Saturday, November 28, 2015

An Interview

Last month a friend fulfilled a seminary assignment to interview a worship leader by interviewing me. He sent me the questions and here is how I responded...

Ten Question for a ministry music leader:

1. Give a brief summary of your calling, education and time spent in music ministry. 

I began leading songs at 12 years old as a part of a “Leadership Training” experience at the Boys’ Jim Club of America (long story). We were taught how to lead hymns, beat time, and guide the congregation. At 21 I became a full-time youth pastor, and playing guitar while leading songs was just part of what youth pastors did. The church saw how I led the youth and soon I began leading worship for some Sunday services, again, mostly hymns. From that point on, music has always been a part of whatever ministry in which I was involved. I served as a full-time music minister for two years and tried to transition that church out of the traditional format and into a more contemporary way, but it was the mid 80’s and the church wasn’t ready. I served as an associate pastor, senior pastor, and church planter, and in each setting I was also a (or the) worship leader. My philosophy of worship grew the entire time as the church entered the era of the “worship wars.” My beliefs and practices were refined and my knowledge increased significantly. My primary calling is to preach and teach the Word of God. I believe preaching has the BEST potential for producing genuine fruit in the lives of the hearers. To serve also as a worship leader has been a wonderful addition. I’m compelled to preach. I’m privileged to lead worship.

I have a BA in music education from Cal State San Bernardino, and a M.Div. from the Master’s Seminary. I was one of the primary chapel worship leaders during my seminary days. I’ve led for conferences and special events in addition to regular worship services.

2. How would define your philosophy of church music?

Music in the church has two critical dimensions. Ephesians 5:18-21 explains how music is to function in the church.

·         First, we sing “to one another” songs that repeat and affirm the Word of God and sound doctrine (psalms, hymns); we also sing songs of testimony that personalize those truths (spiritual songs). 

·         Second, we sing “to God” from the heart (making melody in our hearts to God, as Paul wrote).

All of the instructions in the Bible related to music and the content of our worship services – and there are a lot if you include the Psalms and key New Testament passages like I Corinthians 14 – fit with and color these two dimensions.

Further, according to Ephesians, singing is a part of being “filled with the Spirit.” Those who are filled show it by worshiping in song. Those who need to be filled can worship in song as a means of coming under the governing influence of the Holy Spirit.

Worship that ignores the inner element of “melody to God” can be stale, rote, and hypocritical. Worship that ignores the “to one another” aspect—the corporate side of affirming truth together—can be shallow, experiential (as in “not grounded in truth”), and at worst self-deceiving. Both dimensions must be present for the worship to be truly healthy.

3. How would you define worship?

Worship is the response we have to God—the appropriate reaction to His person and work. Worship begins with God revealing Himself to us, and He does so through Christ. Therefore worship happens when we respond to what He has revealed in an appropriate way. Singing to His glory is one proper response. Serving others is another equally valid form of worship. Sitting under the preaching of the Word with a heart of submission is also an act of worship.

The reason singing is such an important part of that response is because God has commanded it. (And isn’t it amazing that God commands us to do something that is so enjoyable and uplifting to our souls? How like Him!)

This “response to God” is best defined by our Lord Himself when He taught that worship takes place in “Spirit and truth” (John 4). It involves both the doctrinal/propositional proclamation of truth in the context of honesty and transparency before God and man (this is obvious from the context in which Jesus spoke these words). But it also involves the inner man, regenerated by the Spirit and communing with God from the inside out.

4. How do you see the role of pastor and music leader? 

My role is to…

·         Teach the congregation how to worship.
·         Use the Scriptures in a way that fuels the congregation’s passion for Christ.
·         Provide the means of the congregation’s expression of worship (plan the service, play the music, lead the songs, arrange the tech, etc.)
·         Shepherd the ministry in a way that protects the sheep from falsehood and distraction
·         Get out of the way and let the people praise.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses in music ministry?


·         Passion for the glory of Christ in the church
·         Knowledge of the Word
·         Effective administrator
·         Proficient musician/director/writer/arranger
·         Team player
·         Proven trainer and volunteer leader


·         I don’t sound like Josh Groban or the guy from Third Day.
·         I don’t pray enough or study the Word on my own enough. But will I ever?

6. What are some of your concerns in church music?

Listed in no order of importance…

·         The performance mindset that pervades our churches, limits the number of participants on the platform, turns the services into a show and denigrates the need for the members of the congregation to be a legitimate part of the worship.
·         The shallow and vapid content of a lot of new worship music.
·         The musical immaturity of a lot of the new worship music. Can we PLEASE use more than four chords?
·         The loss of choirs and special ensembles (I know that sounds like a contradiction to my first bullet point, but there is a way for such music to be done for edification and the glory of Christ that utilizes principles from the Old Testament temple practices in the modern church. Choirs and ensembles actually increase participation in ministry and provide additional opportunities for the shepherding of God’s people.)
·         The industry that worship music has become. Churches need to develop their own sounds with their own gifts as they sing their own music mixed with the songs of the church at large.
·         Can we PLEASE turn the lights BACK ON?!!? We are singing to each other as God commanded, not having a personal slow dance.

7. What are some strengths in church music?

Some of the best music for congregational worship is being written right now (it’s just being trodden under foot by the repetitive and experiential drivel that permeates our churches). The Getty’s are producing wonderful songs, as is Sovereign Grace, Indelible Grace, and a few others.

8. What are some highs and lows you have experienced?

Where do I begin? Some of the most meaningful moments in my life have taken place during worship, and some of my greatest frustrations.


Singing songs of the faith with thousands of pastors at Together for the Gospel in 2008. I was in tears as the words and the affirmation of God’s people overwhelmed my heart.

Recording a worship CD.

Leading worship as a guest at a church and having the people genuinely affected.

Singing “How Firm a Foundation” the night I graduated from seminary and realizing how utterly true it was.

Hearing Phil Keaggy perform “The Maker of the Universe” for the first time.

Introducing drums to the church.

Having four full worship teams in one mid-size church and enjoying a wonderful variety of gifts and a growing number of participants.


Sitting in church when the worship is weak and knowing it could be so much better but not having any influence though I have years of experience.

Being seen as “old” by the current crop of worship leaders.

Realizing some people were more concerned with whether or not a singer was off key than the condition of the singer’s heart.

9. In your opinion what role does music play in church?

See #1.

10. If you could make one statement about church music ministry and knew every worship leader in America was going to hear it, what would you say? 

You are teaching your people whether you know it or not. Realize it! The words of your songs and the way you contextualize them in the service – these are teaching times. Don’t waste them. Don’t minimize God’s Word. Maximize it. Fuel your people’s praise with truth. Guide them. Shepherd them from the front.

Oh, and turn the lights back on. Please.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Concerning Refugees

Thoughts about Refugees

I agree – it’s dangerous to allow the Syrian refugees entrance into our country.

I agree – it’s almost certain we would be opening our doors to radicalized Muslims who would eventually harm, maim, and kill our citizens.

I agree – one of the government’s key roles is the protection of the citizenry.

I agree – it will be nearly impossible to properly examine all refugees in a way that guarantees the safety of our people.

I agree – the surrounding nations should be absorbing these spiritual, geopolitical, and racial “next-of-kin.”

I agree – our nation’s leadership cannot be trusted to do the right thing; they are corrupt and bent on pursuing party/personal agenda.

But, but, but…

As Christians, we need our conversation to reflect more than the statistical probability of terrorists arriving on our shores.

I’m thinking about the good Samaritan.
  • He cared for an enemy, and had no promise the victim wouldn’t scorn him down the road.
  • He cared for a victim who was abandoned by his own kind.
  • He covered the significant expense without expecting a return.
  • He was commended by Christ for showing genuine love to a neighbor.

Again, these truths need to be part of the conversation we have as believers. Compassion demands it, if not simple obedience to our Lord.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

How My Depression Became an Unexpected Encouragement to My Soul

For My Friend Fighting Depression


Thank you for entrusting to me the reality of your struggle. I’d love to give you a simple solution, but we are multi-faceted creatures; our attributes mingle and entwine. A “solution” may not be right around the corner for you. Indeed, “solutions” may seem inadequate by themselves. Easy answers may contain elements of truth but only touch small dimensions of an overwhelming struggle. In the end, you need multi-faceted applications of the truth, and probably every moment of the day.

I say this because I have experienced it. I know depression well. And I say that carefully. Talking about depression among depressed people is risky. Some welcome the connection. But not all. I’ve learned that many depressed people are very territorial about their depression. It is sacred ground to them, and they are not ready to admit that others have experienced it the same way, to the same depth, and with the same effect. I trust you are not in this category! I trust you welcome the testimony of others and the reality that your experience is more common than you might think.

A part of the risk comes from opening your story to the scrutiny of others. Like discussing wisdom teeth, everyone has a harder case than yours, and they’re willing to tell you every detail.

But here goes my testimony—at least a glimpse, anyway.

I sat on a couch across from a counselor in 2009. He listened to my story, and there was a lot to tell. I just gave him the facts. I didn’t open up about emotions or thoughts. I just told him what was.

“That,” he said, referring to the whole of what I just shared, “must have been very hard.” He let it sink in for a minute. No condemnation or fix, no judgment or dismissal. Just permission for me for the first time to admit that experiences had been terribly difficult. “Tell me, how long have you struggled with depression?”

Silence. No one had ever asked me that. I was shocked he was able to perceive that reality when I never used the word. I’m the rabid optimist, the energetic go-getter, but something in the course of my honesty had opened his eyes to the very thing I didn’t want to admit.

“A long time,” I said, and immediately started to weep. And I HATE weeping. But he was right, I had struggled for years. I had an abundance of reasons to be depressed, and a variety of reactions and effects, but had never shared in detail what I was experiencing. And I won’t share it here—the ways that depression showed up and how it burdened my days. It’s not necessary. But I’ll say this: I don’t think I would have ever admitted to depression if someone hadn’t pointed it out in me. I was too proud.

I’d like to say that admission was the first step to healing, but I don’t think it was. My struggle deepened following that session and has been a prominent part of my existence. I don’t think many people know that about me. I don’t share it here to be melodramatic. I certainly don’t have a chemical cause for being depressed. I’m in embarrassingly excellent health. But there are days when the weight of everything is a crushing burden to be endured.

It’s been several years since that first admission. Now that significant time has passed—time that I have spent fighting depression, not necessarily getting over it—I have learned some things about myself that are actually very encouraging. They don’t obliterate the depression, but they help me see why God allows it, what He is accomplishing through it. I share them with you because I believe you will have the same experience. You will come to a place where you look back and rejoice over what you see.

Be careful here: I don’t mean to trivialize depression. I’m not coaching you to “get over it.” God has His own plan for your course. And mine. I just realize now that many dimensions of this struggle actually prove good things about my life, my spirit, my soul. Let me list a few here.

1. I really am a Christian.

Remember the parable of the seeds? And the plant that grew up among thorns and weeds? It died, choked out by the “cares of the world.”

That plant is not me. My faith in Jesus and my love for His word has not been strangled by weeds—it has been ignited by them. I am the kind of Christian who not only affirms the historical truths about Jesus (Eternal God made Man, virgin birth, bodily resurrection, substitutionary death on the cross, etc.), I cling to Jesus every day. I have a genuine relationship with Him in which I depend on Him, seek Him, long for Him, ask Him for resolution, and fall into His grace, unashamedly waiting for the moment I will see Him face to face. I am that kind of Christian, and the struggle with depression has proven it to be true and made it all the more real and critical for every day.

I wonder how genuine my faith would be if I had no need to restate it every morning? How rich my connection would be to His Word if I didn’t hunger for it so completely?

Depression has hardened my resolve to trust Him and wait on Him. Damn the weeds. I’m holding fast to Jesus.

2. I’m healthy enough to mourn.

Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” If I want to be like Him, shouldn’t I expect to feel the weight of this world? He taught, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Shouldn’t I expect a constant level of sorrow in my life? I look around and see a world rejecting Jesus. Shouldn’t this bring me to weep? I look inward and see sin and that stubborn rebellious bent toward wandering away from Him and trusting in myself. Shouldn’t that recognition bring me pain?

It is a strange kind of Christianity that seeks to eliminate sorrow from life. Jesus wept. Shouldn’t we?

The Bible calls us to rejoice, but that call is given in the context of suffering and pain. Mourning and joy live side by side in the heart of the believer. It’s not abnormal. It’s healthy.

I’m not saying all depression is healthy. But within depression, if I find myself sorrowing over the things that grieve God, is that a bad thing?

3. I’m starving for depth.

Trite spirituality does nothing for me. Sappy Facebook memes and shallow worship songs turn my stomach. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. I desperately need truth on which to hang the hours of my day, truth about God’s sovereign, providential, gracious, wise hand at work in my life. And the best you’ve got for me is, “Your love is relentless! Your love is relentless! Your love is relentless!”

Are you kidding? That SONG is relentless.

I need more than that! I need deeper than that. I deal with life and death every day. If I’m resolved to cling to Jesus, I need fuel, not candy.

But I see this: the craving in my soul is a good thing. Like a deer craves water in the wilderness…

That’s healthy. And the depression stirs that craving. So I thank God for soul-stirring depression. If that’s what it takes do drive me deeper, than on with it!

4. I’m a more compassionate person than I was.

Well, I think so. I hope so. I just think, “If I, the positive, happy-go-lucky kind of guy can hurt so much inside, and sometimes suddenly and without warning, others can hurt too.” And it gives me just a little more patience and a little more empathy. And that’s healthy too.

Friend, it may be a while before you see good things in your struggle. But you will see them. Be willing to. Let God point out how this humbling sorrow molds you into Christlikeness and increases your ultimate resolve to trust Him.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Looking for Documents?

Welcome to AchillesHealed. Looking for documents I promised to post? Look at the Documents link on the right side of the page! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why No Success?

Common occurrence: a Christian is stuck in a life-dominating sin and finds change difficult, almost impossible. Fellow believers tell that person to spend more time in the Word, but success still seems elusive.

I'm one of those believers who would encourage more time in the Word of God. I believe it is "powerful to work in those who believe" (I Thessalonians 2:13).

But why do people quickly become discontent with the work involved in using the Word? Why don't we see more people “getting well?”

In the Bible we have effective medication in hand, but our failure to use it properly renders it practically useless. Here’s how:

1. Not Taking a Big Enough Dosage.  We take the Word of God in bite size chunks as if we were merely snacking in anticipation of something better. We should be “Bible-loading” as if we were running a marathon.

Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!”

Psalm 119:97 – “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day!”

2. Not Taking the Prescription Consistently. The Bible teaches us to focus every day on the Word. We are to make daily and hourly investments if we are to win the battle. A small helping at the start of the day is just that -- a good start. But if we are going to fight a battle we need fuel for each moment!

Psalm 1:2 – “His delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Psalm 119:9-11 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

3. Not Applying the Dosage Directly. If we had a particular wound, we would bind it, stitch it up, and apply medication to it directly. So with the Word of God. It addresses our specific need. We must be honest and seek direct answers and applications for our situation rather than thinking a broad sweep of biblical content will solely meet the need. In other words, if you are embracing sin while gaining a comprehensive knowledge of biblical prophecy, I would suggest you're off focus.

II Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every god work.”

I Corinthians 11:31 – “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.”

4. Not Being Sick Enough of Being Sick. Remember the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. He beat his breast pleading with God or mercy.

5. Not Allowing Time for the Regimen to Take Root. If we have established behavior through habit, should we expect it to drop without a prolonged battle?

II Corinthians 3:18 – “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Change is progressive!

If I truly believe the Word of God is His ordained weapon for winning battles and moving forward, I should stop putting it aside! I should cease searching for other inept tools that carry no promise of success.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gentleman or Jerk?

Part 1

Dear Former Student,

I have failed you, and the world through you. I was given the chance to make a lasting impact upon your life, and I did not succeed. As of late, I have seen you interacting with people online and realize something profoundly sad to me: you sat through two years of my classes at the high school and never learned how to be a gentleman. You are rude, insulting, and prone to innuendo in your dealings with others. In short, you act like a jerk. Not a gentleman. A jerk.

I didn't say you ARE a jerk. But I see you acting like one and it’s a cause of concern to me.

I know, I don’t teach etiquette. I’m a music teacher. But art and etiquette are closely related. They are both about beauty. And beautiful behavior ought to be the complement of and accent to beautiful music.

Moreover, I owe a debt to my mentor Phil Clark, a brilliant and compassionate economics teacher who drilled into me these important words: “Your job as a teacher is to civilize your students. Failure in this voids every other success.” Well, he didn’t say it exactly like that. After all, he taught economics, not English. Instead, he drew it in a graph with angles and quadrants and curves on the back of a napkin at Foster’s, our favorite after-school haunt. And he left me with a certain hope that I would live to see the day when even drummers under my tutelage would know how to behave in public. And yes, that’s a high expectation.

Well, dear student, you have become to me the evidence of my failure. In the course of teaching you music, I did not manage to convey to you the art of being a decent human. I am ashamed that a student of mine would be so publicly heartless, devoid of concern for others, and focused on self-gratification.

Therefore, given the sheer magnitude of my failure, and the Christian ethic I personally embrace, I am going to make amends. I feel the need, late as it may seem, to teach you this art, or try anyway. I hope you will pay attention as I do so. I am going to offer you a course of instruction on being a gentleman. I will conduct this class here on my blog. I devote this space for the next several posts to the topic of what it means to be a gentleman.

I promise I will not name you. I will leave your identity a secret. Readers may make their guesses, but the only clues about you have already been supplied: you post online, you are a former student of mine, and you are male.

I will offer another promise as well. Should you read all my posts and then privately admit to me your identity – accurately guessing I’m talking about YOU – and if you agree to make some severe changes, I will complete this class with you in person, and we will celebrate your shedding of the scales of arrogance and impertinence with a dinner at a first class restaurant. I will pay for you and your date, and my wife and I will host your entrance into polite society. I am as confident as Henry Higgins that, once I am through, you will have the ability to actually secure a date with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t believe you currently possess that skill; hence your attention to this class would do you well.

Should you instead choose to remain firmly planted in the “Jerk” column, I will mourn for your soul and pray heartily for the people you continue to offend.

Before I begin the actual lessons, I want to leave you with a foundational thought. I assume that your rudeness flows in part from “Reputation Apathy.” You have bought the lie that “What other people think about me doesn’t matter.” So let’s set the record straight. There are noble reasons to disregard the opinions of others. And there are ignoble reasons. I bet yours are ignoble, and that’s not a good thing.

On the good side, someday, you may bravely stand for what others oppose; or you will oppose what others promote. You will make your choice on what you believe is right, virtuous, moral, and good, and you will willingly suffer whatever consequences come as a result. That is a noble disregard for the opinions of others based on the dictates of your own conscience. It’s a good thing, as long as your disposition remains charitable to all.

But maybe this won’t happen? Maybe you will spend your life farting in public because you don’t care what people think of you? You will neglect other areas of hygiene, courtesy, fashion, and scent; the people in your company will find you and your humor piggish and moronic. Your apathy about your own reputation will be an ignoble excuse to do whatever you please without concern for those around you. It will be the mantra of a self-absorbed jerk who gathers to himself others of like spirit, but no true friends.

Which will it be? Noble? Or not?

Certainly you should care whether or not your boss thinks you can be trusted? Your neighbor thinks you are safe? The woman seated across the table thinks you are attractive? The police officer thinks you are telling the truth? You ought to be greatly concerned about your reputation when it relates to your character and your honor.

Stop thinking the opinions of others never matter. Sometimes, and at very important times, they do.

If you have read this with a measure of keen observation, you will note that I seem a little arrogant myself, making assumptions about you and disdaining your bad behavior. I may even sound like I think highly of myself. I can assure you of three things, all of which, I believe, are affirmations of every true gentleman.

1.       I am arrogant. I mean this. I see it in myself.
2.       I loathe this about myself. I condemn it. I see it not as a virtue to be praised, but a vice to be defeated. A true gentleman makes NO claims of humility; he recognizes his propensity for pride and selfishness and strives to conquer each one for the sake of his love for others.
3.       Most of the transgressions I will expose as supremely “ungentlemanly” are sins I have committed, and lessons I have learned through my own faults and the harm I have caused others.

I write not from a place of superiority, but of genuine contrition, and the desire to protect you, dear student, from the follies others have endured in me.

Stick with me, young man, on this little adventure of chivalry. As a result of becoming a true gentleman, you will enjoy wider friendships, broader experiences, greater opportunities, and significant successes. I can guarantee it.