EC Blog Post: Matt Goss

Years ago, several friends of mine made the jump from their flip phones to an iphone. I remember thinking, “there’s no way I’d pay that much for a phone!” I had a laptop, an ipod touch, and a flip phone, what else could I need? Well, when one of my friends upgraded to their new iphone 2, they gave me their old iphone. It was like I came alive for the first time! My life would never be the same again. Ok, maybe I’m overreacting a bit. But nonetheless, I have been attached to my iphone since day one. I now have a family plan with 5 iphones, which includes my wife, my kids, and my mom (who is somehow under the impression that I am tech support!!!). By now you’re probably wondering if I work for Apple, Verizon or AT&T. Let me reassure you that I do not. I am merely one of millions of smart phone users in the world who depend on these devices daily. This little device has changed the way I connect with family & friends. It’s replaced my digital camera, and is now the primary way I access email, the Internet, and my daily schedule. My life plan is attached to this device. Now, I’m smart enough to know that I don’t need my phone the way I need food, clothing and shelter. But if I forget to charge my phone overnight, or if my battery runs out midday, my world begins to spin out of control. Without power, my iphone is absolutely worthless.

When I was beginning full-time ministry close to 20 years ago, I remember one of my mentors telling me that a worship leader that only worships God publically, or prays publically is worthless. He knew from experience that the danger in public ministry is that your passion and pursuit of God and his presence can quickly become a mere performance. And in doing so, you can easily forget why you began serving God in the first place. Before you know it, this calling on your life, and the gifts you’ve been given, are about as useful as a dead iphone. The bible describes a time when people will succumb to this kind of living.

 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.

 

Understand that I am not in any way trying to ring the “end times” bell, or cause widespread panic among followers of Jesus. I do however think we need to view this as a strong warning for those that identify themselves as Christians. The scriptures tell us that it is fully possible to have a “form of godliness”, but be “lacking in power”. The bible also says that many will stand before God one day with the list of all they’ve done for him only to hear him say “depart from me, for I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23) If I’m being completely honest with you, I’ve had seasons of ministry where I’ve “gone through the motions”. Times that I’ve lead worship, and ministered to others relying heavily on my gifts, Bible knowledge and acting skills, instead of being tied into the power source and relying on God’s spirit. We can fake it for a season, but eventually the batteries run out and we simply have nothing left to give.

Approximately one year ago I found myself headed in that direction. Fortunately, I was able to sense it coming on and was willing to humble myself and ask for help. My pastor graciously offered me a 2 month sabbatical. It was a chance for me to step off the stage and out of the spotlight for a season. To seek God, return to my first love, recharge and renew my mind, and to remember all that God has done for me. I so needed that time… I was doing incredible things for God, but I wasn’t seeking him first and relying on his strength to sustain me in the process.

Next week close to 1,000 worship leaders, team members, and pastors from all over the world will be attending the Experience Conference in Orlando Florida. The purpose of this conference is to allow God to do for those who attend, what He did for me during my sabbatical break. The leadership team and steering committee having been praying for each attendee by name, and we are asking and expecting God to show up in incredible ways as we gather together and seek His presence, ask for His guidance, and allow him to minister to us and renew us from within.

Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing”. This year I will be serving at and attending the conference with 5 of my team members. I hope to see you there, iphone and all.

Work To Be Done

Written by MarLane Knuppel

Every once in a while, something hits you like a ton of bricks. It may be something someone said, a TV ad, a sermon or it may even be something out of the “mouths of babes”, but it hits you. It makes you stop dead in your tracks. Life is put on pause, if only for a second, and you think, “Wow”, I never thought of that!

 

I had a moment like that when I attended last year’s Experience Conference in Orlando. It was opening night and James MacDonald, Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, was speaking. He referenced the story of David, the shepherd who later became a king. And then he said this, “It’s important for us to realize the work that needs to be done between the anointing and the appointing, between being a shepherd and becoming a king”. That really resonated with me. The word “anointed” also means, “blessed” or “chosen”. I guess I have always thought that if God anoints someone with a certain gift or blessing, that they are in the midst of that choosing right then. It never occurred to me that the blessing might come long before the appointment because there’s work to be done in the in-between time.

 

The proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue” comes to mind. Patience is hard for me. Once I believe I know what God is planning, when I believe He has revealed something to me, then I want to run straight ahead with all my focus and all my priorities set on that goal! I say, “Ok, Lord! I got this! Now I know what You want me to do because I feel at peace about it!” But what I’m missing is the in-between time, the work-to-be-done time, the slow-down-and-wait-for-Him time. I believe God is always preparing us for the plans He designs in our lives. During some seasons, the preparation takes longer; it requires us to work harder and to have more patience. Other seasons may be short and the “appointing” quickly follows the “anointing”. But this idea of needing to do the work during the in-between time is important. It readies us for the job. It’s the exact amount of time we need to be shaped and molded into the person that’s required for the job.

 

David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel when he was about 15 years old, but he didn’t begin his rule until he was 30. David had to wait 15 years between being anointed and being appointed. And we can see through biblical text that he had a lot of work to do during that in-between time.

 

I believe we are all blessed by God to do something. So what has He blessed you to do? And are you doing the work that needs to be done before He appoints you? Or maybe you’ve already been appointed and you’re doing it! Consider this: is this your time to be the shepherd waiting for the anointing (blessing)? Are you in the “in-between time” needing to do the work that prepares you for what God is calling you to do? Or is this your time to be king and represent God’s calling on your life by doing the job He appointed you to do? In all of this, God’s timing is perfect. Seize every opportunity to draw near to the One Who created you. He created you for His good works and He will reveal His plan for your life in His perfect timing. Just be available! Recognize the anointing, do the good work and receive the appointing.

Our Offering

Written by DeAundrae Clayton
Creative Worship Arts Pastor at GI Free Church in Grand Island, NE

In this modern age where dynamic and excellent artists, bands, and vocals can be found in all areas of music, both secular and sacred, it’s vitally important that we not allow our music to become a watered down, soulless “tinkling cymbal” to the ears of the listener. It is my prayer that we come back to the soul of sacred music. That soul can be described only one way – true, deep worship; a worship that demands more than just our talents and abilities, but is a heartfelt, sacrificial offering to our God.

 

What offering can we give?

What can we give that has not already been given? 

What do we have that is not already the Lord’s? 

 

Isn’t it ironic that God longs not for a shiny, new container, but for a broken, scarred, even hopelessly flawed vessel that has seen better days. He desires a broken vessel offered up in worship to Him, in simple, childlike awe of who He is. In His eyes, that is the most beautiful offering that we can give.

 

As modern day Levites we must remember that we are partly responsible for taking our congregations from one spiritual place (dimension) to another along with and in accordance with our pastoral leadership. The purpose for our ministries is not only to affect those in our congregations as we gather, but also to effect a shift in their concept of the true meaning of worship. That can only happen when we have learned the concept of a lifestyle of worship.

 

“The point of worship is relationship, and the point of relationship is worship.”

 

 

Many think the primary reason for Jesus coming to save us was so we can go to heaven. This is a very Man-made view of salvation. While gaining eternal life is a wonderful result of our salvation, the primary reason for our salvation is not to get to heaven.”

 

 

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.” – Romans 12:1

 

Worship is not just the “preliminary music” any longer. It is the opening of a dialogue with our Maker, the first half of a two-way conversation. The primary reason is to have God’s original design of intimate relationship with His created beings restored, that we might worship Him as living sacrifices.

 

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – Peter 2:9

Are You Content?

Written by Heath Michael Bottomly – 
follow on twitter: @HeathBottomly

Contentment.

At our staff meeting this week, we spent time talking about contentment and our need to find ourselves content in life. There’s great truth in that. Paul, the apostle, even challenges us to be content in whatever circumstance we are in. He then tells us to be content, to breathe and relax, to kick up your feet and be totally fine with everything as the day keeps rolling by, to focus on ourselves and give up on trying at anything because “hey,… I’m fine either way…”

Wait. Did he say all of that?

Could it be that maybe we’ve been associating things that don’t mix?

Somewhere in our minds, many of us have linked contentment and acceptance to something never intended… resignation. We hear it in phrases and comments like “I guess that’s what God intended” or “we just need to get out of the way and be fine with it”, or even when talking about ministry, things like “if we only reach one person, that’s enough”.

Somehow, contentment became a reason for us to stop driving, to stop working, to stop moving. We allow ourselves to simply be the victims of circumstances and take any desire to move forward as a hit on being “content”.

Challenge yourself with this… what if contentment isn’t throwing your hands up, letting go, kicking up your feet and saying “que sera, sera”. What if it isn’t about not having any expectations, no drive, no ambition, and what if it’s about HOW you embrace your mission and WHERE your fuel comes from.

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

– Philippians 4:11-13

Contentment is not about the “what” as much as it is about the “how”. No matter how hard the race, be content in God that you can run it. No matter how big the mission, be content in God that it can be accomplished. Contentment is not whether or not we go after the hard work of ministry and live out the call, its about realizing that we can do all of it through HIM that gives us strength.

There are vital things that we’ve been called to do here and a very real race that we need to run that takes each of us willing to do whatever it takes to see it accomplished. Jesus tells us that the fields are ripe for harvest, but the issue is with the laborers. The issue isn’t the lack of fruit, not a void of lives to impact, no shortage on people to reach… the issue is with laborers willing to actually dig in and do the work. Many of them can be found sitting on the sidelines under a huge banner of “Contentment” and “Dying to Self” and missing the mark of what all of it was truly supposed to mean.

Contentment is about doing the hard work and accomplishing the mission that God has set for us and living in the reality that we CAN DO ALL OF IT with what He has given us.

It’s about knowing that everything we need for this mission is from Him and in Him. We may not get everything when we want it and it may look differently than what we would plan and may feel harder than anything in the world… but all that we need for the journey is found in Him and what He alone has placed in us.

So, let’s find contentment – as we gather together at Experience in Orlando in a couple of weeks, let’s remind each other to run the race and give everything we have, striving toward the mark and changing the world. Let’s work and put it all on the line, seeing that our strength comes from God – and knowing that we are in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. The laborers might be few, but we won’t be sitting on the sidelines looking for contentment…

…we’ll find it right in the middle of doing what we’ve been called to do.

Enthroned On Our Praises

Written by Jason Herbig

 

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praise of Israel. (Psalm 22:3, ESV)

 

There is nothing quite like those moments when you know without a doubt that you are experiencing the presence of God. I grew up going to church. In fact my whole life seemed to be connected to church for nearly all of my childhood – Sunday services, school, social clubs, sports, and surely some other stuff that didn’t start with the letter S. But I can’t say that I ever remember truly experiencing the presence of God until I was in college. I had gone on a spring break mission trip with a campus ministry to impress a girl. The first night of the trip, we had a large group worship time, and as we sang I could sense something in the room that I hadn’t felt before. I looked around at all the other people and could tell by the eyes-closed expressions and raised hands that they were experiencing something I did not understand. From that day on, I developed an authentic desire to seek out the presence of the Lord, to dwell in his house and gaze upon his beauty.

 

There are a few other high-profile memories in my life of experiencing God in the midst of his people singing his praises. Like the time I lost it at a Willow Creek conference with a one-two punch of the saints around me singing “Let God Arise” and “Mighty to Save” as my heart feared the messy fall out of an ugly staff departure back at my home church. Or my first time at the Experience Conference, where after a depressingly long stretch of dryness and burn-out I rediscovered the presence of God with 1,000+ worshipers around me belting out “Great I Am.” In fact, it was as I processed that moment that God reminded me of Psalm 22:3. And a verse that I once glossed over as a poetic anthropomorphism took on a tangible reality that I will never forget. Even as David laments that God has forsaken him, he reminds himself that God can be found enthroned on, or dwelling in the praises of his people. In my lack of faith, I found God’s presence in the midst of praises. In my fear and despair, I found God’s presence in the midst of praises. In my emptiness, I found God’s presence in the midst of praises.

 

I’ve come to learn that it is so important for leaders of worship to seek out these moments with God regularly. Moments when we can put down our guitars and our mics and our service plans and just be surrounded by the praises of his people, letting his Spirit fall fresh on us. Tasting and seeing that he is good so that we can draw on those experiences when we lead others. The Experience Conference has become one of those places for me. If you don’t have a place, you should join me there!

Fighting For Rest

Written by Sean Brainard

Do you remember when you were a child? Hide and seek, Tag, Climbing trees, Basketball, Football, Bikes and Dirt were common things in our daily routine. Back when you would wake up in the morning and run outside and play all day long. Come inside to eat lunch, only because Mom or Dad is forcing you to. Then continue running around, never getting tired day after day after day.

 

It seems like an eternity for some and maybe not so long ago for others. As time goes on, we soon realize that we can’t continue to run and never stop to rest. The same applies in our ministry walk. The same God that ignited our passion for ministry is the same God that also calls us to do so at a sustainable pace. He modeled it in his ministry as well. I remember someone telling me a while back, “You will have to learn to say “No” to good things as you move forward.” I thought they were crazy! Not so much anymore.

 

We all have lots of things in our lives, and most of them are good things. However, what tends to happen when we let too many good things pile up in our lives we stop doing all the good things in our lives well. Burn out is something that we all want to avoid but this is something that we need to fight to avoid. When we are burned out, it not only affects us, it affects the people around us and often times the ones closest to us. I heard this in a message and thought it was gold. “The Kingdom of God doesn’t need a burned out you it needs a Rested, Replenished, Passionate, on fire you!”

 

God wants you to enjoy this life He has given us! Rest is something that we have to fight for. I personally have 1 day a week that is a “no go” day. It has taken time to get to where I can have that day. I’d be lying if I said I was perfect every week, but I am fighting for it. The Experience Conference for the last couple years has been one of the ways I recharge. There’s something special when you can get around a bunch of other people who do what you do and are passionate about what you are passionate about. I pray God’s blessings on you all and I hope to see you all at one of this year’s conferences!

 

Hebrews 4:10- “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rest from their works, just as God did from his.”

 

No More Casualties

Written by Ken Hartley

 

I live in Chattanooga. The world pretty much knows what happened here this week. 5 soldiers were needlessly and shamelessly murdered. We are a city in mourning. If you think of us, please continue to pray for us. There are other unfortunate casualties I’ve witnessed in ministry. Two of my friends in full time ministry decided that life on this earth was no longer worth living and took their own lives. The shock and grief of their loved ones left behind has been profound and life changing.

 

A couple of years ago I went through a serious bout with depression that deeply changed me. I had a “reality check.” Not just a personal one but one that caused me to rethink how I deal with every person I come into contact with. I think the biggest lie people tell every day of their lives (especially in church!) is the answer to the question: “How are you doing?” And what do we always say? “Fine!” or “Great!” when we know it’s not true! Many times I think this is why the world looks at Christians with such mistrust and misunderstanding because we present a front that is not who we really are. We pretend we’re perfect when everybody knows we’re not. Why? Because we’re afraid of being vulnerable or appearing less than “perfect” in front of others and so we suffer in silence.

 

Two years ago at the Experience Conference I found some people with whom I could be real and I found real solutions to real problems that very likely saved my life. You will find the same thing there this year. You’ll find a safe place to confidentially address real ministry and real life problems. I hope to meet you in person and make some more “real friends.” If the answer to “How are you doing?” for you is “Really messed up!” then you’ll have some good (and safe) company and can start on the road to true healing. I’m determined to be one voice that says “No more casualties!” We can survive and thrive like God intended.

 

Ken Hartley
Abba’s House | Hixson, TN

Nothing But The Blood

Written by Matt Howard

I’m not a journaling kind of guy. Never has it been my practice to write down what is happening in my life, good or bad. Some time ago I had the idea to open a wordpress blog just to keep my worship ministry informed into what was going on within me. I think I made it about a month of writing before life snuck in and stopped that cold. But I’m glad I had the chance to write this. And now I’m glad I’ve had the chance to read it again. Please indulge my sharing.

Recently God has been speaking to me through music a lot more than normal.  It is something that, oddly enough is somewhat foreign to me. Even as a worship leader I can often miss the back and forth of communication that should be happening during a worship song, or any song that glorifies God for that matter.  As I sit here writing this article, I am well aware that the music inside my office is wafting down the halls a little farther than it should (read: the volume goes to ‘11’).  And it probably isn’t what you may be hearing within the confines of your mind at this moment.

 

I am listening to the song “Nothing But the Blood.” This isn’t a normal version though. No, no, no. This might possibly one of the best expressions of worship I have heard in a long time. Andy Cherry has taken some words that have been around a while and updated the music behind them in a very surreal and simple way. But there is also a new chorus that he added to the song that, for me, takes it over the top.

 

I found this song on my way back from playing music for a wedding in Indiana a couple of weeks ago. It was overnight turn-around for us. (We didn’t get home until 1am.) The girls were asleep in the car so I had my headphones in while I was driving. This song came on and it made me want to stand up and start praising Jesus. It made me want to move. It made me want to sing. It made me want to be playing along with the guys on the record. It made me sad. Wait… hold the phone… you just said this was one of the best songs you’ve ever heard, why did it make you sad?

 

Sad. See, for me in this moment that tidal wave of pressure and self-doubt that had been taking hold in my life came around full circle and was staring me in the face.  Jesus and I were about to have a “come to Jesus” talk.  Jesus was about to teach me something. Jesus was about to smack me. Jesus was about to hug me. The new chorus of the song simply says “Because the blood of Jesus is enough for me.”

 

In this singular moment inside a rental Toyota Yaris (Read: car far too small for Matt to drive), Jesus and I had a real heart to heart. We met upon the battleground of my soul. Jesus has a way with words. Jesus only had one thing to say, really, one thing to ask. “Is MY blood really enough for you?”

 

Smacked. Hugged. Broken. Whole. Destroyed. Affirmed. All of that happened in the span of a moment. See, Jesus’ blood really is enough for me. And when that realization comes full circle, the rest of the junk in this world fades away in the light of His glory and grace. So here’s the question then… Is Jesus’ blood enough for you?

 

What was happening to me in the moment was burnout and discouragement. I am incredibly thankful for that song and that moment in a rental car. I was done, I was ready to give up. In May 2013, I did not know about something called the Experience Conference. In September 2013, I had the opportunity to attend my first Experience. And man am I glad I did. If that rental car moment was the beginning of a journey towards a resurgent ministry focus, the experience conference was the defacto end. If anything within you is tired and ready to give up, find a way to attend Experience in 2015. There are two opportunities, July 6-9 in Dallas, TX and one September 8-11 in Orlando, FL. Allow the blood of Jesus to rejuvenate you around 1000+ of your closest worship ministry friends.

What can wash away my sins?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can make me whole again

Nothing by the blood of Jesus

Track or No Track?

by Brian Nelson

As worship leaders in today’s music world, the question of track or no track is very real. Using programs to create and cover keys, percussion, or the elusive 2nd electric guitar part, is becoming bigger and more popular. What used to be something only artists did, has been simplified, duplicated, and spread around to the masses.

Tracks have become an incredible tool for many churches. They have complimented bands and made them tighter. They have filled holes created by sudden sickness (see 2nd electric guitar part) and helped bridges be the epic moments of worship they’re meant to be.

However, some leaders overwhelmed by the whole idea. To think about putting these tracks together is too much. Others are too busy. They oversee small groups or other ministries. Or they’re part-time.

Some have consciously decided they don’t need them. It represents a lack of “realness” to them. Having people in the audience hear things that they don’t see feels strange. Still others don’t like their inability to follow the Spirit’s lead (actually tracks can change on the fly, but many don’t know that).

So what’s the answer to the question? Should you use track or no track?

Of course, that question can’t be answered here for your church. But maybe looking at the way we get the answer is more important. How do we decide?

Deciding on tracks is no different than determining solos, lighting, clothing, band size, number of singers, use of choir, song keys, worship style, or countless other decisions (maybe slowly read that list again). Each must be closely examined and separately discussed. Each is important. Looking at other churches, reading magazines and attending conferences will help guide us. Gathering opinions from our team will shape our thinking.

But one question should always trump all other research. One question should trump cool. One question should dominate our prayer times. One question should be the MAIN question we ask ourselves and our team:

Will the people I’m leading worship God more deeply, in spirit and truth, because of my decision? Examine, think, pray, discuss.

If yes, do it. If not, pull it. Even if it’s cool.

Colossians 3:17 – Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

My Hope Is In Him

by Maya J.T. Dawson

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him…”

my safety and refuge is in God

The past year has been one of incredible transition to say the least. Let’s see…I got married, became a licensed ordained minister and left my job to explore starting my own ministry…Wow, did I just say start my own ministry???

Over the years I’ve learned that life is filled with change.  But with every change I am reminded of just how constant God is.  Till this day, Psalm 62 remains my “go to” passage when I feel overwhelmed or life as I know it has been interrupted.  With each reading, I am drawn to a different scripture and am ministered to in such a fresh relevant way.

I am reminded to WAIT…When I’m afraid…When I feel rushed…When I’m trying to figure out which way to go…When I feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath me. I am reminded to WAIT ON THE LORD.  To lay at His feet and bask in His presence.

I am also reminded that my safety and refuge is in God. I can come (sometimes run) to Him with ANYTHING! He really cares about the details of my life and wants me to pour out my heart to Him.  It’s not like He doesn’t already know, but He delights in our intimacy with Him.

I’m also reminded that the world in which we live is temporal. Success, wealth, image, status, possessions, etc. all will fade away in the light of eternity with God. Nothing is ever that serious and everything pales in comparison to the power of the cross.

I thank God for His word and the blessing it adds to my life with each reading. My prayer is that we would never take it for granted, but always treasure it as the infinite gift that it is. Never forget that in the midst of change, God is constant.  See you at Experience!