Category Archives: BLENDED WORSHIP

Lessons Learned From Starting A Contemporary Service In A Traditional Church

Worship is so precious for so many reasons, but one thing that impresses me is that we are all so different and we come into worship with differing mindsets and expectations, yet we all leave feeling equally loved and equally saved by the Almighty One.  I cannot think of any other mass gathering where this is the case.  If you go to a ball game, some will leave happy (their team being the winning team) and others will leave angry (fans of the loosing team).  Not true in worship.  Everyone leaves a winner. 
  1. In spite of those who will tell you otherwise, most under 60 will enjoy it, most over 60 will not.
  2. There are members in your church who will fight against it more than your Pastor will.  It’s simply not about personal preferences.
  3. The hardest part for the congregation will be to follow the flow with the repeats, multiple endings, codas, etc.  Add as many instructions as you can in the bulletin to help in this regard.
  4. You will most likely see children swaying to the music and dancing around as much as their parents will allow.
  5. People will understand the lyrics instantly.  Some will see this as being too simple and others will rejoice saying “hallelujah!” 
  6. It is very difficult to put chords to hymns because almost every note in the melody line will be a different chord.  If you haven’t been able to put your finger on it yet, this is the reason why hymns sound foreign to the unchurched who listen to chord based music on the radio.  A seasoned guitarist can find his way through the chordal mud to accompany most hymns.
  7. You should use at least one hymn in a trial contemporary service.
  8. If it’s your first attempt, please don’t use electric guitars or drums.  We’ve been using contemporary service formats for almost 10 years at my church and have still not made this transition.  We are waiting for “contemporary” to be completely and utterly out of world-wide vogue and traditional to be the new thing, then we’ll take the plunge. 😀
  9. Traditionally minded people don’t like change, so if you do attempt a contemporary service, pick a format and don’t deviate from it.
  10. The Pastor should dress the same way he does in the traditional services.
  11. If you don’t use a video screen in the traditional services, don’t use it in the contemporary service either.
  12. Do not put the band in the front.  Put them in the back and out of sight.
  13. Keep the volume down.
  14. Don’t rename your contemporary service to something like “relevant”, “uber”, “celebration”, “passion”, “diverse”, “natural”, “the journey”, “elevation”, “illumination”, “new generation” or any other word that ends in “tion.”
  15. The contemporary service planning needs to be spearheaded by someone who is into contemporary Christian music.
  16. Focus on an ADDITION to the current worship music versus elimination. 
  17. Train members how to sing contemporary music. Consider involving the teen and youth groups if possible. Start off with simple tunes. Start by having the band offer the songs as pre-service selections and during the offering for several months before asking the congregation to sing.  
  18. Ease into the change slowly; perhaps with one service per month, or even one song per month.
  19. It is a very dangerous thought to think that God prefers only one style of music or one accompanying instrument.  The fact is, God is the creator of variety.  If He didn’t like variety, we would have only one type of tree and one type of bird.
  20. Both hymns and contemporary music have God’s fingerprints all over them.  Both can be useful.  Both can be worshipful.  Both can be reverent.  Both can be profoundly biblical.  Both are needed.  Both are important.
  21. A few commandments:
  • Thou shall not mess with “A Mighty Fortress” on Reformation Sunday.
  • Thou shall not mess with “Now Thank We All Our God” on Thanksgiving.
  • Thou shall not mess with “For All the Saints” on Saint’s Triumphant Sunday.
  • Thou shall not mess with “”Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” on Trinity Sunday.
  • Thou shall not choose any song with a lyric that is repeated more than three times unless it’s “”holy, holy, holy” or “hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”
  • Thou shall not choose songs with sounds in the lyrics like “la, la, la”
  • Thou shall use any hymn that your Pastor calls a “Lutheran Gem” 💎 when requested to do so.  Trust me, this is a strong hint.

…and get ready because we are going to worship the almighty, the uncreated, the timeless, the ageless, the awe-inspiring, life giving Lord that beautifully crafted you and me; that loves us dearly, that continues to love us despite our continual sinning, that has saved us, that has given His life for us, and He deserves to be worshiped in every language, in every nation, in every tongue, in every style, by every generation, and with every musical instrument ever created.  And yes, this can still be done in a heart pounding unity of faith.  In fact, that might just be what’s happening in heaven as we speak.

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2017

Every year, around this time, I offer a list of contemporary song selections for the upcoming year based on the lectionary readings. Here is a link to download my list for 2017:

Download Link


This is an excerpt of what the file look like:

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2017


Contemporary Song Choices for 2017 based on the Lectionary Readings
Date Song Title Writer Scripture Ref
Jan 6 Epiphany Mighty to Save Reuben Morgan Isa 60:1-3
One Small Child David Mecce Mt 2:1-12
Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) Chris Tomlin Mt 2:9-11
Jan 8 The Baptism of our Lord One Small Child David Mecce Isa 42:1
Jan 15 Epiphany 2 Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Jn 1:29
Hear the Call of the Kingdom Keith Getty Acts 13:47
Jan 22 Epiphany 3 Whom Shall I Fear? Chris Tomlin Ps 27:1-3
Children of Light Stanfill, Reeves & Ingram Isa 9:2
Children of God Mac Powell 1 Jn 3:1-2
How Great is the Love Paul Baloche 1 Jn 3:1-5
Glorious Day Mark Bird 1 Jn 3:2
Jan 29 Epiphany 4 Speak O Lord* Keith Getty Mic 6:8
God of Justice Tim Hughes Mic 6:8
Lord I Need You Matt Maher 1 Cor 1:30
Unwavering Matt Maher Mt 5:1-12
Feb 5 Epiphany 5 Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) Chris Tomlin Isa 58:6
Here I Am Lord Dan Schutte Mt 5:14-16
Hear the Call of the Kingdom Keith Getty Mt 5:16
Feb 12 Epiphany 6 Beautiful One Tim Hughes 1Cor 2:8-10
The Same Love Paul Baloche 1 Th 4:7
Speak O Lord Keith Getty 1Cor 2:8-10
Feb 19 Epiphany 7 Living Stones Michael Schmid 1Cor 3:10-14
Your Grace Finds Me Matt Redman Mt 5:45

Saint Michael and All the Angels

Prayer of the Church
St. Michael and All Angels
The following prayers were written by a friend, Pastor Michael Zarling, for use on Sunday September 25.
Almighty God, in the beginning you made the earth and created mankind upon it. With your own hands you stretched out the heavens. You marshaled their starry hosts. You created humanity to have dominion upon the earth. You created the angels to guard the crown of your creation in all their ways.
For the works of your creation and our salvation, we join with the archangels, the cherubim, and seraphim in praising you, Lord. We gather around your throne to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord almighty. Heaven and earth is full of your glory.” We thank you that you send the angels as your servants to do you will. Your angels were present at the conception, birth, temptation, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus. We join with the angels in worshiping you for the work of your Son in winning salvation for the world and we sing with them, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests.” We rejoice with the angels in heaven over every sinner who repents. We are grateful for the angels you send to carry the souls of your departed saints to Abraham’s side in heaven. We await the trumpet call on the Last when you will send your angels to gather your elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Prayers of intercession.
Gracious God and Father, we thank you for the gifts of forgiveness in Absolution, of cleansing from sin in Baptism, of Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion, and of a peace that surpasses all understanding in the Benediction. We thank you for the message of the angels that announced Christ’s arrival, who proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, testified to Christ’s ascension and will trumpet Christ’s second coming. We are grateful for the holy angels you send to minister to us as they ministered to Christ in the wilderness. For all this, we thank you. And we ask that you hear our humble prayers, so that we might praise your holy name with one voice with the cherubim and seraphim, the apostles and prophets, the martyrs and your Holy Church, all through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Thank you Pastor Zarling for sharing.

To My Fellow String Players

To my fellow string players who might be forbidden to accompany the music in your church, I write,

“This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10b

The joy of the Lord is our strength,
We need to ask “what brings God joy?”

Joy is expressed with a smile
The sound of the strings is one thing that brings Him joy

 the music of the strings makes you glad – Psalm 45:8b

So you, in particular, have a unique strength from the Lord!  I want you to harness this strength.  You can’t force your gifts onto the church, if they don’t want them.  In this case, stop casting your beautifully translucent pearls to the swine.  This strength that you have from the Lord will still manifest itself but through you in some unexpected way.  Sometimes we just need to go in a different direction.  Give this some prayerful thought, won’t you?

Worship Leader = Pastor

Worship Leader = Pastor

In my denomination, the “worship leader” is the Pastor – end of discussion, and I wholeheartedly support this.  He has given 8 years of his life to higher education, he has pursued a Masters in Divinity and he has learned the Greek and Hebrew languages.  What the rest of the Christian world refers to as a “Worship Leader”, we use the term “Musical Director” or “Musical Coordinator” or “Praise Band Leader” or some other similar term.  This just seems right with me.

So, in the traditional church that predominantly uses hymns, what are the traits of this elusive “Praise Band Leader?”  I can only tell you what traits I strive for after doing this for over a decade.

  1. I stay in the Word as much as possible by reading God’s word, devotional books and praying as often as possible.
  2. The only music that I listen to is Christian music. I keep on top of the new releases coming out of this genre and I collect lead sheets and piano arrangements.  I also make it a habit to categorize all of my music by scripture reference.
  3. I attend church and bible class regularly and am active in my membership. It is an inseparable part of my life and is woven into my daily and weekly routines.
  4. I know my congregation well. I know them better than my own fretboard and believe me that says a lot.  I know what songs they can sing and what songs they will enjoy in worship.  I use this knowledge in choosing music.
  5. I follow my Synod and read as much of their correspondence as I can. I use their APPS, I bookmark and use their websites, I listen to their podcasts and I subscribe to all of their email lists.  I strive to know their teachings and doctrines and apply these principles in choosing music.
  6. I am diligent in my work. I do my worship planning at least one month ahead of time and I submit my song choices to our Pastor so that he can review the lyrics for false teachings (and they do exist in some of today’s music) and for appropriateness for the intended Sunday.  If it’s a new song, I also include a youtube link so that he can not only hear the lyrics but the style of the song as well.  I respect his opinion and never second guess his responses.  I trust him and I learn from him.  He is responsible for our worship and has to answer to God and to his Synodical leaders if things go bad – not me.  I fully understand this.
  7. I am well prepared when I am scheduled to accompany worship. I arrive early, do a sound check and organize my arrangements.  We are well rehearsed and I know what lines I am singing, all the transitions and the song flow.  Sometimes I will express my musical creativity through my guitar playing but never in a showy manner.
  8. I turn the other cheek when someone calls a song a “7/11” song or expresses other hurtful remarks with regards to either contemporary music or traditional hymns because both are worshipful and powerful and because I want to follow Jesus’ lead.
  9. I do my best to fix my eyes on Jesus at all times.
  10. I acknowledge the presence of the Spirit inside me and rely on Him to inspire, to teach and to lead me.
  11. I am not a leader, I am a servant.
  12. I am a sinner. The above characteristics are my goals and oftentimes I fall short.

The Lyrics Reflect the Way that I Speak

When you finally get to heaven and see Jesus face-to-face will you speak in beautiful old hymn-like poetry to Him or will you simply just say in your own words something like “Jesus I am so thankful to you for giving your life for mine? I am overwhelmed and overjoyed to be in your presence and I love you with everything I am. I have been waiting my entire life for this moment” For me, I’ll use something like the latter because those are my own words. It would be equally wonderful to recite a favorite hymn verse to Him as well, it’s just not me.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, I do love hymns, but this is THE reason why I also like contemporary music. They put my praise and worship into my vernacular. The lyrics in these songs reflect the way that I speak.

Please don’t fault me for this. I am your brother in Christ and we worship side-by-side in perfect fellowship to our great God using mutually beautiful styles of music that brings a smile to our Lord’s face.



Do you have style?

God doesn’t care too much about your hair style or your style of clothes.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

God doesn’t even care too much about your style of church music.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. – Colossians 3:16

He does care a great deal about your lifestyle and it should be a lifestyle of worship; predominantly prayer, giving thanks and rejoicing.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Priorities People!

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2016

It was popular last year, so I am doing it again.  Here are my “new song” recommendations for each of your Lectionary-based worship services in the upcoming church year.  On most of the Sundays I have included a choice of songs.  I have not used all of these songs in worship and some of them were released in 2015 so please have your Pastor review all the lyrics prior to use.

Here is an excerpt of the song choices:

Contemporary Song Choices for 2015/2016 based on the Lectionary Readings
Date Song Title Writer Scripture Ref
Nov 29
Advent 1
Overflow Matt Maher 1 Th 3:12
Lift High Steve Fee Lk 21:28
Dec 6
Advent 2
One Small Child David Mecce Mal 3:1-6
Every Promise Keith Getty Php 1:6
Give Us Clean Hands Charlie Hall Ps 24:3-6
Dec 13
Advent 3
Mighty to Save Reuben Morgan Zeph 3:17
Rescuer Johnny Parks Zeph 3:17
Whole World in His Hands Tim Hughes Zeph 3:17
East to West Mark Hall Php 4:6-7
Dec 20
Advent 4
My Soul Magnifies the Lord Chris Tomlin Luke 1:46-51
Dec 24
Christmas Eve
We Have a Savior Reuben Morgan Isa 9:6
Emmanuel (Hallowed manger Ground) Chris Tomlin Lk 2:6-7
He Shall Reign Forevermore Chris Tomlin Isa 9:6-7
Joy has Dawned Keith Getty Lk 2:1-20
Glory in the Highest Chris Tomlin Lk 2:13-14
Dec 25
Christmas Day
Glorious Day Mark Hall Jn 1:1-2
Uncreated One Chris Tomlin Jn 1:1-4
Dec 27
Christmas 1
Offering (Christmas Version) Paul Baloche
Jan 3
Christmas 2
Abba Father Steve Fry Gal 4:6
Rise and Sing Steve Fee Lk 1:68
Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble? Martin Smith Ps 148:7
Beautiful Savior Stuart Townend Col 1:13-14
Uncreated One Chris Tomlin Col 1:15-17
The Heart of Worship Matt Redman Col 1:17-18

You can download the entire file for free here: