Monday, April 25, 2011

Summary: To Know You More by Andy Park

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

To Know You More: Cultivating the Heart of the Worship Leader by Andy Park is full of wisdom and advice for those called to lead worship. Jumping into worship leading as a complete novice, Andy shares from the unique perspective of one who has learned through life experience and has successfully cultivated a heart of worship in his own personal life that has sustained his ability to lead in the public eye for so many years. Andy says, “The most effective trait of a worship leader is a deep love for God and a willingness to express it” [1]. It is obvious as Andy writes that this is what he has.

In the first section, he shares about his own personal journey and the importance of being a worshipper first and foremost in private. “…songs are simply a byproduct of a life-giving relationship with God” [2]. As a worship leader, I must give first priority to my own relationship with God and allow all other activities to flow from that place. Cultivating that place with the Lord privately shields me when temptation comes.

“Being content while others receive more opportunities and favor from people and God has to be one of the top ten most important issues for a worship leader” [3]. The enemy is quick to whisper words of competition and jealousy when someone else gets an opportunity that I have longed for. Trusting God to fulfill His plans and purposes for me over my fears helps me to stay focused on the Lord instead of on what I am not getting to do. Andy shares about his struggles in this area stating, “Rejoicing in the success of others isn’t easy when you feel you’re at the bottom of the heap” [4]. No, it isn’t. Doing it anyway, however, is an opportunity to grow in humility and trust.

Andy also knows what it is like to experience favor from God and man. “John Wimber used to say that tough times are not the greatest test for a leader – the times of exaltation and success are” [5]. Proverbs 27:21b says that “man is tested by the praise he receives.” In Dealing with the Praise and Rejection of Man, Bob Sorge says that ”Rejection and praise are opposite ends of the same continuum with identical root issues.” Learning to deal with rejection by creating the habit of going to God to see what He thinks will serve me well when I receive the praise of man. Regardless, I must go to God to see what He thinks. It is all that matters.

This is why it is imperative that we as worship leaders have our hearts firmly planted in Christ. Our identities begin and end there. Rooted in Him, we are able to portray to those we are leading a more accurate representation of who God is. “Having a wrong understanding of God’s personality is a huge barrier to the freedom and delight of worship” [6]. Through leading others into the presence of God, we help them find the freedom we have found in our own personal times with the Lord where He is revealing the truth of who He is. “To be really free in worship leading, I have to know that God is fond of me. How can I confidently worship and lead others if I’m not sure how he feels about me?” [7].

When we lead worship, we call people “away from the counterfeit realities of this world” [8] and into the reality of the Kingdom. We give people good, Biblical theology through our song choices that will lodge in their hearts and minds for the days ahead when they are tempted to reenter the counterfeit realities. “Through our music, the Holy Spirit writes on the hearts of men, women and children eternal truths of many colors and hues” [9].

Andy likens creating a worship set to a conversation with God. We bring together a group of songs with lyrical continuity that facilitates the community we are leading into a personal and corporate dialog with the Lord. One must always hold the set loosely, however, leaving room for the Spirit to move on us to change direction, linger a little longer, etc.

"The job of the worship leaders is to vigorously approach God in worship, thereby setting an example and clearing a path for the congregation to do the same" [10]. I love the mental image this quote evokes in me…a picture of one boldly entering the throne room, throwing open the doors and saying “Come on in!”

I need to be in submission to those God has placed in leadership over me. “Serving God is worked out by serving under the leaders he raises up. I trusted God to express his authority in my life through the leadership” [11]. I can rest and know that as He has called me to submit, He will fulfill His plans and purposes for me.

I also need to hone my craft. Taking lessons, practicing, working on skills gives God something “more” to work with. If I am blessed to lead a team, I need to create a rehearsal environment that is enjoyable and allows room for the creative expression of each member while directing the group as a whole. I need to be encouraging and willing to “unselfishly share the platform” [12], mindful of the importance of raising up and mentoring other worship leaders.

Another aspect of worship leading is song writing. Andy encourages us to allow God to use us in our imperfect state to be the conduits for His music. He tells us to write a lot, to guard against fear of rejection and false pride, to persevere in song writing, to worship with our songs, and to fill our minds with truth.

As a worship leader, To Know You More is a great reminder of how imperative it is to prioritize my personal relationship with God over and above all else and how all other aspect of worship leading flow most effectively from that relationship.

1 Andy Park , To Know You More: Cultivating the Heart of the Worship Leader (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 18.
2 ibid, 15.
3 ibid, 22.
4 ibid, 22.
5 ibid, 23.
6 ibid, 42.
7 ibid, 49.
8 ibid, 71.
9 ibid, 96.
10 ibid, 171-172.
11 ibid, 129.
12 ibid, 205.

The Importance of the Inner Life

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

If anything, the course on Worship Leading has reminded me of the importance of my inner life. " authority to lead people in public is rooted in my secret life with God" [1]. I can be a great musician, an incredible singer, and a super leader all rolled into one person. But if I do not have an intimate relationship with God, if don't prioritize the private stuff, the public work will become too weighty and a cave-in becomes inevitable.

"Lead worship from the foundation of a life that, both privately and publicly, resounds with love, obedience, and honor towards Jesus. Your strongest leadership instrument will become the sound of your life, and your worship leadership will manifest the favor and strength that only God can give" [2].

I've been working on that, or, rather, God's mighty Spirit has been at work within me to root up those things in my life that keep my life from resounding with love, honor and obedience. I'm so grateful for the community of people that He has placed me in that continually spur me on and are so faithful to call out the good work that the Lord is doing in me in the midst of this process.

The Essentials Courses through have been a primary tool in the Lord's hand to help strengthen my inner life. I have been challenged to think more deeply, to meditate on truth, to mine the riches of those who have walked this way before. He has given me many ways to commune with Him: music, art, reading, silence.

My favorite times have been those in the early hours of the morning when the house is quiet and the sun is not quite peeking over the horizon. I still suprise myself when I say that. I have not been much of a morning person most of my life, but the sweetness of those early times have left such an impression on my heart. I can't wait to get back to it.

Some of my favorite books that have led me into deeper study of God's Word and His heart are, in no particular order:

Devotional Classics edited by Richard Foster
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Strengthen Yourself in the Lord by Bill Johnson
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

What draws you closer to the Lord? What helps you to maintain and strengthen your inner life?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A hobby or a call?

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

In The Sound of Your Life, Dan Wilt says "Our interior foundations must be able to bear the weight of our spiritual responsibilities." An uncomfortable process, this strengthening of the interior foundations of my life requires allowing God to shine His light on hidden places in my heart. Unbeknownst to me, God would choose a trip to Guitar Center to expose a lie that was weakening my interior foundation.

I was going to pick out the guitar Lee and the kids had given me as a Christmas gift. Lee and my friend Shelby accompanied me to lend their more practiced ears to aid in my selection.

Lee bought me my my first official guitar for my birthday about 8 years ago, and I love it much. (Actually, my first guitar was a borrowed guitar that never got returned, so I don't really count that one. And lest you think I make a habit of not returning things, I did try to return that particular guitar to the original owner but to no avail. But that's another story...) However, one day last summer, my beloved guitar decided to pop it's bridge. I had it repaired, but the warping and bowing occurring on the face of the guitar was irreparable, and she has become increasingly temperamental. Since I am playing and leading worship more frequently, the need for a new instrument was becoming increasingly apparent. Thus, the Christmas gift.

At Guitar Center, we played several different brands and styles of guitars, Shelby and Lee each giving their more trained opinions about the sound of each one. And surprisingly as I played, I became more and more uncomfortable and the point of tears. My sweet husband's generosity and willingness to buy me a guitar beyond what I had imagined coupled with the increasing feeling of insecurity were almost too much for me.

Why are we spending so much money on a guitar for me? I mean, how can I justify the cost of an instrument when it's just a hobby? Doubts and fears and questions surfaced faster than I could process them, and I was ready to leave without the gift, the long-awaited guitar.

Shelby pulled me into a side room, looked me in the eye, and relentlessly pursued the lie (lies?) that she knew was lodged in my heart.

Lie: Leading worship is a hobby.
Truth: It's not a hobby. It's a call on my life.

Another lie: I'm not worthy of this guitar.
The truth: God picked this guitar for me.

And still one more lie: I'm not talented enough to play this guitar.
The truth: That's why I'm taking

I was so thankful to my generous, loving husband and my discerning loving friend who were with me that day. I had no idea buying a guitar would cause so much consternation or bring up a deep-seated lie in my heart.

But now that it's out in the open and the truth has replaced it, I am gaining more confidence in my guitar-playing...and in worship leading. I am trusting God with this call on my life. His plans and purposes for me succeed. I am becoming all He's called me to be.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

God is fond of me

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

"To be really free in worship leading, I have to know that God is fond of me...How can I confidently worship and lead others if I'm not sure how he feels about me?" ~Andy Park in To Know You More,49.

As early as I can remember, I have known and sung the song "Jesus Loves Me." I have recited John 3:16. I know God loves me, have told others that God loves them, and have sung countless songs about the love of God.

What I didn't realize until a few years ago, however, is that my heart didn't really believe it. Intellectually I knew the truth, but truth that only resides in the head might as well not be truth at all as what I truly believe is lodged within my heart. I might be able to control my actions out of my mind, but my heart will dictate the motivation behind those actions no matter what my head might try to tell it.

You see, while with my head I believed that God loved me, my heart believed that His love for me is not as great as it is for others, that somehow I was flawed beyond love and that in order to receive His love, I had to be really, really good. Making mistakes meant less love. Doing things correctly equaled more love.

And these thoughts weren't things I could have told you were even there. I had no idea. As far as I knew, I believed that He loved me completely.

It was when I first did Beth Moore's "Believing God" online Bible study that I began to get an inkling that maybe an insidious lie or two about God were lodged somewhere in my heart. Beth says that we act on what we believe, whether those beliefs are in our conscious thought or not. She takes participants through a series of Scripture exercises designed to reveal hidden beliefs that sabotage our lives, however minutely.

And the lies began to surface. Lies like ones I've already mentioned and then some.

Then along comes Bill Johnson. On an apparent whim (I know now that it was totally a Holy Spirit set up!), I signed up for a conference in my area called Texas Ablaze. I didn't know much about the speakers, only that I had recently read an article by one of the them that had resonated strongly with me.

I was blown away.

Every session left me hungry and longing for more of God. Bible reading was revitalized; my heart was awakened to new levels of communion with God. The last night, Bill Johnson spoke. I had never heard of him, and I'll never forget how he started out that service.

"God is in a good mood. He might be angry but not at you. You are hidden in Jesus." The crowd chuckled, at which point he reiterated: "No, I'm serious. God is in a good mood."

Bill went on to drop nugget after gold nugget of profound truth, mined throughout a lifetime of being pursued by God and responding whole-heartedly to that pursuit. I could not write fast enough. My mind and my heart were being renewed at an accelerated pace.

And so marked a point in my journey towards more truth and greater freedom. I began to realize that I had been living under the constant pressure of not wanting to make a mistake so that God wouldn't be angry with me. As I read Scripture with this new, Spirit-breathed perspective, I became convinced that I am in Christ and that I am a new creation. Jesus' work on the cross paid for my sins completely, and His power at work within me is more powerful than the sin that so easily entangles.

God is not waiting to catch me doing wrong things, as my behavior indicated that I believed. Rather, as Beth Moore puts it, God is counting each time I believe Him and act on His truth. He celebrates.

The image I realized that I had was of God, finger poised, ready to shake it at me when I messed up. I was being motivated to make good choices out of fear of His anger rather than out of an understanding of His great love for me.

I could go on and on about the lies exposed and the truth God revealed to me about Himself, and maybe sometime I'll take the time to chronicle those. For now, suffice to say, I am on a journey into the heart of God. With each level I am becoming more and more convinced that not only does He love me, He likes me. He's fond of me and enjoys spending time with me.

And you know what? He is fond of you too. Super fond, really. You are His favorite. He's not focused on that mistake you made yesterday when you yelled at your kids or spent more time on the computer than you should have. He's not focused on your addictions, however horrible and debilitating they might be. He's not focused on your infidelity, your lies, your habitual sins.

No, He's focused on you. You are the object of His affection. And if He points out a sin, it's not to shame you and shake a finger at you. It's so He can reveal His love to you that sets you free. He sees your mistakes and your sins and says: "Hey, look at Me! I love you. You can be free. Let Me love you and show you how."

In "Believing God", Beth gives 5 truths that have been lifelines for me in this process:

1. God is who He says He is.
2. God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. God's word is alive and active in me.
5. I can do all things through Christ.

May you become more fully convinced today of how fond He is of you. May you become increasingly aware of the light of His face shining on you. May you see His kindess leading you to repentance. And may you experience a deep revelation of His love for you that transforms you more fully into the likeness of Jesus so that you might lead others to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A summary of Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb

for the Essentials In Songwriting Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

Those pursuing the art of songwriting would do well to pick up Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb, a seasoned songwriter with a wealth of insight and knowledge. Weaving stories and personal anecdotes with vital technical and experiential advice as well as giving examples of well-written (or poorly-written) lyrics, Webb has created a valuable resource for even the most novice of beginners, like me. Webb also chronicles the history of modern songwriting and gives an inside view of what it was like in the early days contrasted with today. I found Tunesmith to be engaging and informative on many levels, discovering many principles within its pages that I began applying immediately.

He begins by talking about where songs come from. Webb says, “Song ideas are the most intense longings of the soul and its deepest regrets” [1]. The ideas come from something about which the writer feels passionately (loathing or hating). It will also include a destination which will consume the bulk of the efforts of the songwriter in getting from here to there the best way possible. A good songwriter also stays emotionally connected. “Without being able to expose ourselves to pain – to break down and cry if need be – we won’t have what we need to be songwriters or even human beings. The reverse is true. Without recognizing the good things life has to offer – the priceless gift of the distant laughter of children – we become sour pendants” [2].

Next, Webb moves into what was for me, the most significant part of the whole book. He relates the story of being mentored by Michael Geffen, one of Broadway’s greats. Showing Webb the room he’d be working in, he said, “In this room you can never make a mistake” [3]. At first read, I thought that Geffen was laying down a strict boundary where perfectionism was required. I cringed (which says a lot about the lenses I wear).

What he was really trying to say was that “…there is no crossed-out, blotted word on paper or half-croaked note or stumbling, tripping step toward the songwriter’s goal that is unseemly or shameful…creativity is a blameless process. That to exist at all it must function unselfconsciously and without guilt…The primary ingredient in that tranquility might be to pardon ourselves in advance for any real or imagined inadequacies and approach the work with the attitude that we will see what happens, make the best of it and enjoy the journey” [4].

Moving to the practical aspects of writing a song, he stresses that every song needs a story to tell. That story is told through clear lyrics that make a “meaningful contribution” [5] to the whole of the song. To accomplish this, a songwriter takes the raw materials (ideas) and begins to shape them into a song: “...a magical marriage between a lyric (some words) and a melody (some notes)” [6].

She brainstorms, making lists of words, phrases, feelings to express the idea. He makes use of a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary (never substituting these for creativity). She studies meter and rhyming schemes, counts syllables and checks verb tenses. He eliminates the “less desirable elements in order to expose the more desirable ones” [8] crafting lyrics that stay true to the song idea and lead to the desired destination.

Webb then traces the evolution of a song called “Problem Child”, personally, the second most helpful part of the book. He takes the song from the idea stage and the brainstorming process through the editing and re-write phase to the “finished” product. He explains the reasoning behind changes and points out the ways to make good lyrics better.

The next section of Tunesmith delves into the more technical aspects of song form and musical composition. These chapters hold a wealth of information covering music history and music theory. Webb delivers the information in an easy, conversational tone that makes it understandable and makes me want to go back and study these chapters more in depth when I can absorb more of this useful instruction.

Webb also interviews several songwriters regarding collaboration. Marilyn Bergman who collaborates with her husband says, “The most important elements are trust, respect and willingness to sound stupid. Sometimes a silly idea when put forward by one of us will trigger a really good idea from the other…” [9]. “The major impediment to collaboration is fear, “says Barry Mann who also collaborates with his spouse. “Every collaboration begins with this sense of unwillingness to reveal ourselves as in Oh my god, he’s gonna find out, he’s gonna know I’m a fake, that I don’t know what I’m doing” [10]. Isn’t that the truth! Collaboration requires a good deal of patience and forbearance and the ability to push past the uncomfortable emotions in order to be vulnerable and lay out ideas in front of another human being with a different perspective.

In the final section, Webb explains how the music industry works (or did at the writing of this book). He notes the various challenges facing the modern day songwriter. The advent of the singer/songwriter, MTV, and top 40 radio narrowed the playing field considerably. “A person with real songwriting talent would have had a better than average chance of placing a song with a major recording artist in the decade bounded by 1965 on the one hand and 1975 on the other.”

We are so far removed from that day, although YouTube, iTunes, etc. has in some ways made it easier for music of all kinds (the good, the bad, and the really bad) to get play time. Webb seemingly has prophetic insight into what the future held for music: “…eventually, entire record albums or perhaps even first-run feature films will be downloaded to recordable formats by satellite for a fee, which is paid electronically via credit card or some other code” [11].

In closing, Webb encourages songwriters to write. When one finds himself or herself “cowed, sullen and emotionally dead in the water…a violent, arbitrary and radical change of direction is called for” [12]. He goes on to say that “…the infamous ‘writer’s block’ may be nothing more than a stubborn unwillingness to cure ourselves, a psychomasochism caused by our refusal to confront the truth and put it into the air regardless of repercussions” [13]. He tells us to not burn bridges and to not allow bridges to erode from neglect, to remember that songwriting is best done in community. He emphasizes the importance of holding offenses lightly, choosing integrity over the need to seek revenge in a song.

I found Tunesmith to be surprisingly interesting and helpful and will refer back to it again and again. It is another decided gem discovered through the Essential courses.

1 Jimmy Webb, Tunesmith: inside the art of songwriting (New York: Hyperion, 1998), 3.
2 ibid, 17-18.
3 ibid, 21.
4 ibid, 22.
5 ibid, 52.
6 ibid, 70.
7 ibid, 136.
8 ibid, 271.
9 ibid, 296.
10 ibid, 298.
11 ibid, 375.
12 ibid, 395.
13 ibid, 397.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Songwriting and Responsibility

for the Essentials In Songwriting Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

Writing worship songs carries a weight of responsibility. Songs are remembered long after the sermon has been forgotten. And as important as melody and sound are, the lyrics, the content of the song, the theology being conveyed are more important by far than having a catchy melody. Of course it helps if strong, theologically sound lyrics and well-crafted tune go together...

Worship songwriters also have the responsibility to write the songs the church needs, not the songs the church wants. We need our pastors and leaders to stand alongside of us to write these songs. It's so easy to look first for what will please, what will bring the most approval (that man pleasing spirit at work), but to write the songs the church release into the atmosphere the songs of heaven that transform and loose the move of God...what an honor! What a privilege!

I want to write songs that are theologically responsible. More importantly, I want to write songs that are the rhema (the "now") word of God to His people...the songs that lodge in hearts and minds and relentlessly work the renewing of the heart and mind according to the Spirit of God.

Doerksen, Brian. Worship Songwriting: Embracing Heart and Developing Skill. Brian Doerksen Music, 2009.