My Worship Journey

When you’re a kid, you have big aspirations. You want to be a firefighter; an astronaut; the president of the United States—and nothing is going to stop you. And yes, I suppose I went through all of those stages, but for whatever reason, when I was kid, I planned on being a pastor. I know, it’s strange. Perhaps I just wanted to follow in the footsteps of my dad and my Grandpa, or perhaps it was an early calling that I didn’t understand quite yet. Whatever it was, I was pretty firm in it, but for some reason, I must have not told my parents until about 7th grade. I remember that around this time, I told my mother my hope to be a pastor and her face lit up. She seemed surprised and incredibly excited. Sometime later she had me explain it to my Grandpa and his face immediately lit up as well.

But then came the comedic timing. Sure, I had been pretty convinced I was going to be a pastor my whole life, but then I came into contact with something I had never come in contact with before: a guitar. And so started my journey to become a musician or a worship leader, before God brought me back to the desire to be a pastor.

I suppose I had always enjoyed music growing up, but I was a bit caught off guard when one day, I had the desire to play this instrument. After all, I had very apathetically tried my hand at music in the past. At our old house we had a piano that I would loudly bash on with both of my arms and I had always played trumpet in band class and didn’t really care for it.

One day, while my whole family was in the car, I told my parents of my hope to learn this stringed instrument and soon start a band. They seemed a bit surprised and reminded me of how I didn’t care for that old piano and how I didn’t even love trumpet. But for whatever reason, I was certain I would love the guitar. Maybe it was the allure of being in a rock band; maybe it was because girls thought it was awesome; or again, perhaps it was an early calling. Whatever it was, I was fairly hooked on the idea.

It wasn’t long before my aunt found out and loaned me her old Spanish guitar. It had a giant fretboard and plastic strings but I was determined to rock that thing out like I was a part of DC Talk.

And so with that, I popped open a beginner’s guitar book and went to work. Like every good musician, I learned the chords G, C, D, and… well that was about it. Fortunately, worship music at the time was just that: G, C, D.

Seriously. Every song.

I became a guitar beast in the worship realm the day I learned how to incorporate Em into that collection of chords. I was a bit slow to learn how to strum, but with the help of my youth pastor I learned quite quickly. It wasn’t long before my weak guitar playing abilities were incorporated into our ametuer youth group worship band. It was there that I began to just scratch the surface of what worship is.

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2 Samuel 6:14-16
14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. 16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.

My first real experience with worship had been about a year before this time. It must have been the fourth time I got saved at Somerset Beach Campground. It was my first year in the teen tent and my mind was completely blown. For whatever reason, people had their hands raised during the worship time. I had rarely seen this before. On top of that, people’s faces looked desperate, as though they were encountering God or something. This was nothing I was too familiar with as I had grown up in quite a traditional church. We would sing a few hymns, have prayer and listen to a message, but the music portion never seemed too meaningful for anyone. It was like a duty or something. We had to do it in order to move onto the next part of the service. But at this camp meeting, people weren’t waiting to get to the message. They had to worship God. They had to show Him how desperate they were for Him.

At one point during this camp, the worship leader asked everyone to turn around and kneel at their chairs and worship God as they continued the music. This was perhaps my first moment of showing any kind of physical expression in my worship to God and so something as simple as taking this posture, moved me so deeply that I knew in that moment true worship required some kind of reaction on my part—whether it was giving or recieving. It didn’t have to be a physical reaction necessarily, but it did have to be a reaction.

Sure, these physical expressions of worship may sound minimal, but for me they were life-changing. And I blame my Bible teacher’s for that. See, I had always had this conception that worship in many churches was lacking and it largely came from being told the story of King David. You probably already know what story I’m talking about. It’s fairly popular.

David—a king—dances around in his underwear before God—and everyone else. What humility! I mean, seriously, who does that? No one at my church, that’s for sure. Heck, we just stood there like rocks and sung. It brought a whole new meaning to “the rocks will cry out.” I defintely never saw anyone start stripping in church because the worship was so intense.

My family moved shortly after this experience to a church where lifted hands was more the norm. It was during my time there that, as I stated earlier, I learned guitar. It was also during my time here that I saw the closest thing to David’s display of worship I had ever seen up to that point.

It was during a Sunday morning service like any other. The pews were lined with people and the upbeat, celebratory worship songs were being sung as everyone was clapping to the beat. Then, out of nowhere, this lady that I don’t think anyone had ever seen before ran up to the front of the Sanctuary and started dancing and yelling.

All of the sudden, I understood how awkward the people who saw David dance must have felt. How is it I could have nothing to do with this lady dancing, and yet feel so incredibly embarassed by it? It’s the same kind of embarassment I feel just about everytime Michael Scott talks on the Office.

No one knew what to do with this situation. I was at the front of the Sanctuary and therefore couldn’t see what I imagined were many disturbed facial expressions and hand gestures behind me. So we all just stood there and watched.

And while I was incredibly embarassed for this lady, I was also in awe of her. Truth be told, I was jealous—jealous of her unashamedness. Jealous of her courage. Perhaps even a little jealous of her dance moves. I had never met anyone willing to run up in front of hundreds of people and just let loose in worship to God. I could maybe lift my hands higher than everyone else, but that was about it.

Eventually the pastor approached her and whispered something to her. She then turned around and left.

Comfort then returned to the sanctuary—a sigh of relief if you will. The embarassing, radical, unashamed lady that I was strangely jealous of had left the building and now I could get back to worship—that is, if I could get past the conviction.

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A while later I was removed from the youth band I played in for being prideful. Essentially, I didn’t look at the chord sheets very often as I thought I knew what I was playing and I screwed up a song pretty good one night. I was hitting wrong chords all over the place and was scolded pretty hard after.

This was the beginning of a long journey for me. Up to this point, I hadn’t really considered that I had been that prideful when helping out with or leading worship. I mean, I understood that there were moments where I was maybe thinking too much about the song we were playing and not enough about God or maybe about how I looked or sounded than about God, but those were things I was working on. I didn’t think that I was always intentionally being prideful.

But with the accuasation came a lot of hurt and pain and my worship life began to suffer and change. The conviction of pride followed me into every service. I couldn’t raise my hands without thinking that I was trying to get attention. I couldn’t fall to my knees without judging myself of trying to look holy. I couldn’t avoid a chord chart without thinking I was trying to show off my memorization skills. I couldn’t raise my voice without wondering if I was trying to impress people.

Pride followed me everywhere. I couldn’t escape it. I thought I might be a pharisee, though now I imagine that pharisees rarely questioned their motives behind things. I think that’s part of what made them pharisees.

Years went by and the pain of the constant question of pride followed me everywhere I went. In fact, it still follows me to this day. I am glad that it has caused me to truly examine myself as many a great leader has fallen from this issue, but the pain it has caused in my life has been more than I think it was supposed to be.

With this, another issue was brought to my attention: the issue of emotionalism. Before this time, emotion in worship was mostly genuine. Wherever you looked, people were being real in their surrender to God—ESPECIALLY the ones who were the most radical in their worship. Now, I felt like many were trying to convince me that this emotion was not the movement of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I felt as though I was being persuaded to believe that the more radical someone’s worship was, the more fake it was. Such emotion wasn’t people being overwhelmed by the Spirit, it was people being overrun by their emotions—fanaticism if you will.

All of the most intense worship moments in my own life began to lose value. Could it be that the best moments of my life with God; the most intense movements of the Holy Spirit in my life were no more than me acting out of my own emotion?

I could feel the validity of past experiences melt away. Soon I was no more than a prideful, emotionally misled individual who knew nothing about worship. Between these two aspects of my worship life, I really couldn’t worship at all. The questions were too confusing. I’d just find my thoughts yelling at each other constantly:

Raise your hands to God, show Him you care (No, don’t, people will look at you and think you’re prideful).
Sing loud and exalt His name (Careful, people might hear you. Worship in your closet).
You’re hungry, eat some bread (No don’t, bread makes you fat).

Okay, that last thought may be off topic.

But the truth is, these two questions of pride and emotionalism haunt my brain to this day—nowhere near as badly as they used to, but they still do.

A few years later, my family moved again and eventually, I ended up getting a job as a worship leader in Dearborn (about an hour away from our new home). Because of the hike, I was hired to fill in for about a month or two until they found a closer worship leader they could employ. Three years later, I was done with this position, and I had learned a few valuable lessons in relation to pride and emotionalism.

What I came to find in relation to pride was that the less I thought about it, the less prideful I was. One of the biggest problems with my pride dilemma was simply that I gave it too much airtime. If I just stopped thinking about it, it really didn’t become an issue. After all, pride is more or less you thinking about yourself in some way or another. If you just stop thinking about yourself and even about the issue of pride itself and just focus on God, it becomes much easier and authentic to worship. Sure, it’s not a bad idea to check yourself, but too much checking can almost be more hazardous than it is good.

On the other side of things I learned quite a bit about my struggle with emotionalism while at this church because I met a man with completely dead worship. He was the Leonard Nimoy of worshippers and it drove me crazy. Every Sunday he was there, he would sit right up front. And when worship had begun, he would stand up (perhaps hesitantly) and then cross his arms and stare at me, waiting for the music to be done.

I’ve come to find that the point of closing your eyes in worship isn’t so much to look holy. It’s purpose is more so you don’t see things like this. These kind of expressions are not only insulting, but a total killjoy.

But the thing that annoyed me most was that every Sunday, when the service was done, he would come up to me and tell me how much he loved the music that day. I’d smile and acknowledge his compliment and immediately walk behind a curtain and yell at God.

“I don’t care if they like the music! I’m not up stage for the sake of pleasing their eardrums! God, this is not why I’m in worship ministry! I’m here to teach people to draw closer to you! To be a living sacrifice! I’m not here to play good tunes!”

Truth be told, by the end of my time at this church, I had to go on a walk around the school in which we met in, everytime I finished a worship set. I was so angry. I felt like I was giving my all to lead people deeper in worship with God. Time after time I gave motivational speeches to show people how worthy of worship God was and saw little reaction of worship to anything I had to say or do. It seemed that the better the band sounded and the more professionally we did things, the weaker the atmosphere of worship was.

By seeing a lack of emotion in worship, I learned that emotion did, in fact, belong in worship. Thankfulness. Gratitude. Praise. Honor. Adoration. Love. Affection. All of these aspects of worship require emotion. And honestly, how can you worship without such aspects? Who wants to be emotionlessly loved? Can you even call love, love if love is emotionless?

Truth be told, I think God got sick of such worship centuries ago. Amos 5:21-24 reads:

21“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

As I said, after three years, I left this church. The people there were amazing and truly loved God and sought after Him. Unfortunately, I was a bit worn out from what was now an hour and a half drive, and after three years, I felt as though I was having little success in engaging people in worship. I refused to remain stagnant in worship and felt like I had poured my heart into it. I figured that either a different person could lead them better than I could or they simply didn’t want to engage worship. Either way, I felt that I had done my best and would perhaps be more helpful elsewhere. This is me being brutally honest with you right now. This is also me trying to figure out what exactly worship is and knowing that I had yet to find a body of believers that truly understood it.

And boy was I in for a treat when I began attending my next church.

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The first time I moved, a friend of mine gave me a going away present. It was a super bright pink CD by the band Sonicflood. I had heard their two big worship hits, “I Want to Know You” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” but I hadn’t looked into them too much outside of that. Actually, they even one of the first bands I had ever seen live. They opened for the Newsboys at the very first concert I ever went to. They did a great job, but honestly, I didn’t understand them. They only had maybe a half an hour set and somehow only played two songs during it. Yes, somehow, the three minute radio hit, “I Want to Know You,” was played for 10-15 minutes. Having attended a small traditional hymn-singing church at the time, I seriously didn’t get it. But despite this, I gave that bright CD a listen to and quite honestly, it was the best worship music I had ever heard in my life. And to this date, it’s still one of my favorite albums.

Strangely enough, the songs on the album only got better when they released a live album a few years later. Yes, the long extended music I had seen them play in concert was now recorded on an album. And while I can’t say I totally understood it at the time, I was so incredibly attracted to it at this time in my life. I remember walking to church, air drumming and rocking out on the sidewalk. One of my favorite tracks was one entitled “Spontaneous Worship.” It hardly even had words! How could this be worship music? How could this be so attractive? Heck, if I did a guitar solo at church I was accused of being prideful or taking attention from God, but this track was like a 10 minutes jam session! Why was it so worshipful? Why did I love it so much? On top of that, the few words that there were on this song were being made up on the spot. It wasn’t necessarily easy to sing along with.

Yet somehow it was one of the best albums I had ever heard. I wore that thing down until it was scratched into an oblivion. The worship on it was so genuine and so desperate. Half the songs were over 6 minutes and I loved it! And I’m pretty sure the songs were only 6 minutes because they were edited.

I didn’t really come in contact again with worship music like this until my junior year of college. It was then that I discovered the band Jesus Culture.

It didn’t take long to realize it was similar to that of Sonicflood because the majority of the songs were longer than Sonicflood’s and just as spontaneous. They instantly became one of my favorite bands—and they still are today.

But here’s the funny thing. I wasn’t necessarily in love with all of Jesus Culture’s music. Truth be told, there are songs on most of their albums that I really don’t care for. As a musician a few of them really don’t grab my attention musically or melodically. On most albums, I’d skip songs like these, but for most the part, I would listen through these particular ones time and time again. But why?

I’ve come to believe that certain albums have a special anointing on them. There’s something beyond the music that grabs your attention in cases like these. It’s as though Heaven itself has been the recording studio and the Holy Spirit has been the producer. Sure, some songs are catchier than others, but who cares when the finger of God is all over the entire album? You just listen to the whole thing from start to finish and enjoy the presence of God as you worship Him.

After my introduction to Jesus Culture, I began to find artists all over the place with anointed albums—many of them coming from ministries that were connected to Bethel Church in Redding, California, the home of Jesus Culture.

And so I now was surrounded with tons of music in this stream of worship that I could listen to, but I didn’t always get a chance to play it. At this point in my life I was playing in Spring Arbor University’s chapel band and for the most part, we were limited on time. We typically had enough time to cover three songs a service, if we didn’t prolong any of them. And this was difficult for us, because many times you could feel the Spirit become more tangible in the room and we’d have to cut Him off.

But there was one time the Holy Spirit just completely invaded worship. And He did so in silence.

We were at Spring Arbor’s annual Spiritual Life Retreat at Somerset Beach Campground and chapel band was leading worship. At the end of one of our songs, the room went dead silent. The plan was, of course, to play the next song, but we just didn’t. Instead, the room just remained silent. I didn’t even go on to play any keyboard pads as I usually do in such meditative times.

Pure silence covered the room. Seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to nothing. We couldn’t keep track of time anymore. It had flown out the window. The Holy Spirit was at work in everyone’s lives and it rendered everyone speechless—until after a long time, someone burst out praising God. Others joined in, desperate to worship Him and many started crying.

What was it about the extended silence that brought about such worship? I mean this time we weren’t even singing. We didn’t rev anyone up into this moment with a loud bridge or acapella chorus. It was just… silence. But it was there in that moment that Holy Spirit did His work.

Not too long after this I became great friends with Vicki, Leann, and Tony. The four of us led worship at a Pentecostal church that really knew how to take time to worship. All of the CD’s I had listened to over the years became reality as we would play worship music anywhere from 1-3 hours on any given Sunday. I’m pretty sure there were a few times where we covered 45 minutes with just one song. Sometimes we made up the music ourselves; sometimes we made up the lyrics ourselves; sometimes we stuck to the page. You just never knew what was going to happen.

Now to the average church-goer this sounds painful. After all, if you grew up in church, you are probably pretty used to singing 3-5 songs with no spontanaiety so that you could get on to what is considered the important part: the message. But honestly, that shouldn’t be how it is. Worship is not something we should have to zoom through. It should be our time to be with God. To lay down our lives as living sacrifices. To recieve what He has to offer. To love all that He is. Quite honestly, that’s difficult to do when the worship time becomes the methodical prelude to a message.

One of my favorite speakers once said something I disagree with. He more or less equated the music time of worship to getting on the same page with everyone about the story of God. Now of course this is true. You do sing to remember what God did for you, but that is not the only reason—I don’t even think it’s the main reason. That makes worship out to be a thing of the mind when really, worship should be a thing of the heart. Of course it shouldn’t lack mind, but what good is worship if there’s not heart. Knowledge is rarely moving on it’s own—it has to be coupled with heart. And when your heart overflows for God, it does not seek for the worship time to be over. It seeks to continually pour out because it can’t contain it. A waterfall does not simply decide to stop pouring over a cliff. It cannot. It will not. And when we come to God with a desire to do the same, we leave the opportunity to gush like never before.

So how was it that we could worship for 1-3 hours and few seemed to ever grow tired of it?

Well let me be straight with you. Worship is not about the music. I know that I tend to use the words “worship” and “music” as synonyms. But that isn’t really the case. Worship is much more than this, and I understand that whether I have come across that way or not. Of course, music is the common form of worship we use in most churches as much of humanity shares a heart for it.

But worship is more than a song. And I think we get that with our minds, but I’m honestly unsure if we truly put that into practice. The music portion of a service is your time to connect with God.

You can stand. You can sit. You can kneel. You can lie down.
You can find a group of people to sing with, or you can find a corner of solitude.
You can sing. You can pray. You can listen. You can be silent.
You can give. You can take. You can give and take.
You can seriously do, whatever you want in worship. The point, is that you focus on God.

The Bible talks often about waiting on the Lord and we do that in worship. Worship should not cater to the fast food culture for the Spirit does not take 3 minutes to heat up in a microwave. He has no method. There are no magic words you can say that will make Him more tangible.

What I’ve come to find is that the Spirit goes where He’s wanted. And sure, He’s in us and He’s everywhere, but sometimes He’s more manifest than others. And when people want to selflessly worship as long as it takes to find that manifestation, more often than not they find Him.

Not out of a method—but out of a desire.
Not in a strategy—but in our love.

This may sound weird, but it seems to me that God goes where He’s wanted. He shows up where He’s desired.

Wouldn’t you?

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My point in making this video is not to find a creative way to say we will be worshipping for 1-3 hours for now on. Honestly, my hope is that you would entertain that idea should the Spirit move us in that way—but honestly, if we don’t worship during the worship time (whether it be 5 minutes, half an hour, or 2 hours) there is absolutely no point to have that time at all.

This video was made to poke and prod at us, whatever our worship journey may look like. There is always room to grow in worship. There are always inner rooms inside of us that could be more open to the Holy Spirit. There are always sacrifices we can make and there is always an abundance of goodness that we can recieve from God. Worship is ministry time. And worship is God’s time. We must pursue Him throughout the week in our own time, but we must also certainly pursue Him together, for what is a Christian community without that?

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Favorite Worship Artists and Albums

Sonicflood

In my personal opinion, this is the best album Gotee records ever put out (and considering the album went gold, many must agree with me). And when I mention Sonicflood, let’s be clear that I’m referring to the original Sonicflood that released a debut self-titled album and a live album entitled Sonicpraise. I am not talking about the band that kickstarted INO records by taking on the same name with nearly all different members.

A friend of mine had bought Sonicflood’s first album for me as a moving-away present back in about 1999. I had heard their hit I Want to Know You, but didn’t know much about them otherwise. And so I threw it in my portable CD player and was almost immediately addicted to it. I don’t know why. This was well before I played any instruments so I could only understand the beauty of their music to the extent that my ears enjoyed it, but I still loved it.

This was the first worship music I had ever heard that was incredibly intimate and rocked out at the same time. It was also the first music I heard in which the songs weren’t trying to be three minutes a piece. The songs were as drawn out as the band wanted them to be and it was perfect that way.

I even happened to see them live at the very first concert I ever went to. They opened for the Newsboys and even though they only had about 15-20 minutes to play they must have only gotten through two songs altogether. I didn’t understand the repetition at the time because it was before I had a charismatic bone in my body.

And then, in 2001 when their live album Sonicpraise came out, I threw it in my CD player and rarely took it out. There was something magical about this album just like the first one. I listened to it for hours and scratched it up pretty good. I especially couldn’t stop listening to their Spontaneous Worship track which was a whopping 9+ minutes—way beyond what any Christian record label would have put out at that time.

Why was I so attracted to this? What was it about this album?

I now believe that my attraction was to an anointing God had put on this album. It had been blessed and turned into a true worship project. It was highly musical, incredibly genuine, and ground-breaking for its time. The spoken words that started the album must have literally done something in the spiritual realm:

We love you Jesus. Manifest your presence through this album and through the lives of these men who go out commissioned by Your word to be worshippers of the true and holy God. And making disciples in Jesus name.

You could see even more of their desperation for God in the hidden track, which is about three and a half minutes of discussion of the album.

Again, the original Sonicflood isn’t around anymore, but their lead singer Jeff Deyo has been writing and releasing some great albums you should look into.

Jesus Culture

As of right now, my favorite worship band would have to be that of Jesus Culture. The first time I had heard of them was when a friend of mine had used a video of them singing How He Loves in a presentation she had given in a worship arts class. I remember being captivated by it, but I didn’t look into the band until David Crowder Band made John Mark McMillan’s song an even bigger hit than Jesus Culture did. Soon the whole Christian realm was aware of How He Loves and many were pointed to the live recording that Jesus Culture had done.
That’s what happened to me. I posted a review here on my blog about David Crowder’s version of How He Loves and someone left a comment telling me to check out the Jesus Culture version. After watching the video I was immediately overwhelmed. I had to get some of this band’s music. Why? I think it was because I hadn’t heard any music that had been so anointed since the original Sonicflood albums.
Jesus Culture is probably gaining popularity more than any other worship band right now (even Relevant Magazine recently wrote an article on them), and they’re doing so by playing long extended songs full of passion and spontaneous praise. They don’t want to succumb to industry standards, they just want to worship. And with it, I believe a generation of worshipers is being unleashed. On top of that, many are turning to Bethel Church in Redding, CA where Jesus Culture is based. Because of this, many are learning of the gifts, miracles and phenomena of the Spirit that take place there and are running to learn more about how God can do such things in their own life.
I think my favorite album of Jesus Culture’s would have to be Come Away, but I can’t help but push you to buy everything they’ve released. It’s all spectacular and anointed.

Bethel Music

Since I’m on the topic of Jesus Culture, I might as well mention Bethel Music. This is the church I just mentioned above in my overview of Jesus Culture. Bethel is home to Jesus Culture and therefore their albums have all kinds of artists on it—from those in the Jesus Culture band, to others who lead worship at Bethel. The original songs coming out of this church are quickly making their way into mainstream churches and even into mainstream worship leader’s new albums. Bethel does so many amazing things and in my opinion is one of the leading churches that God is putting over America right now. I stay on top of not only the music they release, but what their church is doing through a subscription to iBethel.tv.

All Sons & Daughters

I only discovered All Sons & Daughters a few months ago, but I was immediately taken by their music. That’s honestly a bit strange for me because their particular genre is one that I’ve heard a lot of over the past few years and am not usually smitten with. But strangely enough I found myself wrapped up in their music and quickly buying everything they had to offer. There was something very genuine about their music and I got to see it firsthand when they played a concert at my alma mater just weeks after discovering them.

It was incredible. I’ve never seen a band with no drummer sound so full. It was truly a time of intimate, stripped-down worship and I was very moved by it—even after discovering that they were more or less a church worship band! I’ve noticed recently that a lot of church worship bands are trying to get their music out there when they probably shouldn’t be. But All Sons & Daughters is one of those church worship bands that the Christian music realm desperately needs and desires.

You have no need to buy all of their EPs because they just released an album entitled Season One, which has almost all of their music to date, plus two new songs.

Jeremy Riddle

Jeremy Riddle is closely connected to Bethel Music and has even released a few songs on Bethel’s albums. He is an amazing worship leader with a great atmospheric rock sound and lyrics of desperation. His album Furious is an amazing album that can really help you enter into the presence of God. His song One Thirst and Hunger is among one of my favorites of his and I use it in our church’s worship services quite regularly. Outside of that his song Always is among one of the most peaceful and beautiful worship songs I’ve ever heard. I love to set an atmosphere and just blast this song in all of it’s ambient-prayer-closet-beauty.

Cory Asbury

There are few studio worship albums I probably listen to more than Cory Asbury’s Let Me See Your Eyes. If this dude writes a song, you better believe it’s going to be catchy, born out of desire, and full of Scripture. On top of that, I’ve never known any worship artist to succeed at so many different kinds of genres. I get excited anytime I catch live him on IHOP.

Cory Asbury would also have to be king of the fast songs in the Christian music worship scene. There are so many good slow worship songs out there, but so few fast ones. Cory is able to operate on both sides of the table—whether it be the joy and uplifting sounds of the upbeat side of things, or the desperate and worshipful cries of the deep, intimate side of things.

This man is truly anointed by God to be a worship leader and you should definitely grab his album. And while I’ve been patiently awaiting a new album from him, I’ve also grown addicted to an album he worked on with Matt Gilman entitled Holy. Both are well worth a purchase.

Pas Neos

There’s another IHOP artist outside of Cory Asbury that I am in love with named Pas Neos. These guys are still pretty new to the scene but they have done something that few worship bands have ever done so well: electronica.

I am a huge electronica fan. It’s actually more or less my favorite genre. And now that it’s taking over the radio I’m that guy who gets to yell at everyone and say, “I’ve been listening to that kind of music for like a decade! I was obsessed with it when no one else would listen to it!” And no, I’m not a hipster.

This band is straight up indie-electronica and they do an amazing job at it. Their lyrics are also so Scriptural that the words they use in their songs can catch you off guard at first. They really push you to think of what they’re saying. It’s one of the most intriguing worship albums to come out in a long time and I am so incredibly happy that it has come out of IHOP.

IHOP

“Man Jamin,” you say. “I’ve never heard someone reference pancakes so much when talking about worship music.”

“Yeah, I actually get that a lot,” I reply.

But if you’ve been in the worship scene for awhile, you probably know that when I reference IHOP, I’m not talking about the International House of Pancakes, but rather the International House of Prayer. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was made aware that there was a place out there that hosted 24/7 worship and that you could watch it online. I was immediately intrigued and spent many hours streaming IHOP into my room. In fact, I have it streaming right now.

The IHOP musicians can literally play one song for an entire hour on the IHOP worship stream because they know how to dwell in a time of worship. Half the time they’ll make up the song on the spot by singing Scripture. It’s no surprise that such amazing music would come out of this House of Prayer. Both Cory Asbury and Pas Neos mentioned above have come out of Forerunner, the label associated with IHOP.

One of my favorite live albums that has come out of IHOP is Onething ’09. This is another great album to look into if you’re looking for more upbeat fast songs for your worship sessions.

Shane and Shane

Shane and Shane visited my campus one semester and a friend of mine couldn’t stop talking about how amazing their worship session was after they had left.

He was right. Shane and Shane had just released their album Pages which was full of some of the most intimate lyrics I had heard in a long time. They opened the show with one of my favorite songs of theirs, Vision of You. This was one of the most intense “inviting-the-presence” songs I had ever heard before. Their beautiful voices soared over the music and drew the entire audience into worship.

I only walked out of the room for a few minutes and that was so I could buy their album. I now own several of their albums and press you to listen to all of their works.

Matt Redman

Not only is Matt Redman a great worship artist, but he’s also a great author. Actually, I did a lot more reading of his books before I really got into his music. I mean, I knew his big hits like everyone else (like Better is One Day, Heart of Worship, and Dancing Generation), but I hadn’t really listened to a lot of his music up until recently.

Fortunately, because I had read some of his books before I got into his music, I was able to truly see the passion he had for leading and writing worship music. I was especially moved by his album 10,000 Reasons. It had great songs all the way through it and was full of true worship and praise. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, I suggest you buy it along with one of his books like The Unquenchable Worshipper or Mirror Ball.

David Crowder Band

 

David Crowder Band has always been one of my favorite bands, especially for their work on A Collision (Or 3+4=7) and their latest and final album Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]). Crowder has some of the most interesting and creative worship lyrics. Even more so, he has some of the most intriguing music. You can’t play half these songs at your church, mostly because they’re too amazing. Even some of their most simple worship songs that are played in churches all the time throw worship bands off. Sure the chords may be G D Em C, but you hold out the C an extra measure on this pre-chorus, two measures on the second one, and one and a half measures on the third.

But that’s David Crowder for you and you have to love it.

If you’re looking for a simple prayer closet album, check out his debut, All I Can Say, which many have overlooked in the success of his most recent albums.

And just a heads up: even though David Crowder Band is now officially broken up, most of the band members of DCB have started a new group called The Digital Age. They’ve released a few glimpses of what they sound like and it is AMAZING. Here’s a video of them doing their own take on All Sons & Daughters‘ song All the Poor and Powerless.

Chris Tomlin

Like I even have to mention Chris Tomlin. This guy has written (or at least made famous) many of the worship songs every contemporary church plays. This includes songs like: How Great is Our God, Our God, Forever, The Wonderful Cross, Famous One, We Fall Down, Indescribable, Holy is the Lord, Enough, Made to Worship, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), Jesus Messiah, God of This City, and I Will Rise.

Again, he didn’t write every one of these songs, but he at least made the majority of them famous. He’s perhaps the most well known worship leader because he writes some of the greatest, catchiest, thoughtful, wide-spread worship songs we’ve ever heard.

And if you like all of the Tomlin songs I just mentioned, just buy How Great is Our God: The Essential Collection, because I literally just gave you the track listing.

Worth Dying For

There are many other worship groups I could mention, but I want to end by mentioning a newer group called Worth Dying For. I discovered them when they released their album Love Riot and was captivated not only by the music, but by the genuinity of their worship. It was some of the best rocked out worship music I had heard in a long time. They also just put out an amazing live album Live Riot.
Also, feel free to download some of my own worship music for free here.

Worship EXPLOSION

“Imagine what Heaven’s gonna be like. There won’t be 15,000—there will be millions upon millions upon millions who are going to spontaneously get another glimpse of Jesus and spontaneously erupt in praise. It’s the only response when you see Jesus.”

-Banning Liebscher

Having spent quite a few years as a worship leader and having attended several conferences, I’ve seen quite a few powerful moments in worship. But throughout the years, there are two moments that tend to really stand out. These moments qualified as a special kind of worship:

They were worship explosions.

Cornerstone 2004

Enter the dance barn. It’s a decent sized area to throw a party and break a move. The sounds of techno and trance boom throughout the surrounding acres and more and more people make their way to the building to see what’s up. By the end of the night it’s crammed full of hot and sweaty worshippers.

“Worshippers?” you say. “What are you talking about Jamin?”

“Ah yes,” I reply. “It’s not something we’re super familiar with in the states, but believe-you-me, super powerful worship can be led from behind turntables.”

And this particular night, our worship leader was Andy Hunter. I had never heard anyone lead worship the way he had. The microphone never left his hand as he pushed people deeper and deeper into the presence of God. He’d repeat different expressions over the song playing, often times preaching over the breaks in the song and getting the place to erupt in dance when the snare roll finished (those of you familiar with trance music know exactly what I mean).

It was one of the most meaningful and powerful worship experiences I had had up to that day. I found myself living out a quote from Eugene Peterson:

Song and dance are the result of excess energy. When we are normal we talk. When we are dying we whisper. But when there is more in us than we can contain, we sing. When we are healthy we walk. When we are decrepit we shuffle. But when we are beyond ourselves in vitality, we dance.

In that moment I was beyond myself. In that moment, everyone was beyond themselves.

How could you tell? Because the worship exploded even more so when the music died.

I don’t remember if we blew a fuse or if someone just tripped a cord, but at one point during Hunter’s set, we lost power in the dance barn. And so people moved into dancing and cheering; clapping and shouting. They made their own beat and continued the worship time. It was the least awkward “Uh… we just lost power” moments ever. Worship continued out of the overflow of people’s hearts even with the absence of music.

And recently, something similar happened on a much, much larger scale.

Jesus Culture Awakening 2011

Sadly I wasn’t at this event, but I was watching quite a bit of it on the live webcast. During one night of this conference, Banning Liebscher got on stage after Jesus Culture was done playing and asked people to give a shout to Jesus. It was a moment unlike anything I have ever seen.

In many churches today, when you tell people to “give the Lord a hand” or “a shout of praise,” the congregation responds with a quiet and slow handclap. Several other hands join the praise late and the throne of God is overwhelmed with… whatever you call that.

But this event was different. What was expected to be maybe a minute of shouting went on for 9 minutes and 20 seconds before the band started playing along with a little tune the crowd made up during their cheering. And then 5 minutes and 40 seconds later the band stopped playing. This wasn’t intentional—it was totally spontaneous. You could tell because Banning tried to speak just a minute or two into the cheering and couldn’t.

It wasn’t pushed. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t completely authentic. It was the biggest explosions of unbridled worship I had ever seen. It was that analogy that we’ve all heard a bajillion times come true: “When you go to a football game you cheer like crazy. Why don’t we do that for God.”

Well booyah football. This cheer was even beyond you.

Of course I didn’t see it at the time. The webcast faded out after about two minutes. But it was so spectacular that they put the footage on the new release of Jesus Culture’s Awakening album. I just watched the footage and nearly cried several times (I probably would have but I was trying to look manly around my wife. You know how it is). The only thing that helped me hold the tears back was my frustration with a small group of people sitting in the stadium with their fingers in their ears.

This is footage you have to see. Go buy it and watch it for yourself.

 

 

The quote from Banning is taken from the end of the spontaneous praise video on their new album.

The quote from Eugene Peterson is quoted by Matt Redman in his book Mirrorball. Unfortunately, since I only have the audiobook of Mirrorball, I do not know where the source of Eugene Peterson’s quote comes from.

We Join With the Angels

Download the song for free by clicking here.

Lately I’ve been mesmerized by the Jesus Culture group and the worship they bring to God’s throne room and it has inspired me to start a worship project. And so today I wrote a song based off of Revelation 4, which many have done before, but this one is a little different because it’s not quite as slow as most of the versions.

When I prayed before making this song I asked God to send His angels to help me try to capture the passion behind what worship in God’s throne room is like. And then after that prayer, the idea to write a song based off that premise came to my mind. The video below has the song so you can take a listen and the lyrics are below as well. Now I’m working on putting together a new worship band with Stefan Bozman and I hope to play this song and some others I’ll be working on at a show in Detroit on August 18th. I need your help on naming the band though, so if you could look at the poll below and vote that’d be nice. You could also comment an idea if you have a better one.

And if you don’t see the poll, you’ll have to visit my actual blog at www.newfangled.wordpress.com instead of reading it on facebook or somewhere else :)

Join With the Angels

Verse 1
As I gaze into Your courtroom
I see You sitting there
A million angels singing loudly
The love that they all share
What a Beautiful King
I see You across the crystal sea
Sounds of thunder and lightning brings
Glory to You the Almighty

Chorus
We join with the angels
Lift our voices to the sky
You can hear our praises
Son Of God be lifted, lifted high
And hallelujah
We lift You up, yeah

Verse 2
All the glory and honor
And power be to You
Hail the One upon the throne
Who’s making all things new
Because of Your will You put us here
And out of our will we fill Your ears
With songs of praise and we make it clear
That You are the God whom we all fear

Chorus
We join with the angels
Lift our voices to the sky
You can hear our praises
Son Of God be lifted, lifted high
And hallelujah
We lift You up, yeah

Bridge
Oh, oh, oh can You hear us now?
Oh, oh, oh can You feel our sound?

Chorus
We join with the angels
Lift our voices to the sky
You can hear our praises
Son Of God be lifted, lifted high
And hallelujah
We lift You up, yeah