the baby and the bathwater

June 20, 2008, 5:08 pm
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Enough is enough

I have finally swapped. Having been a dedicated starbucks drinker for the last 5 years, I have decided that I have had enough. My coffee of choice now comes from caffe nero.

I know I have previously gone on record saying that starbucks is a spiritual gift for worship leaders. But it is now with deep regret that I have to say that the anointing has lifted from all that is green and white and fallen on all that is blue gold and black.

There are a number of reasons.

The coffee tastes much better. Starbucks seems to have lost it’s way in the coffee taste stakes and now regularly produces a very feeble brew, whereas nero is consistently deep, mellow and satisfying.

Then there is the coffee strength. You really have to order an extra shot at starbucks as the coffee is pretty weak. With nero, good strength coffee comes as standard.

Then there is the feel of the shop. Starbucks, despite a recent refit, is beginning to take on the feel of a fast food restaurant, is often messy and is a little dirty. I’m sure it won’t be long before you’ll be asked if you ‘want fries with that’ every time you order a cappuccino.

But nero has a nice, sophisticated, gentle atmosphere – especially first thing in the morning when the sun breaks through and warms you as you sit on your leather chair, reading the times (provided for you), watching the posh world go past down the posh street.

Then there is the price. nero is cheaper. enough said.

Then there is the way they use the caffe with the double ff to reinforce their identity as italian.

I’ve finally
got to the stage where they now know me, and what I drink. And we have a general chat every now and then about the demise of starbucks, which is pleasing.

Yes, the future is bright. The future is blue, gold and black. And to prove it, here is me wandering down a posh street with a large latte. Nice.


Keep getting in the way Mr Baldy
June 14, 2008, 9:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Have you notices how hard it is to translate what happens in an encounter with God into a permanent, credible record of the moment.

As I watch some of the events on God recently from Florida, it is hard not to laugh quite alot. Let’s face it, the worship is all out of tune The leaders come over as lunies. We see people sitting around in the chairs looking bored (sorry, taking everything in). The musicians all look confused and keep making mistakes. And as for the Bam Bam….

Having been involved in recording a few live worship albums over the years, I know the pain of hearing your extravagances (which seemed entirely right in the moment) and knowing that they will be played over and over again on the CD in people’s homes and churches for ever and ever. And then you become known for them. ‘Oh Yes, I know Neil Bennetts. He is the one who sang that weird note on How Great is Our God on the New Wine Album from 2006’.

The thing is, none of this stuff really does translate very well, and to be honest, if it got to the stage where we watched the events with the same critical appreciation as we watch an episode of 24, it will probably have been fabricated beyond recognition and have lost all it’s credibility. Rather like 24 actually. But that’s another story.

I was at a gathering in our church last week. We had some more baptisms and as ever I took some photos for the people getting baptised. Then as we went back to worship, I decided to keep snapping. I almost got this amazing picture of hundreds of hands in the air. I say almost because there was this guy in the foreground of the picture with a bald head which really wrecked it. I have about 20 pictures, and from which ever angle I took it from, there is baldy right in the middle, messing up the photo.

The thing I am finding at the moment, is that the questions I have over style and model with Florida is forcing me to look all the harder for what God is doing beyond the tattoos, beyond the BAMs beyond the chicken head movements. And this is a good thing for me, for us, to do.

And I have to say, that now I am far far more interested in what God is doing here in Cheltenham than anywhere else in the world. I have to have that approach. Any other will lead me to become like Alan Hansan. A great pundit, but now never kicking a ball, unable to influence the outcome of any single football match.

And how often did Jesus do the same – forcing those around him to look for God behind the strange things: spitting in a blind man’s eyes, a prostitute pouring out all her perfume, a load of pigs running off a cliff, a man dying on a cross beside thieves, a few rags left in an empty tomb.

So I say, keep getting in the way My Baldy.

A worship leader in these times
June 12, 2008, 6:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As a church we have just started a series of evenings where we are pressing into God for all that he has for us here in Cheltenham. They are times when worship and praise will be foremost as we seek God’s presence. As a worship leader this means times of leading worship or singing over people for hours at a time on occasion, and will, I expect, be a regular thing for weeks ahead.

I’ve been reflecting on what things that we need to do as worship leaders during these times in order that we may be fruitful long term.

This is kingdom activity. Kingdom activity means confrontation. Lead from the front. Be a leader. Worship leaders often go out in the front of armies. It’s a time to rediscover why we are worship leaders and not just lead worshippers.

Expect there to be more of the prophetic in worship. Expect to be taken into extended times of unscripted encounter as a church. But remember this is holy spirit led – it’s not something we generate, is something we respond to. You are not trying to generate a response in people, you are helping them to encounter God.

Don’t be afraid to make some hard decision on people. There will be some people in your team who are more suited to this type of worship. Just as Sunday worship is not a case of ‘everyone gets to play’, so it is for this. Choose wisely, and explain clearly to everyone. This is not a case of some people being more valued than others, it is a case of everyone working in their area of strongest gifting.

Prepare for the prophetic. God can speak to you, give you new songs/phrases to sing before the event as well as during.

Keep physically fit. Leading worship for 2 hours at a time is not for the unfit. Keep your regular physical activity going as a priority. Watch what you eat and drink even more closely than usual. Consider yourself as an athlete preparing for a marathon, not a sprinter preparing for the 100 meters.

Keep your family on board. Keep communicating with your spouse. Keep spending time with your children. They are still more important than your ministry.

Life will be different for a season with your worship teams and fellow church leaders. Expect there to be some messiness, and some uncertainty, so that when someone does something you we’re not expecting, had not agreed to or irritates you, be extra wise and extra slow and extra thoughtful in dealing with it. Don’t let bitterness get a foothold.

Reorganise your diary if you can. There may just have to be some people you can’t see, some places you can’t go. Exercise wisdom and always communicate clearly. But – if you are paid to do a job (even in your church), remember who is paying and why they are paying.

Don’t lose sight of your need to keep investing in others. These are great times for investing in your up and coming worship leaders. Get them on stage alongside you. As always, the hungry keen to lead servant hearted worship leaders will not take your oversight as a threat. If they do, a period of off-stage reorientation may be needed.

Lead in pairs. Two hours of leading worship is tough on the voice, tough on the fingers and spiritually stretching.

Don’t big yourself up. This is a holy spirit inspired movement, not a worship leader inspired movement. Expect to write and sing new songs that won’t make the ccli top 25.

Keep grounded in the truth. Remember that huge chunks of the letters in the new testament were written to churches who were on fire for God but ungrounded in truth. Remember that the activity of the kingdom is about liberation and that it’s the truth that sets you free. Read theology, especially kingdom theology, setting what you see with your eyes in a biblical framework.

Have fun. When aunt Ethel rolls around on the floor barking like a dog, it may look quite funny. Enjoy it.

Protect the dignity of everyone.

Always try to be ready to give an account, an explanation of what is happening. It is a great thing to see a manifestation of god’s kingdom power go hand in hand with a credible voice of explanation. Check out Pentecost as an example.

HeartHeadHands Day
June 4, 2008, 9:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

We have just held our annual heartheadhands day for worship leaders, and I thought I would post the notes of my seminar. Here are the first two sections. The third will be in a separate post.


God created us to live intimately with Him. This intimacy was broken by the fall. Ever since then God’s story has been one of finding was that intimacy can be restored without compramising His holiness. Man’s journey has been one of attempting to respond to God’s overtures, and is typified by periods of intimacy and periods of distance.

Gathered worship is a gift to us from God to help us in that journey. The intimacy that we experience in Gathered worship echoes into the rest of our lives. Those who go for intimacy in worship tend to be those who live day-by-day close to God.

Intimacy is closeness to God, encounter with God. It was a key value of John Wimber, and New Wine, and Trinity Cheltenham. We should be presence-shaped people – people who’s lives are lived out of a place of encounter with Him.

Intimacy is at God’s invitation but our instigation. It is God’s intended state, but not our natural state. My experience is that it takes perseverance either personally or as a church to grow in it. God never doesn’t want it – what is important is the way we go for it. Draw near to God and He will draw near to You.

Intimacy is an intention of our hearts. It is not a musical style or an emotional feeling. We need to develop in our churches a culture of Intended Intimacy – whether that’s in our main celebrations, alpha, kidz church, small groups.

Intimacy does not mean irreverence. Intimacy and Reverence are two sides of the same coin. The more I draw near to God the more I am compelled to bow down before Him. The more I see what He is like, His Holiness, His sovereignty, the more I am compelled to draw near to Him. True worship should reflect both. The friendship of the lord is reserved for those who fear Him.

Intimacy as a shared experience. When we gather together for worship, we each bring our own heart cry, our own expression of God and what He is doing in our lives. Joined together in song those heart cries paint a bigger, more glorious picture of who God is. – we are singing to one another with pslams hymns and spiritual songs and spuring one another on into intimacy with God. That is something to be celebrated. It’s why we should not stop gathering together for worship.

Intimacy results in unscripted encounter. We should anticipate that. There is a journey that we head off on, and so often the destination is not revealed until we get there. We need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and learn how he speaks to us and leads us in these times. We need to ‘pick our moments’ for unscripted worship – being sure that it is what the Holy Spirit wants rather than a default position.


God is a creative God. Everyone is creative. When we explore the sounds and harmonies and colours around us, we are just doing what we were created to do. Creativity in worship is not about trying to evoke a response, but about trying to reveal the character and nature of God.

Worship around the world is very un-diverse generally. Good, but not very diverse. The reason may be that we are not seeking our own identity in worship.

Most worship leaders have an identity crisis. We try and take on the identity of other worship leaders of church streams. Other identities can help, can be a starting point, but should not replace seeking our own identity.

If we, individually as churches, spent more time seeking out our own identity in worship, generally things would become more diverse. Success in worship, all too often, is measured by how well we mimic someone else.

Generally as a church worldwide (at least in the developed world) we have become saturated in resources but thin on leadership and inspiration.

We can establish Identity through adventure. I want my daughters to spend lots of time exploring life, rather than being served up things by TV or computer games, as I think this will help them understand their own identity. Same for us in church – we are far more likely to establish our identity if we have adventures on the way.

Trinity has had many adventures – whether through different types of services, different locations, developing it’s own record label and publishing house to name a few. We are not perfect, but at least we are trying to be just what God wants us to be in worship (at considerable cost!)

Trinity Identity would tend to include – theological depth, musical richness. Our worship leaders use restrained intervention (speaking, shouting, encouraging the prophetic). We tend to think of ourselves as conductors conducting an orchestra rather than lead singers of rock bands. We are radio 2.