I Wish More Churches Focused On Confirmation

My spiritual formation has been a “chop-suey” of evangelical traditions and cultures. I was raised in a conservative Chinese Church, where people tried their best to raise us (the millennial generation).  Children’s and Youth ministry was a mix of “trial and error” and “grass root” movements, which were impactful nonetheless.  Were they perfect? No, but what it did do for me was increase my passion for vocational ministry among teens and young adults.

However, as I have journeyed through my life and explored different schools of thought and orthodoxies, I have found various hidden “Jewels” that I wish more Churches held to. One of those “Jewels” is “Confirmation”. One of the misconceptions about “confirmation” is that it is exclusively a Roman Catholic teaching.  This is not true, since Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, Methodist, Anglican and even Baptist, currently or at some time in their history, have viewed “confirmation” as important.

For me my first question when studying confirmation more in depth a couple years back was, What is the Biblical foundation for this understanding?.  Most of the answers I received were along the lines of “receiving the Holy Spirit” or “baptism of the holy Spirit” in Acts 8:14-17.  This put me in a state of contemplation as I was not raised to view “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that way. I was raised to understand that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was something that happened at conversion…or was it? I was also told, that if you were of the Pentecostal or Assembly of God tradition, “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a completely separate event that happened AFTER conversion.

So let’s back up…what is “Confirmation” according to Church tradition?

“In Christianity, confirmation is either considered a sacrament or rite – depending on the beliefs – of the practitioners, ceremonially performed in a church, which signifies the faith and commitment of a person, who desires to publicize their convictions to their family, friends, and church.”

Wait, I was told that was Baptism!  Yet baptism also granted me the ability to be a member of the church. I was deeply confused!

Baptism in many of the churches I have been able to observe, serves as a multi-purpose event…it was the “3 in 1” or “trinity event” 😉

  • Baptism
  • Church Membership
  • Confirmation

I inquired “why is this the case and where do we find Biblical support” for doing it this way? I have received the answer, “well, its just easier and more efficient to do it this way“.

The thirst for efficiency in the church, has caused more harm than demons themselves. (Yes you can quote me on that)

At the last church I pastored (which was very efficient by the way), according to our survey two years in a row, 80-85% of the baptized students had no idea why they got baptized other than it was “something to do” or that “their parents pressured them” to do it.

I (and other pastors I worked with) were part of conversations where we were pressured by parents and elders to “approve” someone for baptism who had no idea about Christianity nor the desire for Jesus–just because it would “look bad” or “embarrass the parents and elders” if we denied their baptismal request, or the worse one I’ve heard, “we need to hit our baptism numbers, so push this one through“.  My heart broke…what have we become?!

My “two cents”

  1. The Church needs to isolate baptism to “the declaration to follow Christ” and that is it. Period. No strings attached. Baptism should be an open event based on a profession of faith and the desire to follow Jesus. (I am an advocated of baptism happening right after the declaration of faith. “Believe and be baptized” (Acts 2:41)). It also should provide the right to partake in communion.
  2. Confirmation needs to be a separate event when after a period of time, a person is evaluated by the church leadership to exemplify: Christ like character, possession/ indwelling of the Holy Spirit and evidence of sanctification. This should be a more rigorous process in contrast to baptism, and available to those who have been baptized.
  3. Church membership should not be connected to baptism. It needs to remain completely separate, reserved for those who have been baptized, been confirmed  and have a desire to serve in a leadership position in the Church. The membership process should be even more rigorous than the confirmation process.  Members need to serve, there is no such thing as a “non-active member” and only members can serve as deacons and elders. 

I am not claiming that this will solve all of the Evangelical Church’s problems when it comes to millennials or that Churches that go about it this way are better. However, it may help address some of the problems concerning millennials who have been baptized (with all the strings attached) who are sitting there going “what the heck was all that for?” and who were taught that baptism was the “end all be all” which has led them to be no longer involved in a the church for lack of understanding.

  • Baptism is an event that is between you and Jesus that is witnessed by the world around you
  • Confirmation is an event where the church body you are apart of, confirms that you are in fact, by their observance and interaction, are a legitimate follower of Christ, redeemed by Jesus and recipient of the Holy Spirit
  • Church Membership is a privilege that is granted to those who are dedicated to serve in leadership in that specific local church

Separating these three events could greatly increase the way your church does discipleship. Sure it will put more responsibility upon the church leadership, but I really think by using Baptism, Confirmation and Church Membership this way, it could really increase the spiritual maturity of your not only your young adult’s but entire church as well.

I hope that this is beneficial for at least some of you to read 🙂


God & Human Sacrifices…Wait What About Jesus? 

Lately I have been trying to wrap my brian around this question…

If God (Yahweh) does not accept human sacrifices, how could Jesus’ sacrifice be an acceptable payment for our sins?

In Deuteronomy 12:31 & 18:10, Yahweh states that he is different than all the other pagan gods and will not accept human sacrifices. All the other pagan nations that surrounded the Israelites practiced human & child sacrifice as part of their worship. Yahweh declared that such “worship” was detestable to him and that he hates it (Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). It’s appropriate to understand human sacrifice is associated in the Old Testament with evil practices such as sorcery and divination, which are also detestable to God (2 Kings 21:6). Abraham was never in danger of losing Isaac and Jephthah due to his ignorance, sacrificed his daughter to Yahweh–talk about a sacrificers remorse >.<

So, if God (Yahweh) detests human sacrifices, how could Christ’s sacrifice on the cross be acceptable as sufficient payment for our sins?

“There is no doubt that a sacrifice for sin was necessary if people are to have any hope of eternal life. God established the necessity of the shedding of blood to cover sin (Hebrews 9:22). In fact, God Himself performed the very first animal sacrifice to cover, temporarily, the sin of Adam and Eve. After He pronounced curses upon the first couple, He killed an animal, shedding its blood, and made from it a covering for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), thereby instituting the principle of animal sacrifice for sin.” -Chuck Swindoll

Yahweh gave Moses a crap load of laws and in those laws there were instructions on how, when, and under what circumstances animal sacrifices were to be offered to him. This was how it was until Christ’s sacrifice made animal sacrifice no longer necessary.

“But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3–4).

So why does Christ’s sacrifice not violate those laws?

Well for one, Jesus was not just a human; because if he were his sacrifice would have also been a temporary one because one human life couldn’t possibly cover the sins of the multitudes who ever existed. One finite human life could never atone for sin against an infinite God. A sufficient sacrifice must be an infinite one, which means only Yahweh himself could atone for the sins of mankind. Only Yahweh himself, an infinite being, could pay the penalty owed to himself (mind bending I know). This is why God had to become a man and dwell among men (John 1:14). No other sacrifice would suffice.

Also, Yahweh did not sacrifice Jesus. Rather, Jesus, as God incarnated, sacrificed himself on his own accord. He gave his life willingly, as he said:

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).

(We may often read this scripture as Jesus referring to man and their inability to take away his life, but it is also in reference to the Father. Jesus was drawing a distinction between the Father’s will and his obedience. For it was only through his obedience that he was able to remain sinless therefore, being able to qualify as a sufficient sacrifice). 

So even in the garden when Jesus seems to protest the will of the Father “not my will, but yours be done”. It may seem as if Jesus’ arm is being twisted to go to the cross. However, just as we humans need to be taught obedience, Jesus had to learn it as well. His obedience was a direct reflection of his trust in the Father.

Jesus went to the cross out of obedience and his desire to please the Father in all that he did.

Jesus did not go to the cross thinking “I’m doing this for people!” no he went thinking “I am doing this out of obedience for the Father” (We need to correct this faulty theolgy in the church).  The main mission of Jesus was obedience to the Father. For it was through the incarnation of Jesus that we are able to see the Father.  “If you have seen me you have seen the Father. So do not say ‘show us the Father’ for when you say that it seems like I haven’t taught you anything,” (John 14:8-14, PJV)

Jesus sacrificed himself to the Father and fulfilled all the requirements of the Deuteronomy laws. Only he (being fully God and fully man) could do that. However, even after all this amazing stuff…everything hinged on the resurrection. Without the resurrection Jesus would have been just another “cool dude” who did miracles (pretty common in those days) and was executed for making false claims (another thing that was pretty common in those days).

Jesus’ divinity alone, disqualified him from being rendered merely as a human sacrifice. His willingness to offer himself to pay the debt of wrath that was owed by humanity in addition to his complete obedience, simply put; Jesus made the Father “an offer that he could not refuse”.

Apology to Women: The Church Got It Wrong

Over the past few months I have been really been exploring the traditional stance of the church in regards to women. I don’t think I need to embellish too much here, but the track record of the Church in general has not been very good. Women are often treated secondary to man, the back up plan…and in some cases told they can only serve in the church in limited capacity with a lesser or without a formal title. What they wear is constantly criticized in comparison to man (somewhat of a double standard if you ask me) I grew up in a Church like this and have witnessed more of my own share of this type of sexism and inhumane treatment of women, all in the name of “this is Biblical”, women need to be silent, submit and keep their opinions to themselves.

Well, today I am here to challenge that belief system. How? By looking at Eve or “woman”, the first created woman. What was her identity? Why and how did God create her? What situation occurred for God to decide to create woman?

We all think we know the creation narrative well, and I don’t know about you but it always seemed that woman was not a part of creation at all. 7 days of creation passed…no woman.  Somehow this meant that women were not a part of God’s original plan or least this was what the church has taught me.

So here are 3 points I have found:

  1. “But for man, there was not found a helper suitable”. I think it is correct to say that woman was given to man as a helper. But what kind of helper? Well the Hebrew word here that is used is “`ezer kenegdo”–which means to surround, help, aid to protect. In ancient Hebrew literature this word is used in the context of war, where one nation is being destroyed but then another nation comes to “help” or “coming to the aid” of the nation that is being destroyed.  This word would have carried this understanding during that day. So to the Hebrew people, this word would have been better understood as a “rescuer” or even “savior”.
  1. Furthering this study, I studied the word that was given to the word “`ezer kenegdo” in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) sticks very close to this meaning while incorporating the word that we know in English as “Ebenezer” which has more of the understanding of a “deliverer”. In the vision that man received for the creation of the woman, Yahweh says in paraphrase “She is just like you, she is created just like you, your equal”. Man and women are to be united (nothing about sex here) but as a coming together of two created identities, personalities and characteristics to create one unified entity.
  1. Lastly, when studying Paul’s letter to Timothy we seem to have a road block, or do we? “Woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For man was formed first than woman . And man was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Ouch! ok don’t freak out yet. Let’s look at the context, who was Paul writing to? women? No, Timothy. Why would Paul write this to Timothy? Well, back then it was obvious. There was a lot of false teaching that were coming from women during that time period, that was being allowed into the church. So in order to get these heretical teachings under control Paul takes a hard line against these woman teachers. This is not our context or at least I hope not. Also, when Paul uses the word “authority” he is using the Greek word that is “authenteo” which during that day was used in reference to describe corrupt dictator type ruler. Of course no one who is in Christ should possess this attitude anyway.

After the study of these passages, it is very hard to agree with the tradition of the church on this issue. Especially when you go to the original language and properly study it. English translation will always fall short, because all translations are made up.

Translations are not inspired text, the original language is the inspired word of God.

But I diverge, the “slam dunk” for me when studying all this was when I went back to the creation account. I studied Hebrew narratives back in the day and in a narrative there is always was a “pinnacle” or “climax” to the story. So in the creation narrative, what was the climax? Fish? Animals? Man? Rest? I always thought it had to be Day 7, right? It was the last day. But careful study of the creation shows the creation account recounted back in Genesis 2, but something is added…woman.

Woman is created as the “climax” or the “pinnacle” of the creation account. Because it was through the woman’s help, aid, deliverance and saving, that man is able to see glimpses of Yahweh. In the same way Yahweh eventually gives us the ultimate helper, aid, deliverer in the Holy Spirit.

The church is guilty of mistreating women and hiding behind the Bible to do it. It is shameful to have treated the “crown jewel” of creation the way we have. I offer my sincere apology for the way we have hurt, belittled, put down, not recognized and even dehumanized you.



**By the way, if this bugs you, I would really encourage you to ponder why. Why does this bother you so much? Is it because of all the things you have been taught over the years? Is your belief’s grounded in a translation?–(this should never be the case)  I would push you to study the Bible in its original language and see for yourself 🙂 Many of these “hot topics” become “hot topics” because people are debating faulty translations. Go to the original language, read it in the context it was meant to be read in, and somehow these “hot topics” are more easily understood Biblically.


What’s the DL on “Spirit led Worship”

Let me first start by helping us better define what Spirit led worship is NOT…

  • First, it does NOT mean you get to prepare or practice less…if anything it means you need to prepare and practice MORE!
  • Second, it does NOT mean you get to go off into your own personal “la la land” of worship and leave your congregation behind.
  • Third, I know I am not speaking to the majority here, but it is NOT a time to show off. (I’ll explain this later in the blog)

So now that we know what “Spirit led” worship is not, we can head off in the right direction. Unfortunately, the Bible does not decipher between “regular worship” and “Spirit led worship” for us so we cant really go to the Scriptures and pull out an easy answer.

For me growing up, Spirit Led worship was always the alternative to stuffy, boring, planned to the “T”, structured—how “A type” people worship. As someone who has a hard time paying attention for long periods of time, the more structured a worship time, the more I felt like I wanted to scream and smash my head on the pew (this was totally my jr.high days). So by the time I started leading worship, some years later, I was drawn to the FREEDOM that “Spirit led” worship provided.

So what is “Spirit led Worship”? Well, here is my understanding: Spirit led worship is when the Worship leader/ team allows the Holy Spirit to go before them, lead, guide and execute the worship time. In my opinion, there are three levels of Spirit led worship.

  1. Level one is very basic. When planning the worship service, time is spent in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to guide the leader to songs, scriptures or different elements in the service that will help the church meet Jesus during the worship time. Once the worship leader receives the direction of the Holy Spirit, the worship set is constructed and communication with the Spirit is stopped (I’m not trying to be a jerk…just being honest here) and the rest of the time is spent polishing the set, both musically and vocally. Song order is decided upon…and if there is any diversion from the planned set, it is severely frowned upon. You might even be called out for disobeying God..This is how a majority of our North American Churches do worship these days (90-95% planned).
  1. Level Two is more advanced: Level two takes the preparation from level one but during the service, the worship leader/team is open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. What I mean by that is that during the Worship Service, The Spirit may lead to not do a song, or to repeat a certain chorus or bridge over and over, or that there may be a time or prayer or scripture in the middle of a song that was not planned or even possibly just do a chorus or bridge from another song. Some of you just got super stressed and that’s ok! Moving from level one to level two is not meant to happen over night. It can take months or even years. It will take more practice and a heightened connection with the Spirit. But don’t get caught up in all of it though…because the main goal of leading worship is to increase our trust and faith in Jesus as we lead. As a worship leader, we should always be looking for new ways to push ourselves in our faith and reliance on Jesus. We should be afraid of getting comfortable in our worship service…because the mundane leads to atrophic worship, which then leads to the decay of our church. This style is increasingly becoming popular as a strong median (50-70% planned)
  1. Level three is usually what people understand as “Spirit led worship”. Usually the Worship leader/ team will have a repertoire of songs that they practice regularly and can perform very well. So instead of practicing all the time the week of the service, the worship leader/ team spends more time in individual and corporate prayer. They strive to be on the same page as each other and in sync with the Holy Spirit. The worship leader/ team may enter the worship service knowing a time span they has (ie. 45 min) and they may only have 2 songs agreed upon. But during the worship service, much time is devoted to prayer and the Holy Spirit leads the leader/ team to different songs/ scriptures/ choruses/ bridges that can be done to compliment the direction of the worship service. The next step in the service is not planned as the worship leader/ team is completely reliant on the Holy Spirit for direction. This style is something to be strived for but is not very common. (5-10% planned)

Now, ok lets be real here. How can worship that does not seek to push us into further reliance and faith in Jesus…be true worship? Wouldn’t that be “self dependent” of “self led” worship? But yet how many churches do we know, that are stuck in this rut? I don’t know how many times I have observed a worship service and left going, “wow they didn’t need God at all in that set…they just had to rely on themselves”. How is that pleasing to God? Sure we aren’t suppose to be showing off and drawing attention to ourselves like a concert, with drawn out instrument solos, or singing in a key or octave only you can hit, or playing a song that contains complicated words that most people have to google, to know what they mean -.-

So I guess what I am saying, is this; every worship leader/ team should learn how to lead by faith and look to increase their reliance on the Holy Spirit during their times of worship. I believe one of the main reasons why many of the churches here in North America have such bland…mundane…borning…”life sucked out of them” type worship, is not because of the songs they sing, or the style of music they play or even the instruments they use. It is a direct result of self-reliant worship…they have diminished the role and power of the Holy Spirit and his ability to overwhelmingly blow us away with a personal encounter with the Divine—that my friend is the goal of true Spirit led Worship.

Hatred: The Way I Was Created

This has been a bloody summer. It has been heart wrenching. Every time I hear one of the stories, whether if it is 300 people being slaughtered or just one…my heart sinks. Before, we could turn a blind-eye and go “oh that’s in another country” but now we can’t. We are being forced to realize that what we pushed aside in the past exists in our own country, cities, and towns.

Over 60 shootings in Chicago on one weekend in May. 49 people gunned down in a nightclub in Orlando. And now Philando Castile & Alton Sterling who join a long list of black men gunned down by the Police.

Now before you get all mad and say I’m choosing a side or whatever, take a breath. I am on the side of justice. I will stand for what is right. But if it’s wrong, you can bet I’m gonna say something about it. People being slaughtered like animals because they believe or look or act differently than you is wrong. It’s downright wrong…and we all can talk about fixing it but we are going to end right back up where we began, and nothing will change.

Why? Because we are all born with hatred in our blood. We are all born with sin in our blood. And without Christ, our first instinct is fear and hate. Anyone that is different than us, we become afraid of and we translate that fear for our own preservation into hate. I grew up full of fear and hate…and no it wasn’t taught to me by my parents, I developed it through stories, the media, and experiences I had. It was so easy to fear and hate people. Hatred comes naturally…like breathing and there is no way that we can brainstorm to stop it. Because if there truly were a solution we would have all agreed upon it by now and all these murders would not be happening.

As followers of Christ, as HIS CHURCH we need to be brave and start standing up and saying something when injustice happens. It’s not just racism we are facing here, it is hatred against people who are different than us.

The Church has completely and utterly forgotten what it means to love. There are days I wake up embarrassed to be a Christian not because of Jesus but because how we as “his church” carry ourselves. How we as “his church” make decisions, how we shun certain lifestyles, how we treat someone differently because of their ethnicity, how we judge someone by how they look or how much money they make, how we humiliate people because we think we are better. If you haven’t figured it out yet, sinful people do sinful things, and until the Holy Spirit takes over their life, they are going to keep doing sinful things!

I’ve been a pastor in 4 churches now, and I can tell you story after story about elder, deacon and even staff meetings, where a decision or statement was made strictly because the person was “not like us”…and how grotesque I felt as there were agreements to follow through on the decision by everyone. And you wonder why I lose respect for church leaders real fast. Being away from that setting has helped me heal some…but hate even exists in our churches.

I hate to say it, but it’s time for another Reformation. Not a theological one like in Luther’s time…but a Reformation of the church from a building with annoying and hateful people to a movement of people committed to serving, loving and caring for those who are still blinded by hate. Yes, we need to start the ugly process of addressing the hate and racism that we have accepted and allowed to fester, which exists in our own church bodies. Call it out. End it. Have a zero tolerance policy toward treating someone differently because of them being different.

I might be pushing you a bit here, but I believe the existence of hate and racism that exists today and to the extent that it exists, is directly related to the church failing to address and set the example of love.

Only when a person intentionally chooses to allow the authentic love of Jesus Christ to change the sinful way that they were created, to fear and hate, can a person truly have a chance to let love emanate through them. Without that…the violence and injustice will only get worse.

Why I Choose Cuss Words

If you know me, you should know one thing; I love music. I mean, I LOVE music as in I could easily listen to over 60 hours of music a week. I enjoy almost every kind of music, from hip-hop/ rap, rock, country to punk/Emo rock, rock, dubstep/trance. It won’t take you long to realize that none of my music is the “edited version”.  Because of this, several times the remark has been made “Christians shouldn’t be listening to music with swear words in it? You know there is the edited version right?”

Yes, I am aware that edited versions exist but I purposely choose not to listen to the edited versions of songs. Why? Well here are several reasons…

First, as music is an art form and as someone who appreciates art, I feel it is unfair to the artist to listen to a version of their song without how they intended it to sound. It just like going to see the edited version of Michelangelo’s David, or the edited version of the Sistine Chapel. If the original version of the artwork is really that bad, we shouldn’t be observing or listening to it. There are songs out there that are so raunchy and completely disgusting, but I have seen people listening to them—just because it’s the edited version. (Trust me, if its just a song with a bunch of raunchy imagery and cuss words I skip right over it).

Many artist incorporate swear words to emphasize an extreme emotion or pain that they have experienced in the past or are going through. This should not be edited out, because when it is, we lose the angst and intensity that the artist wants to portray to the listeners. To me using swear words appropriately in a song, is in itself, an art.

Second, we live in a society where “Political Correctness” runs rampant without harness. I personally hate being PC, it’s just not who I am…apparently that makes me “rough around the edges” but that’s ok 🙂  The music scene is the last place that we have in our culture, that has not been completely corrupted by the “political correctness” leech…it still has pockets of rawness and legitimateness that other parts of our society have abandoned and lost. Artists are still able to express their emotions freely in a unprejudiced way…it’s still real. We need to realize that in our society we all desire realness. We are immersed in so much fakeness in our daily lives, that finding something real and untarnished is hard. Thats probably why I listen to so much music 🙂

Third, what should be our “Christian response”? It may surprise you but the Bible we read should have the “PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT CONTENT” warning on it. I could list a bunch of things that would make you super uncomfortable…like the two sisters who got their dad drunk so they could rape him and get pregnant…or the two families who agreed to swap their sons to eat for dinner because of the famine…or the person that God told to marry a prostitute…not to mention Songs of Solomon and all the gruesome murders that have been toned down for our 20th century religious readers…even the harsh language that Paul and Jesus used in the New Testament has been changed up. But yet we encourage our children to read it…just saying, this is more disturbing to me than a couple curse words in a song, unless we really don’t intend for our children to actually read it?

While at Moody, we had a pretty heated debate between those who thought like me and the more self righteous people…and toward the end of the discussion our Professor (who was also the dean) said something that really left a mark on my stance on this discussion. He said

“there are appropriate times to use swear words. The Bible does not say we are not to use swear words…when it talks about “swearing” its talking about making a vow or taking an oath. But we shouldn’t just go around using those words freely without care since we will be held accountable for every word we speak, but we should learn how to use them in the right context. As followers of Christ we need to use these words carefully, never to curse another, but use them to express intense emotion or to convey something more clearly”.

He then proceeded to tell us of a story of when he used a swear word during a church board meeting (and yes he did say “shit” in class at a Bible School).

I still remember back when I was in my early High School years there was an interview with Jon Foreman the lead man of the band Switchfoot, back when they were considered “edgy” for the Christian market and there always was this debate about who was a “Christian Band” and who wasn’t, and he said something very profound. He said,

“In order for us to understand our true spiritual condition we need to understand the F-word. We need to stop watering down and pretending that we are “ok” without Jesus…because the truth is without Jesus we are truly fucked. We aren’t screwed or at a disadvantage…we are fucked”.

Oh how true.

So, if this is the intent of swear words in music (to better convey an idea or the intensity of an emotion), then there is nothing wrong with musicians who use these words appropriately.

…my question is when will the “Christian Music Scene” start reclaiming swear words and start using them in their lyrics to express our desperate need for Jesus? (sorry if I just gave you a heart attack). Talk about a way to bridge into the lives of lost people real fast. Unless we are too concerned about our own self-righteousness to risk our reputation to save souls..

How Should I Pick A Song Set?

I don’t know how many times I have been asked this question. For any Worship Leader, this is can easily become the most stressful part of the week…it can even lead to sleepless nights, I can promise you I have had a good share of my own sleepless nights tossing and turning and second guessing the chosen set. So here is my “two cents”…I’ve broken it down into two ways of picking a set:

Beginner: We all have to start somewhere. I remember back when I first started leading worship…I was 18 and only had a general idea of what I was doing, but not nearly enough to know—that I had no idea what I was doing. So as a beginner I started by…

  1. Waiting until the title of the sermon is released, which is usually on a Thursday night, then read the passage and pray to God that the pastor isn’t using the message version…or else you will have to go find a real Bible to read the passage over.
  2. Then you take time to decipher the topic, and hopefully it is a very easy topic like grace, or Jesus’ love, or trusting God.
  3. Then as a beginner I would hit up Google or iwillworship.com or www.songselect.com and type in the topic and see what songs popped up that had those key words in it.
  4. Then I would chose 3-5 songs that I was familiar with and organize them from “soft” to “loud” or vice versa…and then BAM there was my set!

Now there is no shame in using option #1 if you are starting out as a worship leader, but the problem is if you stay there week after week, year after year. As a worship leader we need to continually grow and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. And what I am really saying when I say that is;

“We need to learn to rely less and less on ourselves and rely more and more on the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our worship preparation.”

As we mature as worship leaders our worship preparation should look more like this…


  1. Start the week by spending time in prayer and seeking direction from the Holy Spirit. If in fact the Holy Spirit is leading the pastor who is preaching, the Spirit will be leading you as well toward the same goal that he has for the coming week.
  1. Since it is not about us and what we can do, we start the week by surrendering our control to the Spirit to do what HE wants. This is a huge step of faith because we have to trust that HE will be leading all elements of the service towards what HE wants to say through us. As we take this posture of surrender and trust, the Holy Spirit will come through and reveal to you what songs and in what way HE wants you to do them. If you are sincere in seeking this out, your job as a worship leader becomes much easier. After He reveals to you what songs and theme He wants you to do, you are ready for the next step…
  1. MORE PRAYER! No joke, more prayer is needed. This time you should be praying…”How should I do these songs?” Maybe the Spirit wants you to do the whole set acapella or acoustic rather than with a whole band. I don’t know and neither should you decide until the Spirit directs you. Again keep pressing into what the Spirit is revealing to you. However, you need to be prepared with a pencil and a notepad. Jot down what the Spirit is speaking to you. Soon enough, you will have both songs and arrangement down. The first time doing this will be nerve racking…and maybe a little scary.

The first few times I did this, I couldn’t eat all week. My stomach was in knots and I couldn’t do anything except keep praying that I was getting everything the Spirit wanted, right, and I wasn’t missing anything. The last thing I wanted to do was to get something wrong or leave something out.

  1. After you have everything down, you start working on how to include the worship band into what the Spirit has directed you to do. Maybe for that week you have the whole band scheduled to play but the Spirit has been impressing upon you to do a two acoustic set with only two vocals…you need to communicate to the rest of the band that they are not needed to play that week. Say what? Yeah…that’s not easy to do, but if your band members are seeking God like you have been they will not only agree to it but they will expect it…why? Because the Spirit was revealing that to them too. Amazing how that works! Now if your band is not at that level of spiritual maturity…things may get a bit complicated. But you as a leader are here to teach your band members along with the church body.

I remember leading worship at Fourth Memorial in Spokane, and when the band showed up for practice, they were ready and willing to do whatever the Spirit wanted. During that time we had an amazing drummer who loved to drum and he was good…like he could have been playing for any of the big named rock bands out there…like he was that good. So when he showed up and I was like “yo man I need you on the djembe tonight, instead of the full kit” or “we are going with a two guitar set tonight” he never protested and was excited to be contributing in that way or even sitting the week out to support by sitting with the church body. It was the same deal with the vocalist and other musicians as well. This took a lot of pressure off of me, its comforting to play with a group of people who not only trusted you but trusts that you are following what the Spirit has been leading you to do.

Now this doesn’t mean you are closed to input. Just as much as we as leaders, desire for our band to trust us, we need to trust that they are being lead by the Spirit too. So once you clearly explain where the set is going and what the Spirit has been impressing upon you, when they offer suggestions, take them into consideration and work with them. I am not a pianist, as much as I have tried in the past to learn to play the piano, it is beyond me…so when my pianist suggests an interlude with a specific progression that will allow for a break in the action, if you will, for the church body to have time to meditate on the words before we go back into the bridge, of course I will listen. Often times the Spirit will confirm that this is the way to go or not. Cool how that works huh?

From the couple years when I lead worship at Fourth Memorial, I can’t remember one time where the Spirit led me wrong. I always looked forward to connecting with the pastor minutes before we took the stage, about what he was preaching on that week…and guess what? The sermon and music set ALWAYS went hand in hand! So often was the case that they pastor and I would marvel at how perfect the set and message went together…and we never talked during the week! It was all the Spirit leading the both of us toward what HE wanted to accomplish during the time.

I would encourage every worship leader and worship teams to strive for this approach. Changing to this way of preparation will not happen over night though. It is as much as a mental and physical change as much as it is a heart change. It is about coming to terms with the willingness to surrender ALL to the Spirit to do what He wants to do with the time of music.

You will experience some push back from the less spiritual mature in your church but do not waiver, take this time to teach and challenge them. It is always going to make people uncomfortable when control is taken away. But remember just because you lead worship or play on the worship band…it doesn’t mean you have arrived spiritually. You still have ways to go in learning about our Triune God and how much we lack in truly trusting Him. (If this already is making you nervous, wait until I get to Spirit led worship in another blog).

I can tell you that when you prepare this way, when you walk off stage, the feeling you have is drastically different than when you prepared like option #1. There is such a freeing feeling that it wasn’t you, and you know it. You are just a follower and a vessel that the Spirit decided to use to accomplish his purpose. And nothing feels better than knowing that the God of the universe used you for his purpose! Of course, He could have done it all by himself, but HE received glory in how we trusted and surrendered to Him—wait…isn’t that the goal of worship that we talked about before? Exactly.