5 Practical Tips for Writing Great Worship Songs

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Writing a worship song can simultaneously be one of the most challenging and most natural things a Christian musician can do. It is natural because worship is what naturally flows out of any person whose nature has been changed by the saving grace of Jesus. It is challenging because songwriting is a craft, and like all crafts, great songwriting takes time and practice. Worship also has the added challenge of accurately and clearly communicating Christian doctrine, which means that extra attention must be given to lyrics to make sure that they truthfully represent Jesus.

Here are five tips to help you write better worship songs, regardless how much experience you have with the craft of songwriting.

  1. Start and end with Scripture. The Bible is an inexhaustible well of creative inspiration. If your songwriting process usually begins with melody, Scripture is full of jumping off places for lyrics. If your song started with a lyrical idea, find the places in Scripture that talk about that theme and search those ideas out in context. For example, if the first lyrical idea that comes to mind is, “God’s grace is enough for me,” then look at the context where that phrase originates. You can Google “God’s grace is enough,” and it will lead you to 2 Corinthians 12 where the Apostle Paul tells a remarkable story about being raptured into Heaven, where he heard heavenly creatures speak in languages that cannot be expressed in human words. In that place, he felt the brunt of his human deficiencies and begged God to take them away. God’s reply was “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” There is a wealth of lyrical inspiration from that one passage. If you are writing a song that glorifies Jesus, the context will always be the eternal Truth of Scripture, so dive in. Dig a deep well into the Bible with your devotional life, and your lyric writing will never run dry!
  2. Choose a specific theme, and don’t stray from it. This is the place I see most new songwriters trip up. There is a temptation in any art form to stick with what you know. In worship songwriting, this often results in stale, recycled lyrical ideas and songs that speak in vague generalities. This is where we get the all-too-familiar “grace-face-place” rhymes that have already appeared in a thousand other songs. However, being specific or even narrow in your theme places boundaries around the width of your lyrics so that you’re forced to go deeper instead. So, if you’re writing a song about God being enough, there’s no need to stray from that central idea and begin writing about creation. If you’re writing about creation, there’s no need to begin writing about healing. If you’re writing a song about healing, let it be about healing. Don’t settle for “filler” lyrics. Go ahead and write the filler lyrics if you get stuck, but revisit them later to pull them back into your central theme. A song about everything will ultimately be about nothing, but a song about something specific will pack a punch. Setting limitations and boundaries nearly always aids the creative process.
  3. Write everything down, even if it’s incomplete. As I said before, songwriting is a craft, and the only way to hone your skill in a craft is practice. It is a good habit to write something every day, even if it’s just a single lyrical phrase or one melodic line (use the voice memos function on your phone to record musical ideas). The regular practice of putting ideas to paper, even if you don’t feel like those ideas are very good, will stretch your ability to sit down and generate ideas in a songwriting session and help prevent you from getting stuck. On my computer, I have what I like to call my “lyric orphanage” and my “melody orphanage” where I’ve saved hundreds of musical scraps and of incomplete thoughts waiting to be adopted into a song. Often, I will have an idea for a song and scrolling through the folder of old ideas, I’ll find the perfect pairing from months or even years ago to fit into a new song. One day, if you sit down to write but you don’t have any new ideas, you can simply scroll through your old ones for inspiration.
  4. Find a partner to co-write with. There is no need to be possessive with your ideas. Deuteronomy 32 tells us that when God is on our side, one person can scatter a thousand enemies, but two can chase away 10,000! Don’t forget that when we worship, we’re doing battle in the spirit realm. Co-writing has both practical and spiritual implications. If you look at the liner notes for almost any album, you’ll see that most successful songs have more than one songwriter. Finding a co-writer can help shore you up in places where your writing is weak. It can help you generate words and melodies twice as fast as you would on your own, as your ideas begin inspiring each other. In my experience, nothing destroys writers block faster than having a co-writer. Probably 80% of my favorite songs that I’ve written were written with a friend.  Spiritually, co-writing carries with it the power of agreement. There’s something mysterious and powerful about when Believers unify with the purpose of glorifying Jesus.
  5. Revise, revise, revise! Young songwriters are often overprotective of what they’ve written, wrongfully believing that making any changes is a compromise of their original vision. While it is certainly true that amazing things can be created in “moments of inspiration,” skilled writers can always take what was inspired and return to those ideas for improvement and sharpening. The first draft of any song, story, essay, screenplay, or novel is virtually never the best version. Learn to be a generous editor of your own work. Learn to gracefully incorporate the the feedback of other writers, publishers, or editors. I promise you, your songwriting will be better for it.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget what you’re doing. Even during the writing process, you are engaged in worship of Almighty God. You’re not writing something to worship with later but are actively engaged in worship right now. It’s okay (and encouraged) to stop and engage with the Person of God who is with you. In His presence, there is fullness of everything you need: joy, peace, love, creativity, revelation. Be aware of His presence as you write, and your songwriting will always be more powerful.

Here’s an example of a song that incorporated all five of these tips: Scripture, a narrow theme (old things being made new in God’s presence), using old ideas in a new song, co-writing, and multiple levels of revision.

And here’s the story behind the song:

Do you have any additional tips that have helped you write better worship songs? Share your experience in the comments below!

Also, if you think your worship team might be encouraged or inspired by these ideas, please share this post with them. As the Apostle John wrote in John 21:25, we serve a God who is so miraculous, there is no end to how much can be written about Him!

Update on Lorenzo’s recovery, fundraising, and final surgery plans

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Urgent Update (September 15):

I got news today that Lorenzo’s surgery has been bumped up from November 13 to October 24. He had to be sent home from Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf because his medical needs are more than the staff there can handle until his final surgery is complete. Please join us in prayer and support. http://missiondiscovery.kindful.com – Choose “Medical Needs” from the dropdown menu below “Jam. Christian Sch. for the Deaf”


Hannah and I affectionately refer to Lorenzo as our “Jamaican son.” We met him in March on a missions trip with Mission Discovery and immediately fell in love with this incredible young man. Before leaving Jamaica, we started sponsoring Lorenzo through Hold the Children.

Lorenzo is a student at Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf. He was found in September of last having never learned to communicate in any manner and dangerously malnourished. Lorenzo was born with a life-threatening birth defect called Hirschsprung’s Disease which essentially paralyzed part of his large intestines and made him incapable of processing food properly. Usually, this disease is discovered shortly after childbirth and corrected with a single surgery, but since Lorenzo’s went untreated for 15 years, he has had to undergo a series of successive procedures.

His first procedure cleared out 15 years worth of built-up toxins in his digestive system. The result was miraculous in so many ways. When Lorenzo woke up from surgery, his once-distended belly was flat for the first time in his memory. It changed his demeanor nearly immediately, and he became brave and personable. He began to thrive at school with his teachers and classmates. He began to walk with a sense of purpose and confidence. His doctors and nurses remarked about how well he responded to treatment.

The second procedure was much more difficult for Lorenzo to process because it involved removing the bad sections of his intestines and temporarily giving him a colostomy bag. Because he has no means of communication beyond rudimentary signals, Lorenzo had no way of knowing this was going to happen before he went into surgery, and he has also struggled to understand that this is supposed to be a temporary stop on the way to full recovery. Living with the colostomy bag has been traumatizing, and this chapter in his life cannot come to an end quickly enough.

Lorenzo’s third surgery is scheduled for November 13th October 24 (see update above). The doctors are calling this his “final surgery.” The plan is to reconnect the good parts of his intestines so he can live the rest of his life processing food properly, without blockage and absorbing the nutrients his food has to offer.  The procedure is the most intensive of the three and will around 5 hours to complete and having the longest recovery period.

So far, Hannah and I have helped to raise over $5,000 this year for Mission Discovery’s “Medical Needs” fund for Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf.  This fund was set up especially for the urgent medical needs of students at JCSD to help kids like Lorenzo.

The doctors tell us Lorenzo’s final surgery will cost around $6,000. Hannah and I are confident that with God’s help we can raise more than enough money, so much that there will be funding left over in the Medical Needs fund to benefit future medical emergencies at JCSD.

Please help us meet our goal by doing the following:

  1. Donate at http://missiondiscovery.kindful.com. Choose “Medical Needs” from the dropdown list underneath “HOLD – Jam. Christian Sch. for the Deaf.”  Please be as generous as you can.
  2. Share Lorenzo’s story with others who might be willing to donate. You can share this blog post or directly share the donate link with the instructions to choose “Medical Needs” from the dropdown list.
  3. Pray that the doctors will be correct in their assessment that this is indeed Lorenzo’s final surgery. Lorenzo has a long educational road ahead of him, and it will be incredible for him once this chapter in his life has concluded. Pray for his surgery to go well and for his recovery to be quick and complete.
  4. Pray that we will meet and exceed our fundraising goal.
  5. Pray that Lorenzo will know the saving love of Jesus Christ. Since he has been completely deaf since birth and has never learned to communicate, Lorenzo has no way of hearing or understanding the Gospel. Hannah and I have been praying for God to visit him in dreams and visions and that he would hear God’s voice in a way that he can understand. With God, nothing is impossible.

Praise and Worship Through Pain and Loss

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This past weekend, Hannah and I said goodbye to our precious border collie/german shepherd mix Esther. I got Esther eight years ago when I desperately needed a friend, and she was that and so much more. She was one of the smartest, kindest, and happiest animals I have ever been around. Because Hannah and I both work from home when we’re not traveling, Esther was a part of nearly every routine of the day. Two weeks ago, Hannah and I grew concerned because Esther’s bright and energetic personality changed overnight. Our normally cheerful friend was sad and subdued. On Wednesday, after a week and a half of ups and downs, we took her to the vet, but the vet was unable to find any physical symptoms. He checked her thoroughly, and all her vitals were strong, her eyes were clear, and she didn’t appear to be in any danger. So we went home with a mild pain medication, thinking perhaps she was sore from tweaking a muscle in her back or hips.

Thursday evening, we attended a connect group from our church, and when we arrived home, Esther hadn’t moved from the spot where she was when we left, and she could barely walk when I let her outside. We planned to take her back to the vet first thing in the morning, and I spent much of the night sleeping next to her on the floor. Around 3:30am, she had a massive seizure. Later, the vet told me most dog seizures last 20-30 seconds, but this lasted 3-4 minutes, the most intense physical exertion I had ever seen this athletic dog ever have. I thought that at any moment that her heart might stop. As soon as it was over, we rushed her to the emergency veterinary clinic, and the staff told us she most likely had an aggressive brain tumor. Best case scenario, they said, we were merely buying time before she had another seizure, likely even worse than the first. With the rapid onset of her symptoms, our options were very limited, and we decided to take her home and spend our last day with her here.

Hannah and I made Esther as comfortable as we could, despite the fact that she was in great distress after the seizure. She paced frantically, stumbling with nearly every step, until she was too exhausted to stand any longer. Then she slept for several hours until she was strong enough to repeat the process. We loved her as best we knew how and took her on as many walks and as many trips outside as she wanted to go on, helping her stand upright, going as slow as she needed to go. We petted her and hugged her as many times as the day allowed, and we fed her all her favorite things for dinner: strawberries, ham, peanut butter, and Cheeze-Its.  Esther died very quietly as the sun was setting.

The last three days have been some of the most painful and empty Hannah and I have spent together. Our eyes are sore and our bodies are exhausted from crying. Our house is dreadfully quiet, and everywhere we turn, in every space of our home, there are memories of our friend. Our hearts are smashed.

Esther was my first dog, and in eight years with her, I experienced so much of God’s love, joy, and presence. Our walks around the neighborhood were always prime time for God to speak to me. So many of my testimonies feature Esther in a supporting role at some point in the story. The emotions and attachment that we feel towards animals are God-given. When the prophet Nathan rebuked King David in 2 Samuel 12, he used the love of a pet to pull David’s heart strings. David’s son Solomon wrote in Proverbs 12 that how we care for our animals is a measure of righteousness. That bond is a powerful thing, and it’s a reflection of God’s heart for His creation.

Sunday morning, Hannah and I led worship for a congregation just outside of Nashville, and it was excruciating. We did our very best to pour out to God what He is worthy of, even though our hearts are so full of questions. In the evening, I was scheduled to volunteer for the very first time with the middle school students at our home church The Belonging Co.. I told Hannah that I wanted to follow through with serving, but I was nervous about the first part of the worship service because our church usually begins every gathering with joyful celebration. There is typically a lot of dancing and a lot of joyful shouting, neither of which were things I felt able to do.  Upon arrival, the youth leader announced that the message of the day was “Praise is a Weapon,” and we were going to lead the students in a big dance-praise party at the end of the service. Had I known beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have shown up.

But I danced. And I praised. And I worshiped, giving God everything I knew how to give Him. Truthfully, it seemed dishonest and insincere to lead in something I felt like I had no business doing, but I was mindful of an old saying: “Feelings make excellent servants but terrible masters.” I thought of King Jehoshaphat’s armies who put their worshippers on the front lines. Surely they also felt insincere and dishonest. How could they have known the battle that God was fighting on their behalf when they were participating in something that seemed like madness at best and suicide at worst? Yet they worshiped, and we have their testimony to gain from.

It has been a very long time since I worshiped God without feeling His presence. Most of the time, it’s easy to see that the economics of worship work entirely in our favor because we gain so much more from God’s presence than we could ever bring to Him. Right now, however, worship feels costly for me and Hannah, and I am reminded that King David said, “I will not give a burnt offering that cost me nothing.” We are giving everything we know how to give, doing our best to whole-heartedly and beautifully finish the tasks that God has assigned us. Hannah continues to paint and prepare a collection of artwork that will be on display this weekend, and I am continuing to sing and to write.

Romans 8:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 

At the end of the day, I know that we are rapidly headed towards a day when perfect is coming and we will know fully (1 Corinthians 13:12). Right now, however, I have more questions than I have answers, but I refuse to let my questions compromise that Truth that God has implanted in my heart. We have just a small window of opportunity to give God something now that we will never have the opportunity to give in Heaven: worship in the middle of pain, in the middle of questions, through loss, through not knowing, and through lack. So, that’s what we’re doing, praying that our worship rises before God as something sweet, even though in the moment it feels so bitter. 

On #Eclipse2017, a song to celebrate the majesty of our Creator

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Eclipse day is here, and my hometown of Nashville Tennessee has gone absolutely crazy with people staring at the sun through paper glasses. It really is a once in a lifetime event, and the whole thing has had me thinking a lot about Psalm 19:

1The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they reveal knowledge.

3They have no speech, they use no words;

no sound is heard from them.

4Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

5It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

6It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.

“What a Glorious King” proclaims the greatness of God the creator. The Bible says that the heaven’s declare God’s glory. Footage from this video was taken from NASA’s time lapse project filmed aboard the ISS.

Lyrics:

I saw the sunrise
Stretch its arms over the earth
And the mountain reach toward heaven in praise
A vast creation
By an uncreated God
Who was here before we counted the days

All the things You made and said were good
Just glimpses of Your greatness and glory

So sing to the magnificent Creator
What a Glorious King
What a Glorious King
Join all of heaven worshiping the Maker
And together we sing
What a glorious KingYou scattered starlight
Over infinite space
And You chased away the darkness with a word
And there with one breath
You gave life to every man
Who You formed out of the clay of the earth

And every single breath that you give to me
Is evidence of your love and mercy

Oh let my every heart beat
Oh let my every word
Be a reflection of the love You deserve
Of the love You deserve

Song written by Wes Pickering. CCLI #7070191

Song added to Spotify’s “Ultimate Christian Alternative” music playlist

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My dear friend Brettan Cox and I wrote a song called “Hound of Heaven” together for her album Blood Red Blooms, and this week Spotify added the song to their “Ultimate Christian Alternative” playlist. I’m so proud of the amazing writer and artist that Brettan has become!

Two years ago, Brettan brought this great chorus to our writing session based on Francis Thompson’s classic poem of the same title, the idea being that God pursues us no matter how far we run from Him, like a bloodhound on the scent of an escaped convict. No matter how far we run from God, we cannot escape the relentlessness of His love. Brettan and I wrote the verses and bridge together, and began recording.

After recording only an acoustic guitar and vocal, she left for tour and I continued working on the song. The lyric has this timeless Old World feel to it (“I fled you down the days…”), but the music I heard in my head was modern with all kinds of pop sensibilities. I decided to follow that gut instinct and put together a track I wasn’t entirely sure Brettan would like because it was entirely different from the direction we started in, even completely ditching the original acoustic guitar. Layer by layer, I tracked loops, drums, guitars, bass, synths, and background vocals, meticulously working on it for days, and I was very nervous to play it for her the first time! “You might totally hate this,” I told her before she listened. Thankfully, Brettan didn’t hate the track!

When you put the finishing touches on a song and send it out into the world, it’s incredible to see the places those melodies and sounds land. My prayer is that hearing Brettan’s “Hound of Heaven” would give the listener a fresh glimpse of how faithful the love of Christ is.

Thank you, Brettan for allowing me to be a part of your musical journey for so many years! Thanks to Spotify for including our little song on your “ultimate” playlist!

Urgent update on our Precious Lorenzo

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Our sweet Lorenzo is scheduled to have a second surgery on July17th, and @hannahpickering and I are reaching out to raise $4,000 to cover the expenses. Please donate to Mission Discovery’s “Medical Needs” fund at http://missiondiscovery.kindful.com to help meet the urgent medical needs of kids like Lorenzo at Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf.

We were with him at Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf two weeks after his first surgery, and it was AMAZING to see the transformation in his body and in his emotions. He is confident, happy, gaining healthy weight, and beginning to engage with his fellow students for the first time. The first surgery removed 15 years of toxic buildup in his digestive system, confirmed the diagnosis of Hirschsprung’s disease, and took a biopsy sample. Thankfully the biopsy came back and Lorenzo does not have cancer or any of the other life threatening complications that come from untreated Hirschsprung’s.

The first surgery did confirm that Lorenzo’s large intestine has large sections with no nerves or muscle tissue, which essentially renders it paralyzed and unable to fully process food. The second surgery will be a colostomy, removing the bad portion of his intestine, and Lorenzo will require a colostomy bag until his 3rd surgery can be completed. They will also take a 2nd biopsy, to make sure they have enough good tissue to reconnect his entire digestive tract.

Three prayer points: 1) Pray that we will raise all the funds necessary to cover the entire 2nd surgery. 2) Pray for there to be enough good intestinal tissue that Lorenzo will not have to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. 3) Pray for total and complete healing for Lorenzo.
Hannah and I love this kid like a son. He is our treasure, and we want to see him living a happy, healthy life. Satan has tried to steal so much from him, but God’s love pierces through all darkness. Lorenzo is a child of the King, and God has a plan for his life.
Please join with us and donate to Mission Discovery’s “medical needs” fund for Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf. Go to http://missiondiscovery.kindful.com and choose “Medical Needs” from the dropdown menu underneath “Jam. Christian Sch for the Deaf.”

Sharing the Gospel Without Fear

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I watched the police and court-appointed repo-men pry open my neighbor’s door and begin piling his belongings on the front lawn. Ryan was only 27, but his alcohol addiction had already destroyed his liver and kidneys. He couldn’t function at work and had no way of paying his mortgage. His eyes were yellow, his body thin and frail. Ryan desperately needed Jesus.

My hands shook as I drove him to the Rescue Mission. In that moment, I knew God was telling me to talk to Ryan about Jesus, but I felt nervous and clumsy about sharing my faith. I started the only way I knew how, and prayed that God would give me the right words to say.

“Ryan, I know you’re hurting, but you don’t have to go through this alone. No matter how much you fail or how many times people let you down, God is always faithful and He loves you so much that He sent his Son to die to pay for all of your mistakes…”  My words weren’t eloquent, just the simple Gospel we learn in Sunday School classes. God doesn’t need an army of orators—he just needs people who are willing to obey.

Sharing Jesus with others, even people who desperately need Him, can be a scary proposition.

Perhaps more than any other weapon, the enemy uses fear to keep God’s children from sharing the Gospel. Throughout the Bible, it’s very apparent that God knows this. From Genesis to Revelation there are hundreds of verses about fear.

How do we overcome fear?

“Be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

“The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? With the Lord for me as my helper, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.”  Palm 118:6-7

Scripture reminds us time and again: God is with us, and with Him, we have nothing to fear. As believers, we need never worry that God will abandon us — He promises to never leave or forsake us. We can boldly carry out his calling on our lives, knowing that the Creator and Ruler of the universe is on our side.

 “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

A common theme throughout the New Testament is that God’s love overcomes fear. When we find ourselves afraid to speak up for what’s right or nervous about what others may think of us, we can pray for God to fill our hearts with his love.

When I shared the Gospel with Ryan, it was because God’s love and compassion overtook my fear. God’s love for Ryan was far bigger and stronger than my own nervousness.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”  Romans 8:38-39

  • Have you ever been afraid to do something you knew was right? Did you give in to fear or do the right thing? What were the consequences?
  • Is there anything in your life that you know God is calling you to, but you’re afraid to do it?

Lean into God’s perfect love and allow Him to overshadow the things you are afraid of. Ask God to help you to experience His love for the people around you. When we are compelled by love to share the Gospel, fear simply cannot stand.

How to be a Leader When You’re Not the One in Charge

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Being a leader and being in charge are not the same thing. There is a misconception in both Church and secular contexts that being a leader means that you have some sort of title and you’ve been given responsibility for other people. Leadership, however, is simply creating a pathway for other people to follow, and that doesn’t require a job title or for other people to give you official recognition as a leader. As a matter of fact, it’s important that you learn how to lead before being put in charge of something. With that in mind, here are some ways you can begin leading right where you are:

  1. Honor your leaders, even when you disagree with them. Whether your context is church, work, education, family, etc., you have a God-given mandate to honor your leaders. I can hear somebody out there saying, “Well, my leaders don’t follow God, and they make bone-headed decisions.” That may very well be the case, but they still qualify for your honor. Take a look at how the prophet Daniel honored King Darius after the king threw him in the lion’s den:

    At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel. “Daniel, servant of the living God,” the king said, “has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions? ” Then Daniel spoke with the king: “May the king live forever. My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t hurt me, for I was found innocent before Him. Also, I have not committed a crime against you, my king.” Daniel 6:19-22 (HCSB)

    “May the king live forever”?!? Are you kidding me? Darius was an evil man who committed many atrocities, and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for not bowing down to worship this despot. But Daniel responded to Darius’s evil with God’s good, and he honored his leader even when his leader wasn’t worthy of honor. As a result, Darius saw the power of God on Daniel’s life and he turned away from his sin. Even though Daniel wasn’t in charge, his honor and Godly leadership influenced an empire.

  2. Leave negativity behind. People rarely ever get criticized into doing a better job, and situations rarely improve because of complaining. Whether you are in public or in private, in person or on social media, don’t buy into the world’s way of thinking that the one who complains the loudest makes the biggest impact. Complainers only drag others down with them. Think about the Israelites in the wilderness: complaining turned a 40-day journey into a 40-year nightmare. Complaining cost an entire generation their opportunity to enter the Promised Land.
  3. Be an encourager. Encourage both your leaders and your peers. Look for the good things God has implanted in the people around you, and let your words draw out the best in them. Remember, your words carry the power of the Holy Spirit. Make sure you’re covering your team with blessings and not curses.
  4. Work hard. Don’t wait for an important job before you begin working hard. Remember, you are ultimately working for God, not for the person in charge. Every assignment you have deserves your utmost. Jesus said that your works are what makes your light shine on the world. “Let them see your good works, and praise your Father in Heaven.” Every job you have is an opportunity to showcase the glory of God.
  5. Offer advice sparingly. Many people believe that becoming a leader involves inserting themselves into situations above their current pay grade. The truth, however, is that nobody enjoys being around a know-it-all. Let the wisdom of God inform and influence the tasks you have been assigned to, and when your leaders and peers see how successful you are at everything you set your hands to, you won’t have to go to them with advice; they’ll come to you.
  6. Don’t self-promote. Again, let your actions speak for themselves. Remember whose Kingdom you belong to. When the disciples argued about which one of them was the greatest, Jesus told them that being great in God’s Kingdom means being the servant of all. You don’t have to talk yourself up or herald your own successes. In the book of Genesis, Joseph started his career as a slave but he ended up being the 2nd in command of all of Egypt. He didn’t get there by constantly reminding other people of his qualifications and accomplishments. No, his leaders noticed that everything Joseph touched succeeded. You don’t have to highlight yourself. When it’s time for promotion, God will always highlight you.
  7. Choose your battles. You might not agree with every decision your leaders make, but only things that violate your core principles as a Christian warrant defiance. Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They served alongside wizards and satanic spiritualists under King Nebuchadnezzar who was the ancient-world equivalent of Saddam Hussein. They served this terrible man with great honor, and we only have two accounts of defiance. The first was when they were commanded to eat food that was sacrificed to idols. The second was when they refused to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. In both cases, God backed up their righteous defiance with His power. As a result, God changed the empire of Babylon and even saved Nebuchadnezzar.
  8. Be the solution to problems. It’s easy to find faults and identify problems, but a leader is somebody who is willing to be the solution. A good rule of thumb is to always come up with a solution before pointing out a problem. Be willing to be the person who works extra to fix broken things.
  9. Pray for God’s blessings on your team and your leaders. When the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity, God instructed them through the prophet Jeremiah to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” where they were exiled. When we intercede for our leaders, whether or not they know Jesus, God’s blessings are set into motion. When they are blessed, you will also be blessed.
  10. Help others succeed. The Kingdom of God is not a zero-sum game. When somebody else succeeds, it doesn’t mean that you are losing. True leaders bring out the best in everyone and help those around them win. Ditch the spirit that says you have to get ahead by dragging others down. Be the catalyst that sets others up for success.
  11. Celebrate your team members’ victories. Even when somebody else gets the promotion or credit you were looking for, rejoice in their victory as if it were your own.  We have the opportunity to partake in other people’s victories, but we miss out when we refuse to praise God for his blessings on others. Jesus said to “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”
  12. Be a learner. Effective leaders never assume that they have it all figured out. They are always learning, always bettering their craft, always gleaning wisdom from others. Learn from your team members and friends. Have a teachable spirit. Often, you will find that things you assumed you knew better were not actually the best way.

Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: none of them were the person in charge. They all started in places of absolute subservience, but they led from where they God placed them. God gave them influence because they didn’t wait for a better position before taking on a mantle of leadership. You don’t have to be the pastor or worship leader to shift the atmosphere in your church. You don’t have to be the boss to change the leadership culture of your workplace. You don’t have to be the patriarch to see God move in your family. You don’t have to be the principal to transform your school into a thriving environment.

Remember, whoever is faithful with a little will be trusted with much. Don’t bury your talents in the ground while you wait for a better position. Use every opportunity God has given to you to display His wisdom and glory. When you stop chasing a position and begin leading right where you are, leadership opportunities will find you.

“Lord Have Mercy” Live at Christ Church with Jenn Crider

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A powerful spontaneous moment from Christ Church Nashville’s Ash Wednesday service. Every year, Christians around the world burn the ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service and place them on their foreheads as a sign of repentance (See Daniel 9:3-5). On this side of the cross, we can sing “Lord Have Mercy” with gratitude and confidence that He has already given it to us. We simply turn our faces towards Him and walk in the light of His glory and grace.

Come Thou Fount – Live on Ash Wednesday

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This past Ash Wednesday, I had the honor of leading worship with the Christ Church Choir in Nashville TN. These men and women truly worship God in spirit and in truth. Ash Wednesday is part of the traditional Church calendar and is observed by millions of Christians around the world as a day of repentance and reflection. It is the first day of Lent, a season of fasting before Easter.  The ashes that Christians wear on their heads is a sign of repentance and is traditionally made by burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday branches.

In Daniel 9 we read this:

So I directed my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and extends lovingkindness toward those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed wrong, and have behaved wickedly and have rebelled, turning away from Your commandments and ordinances. Further, we have not listened to and heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

I am thankful that we serve a God who is faithful and just to forgive sins.   Ash Wednesday provides a time for us to reflect on what is passing away and what is eternal.  To learn more about Ash Wednesday, you can watch the entire service on YouTube, which includes a special sermon from Pastor Dan Scott and a presentation of artwork by my wife Hannah.