Songs of Heaven and Earth

I'm a Corey Voss fan. He's a great, young worship leader and songwriter. I've introduced his songs to my church, including "Praise the King", which is easily a favorite in my congregation. This week, he's releasing his first full-length album under Integrity Music called Songs of Heaven and Earth. On this album Corey continues to write songs for the church to sing. Along with "Praise the King", the songs that stand out to me are "Lift Oh Gates", "God Who Moves the Mountains", "As it is in Heaven" and "Don't Ever Let Me Go".

Corey's influence is also broadening to the CCM world with Selah recording "I Got Saved" and Jaci Velazquez recording "God Who Moves the Mountains". It's always great to see someone who has a heart for the Lord use their gifts to serve His Church. Corey seems to have that heart and he certainly has an amazing gift when it comes to helping us sing songs together.

Another reason I love this album, is Corey's voice. He has a distinct quality as an artist, but still has a voice that is easy to sing along with. That's a great attribute for any worship leader.

Whether for personal worship or corporate worship, this release will serve you well.

Download it on iTunes here


Song Rotation That Helps Your Church

Every Sunday morning I have the incredible privilege to ask my church to do what Psalm 69:30 says. I ask them to praise God with a song. Before I do that, I have the responsibility of choosing what songs we sing. This is a weekly responsibility, but if I'm thinking of the bigger picture, it's a yearly responsibility. It's more than a set of songs. It's a rotation of songs that we learn, internalize and eventually sing with enthusiasm in efforts to offer praise to the Lord.

A healthy song rotation will benefit and help your church fully engage in worship during the music portion of our services. There's many opinions and philosophies regarding song rotations. I decided to flesh out my approach and found that my rotation is made up of three types of songs: Past, Present and Future.

1. PAST SONGS – These are songs that we know and have been singing for some time. Another way to describe these is simply "old songs." When I think of past songs, I think of songs like "How Great Thou Art," "How Great is our God" and "Great I Am," to new name a few GREAT songs. These days, it takes less time for songs to end up in this category. If a song has been out one year or more, it seems to be considered old, which is obviously ridiculous, but that's another topic. "10,000 Reasons" is a song that I would consider a past song for my church. It's not new anymore, therefore it's at risk of getting tired. I know my church connects with it. If I want to keep it in rotation, I need to use it less and less. That way when I do choose to use it, the reaction will be, "Oh yeah! I almost forgot about this one. It's good to sing it again." If I keep it in rotation too much, people will inevitably get sick of it or it could become more ritual instead of spiritual. Bruce Springsteen said, "A good song takes on more meaning as the years pass by." There's value in not forgetting past songs, but it's also key not to kill them. Be aware. Discern the temperature of a song and use it appropriately. That will help it's sustainability.

2. PRESENT SONGS – These are songs that are currently impacting your church, which is evidenced by the engagement that the majority of your people have with them. I typically view these as songs that I've introduced in the scope of a year. These could be reflective of the season of life your church is in or the trials, tribulations and triumphs they're experiencing. Present songs are the soundtrack of your church and the current journey that you're traveling on together. The beauty of present songs is that your church will ultimately choose them. Your church will let you know by their engagement, their singing and their worship. They become anthems and heart cries. Many of the people who walk into our gatherings week after week have things stirring in them, but they don't have the words to express them. These lyrics give them the ability to articulate their thoughts, feelings and praise to the Lord. They are songs that are moving your congregation in the present and they are truly a "present" or gift to the church. Recognize which ones they are and keep them threaded in your rotation. You will get tired of them way sooner than your church will. The good news is – it's not about you.

3. FUTURE SONGS – These are songs that we don't know yet, but will potentially be a fresh offering for our church to express. Psalm 96, 98 and 149 start with a challenge to sing a new song to the Lord. Churches who never teach new worship songs are disregarding a very clear directive in scripture. For most of my upbringing, I watched the traditional churches I attended fight tooth and nail against new songs. The other extreme that has surfaced in recent years is the worship leader who teaches too many new songs. To keep it plain and simple, if your church does not eventually know your new songs, then you're introducing them too often. As a worship arts person, it's tempting to keep bringing new tunes to your church, because it's stimulating your own creative juices. Give them a chance to learn and sing a new song, by giving them a healthy diet. I teach a max of 1 to 2 songs a month. Your church may need less. Also be prayerful and careful of which songs you choose to teach. Paul Baloche has 3 great questions to ask yourself: 1. Is it biblical? 2. Can people relate to this? 3. Will my congregation sing this? Every worship leader will attempt new songs that are a "swing and a miss." That's part of your growth journey. Learn from your mistakes and teach songs that will bless your church.

A healthy balance of past, present and future songs have been great ingredients for me as I plan and prepare worship services on a weekly basis. Intentionality with song rotation has helped and inspired my church to engage, sing and worship together on Sunday and individually throughout the week. Be intentional with your rotation, because songs are powerful in the life of your church.


New Music You Need to Hear

There's a few new releases that I'm excited about and I think you'll appreciate these titles and artists.

Songs of Heaven and Earth (Vol. 1) EP – Corey Voss

I'm a Corey Voss fan. He's a great, young worship leader and songwriter. I've introduced his songs to my church, including "Praise the King", which easily a favorite in my congregation. In July he release a new EP called Songs of Heaven and Earth (Vol. 1). Corey continues to write songs for the church to sing on this project. All 5 of these new tunes are accessible for the local church to sing. I especially like "Canyons" & "Don't Ever Let Me Go". The song "God Who Moves the Mountains" will probably be a song you'll hear in more and more churches, as I'm considering for mine as well.  click here to download on iTunes

Alisa Turner – EP
Here's a name you'll want to remember, because I believe you may hear her on the radio soon. Alisa Turner is a new artist with Integrity and has an amazing story, which you click here to watch. I met Alisa last Fall and I appreciate her heart and sincerity. I genuinely hope to hear her song "My Prayer For You" on Christian radio soon. I think it will bless a lot of listeners. Along with that, there's some amazing songs for corporate and personal worship.  click here to download on iTunes

The Low and Behold EP – Brothers McClurg
This release is one of the most unique projects you'll hear in Christian music. I've been aware of Brothers McClurg since their album Alive a few years ago. Since then, they've gone a different musical direction. Pulling from their roots, they're tapping into a folk, gospel style that showcases their rich harmonies and soulful writing. My favorites are "Praise My Maker" and "Waymaker". You'll definitely want to check this out.  click here to download on iTunes


When a Worship Leader is a Control Freak

I have a confession. I'm a control freak. My nature is to grab the reins if I don't feel things are going in the right direction. Some would appreciate that and recognize me as a strong leader. I do believe this controlling nature has served me and others well at times. I also know that being a control freak has hurt my leadership, especially when I fail to empower other leaders around me.

As worship leaders, we can sometimes be control freaks. This is ironic because we like to have freedom to lead. We generally don't like the pastor to put shackles on us and squelch our creativity.

So, what are the things worship leaders try to control?
  • MUSICAL CULTURE - Worship leaders come in all ages. Young and old, we all have different tastes in music. Some worship leaders love modern worship songs and some are biased to older hymns. If you're a child of the 80's, you probably look for songs that feature Van Halen-like guitar solos. If you're like me and love the 90's, you may be a sucker for those sweet Coldplay-like ballads. The current culture of churches is seeing and hearing a lot of electronic music with the help of loops and click tracks. Whatever era you're from, there's a certain direction you lean musically. The control freak will tend to stay within his or her own circle of taste, even though it might be not be the consensus of the rest of the worship team or church. That results in your own musical taste becoming the church's musical culture by default.
  • ARTISTIC CREATIVITY - This is a very broad topic. There are so many ways in which we can enhance our worship services with artistic creativity. There's old practices filled with stained glass, candles and a quiet simplicity. There's modern arts, including video, lighting and, yes, even smoke and mirrors. Every church has a different feel and flavor of sanctuaries and set designs. Most churches put that responsibility on the worship leader. One's personal taste in how things look, sound and feel can definitely be revealed in the context of our weekly gatherings. The control freak will often believe that their own personal taste in artistic creativity is in agreement with the collective mass, thus it's warranted.
  • SPIRITUAL CLIMATE - A controlling worship leader is actually a very spiritual label. He or she believes that the works of God are somewhat dependent on the quality and performance of the weekly worship set. This kind of outlook is often revealed in frustrated worship leaders who are discouraged after a worship set because of the lack of "spirituality" in the congregation. We see worship leaders trying to control the spiritual climate by publicly praying harder, playing harder and singing longer. A worship leader who attempts to control the spiritual climate of a church puts in a lot of effort, hard work and even passion.
I truly believe that the mission to control these elements is futile and frustrating. I say that because I am guilty. I've attempted to control these elements at various times in my ministry. Being a control freak has left me with more regrets than victories. 

I have also seen how it can hurt my church. When I control the musical culture, I deprive my church of songs that they may connect with on a deeper level. When I exclude artistic creativity to my approval, I greatly limit our church to sights, sounds and smells that appeal to me. This stunts my church's growth and impact in the area of creative arts. When I reduce the spiritual climate of a room to my perception, I run the risk of discipling my people incorrectly and discouraging my own spirit. No matter how much someone is experiencing the truth and presence of God in a service, I only acknowledge that based on what I am seeing and hearing. That's a very flawed spiritual thermometer and it can hurt the spiritual temperature more than help it.

So, how does a worship leader become less of a control freak?
  • BE OPEN - Everyone from your pastor, your worship team members and even your congregation has ideas. Whether are not they share those ideas can be greatly determined by your approachability and openness. Leaders who always ultimately land on their own ideas, end up strangling creativity instead of giving it life. The more you listen and implement the ideas of others, the more input and contribution you will receive from some very creative people in your church. Being approachable doesn't mean you are obligated to every suggestion. It means that you are open and listening. If someone has an inspired, innovative thought, that's when you'll be thankful that you are not closed off to the ideas of others.
  • GIVE UP CONTROL - The most fulfilling aspect of leadership is empowering another leader. When you are given a leadership role, you've been given some element of control. You can either keep that control or you can give it up. That's a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. Giving up control as a worship leader means bringing other staff or worship team members into the decision making process. It will impact song selection, set designs and all other creative results that help your church engage in worship. Empowerment happens when you say the phrase, "You decide" more and more. The ultimate cure for greed is giving. Control freaks require the same prescription. Give it up!
  • RECOGNIZE TRUE CONTROL - I honestly think that control freaks make God laugh more than anything. If you have control issues, then you probably have faith issues. When I live in the delusion that worship rises and falls on the back of my leadership, I am setting myself up for constant disappointment. I am also failing to recognize that God is truly in control. The irony of a worship leader who is a control freak is staggering, especially when you are asking people to sing about a God who is in control. When you recognize the One who is eternally on the throne (Psalm 103:19), you will more easily give up your own control.
A freak is someone who lives in an extreme state. A control freak holds on to decision making with an extreme grip. A worship leader who is a control freak is an extreme oxymoron. Control is a pride issue. Pride proclaims that everything good depends on me

Don't believe that lie.

Believe in the One who is truly in control and lead your people to worship Him alone.