ARE WE NOT ENTERTAINED?

424094_10151190598817167_484475476_nAwhile back, I let the band and singers have a weekend off while I led worship for five of my church’s services – just me at the piano. This is very different from our usual full-blown production. But I chose simplicity for a reason; I saw an opportunity, at the beginning of a new year, to articulate something that’s been on my mind for some time.

So, straight from my heart, I shared the following:

We have to stop thinking that we should be entertained at church. Few of us would ever say that’s what we expect from our services, but in fact we approach our selection of a church with the same criteria we approach everything else: does it meet my needs?

It seems like a reasonable metric, right? After all, if a restaurant doesn’t offer food to your taste, you don’t go back. If you can’t find the clothes you like at a particular store, you won’t shop there again. So it’s not a stretch for us – as consumers – to expect our church to provide programming that clicks for us. A preacher that we agree with – and whose teaching style appeals to us. Music that we like. We expect our church to conform to our preferences.

If we only participate when we like the songs, what does that say about us? If we tell our worship leaders “worship was great this week” – is there a message embedded in the compliment? Something like, “You chose the songs I like! Keep it up!”

I’m here to gently suggest that we cut it out.

As a worship pastor, I want to make this clear: I’m not an entertainer. My church has articulated what we are all about with these four words: REACH, TEACH, EQUIP and SEND. Note the glaring omission of the word ENTERTAIN . . .

Our congregation is a big family, and like most families we have a wide range of musical tastes represented. We have people who listen to folk music and others who love upbeat dance music. Then there’s country and bluegrass, loud rock and praise choruses (do you prefer those of the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s?). A lot of people love the ancient hymns – and then there are the rousing camp-meeting songs from the last 100 years or so. After making a joke about polka I heard from several people (from Wisconsin, of course). But the point is this: in any large group you will find a variety of different preferences.

Can you imagine any way to incorporate all of these preferences into a single worship service? If I select one style, will I alienate everyone who doesn’t care for that style? This is what I wrestle with all the time.

Here’s the burning question: do you have to have everything your way in order to worship God? Your honest answer to that question tells you a great deal about your relationship to the church – and, I think, about your spiritual maturity.

Can you still offer your worship to God when you don’t care for the songs or the music style? Can you still worship when the environment isn’t the way you like it (too quiet, too loud, too dark, too bright). What if you don’t like the worship leader’s voice? Or his cutting edge fashion sense (or even worse: his uncool fashion sense)? Or the way the words are projected onscreen?

Your preferences are all legitimate; it’s perfectly natural to have individual likes and dislikes.

But too often we spiritualize our preferences and become convinced that “my way is the right way.” When conditions have to be just right in order for me to worship God . . .  When my ability to praise Him is limited to my personal musical preference . . . When I’m unable to participate in corporate worship because I don’t like the leader’s song choices or his fashion sense rubs me the wrong way . . .

When my worship of God is so fragile and precarious, I think the real problem becomes crystal clear.

Posted in Christian living, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

JANUARY SALE: THREE CDS FOR FIVE BUCKS!

It’s January! And it seems to me like a good time to clean out some of the CD’s that are lying around here. So here are a couple of special deals to entice y’all to click the “add to cart” button.

page01

First, here’s a “bargain bundle” – THREE CDs for JUST FIVE BUCKS!

Includes the CDs Act of Surrender, Great Is The Lord and Bring Glory. With songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Movin’ To Mayberry,” “Show Them Jesus,” “Mrs. Taylor” and more (total of 24 tracks).


page01Second, here’s a deal on multiple copies of my recent hymns record, Deep Roots.

You can SAVE TEN BUCKS when you purchase 3 copies.

This record includes “My Jesus I Love Thee,” “10,000 Reasons,” “Nothing But The Blood,” “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” and more.

Posted in Act of Surrender, Bring Glory, CDs, Deep Roots, Music, Special Offers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

LABOR OF LOVE

About ten years ago, I was in Tennessee working on Clouds and Fire and doing a few shows nearby. To my delight, I discovered that Andrew Peterson‘s “Behold The Lamb of God” tour was stopping in Knoxville – where I happened to be spending a day off.

It was a great evening – so much great music by Andrew and the menagerie of artists that participate in his Christmas tour. Most significantly, I first heard Labor of Love – a beautiful song sung with delicate tenderness by one of my favorite singers, Jill Phillips.

I had already released a Christmas project (2003’s Bethlehem), so I wasn’t thinking at the time that I might record it. But in the back of my mind I knew that if I ever did make another holiday record, Labor of Love would be on it.

It was not a silent night / there was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry / in the alleyway that night
On the streets of David’s town
And the stable was not clean / and the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace / with the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

Here’s my version, from Peace On Earth:

Posted in CDs, Christmas, Music, Peace On Earth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

FULLFILMENT

packageLike many of you, I do a lot of my Christmas shopping on Amazon. Last year, a few days before Christmas, I realized there was one gift that hadn’t arrived yet. When  I checked I discovered that it hadn’t even shipped! (Cue outrage)

I contacted customer service and asked how this could be, since I’d paid extra for speedy delivery. This is the answer I got:

“We’re really busy, and it’s hard!”

Huh. So I told him this: “Basically, your job is to 1) Take Orders and then 2) Fulfill Orders, right?”

I’m pretty sure I heard the guy shrug.

It’s hard to not become cynical. People make promises every day (I’m looking at you Amazon!) and often break those promises without much thought.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 ESV )

When God makes a promise, He means it. We see this in the birth of Jesus – the Savior that had been promised for generations. The One Who would come to take away our sins and bring us peace with God.

God always fulfills His promises.

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Bethlehem, Christian living, Christmas, Family Stuff, Peace On Earth | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

‘TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS

edit2-purewspokjan07-1With the Deep Roots project, I wanted to select and record hymns that speak to me, personally. I wanted songs that were full of good theology and had a timeless quality.

It really didn’t matter to me when a song was composed. Some of the hymns in this collection date back hundreds of years, while a couple are quite recent. And like all art, they reflect the language and poetry and sensibilities of the time from which they come.

There was a moment in the studio while I was singing Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesusthat the weight of that lyric struck me with such force that I had to stop singing and regain my composure.

It doesn’t really matter that these words were written over 130 years ago.

Deep-Roots-Cover-CD-BabyMy love for these songs is not simply the fondness you might feel for childhood memories. These songs are true, and relevant to our lives as followers of Jesus today. Right now.

Listen to Scott reading this blog post (and the song) here: Continue reading

Posted in CDs, Deep Roots, Music, Worship | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

NIGHT OF WORSHIP THIS SUNDAY

Hey guys! As you know, I’ve mostly taken a break from touring this year, so if you’re in the Boise, Idaho area I hope you’ll come to this Sunday’s Night of Worship at Eagle Christian Church, where I serve as the worship pastor.

We do these events a few times a year, and it’s not a concert or a typical worship service. It’s essentially 90 minutes of uninterrupted praise.

Childcare is provided for kids 0-K, and there will be a fellowship time (with food!) afterwards. I would love to see you there.

Posted in Christian living, Concert, Music, Touring, Worship | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

SAVED CHICKEN

A few months ago my family stopped for lunch at a little small-town diner while traveling home from visiting my parents. The menu was endlessly entertaining because of the outrageous number of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. We started counting and then gave up halfway through the menu after finding 25 mistakes.

chicksavedOne of the errors that we particularly liked was the description of “chicken strips saved to perfection” – a phrase that raises three important questions in my mind:

First, how exactly does a chicken get saved? And does “saved” chicken taste better than “unsaved?” Finally, is it morally wrong to eat a chicken that has been saved?

I have to admit, we felt a little smug as we counted up the mistakes. And then . . . I overheard the owner speaking rapidly in another language and I realized that this menu actually represented a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone whose “heart language” is not English.

In my travels outside the English-speaking world, I have frequently been the one whose communication is limited. I know a little Mandarin and Spanish and Swahili (to be honest, this amounts to little more than simple greetings, please and thank you and “where is your bathroom?”). So I’m certain that I’ve sounded ridiculous to native speakers whenever I’ve tried to communicate in a language not my own.

I’ve realized that my mockery of this small diner’s menu highlights an ugly truth about myself; namely, that I can be very quick to find fault with others – while simultaneously giving myself a free pass.

Now don’t get me wrong – I still care about getting spelling and grammar right. But my default setting appears to be set to “criticize” and that needs to change.

Anybody with me?

Posted in Christian living, Family Stuff | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

MEMORIAL DAY

mrs_taylorIn honor of Memorial Day (today only – May 30 2016), I’d like to give you guys a free download of “Mrs. Taylor” from my CD “Act of Surrender.” **NOTE: this free MP3 is no longer available**

Mrs. Taylor” is not really a song with a particularly happy ending, but with it I’d like to honor all those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom here in the U.S. (and to honor their loved ones as well).


“Mrs. Taylor”
She left him at the station / Small town Illinois

He’s 6-1 and 205 now / But he’ll always be her little boy
She knew this was his calling / She was strong as she could’ve been
She prayed for extra angels / To bring him home again

So if you raise your glass to freedom / And this land we hold so dear
If you don’t know what it’s like / Living every day in fear
If you raise your voice to city hall / ‘cause you’re free to speak your mind
And sing Amazing Grace on Sunday / With your family by your side
Remember Mrs. Taylor’s son / And pray he’s somewhere safe tonight

She carries a faded picture / From when he was only two
And remembers how she melted / When he said his first “I love you”
Some think he’s a hero / And some make picket signs
She just turns the TV down / And thinks of better times

[chorus]

They fired 21 guns on Tuesday / And laid a flag in the trembling hands
Of one more American mother / Who gave all a mother can

[chorus]

Remember Maggie Taylor
And pray that she finds peace … tonight

Posted in Act of Surrender, Christian living, Family Stuff, Free Music, Songwriting, Special Offers | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

WHEN THEY RING THOSE GOLDEN BELLS

Deep-Roots-Cover-CD-BabyWhen I decided to record a CD of hymns, the very first song I chose was “When They Ring Those Golden Bells.” I’ve never heard anyone sing it in any church I’ve ever attended, and when I ask people about it not that many people seem to know this song.

But all of my life, I’ve heard my dad singing it. It’s the song that’s always on his lips – which was, honestly, kind of traumatic as a teenager walking into the mall with my dad singing at the top of his lungs . . .

So I knew I had to record it for my Dad.

As I was selecting the hymns for Deep Roots, I found something really interesting. For the most part, these songs don’t shy away from heavier themes. Fear and doubt, hardship and loss – even death. But at the heart of the best hymns, there’s a fierce joy, a determination to persevere and remain faithful in the face of hardship.

And with “When They Ring Those Golden Bells,” there’s a certainty that our hope is not unfounded, and that our Father’s faithfulness is assured. Continue reading

Posted in CDs, Deep Roots, Music, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

THINGS COULD BE WORSE

Mug - robotEaster is a truly inconvenient time for a worship pastor to lose his voice. So of course, last Easter, I was sick and (you guessed it) lost my voice.

As I was trying to nurse my voice back, I drank a lot of Throat Coat Tea, and I found it comforting to drink from my favorite mug. It’s an elegant work of art with remarkable craftsmanship that rewards close examination.

In fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice things like 1) Flying Saucers attacking a quaint village, 2) a Giant Robot, 3) an angry Sea Monster, 4) Pterodactyls, 5) Bigfoot (I think), 6) a Giant Frog, 7) an approaching Pirate Ship, and my personal favorite 8) a Zombie Poodle. In fact, if you take the time to look, you’ll find many more threats carefully hidden throughout the artwork.

According to Don Moyer (the artist who designed them) they’re called “Things Could Be Worse” Mugs. He says, “No matter how bad your day is going, [these mugs] graciously remind you things could be much worse.”

I have to say that I admire both his craftsmanship and his sense of humor.

Posted in Christian living, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 5 Comments