Jimmy Fallon and the Worship Leader

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon - Season 4I have to admit that I don’t normally stay up late enough to watch The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. (If I am up that late, I’m probably catching a basketball game.) I have been known to watch some of his lip sync battles online and I marvel at the caliber of TV and movie personalities that Fallon is able to get on his show. I watched (after the fact) his Super Bowl of lip sync battles which featured Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell. There was a surprise appearance by Drew Barrymore. Needless to say, it is apparent that Jimmy Fallon has connections in Hollywood.

Last week I saw a link on Facebook to an article about Jimmy Fallon as one of the best worship leaders in the world. The title captured my attention, but the content was solid. The writer of the article, Josh Maze, made some great points that apply to those who lead worship. He made five observations that I found myself thinking about this past Sunday during our service. It is definitely worth reading. It is posted on Josh Maze’s blog and I have pasted it below.

5 REASONS JIMMY FALLON IS ONE OF THE BEST WORSHIP LEADERS IN THE WORLD

No matter the guest, they’re the “absolute best” on the “absolute best” TV show or film. Isn’t it amazing that every. single. night… Jimmy’s “favorite” person is on the show… and we believe him? I believe him. I follow him. All the way to the desk where he is absolutely enthralled by the special guest. Completely engaged. As a matter of fact, he’s so engaged – I’m engaged. I’m engaged through him. All the sudden I find myself interested in the guest / the subject / the conversation. Through Jimmy’s excitement & passion, I find myself involved. I never knew that I could become such a fan of some random C-list celebrity… but seeing Jimmy as such a fanatic about this person, here I am. Participating.

Here are 5 things every worship leader in the world should learn from Jimmy Fallon.

1. He’s always smiling.
This may be the most important and underrated aspect of Jimmy’s career. He smiles. A lot. Like… constantly. And that’s really good because, he’s in our living rooms and our bedrooms. And we want happy / positive people in our home. Smiles break down barriers. Smiles invite you in. Every worship leader who doesn’t smile while singing about Love… Grace… Hope… Jesus… is completely missing the mark. If you’re not smiling, you’re not winning. If you’re not smiling, you probably don’t look friendly. You might even be coming across too serious, overly spiritual, or arrogant. Let’s avoid that at all cost.

2. He’s got great energy.
It’s rarely hype. It’s always excitement. He loves what he does, and it’s obvious. But check this out… Jimmy Fallon has bad days too. He’s a human being. But you may never know it. We don’t see it. He presses through and does his job… making us feel at home. People need a confident leader to bring the energy to the room. Energy is contagious. Bad / low energy is contagious. Great / high energy is contagious. Be yourself, yes. Be vulnerable, of course. But get excited about what you’re doing!

3. He’s humble.
I’ve heard a ton of different people make comments about Jimmy. “He’s awesome… He’s the best… I love him… I have a crush on him… He’s literally perfect…” (And those are just from my wife… ūüėČ But I have never heard anyone say anything about his ego, his pride, or his arrogance. Yet – he’s one of the biggest stars in the world. He’s self-deprecating. He knows his strengths – He knows his weaknesses. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s quick to laugh at himself. That’s endearing. I like being around people like that, don’t you? With his ratings up 27% in the households & up 40% in the 18-49 demographic. Yes. You do. We do.

4. He’s prepared.
Monologues, singing, dancing, bits, sketches, dialogues, interviews… he does it all. And he’s ready. We think we have something to get ready for on Sundays? Once a week? Imagine having to be fresh, funny, smart, & interesting 5 nights a week. He nails it. And yes, he’s got a great team around him that help him prep. What can we learn from this as worship leaders? What can we take away? Very little excellence happens in life without proper preparation and planning. Let’s do our part to prepare, and let God do what only He can do.

5. He’s relevant.
‘Relevant’ isn’t my favorite word ever. But let’s remind ourselves… It’s a real word:

Relevant adjective rel¬∑e¬∑vant \ňąre-l…ô-v…ônt\ relating to a subject in an appropriate way

If I tried doing what we do at Highpoint at the big Episcopal church down the street, it wouldn’t work. I’d be dead in the water. You have to speak the language of the people you are speaking to. You have to relate. You have to know who is in the room and have an idea of where they are coming from. Jimmy’s show is so relevant, it’s ridiculous. The monologues are literally centered around the day’s news, the day’s gossip, and even the day’s tragedy. The interviews are centered around the film or TV show that just premiered or is about to premier. Why do so many churches miss this? We at Highpoint have decided to teach timeless truths in a timely way.
That’s a Non-negotiable.

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So, all in all, while Jimmy is leading us in the worship of the people he adores – like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Justin Timberlake, or Brad Pitt, we still have a lot to learn. And if we are leading people in the worship of JESUS, how much more than should we be smiling, energetic, humbled, prepared, & relevant? Jimmy, if you’re out there, I for one, am inspired to be a better worship leader. Thank you.

Top Worship Songs at WCC in 2014

worshipPrompted by a blog post from a worship leader a couple of years ago, I listed the top songs we used in our worship services.  I created a list for 2012 and 2013 so I thought it would be interesting to see what that list looked for 2014.

There are some songs that our congregation really responds to and you can tell by the volume of the singing. ¬†We try to introduce new songs that will enhance our services and fit our congregation. ¬†I can remember one we introduced a couple of years ago that we used twice and decided it just didn’t fit us. ¬†There was nothing wrong with the song; it simply wasn’t a good match for our congregation.

While looking through the songs we sang, the song we used the most was God With Us.  It was a song our choir did in a Christmas program and really seemed to fit our congregation, both as a Christmas song and throughout the year.

The other top songs were 10,000 Reasons, Christ Is Enough, Glory to God Forever, Lord I Need You and This is Amazing Grace.

There were three songs we sang for the first time on 2014: This is Amazing Grace, Keep Making Me and My Heart is Yours.  We did also use Oceans and Beautiful Things, but they were presented as a special number rather than for congregational singing.

Here is the rest of the list (in alphabetical order). ¬†They made up the regular rotation of songs, but don’t include all the songs we did.

  1. At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)
  2. Awesome is the Lord Most High
  3. Change My Heart, Oh God
  4. Cornerstone
  5. Draw Me Close
  6. Enough
  7. Everlasting God
  8. Forever
  9. Here I am to Worship
  10. Holy is the Lord
  11. Jesus Messiah
  12. Keep Making Me
  13. Let Everything That Has Breath
  14. My Heart is Yours
  15. Not to Us
  16. Our God
  17. Shout to the Lord
  18. Step By Step
  19. Unchanging
  20. We Fall Down
  21. Worthy is the Lamb
  22. You Are My All in All
  23. Your Grace is Enough

Music selection is subjective – everyone has different tastes and preferences. ¬†It’s always a challenge to find those songs that help lead a specific group of people to sing out in worship. ¬†As we move through this year, we will continue to look for songs that will accomplish that purpose.

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Vanishing GraceIt’s been a few years since I’ve read a Philip Yancey book. Reading Vanishing Grace reminded me why I appreciate him as a writer. He is an intelligent, yet humble author. It is obvious throughout the book that he has spent a great deal of time in research. He quotes a number of different writers and speakers that span a variety of academic disciplines and faith backgrounds.

Reading his past works makes it clear that Yancey is a follower of Jesus and in this offering he discusses how the modern church is doing representing Jesus to the rest of culture. In the final chapter of the book, he writes this, “I care about vanishing grace, the erosion of a gospel that, for many, sounds less and less like good news.” While it is clear that he comes from a specific point of view regarding Christianity, he doesn’t allow that to blind him as he explores the topic. In one chapter of the book, he shares about an experience attending a New Age seminar and listening to a well-known speaker in that arena. Yancey took that as an opportunity to not judge the beliefs of those attending the seminar, but rather to seek to understand.

In one candid moment in the book, Yancey shares a bit of guilt he feels as he sits in an office wrestling with words for books while there are others who are serving on the front lines. While he sees the value in what he does as an author, he maintains a humble perspective on his role.

Vanishing Grace seeks to address how the church can continue to live out the good news to those in our culture. He references a list of complaints about Christians in the magazine Christianity Today: Christians are seen as those who don’t listen, who judge, whose faith confuses people and who talk about what is wrong instead of making it right. Yancey shares stories of those who are doing a good job engaging culture and modelling the good news while also identifying where the church is falling short.

In the book he talks about three different roles Christians can play – as pilgrims (those who live authentically), as activists (those seeking to address various social issues), as artists (using art and creativity to share the good news). Near the end of the book Yancey writes this: “Pilgrim, activist, artist – whatever our calling, we join together to proclaim the good news that God has commissioned us to announce to the world.”

Vanishing Grace was a though provoking book and challenges those in the church to take a look at how we represent the good news to our culture.

Amazing Video Conception to Birth

I’ve been reading a book by Philip Yancey called Vanishing Grace. His book is an exploration of why the church doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of demonstrating grace to the world. The question he asks is “What ever happened to the good news?” Through the book he talks about our world having a thirst that only God can satisfy, yet the church doesn’t always good job of presenting how God can quench that thirst.

Yancey explores some questions about the importance of faith and how people are searching for meaning. One area he looks into is science and how some scientists are pointed to God as they study. One extraordinary example he uses is Alexander Tsiaras. Tsiaras is a professor at the Yale Department of Medicine and has written software that utilizes MRI technology. He developed a video that he presented at a TED talk which compresses the nine months from conception to birth into a nine minute video.

I looked it up and thought the video and the facts shared through it are pretty amazing. Tsiaras shares in his TED talk about the complexity of the development of a baby and makes this observation: It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity. It speaks so loudly as evidence for a creator.

This is the video he made (there are some graphic images).

The Good News About Marriage

good news marriageI first heard about The Good News About Marriage when I listened to an interview with the author on the Catalyst Podcast. I thought the information was interesting and it was mentioned several times in the interview that in order to get the whole picture, a person should read the book. So I did.

The title for the book is quite fitting. After reading the survey results that the author, Shaunti Feldhahn, and Tally Whitehead collected from years of research, I would agree that it is good news. For a number of years people in the church have quoted the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce and the percentages inside the church community aren’t any better. As one who has grown up in a church community and now serves at a church, I find those statistics to be bad news. But, from the research revealed in this book, it turns out those numbers are not true. Many of those percentages were based on projections, not actual statistics.

The book does a good job explaining not only the more accurate statistics, but how those facts and figures were accumulated. Here is some of the good news the book shares…

…the actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent

…the rate of divorce in the church is not the same as the rate among those who don‚Äôt attend worship services

…most marriages are happy

In the past few years I have performed a number of weddings and this is great news to share with couples who are preparing for marriage. It provides hope and motivation that a high percentage of marriages are not only intact, but are thriving. It gives good news to those who might be in a season where their marriage is struggling. It communicates that a happy, fulfilling relationship is possible and many are experiencing it.

This is a good resource for pastors, counselors or anyone who works with married couples. It is an encouragement to those who are already married or considering it. The Good News About Marriage really is good news that our churches and families need to hear.

Plus, if you get a hold of the book, there are some free resources that go along with the book’s message.

10,000 Reasons & Psalm 103

10,000 Reasons is a pretty well-known worship song and has been used in a variety of venues. ¬†Just this summer I’ve sung it with our congregation, with about 900 high school students at a CIY MOVE Conference and with about 100 junior students at our week of summer camp. ¬†We used it as part of our song set yesterday in our morning service and it seems to really connect with groups of all ages.

Before we sang it yesterday, we played about the first two minutes of this video where Matt Redman (who helped write the song) talks about the story behind the song. ¬†Since I’m not a song writer, I find it interesting to hear about the process writers go through. ¬†I like what he shares as¬†it gives the back-story to the song we love to sing and points to Psalm 103 and what it says about worship.

Redman also gives a good reminder that God is always giving us reasons to worship Him.  Whether we are young or old, on the mountaintop or in a valley, loving life or struggling to get through the week, God provides numerous reasons to worship him.  A good reminder not only for our Sunday worship sets, but for how we live Monday through Friday.

Brock Morgan – Post Christian Youth Ministry

In a post back in January I mentioned that I’m reading a book called “Youth Ministry in Post-Christian World.” Unfortunately, I’m still not finished with it (been doing some other reading), but I have it bookmarked and ready to pick up on my Kindle.

Yesterday, the Youth Cartel shared a 15 minute or so video of the author of the book, Brock Morgan, talking about the basis for his book. (I guess this talk was the springboard into the book).

I thought what he had to share was worthwhile and pushes those who serve in youth ministry today to take a look at our approach to current culture.

Top Worship Songs at WCC in 2013

worshipLast year I borrowed an idea from another worship leader and posted the top worship songs we used in our services in 2012. Even though it is now February, 2014, I thought it would be interesting to look at what songs we did in 2013. These are listed in alphabetical order and are included due to the number of times we used them throughout the year.

The songs we used the most often were

I also marked the ones that we introduced in 2013.

One thing that I am continually reminded of as I select songs and lead is that there are so many worship songs to choose from! I will look at one church is doing and their list is so different from ours. The number of songs available just continues to grow.

The makeup of your congregation makes such a difference in the songs you select. Our church family is made up of multiple generations and so preferences are varied and even songs people are familiar with is quite different. Each Sunday we offer a time before our service where we sing hymns. (We moved away from using a hymnal several years ago) One of the songs we sang was A Mighty Fortress is our God and two of our praise team members had never heard the song. It surprised me that they didn’t even know the tune, but that is a good example of how much “church music” is out there.

So, here’s our list from the past year:

  1. 10,000 Reasons –¬†new for 2013
  2. At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)
  3. Awesome is the Lord Most High
  4. Christ is Enough¬†–¬†new for 2013
  5. Cornerstone¬†–¬†new for 2013
  6. Enough
  7. Give Us Clean Hands
  8. Glory to God Forever
  9. Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)
  10. Holy is the Lord
  11. How Great is our God
  12. Jesus Son of God
  13. Lord I Need You¬†–¬†new for 2013
  14. Lord Reign in Me
  15. My Redeemer Lives
  16. Not to Us
  17. Open the Eyes of my Heart
  18. Our God
  19. Shout to the Lord
  20. Thank You
  21. Unchanging
  22. We Fall Down
  23. Worthy is the Lamb
  24. Your Grace is Enough

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group

pollsThis month I started reading a book titled Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. I’m still reading through it and processing some of the data and conclusions the author shares (I’m sure something will appear in this space on a later date regarding the book).

So, as I’m thinking through this idea of living in a post-Christian world, I see this research from Barna. I thought it was interesting, especially for leaders in the church. One paragraph especially caught my attention:

The rising resistance to faith institutions is evidenced in the newer language used to discuss spirituality today. When it comes to matters of the soul, disclaimers are emerging as the new faith identifiers. Today, there are those who self-describe as “spiritual, but not religious”‚ÄĒindividuals who like to associate with what they perceive as the positive elements of spirituality but not the negative associations of organized religion. Or consider the rise of the “Nones”‚ÄĒthe much-discussed adults who are religiously unaffiliated and who don’t want to use any conventional label for their religious faith. And in many places, the prefix “post-” is being attached to matters of faith. Post-Christian. Post-denominational. Post-evangelical. Post-religious.

You can read the Barna article below, but it added to the churning in my brain about what it means to lead youth ministry (or any kind of ministry) in our post-Christian culture.

Thoughts?

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group.