Sunday, March 16, 2014

Music Set // March 16

Here's the music set from March 16 at Constance Free Church //
All songs can be downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.
You can also watch the full length worship service online (new services are added each Monday)!

Series


Worship Set
Beautiful and Bold // watchword:truth // Deep & Wide: Worship Songs for Families album
Our God // Chris Tomlin // Passion: Awakening album
God Is Able // Hillsong // God Is Able album

Worship Set 2
My Reward // Kristian Stanfill // Mountains Move album
Cornerstone // Hillsong // Cornerstone album
This Is Amazing Grace // Phil Wickham // The Ascension album


Friday, March 14, 2014

My Best Friend, Love, His Instrument, and a Ring

Sixteen years ago today, I asked my best friend to marry me. She said yes. The rest is history. But it's a fun story, so I'll tell it ...

Angie and I were best friends long before we ever attempted "dating." The transition was hard ... REALLY hard. We had difficulty figuring out what made our relationship different because it now carried the title "dating." Nothing really changed, but we felt like something was supposed to. So for a long time, we were on again and off again - teetering between the worlds of "friendship" and "dating."

In early 1998, we were entering our last semester at Indiana Wesleyan University. In the days before email, I was preparing to send resumes to churches. I distinctly remember an evening in my University Court apartment when Angie was helping me to compile those portfolios. We weren't "dating" at the time, but I remember thinking to myself, "I might just end up moving to California and Angie won't be there."

It was at that moment that I finally got my head screwed on straight. It always takes men a little more time than it should, right?

We had a conversation and realized that we were putting too much pressure on ourselves when it came to dating. We loved each other - DEEPLY. And if the truth were told, we had been dating for years.

Fast forward to March 14, 1998. His Instrument (the group with whom we traveled/toured during college) was out for the weekend. Because our concerts were near my home town in Michigan, we stayed with my family in Spring Lake. I had NOT planned to ask Angie to marry me that day, but it felt right. It wasn't romantic. At all. But it was our story ...

My parents, knowing that I was planning to ask Angie to marry me, had given me my great grandmother's wedding set. It was old, simple, and would have required a LOT of money to refurbish. My college student budget couldn't afford that, so I opted to buy Angie a new ring (about which she was unaware). I did, however, let her see my great grandmother's ring.

Wanting to ensure that the heirloom rings didn't get lost, my parents told me to bring them home that particular weekend. I also brought home the new ring to show my parents. Then the "brilliant" idea dawned on me. Even though my fiancee-to-be told me that she didn't want a particularly "public" proposal, I knew that this was going to be epic. I would take the new ring, put it in the old box (because she had seen it and would recognize it), and ask her if she wanted to see it again before I relinquished it to my mom and dad. We were getting ready for our evening concert, so I made the rounds to everyone in the house, telling them that I was going to ask Angie to marry me right then and there.

And I did.

Everyone made their way to the living room as we were prepping to leave. I said "Hey Ang, do you want to see this ring once more before I leave it with my parents?" She got a sweet smile on her face and replied "Awwwwww, yes." When she opened the box, her entire countenance changed as she realized what was going on. I dropped to my knee, popped the question, and (amazingly enough, given how ridiculous this plan was) she said "YES!"

The moment that followed also included our first kiss (which is also a great story for another time).

We spent a few minutes calling family and sharing the news, then loaded up our van and spent the entire evening singing karaoke at a youth event with the teens from Allendale Wesleyan Church. Seriously.

The next morning, Angie's family drove up to the church for our concert and snapped this picture. It was an awesome experience. And memorable for sure. It was actually quite out of character for me, given what a sappy and sentimental schmuck I am. But it's our story and it began the crazy journey of our married life together.

We drove through Allendale this morning. It was pretty cool to remember that day, surrounded by some of our dearest friends, and thanking God for the way He's blessed our marriage.

"... His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
           Lamentations 3:23

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nostalgiaholism

I love nostalgia. Deep down I think most people do. While I'm not one of those people who longs for the bygone era of my youth, I do love making some of the same memories with my son that I had from my own childhood. THAT's the kind of nostalgia to which I'm addicted.

My nostalgiaholism is part of the reason why I love boating with Tate so much. Some of the best memories of my life are on the water with my family, so I want to give my own son the same opportunity to have memories like that. He's already fallen in love with our experiences in the boat and regularly tells me he can't wait for summer so that we can go to the lake. There's this inexplicably amazing feeling that wells up inside me in the moments when I realize he's developing the same affinities I did at a similar stage of life.

One of the things that Tate and I also enjoy doing is getting a donut from time to time. In the summer, we'll stop at the local grocery store, pick up a donut, and head to a park. In the winter, we're confined to the car, but we still enjoy father/son conversation while munching on our treats.

For the last couple of days, we've spent some time visiting family in Michigan. When we were kids, my dad used to take my brother and I out for donuts occasionally, so I thought it would be fun for Papa, Daddy, Tate, and cousin Brayden to find a donut shop and relive another one of those precious childhood memories. I asked my Dad if the donut shop we frequented was still open but learned (sadly, but not surprisingly) that it had closed 20+ years ago. It's VERY difficult to find a mom and pop donut shot these days. But we did it.

We had to drive a while, but we ended up at Goober's Bakery in Norton Shores. It was just as I hoped - the locals talking shop, the glass case full of donuts, and my son's eyes as big as could be. He was excited and I was definitely feeding my nostalgiaholic addiction. We got our treats and all sat down to enjoy them together.

It was perfect (and delicious). It was simple. No frills, no thrills. Just another opportunity for me to enjoy a special childhood memory of my own with the man who helped create it and my own son. It doesn't get much better.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Music Set // March 9

Here's the music set from March 9 at Constance Free Church //
All songs can be downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.
You can also watch the full length worship service online (new services are added each Monday)!


Series


Worship Set
Your Grace Is Enough // Matt Maher // Empty and Beautiful album
Bless Your Name // Eddie Kirkland // No One Higher album

Communion/Worship Set
Mercy // Matt Redman / Your Grace Finds Me album
Quiet Voice // watchword:truth // All Together album
Nothing Ever (Could Separate Us) // Citizen way // Love Is The Evidence album

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Open Your Eyes: The Worship Trialogue

We've all experienced it - a great worship gathering led by a gifted leader and team. The experience was replete with beautiful, transcendent moments when people's hearts were meaningfully connected with God in worship. 

The only problem is that the vocalists on stage had their eyes closed the entire time.

Many worship leaders will subscribe to a philosophy of leadership that says don't worry about the people "out there." You just go to an intimate place with God and if you're being "real" and "authentic," then people will follow you. I know that in some settings this philosophy can work well. In my years of leading worship, however, I've cultivated the opinion and conviction that this school of thought subconsciously excludes an essential component of worship: community.

Don't get me wrong, any effective worship leader MUST be willing to go to intimate places with God as they're leading. Authenticity in leadership is essential. But it can't come at the cost of the relational engagement that people long for in a worship gathering.

As a college student, I was blessed to have a mentor who helped me understand this on a deeper level. He explained to me that most people understand the corporate worship experience as a dialogue: we communicate with God as we worship. In turn, He communicates with us. Perhaps a better understanding of worship, however, is to think of it as a trialogue. There is a third (oft forgotten) dynamic that can and should be included in our worship leadership: the awareness and cultivation of the unique communication that's taking place between people on stage and those they're leading. 

The ever-increasingly relational world in which we live is looking for the ability to identify with something and someone. In my experience, the most effective worship leaders understand that their congregations long for connectedness in all things. Churches don't need rock stars, they need leaders. They don't need individualistically-oriented song singers, they need shepherds. We all want to be led through an experience which helps us understand that we've all been (and are going) somewhere together. Teams who keep their eyes closed for extended periods of time while leading are erecting walls through which no one can climb, cross, or break through. I genuinely don't think that we, as worship leaders, realize the power we have to close off the world around us through one simple physical act.

Am I proposing that we should never close our eyes as we worship? No. There are obviously times where we need to experience moments of intimacy with God in that way. But it shouldn't be at the expense of those we've been entrusted to lead. I give myself more freedom to close myself off when I'm worshipping as part of the congregation than when I'm the one responsible for ensuring that others are participating in the experience. 

So how do we help ourselves and our teams be better communicators?
  1. Watch other churches worship services and learn from their leaders. We're fortunate to live at a point in history when many churches live stream and subsequently archive their worship services. I love watching services from a variety of churches and learning from them. In case there was any question - when I watch other churches services, I try to remain objective. While my primary goal is always to glean positive new ideas and habits, I've also had valuable experiences which helped me to discern practices that I don't want to emulate.
  2. Know your culture and ask questions. It's entirely possible that you're part of a church community where a more inward leadership style is accepted or preferred. I wouldn't, however, make that assumption without careful study of your culture, experiments with levels of congregational engagement, and a variety of conversations. Talk with your people. Talk with your teams. Talk with your overseer. Talk with your mentors. Aside from the process of discerning wisdom on a particular topic, asking questions of people is a great leadership practice.
  3. Talk about it with your teams. My teams are well aware of my convictions regarding communication and the worship trialogue. We have open dialogue about many leadership topics and I've discovered that more often than not, many communication quirks are the result of nervousness or a lack of intentionality. As we become aware, we can change. But if we don't discuss matters of leadership (and how we can all get better), we'll be forever trapped in a cycle of unfortunate ignorance. 
  4. Challenge yourself.  I continually challenge myself to remain aware of my body language and what it communicates. I review the worship services that I've led each and every week with a constructively critical eye. And because it's easy for me to fool myself or rationalize potentially poor leadership habits, I ask two very trusted mentors to do the same every couple of months. I trust them to give me feedback about these kinds of things - even when it's difficult to hear.
In the end, we all want to be the best leaders we can be. We want our church communities to connect meaningfully with God in worship. We want to communicate effectively. We want God to be honored in all that we do. And we want to be proactive in refining the gifts and abilities with which we've been entrusted.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

Those of you who follow me on social media or with whom I have a personal relationship know that it's been a crazy season of ministry. I anticipated having more time to blog after the chaos of the Christmas season wound down, but alas, a couple of staff transitions on my team have kept me busier than I've ever been at this time of the year. In the midst of my "normal" ministry leadership responsibilities, massive amounts of my time are now also being spent on the processes that will ultimately lead to two new full-time leaders joining our Arts Ministry staff team here at Constance.

I know ... excuses, excuses, excuses ... but in truth, my blog has always been a "hobby." Prioritizing all of life's demands has meant that I haven't had quite as much time for the hobbies I enjoy. Many, however, have been asking for me to continue sharing my thoughts and I definitely find great fulfillment in writing. So in my attempt to find an energizing outlet in an otherwise draining season, I'll strive to scribe more of my ongoing leadership thoughts.

Stay tuned ...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Music Set // March 2

Here's the music set from March 2 at Constance Free Church //
All songs can be downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.
You can also watch the full length worship service online (new services are added each Monday)!

Series


Worship Set
Alive // Pocket Full of Rocks // More Than Noise album
Lay Me Down // Chris Tomlin // Passion: White Flag album
Cornerstone // Hillsong // Cornerstone album

Featured Song
Fade With Our Voices // Jason Gray // Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue album

Worship Set
O For A Thousand (Hallelujah) // Gateway Worship // God Be Praised album
Beautiful and Bold // watchword:truth // Deep & Wide: Worship Songs for Families album