Community Brings Perspective

Perspective comes in community.

Left to myself I can only create a one-dimensional view of the world.  Add another person and suddenly I start to get depth perception and perspective.

Growing up my family regularly drove long distances together overnight and thought nothing of it.  My mom made curtains for the car and as we rolled across the Tennessee line headed south from Ohio early in the morning we would change clothes.  We counted cars and read books and slept in between the suitcases in a day before child safety seats.

I have now met several people for whom trips like that create anxiety and sleep deprivation.  What I took for granted I now realize was somewhat unusual.  Many families are not comfortable travelling long distances in a car for 20 plus hours at a time.

Left to myself I would have stayed in a one-dimensional world.  Left to myself I would arrogantly assume that everyone sees things just like I do.

Now, in community, I suddenly begin to see a world of different perspectives.  When James the brother of Jesus says we should be “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” he is helping us maintain a guardrail against selfish and one-dimensional thinking.

In what part of your life are you clinging to a one-dimensional view of the world, and who can help you gain perspective in that area of your life?

What the Hatfields and McCoys Teach Us About Worship Wars

The Hatfield and McCoy families were at war with each other in the latter part of the 1800s, resulting in the death or imprisonment of dozens in their families and many more outside their families. At one point Kentucky and West Virginia almost went to war over the feud. In May of 2012 the History channel ran a three part miniseries on the feud, drawing record numbers of viewers.

Too often church members wage decades-long battles with each other over worship issues. We exchange angry and sometimes vengeful words with each other.

Not long into my first church job a long-time member marched into my office and pronounced firmly that she and 23 others all felt we should never do drama in the traditional service.

This church had three services and two styles and the arguments over worship style had been raging for almost 10 years by that time. Over the next eight years I got a first-hand taste of the Hatfields and McCoys worship style.

Now, looking back, I think of all the positive things that were overlooked because of the need to deal with conflict. The Hatfields and McCoys have showed us exactly what we will gain by fighting and arguing:

  1. Bitterness. In 2 Samuel 2 the armies of Israel and Judah were fighting each other and Abner, commander of Israel’s armies, said this to Joab, commander of Judah’s armies: “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” Joab then called off the pursuit of Israel.
  2. Self-righteous indignation. Worship wars are usually fought because one group claims the high moral ground over another group. Each group has it’s own standard of right and wrong and nothing can persuade them otherwise.
  3. Unhealthy pride. If your group “wins,” you can develop a very prideful spirit, and God has stern things to say about the proud. In Proverbs 16:18 God says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

These poisons will damage you and your church deeply. Instead, God calls us to demonstrate:

  1. Love. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “The greatest of these is love.” God’s currency is one of love, grace and forgiveness towards those who wrong you or disagree with you. Love brings more freedom than you could ever protect by being bitter and self-righteous.
  2. Humility. Christ gave us the ultimate picture of humility when he came as a child to save us. He actually had the high moral ground and he gave it up to save us. When he rose from the dead and proved he was the Christ, he did not flaunt it but gave credit to God the Father.

Philippians 2:3-11 points us to Christ’s model for our lives:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

P.S. The Hatfields and McCoys of today are very much at peace with each other, showing that even the staunchest of enemies can be reconciled.

How can you demonstrate more love and humility in your worship discussions?

How Do I Decide: A Book Review

Review: How Do I Decide: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing; Rachelle Gardner, author, with Michelle DeRush.

Rachelle Gradner, How Do I Decide


I am a newbie writer and I happened on Rachelle Gardner’s blog about two years ago.  I enjoy her personable tone and the excellent information she provides to readers of all types.  This book is no exception.

This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to cut to the chase and grapple with the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing.

How Do I Decide is an easy and fast read because the layout is spacious, the verbiage is not the stuff of textbooks, and the content is immediately accessible and valuable to aspiring and published writers.


Chapter 1 is worth the price of admission for the newbie.  Gardner carefully lays out all of the terms, facets and processes of current publishing and describes them in easy-to-read language.  I have only begun to peer into the world of publishing in the past several years and this chapter brought me up to speed on how the publishing world works.

In Chapter 2 Gardner helps the reader begin to decide between self- and traditional publishing by comparing the approaches of traditional and self-publishing in each of 12 categories.  At the end of the chapter she neatly sums up the choices on each of the issues in a table for easy comparison.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the advantages and disadvantages of self- and traditional publishing in more detail, one chapter for each style of publishing.  Here I found Rachelle’s language leaning towards traditional publishing in both chapters, rather than each chapter objectively supporting one route of publishing.  Of course, I suppose that this should not surprise me because Rachelle is a literary agent.  Nevertheless, I came away feeling like self-publishing came out a little on the short end of the stick.

Chapter 3 on the advantages of traditional publishing came across very positive and encouraging,  Rachelle provided many concrete examples of how much traditional publishing has to offer over the self-publishing route.

Of the three author perspectives included in Chapter 4 on the advantages of self-publishing, Addison Moore and Jennie Nash both provided what I felt were negative looks at self-publishing.  Each has had success as a self-publisher, and that is encouraging.  Each woman, however, gave me the impression they would rather go the traditional publishing route.  I did not come away encouraged to look into self-publishing.  The interview with James Scott Bell, on the other hand, was splendid.  His ending lines, “But the pears are ripe on the tree.  Pick some,” were priceless and encouraging, even poetic.

In Chapter 5’s excellent checklist for choosing which route Rachelle restates ideas several different ways to make certain the reader understands the choices correctly.  Chapter 6 provides an extremely valuable listing of resources, contacts, and how-to sources.


Gardner does a great job of clearly stating the challenges and benefits of both traditional and self-publishing, even if her tone leans toward the traditional route.  Because she has worked so long in the traditional publishing world and she is now self-publishing I appreciate her perspective on how the two approaches differ.

A lot of writers are trying to decide how to publish, and How Do I Decide is just the resource they need to make that critical decision.

4 Ways Worship Has Nothing to Do with Church

Did you know that church services and everything we do in those services are not necessary for worship?  Did you know that even if you were stranded on a desert island with only a box of Wheaties and a plastic shovel you would still be able to worship just as deeply as you do every Sunday morning in your comfortable seat at your favorite church?

Tiger Woods Box of Wheaties

We humans get very attached to things.

Not long ago a staff member at church told the story of how a family came to church early to get a seat.  As the family was standing and talking, someone else came up and said, “That’s where I usually sit,” pointing to one of the family’s reserved seats.

When the family pointed out that many seats were available right around them, the person said, “But I always sit here.”

We laugh, but you know that each of us also has our own area where we like to whine and say, “But I always (fill in the blank).”

Worship ultimately has nothing to do with the things we hold so dear.  Here are four ways worship transcends the boxes we create for our worship experiences:

  1. Worship begins with gratitude.  Every time you thank God for something you are worshipping him.  All good things come from God, said John the Apostle.
  2. Worship is a heart response to the gift of God.  No particular posture or physical symbol or music required; just a heart responding to God.
  3. Worship grows from a relationship with God.  In the beginning God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  This was pre-sacrifical worship, pre-Christ, pre-everything we try to cram into a worship service.  God wants you to know him and rely on him.
  4. Worship is loving your neighbor.  We honor God by loving and caring for those we meet on a day to day basis, regardless whether or not they are loveable in our perspective.

While projection and music and offerings and prayers and preaching all help us to worship, those things are not the essence of worship; they are tools.  Let’s not worship the tools; instead let’s dig to the root of things and worship Christ.

What things are you attached to that weaken your worship?

Choosing Songs for Worship

Music selection is one of the worship leader’s most visible jobs. Worship leaders are also vilified more for music selection than for anything else.

  • That song has weak theology.
  • The melody is unsingable.
  • That song has way too many words; I can’t get them all out in time at that tempo.
  • The music had absolutely nothing to do with the message.
  • Why don’t they sing more hymns?
  • Why don’t they sing more new music?

You don’t have to be a worship leader to recognize those questions. Perhaps you have even asked one of them.

I know I have.

So how do you choose music for the service?

  1. Remember that you can’t please everyone. If you pursue the path of pleasing people you will run into lots of problems. You are accountable to God, yourself, and the senior pastor; no one else.
  2. Find out the information for the service ahead of time. If the pastor does not have a practice of planning in advance, work with him to facilitate his planning, explaining the value of knowing those things ahead of time.
  3. Pray. Always pray. God is the ultimate creative, and he knows what he wants to do through you.
  4. Know your church’s tastes. If you are leading worship at a country cowboy church, don’t begin with a Prelude from Bach’s 1st suite for solo cello. Pick music that they can identify with.
  5. Begin with God. Almost always you should begin a service with a song that points us directly to the attributes and greatness of God. We have spent the week fighting the noise of life; worship is our opportunity to reset our perspectives on God.
  6. Begin up-tempo. I almost always begin with a faster song. I just like that. People arrive at church groggy and half awake; they need musical caffeine.
  7. Work towards songs that are more personal, intimate prayers.
  8. Guide the themes of the songs towards the theme of the service so that when the pastor gets up to speak the people are ready to hear what he has to say.
  9. Break rules 4 through 8. Never be afraid to try something different.

How do you select songs for a worship service?

How to Adapt a Song for Your Band

The worship music world is full of highly produced and densely layered recordings.  How does one listen to a song and adapt that song for their band without using loops and backing tracks?

Electric Guitar

Our worship band is presently without a regular guitarist, something I have not experienced in quite a few years.  Since most of the modern worship songs are guitar driven, we are adapting songs every week.

Here are two steps to guide you when you find yourself in a similar situation.

  1. Find the shape of the song.  By shape I mean the emotional and lyrical direction of the piece.  Does the song follow an arc pattern, building to the middle and relaxing from there to the end?  Does the song grow from beginning to the very end?  Or is the song one feel without much variation?
  2. Mimic the shape.  If the song starts soft and builds, begin with just one instrument and a solo voice.  At each verse add another instrument or voice.  Have the drums start with just cymbals and hi-hat, then let the drummer build to a full groove.  Play a pad on the keyboard and switch to piano or organ at a higher emotional point.  Have the vocals begin in unison and add harmony at the chorus or a later verse.

Your band is not an on/off switch.

Your band consists of a certain number of instruments and voices.  Please do not begin every song with everyone singing harmony and every instrument hammering away.  Thoughtfully choose which instruments and which voices start and what voices and instruments enter in what particular order.

You are the leader and you are orchestrating the music as you go.

Imagine John Williams writing the music for Star Wars.  Instead of arranging the instruments and sounds the way he did, what if he had walked in, plopped down a bunch of music in front of everyone, and told them to play whenever and as loud as they want?  Would we want to listen to the music?

Probably not.

Any person can lead music like that, but it takes an artist to carefully construct the sound their band or orchestra or choir makes.

This week take one song and play it a completely different way.  Be creative.  Make a plan for everyone to come in differently than they have in the past and see how it sounds.

Be an artist, not someone flipping a switch.

How do you adapt songs for your musicians?

Guest Post: How to Use Amps and Iso Cabs on Stage, Part 2

Kevin McPeakKevin McPeak is the Creative Director at EastLake Church in Chula Vista, California. He is a proponent of both tubes and digits.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmcpeak or find him on Facebook.  Kevin has kindly agreed to lend us some of his expertise in technical issues and will be posting from time to time.

Part 1 is available here.

Q: I play electric guitar and love my amp sound, but we donʼt use amps on stage because of stage volume. Is there some way I can use my amp so it does not impact stage volume?

Well, first off, letʼs identify the problem, because that will help us find a solution. The reasons that our mix engineer wants us to keep stage volume under control are many:

  • stage volume blurs front of house (FOH) mix clarity
  • stage volume creates ever-increasing demand for volume from stage monitors
  • stage volume leads to “hot spots” and “cold spots” where instruments are either too loud or too soft
  • stage volume dramatically limits the FOH engineerʼs ability to create a thoughtfully and musically designed mix.

So letʼs be clear: amps arenʼt the problem in and of themselves; the problem is that amps tend to get treated like personal monitors and turned up too loud. Furthermore, many amps donʼt sound their best without running at a decent volume. How the heck do we solve the problem?

Letʼs say that youʼve already got a combo amp – in other words, a single unit that has both the amplifier section and the speaker – that you love and you donʼt want to purchase an external cabinet or haul around something big. What can you do then?

In our case, we have an all-tube Mesa Boogie combo amp that our electric guitar 2 volunteers generally use. Although the amp can power an external cabinet, the amp already contains a perfectly matched built in 12” speaker, so we asked one of our volunteers to construct an iso cabinet for the amp.

This is what he made:

Iso Cube front

Iso Cube back

As you can see, itʼs effectively a four-sided cube. (For those of you trying to figure this out, a cube is a six-sided object with equally-sized sides. In the case of the iso cabinet above, we have a cube with no bottom and one side missing.

Okay, itʼs really not a cube because it doesn’t have equal sides. But I slept in Geometry class the day we talked about six-sided objects with unequally sized sides, so you will just have to go with it being called a “cube.”  If any of you would like to educate me as to the correct term for a six-sided object comprised of unequally sized sides, Iʼm happy to listen. If I can stay awake.)

You can see that the idea is to point the business end of the amp into the box. The top and interior walls are lined with sound baffling material and the floor takes care of itself by being carpeted. (If your stage floor is a hard, flat surface, you may want to throw a small rug in there.) This all works together to create a tremendous reduction in the sound output from the amp.

However, there is a catch in this case, and itʼs a very important one: this combo amp has an open-back cabinet.

Front side:

Mesa Boogie Amp frontBack side:

Mesa Boogie Amp back

As you can see, the back of the amp is open. (Thus the name, right?) Many guitarists prefer the tone produced by open-back amps. Open-back cabinets create a challenge because the back of the cabinet emits quite a lot of sound; putting an isolation box on the front of the amp only solves part of the problem of lowering stage volume.

In our case, we solved this problem by placing the amp off-stage, behind a thick curtain, and against a Tectum wall.  You could also create a matching iso box for the back side of the amp to limit the sound coming off the open-back side.  Make sure, however, that you allow sufficient airflow in and out of the amp because the amp will overheat and fail without airflow.

Have another technical question you would like Kevin to answer?  Post your question in the comments.