice,

and more of His power working among us, today!

Your Love_songwriting_2.png

Tips

Here's some more details behind the songwriting process of Your Love.

Songwriting

The song didn't happen over night. And what I'm about to share is still the abbreviated version. Songwriting is most often 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. It's a life long journey with an ever changing scenery. The process below should help encourage and inspire you to keep exploring.

In continuation from the story shared above, the students and I spent a few hours constructing the first verse.

2 hours. 1 verse.

Why? Because we challenged ourselves to create an AABB rhyme scheme. 

It's not easy. Let me show you what I'm talking about. Here's the rhyming words we decided on.

 words, burn, overflows, soul =  A  A  B  B

First, you'll recognize we used some imperfect rhymes. "Words" and "burn" aren't perfect rhymes. This keeps it from feeling cheesy and to too predictable.

Furthermore, we worked really hard to load the content of the lyrics preceding each rhyme. This is supper important. I would argue, it's more important than rhyming at all.

Lyrics should have layers of depth, continuity and integrity, while still feeling relatable.

A poor example being something like:

We can never be apart

You really want my heart

How could this love be

Now I can finally see

It just... hurts.

Unless you're going for the Dr. Seuss thing. #fan But one would still critique the lack of continuity above.

In our verse, there's a sense of story being told. Each line nuances the last, and anticipates the next.

On my drive home that night, I started singing what would become Chorus A. I safely opened the iPhone voice memo app and recorded some ideas so I'd remember them later.

Fast forward a few months.

I'd kept working on the lyrics and adding verses while keeping the students involved in the process. But there was something missing. I felt it. And when that happens, I've learned that enticing Evan Wickham into a songwriting session usually results in a positive outcome. 60% of the time, it works every time!

The trick is relatively easy- you simply start playing something while Evan is present in the room and he'll naturally be drawn to wherever the music is being created (Hint: he really likes Disney and Sting) 

Like a cat to string! He can't help himself.

Evan is a fantastic songwriter like his brother Phil. He gets it. It's always nice to know someone like him who you can bounce ideas off of. His addition to the song was exactly what it needed.

This is when the Chorus B would arrive. Naturally, it comes after the Chorus A section- "Lord, I need Your Spirit to fill my heart again." Some people might call this the hook. It's the part that goes "with Your love... lo-ve, lo-ve".

I remember Evan said something like, "I've been listening to the new Adele record. She'd totally do something like that."

Influences. fun!

Fast forward an entire year!

We grew enough confidence in the song to start playing it live for our college group. This helped a ton! 

First, it allowed us to feel out how people would respond, and to be frank, if the song was any good. Secondly, it let us develop some of the production elements like what sounds and rhythms to use. We also searched for an arrangement that best suited the song.

What did we learn? The Bridge was way too word-y

It was really more like a 3rd verse that became a Bridge. So during the recording process we scratched the wordy Bridge it and tried something more simple.

We kept the alternate chord progression and melody because it provided a nice variation (or lift) from the rest of the song, but the lyrics got reduced to what I will call a simple praise moment- "Let Your Glory fall, Hallelujah!".

Repeat. 

"Let Your Glory fall, Hallelujah!"

Feels good.

Done.

So much more I could say about all the decisions that went into this song becoming what you hear today. Hopefully you caught all the indirect tips as well like - the value of co-writing, variants on lyrical depth, or using voice memo.

Please share comments. I'd love to know what has been most challenging and most helpful for you as a songwriter. 

Check out the acoustic version lyric video for Your Love

Worship ≠ Music

Worship ≠ Music.jpg

Worship is not in the Bible

[part 1]

Did you know that the English word for worship is not in the bible?

The definition of the word worship – to give worth comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word deriving from weorth + -scip. It’s not at all the same as biblical worship. At best, the definition could be used to generalize all things worship.

For example, my wife and I are raising a 4 year old…

cat.

I suppose his name is also English, Wayne Rooney, the English Soccer player. Being the only “child”, Rooney gets a lot of attention, I’ll admit, probably too much. You could easily say that I “give worth” to Rooney in many ways: food, toys, time and attention… maybe the occasional Halloween costume (haters gonna hate).

So, in effect, I worship Rooney, right? I give worth to my cat.

Yikes!

Do I really worship my cat?

By the English definition, YES!

If worship is defined this way, then anything to which we give worth is something we worship. In which case, you might be unintentionally worshiping all kinds of stranger things too… Stranger Things 2… I digress.

Truthfully, none of us use the word “worship” by its old English definition. Today, we let Google define everything for us.

The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.
— Google

Thank you Google. I could not have made it through college without you... much less to the nearest Papa Johns.

This puts me at ease. While I’m very grateful for Rooney, I don’t consider him a deity (he still thinks he’s god, though).

Worship is more complex than simply giving worth. But, is that all that worship is? Is it something we feel or do to tell God something He already knows about Himself?

There’s more!

We still need to look at how Scripture defines worship.


How does scripture define worship?

[part 2]

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
— Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

When we read the scriptures to define worship, there are all sorts of words translated from the original Hebrew and Greek to mean worship, and none of these words fit perfectly into the English definition.

This means that the English word for worship functions more like a junk-drawer word for all things related to worship. Its definition is way too broad.

The scriptures are specific. As a starting point, I’m going to use a summary from Chris Jack. Here are 3 of the most common words you’ll see as worship, or translated into worship, in your bible:

FEAR

BOW

SERVE

 

To fear - yare in Hebrew, similar to sebomai in Greek.

To bow - hawah from hishtahawah in Hebrew. Similar to proskuneo in Greek.

To serve - abad in Hebrew, similar to latreuo and leitourgeo in Greek.

These words have a lot of different uses and themes and they’re complex in the original language. You could consequently translate them in different ways, for example; reverence, submission and ministry … or to be in awe, to pay honor and to work for.

I’ll let you nerd out on your own time. But for our purposes, let’s see what these words look like in action. Here’s some very popular verses we’ll need to reconsider.

 

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” 

-Genesis 22:4-5

Chronologically, this is the first place the English word “worship” pops up in our bibles. It’s the monumental passage where Abraham goes to sacrifice his son Isaac. Crazy.

Most of you know how the story ends and like me, you’ve heard some pretty extravagant teachings from this passage advocating for worship music as sacrifice. Unfortunately, the word “worship” here is actually that word hawah - to bow face down, submit, or pay honor - but probably to just “bow down.” So, yeah, they were worshiping, but not like how we often do it today. When Abraham and Isaac went to worship, they actually got down on their knees.

There’s a concept! Bowing to worship is worship. How often do we ever bow when we gather to worship as a church?

Let’s be really honest, how many times have we sung something like Hillsong’s I Surrender, “Here I am, down on my knees again, surrendering all,” and yet when you look around there’s a bunch of people standing around with their hands in their pockets, staring at the lyrics on the projection screen?

I’m guilty too.

What’s worse, I find in many churches, the chairs are set up so closely together that it’s nearly impossible to find room to bow down in worship. That’s maybe something to stop and consider if you’re a leader.

Let’s look at another example, probably the most quoted verse by worship (music) leaders today is Romans 12:1:

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

 

There’s that word again, but what does it mean this time? At its core, it’s the Greek word for service – latreuo - which makes perfect sense! Paul wasn’t encouraging the Romans to sacrifice through song, but rather that they serve one another in order to be unified.

Read in context - how Paul builds up to chapter 12. It’s actually really beautiful. The kind of worship that speaks Gods love language is being willing to sacrifice our life, or comforts and preferences, in order to love others.

Worship looks like sacrificing myself for the benefit of the people around me.

Again, I think if we’re really honest with ourselves, we’d rather sing 100 songs about God’s love, mercy and sacrifice before ever having to put our own lives and comforts on the line for another person. Biblical worship is way more demanding of us. It goes directly against our self-indulging comfort zones.

How do we change that?

This is just the beginning. We’ve only discussed 3 words that fit into the larger category of worship, and we’ve only explored a few examples of how that plays out in scripture. So before you start picking yourself or others apart on the semantics of worship, let’s just pause and consider how we might make some practical changes today, given this new information.


How does this change our worship?

[part 3]

As we learned from part 1 & 2, the English word worship functions more like a junk-drawer word for all things related to worship. The definition is way too broad to communicate a specific action of worship.

For example, telling someone in church, “let’s worship,” would be similar to telling an athlete, “let’s play sports.” It’s extremely vague. And let’s admit, a little awkward.

Just like any athlete would want more clarity - “What kind of sport? Football, rugby, golf, tennis, ping pong?” any worshiper should want the same - “How should we worship? In reverence, bowing, serving, giving, reading scripture, praying, sacrificing, obeying God, working justice into the world?” (See? More examples).

My point is simple. Worship does not equal music.

So, how can we change?

Well for one, let’s stop using worship to mean solely music. Worship cannot be a synonym for music. While music is one way to worship God, it’s not the only way. It’s a fraction, at best.

Worship does not equal music.

We need to be clearer in conversation and publication and especially from the stage.

I hear others say all the time, “let’s worship now,” as a transition from the teaching or prayer. Consequently, worship gets equated with the music portion of the gathering. And whatever else we were doing (or going to do) was not worship.

So I’ve learned to shift my language a little, “Let’s continue to worship through music”.

Simple as that.

Try it out next time you lead. Commit yourself on and off stage, towards clarifying what context you intend to lead others in worship. You can see how this will eventually (and indirectly) shape the culture around you.

Remember, as the leaders go, so go the people.

Yes, it will get messy for a little while. Habits tend to die slow. But eventually you and those around you will benefit. I guarantee you, It’s so worth it!

You will be literally starting a worship revival at your church without making any changes to the music.

Now still, some of you might be wondering - is changing our language really going to have that big of an impact?

Yes! I’ve seen it happen.


WHO ARE THE WORSHIP LEADERS?

[Part 4]

Now going a little further. At my current church, we don’t even use worship as a title anymore. As in, “worship pastor,” or “worship director.” That is, unless the person actually over-sees everything about the Sunday gathering (typically the Lead Pastor). Instead, we adopted the title: Music Pastor and Music Director. Plenty of other titles could work, as well.

This has proven to be hugely beneficial to our people, especially the staff and musicians. For the musicians (speaking frankly), it keeps our role in perspective. Leading music is just one expression of worship to Jesus, not an exalted position. Therefore, our musicianship doesn’t define us as worshipers of Jesus.

Let that sink in.

I'm not the guitar player...

I'm not the drummer...

the bass player...

piano player...

singer...

I'm a worshiper of Jesus.

This is a huge identity shift. But the overall encouragement is always towards a holistic devotion to Jesus. I’ve watched this reality transform our musician’s hearts as worshipers on and off stage. Notice, their talent isn't necessarily the problem, however their identity is.

As image bearers of God, our talent gives glory to God. Therefore, if our identity (worshiper of Jesus) is in place, our talents will naturally be used for that purpose.

For the staff, the transformation is equally impacting. We realize that we all play a part as worship leaders, without ever needing to pick up a guitar, learn piano, or to be blunt, sing in tune. Instead, we can lead others with reverence towards God, bowing in prayer, and serving one another.

Let’s bring God more than a song.

 

Here’s one last idea. Earlier I gave the example of bowing and service as acts of worship form the scriptures. So what if this week you invite your church to do one of those things?

Here’s how I would suggest saying it:

“During this next song, I want to invite you, if you’re willing and able, to bow on your knees for the first part of this song. We’re going to bow to Jesus Christ our king, as an act of worship”.

Or if you want to challenge your church to serve one another better, try this:

“Serving one another is essential to how we please God in worship. Awareness and prayer is a great first step. So while the band keeps playing some music, I want you to turn to your neighbor and simply ask, ‘what do you want Jesus to do for you today?’ and then take a moment to pray with that person.”

Easy stuff, right?

If it feels risky, talk to another leader about it first. Or feel free to comment / ask about what to do in your specific situation.

There’s still more, but I think these initial thoughts are a great starting point to lead you down the path of true worship.

In the meantime, let’s continue to discover all the ways we can worship without music. Let’s hear and act on the warnings of the prophets, no longer giving “lip service,” but upholding justice and righteousness (Amos 5:21-24).

Let’s respond well to the prophets today! Let’s bring God “more than a song” (Heart Of Worship by Matt Redman).

Your turn…

If worship does NOT equal music,

what else could you see changing

in your context?

WORSHIP & MUSIC

There’s a problem… 

More like a crisis.

It's becoming widely accepted among the church community to refer to worship and music as the same thing. Put another way, we use the word "worship" as a synonym for music.

You see this little mixup all the time in "worship"- websites, records, announcements, labels, genres, publications and training conferences. We even use "worship" as a title for pastors and leaders. Worship Pastor. Worship Leader.

The assumption is that worship stands for the music stuff at church. In fact, most people describe their best worship experiences as a time that involved music. 

Right now, if you GOOGLE worship - images… what do you see? Stages, lights, bands... and a lot of silhouetted hands being lifted up. Like... a lot of hands.

Now don't get me wrong, worshiping through music is definitely worship. Unfortunately, today's worship has been narrowed down to just that, worshiping through music.

This should leave us hugely disappointed. For many it doesn't. And here's where it gets more problematic...

When I ask people what is worship, the response I often hear is "It's a lifestyle".

Great! Some have figured out that worship isn't solely music. There's hope! However,  when I follow up with- what kind of lifestyle?

[blank stare]

"uh, doesn't the Bible say?"

When worship becomes an experience;
a thing we can choose to buy and consume...
it eventually falls flat.

God has a lot more for us in mind when we consider worship and music. There are entire books in the Bible dedicated to worship with music... and without music. I think it's fair to say that we need to spend some time learning about what the Scriptures have to say about worship as a lifestyle.

God clearly doesn't want one without the other. Remember Isa. 29:13: "The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me".

This is God's way of saying, I'm tired of your lip service. Will you really commit yourself to a relationship with Me? 

This is the crisis

God wants our whole heart. He wants a relationship with us. He's been trying to get our attention for a while. He really does want to take us deeper, but He can't get us there with music alone.

The prophets in biblical times gave us warnings. The song writers of our time have given us warnings. So the question really is, will we listen? Will we hear the warning and change our behavior. 

Because if we don't, eventually our worship will fall flat.

For my buddy Nate, it was his iPod. He made a worship playlist for driving or going on long runs. It helped him ease the stress of life and feel closer to God. Eventually, the songs didn't do the trick anymore. They felt stale and repetitious. 

He'd have to find a another way to worship God.

For my musician friend Ben, it was Biology class. He learned that the human body shoots endorphins to the brain when experiencing the lights and sounds at concerts. This changed his view of what was really happening at church; since the church used the same sort of production techniques to mimic those concerts. And so for him, the whole thing lost its magic.

Was the Spirit even moving? What was the point of it all?

For me it was in High School. I was getting pretty good at leading worship, yet I was still very, very far from being in a right relationship with God. Eventually, a close friend called me out on my dual lifestyle. And they were right. I needed to put down the guitar for a while to ask the question...

Do I even mean the words I'm singing?

We all need to ask these questions. They're good for us. What is worship? And why music?

Worship MUST be about something more.

What does God SEE?
What does God HEAR?

Worship Music Cross over v2.jpg

The best way to talk about this is to recognize that you're talking about two things...

worship

music

The "&" is important there.  Understanding the difference between true worship and a simple music experience can help us rightly posture ourselves before God in all things.

Worship is all over the scriptures. It's defined for us in simple terms and with practical steps like, serving, bowing down, obedience, giving respect and fulfilling commitments. Meaning we can actually find out what pleases God, and go deeper in our love for Him without music.

Music is also all over the scriptures. It goes way beyond our narrow application in church today. Music is used to awaken, inspire and unify; but also to renew, heal, redeem, build up and even guide us into a deep-felt presence with God and others. Meaning we can go further into the things of the Spirit when we praise God through music.

This is amazing news! After all I'm a musician. I love writing and leading the church in worship music. It's what I do for a living. And now I can worship God without music too. No more lip service. More worship 24/7. 

So...

let's talk about worship and music. Let's discover the things mentioned above. There are so many important topics and questions that I'm dying to share with you. This is just the starting point.

I've enjoyed over 20 years of life doing both worship and music professionally around the world. I've discovered quite a few helpful tips and resources that I'd love to share with you, your musicians and your church. It's my deepest passion and my greatest prayer to help restore this generation, as worshipers of God- to help us rediscover just how incredible worshiping Him can be.

Please follow along here at michaelhugheswatson.com and on social media [links below]. 

 

worship leaders & pastors

This will be a paradigm shift in how we lead our church. If you have more questions (and you should) email me: michaelhughesw@gmail.com

We'll be hitting topics like:

-The different types of worship leaders | The role of a worship pastor.

-Leading music with excellence | Defining excellence

-Fostering a culture of worship and innovation | Creativity

-The relationship between "Lead Pastor" and "Music Pastor"

We'll also go over practical things like auditioning musicians, leading a band, the purpose of production and song writing. 

I'll be posting every week practical steps to help further our understanding of worship and music. I invite you to join the conversation- ask the difficult questions! Let's work together.


Stay connected via Instagram.

 

 

Here

If you haven't heard the song yet

watch the lyric video below

This song is about my cell phone.

Strange, I know. Here’s how it happened: 

I have a pretty casual morning routine. Making coffee, tidying up. These are rituals which prepare me to think, read scripture, pray and write.

I sit down in my beloved chair, Bible and coffee within reach, the morning light beginning to stream through the windows, creation awakening, my mind a blank slate for the Spirit to direct, so I can open up...

Instagram.

News Feed.

(text message)

Sports News.

Emails.

(text message)

Calendar, Weather, Map location…

The morning spent, the moment lost. The coffee cup now empty and of course, I need to be somewhere. Oops!

(text message)

I rush to get ready and speed out the door to wherever. You can almost imagine God sitting in the room like, “I thought we were going to spend time together?” much to His disappointment.

It wasn’t always like this. At some point, I had justified this sort of behavior - using my phone as a first step in the morning to wake up, instead of immediately going to God in prayer or scripture - whatever prompted that change is history now.

I’m always searching for distraction
By desire I’m consumed

I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this struggle- how to best use technology. The majority of us probably think we're the ones consuming - using these apps to make our lives better and more efficient. Instead, it works the other way around. Our desires are used against us. We're the ones being consumed.

These desires are sometimes difficult to channel. Too often, we let them define us. Eventually, we become what we desire.

You’re always fighting for my attention
To show me life I cannot lose

There’s a book that was recently published called You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith. The title alone is thought provoking enough. It’s true. Our lives tend to resemble the things we love. And it affects our worship. Listen to how Smith defines in more detail- the battle for our attention, our loves and longings:

Christian worship, we should recognize, is essentially a counterformation to those rival liturgies we are often immersed in, cultural practices that covertly capture our loves and longings, miscalibrating them, orienting us to rival versions of the good life.

My “rival liturgy” – smart phone - had certainly confused the good life God intended for me- the invitation to spend time with Him daily. Allowing my desires to be shaped by the Spirit. That’s the worship I deeply desired.

Instead my warped routine lasted for I don't know how long. Maybe it was weeks. Maybe it was months.

Finally, one morning, I got sick of it. I opened the scriptures again, as I had always done for years, beginning with the next Psalm that my Bible bookmarked for me...

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, YHWH, my eyes are not prideful;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

The Spirit had all my attention at this point. I sat quietly, as a child being held in the arms of God. No prayer, just silence, calm, and contentment.

Stillness.

Hold me here like a child in your arms
Calm my mind
Keep still my rushing heart

I rarely allow myself to be in this sort of place. This was a less-frequented room in God's palace of wonder - taking me deeper into the life that is truly life. This is the space where, like a child or a loved one, you just enjoy the presence of each other. No words needed to be exchanged. A sort of unspoken adoration and belonging.

In his book Hearing God, Dallas Willard describes this type of occurrence, “Even at the merely human level, one of the highest forms of communication is that kind of communion in which no overt word is needed or wanted”, and it’s in this silent union we find “a life constantly before him in this world and the next.” We’re invited into a holy eternal presence of the Father.

All my fears come fleeing out
As all my walls come crashing down

My heart now beating at the rhythm it was intended to. Eventually, there was some dialogue. I was vulnerable at this point, so it was easier to pray deeply.

The cares of this world were secondary and easier to distinguish their meaning. My prayers were led by the Spirit, which helped me focus and intercede on what mattered most. Heaven, the space where God dwells, was invading my life, I had entered His holy place, surrounded by the faint and beautiful song. 

I hear the music of my home

Homecoming.

Belonging.

Peace.

Shalom.

No better word for it.

That’s when I heard it: The melody, the words, the rhythm and instrumentation.

I quickly grabbed my phone.

That same phone that provided so many distractions before. This time, I used it to write down and record what had just happened. A guided meditation, I suppose. The words and melody flowed quickly. The chords and music followed not long after.

The song that brought us Here.

Here Books v3.jpg

Resources

Smith, James K. A. You are what you love: the spiritual power of habit. Grand Rapids, MI, Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2016.

Willard, Dallas. Hearing God. Downers Grove, IL., InterVasity Press, 1991.

Further reading...

Currey, Mason. Daily rituals: how artist work. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.