Get free email updates as I write new articles:

When It Comes to Worship, Don’t Hold Back!

Christians like to talk about church music and call it worship. Church music usually is a means by which Christians worship. But worship is much more than music. We even have our own “worship wars” in which we decide what “style” of worship is right, wrong, or most biblical. I still see the phrases “contemporary worship” and “traditional worship” plastered on church signs, as though worship can be defined by such descriptors.

In our debates about the biblical nature of worship, we usually ask questions that are fair enough…

  • Is this about Jesus? Or is it about the performer?
  • Are the lyrics theologically correct and deep? Or are they shallow?
  • Are people participating? Or is this a one-way performance?
  • Can we use drums? Smoke? Colored lights? Can it be loud?
  • Is it still worship if we use drums, smoke, colored lights, and it’s really loud?

We’ve missed the point. When I read about acts of worship in the Bible, I find myself asking different questions…

  • Are we increasing our adoration of King Jesus?
  • Are we being real and authentic?
  • Does my life back up what my lips offer up?
  • Is this a witness to non-believers?
  • Is there as much room for my brokenness in this act as there is for my joy?

We had only been in town a month or so to start planting Grace Hills when I first met our Worship Pastor, Neil Greenhaw. I sat at lunch with him and asked if he would consider leaving his role at a great, successful megachurch to start from scratch with no promise of success. I had never heard Neil sing or play guitar at that point, but I knew in his heart he wanted to lead people in authentically expressing their praise to God and raise up a generation of worshippers to impact our culture.

Thankfully, Neil said yes in response to God’s calling, and he’s taught me a great deal about worship. Consider the lyrics to one of his singles, Not Holding Back.

Hands raised high, reaching to the One I gave my heart, my life
Head held high, knowing that You love me and my sin I resign
Jesus is the King of Glory

I’m calling for You, my Savior
begging for You, and Your Spirit
waiting to move, I’m consumed by You

Not Holding Back, I’m giving it all to You
worshiping now, in spirit and truth
Your only Son is coming for us
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
I’m Not Holding Back, I’m giving it all to You

Heart made right, only through the blood and power
Jesus Christ, crucified, now You’re alive

The heart of that song set the tone for one of our core values at Grace Hills. Namely,

We won’t hold back when it comes to worship. We will express our love for God freely so that our passion for him is obvious to a watching world. Jesus is worth it!

As we engage in worship corporately on Sunday, our atmosphere is one of freedom, but not of chaos. I often look around and see people standing and others sitting. Some are raising their hands with eyes closed while others are politely lip-syncing (and I’m sometimes among them). We never say things like “let’s all smile” or “leave your worries at the door.” We recognize that people worship from places of brokenness as well as places of triumph and we welcome both. Worship is our offering to God, but He uses the worship conversation as a time to minister to our needs.

The bottom line is, we try to spend very little time looking around and far more looking up. From our brokenness, we praise the Healer. From our sin-filled, forgiven past, we praise the Forgiver and Redeemer. And with our grace-appropriated, blood-bought future ahead, we praise the coming King. And all the while, we are thankful that such a holy, holy, holy God accepts and relishes in our authentic worship.

Don’t Believe the Rumors [Audio]

Pastor, you will always have critics, and you will always have fans. At the end of the day, you need to have the guts to believe neither, but rather to allow your affirmation to flow only from the truth God has declared about you in His Word.

Praise: Life’s Toughest of Tests

Refiner's FireJesus’ followers are constantly being tested – not in the sense that He’s trying to make us fail, but in the sense that He’s preparing us to pass. He tests us through trials and troubles, just as a craftsman “tries” or purifies metals in intense and melting heat. But the toughest of tests isn’t loneliness or loss. It isn’t suffering. It’s praise.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” ~ [youversion]Proverbs 27:21 NLT[/youversion]

Success brings its own test, and it’s often much more difficult to pass than the test of suffering. Think about it. How many mistakes have you made in your life as a result of hoping everyone around you continues to like you? We avoid painful truth. We become in authentic. We allow pride to creep in, which “goes before destruction.”

If we’re not careful, we will actually begin to believe all the good things others are saying about us in our moments of success. When this happens, we’re in danger of believing that we’re untouchable or incapable of failure. Great heroes are forged in the fires of suffering and I wouldn’t diminish the role of suffering in the believer’s life. But if death to self is the key to discipleship, then death to criticism and to praise is necessary.

We’re living in an age where too many leaders have too much success too early, and too little character to prepare them for handling the spotlight. If you’re in a spot in life where everyone is singing your praises, guard your heart all the more aggressively against pride. Withstand this test, stay humble, keep a right perspective on self in relation to God and you’ll come forth as gold!

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Saddleback Praise – Where Alva Copeland Brings Worship to Life

Yesterday, the Host Pastor of Praise, one of Saddleback’s Lake Forest venues, was unable to be at services and I happened to be standing in sight of our Program Director, so I was drafted into service to fill in for the day. Saddleback offers one message in many venues so that people who connect in worship through various styles can express themselves the way God wired them. And thus far, I think Praise is my own personal favorite place to sing on Sunday.

[Read more…]

You Are Not Who I Think You Are, and Neither Am I

There are two things that will test a person’s character more than anything else: criticism and praise. Here’s the thing you probably don’t know about me. I’m pretty good at being pretty good when things are pretty good. But when the pressure is up, I sometimes fall apart. Ever happen to you?

[Read more…]