Last year, I printed out 25 copies of these notes and gave them to everyone in our three bands.  We were about to transition to autonomous bands for each of our sites and I wanted to get everyone on the same page.  We talked through these points one night after practice, and in some ways it might have felt assumed, but if I've learned anything it's this: Leadership is the art of assuming nothing. 

If you're a worship leader, assume less, explain more.  Don't ask someone to do something without equipping them to do it.  Don't expect something you've never explicitly asked for or agreed on. 

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"If God does not raise up inspired leaders who can guide people into worship with authority and compassion, then the experience of worship will be nearly impossible.  This is the reason for the leadership gifts of the Spirit." -Richard Foster 

Worship leaders who are called out by God must not be shy about their leadership.  People need to be led into the presence of God, from outer courts to inner courts, and finally into the Holy of Holies.  God anoints leaders to bring people through this progression into worship.

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Sometimes you don’t realize you’re thirsty until you take a drink.

A few summers ago, I spent a weekend in Texas with Michael Bleeker and Aaron Ivey.

After a few hours of being around these men I realized I needed more water.

Just by hanging out, watching, listening, learning, I saw them being the kind of pastor I want to be.  Who those men are and the culture God has used them to create was powerful and a spring of water hitting the driest place in me.

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 tend to plan my semesters like a summer camp worship leader would plan his week.  In a typical week-long camp you don’t want to introduce any new songs on Thursday.  By Thursday everything should be a repeat so that on Friday students can sing with their eyes closed because they know the lyrics by heart. 

That’s my hope.  That on Baptism Sunday or Easter, only the new people in the crowd need the screens.  My hope is that I’m planning every week with the end in mind.  I’m not aimless as a worship pastor.  I’m directional.  Even in the songs we’re headed somewhere.  All of this is leading to a moment months from now that our church may find timely yet not know it was timed. 

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Your church has a vision.  Most likely even a mission statement.  If your church is serving the mission and vision well then you most likely have this phrase or sentence memorized. 

But what about the gathering you lead?  Do you have a mission statement?  Do you have vision for your team and purpose for your part in leading?  If right now I walked up to your drummer and asked him the mission of your worship band would he have something to say? 

It’s more important than we realize. 

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In college my work study job was to lead worship in chapel.  They paid me to sing a few songs a few times a month during our mandatory chapel before the presenter presented.  I took great pride in the job, though I don’t think everyone took great pride in coming to chapel.  I usually wanted to tell the perfect story or merge two songs together seamlessly or sing a hymn in an attempt to get my professors to close their eyes in worship.  Most of it never worked. 

One week after chapel, Dr. Harris, my Old Testament professor told me he wanted me to stand for the entirety of his class.  He said if he has to stand while I sing, I should have to stand while he teaches.  It was in the middle of class when he told me this. 

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Leading On Empty

Sometimes I don’t feel it.  The music.  The Spirit.  The point.  The promise.  Any of it. 

Some weeks, if I were in the crowd, I’d probably sit down and not sing at all.  Or I’d go get coffee in the lobby or take a long time washing my hands in the bathroom. 

Sometimes I walk on stage empty.  I move my mouth to the microphone knowing for the next few songs my body will put forth motion and melody that my mind is not mesmerized by. 

But these days—truth is—those days are rare. 

Part of why I rarely lead on empty is because I love my church.  And I mean that, I really love my church. 

I used to travel and lead worship at events and such.  It’s how I paid my phone bill and taco bell bill for years.  And I learned, no doubt, there are wonderful places to have the honor of leading worship, but honestly, from where I sit now, the best of them all is at Resonate Church at 6pm in Pullman.

Resonate is raw.  We have skeptics and cynics and charismatics.  We have the promise and the prodigal, the steadfastly mature and passionately immature.  When our tunes hit the air on a Sunday night I know their landing on the ears of people I’m doing life with.  I’m singing with my family.  My big dysfunctional Jesus-chasing family. 

I think why I’m not empty anymore is because I’m invested.  I believe what I’m doing—both on and off stage—is eternal work.  To say it simply: I’m convinced of the mission.  And staying full is easy when mission fills your tank. 

Also, my band consists of my friends.  We don’t use musicians.  We try to give to them, not get from them.  I’m loyal to my band.  I like them.  Really like them.  They know my struggles and shortcomings and they know when I’m faking and when I’m not.  And I know, every time we get up to lead, our stage is filled with musical warriors who use their gifting not only to worship Jesus but also to push back darkness. 

The musicians I lead with are spiritual giants.  They’d never tell you this, but it’s true.  I trust them implicitly.  And I know they deeply care about the mission of the church and the call of Jesus on their lives.

These things are helpful.  Loving your church, your mission, and your band.  But, nonetheless, sometimes, as worship leaders, you still lead on empty. 

I think it’s okay, on occasion, to lead on empty.  I don’t think you have to make a big fuss and “quit the band for a season” to “get your life right”.  Now, if you’re in flagrant habitual sin and you need to repent and reconcile, then do it, take a week off (a month off), pray with your friends, your pastor, and figure it out.

But if you’re dry—faithfully spiritual empty—don’t quit, stay true to the relationship with Jesus, because in any secure relationship, seasons come and go, but the relationship doesn’t. 

I recently asked a band member how they were doing with Jesus and they said, “It’s hard.  I pray and read the bible every day but I haven’t heard from God in a while.” 

I said, “Isn’t it great? At least you’re getting nothing. Keep being faithful.” 

Throughout the conversation what I was saying was: At least you’re still in and your relationship with God isn’t based on what you get, but rather who you are.

So, worship leaders: Lead on empty.  But stay faithful.  Getting nothing for a while?  That’s fine.  But don’t forsake the relationship because of the season.  It’s in the driest desert where the rain is most desperately asked for.  And, truth is, every week in worship, we should be asking God to bring the rain. 


Worship leader, you are responsible; when the sound guy doesn’t un-mute the mic, when the slides don’t show up when the words are being sung; worship leader you are responsible. 

I tell our sound guy he is in the band. 

I tell our Pro Presenter guy he is in the band.

Because they are. 

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I remember our first meeting. Drew, Keith, and I sat in a room with a box of pizza and
a question, “What do you value?”

Two summers before, I met Keith at a camp near Spokane. He helped our team organize and enroll Northwest kids into bunks and schedules. Our team provided the program, Keith and his wife Paige provided the logistics. At the time, Keith was serving as the Northwest Collegiate Minister at Washington State University. We hit it off immediately - Likely because I was serving as the worship leader for this summer camp and Keith was a sound guy and our team didn’t have a sound guy.

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