My Heart Turned Violently

We got in late last night – like 3:00 AM – from the Unleash conference at NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC. My two previous posts were the raw, unedited notes from the two breakout sessions I attended. We also sat in two main sessions with worship and teaching from Perry Noble.

Between the information shared by NewSpring leaders, the worship and the fun time hanging with the 19 folks from Powhatan, it was an incredible 36-hour experience. It’s a whirlwind and it’s an exhausting travel schedule, but I think this was one of the most valuable conference experiences I’ve had in the past few years.
I had the huge privilege of being free to truly worship through the music led by the NewSpring team. Since that’s my primary weekly responsibility at the church, it’s difficult to ever escape the role of “leader” week to week. Even when I’m not leading from the stage, my heart is still engaged in a leadership role as I worship with our home congregation. I’m grateful – it comes with the territory, and I am not complaining. My daily, personal worship is valuable – but a time of pure, unfettered corporate worship is precious to me.
I got that yesterday, and it was good – freeing, focused and pure. It is an overwhelming gift. It is life-changing.
Yesterday these words reverberated through the room:
oh, how he loves us so
how he loves us
how he loves us so

The rhythmic push disappeared; the instruments pulled back and the gauzy film of worship hung in between God and his people. There was a tangible presence in the room – holy, pure, loving and merciful. Indescribable.
we are his portion and he is our prize
drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes
if grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
and my heart turns violently inside of my chest
i don’t have time to maintain these regrets
when i think about the way…oh…

I know that everybody walks into a conference like that with a unique set of circumstances. Many folks were wrestling with big issues. We all carry burdens specific to our situation.
Whatever we carry can be radically, supernaturally changed when we open ourselves to complete vulnerability in worship.
I was changed yesterday. I had carried some tension into the room, an underlying issue of estrangement that tinged my comings and goings. Without even seeking it out, God reached into my heart and brought freedom.
I sang with my hands stretched towards heaven, wanting to honor God with my attention and affection. Unexpectedly, I felt a great surge of attention and affection returned back to me. Through these simple lyrics, I was reminded, over and over and over again:
he loves us
oh how he loves us
oh how he loves us
oh how he loves….

All of us. Equally. In light of the cross and the overwhelming, all consuming, unfathomable love of God, our regrets are reduced to simple distractions. My heart was so beautifully broken by grace – a state that offers freedom to seek forgiveness and to embrace reconciliation.

I literally was with Jesus yesterday in a beautifully, heart-wrenching way. I continue to be surprised by the revelation of God. It helps me long for heaven just a bit more each day.

Unleash – Service Planning

Notes from Shane Duffey’s session on Creating Services @ NewSpring.

Consistency is king. Create a way to do things that allows freedom.
Our “industry” goal is to create a clear vision of who Jesus is. Create a distraction-free environment to present the message of who Jesus is.
Excellence is removing distractions that prevent people from hearing or seeing truth about Jesus.
Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Planning puts things through our filter before it gets into the house so that people can see Jesus.
2. PREPARE (equip)
3. PRACTICE (nothing happens on Sunday that hasn’t been seen)
First, the leadership team maps out Perry’s teaching schedule – general teaching ideas (series on marriage in the fall, etc). These meetings happen a few times a year.
Weekly, the creative team gets together to plan a service – usually between 3-5 Sundays away. Creative team works off of Perry’s notes, sent to SD. (Meeting is 10 – 12 Wednesday) SD sends notes to 8 – 12 people, who read in advance, then come into meeting to walk through the message with Perry. Creative meeting includes talk-through of upcoming Sunday.
This entire process starts with a pastor who works ahead. PN creates that environment. Every few weeks they discuss “theming” the series.
Assistant to SD makes a list of everything that needs to be done; all those responsible for executing the service report to him. His job is to make sure it all gets done.
8:00 tech run has a HARD START where they run it EXACTLY as it is in the service.
After 9:15 service, if something doesn’t work, they drop it.
Multi-site feeds are on a 5 minute delay.
Technical people see technical things; they are often self-correcting. Creative meetings are to evaluate how the people in the seats are experiencing the service.
NewSpring leadership trusts their ability to discern between valid criticism and personal preference. They do not do surveys or seek out third-party opinions. Their primary marker is whether or not people are receiving Christ.
Distractions include bad notes in songs; lagging lyrics; a creative element that has nothing to do with the main point. Distractions capture attention from Jesus.
Know each leader’s primary purpose – the senior pastor should typically lead the church and preach the word. Leaders need to be informed but not necessarily involved in everything. Honest communication helps leaders stay balanced. He should never be surprised. He should not dictate.
Primary worship leader leads weekly meeting where set lists are planned that work at each campus. MULTISITE – WE DONT’ WANT A BUNCH OF NEWSPRING CHURCHES. WE WANT NEWSPRING IN A BUNCH OF PLACES. There is flexibility; they invite everybody to invest. Don’t strangle a campus by forcing a song without personnel to maintain excellence. By inviting everybody into the planning process, you can avoid difficult conflicts.
EX: Kids on stage at one campus, not as many kids at another – add a chorus to a song to stretch it out.
“Need To Know” – 10B4 – great bumper, announcement, etc.
Perry gives basic notes; creative staff can read between the lines as necessary. Scripture, questions, illustrations, stories. Only the senior pastor can create advance prep margin for the creative team.
Everything we do as a staff member or volunteer is holding up the arms of our pastor as he leans into this calling from God to lead the church.
SD (creative arts director) and his assistant are responsible for communicating the changes that come in preparation. You must think of EVERYBODY who will be affected.
In group meetings, the Holy Spirit is in everybody. If you are challenged to decide, if there is a difference of opinion, they either defer to PN or to next week.
At Anderson Campus they have two full-time lighting people.
Band rehearsal is Monday night; it is recorded and the lights are cued in for the show based on the recording. Same for the audio mix – cues from the rehearsal audio. Camera shots, video set up on Sunday AM.
Last minute calls are rare. PN has only done it 3-4 times in the past 10 years. You’re asking for trouble in terms of having excellence.

Unleash – Worship Leadership

Notes from Lee McDerment’s session on Worship Leadership at Unleash 2010.
Worship leadership begins with worship lifestyle.
  • If you don’t tithe, you’re not a worship leader.
  • First, you must be transformed by Jesus; your mind must be renewed.
  • Your intimacy with God is the most vital part of your ministry. It is the best work you will do every day.
  • Leadership – of any sort – is as simple as listening to Jesus and doing what He says.
  • Get in the place where you can hear from God clearly so that you can avoid trusting wisdom, common sense, etc. and trust JESUS.
  • Be honest with God so that you can be honest on stage.
  • Your calling is simple: to be with Jesus. It is not to strum a guitar or sing in a microphone – those are steps of obedience.
  • “I’m called to be a worship leader” – can get things sideways. The simple calling is to be with Jesus.
  • As a worship leader here (or at PCC), we never walk in the door alone – we carry our band, our pastor, the staff, JESUS. We are connected, in context, to a whole host of other people. Being a worship leader in a community means you live in a fishbowl. It is accountability and support but also a heavy load at times. You are living as light in a dark world. You never walk in the door alone. You must live authentically in every place in life.
First calling as a ministry to people is to minister to the pastor (NewSpring’s DNA).
  • Greatest opportunity for a church split is between worship leader and pastor. Support is essential for unity.
  • The worship leader has the best perspective for understanding a bit of the burden of the senior pastor’s burden.
Minister to the people beyond the songs.
  • Your accessibility and availability offstage really affects your impact as a worship leader – empowers your authority onstage.
  • Serving people is always more powerful than a song. We are MINISTERS.
  • You cannot make yourself too small – honor the mandate to consider others better than yourself and Jesus will lift you up. Serve, serve, serve. God will count you faithful. Philippians 2.3-4
  • Leadership responsibilities in the Bible apply to worship leaders.
Build character.
  • Your talent can take you places your character cannot sustain you.
  • Be skillful in playing. God has given you a gift. Play it in His presence.
  • Know your Bible so you don’t mess somebody up. If you’re going to say something, it needs to be true and accurate.
  • It takes 40 hours to read through the Bible out loud.
  • Romans 11.34. You didn’t start your ministry. God began it, He will sustain it and He will finish it.
  • It is better for worship leaders to operate from godliness rather than giftedness.
  • Writing music should be part of the worship leader’s job. Seek a new song. Go before God and let the song inside of you come out. Write with your friends.
  • “You won’t be judged on one song, but you will be held accountable for your entire body of work.”
Responsibilities of NewSpring worship leaders:
  • Worship leadership on Sundays is the most important part of the job for NewSpring worship leaders.
  • Pastor to musicians – they are vital.
  • Pray that God will send you band members more talented than you. Seek them out.
  • Disciple church members and ALSO leaders at other churches.
Excellence at NewSpring:
  1. Priority – begin with the end in mind. Salvation and repentance are the two major indicators of success for the worship music. Life change is what matters.
  2. Process – every service must be carefully planned by the spirit, via the team, in advance. Tech teams must be informed. All information must go out on time. Practice happens at home – rehearsal is what the team does.
  3. Product – Every service must thoughtfully move people towards the message and the movement of God.
The process must be as important as the product.
Know the songs so well that you can talk to Jesus while you’re singing it.
Working under authority is a great learning process.
Learn to say, “Yes – here’s what it’s going to take to pull this off.” Lee always says “yes” to Perry; he just gives him all the info and is honest.
“Artistic integrity” may be Satanic.
Managing a band.
  • Email letters to the band – pray up, be prepped, be punctual. Failure to do those things will get you NOT CALLED BACK.
  • NewSpring invests financially into the players, along with counting them as friends.
  • Excellence reflects GOD.
  • Auditions are held with grace and truth. They exalt the nursery and the parking team. Our charge is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. A small handful of people are meant to have stage ministry. Most people who have been told they can sing have not been told the truth.
  • Stage ministry can be toxic to a person’s faith and growth.
  • Planning and song prep: style should serve people, repeat songs a lot, pray.
  • Don’t play too much new music – let people obey the Biblical command to sing, which they cannot do with too much new music.
  • Pray for every person you need.
  • Why trust your ability to add when God is a multiplier? Keep your needs on a whiteboard and be reminded DAILY to pray for what you need!!!!! I NEED A SOUND GUY. I NEED A GUITAR PLAYER! ETC.
  • Face-to-face communication is essential.
  • Gossip and communication – negativity that goes up is ok, because the leader can do something about it. Sideways negativity is gossip.
  • Expectations: avoid the word “should”.
  • You don’t have to have a band to have excellent worship.
  • The worship team has the greatest power to encourage the staff. They get to play and have fun and do what they love! Show love to the lowest person on the totem pole.
  • Don’t be the guy in the Hawaiian shirt, obviously too old. Lead and develop a younger generation of worship leaders. Pray and ask for God to send them.
  • Challenge the young leaders – have you read the whole Bible? BIBLE FIRST – MUSICAL SKILLS SECOND.
  • Wait for margin to do a new thing (like produce a record).
Theology of songs is important.
NewSpring wants to be peers and move forward together spiritually, which means that they generally do not involve folks who are not following Christ. You need people who are following the same things and ideas.
Don’t be afraid to cover a Lady Gaga song with an acoustic guitar and a guy. Keep it fresh and make it excellent.
How to manage external expression (deadness on stage, looking distracted): critique dvds. If you are going bonkers for Jesus inside, don’t fake it by being still. Don’t keep it inside – let it out! Bring the band to the critique meeting and let them see themselves!
“This is just the way I play” – respectfully disagree. You are in the band – you are a leader. Let it out. Is it that you don’t know your music? Are you not prepared?
Set list is planned about six weeks in advance, though sometimes it goes to two weeks. Lots of advance notice helps.
Hard start for rehearsal is 6:30 – get there early. Prayer starts immediately at 6:30. Check monitors. Check ears one person at a time. They start with a familiar song and end with an unfamiliar song. Record every rehearsal to make mp3s available to the band, especially with a new arrangement.

Unleash 2010

I’m in Anderson, South Carolina, for NewSpring Church’s Unleash Conference. It’s an intense, one-day event crammed full of a NewSpring experience.

I came last year and enjoyed it, although the breakout sessions were hard to appreciate due to cramped rooms and lack of space. But God spoke so loudly to me and others in our group during the main sessions that it was an excellent investment of time and resources.
Half of our staff is here, with a big group of awesome friends who serve in amazing and diverse ways around PCC. The other half of the staff is home, feverishly working on all that’s needed to prepare for our first service in our first permanent facility on March 14th.
Crazy times.
Perry Noble leads NewSpring and will be the speaker for both large sessions tomorrow. He sent out instructions to read Genesis 34.1-29 and the first six chapters of Joshua to prepare for tomorrow’s first session.
I just finished. You gotta love the Bible – sometimes it’s so raw that it’s hard to believe that it’s the inspired word of God with relevance to our lives. Tonight’s reading included rape and lots of circumcision – along with some awesome works of God.
I can’t wait for tomorrow; I know God’s gonna move. Something’s gonna get unleashed…

Perry Noble At Unleash

Here’s the link to the main teaching sessions from the Unleash Conference that we attended last week. Give yourself some time and watch it. It’s as important as your Sunday morning attendance.

Be forewarned: Perry Noble doesn’t pull any punches. But be advised: this man loves Jesus and has committed his life to serve him and lead others to the cross.

Enjoy – and let me know what you think.

You can see both sessions on Tony Morgan’s blog. ┬áCheck it out!