Should We Embrace Emotion in Worship?

I don’t really remember seeing anyone even raise their hands in worship until middle school. It wasn’t until I graduated out of Vacation Bible School and moved into the teen tent at camp one summer that I finally saw emotion exhibited in the church. As the teen tent began to sing, I was confused to see people raise their hands and belt out notes as loud as they could.

What were they doing? And why were they doing it? I eventually joined with them to find out and was quickly overwhelmed with both emotion and embarrassment. Breaking this emotional wall was so powerful that I then began to engage in all the other things people were doing: raising my hands, closing my eyes, kneeling, clapping along, even getting a little bit of a dance on. That summer became what was probably the first mountaintop experience of my life.

The fire in me grew as new retreats and giant conferences brought about new mountaintop experiences. I wasn’t entirely sure what the Holy Spirit felt like, but it seemed like I was feeling him when I expressed my love for him physically—and I loved it.

But then one day, a pastor questioned a bunch of us about what it was we were really feeling. Was it really God we were coming in contact with or were we just being swept up in emotion? This question, along with some other drama in my life, ruined me for years. As the question sank in I soon found that I couldn’t even raise my hands in worship anymore. I couldn’t focus on God because I was too busy analyzing myself. Am I just just trying to look spiritual to everyone else when I do this? Am I really experiencing God or are these tingles just my body responding to these acts? Is it wrong to have emotion in worship? Is it wrong to react physically like I’ve been doing?

I was ruined. I started overanalyzing every single emotion that came my way in worship. My joy turned into confusion and anxiety.

I was battling the enlightenment period. Everything became intellectual, scientific and rational. My engagement with the Holy Spirit was left to science. Soon I didn’t care if it really had just been my body reacting to physical movement in worship—I wanted my joy back! I wanted to be able to lead others in worship from the stage without wondering if I was authentic or not the whole time.

John Wesley had a similar fight back in his time. As people heard about the odd outdoor services he held and the things that happened in them, they decided to go check it out. They were in for quite a surprise, because these Methodists were being pushed to the ground by God and convulsing around on the floor.

Just as these kinds of acts of the Spirit offend people now, so it did back then. Many outsiders didn’t believe God had anything to do with any of this and that these Methodists were crazy or psychotic. But even some of these outsiders were eventually convinced. Wesley writes in his journal:

We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came: among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case. Today one whom he had known many years was the first (while I was preaching in Newgate) who broke out into ‘“strong cries and tears.” He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears. He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud, nor yet any natural disorder. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God.

A few days later, a Quaker in attendance at one of Wesley’s meetings, was growing angry with the craziness he saw going on around him. Wesley describes him as, “biting his lips and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunderstruck.” God personally settled the debate for this Quaker by knocking him down to the ground like he had done to so many others in Wesley’s ministry.

Wesley could have easily been accused of stirring up people’s emotions just as people still accuse the church of doing today. But that wasn’t what was going on. He was bringing people into the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit and letting God do whatever he wanted with them.

At my time of struggling with emotion in worship, I didn’t know any of Wesley’s experiences. I didn’t know the debate between emotion and spirituality had been around for so long. And I also didn’t know what to do.

So eventually, I just turned my brain off. And it worked! Yes, surely there had been times in worship where I was responding to emotion—but surely there had been times where I was also responding to God. I decided that  the ambiguity was okay. Having emotions and being the way God made me was much better than trying to analyze it all and live life as an unemotional Vulcan. It was incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to find joy when I was in a state of constantly questioning my emotions, so I stopped. Finding myself mostly free from this torment, I was able to engage in worship again.

Sometimes I respond to emotion, sometimes I respond to God. Sometimes God will give me emotion to respond to and sometimes I’ll be caught up in the way I was made. And I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to discern these experiences, not by overanalyzing them, but by allowing them to come. Joy and other emotions can hardly be analyzed. They must be felt. For what are emotions if they aren’t felt?

This is an adapted excerpt from my new book, “A Taste of Jesus.” Grab the Kindle version for $10 or a physical copy for $20.



Spirit-Led Worship

I got a chance to preach about letting the Holy Spirit invade our lives and church services at Revive Worship Conference this past week. Thanks to Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church for having the video available.

Late Night Worship: Joy Edition

We designed a service at 1208GREENWOOD that has very little planning involved. It starts at 9 at night and ends 2 hours later. The band shows up last minute, plugs in their instruments and plays through whatever 10 songs or so were chosen beforehand without any practice. For some churches this is every worship leader’s nightmare, but for us it’s a thing of spontaneity, freedom and beauty.

This past Wednesday I had to sit in on drums, which meant I had to find someone willing to lead the music. I called up my good friend Dan Prout, who leads worship at another church down the road. He agreed and took us into the holy of holies.

About half an hour into the set, holy laughter hit a few of the worshippers. Every time we ended a song, you could hear people cracking up loudly over our guitarist’s foot-pedal-ambience.

Now I’m not one who screams or cheers loudly at any event. I usually clap my hands while giving a quiet, high-pitched “woooooo.” But one point during this session of late night worship, I could not help but feel this desire bubble up inside of me to yell, “YEAAAAAHHHH!!!”

While I do have some Pentecostal blood in me, I am not typically one who makes a lot of noise like that. In fact, I’m sometimes confused as to why other people in the room do such things. I’m not put-off by it or anything, I just never really understood it.

Until now.

There it was—this noise deep within me—and I just wanted to let it out, right then and there in that quiet moment we were having. I ended up waiting until I was smashing some cymbals to finally let it out, but it felt good. On top of this, this screaming desire came on a night where I wasn’t even feeling particularly focused in worship, perhaps making it all the more genuine.

This service presented many people with a great experience of God’s joy—something that I sometimes lose behind the seriousness of slow, meditative music (not that such music is bad or anything). I now have a better understanding of how the Holy Spirit manifests joy in our lives at times.

Free Book: Random Musings on Worship

I recently released a new free book for download. You can download it for yourself on your iPad or on iBooks for those of you running Mavericks on your Mac. Click here to check it out.

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Singing New Worship Songs in Church

My following post is actually more or less a reaction to an article I read today which you can read for yourself here. In the article they make a lot of good points, but I varied a bit in opinion. He’s my response to it:

While I think these are good thoughts and I’m sure there’s truth to it, I wouldn’t agree with everything you’ve said due to my own experiences. Some people care about familiarity, others don’t. There is, I believe a balance that should be held. “New song overkill” is just that: overkill.

But in this article you said, “People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?”


While that statement seems to make sense, I noticed something strange last month. Our worship band played a song that I had written and only the band had heard it before—no one else. And yet so many people (specifically college students) picked up on it so quickly that when people (including my wife) found out that I had wrote it, they were confused. They figured they simply didn’t know the song because those college students were singing it so loudly from the get-go. They had no idea it was the first time anyone had heard it.

The way we do music in our churches today has definitely changed, but I think the generation who has grown up with that change has adapted to it. Those from an older generation and a traditional or evangelical church background didn’t latch onto the song I wrote as quickly as the somewhat charismatic/pentecostal-like college students did, but it still was sung and it still worked out great for worship.

I don’t believe today’s generation cares about having musical notes to follow. They pick up on songs all the time without it. They’re driving down the road listening to the radio and before the song’s half-way over they’ve already learned the chorus and the melodies to everything. Many young church-goers today are aural harmonists—they hear the music and they know how to reciprocate it. They feel it. They don’t need the music theory portion.

That especially hits home for me because I eventually had to drop out of my worship arts major in college partially due to the fact that I could not wrap my mind around music theory. I’ve never been good with math and numbers. But hand me an instrument and tell me to lead worship and I can do that like someone who knows the theory.

I add new songs into our worship sets all the time. I also, however, pay special attention to those songs the first 2-3 times we play them. Some catch on with the church easier than others and those ones stay. If they don’t catch on and I don’t feel a special calling to continue playing it, I’ll put it in the pile I don’t typically touch.

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.


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.


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.


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?


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?

An Overcritical Society

While I was painting my new digs yesterday, I was listening to an audiobook called Love Does, narrated by the author himself, Bob Goff. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. Whenever I see a new Christian book get a lot of attention and it’s written by an author I’ve never heard of, I fear that it might be off in some serious doctrinal sense or something. But I needed an audiobook to listen to and this one had caught my eye a few times.

By the end of the first chapter, I was in awe. By the end of the second I was cracking up. Three hours later I had experienced every emotion under the sun. This guy is clearly the most interesting man in the world and has so many crazy stories that I am just awestruck. It is by far the most interesting, hilarious, and enjoyable Christian book I have ever read.

It’s full of stories that all find a strange way of relating back to God. And for that reason, there are a few (and I mean very few) critics of this book. From what I can tell, nearly everyone love is. But I was checking it out on Amazon today when I saw that someone gave it a one star review. Feeling anger come over me (as I hate one star reviews on anything), I clicked on it to see what could possibly make someone give this book one star.

And as usual, the one star review was a bunch of crap. They took things too seriously and saw the enjoyable jokes and stories as sin and stupidity.

This picture isn't me dissing XKCD. I think that site is typically hilarious :D

Let me just tell you that when you live a life of criticism like this, you become bitter and difficult to be around. No one likes it when someone’s there to rip everything a part. I know this because I’ve been that guy plenty of times.

  • “Yeah, that album is their worst.”
  • “Yeah, that movie was awful. I know you liked it but…”
  • “Yeah, he’s okay at guitar but…”
  • “Yeah, but etc…”

Look, we all have preferences and thoughts about things, but if you find yourself consistently leaving negative comments on every YouTube video, book and music album that comes out, there’s actually probably something wrong with you—not with the things you’re rating.

  • That’s why people who talk too much trash on online video games now have to pay money at times to play online games.
  • That’s why YouTube is trying to figure out how to stop people from leaving awful comments on videos and is thinking of displaying your actual name so you can’t hide behind the internet.

I had an ex who once told me that there was absolutely nothing words could do to hurt anyone. All they are, are in fact, words. It was as though we were back on the playground singing, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” But we all know that’s not true. I’ve never been in more pain from the things people have said to me than the physical pain I’ve experienced.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:6-12)

I know: the irony (and perhaps hypocrisy) is that I’m criticizing critics. But my goodness—grow up! You live in a world full of creativity and there is no need to be so overcritical about every little thing, ESPECIALLY in the church!

  • You know why so many pastors burn out? Because for some reason, people think that their pastor needs to know everything they don’t like about what they do or say.
  • You know why worship leaders go to another church? Because for some reason, we give the worship band one star because she’s flat, he hit a wrong note, that beat was lame, and the intro was just a bit too loud.
  • You know why that new person left? Because for some reason, she saw more love at the bar with her drunk buddies than she saw in the pew next to her.

Despite our call from Jesus not to judge one another, we consistently whack people in the face with the 2×4’s sticking out of our eyes.

Over the past two months or so, I’ve been practicing holding my tongue more than I ever have in my life. Yes, things still slip out here and there, but I’ve found that when I just shut up about things that annoy me, I don’t care much about it. I don’t give it room to fester in conversation—I don’t give it the ability to overtake my thoughts.

I can feel an incredible change in my life because of it.

Alright, there’s my thoughts for the day. If you leave a nasty comment on this blog post or leave one star, you’ve obviously missed the point.

More thoughts on this post? Read my post All Christians are Called to Missions, listen to my message Forgiveness under the Luke series on the 1208 iPhone app, or read Greg Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion.