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02

Sep

Robin Williams and The Liturgy

The death of Robin Williams has really messed with me.  It’s just so profoundly sad and heartbreaking.  But while re-watching many of his interviews and movies, one scene keeps playing in my mind, reminding me of the power of slowly repeating the Truth in love.  Remember the famous “It’s not your fault” scene from Good Will Hunting?  (Watch it here)

This brilliant scene is profound at a number of levels, but lately it’s been reminding me that we all need to hear the Truth more than once.  Slowly, firmly, and with great compassion.  Over and over.  Reality takes time to seep through our defenses and distractions, and we can’t always hear the beauty of Grace when she first begins whispering.

So as a worship leader, this raises a number of questions…

(1) If most of us need to hear the gentle truth repeated over and over, why do I spend so much time pursing innovation in worship and creative ways to reimagine our liturgy? Why are we so quick to add video content, moving lights, and production value to keep things fresh?

(2) If God often speaks in an easily missed, gentle whisper, why are many of my worship sets so loud? It’s pretty hard to hear a whisper at 110 dbs.

(3) Am I more afraid that people will be bored, or more afraid that I will add to the distraction?

(4) Do my worship liturgies create space for people to hear God whispering over and over, or do I give people one more entertaining opportunity to miss God’s voice?

(5) At the core, is my faith in God or in my ability to lead people to God?

These are easy questions to ask and impossible questions to perfectly answer.  But we need to wrestle with them.  I certainly do! Which is why the Liturgy continues to capture and mess with me.  We gather together to tell the Big Story…over and over, over and over, over and over…until it finally begins to sink in.  Slowly and deeply.  And in these holy moments, the beautiful Truth God has been graciously whispering to us since the beginning of eternity sneaks past our defenses and into the cracks of our aching hearts.  Hallelujah.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

May we all learn to have ears to hear what God keeps whispering.

03

Feb

"Lord Have Mercy" FREE on NoiseTrade

In preparation for Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we are giving away A New Liturgy No 3: Lord Have Mercy on NoiseTrade.  Maybe you happily belong to a modern church but want to also connect into something more historic.  Or maybe you are deeply rooted in the high church tradition, but are looking for a fresh way to engage this deep season.  May this be a bridge and a gift in some small way.

A couple ways you could use it…

(1) Personally.  Lent is such a great time to look inward and invite God to shine light into every dark corner.  Maybe you could set one hour aside each week to pray along with the “Lord Have Mercy” liturgy and see how God leads you to respond.

(2) Small group.  This may be a little intense, but might your small group be ready to engage this together?  You could listen and pray through the first six tracks together, and then after the “Litany of Penitence”, pause the recording and spend some time sharing with each other.  A question to start might be:  ”What is one area in your life that you most need God’s mercy right now?”  And a second question:  ”How can we, as your community, help you receive this mercy?”

(3) Ash Wednesday Service.  If you would like to lead your community through this liturgy (or a modified version of it) on Ash Wednesday, you can Download the basic chord charts and string quartet parts.  Feel free to use this in any way that would serve your church.

Peace,
Aaron

04

Dec

Today we launched a few new things at the brand new Online Store.  Three highlights:
(1) The Complete Collection - for only $30, you can get everything we’ve ever created.  Five liturgies, three Remix EPs, four videos, a live album, and all the charts.  
(2) Remix EP (vol 3) - Four brand new remixes that you can only get on the Complete Collection.
(3) All Five Liturgies available on Physical CD - finally, if you would prefer a real CD instead of a download, you can have it!  
May all of this help you create holy space wherever you find yourself…

Today we launched a few new things at the brand new Online Store.  Three highlights:

(1) The Complete Collection - for only $30, you can get everything we’ve ever created.  Five liturgies, three Remix EPs, four videos, a live album, and all the charts.  

(2) Remix EP (vol 3) - Four brand new remixes that you can only get on the Complete Collection.

(3) All Five Liturgies available on Physical CD - finally, if you would prefer a real CD instead of a download, you can have it!  

May all of this help you create holy space wherever you find yourself…

01

Nov

Why Rock Star Worship Leaders Are Getting Fired

I have mixed feelings about this post.  While I agree whole-heartedly with his perspective, I don’t necessarily love the tone.  But regardless, he makes a strong point.

What do you think?

04

Oct

Old Church 

For the last couple years I’ve been wrestling with what the Church is, isn’t, and could be.  The Body of Christ is beautiful in so many ways and deeply broken at so many levels. What began as a revolutionary movement of Love often feels like just another institution trying to sustain itself…and I struggle to know how to engage in the most productive, helpful way.

Here are a few posts where I’ve tried to explore these questions: “Why I’m More Compelled by a Church OF the people than a Church FOR the People" and "Can the Church Still Matter in the World?" and "Why the Church is the Hope of the World is absolutely true…and occasionally completely wrong”.

On Sunday, my friend Skye Jethani preached a message that gave language to this struggle while offering a beautifully compelling way forward.  In some ways it’s simply a clear reading of Ephesians 4, but given the current culture of American Christianity, his perspective feels quite revolutionary.  Would you take a moment to give it a listen?

Click HERE and choose “Vampire Churches” from 9/8/2013.

Is it possible that our current form of Church was built for a world that is quickly passing away?  And might it be possible that something new is trying to get born?  The current “spiritual but not religious” conversation reminds us that people haven’t given up on God, but they can’t figure out how to connect with the institutional church.  Friends, let’s help something new - which is actually very old - get (re)born! I’d really love to hear your thoughts about all this.

A Book that every worship leader should read

Today and tomorrow, Glenn Packiam is giving away his fantastic book “Discover the Mystery of Faith” HERE. If you are a worship leader or pastor who cares about how our church gatherings form disciples, then I highly highly highly recommend this book. Here’s why… (My blog post from 03.05.13) [caption id=”attachment_8050” align=”alignright” width=”194”]The Mystery of Faith The Mystery of Faith[/caption] Today, my friend Glenn Packiam is releasing a new EP and book called “The Mystery of Faith”. Glenn has been asking profoundly important questions about the nature of worship and formation in the church, and this project was the result. I sincerely think every worship leader should dig into this with him. (Here are a few thoughts about GlennI posted last week). In the book’s forward, Ian Cron writes:

As I travel the country, it’s clear that a much-needed shift is taking place. Worship leaders are exhausted. The weekly pressure to plan and deliver innovative, seismically moving, crowd-attracting worship services is unsustainable. Essential and far-reaching questions are surfacing: is contemporary worship compassing people toward a transfiguring encounter with God or pandering to our culture’s addiction to peak experiences, entertainment, and celebrity? Has the word relevant become code for “keep the consumer satisfied”? Do services designed around themes address the longings of people in search of a narrative that will make sense of their lives? Have we become more focused on “Lights, Camera, Action,” than on “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”?…

To my worship leader friends: Does this capture your experience well? What do you feel when you read it? To my non-worship-leader friends who attend church: What does reading this assessment make you think or ask or feel? Here’s how Glenn has responded… I’d love to hear your thoughts! Aaron

06

Aug

Liturgy is a feast, not a style

As you may know, I believe that our current approach to worship music is both fantastic and way too narrow. The modern rock, anthemic, expression-driven worship music that dominates the CCM world and most evangelical churches is one kind of healthy spiritual food.  And it is wonderful for what it does.  But I worry that a steady diet of it will create malnourished worshipers.  Which is why the liturgy is so brilliant.

The Liturgy is, in my wife’s excellence words, a well-balanced meal.

This doesn’t mean that every church should turn into a traditionally “Liturgical church”, whatever that means. We don’t need to become stylistically Catholic or theologically Episcopalian or suddenly hang stained glass everywhere.  This isn’t about style, but about form.  Do we have a plan in place to help form our community into Christlikeness?  It’s not about the songs we choose, but the questions we begin with.  

So as a worship leader, I’ve been asking myself:  Am I offering the church a well-balanced meal?

Over the course of a month…
-Do we practice a number of different worship forms…or do we only sing?
-Do we focus on many aspects of God’s character…or just the most common in worship songs?
-Do we encourage the full range of human emotion (joy, sorrow, gratefulness, lament, etc)…or find ourselves in a pretty narrow bandwidth?
-Do we learn how to worship from many different traditions…or are we only influenced by our own tradition?

If my church community feasts on the worship practices we offer them, month after month, will they become well-nourished worshipers?

well balanced feast 

What about you and your church?  What are the worship practices that keep your community healthy?  Is there a certain “food group” that you might need to introduce…or take a break from?

05

Jul

The Best Book about Worship I’ve Ever Read

Desiring the Kingdom 

Friends, I recently read a book that not only gave brilliant language to something I’ve been feeling for a long time, but also pushed me into territory I didn’t even know existed…

"Desiring the Kingdom" by James K. A. Smith.

Smith’s thesis is that human beings are not fundamentally “thinking beings”. We’re not even just “believing beings”. But at our very core, we are “Loving Beings”.  We become what we love.  And so schools, teachers, and churches who try to change people by giving them new information are ultimately not addressing the core issue.

We become what we love.  And the only way to change a person is to redirect their LOVE toward a different source.  And this only happens through certain practices.

But here is where it gets really interesting.  Smith spends a whole chapter talking about how brilliantly this is already happening in our world - in the shopping mall.  In “The Liturgy of the Shopping Mall”, he walks us through all the ways that the shopping mall is masterfully created to form us into certain kinds of people.  The Mall doesn’t just offer us information, but through environment, senses, and vision, it helps us love and embrace certain versions of “the good life”.  (One example: “If I can have those certain clothes, then I will be attractive and wanted.”)

And then he drops this bomb (especially for those of us who work at churches)…

"If the mall and its “parachurch” extensions in television and advertising offer a daily liturgy for the formation of the heart, what might be the church’s counter-measures? What if the church unwittingly adopts the same liturgical practices as the market and the mall? Will it then really be a site of counter-formation? What would the church’s practices have to look like if they’re going to form us as the kind of people who desire something entirely different—who desire the kingdom? What would be the shape of an alternative pedagogy of desire?"

This absolutely haunts me.  What if our Christian worship does exactly what the world’s liturgies do:  create self-oriented people committed to their own happiness and success?  The only difference is that we Christians use Christian language to accomplish this.

For example, I have a pastor friend who realized one day that the consumer-oriented marketing they were doing to attract people to their church was EXACTLY CONTRARY to Jesus’ call of discipleship.  If he filled the seats by marketing and meeting people’s felt needs, how could he then say “Okay, Jesus is asking you to pick up your cross, die to yourself, and follow Him.”?  The medium is ultimately much louder than the message.

So what would it look like for our worship gatherings to truly be counter-cultural?  Instead of just repackaging the values of the world in christian language, what kind of worship practices can form us into entirely new kinds of Kingdom people?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

28

May

An Open Letter to Worship Songwriters

Dear Song-Writers, we need you!!

A few years ago, Brian Mclaren wrote an open letter to worship songwriters that I LOVED. He just updated it and further underscored how desperately we need new songs, prayers, and liturgies. And not just the same ideas in new packaging…but to re-imagine our worship language from the ground up.

I couldn’t agree more!

Please take some time to read through this slowly and see how God speaks to You. Like anything, you may not agree with every idea, but see if his appeal for a new way resonates with you. And then let’s get writing and creating!

Blessings…
Aaron

06

May

"The future of worship leadership will look very different from our present. Formation leaders will replace Experience leaders."
In less than 140 characters, Dan Wilt has masterfully captured the very core of what I believe and have been grasping to say. Thank you, Dan.
"Leading an experience" is an important role of a worship leader, but it’s not a high enough goal. Aiming to give people the worship feeling may draw a crowd, but it is not the purpose of the gathered church. We can do so much better. We can aim so much higher: practicing together to become disciples in the name of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.
Our world desperately needs a church of growing Christ-followers, not just a church content with cathartic, holy entertainment. The Kingdom of God will not be built through chasing after the worship feeling.
Fellow worship leaders, let’s pray and dream and explore and listen and risk and partner and re-imagine and see how God will lead us into a different kind of future.  Something beautiful is trying to get born, and I can’t wait to see it…

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28)

"The future of worship leadership will look very different from our present. Formation leaders will replace Experience leaders."

In less than 140 characters, Dan Wilt has masterfully captured the very core of what I believe and have been grasping to say. Thank you, Dan.

"Leading an experience" is an important role of a worship leader, but it’s not a high enough goal. Aiming to give people the worship feeling may draw a crowd, but it is not the purpose of the gathered church. We can do so much better. We can aim so much higher: practicing together to become disciples in the name of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

Our world desperately needs a church of growing Christ-followers, not just a church content with cathartic, holy entertainment. The Kingdom of God will not be built through chasing after the worship feeling.

Fellow worship leaders, let’s pray and dream and explore and listen and risk and partner and re-imagine and see how God will lead us into a different kind of future.  Something beautiful is trying to get born, and I can’t wait to see it…

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28)