Karl Vaters

7 Important Reasons to Thank Your Worship Leader Today

If your church has someone who is willing to lead your congregation in worship consistently, humbly and reliably, you need to take time to thank them on a regular basis.

Actually, don’t just thank them. Encourage them. Support them. And run interference for them.

This also applies to youth workers, children’s ministers, seniors leaders, and others. But I’m focusing on worship leaders today for one simple reason.

There is no ministry in our churches under more attack today than our worship departments and their leaders.

Yes, at times they are part of the problem. But, more often than not, they’re the unfairly-accused victim.

As pastors, we know what it’s like to work hard, only to have every decision second-guessed, to have every sermon dissected, and to get little to no acknowledgment for our hard work.

Well, we’re not alone. Our worship leaders face the same problems. Sometimes worse. And sometimes their pastors are adding to this pressure instead of helping to relieve it.

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Discipleship Looks More Like Sacrifice Than Success

I’ve chosen to be a follower of Jesus. A disciple. From the moment I did that, I gave up ownership of my life.

My life is no longer mine. It’s his. So my goals don’t matter anymore. My potential is not enough. Not for me, my church, my family or my ministry.

I don’t want my best. I want God’s best. Because his best is so much better than my best.

Of course that’s what so many of these self-help gurus are claiming. That, whatever my dreams for my life are, God has 10 or 100 times more than that for me. (The really holy ones will use old-timey bible terms like 10-fold and 100-fold).

But the difference between my best and God’s best for me is not a matter of scale. It’s not that I’m asking for 100 and God wants me to ask for 1,000 or 10,000. Getting more of what I want is not God’s best, it’s just more of my best.

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6 Realities & Trends In Bivocational Ministry

I’m not a church planter. But I spent three days teaching at the Exponential West conference for church planters last week.

I’ve also never been bivocational. But almost all the teaching I did was with bivocational pastors – most of it tag-team teaching with Hugh Halter and Artie Davis.

So why was I there? The one thing we all have in common is the Small Church experience.

I had a great time sharing my story and the lessons learned along the way, and hearing their stories, too. Bivocational pastors have a lot to teach the rest of us.

Because of the chance to spend so much time together (over 10 hours of teaching and conversations) we all learned a lot about the current state of bivocational ministry and some trends we’re likely to see in the near future.

Here’s a recap of six of them.

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Every Revival Has Its Own Soundtrack (New Music, Part 2)

Well that was fun!

Monday’s post, God Has Never Done a New Thing Using Old Songs, received more comments than any other post over any two day period in the history of this site. It also stirred things up on Twitter, Facebook and my email inbox.

Yet, in spite of all the passion, the commenters were civil, thoughtful, reasonable and very helpful. No name-calling, mean language or accusations of heresy in the whole bunch. Whadya know, maybe we can have disagreements on the internet and still respect each other. Way to go, everyone!

Since there were so many great questions and comments raised by Monday’s post, today’s post is a collection of questions and responses that added something new to the conversation. This way, you won’t have to scroll through everything just to see where the conversation went.

So, with genuine thanks to everyone who participated in the conversation, here’s how some of the Comments and Responses went.

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God Has Never Done a New Thing Using Old Songs

Every old song used to be a new song.

I wonder who the first worship director was who said “hey, I like that new song John Newton wrote,” before introducing Amazing Grace to the church.

Whoever it was, he probably had to deal with complaints from church members who didn’t think it was as good as the hymns they were used to singing. “In six verses the name of Jesus isn’t mentioned once, but it says ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘I’ thirteen times! Today’s songs are so self-centered and shallow!”

In a recent post entitled, Six Reasons Some Churches Are Moving Back to One Worship Style, Thom Rainer tells us that, according to some of his recent surveys, the contemporary vs traditional worship wars may be drawing to a close.

I hope new music won.

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The Grasshopper Myth Hits a Major Milestone!

Testimonies come in every day from church leaders who have read The Grasshopper Myth.

“A burden is lifted off my shoulders.” “I have a renewed vision for what my church can really be.” “Like a lot of cool water to a parched soul.” “God has given me new strength, joy and hope for my great small church!”

As I read words like these, it causes me to pray every day, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing with this, but whatever it is, please help me not to screw it up.”

Not exactly the poetry of The Serenity Prayer, but it’s just as sincere.

Here’s the latest sign of how many people are being touched by this little-book-that-could. While doing a quick inventory of books for our internal record-keeping, I realized that at some time in the past month or so…

We sold our 5,000th copy of The Grasshopper Myth!

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Stuff We Like: Mile Wide, Inch Deep (a book by Dave Jacobs)

It’s been said there are some books that you read and some books that read you. “Mile Wide, Inch Deep”, by Dave Jacobs, is one of the books that reads you. If you let it.

It’s a short book that needs to be read slowly. It’s witty, funny, fresh and deceptively deep. Just like Dave.

In it, the author asks busy pastors, with his trademark combination of graciousness and bluntness (someone once called it the velvet-covered brick) “how are you and God really doing?” He tackles such issues as our idolatry to busyness, our lack of a devotional life, our tendency to use the bible exclusively as sermon material, etc.

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23 Non-Numerical Signs of a Healthy Church

“If we don’t use numbers to determine if a church is healthy, what criteria should we use?”

I get that question a lot. Mostly from other pastors.

And no, they’re not being facetious when they ask it. They truly don’t know the answer.

Isn’t that… I don’t know… a little disturbing to anyone? Have we really become so obsessed with numbers that many, maybe most pastors really don’t know how to tell what a healthy church looks like, outside of crunching the numbers?

The truth is, I’m not opposed to taking church attendance or tracking our numbers. I’m in favor of them. Numbers can help us see things objectively that we might otherwise be blind to. But just like lack of numbers can blind us to some truths, an obsession with numbers can blind us to other truths.

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The Growing Disconnect Between Spiritual Hunger and Church Attendance

Doing church together is an essential aspect of what it means to be a Christian. But church attendance rates keep dropping in most of the developed world.

Why? I often hear it’s because people aren’t as spiritually-minded as they used to be. After all, if it’s not their fault, then some of it might be our fault. And that can’t be.

But the evidence doesn’t support that. In fact, it suggests that people’s spiritual hunger may be growing, not shrinking. Spiritually-themed books, movies, TV shows and blogs are having a major resurgence. Alternative spirituality is booming.

Spiritual hunger isn’t a cultural thing. That God-shaped hole is hard-wired into every one of us. Church attendance isn’t down because people have stopped caring about spiritual things. It’s because we haven’t done such a great job at showing them how church attendance will help them answer that longing.

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Small Church Ministry: A Stepping-Stone Or a Place to Stand?

You know that pastor you run in to at church conferences who’s always looking over your shoulder to see if there’s someone better to talk to?

A lot of us may be doing that to the church we’re pastoring.

In a recent comment on NewSmallChurch.com, a reader named Tom Burkholder wrote this: “As a bi-vocational pastor for over 23 years there are very few fellow ministers who do not see small churches as stepping stones instead of real long-term ministries.”

I responded to him this way:

“That’s a great point about stepping-stones, Tom. I think one of the big reasons many Small Churches stay unhealthy when they don’t need to, is that too many pastors aren’t putting their heart into the Small Church ministry they have.

“Instead, they’re looking for something bigger – or they put all their energy into making their Small Church bigger, instead of healthier. This makes the church they are supposed to be pastoring feel overlooked and neglected. That’s not a great recipe for a healthy ministry or a healthy church.”

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