Category Archives: Encouragement

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!

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!