Book Review: “Worship Essentials” by Mike Harland


Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

How can a worship leader in today’s worship music landscape lead effectively and in a Christ-like manner? The past few decades have been characterized as the “worship wars,” as older styles of worship (think hymns, organs, and hymnals) and their proponents clashed with advocates of newer styles (think guitars, projectors, drums, and…*grimace* fog machines). Is there a set of core principles, convictions, and best practices that a worship leader can focus on in their pursuit to lead their teams and their churches in worshiping the Lord?

In “Worship Essentials,” Mike Harland argues that yes, there is.

With a mix of principles from Scripture, observations, and lessons learned over the past few decades of worship ministry experience, Harland contends that we can move past “worship wars” if we focus on telling the biblical story, ensuring our ultimate goal is producing mature disciples, engaging the church body effectively in our worship, and aspiring towards excellence and purpose.

As a minister of music myself, I found Harland’s advice and concerns to be encouraging, helpful, humble, and challenging. Harland exhorts the music leaders in a church to lead their teams well, partner with the preaching pastor in planning and leading the worship services (as worship is more than just the music we sing), focus on producing disciples in the pews, desegregate “traditional” and “contemporary” services, aim for excellence without distracting from God’s glory, and more!

After finishing the book, I was left with helpful theological, musical, practical, and spiritual applications. It’s by no means a perfect book—for instance, it was a tad too conversational in tone at points for me and it seemed like he repeated himself in a few different places unintentionally—but I was edified and would encourage anyone looking for resources to help them shepherd those whom God has entrusted to them to lead in this area to make their way through “Worship Essentials.”

4 stars out of 5


Mike Harland. Worship Essentials. B&H Publishing Group, 2018. 176 pp. Paperback. $16.99.

Thanks to B&H Bloggers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Forever – Kari Jobe


A recent favorite of mine about Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Enjoy!

Forever by Kari Jobe

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

We sing Hallelujah
We sing Hallelujah
We sing Hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

“Alive in You” by Jesus Culture


It’s been a while since I last shared what new music I’m listening to so here’s what’s been on repeat lately!

Jesus Culture’s latest cd has a song called “Alive in You” and I absolutely love it, especially the chorus:

You are God, You’re the Great I AM
Breath of Life I breathe You in
Even in the fire I’m alive in You.

You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire I’m alive in You.

This past season has, for various reasons, often felt like a furnace. Heat, pressure, no idea what’s coming next…but Christ, “one like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25) not only can keep us alive in the flames of the furnace and use it to refine us: He is also with us in the furnace and sovereign over every step that led us there and every step we’ll take afterwards. It’s truth I need to keep hearing 🙂

 

Making Music with Strings Stretched Tight: Jon Foreman on Life, Death, and Rebirth


When asked today on a reddit thread about personal experiences that contributed to him writing on themes of death and rebirth, Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot, Fiction Family, and solo work fame) had this to say:

I constantly wrestle with the polarity of the human condition- stuck between birth and death. But not just that- we’re head tight in tension between faith and doubt, love and fear, etc… I picture these like guitar strings strung in tension across the guitar.foreman-thumb2

I think the tendency is to run towards one end or the other- or try to alleviate the tension. But maybe our role here is to make music with the tension. Just as a guitar can only play when the strings are stretched tight.

With that in mind, I feel like dying to myself is a daily task necessary for true abundant life.

A beautiful picture of life here and now.

“No Longer I” by Matt Redman


“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

matt-1

Heard this new(ish) song by Matt Redman the other week and can’t get it out of my head. I love how he takes the lyrics to the old hymn “At the Cross” and adds new thoughts to it from Galatians 2:20 (see above).  Check it out for yourself!

At the cross, at the cross
where I first saw the light
and the burden of my soul rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
now no longer I, but Christ in me

Monday Morning Music: “Look How He Lifted Me” by Elevation Worship


It's currently neither Monday nor the morning, but this IS some music! :) So go ahead and hit "play" and enjoy!

Look how He lifted me / His grace and mercy is my testimony / For every victory / I’ve got a song to sing / Look how He lifted me!

I’ve had this song on repeat for the past few weeks-it’s catchy and exciting but (best of all) also contains beautiful truth: When we have things to boast of, it’s first of all because of what He has done for us! “…as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” -1 Corinthians 1:31

Our Father (“Riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer)


A specific example Tim Keller passes on in Prayer of how to transition from reading and meditating on the Word to free-form praying comes from Martin Luther, who

…suggests that after meditating on the Scripture, you should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalizing each one using your own needs and concerns.
-from Prayer p. 93

Keller uses the phrase “Spiritually ‘Riffing’ on the Lord’s Prayer” (which might be my favorite phrase of his ever, for various reasons haha) to describe the process. He suggests that this is a beneficial way to both provide structure to your initial prayers to help focus flighty minds like mine. To be very honest, distracting thoughts have often keep me from beginning or completing times I’ve set aside for prayer and have discouraged me in past pursuits of deeper prayer.

As such, I’ve found this to be an immensely helpful tool to add to my “spiritual tool belt” as it were-and it’s so simple! Who among us doesn’t already know at least most of some version (ESV, KJV, NIV, or a combination) of the Lord’s Prayer by heart? [Incidentally, this is an excellent example of the power memorization of the Word has to impact the other spiritual disciplines.] And who among us couldn’t benefit from implementing the model Jesus gave his disciples in answer to their request to teach them to pray?

Now neither Keller nor Luther (nor I!) are suggesting that this is something you must do every time you pray. To turn this into a law or requirement or “the” way to pray is to miss the point. Instead, it’s offered as a helpful tool. May we avail ourselves of it and other similar tools in our daily prayers.

Bonus Content:

Hillsong Worship’s latest cd has a song based on the Lord’s Prayer. There are plenty of other songs based on it, but I enjoyed listening to this one and thought I’d share it 🙂

Monday Morning Music-“I Celebrate The Day” by Relient K


And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Christmas is a celebration of the fact that “He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man … might become the son of God” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies). What a wonderful truth! For our sake He lived the perfect life that we never could have lived and died the death that we never could have escaped in order to bring us into the family. Glad tidings of great joy indeed!

This week take time to rest in the gift that Emmanuel’s life and death and resurrection on our behalf is to us all. And Merry Christmas!

Monday Morning Music: “The Earth Stood Still” by Future of Forestry


Original Christmas songs aren’t usually that great. There are only a handful that grab you and demand a place alongside the standards and classics.

This song is one of them.

“Love came down and the earth stood still”

[And if you haven’t, check out Future of Forestry’s other Christmas songs/albums. You won’t regret it!]