Spiritual Formation

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Expectation & The Hardened Heart of The Worshipper

Expectation & The Hardened Heart of The Worshipper

By Dusty Wallace   |  June 16, 2016

Being an Ohio native, many summers in my childhood included at least one trip to Cedar Point, the theme park in Sandusky on Lake Erie.

I remember when I wasn't quite tall enough to ride the "big kid" rides. Of course, when you're just shy of that threshold height, there's going to be a few tears when you see your older sibling hopping in line for a ride that you just missed the cut for.

In those moments, everything is HUGE. Walking up to the college kid in the bright polo holding the measuring stick, the measuring stick seems huge. Everyone in line towers over you. Dwarfing them all in the distance, the first monstrous drop of the roller coaster hill.

4 Tips To Help Get Worship Leaders Out Of Their Own Heads

4 Tips To Help Get Worship Leaders Out Of Their Own Heads

By Dusty Wallace   |  May 10, 2016

When Sunday is always coming, it can be easy to get tunnel vision.

A lot of churches have systems in place to make sure their staff worship leaders get time off to rest and refocus. However, I would venture to say that most churches don't. Here are some practical tips and activities to give you that much-needed breather.

1. Go See A Show That You Can't Critique

Sometimes, it is nearly impossible to go to another church for a night of worship or even to a show at a bar when you're a worship leader without mentally breaking down every little piece of it.

That floor tom sounds like junk.
I can tell that lady is lip-syncing.
That worship leader has better hair than me.

You NEED to find some artistic/musical performance that will at least make it difficult for you to put on your "expert" goggles.

Your To Do List is Keeping You From This Crucial Leadership Role

Your To Do List is Keeping You From This Crucial Leadership Role

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  February 11, 2016

What is one thing that sets apart many spiritual leaders from the GREAT spiritual leaders? Their prayer life.

Prayer is one of the biggest privileges we have as team leadersand one of the biggest necessities.

The apostle Paul’s leadership of the early churches he oversaw included consistent, positive, and bold prayers for them:

  • He wrote to the Romans that he unceasingly made mention of them in his prayers. (Romans 1:9-10)
  • He told the Ephesians and Philippians that he never stopped thanking God for them. (Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3-4)
  • Informed the Colossians (in what might be my favorite of Paul’s introductions) that he's praying:

“… [they] may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

(Colossians 1:9-10)

Seeing the priority Paul placed on prayer and intercession as an example, let’s fight the tyranny of the urgent that so often tempts us to attack our to-do list before we lift up prayers for the teams we lead.

Why I Fell Off The Planet

Why I Fell Off The Planet

By Jon Nicol   |  July 10, 2015

A postmortem of an imbalanced life...

Leading A Lot of Worship? Three Tips To Help You Stay Sincere

Leading A Lot of Worship? Three Tips To Help You Stay Sincere

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  April 17, 2015

How to stay fresh when you're leading week after week...

Playing Second Fiddle to a Lousy Violinist

Playing Second Fiddle to a Lousy Violinist

By Jon Nicol   |  May 9, 2014

I worked for a senior pastor once who nearly inspired me to go work at McDonalds. Three things I learned...

What Do People See When You Lead Them In Worship?

What Do People See When You Lead Them In Worship?

By Jon Nicol   |  April 10, 2014

This blog post was first published by WorshipMinistryDevotions.com. It's intended to be a devotional that you can use with your worship team.

The Messiness of Christmas: A Worship Team Devotional

The Messiness of Christmas: A Worship Team Devotional

By Jon Nicol   |  December 4, 2013

We like the Christmas story...but why?

How Do I Make Rehearsal More Spiritual?

How Do I Make Rehearsal More Spiritual?

By Jon Nicol   |  October 8, 2013

I tackle the question, "How do you incorporate a Bible study time into an already filled worship rehearsal?" The answer might surprise you...

Going Under the Knife (aka my

Going Under the Knife (aka my "Neck-fil-a")

By Jon Nicol   |  September 30, 2013

I just wanted to write a brief post letting you know that I will be out of commission for awhile...

Three Ways to Thrive in the Crazy Seasons of Life

Three Ways to Thrive in the Crazy Seasons of Life

By Jon Nicol   |  April 10, 2013

LIfe is crazy. You don't have to be...

a 7 Pound 12 Ounce (glorious) distraction...

a 7 Pound 12 Ounce (glorious) distraction...

By Jon Nicol   |  January 23, 2013

Cora Quinn entered our lives at 11am yesterday - seven pounds and twelve ounces of life-altering cuteness.

The Mess of Christmas - A Team Devotional

The Mess of Christmas - A Team Devotional

By Jon Nicol   |  December 5, 2012

A Christmas-themed devotional for your worship team...

If Preparation Didn't Matter...

If Preparation Didn't Matter...

By Jon Nicol   |  September 5, 2012

Preparation is accumulative. And every piece of it matters.

If preparation didn't matter, then Joseph could have just skipped the pit, skipped the slavery, jumped past the jail and still succeeded in becoming  second-in-command of Egypt.

If preparation didn't matter, Moses wouldn't have needed to tend sheep for 40 years in the desert before tending "sheep" in the desert for 40 more years.

If preparation didn't matter, Joshua wouldn't have needed to hang out at Moses' right hand for those second 40 years.

If preparation didn't matter, David would've been crowned king the moment he was anointed by Samuel. Instead of...

Killing a giant.

Spending time in the palace.

Building a friendship with Jonathan.

Being hunted by a madman.

Leading a band of mighty men.

And not taking the throne by force when it was squatting (literally) right in front of him.

If preparation didn't matter, Jesus wouldn't have spent 40 days fasting in the desert before beginning his public, earthly ministry.

And if preparation really didn't matter, he wouldn't have taken the time to pray - lament, really - in a garden the night before that ministry's violent end.

Could it be that Gethsemane was the last piece of the final preparations that began a week early when Jesus told two of his disciples to, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there…" 

Then he told two more disciples to prepare the Passover meal for them. One last Passover meal that reenacted the preparations made by the people of Israel to leave slavery. Preparing them to be a people of covenant. And now, preparations were being finalized for another, greater covenant.

Preparation is weaved throughout God's story: 

I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…

But when the fullness of time had come...

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared...

I am going there to prepare a place for you…

I saw the Holy City….coming down out of heaven and from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed...

And we are to be a people of preparation: 

Always be prepared to give an answer…

Be prepared in season and out of season...

Prepare your minds for action...

It's easy to short-change preparation. Especially in the day-to-day.

But the mundane and the daily are sacred pieces in God's best plan. To miss those is to miss the glory.

Preparation is accumulative. And every piece of it matters.

Caution: Life-Changing Worship May be Awkward

Caution: Life-Changing Worship May be Awkward

By Jon Nicol   |  June 27, 2012

I returned from a 7-day spiritual retreat Monday. The event focused on inner healing.

 And I was long overdue.

While I’m still processing all that I experienced, one of the things that struck me was that how awkward it all was.

You’re Going to Pour That on Me? Really?
There were practices from other Christian traditions that were foreign and weird. I can tell you that for me, a lifetime evangelical protestant, to grip a crucifix while being sprinkled with holy water was a tad awkward. But after awhile, I began to welcome these different outward symbols and expressions of God’s inward work in my heart and soul.

Happy Hands Club
Our times of worship before the teaching weren’t musically polished or free from distractions, but they were powerful.

Happy Hands ClubHowever, when the worship leader came out one day without her guitar and had us circle up for a worship dance, I was ready to make my own retreat. I felt like I was in the Happy Hands Club from Napoleon Dynamite.

But on one of the last days, we used dance to express the truth of Chris Tomlin’s “I Lift My Hands.” I found myself dropping my guard and finding significance in the expression. While I might not be ready to adopt it as the main form of worship expression in my church, I’m beginning to see the power of movement and dance.

But was it still awkward? Oh you betcha.

Then there was the level of honesty shared with each other in one-on-one sessions and small group meetings. Eventually that honest communication began to creep into our meal times, late night discussions and our worship sessions.

It was the first time I’ve ever experienced that level of Biblical community. But was it awkward getting there? Yes. And even painful at times.

I guess what I’m realizing is that God sometimes meets us in our ideal experiences – the kind that we create at conferences and special services and that looks so inviting in the full-color brochure pictures.

But sometimes God chooses to use the awkward and broken moments. The times we’re off our game, or out of it completely. And He might choose to speak and work through the strange and foreign, the stuff we assume is for that other brand of Christian.

Above all, He wants to us to experience Him within the context of authentic community. The kind you can’t get a from a small group curriculum or how-to book. God wants us to drink his grace in depths that can only be reached through raw and honest relationships.

I don’t know about yours, but my church’s worship doesn’t look much like this. But maybe someday it could.

And if had to guess, I’d say getting there just might be a tad awkward.

Questioning our Deepest Desires

Questioning our Deepest Desires

By Jon Nicol   |  June 22, 2012



Do you know what your core longings* are?

Let me tell you in no particular order:







 You need…

… your existence to matter; to go beyond being noticed to being celebrated.

…to have a driving motivation and undeniable reason for that existence.

…to be more than understood. You hunger to be known deeply.

…safety and protection. You need a defender.

…to find yourself in a family that not only accepts you, but can’t imagine life without you.

…to know someone both cares and longs for you (and would go to scandalous lengths to show it).

From the Garden till now, we’ve had these deep wants in our soul. But when we left the Garden, we’ve been, well, left wanting.

And with our backs toward Eden, we began to search this world - this universe - for the Object of our longings. In our search, we’ve settled for lesser sources to fill us. Only to be disappointed.







And unimaginably wounded.

How deeply are these longings carved into our hearts that we would endure this?

But what if the One who carved these deep voids had intended to be One to fill them?

And what if, being both the Origin and the Object of our longings, He now could become the Repairer…






And Healer?

And what if He became those so that we could once again have our deepest longings satisfied?

What if?

Three Reminders Every Worship Leader Needs

Three Reminders Every Worship Leader Needs

By Roger O'Neel   |  June 18, 2012
While I'm off for a week, I've asked some friends to contribute to the blog. Today's post is from Roger O'Neel. Roger is Associate Professor of Music and Worship at Cedarville University and directs the Worship Program.  His personal blog is worshipblogger.com.

We recently took a extended family vacation out of the country. It was a great time of rest and relaxation, both personally and for us as a family. I came home with three simple reminders from my time away.

Help Yourself
On the airplane, safety videos play the perfunctory announcements about exit rows, life rafts and air masks. Usually they are ignored by all but the rookies and paranoid people. Nevertheless, one of them catches my attention almost every time. It is the safety instruction that says "if you are traveling with small children or infants, put on your mask first before helping others."

This seems so counterintuitive. It would seem that children would be more susceptible to lower oxygen pressure, have higher respiration rates and smaller lungs (thus needing more air), and would need more help than adults. However, as adults, we have an important role to care for them, and we must make sure that we are in a position to be able to help. We need to be breathing well before helping others.

Likewise, as worship leaders, we have a caretaking role. To properly lead and shepherd, we need to be healthy and in a position to be able to help others. This is a reminder to me to take time to be "breathing deeply" spiritually before helping others. Perhaps we need to recall the admonintion from Eph. 5 about "be being filled with the Spirit". Perhaps we need to feed ourselves from the Word of God before trying to share it with others. As caregivers, we need to also be taking care of ourselves. If we are not in good shape spiritually, we will not be able to help others who may need it.

Unplug Your Stuff
Being out of the country meant our normal cell phone plan wouldn't work. We would have to add international calling and data and this would be very expensive. We were also away from any regular internet service. Almost every member of the family was touched in the electronic blackout.

How did it work? Great. Even though we have family members who are avid texters, internet aficionados, and social networkers, we really did well. No more worrying about emails to return or voice mail to check. Time spent doing those things was spent relaxing or with family.

So now, back to reality. Email to return, voice mail to check, and blogs to post. Being without these things, however, was a good reminder that we can live without them, and that we need to control them instead of them controlling us.

It is also good to be reminded that we need to retreat from things that vie for our attention. Jesus took time for solitude. Sometimes we may just need to turn off the radio, internet or phones to be able to clearly hear from God. Tozer said this,

"God will speak to the hearts of those who prepare themselves to hear; and conversely, those who do not prepare themselves will hear nothing even though the Word of God is falling on their outer ears every Sunday."

Relationship vs. Activity
The best thing about the trip was deepening relationships with our kids. When you have shared experiences, you strengthen the common bonds that you have. The poignant moments, the funny stories and the inside jokes will forevermore be in the family psyche.

My eight year old daughter perhaps taught me the most about relationships on this trip. She is very much a "daddy's girl". I love to snorkel and took all of the kids who wanted to go, but none of them love to go as much as I do. So I got to the point that no one was interested in going. Except her. For me, this was a snorkeling trip. For her, it was being with daddy.

The reminder to me was that for my daughter, nothing that we did together was as important as just being together. I am afraid that I often focus on activity rather than just being. This is true not only in my human relationships, but also in my relationship with God. I find myself being Martha, performing duties for Jesus. Luke 10 records what Jesus said to her:

41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

May we all be more like Mary, and be people who are Abba's boys and Abba's girls, who love to be with Him.


Platform Expression: A Team Devotional to Help Check Your Heart

Platform Expression: A Team Devotional to Help Check Your Heart

By Jon Nicol   |  June 15, 2012

This week we've been talking about various issues of platform expression. I thought it might be a good time to revisit this post/devotional. One of the tensions we face as lead worshipers is finding that we can find ourselves "worship" differently on and off the platform.

The expression that comes easily to us on the platform may not happen as freely when we're part of the congregation. There's no easy solutions.

I've had this discussion with several different worship teams in my seminars and workshops. Each one has given me greater insight and more perspective into this worship musician "tension." So I'd encourage you to take a moment to give your thoughts and experiences on this topic in the comments. I'd really love to hear from you.

Here's the repost of Heart Check #3:

Why We Call It Good

Why We Call It Good

By Jon Nicol   |  April 6, 2012

In honor of Good Friday, I'll be giving away my ebook, Eight Words from now till Sunday morning...

Team Devotional: Restoration & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Team Devotional: Restoration & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

By Jon Nicol   |  April 2, 2012

I've got a 1971 350 Honda motorcycle. It's in relatively decent shape, until I look at the fully restored ones online. Then, not so much. Would I like to restore it? Yes. Wait. No -- I'd like it to be restored.

I don't want to do the restoration. To restore it means tearing it apart. Removing dents. Repainting. Getting intimate with grease that predates my birth and dealing with gunk that remembers Nixon.

I'm learning that if one owns a vintage bike, one either needs the skills to fix said bike, or enough money for someone else to do it. I have neither. So it runs. Usually.

I got mad at my 6-year old son the other day, madder than the situation warranted. Afterwards, I told my son, "Daddy's sorry." And I meant it. I asked God for forgiveness. And I meant it.

But I stopped there. Confession was relatively easy. Saying 'sorry' was simple. But I wasn't restored.

Restoration's expensive. The price is the costly question "why?" Why did I get so mad? And the cost of asking why leads to the tough work of dismantling my heart and finding the broken piece. And the broken piece is a boy not much older than my son Aedan -- wounded by the words and actions of another, then believing this wound defines him.

But seeing that broken part isn't enough. I need listen as the voice of the Restorer speaks truth into my heart-lie I'm holding. I need to let the hand of the Healer reach in and return that soul-part to its original glory. I need to succumb to the embrace of the Abba Father and, from there, forgive those who wounded me.

It’s one thing to want to be restored. It’s another thing to pay the price of restoration: intimacy with Jesus. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. We need to open ourselves up the Restorer, allowing him to see inside us and tell us the truth.

Until we do, we settle for a life that's in relatively decent shape and runs--usually.

Team Devotional: They (REALLY) Need Me

Team Devotional: They (REALLY) Need Me

By Jon Nicol   |  March 26, 2012

I think this warped hymn sings in the brain of many worship leaders and musicians at some time or another:

They need me every hour, most gracious Lord
To lose talent like mine, the team can't afford

They need me, O they need me
Every service they need me
I'll bless them with my presence
Until eternity

I had taken two weeks off in the summer and decided not to schedule myself at either campuses for the third Sunday. I was returning late in the week and didn't want to have to rush back to leading. I figured I'd just jump on electric guitar at one of our campuses.

But then this still small voice cut through my inner song of self-delusion:

They don't need you.

Sure they do.

No. They don't.

But I'm just going to play electric guitar. I'm not taking over or anything.

Electric guitar would be nice. But do you really think you need to be there?

Aw, crud.

Too often worship leaders, especially us "professionals," only give up leadership when we're on vacation. It's a disorder called LIDs. "Leadership Insecurity Disorder" makes us think we're indispensable.

Musicians, lest we be too hard on our leaders, think about your own situation. Do you have a hard time taking a week off? And even if you aren’t on each week, is there a sense that you could do it better than the person in “your” spot?

The view from the pew for many of us is tough. But it’s necessary to regularly NOT be onstage and NOT serve, both for growth as people and the growth of the team.

Mistakes. Three Ways to Make Them Right...

Mistakes. Three Ways to Make Them Right...

By Jon Nicol   |  March 20, 2012

Some mistakes are fixed with an “oopsy…let me do that over.” When a quick mulligan won’t do the trick, some mistakes will cost time and/or money to redo. But they can be fixed.

Some mistakes are irreversible. Like the one I made last night.

Roger O’Neel, a worship and music professor from Cedarville University, delivered on some incredible content during a live webinar interview.

That I didn’t record.

I realized it this morning as my Keurig was warming up. Maybe it was the red “heating” light that jarred the thought, ‘I didn’t hit record.’

I didn’t hit record?!

The heating light went off and the blue brew button was ready to push. I grabbed a cheap Folgers K-cup (the nearly tasteless ones my wife had gotten with a coupon) and scolded myself, “You don’t deserve the Italian roast.”

Last night’s interview can’t be recreated. Sure, we could do the interview again in a few months. But the conversation that occurred on an unseasonably balmy Monday evening in March, with the same comments and questions and chat, just can’t be duplicated.

Now as I suck down the last of the bland Folgers, I’m thinking about what I’ve been learning recently when it comes to my mistakes.

Face, Not Save Face
First, how to face a mistake – especially when it involves other people. I wish this wasn’t true, but my first reaction was some sort of spin to save face. I wanted to blame the technology.

But I’ve been trying to dismantle my impression management system for awhile. Unfortunately, it’s deeply rooted from being in fine working service for so long. But on my better days, I check these thoughts before they become false words or actions.

Facing a mistake means I admit it for what it is. Jeff Goins, a writer/blogger I follow, wrote an email update just yesterday (coincidence?) that included this:

I once knew a counselor who wouldn't allow his patients to say, "I'm sorry."

"That's too easy," he said.

Instead, say what you really mean. Say what the person wants to hear: I WAS WRONG.

I didn’t emotionally wound anyone with this mistake, but it’s still costly. I lost a sizable portion of a return on an investment that Roger entrusted to me last night.

"I" messed it up. Not the webinar site. Not my computer. (Heck, I just switch to a Mac, so no one would believe that anyway.) I did it. I was wrong.

Learn From
The second thing I’ve been learning about my mistakes is learning from my mistakes. There’s a passive, Pavlov’s dog type of learning that takes place in us humans when we make mistakes. But I’m trying to do intentional post-mortems on my mistakes and failures to truly learn from them.

[By the way, this is a great read from Seth Godin about failure and mistakes – he makes an interesting comparison between the two, and then concludes that we should fail more.]

And lastly, I’m learning how to leave my mistakes. A couple years ago I would have beat myself up over this for a couple days. Seriously? Yeah, seriously.

But I’m learning to let stuff go. Some of it is just “life lived, lesson learned, so move on.” And some of it needs to be left at the foot of the cross. But regardless of which it is, I leave it.

And now that I’ve just finished the “self-flagellation by bad Folgers,” I think I’ll leave to go make that cup of Italian roast.

Free Team Devotional: Heart Check 5

Free Team Devotional: Heart Check 5

By Jon Nicol   |  March 19, 2012

I sometimes look at the young, hip worship band members in the “famous” churches and wonder if they’d let me play guitar on their team if I attended their church.

I think I’ve got the chops to hang with them. But I exceed both the age and weight limit of skinny jeans, and you won’t see me rocking a man-scarf. Then there’s the cool hair. If I tried to grow my hair out, I’d look more like Art Garfunkel with a straight iron than one of the guys from Hillsong United.

It’s fun to wonder and joke about, but what one of those guys started showing up in my church, not only with guitar talent, but with an ability and charisma to lead. How am I going to feel?

The final question in our “ego check” series is just that:
Do I feel threatened (maybe just a little?) when a new person that plays the same instrument/sings the same part joins the team?

Let’s admit it, there are a few involuntarily questions that pop into our mind when someone shows up playing the same instrument as us:

  • Since he’s joining the team, does this mean he’s taking one of my Sundays.
  • Is he better than me?
  • Is he going to completely replace me?
  • Do the leader and team like him better than me?
  • Do I need to start using more product in my hair?

Sounds a little neurotic and paranoid. But in our weaker moments, we ask at least one or two of those questions. What it reveals in our hearts is a natural desire to hang on to what is ours. But that’s problem. It’s not ours.

Ministry is stewardship. The ministry is entrusted to us for a season. We are expected to turn it in to something more for the One who gave it to us. So we need to hold it with an open hand. He can give us more, or he can take our ministry away and give it to another steward.

So if you find even a twinge of feeling threatened by a new person on the team, there are three questions to start with: Why, What and What.

Why do I feel threatened?
What am I afraid to lose?
What is God trying to teach me through this?

You might learn that you just need to graciously share a position that has always been yours. Or you might find out that God is beginning to move you out of this particular ministry. If that’s true, here are three ways you can hand off the baton.

  1. Drop the baton and walk away, letting someone else pick it up and try to resume the race.
  2. Hold on to as long as you can until the baton is pried from your fingers and given to someone else.
  3. Choose to be an integral part of a graceful hand-off, giving your ministry to another through mentorship.

I believe the best way to deal with jealousy and feeling threatened is to embrace #3. Even if you don’t yet feel called to leave this ministry, look for your replacement. Mentor younger musicians. Give them opportunities. Through this, you’ll likely find that your ministry increases because your influence, talent and contribution are multiplied in others.

A Review of Eight Words...and giveaway...

A Review of Eight Words...and giveaway...

By Jon Nicol   |  March 15, 2012

A huge and special thanks to Chris Gambill, worship leader and blogger, for the review on Eight Words...

Free Team Devotional: Heart Check, 4

Free Team Devotional: Heart Check, 4

By Jon Nicol   |  March 12, 2012

I remember well my brief stint as a trumpet player in the junior high band. Whenever multi-measure rests occurred we had to just sit there while the saxophones played something cool. (Those sax players were soooo smug…).

We pretty much just amused ourselves by emptying our spit valves on each other’s shoes. Did I mention I was last chair?

Years later, playing guitar in a worship band, I still hadn’t learned to “lay out” with grace. I took offense if the worship leader told me not to play on a particular verse, or (omigosh!) a whole song. Being honked off when asked to not play revealed two things: an immature musician and an immature heart.

So the fourth question to “check our hearts” is this:
Is it difficult to “lay-out” for a verse or chorus, or even a whole song, if asked?

To begin with, we need to understand the value of space and rest in music. That’s part of maturing as a musician. If we “get” what’s trying to be accomplished musically, we can cease playing and still be contributing musically.

But if I know the value of space and rest and still feel a little irked when asked to sit out a verse, it’s a heart issue. It’s important to ask myself, and the Holy Spirit, “why am I put-off by being asked to sit out?”

Is it an ego thing? Is it that someone else is getting the spotlight? Does it bring up memories or feelings from another event?

The issue might just go deeper than being quiet for a few bars of music. And that’s what we’re really after. If all these “heart checks” do is make us nicer team members to be around, we really haven’t accomplished much. A Dale Carnegie course could do that.

What’s really at stake here is our growth and maturity as followers of Jesus.

Free Worship Team Devotional: Heart Check, 3

Free Worship Team Devotional: Heart Check, 3

March 5, 2012

"I Just Worship Better When I'm On Stage."

Have you ever said or thought this?

Is there something special about being onstage and part of the team?

Is there an “energy” when you’re part of a live band?

Can there be something extremely validating about singing and playing for an “audience.”

With trepidation, my answer is yes, yes and even yes.

There is something special about being onstage. Unfortunately we turn special into privileged and entitled. The latter is the ugliest.

Oh, yeah. When you’re playing/singing with a live band, there’s an intangible dynamic that happens when feeling the music together. But you can get that same “energy” playing in a bar band. Don’t confuse it with true worship.

And yes, validation. When a person is able to use their gifts and talents to edify the church, there’s an affirmation of of those gifts and talents. It’s also validates what he’s worked so hard to achieve. But affirmation and validation are too often used to prop up our self-worth, rather than finding our true worth in Jesus.

Here’s where it turns: since our self-worth is bolstered by the stage, we start to need it. And for those of us who have COAS (center-of-attention syndrome), the stage can be crack-cocaine.

There are a few of you reading/hearing this and thinking, “Seriously? People struggle with this?” If that’s you, my guess is your personality-type doesn’t naturally crave the spotlight. All I can say to you, my friend, is you’re blessed. The rest of us have a lot of heart-work to do each and every week.

Free Team Devotional: Heart Check, Week 1

Free Team Devotional: Heart Check, Week 1

By Jon Nicol   |  February 20, 2012

Today's post is a Worship Team Devotional. It's designed to be read and discussed in a few minutes, allowing your team to prepare to worship, and lead others in worship. This is the first week of a five-week series called Heart Check. Parts of this devotional series first appeared as articles written for WorshipMinistry.com. A one page printable version is available below.

Let’s call her Lydia. When Lydia’s voice is on, it’s fantastic to listen to. When it’s off, it’s like poking a Q-tip too far in your ear. So when certain songs call for a female lead, I’ve got a dilemma – should I give it to her, or shouldn’t I?

Lydia notices when I don’t give it to her. And calls her friend. And it eventually gets back to me that she’s upset.

If Lydia were to ask herself the our first “heart check” question, “Do I get offended (even slightly) when someone else gets the lead part or receives praise from others?” and she were honest, she’d say yes. She may not say she’s offended. Hurt, disappointed, maybe frustrated might top the list. And then it would be followed by an explanation: “I just love to sing…”

King Saul got offended. We see issues with him early on, but a pivotal moment in his demise is when he hears the maidens singing:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.”
(Read the whole story in 1 Samuel 18)

In worship team terms,
“Saul sang lead on verse two of a pre-service song.
David landed the solo on the big anthem of the Easter Celebration.”

I’m not sure if Lydia is ready to hurl spears. But she’s holding an offense. And the next time it happens, her heart will wrap more tightly around it, nursing it, helping it grow.

What do we do when we answer yes to the question “Do I get offended…?” It means my heart is nursing an offense, and I need to forgive. I also need to confess the jealousy, envy, and maybe even bitterness that I’ve allowed to grow.

But this issue rarely goes only as deep as the lead part on Revelation Song. There’s a deeper wound that’s causing my insecurity and arrogance. And that needs to be explored with my heart open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and the healing touch of Jesus.

Ministry, Intimacy & Disco

Ministry, Intimacy & Disco

By Jon Nicol   |  December 26, 2011

We're doing rewind blogs this week between Christmas and New Year. Here's a short one from early in 2011. It's point is as sharp now as it was then...

Soar On Wings Like Egos, Part 5

Soar On Wings Like Egos, Part 5

December 16, 2011

I look at the young, hip worship band members in the “famous” churches and wonder if they’d let me play guitar on their team. Problem: I exceed both the age and weight limit of skinny jeans, and you won’t see me rocking a man-scarf.

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