The High Calling of Worship Leaders

worship leaderIt seems that worship wars will never desist. They only move from one front to the next. Satan allows no cease-fire.

I was recently reading a post by Jamie Brown entitled, “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship.” Jamie had just returned from the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine. In his article, he reflected on the state of worship, specifically regarding the role of worship leader.

He picked up on a theme that has been building in the church universal for a while now, which he referred to it as “performancism.” The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall.

I agree. It’s a worrisome thought and it’s something I’ve also seen growing in the past decade.

Where did it come from?

How did this tendency arise? That’s a tough question. I suppose the easiest answer is that anything God intended for good can be turned bad by the father of lies. I will be the first to admit that standing before hundreds of people to lead and direct their worship by using your own talents is fertile ground for the seed of pride to root and grow. It is something that all worship leaders must guard their heart against.

I also believe that the rise of worship music as a popular medium has also contributed to performancism. Before I get bashed here, let me first say that I love worship music and it’s an important part of my life. There’s nothing better than dialing up KLOVE or Air1 in the car. It’s meant to be uplifting and it is.

But again, anything good can be turned to bad with the wrong heart direction. In the early 2000’s, we saw the rise of Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster and Michael W. Smith’s worship albums. There were others who shared in the same vein. This was quickly followed by “worship-oriented music” by Building 429, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp and others. Many of these songs were adopted into corporate worship, and rightfully so. The model of worship-minister-turned-professional-musician was born.

While I’m certain most, if not all, of these professionals you hear on the radio came into their international recognition with a good heart, great intentions and amazing results, it’s still easy to see how this would be enticing to the everyday worship leader who’s muddling away in the trenches on a weekly basis. The opportunity to be seen and heard on a larger scale is a desire for most musicians out there, and desire can easily become a temptation.

What should it be?

I need to stress that performance of Christian music is not bad in and of itself. I did it for 11 years all over the world. Still, there is a distinct difference in the performance of Christian music and the leading of corporate worship. I certainly believe that everything we offer God, especially in corporate worship, needs to be of the highest caliber. I am a big devotee of Willow Creek and their approach to the quality of worship arts, but there is much more to consider when leading worship than the presentation of good music and how good the “performance” may be.

Let me quote Jamie on this one:

“Sing songs people know (or can learn easily). Sing them in congregational keys. Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God. Serve your congregation. Saturate them with the word of God. Get your face off the big screen. Use your original songs in extreme moderation. Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on. Keep the lights up. Stop talking so much. Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel. Point to Jesus. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology. Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can. Lead pastorally.”

The leading of corporate worship is a high calling and one that should not be taken lightly. Our job is to point people to Christ. If that leads to a larger audience, then let the glory be to God. If not, you’re calling is already fulfilled.

The Church and the Art of God

finger of god

God creates.

He is the ultimate artist.

We are made in God’s image.

The Church should do more to reflect God’s artistic nature.

There. That could be my entire post in four lines. So you can stop now if you want. But I will continue.

I’ve been reflecting on the role of the arts in our corporate worship and church community. Certain events have spurred my thinking on this, events such as a Gungor concert (which was an amazing event in itself), a recent letter from our church eldership addressed to the youth committee, my work in the studio for Chasing David and similar work with my quickly-growing children (now 18 and 20) as they pursue their artistic endeavors through music and video.

I was raised in a church community that was cerebral-oriented. Sure, we had pretty good singing (it was an a capella church), but for the most part the focus was on teaching. Education was king.

Don’t get me wrong. I think a thorough examination of scripture and growth in the Word of God is of utmost importance. The trouble is, our church (and I feel 90% of the rest of the churches in America) spends an overwhelming majority of their corporate worship and bible class time catering to those who need some form of spiritual mental exercise… or at least those who think they do because that was the way they were raised.

With the notable exception of a few churches like Willow Creek (Chicago) and North Point (Atlanta) and their associated churches, our church experience on the whole seems to neglect the creative arts. Yes, we may have a few good songs during our worship time and they are meaningful and moving. And often formulaic. Maybe that’s not bad. Maybe musical liturgy has a place. But I digress.

The depth and breadth of what God has created is astounding. He paints such beauty across the sky in a west Texas sunset or sunrise that it’s almost breathtaking. The mountains that stretch across our continent are sculpted with a dramatic precision which nothing can come close to matching. The movement of weather patterns across the world is an intricate dance of material that is at once impossible to hold and powerful enough to level towns. The ebb and flow of ocean currents crashing against our beaches and shoreline create movement and flow that is simply mesmerizing.

And this is only what we can see. Until relatively recently, there were a multitude of astounding works of art that were only visible to the eye of God. The Hubble telescope has opened a vista of majestic art millions of light years from our tiny world, art that boggles the mind. For whom was that created? The flow of blood within our own bodies and the way it interacts with our musculature and skeletal systems… for the most part, this is still beyond our view without massive disruption of living tissue. Who gets to see this amazing interplay? The dance of uncountable atoms bouncing off each other in everything… the essence of all existence… who gets to stir that paint? Who gets to mix that clay?

Don’t even get me started on the music of creation. It is everywhere.

Again I say, God is the ultimate artist. We are made in the image of God. We are a people made to paint, mold, draw, dance, flow, interact, sing, and play. The ultimate offering of praise is to return our painting, molding, drawing, dancing, flowing, interacting, singing and playing to One who made it all and finds it beautiful.

What does that look like in our church community? I have some ideas, but I’d like to hear you tell me…

Seven Habits of the Artist-Friendly Church

I ran across an excellent article by Manuel Luz, the Creative Arts Pastor for Oak Hills Church in Folsom, CA. I thought my readers might find it interesting and applicable. I hope you enjoy it. Please look at his bio below. He has much to say on this topic and more.

keep-calm-and-practice-7-habitsMy last blog post, 81 Things You Can Do To Be A More Artist Friendly Church, is easily the most popular to date. Thousands of you hit that post, and I appreciate the many reposts and comments and likes. I think it’s because it hit a nerve for many artists of faith, as well as those who lead them, both inside the church and out.

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a short list of principles and practices that drive the list. I’m not big on “How To” books and articles without also understanding the deeper, more substantive “Why” issues. Because without a proper understanding of the foundational tenets, you can just as easily misunderstand, manipulate, and abuse the artist of faith instead of encourage, disciple, and applaud them. So here’s a short list of driving principles and practices behind becoming an Artist-Friendly Church.

1. Don’t Treat Artists of Faith Like Commodities

I was talking to a friend recently and I mentioned that I often mow my neighbor’s lawn. We both agreed that it was a good thing to do, one of those simple acts of being Jesus to those around us. But then he added, “So do you think you can get him to go to church?” I replied kindly, “I don’t mow his lawn because I have an agenda for him. I mow his lawn because it’s the right thing to do.”

The evangelical church, steeped in centuries of pragmatic modernism, is utilitarian by nature. It is often results-oriented and agenda-driven—which are not necessarily bad things in and of itself—but as a result, it has a tendency to value the arts not for the sake of beauty and as an personal expression of faith, but as a vehicle for a message. In other words, the arts are seen as a commodity to be used, not as an expression of life lived in Christ.

If art is commodified in the church, so then is the artist. Too often, the church treats the artist of faith as someone who can be put to use. As a result, artists often feel used, taken advantage of, or valued only for their ability to further the agenda of the church. Musicians and visual artists are valued only to the degree that they fit into the worship service. Theatrical artists are only valued when the Easter or Christmas play comes around. And poets, dancers, sculptors, etc. often find no place at the table. Clearly, something is askew when artists of faith aren’t able to express themselves in their own faith communities.

But something different happens when you simply validate the artist that God made him or her to be, and encourage that person to dig deeper into that calling. Acceptance and approval is the two-faceted language which speaks to artists of faith.  The Artist-Friendly Church accepts artists for who they are, not for what they can do for the church. (Hit it here for a more in-depth discussion of this.)

2. Create and Lead Authentic Arts Communities

The calling of the Artist-Friendly Church should be threefold. One, be a venue for the art (a place, a way, and a time). Two, be an audience for the artist, for the church needs artists to fulfill their God-given role in the body of Christ, to reflect, to interpret, to express, and to inspire. And three, be a Biblical community with the artist, offering friendship, encouragement, training, and discipleship.

I really do believe that you must have all three of these to have a fully functioning arts community in your church. It is important to allow your artists to express themselves to the church, to give them venues and opportunities and audiences. At the same time, you can’t give artists carte blanche in your congregations either—That would be disastrous. Artists can be temperamental and self-absorbed and be quite demanding of your time. Artists are messy. But then, simply living in community is a messy thing.

Artists need grace-filled leadership in order to thrive, both artistically and spiritually. The Artist-Friendly Church has leadership that patiently and lovingly validates and encourages as well as grows and disciples the artist. Such leadership understands the importance of inviting artists into inclusive and authentic Biblical community.

3. Understand and Teach a Theology of Beauty and Creativity

When you think of the word “Creative,” do you think of God? For most, the answer is yes. Now, think of the word “Creative” again—does the word “church” come to mind?  Why not?

Deeply imbedded in the DNA of an Artist-Friendly Church is a foundational understanding of our place before God as creative beings. The first five words of the Bible describe God as the Eternally Creative One, and as we are made in His image, we are both endowed with a creative disposition and charged with a creative mandate. There is far too much here to cover in a blog like this, but let’s simply say the the Artist-Friendly Church has a well developed theology of the arts, and it undergirds all of it’s programs and ministries, from what happens in children’s classrooms and youth assemblies to what goes on in the worship service to what adorns the walls of the lobby. The Artist-Friendly Church indwells a vibrant expression of this theology, teaches it from the pulpit, models it in the services and programs, and spills it out into the community.

4. Uphold Excellence While Ruthlessly Ridding Perfectionism

No one doubts the power of the arts to emote, elicit, and engage. And sitting here at the beginning of the twenty first century, the modern church is once again beginning to see the importance of Excellence in the Arts. (See this link if you want to read more on the dangers of Christian art being mediocre, derivative, out-of-touch, overly sentimental, or propaganda-driven.) “Excellence,” as stated by Willow Creek Community Church, “honors God and inspires people.”

But there’s a huge difference between excellence and perfectionism. Excellence is an understanding that you are doing the best you can with the people and resources God gave you. Perfectionism is the unrealistic drive to try to attain an unattainable standard.  Excellence honors those artists of faith who seek to be excellent. Perfectionism dishonors artists of faith by creating unreasonable demands. Excellence is fueled by grace; Perfectionism is fueled by legalism. And some artists of faith, those who are already driven by these demons, often find themselves in an abusive relationship with the church when the church strives toward perfectionism.

We need to understand what the true product of ministry is. The product of a creative arts ministry, just like any other ministry, is the hearts of the people. Great art then is a by-product of hearts which are growing in Christ. The Artist-Friendly Church focuses on the hearts of the artists, not the art. But here’s the thing—it’s only when you focus on the hearts that you have the potential for ridiculously great God-honoring art.

5. Encourage Artists Of Faith To Go Out Into The World

One of the questions often asked to me when I speak on faith and the arts is this: “What do I do if there’s no place for my art in my church?”

And my response is typically not what they are hoping or expecting—for me to criticize the church. Instead, I remind that person that the church is not the end game. In other words, as Christ followers, we should always see ourselves as being called out to make a difference in the world, and that extends to our roles as artists as well. If that is the case, then we should also view our artwork as subversive expressions of the Kingdom of God.

Writer Andy Crouch rightly asserts that “the only way to change culture is to create more of it.” In other words, it is not enough to critique or copy or consume our culture.  To change culture, to make a difference in the world, we must also create culture. (For a more in-depth discussion, I encourage you to read this blog, Being IN the World.) So one of the roles of the Artist-Friendly Church is to be outwardly focused—to encourage artists of faith to boldly take their artistic expressions out into the world and let them shine.

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

Churches are often hotbeds of criticism. You can never please everyone, and that’s a hard pill to swallow for senior pastors and elder boards, who naturally just want everyone to get along. So some churches adopt an unspoken culture of risk aversion. They avoid things that might elicit controversy or change. But a culture of risk aversion is a killer to the Artist-Friendly Church.

Artists are risk takers by nature. Whether it’s in the way they dress, or the way they express their art, or how they see the world, or even how they make a living, many artists are risk takers. Artist-Friendly Churches create a culture where it is safe for individuals and ministries to take calculated risks and originate change.

7. Finally…

At the expense of appearing self-promoting, much of this is discussed in greater detail in my book, Imagine Thatwhich I recommend as a resource for the Arts Leader, Artist of Faith, and especially for Small Group Study.

Also, I only had Six Habits, but I thought that sounded strange.

Manuel LuzManuel Luz is passionate about worship, coffee, the Oakland Raiders, and the intersections of faith and the arts.  A songwriter, author, speaker, and creative arts pastor, Manuel’s first published book, Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist (Moody Publishers) is a practical and personal theology of the arts. Check out his blog, “Adventures in Faith and Art” (, or his four solo CDs (iTunes or

The post, “Seven Habits of the Artist-Friendly Church,” is a follow up to the blog post, “81 Things You Can Do To Be a More Artist-Friendly Church.”

Hyena Eyes: A Story of North Africa


We have some friends who are missionaries in northern Africa, I cannot say where. It amazes me what they go through on a daily basis (with their two small children… one, a baby) in their efforts to serve the Lord and the Muslim population. They have a new post on their blog that came in today and I felt like I needed to share it with my readers. It certainly puts things into perspective. The following is a slightly edited version of a normal daily entry from North Africa.

On Facebook I have seen lots of people refer to “#firstworld problems”; these issues are usually about various technological devices or modern conveniences. I also have some friends who have made jokes of “#thirdworld problems” which usually involve latrines or various animals in unexpected places. But this week I have decided we need a third category, something along the lines of “First-world-people-in-the-third-world problems.” Those problems that only those few first-world people have, but we only have them when we are in the third-world. I have had several lately. They include:

When you read at night, big moths keep turning the pages of your kindle touch.

Or, you can’t fit all the stuff you brought on the chartered airplane in your mud hut.

Or, you don’t have any clean clothes because the ladies who hand wash your clothes all ran off on “Tribal Warfare Day.” (A long story for another time…)

Or, you can only send emails on your laptop because the internet access in the aforementioned mud hut is really crappy.

Because of that last particular problem I have been blogging by sending my mom emails (when we can get them to go out) that she then posts on blogger for me.

It’s been a good week! It still isn’t raining yet but several blustery storms have rumbled through bringing with them the sweet tang of rain that smells dark and leafy green, like the salad I have been craving. Whether our bodies are just adjusting to the heat or it has actually cooled off some, I’m not sure but I have been enjoying those moments that I am not sweating profusely.

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Illegal Alien


Today’s entry is a guest post from my uncle-in-law, Gary Sorrells. He has a wonderful blog running at Stop by and take a look sometime.

I worship an illegal alien.

Back when I was learning how to live in a foreign country, I learned a word and a concept to help with my adaptation. “Ethnocentrism” is looking at me as being the center of the universe.

As Americans, we have this down to an art form. If you want to know how to do anything in the correct manner, you only need to ask me. Our sports are better than your sports. My government is better than your government. My food is better than your food.


This can’t be coffee. It is strong and sweet and tastes like hot syrup. And—it’s served in a shot glass.

Back at home—in the USA—we do it the right way.

You can imagine how wonderful this goes over with the pagans we went to save. (They are the pagans—not us.)

ethnocentrismBy the way, we don’t have a corner on the market, though we are perhaps the worst. I learned while living in Brazil that God is a Brazilian.

As white, Anglo citizens of the USA, we are not good at accepting outsiders. It is still hard to accept the fact that God creates in different colors. Likewise, it is still hard for us to accept that God is not Anglo and does in fact love us all equally.

I find it interesting that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived for a time as illegal aliens in Egypt. I wonder how Egyptians accepted them. Did others poke fun at their accent as they tried to speak a foreign language? What did the Egyptians think about the God and the worship of Joseph’s family?

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Acappella Memories: He Leadeth Me

He Leadeth MeEven to this day, I still get comments about the song He Leadeth Me. This song was the title track to an early hymns album by Acappella and friends. The album was out of print for quite a while, although I think it has been reprinted and is available once again. What strikes most people when they hear the album is the diversity of styles present and the joy that permeates throughout. What very few know is that this album grew from a funeral.

The year was 1989 and I had been in Acappella almost a year. We were on tour through Oklahoma, on the way to another extended run through Texas. That particular night we had stopped for an event in a town somewhere in southwest Oklahoma, I can’t remember the name now. Late in the afternoon at our host home, I received a phone call from my dear friend Craig Martin. Craig and I had grown up together in Lubbock and he was the CFO for Acappella Ministries at the time. I was surprised to hear his voice, but it changed quickly when his first words were, “Gary, are you sitting down? You need to sit down.” Those are never good words to begin a phone conversation.

Orlando Moyers

Orlando Moyers

He went on to tell me that my father, Orlando Moyers, had suffered a massive stroke and was in the hospital in Lubbock. I was still single at the time, although my reconnection with my future wife grew out of this event (another blog post coming up). Before I really knew what was happening, the youth minister at the church (I can’t remember his name, bless his heart) had given me the keys to his car and Keith had told me to get to Lubbock quickly. They would cover for me at the concert.

Six hours later I pulled into the hospital parking lot and walked into the ICU waiting room. It was filled with people from church and my mother was sitting in the middle of them. The next 24 hours were a blur of hospital, home and family. My father was in a coma, but I had time to speak to him and pray over him. He passed away the next night.

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Planning a Weekend Worship Service

Worship time

Occasionally, I enjoy strolling through my old posts to see what I used to think. I ran across the following post from October of 2006 and I thought it was worth reposting. It details the process we went through of planning worship services during my time at Christ Family Fellowship in Corpus Christi. I still look back in amazement that we were this involved with a staff of two and a church of about 150 or so. This is not something I could convince Golf Course Road to try, nor have I even attempted with Broadway (considering I am the volunteer coordinator). If you are involved in worship planning, I’d love to know what you think about this. Enjoy…


As I speak to other worship leaders across the country, I am amazed at the varied processes they use to plan worship services. Anyone who does it very often understands this is a process that is constantly changing, but I thought I would explain how I go about it. Maybe it will spur some ideas in someone else.

I took the Willow Creek model and married it to the leadership systems concept taught by Ministry Advantage. It may seem cumbersome at first glance, but the end result is very nice. It requires lots of advance planning by the coordinator (read: “Worship Minister”) and it in includes a large number of volunteers (read: “unpaid lay ministers”). This is born out of the concept that worship planning is too important to rest in the hands of one person planning it for an entire church body.

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Statute of Job Limitations


I suppose this blog entry is more of a personal side note than anything else. It’s the morning after Christmas and I’m up alone, sitting in front of the fire before sunrise, just me and the dogs. I finding it a good time of personal reflection.

As of this week, I have officially been “unemployed” for a full year. I’ve applied for more jobs than I can remember and I’ve only been called in for two interviews. The status of my job search seems to be a constantly recurring theme in almost every conversation I have with friends. It’s growing very tiresome to keep giving the same response, “no, nothing yet,” and see the same look of caring and worry in their faces. I won’t even go into the amount of sleep I’ve lost because my mind won’t shut off at night, or wakes up too early thinking about it.

So when I look back on the past year, what is the reality of it all? Well…

  • I’ve had an extraordinary amount of free time to be able to do what I like and help people out with whatever they need.
  • I’ve been able to explore areas of interest that I didn’t really have time to indulge previously.
  • I have increased my knowledge, skills and abilities in the art of web design and social media (which is a good thing since that’s apparently what I’m going to be doing for a while).
  • I had the chance to work for Broadway Church of Christ as a part time media guy for several months, which I enjoyed very much. I even had the “big office” for most of that time.
  • I was able to confirm, thanks to my good friend Kit Mullins, that I am really not gifted at sales. Her patience and generosity, while not her sole intent, helped me better understand myself. Thank you Kit.
  • I was able to be home almost every day when my kids came home from school, as well as the entire summer. I estimate I gained an extra 442 hours of available family time.
  • I found that I have a host of friends who are very generous in their support. There have been a number of times when I didn’t know where the next bag of groceries would come from, only to find an anonymous gift waiting for me. This alone is a very humbling thing.
  • My love and respect for my wife has greatly increased, which is hard to do since it was so high already. As with anyone unemployed, there were many times when depression and anxiety held sway in my life. She has continued to be supportive and positive, as she always has been. Oh, and she has a job with insurance (hehehe).

I’m sure there is more, but that’s enough for now. I need to stoke the fire, literally, It’s getting low.

So here’s what I’m thinking. The statute of limitations on being unemployed should be one year. One year of constant job applications, regurgitating the same old information for people who most likely already have someone else in mind, is enough. God has provided what I’ve needed for the past year and he has promised he always will. If another job comes along and presents itself, praise the Lord. Until then, I am not unemployed. I may be underemployed, but that’s different. I will concentrate on doing what I do best… web design, graphic arts, writing and music. I work for Moyers Design, which happens to be me.

As I’ve been writing this, the sun has risen. Somewhat poetic, eh?

Acappella Memories: George Pendergrass at Acafest 2012

George PendergrassGeorge Pendergrass was part of the roundtable discussion at Acafest 2012 this past summer in Nashville, TN. He shared the floor with me, Duane Adams and Robert Guy… Acappella from 1992 to 1995 (I think that’s correct… I lose track).

Anyway, we had been discussing life on the road from the single man’s point of view as Robert shared his memories. We were about to open it up for questions when George spoke up and added something to the discussion. Many people have asked us what life is like on the road with families. George shared the joys and the trials of such a life.

Top 3 Life Lessons I Learned from Agent Dash

Agent-DashI suppose I’ve been looking at Stepcase Lifehack a bit too much… and playing Agent Dash too much. If you don’t know what Stepcase Lifehack is, you can follow the link and check it out. If you don’t what Agent Dash is, let me explain. No, there is no time. Let me sum up (sorry, I had to throw a Princess Bride quote in there).

Agent Dash is, to quote Forbes Online:

“…a ridiculously simple and even more ridiculously addictive game in the vein of Temple Run, Jetpack Joyride, and others. All you have to do is collect diamonds and keep your agent on the not-so-straight yet incredibly narrow. You can purchase or earn upgrades to add to your agent’s arsenal of diamond-collecting toys, but these upgrades are practically copies of the ones you can find in Temple Run.

Agent Dash, however, differentiates itself with its super-cool graphics and not much else. At first I thought I would delete the game entirely. But after trying to tear myself away from this game and failing, I see that Agent Dash will stay on my iPad, saving the world from stray diamonds.”

It’s sort of like Temple Run meets The Incredibles. It seems rather silly to pull life lessons from a game on my iPad. There may be some serious ramifications about my allocation of time in all this, but there are three things that I’ve come to see have relevance in the real world as well.

Keep an eye on the horizon.

Agent Dash is all about running. That’s pretty much it. To make it challenging, the creators have put all manner of obstacles in your way. Barrels, barriers, sliding doors, electric fences… you must keep an eye out for what’s coming. The trick is, the game gets faster and faster. By the time you get to the 5th or 6th area, you are fairly flying. If you are just looking at what’s coming next, you’re doomed to get fried or flattened. You must be looking way ahead at obstacles down the path.

And so the same concept applies in life. It is extremely easy for me, and I assume others, to get mired in what’s happening right now. Walking around with the head down and worried about current circumstances seems to be pretty natural. I believe God has called us to something higher. We are told to look forward to something greater and our hope lies there. Any other way will undoubtably get us squashed against a boulder or crushed by a falling glass wall… spiritually speaking, of course.

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