The Crescendoing Mantra Bridge

Just an observation. If you are a lead worshiper/worship leader/music leader/pastor of worship arts/creativity prophetess (or whatever is the appropriate title), have you noticed how many worship songs have a repetitive bridge? Here are a few famous examples:

I'll never know how much it cost, to see my sins upon that cross (repeat)

Let Your glory shine around, let Your glory shine around, King of glory here be found, King of glory (repeat)

You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will choose to say, Lord Blessed Be Your Name (repeat)

It's rising up all around, it's the anthem of the Lord's renown (repeat)

We lift our holy hands up, we want to touch You, we lift our voices higher and higher and higher to You (repeat)

It seems to be a trend for sure. Most hymns don't even have bridges. In fact, you're lucky to even get a chorus! I know sometimes people complain about repetitive lyrics. Usually these are the same people who complain that newer worship songs are too hard to sing... go figure. I happen to like these sorts of bridges.

My preference is to get some sort of crescendo or decrescendo going... usually I enter the bridge from the chorus and I take one of two approaches:

1. Come out of the chorus strong into the bridge and then decrescendo over 2-8 repeats, leading into a "vocals only" chorus, and a then a quick half or single measure build back into a final full blown chorus to end.

2. Cut the chorus off hard and start the bridge out pp, then crescendo the bridge back up over 2-8 repeats, climaxing in a full blown chorus. With this approach I like to hold back slightly on the previous choruses, so that the final chorus has that extra something.

Alternatively, I might make the bridge travel pp to ff back to pp, with slight variations in the lyrics. Or I might do the opposite, traveling from ff to pp and back to ff. Or any number of variations on this theme.

One bridge I like is from the song "Glory in the Highest" by Chris Tomlin. It is a good example of something I really like, which is to take a bridge and repeat it over the top of the chorus, giving the congregation a couple choices of what to sing. For example, in "Glory in the Highest", there is an alternate chorus/bridge that goes:

All the earth will sing Your praise, the moon and stars, the sun and rain
And every nation will proclaim, that You are God and You will reign

Glory glory, hallelujah, glory, glory to You Lord, glory, glory, hallelujah, hallelujah

This is sung slightly above the chorus which simply repeats:

Glory in the highest, glory in the highest, glory in the highest, to You Lord

All of this is done at the end of the song.

After the crescendo, which ends with "hallelujah", I have the band drop off dramatically to p, and I and my bgv will sing a variety of repeating mantra things. I usually will continue repeating "hallelujah" (the last word in the previous line) while she continues to sing "glory in the highest". They sort of play off each other and echo back and forth. Then we may come together to sing and repeat " You Lord" at the end... all with the band playing softly, to emphasize the words.

What this does is it allows those worshiping to choose from a couple of different options as to what to sing. They can follow me or the bgv. Ultimately what this reinforces is that they are free to sing whatever they want whenever they want. They don't have to follow what I am singing all the time. That is really the point. And it creates very special moments where the band drops out and the whole crowd is singing together in parts, some doing one part, some doing another, but in a very natural way.

I totally DO NOT like what some leaders will do to orchestrate a moment like that by saying "all the women sing X, and all the men sing Y" (yes, I realize the chromosomal pun. It was semi-intended). That sort of control feels very unnatural and manipulative to me. That's just me I guess.

OK, that's my observations on the Crescendoing (Decrescendoing) Mantra Bridge. Make the most of it.

Worship Design

Here is a quote from a recent Easum and Bandy discussion (

"Worship from AD 1000 through 1999 was designed for a Christian majority as an expression of the institutional church. Worship in the Apostolic Age and after AD 2000 is designed for a Christian minority as an expression of mission outreach. The only "good" worship is worship that helps people experience the transforming power of God, and motivates them to walk daily with Jesus."

As a pastor in the Northwest, I definitely understand the idea of being the minority. Many would say that the Northwest is on the leading edge of post-Christian culture in the United States. Is this fall toward secularism inevitable?

Here is a quote from McLaren's new book "Everything Must Change".

" postponing the essence of salvation to the afterlife, and by assuming God plans to destroy the earth, the conventional view leads us to assume that the world will get worse and worse, and that this deterioration is in fact God's will or plan. This assumption would tend to create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only that, but in some versions of the conventional view, the worse the world gets, the better we should feel since salvation - meaning post-mortem salvation after the world is destroyed - is approaching. In too many cases, the conventional view can lead people to celebrate humanity's "progress" in self-destruction rather than seeking to turn it around.

To put it bluntly, in terms of humanity and this earth, the conventional view too easily creates - unintentionally, of course – a kind of religious death wish."

I want to lead worship that leads Christians to CHANGE the world, not succumb to it.

How Special Can A Guitar Be?

I finally bought the acoustic guitar I should have bought 18 years ago.

You see, back when I was 17, I bought an Ovation. It was a Legend, Model 1717. It wasn't cheap. It was one of the best Ovation guitars you could buy at the time. Only the Elites or the Anniversary editions were better. No cheap Celebrity was this!

All my favorite hair bands played Ovations. It was the late '80s, so only the old timers played Martins or Guilds, and only country and bluegrass pickers played Gibsons. Yes, to me, Ovations were the king of acoustic guitars. The OP preamp and EQ was top of the line. The plugged in piezo sound was the ultimate acoustic rock live sound. And my deep bowl Legend had a great unplugged tone as well. It looked cool. It was modern. It rocked!

I wrote so many songs on that guitar. Songs about love, about hate, about joy, about despair... songs about my past, my present, my future. I poured my heart and soul into that guitar. It was the best instrument I had ever owned. It was professional. It was special. So special that when it was stolen my friends and I beat a confession out of the thief. We then drove to his mom's house and took it back. Yeah, it meant that much to me.

A year later, when I went to prison, my girlfriend at the time (soon to be ex) had possession of it. It was in the trunk of her car when I got arrested. From the county lock up I remember the collect phone call promises that she would keep it until I got out. She was going to save it for me. A few weeks later she stopped taking my calls.

I figured the guitar was finally gone for good. I was at my ultimate low. I was in prison. Most of my so called friends had deserted me. And I deserved that. Even my parents and sister had written me off. But one friend, Neil, he never stopped writing me or visiting me. He was a guitar player, and we had been in bands together in high school. He loved the songs I wrote with that guitar. He loved that guitar almost as much as I did.

One day in prison I got a special letter from Neil. His cousin was getting married. They were going to pawn shops all over town looking for a good deal on wedding rings when Neil saw an Ovation acoustic hanging on the wall. He recognized it right away by the cat hair inside the sun-warped hardshell case, and he bought it. When I got out, he had it for me.

Six months later, I would use that old Ovation to write a song for my wife-to-be, and to serenade her on our wedding day. Neil was my best man. I have the guitar to this day. I use it to lead worship at our acoustic gathering every week. It still sounds great. Until recently it was the only acoustic guitar I had ever owned.

But all that has changed. I bought a minty used HD28 off Craigslist last week. I saved over $1100 off the price of a new one. It was such a good deal I just could not pass it up. I wish I had bought a Martin back in 1989. If I had, it would probably still be worth what I paid for it. Ovations have a terrible resale. Mine has probably lost 2/3 of its value or more. They're just not popular like they used to be. They've cranked out so much low end junk over the years that no one even cares about their good guitars anymore (except Melissa Etheridge).

So I am starting over. I am a Martin Man.

40 Worst Lyricists In Rock

Here is a short sample from a very funny article on Blender. You can check it out here.

03 • Scott Stapp
Just good friends with the Lord.

“The comfort of your arms around me/Your tender hands caress my head,” the Creed fisher of men sang to the Risen Savior on The Passion of the Christ CD. It takes no small amount of arrogance to imagine Jesus wants to make out with you—but Stapp seems to have missed the bit in Proverbs about how “pride goeth before destruction.” True to prophecy, Creed was eventually laid low by their frontman’s pious bombast.

Worst lyric: “When you are with me I’m free/I’m careless, I believe/Above all the others we’ll fly/This brings tears to my eyes/’Cause when you are with me I’m free” (“My Sacrifice”)

02 • Neil Peart
An ace on the rototoms, a train wreck on the typewriter.

Drummers are good at many things: exploding, drowning in their own vomit, drumming. But the Rush skinsman proved they should never write lyrics—or read books. Peart opuses like “Cygnus X-1” are richly awful tapestries of fantasy and science fiction, steeped in an eighth-grade understanding of Western philosophy. 2112, Rush’s 1976 concept album based on individualist thinker Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, remains an awe-inspiring low point in the sordid relationship between rock and ideas.

Worst lyric: “I stand atop a spiral stair/An oracle confronts me there/He leads me on light years away/Through astral nights, galactic days” (“Oracle: The Dream”)

Whoa There, Cowboy!

This is a comment I received from David Golden on my last post, "Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards". I thought it was awesome! Good points, well written, and funny. I thought it deserved to be here on the main page for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out his thoughts on bass guitar in the last paragraph. Hilarious! Thanks David!

Whoa there, cowboy! I’ll tell you how to revolutionize your band, although I know you’ll never do it. Save up about 25 grand and buy a GRAND. Good old acoustic piano fits in anywhere (yes, yes, it can sit out some songs too). It can sound raw, it can sound refined, it can pad, it can solo, it can support, it can shine, it can rock. If Mozart, jazz, blues, country, etc are ever in the house, it can fit in most anywhere. A century from now when your current set up is languishing in a museum of musical oddities the piano will still be making music on the cutting edge.

My guess is you’re a little younger than me. I grew up standing on the main floor of the Portland Coliseum watching Keith Emerson claw out sweaty solos on a monophonic moog, with the funky patch cords sticking out everywhere, swooping and soaring until it shot out fireworks and smoke (literal ones, not just musical ones). How do people refer to that music now? PRETENTIOUS! Pretentious? How dare they!

You probably grew up watching Flock of Seagulls and Simple Minds play those nice one-handed, three-fingered riffs which you know so well. And pads. Texture. Background. Keyboard parts that say “I can’t believe it’s not a robot! Oh that’s right, it IS a robot!” Everyone and their dog playing a Yamaha DX-7 (digital of course, or maybe an analog of some kind if they have hand sanitizer available).

But on the other hand, you’re a blues man too. So you should have some soft spot in your heart for a good piano and a Hammond B-3.

A piano is a great addition to any band. But guitar players have trouble realizing that sometimes they can sit out on the verse, and just join on the chorus. Or sit out, then come in with a blazing solo out of the blue. Or even sit out a whole song, and let the piano carry it. And NO I am not talking about just ballads.

I realize there are no keys in punk or grunge. That’s because everyone assumes that if you play piano you’ve had lessons somewhere along the line, and you probably have more than a passing knowledge of music theory. It destroys that DIY mystique.

My perfect praise band would be structured like Soul Asylum. An acoustic guitar driving it with just some good folky strumming, and an electric guitar having fun with riffs, musical gymnastics, color. A piano (acoustic) and B-3 (I’ll even accept a synthesized substitute) giving soul and the universe of subtlety. And just some good back to basics bass and drums playing (bass player limited to 3 notes per measure, and no thumb slaps allowed, because they are not Christ-like). Everyone takes turns on lead vocals. Everyone gets at least one instrumental solo (yes, including the drums). And the whole thing unified with a “raw but fun” aesthetic.

I KNOW that’s what Jesus would do.

By the way, Flock of Seagulls RULES! (not.) And yes, I would take an old B3, Rhodes, or Moog in my band over a grand piano any day. And I love Keith Emerson and all the 70s prog stuff, Yes, Rush, Fripp, ELP, ELO, etc. But when I think of a grand piano in a rock band I can't stop the visions of a balding fat Elton John in a pink feather boa and rose colored glasses. Lord help us.

Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards

At Our Place our instrumentation for the "rockin'" gatherings is very simple: drums, bass, and electric guitar. That's it. We've been doing it that way for a long time, and I Iike the raw approach. I do have an opening though for my "dream band member". I would like to have a keyboard/ableton live/reason/dj person in the band. Someone to lay down pads and keep things ethereal, something for me to layer delayed guitars over...

Someone who knows not to play all the time. That has always been my frustration with keyboard players is that they have trouble NOT playing. Like some songs don't need keys at all, but a person behind a keyboard has trouble doing nothing for a whole song. Even harder for two songs. Or to just hold one note forever.

I want keys that are boring for the most part. Sometimes you just need keys to thicken a guitar part and that's it. I'd like someone who knows how to take a "producer" approach to things. A pad here, a sample there, a drum loop in the bridge, a spacey rhodes intro, simple, plain, unobtrusive. With a good ear for how to add to what's going on without changing direction.

Here are Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards:

1. Use one hand at a time.

2. Use three fingers or less.

3. Don't play eighth notes.

4. Especially don't play sixteenth notes.

5. NEVER play that piano/strings combo patch.

Get me? :-) Now don't get me wrong. Yes, I do like an occasional song led more by the keys, where the guitar plays a backing role, or doesn't play at all. In that case, the above rules do not apply. But most of the time I find "less is more" when it comes to keys.


*Sent via BlackBerry

The Glorious Unseen

We have been doing this new song the last couple of weeks by The Glorious Unseen called "Hear Our Prayers". I have really been digging it. It is one of those songs that is easy to get lost in, not in a prog rock "where are we?" kind of way, but in a meditative jam kind of way. In fact, their whole album is like that. They took a very simple approach to the instrumentation, mostly guitars. Which I like. Song structures are simple, repetitive, deceptive. Perfect for how we lead worship at OP.

Check them out.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
*Sent via BlackBerry

Tales of Mere Existence

I Have To Get Ready

Isn't this weird? How strange does the word "ready" sound to you now? Anyway, check these out on YouTube. I think they're great. Here's another one about "getting stuff done".

Music As Language

This is one I've been thinking about a lot and just wanted a place to post some ideas and get some feedback.One of the things I've come to realize during the course of my ministry is that music in the church is a key defining element that people use to put a church in a category or to describe what "kind" of church it is. Good or bad, people do this and I've come to accept it. In fact, I've even embraced it, because not only do people seem to describe churches on this basis, but they also seem to choose them this way as well.

As you may have heard, I spent a lot of time in institutions growing up and even spent 30 months in a state correctional institution. During my time in prison in my early 20s, I rededicated my life to Christ and became involved in the music ministry at the prison chapel. God used this time to help me grow and to teach me a lot of lessons, and one thing I learned was how important music style is to a church.

You see, at the prison where I was, there was only one chapel. And if an inmate wanted to go to church, there was only one church to pick from. So if you didn't like what the pastor said last week, or you didn't like the style of the music, then you had to decide if those things were important enough for you to stop going to church over. There weren't any other alternatives.

But the chapel had two full time chaplains, as well as a few part time chaplains, so there was a modicum of variety in that way. And a large part of the job of a chaplain was to work as a volunteer coordinator, to oversee and manage groups of volunteers from outside churches who would come into the prison to hold services. So on a weekly basis there was usually a Sunday morning service, a Sunday evening service, Tuesday and Wednesday evening services, and at times even a whole weekend would be devoted to a "seminar" put on by a particular volunteer group like Prison Fellowship or something similar.

So one Sunday morning a mennonite volunteer group might come in and have a service, then that night it might be an African American Missionary Baptist church, then Tuesday night might be the "Unchained Gang" (former motorcycle gang members now serving Christ). Wednesday night might be an Apostolic Pentecostal church group, then the following Sunday morning might be a Presbyterian Church, then a Vineyard Fellowship that evening, then a Lutheran Church on Tuesday... you get the picture. Many of the volunteer groups would get scheduled to come on a regular basis, so we would see many of the same people and pastors from the outside churches over and over again, while some would only come a few times a year. And when there wasn't a volunteer group scheduled for a particular service, our prison chaplains would bring the message and the band might play anything!

As I helped to lead the music bands in the chapel, one of the big responsibilities was making sure that we played music that was appropriate for all these different kinds of churches. We had several different bands and a lot of rotating band members during my time there, and we played all kinds of music; traditional hymns, Gaither style gospel songs, mass choir, barbershop quartet, praise choruses, a capella, vineyard style, you name it. We had to be versatile because the diversity of church groups that came to the prison required it.

And through all of this I began to notice something very interesting. The makeup of our congregation would change each week depending on what volunteer group was scheduled to hold service. If an African American church was there on Sunday morning, then our band would play music with them that was appropriate, and we would see the congregation be predominantly African American. If we had Mennonite volunteers coming in, then the music would be much more traditional, and the congregation would reflect that as well. In fact, there were some inmates who would not come to chapel unless it was a volunteer group that they "liked". Some came no matter what volunteer group was there. But it was easy to see that the "kind" of church that was holding the service had a significant impact on the "kind" of people that would come to church.

The lesson that God taught me through all of this is that His Kingdom has a lot of variety in it, and this is because people come in all different varieties with all kinds of tastes and preferences. And every person is important. So every variety of church is important and serves an important role in reaching these many varied important people! Before prison, I had grown up in a quasi-rural United Methodist church that sang only hymns and had only white people. I had no idea what charismatic worship was. I had no idea what black gospel music was. I had never been to a Mennonite church or an African American church or a Pentecostal church before. I was clueless. In prison, God really opened my eyes to how diverse His Kingdom is, and WHY it is that way. And I learned to value all these different ways of worshiping God, seeing how important each one is, because of how each one reaches a different group of people in a different way, in the unique way that they need to be reached. And music is often an integral, defining component of this variety.

As a worship leader at the prison chapel, I began rewriting some of the secular songs that I had written on the outside, and I began writing new songs as well. These songs were "edgy" if you want to call them that, with electric guitar solos and heavy drum parts... pretty out of the ordinary compared to most of the music we were doing at the chapel. One of the Chaplains there used to call it "Kenny's grunge music". I guess anything with a distorted guitar riff was "grunge" music to him! He would often preach at the Sunday evening services when there wasn't a volunteer group, and he got into the habit of requesting my songs during the worship time. He would say, "Hold on guys. Kenny, play some of that grunge music". Most of the chaplains didn't want me to play my music because it was too hard or loud for them, but he always encouraged it. And some of my songs became standard fare for our Sunday evening services when he was preaching.

And again, I noticed that those services began to be attended by a unique set of people. A lot of them were guys who really liked the heavier style of music. I guess it "spoke their language". Guys would come up to me before service and ask, "Kenny, are you going to play that one song?" It was tempting to become prideful about that, to think that it was me that was drawing new people to the services, that it was my great songwriting or my killer guitar playing. But God was teaching me something. He had already shown me that He loves variety, and that He uses variety to reach out to people in the way that they can understand and relate to. Now he was showing me that I could play a small part in that variety, that He had given me the musical talents that I had, and I played guitar a certain way and sang a certain way and wrote songs a certain way because He designed me that way. And now I was learning that He did it that way because He knew there would be a certain amount of people who would like how I sang and played and would be drawn to it. Not that there aren't a thousand other people who can sing and play like me, because there are at least that! But we can't all be everywhere reaching everyone. God has places for us all to be. At that time, prison was the place where His music as expressed through me would reach out to a certain group of people in a special way that He had planned. There was no one else singing and playing in that prison in the wierd heavy "grunge" way that I was at that time. And it reached out to unique people in a unique way.

I believe that every worship leader has a unique "voice" or "style" that God has gifted them with, and that He has intended them to reach a unique group of people. That is why I see music as language. Take a hispanic congregation for instance. Most likely the pastor preaches in spanish. No one thinks twice about this. Take any language group and apply it to church and you get the same effect. Generally speaking, a white english speaking preacher in their forties will naturally draw a congregation of white english speaking forty-somethings. This is nothing to be upset about. White english speaking forty-somethings need a church to go to!

And music has a very similar effect. Remember when you were in junior high school and all you needed to know about someone when you were determining what quality of friendship you would have with them was what kind of music they listened to? Even today music styles dramatically categorize teens as hip-hoppers, punks, metal heads... you pick the music, there is a clique that is defined by it. Of course, music is not the only variable. There are many others. But music certainly is a variable that defines people.

And it defines churches too. Labels like "traditional" and "contemporary" may seem old-school to me now, but they are still frequently used to define churches. And primarily we think of music style when we hear those words. People often use the music style of a church to decide if they want to regularly attend there or not. Why is this? Why is music style so important to people? Is it that important to God?

Well, yes and no. I think music style is important to God in so much as it is important to people. God wants people to know Him, to trust Him, to put their faith in Him, to love Him, to worship Him. If a particular music style at a particular church helps a particular set of people to do those things, then I think that's important to Him. Just like the Korean pastor who preaches in Korean at the Korean United Methodist Church. If the worship pastor there plays hip-hop, then the church will be filled with Koreans who like hip-hop music. The music is a lanaguage that speaks to them as clearly as the pastor does. The music is a defining characteristic of the church. There is no question that a church that has hip-hop worship will draw a unique set of people, people that speak that language, who understand it, who are spoken to by it, regardless of what language is spoken from the pulpit.

So I take all this very seriously. I try very hard to stay true to my "voice", my "style", my "language", because they are not really "mine" at all. They are God's, and He wants to use them. I know that my language is not the only one. It's not the best one. There are a million others all over this world. But mine is the one that is meant to edify the people that it's edifying, to reach the people that it's reaching, to minister to those who it ministers to, because it is not me that is doing it. God is doing it. I can't take one bit of credit for the way I sing, or the kind of music I like and write, or the way my guitar style has developed. It would be like saying I chose to speak english, or that I had anything to do with that. Believe me, if I could change the way my voice sounds I would!

However, I have realized that I am multi-lingual when it comes to music. My experiences in prison are a prime example. And lots of worship leaders are multi-lingual. Many of them have to be in order to lead the music in their particular church. Perhaps their "first language" is traditional piano and organ music and classical choral arrangements. Maybe that's where they really excel. But due to the nature of the congregation or the pastor's desire to reach out to younger people, maybe he or she has had to lead a more "blended" service with contemporary praise choruses. I have actually seen that happen in a church where the contemporary worship leader stepped down and the traditional leader had to stand in and lead some contemporary music for a while. He did it. It was okay. Sometimes it was really beautiful. And God used it. But it wasn't his "first language", and we all knew it. In a sense, it was like he was a foreign missionary trying to speak the language, but sometimes stumbling over the words, and always with a heavy accent!

Some music pastors are called to foreign missionary work. Right now there is a guy leading worship somewhere on acoustic guitar quietly singing "I Love You Lord" who is heavy metal to the bone and would love to be crunching on electric guitar and screaming at the top of his lungs. But he's been called to that church. God wants him there. God is showing him something. And in the meantime he is speaking the language that he needs to speak to communicate with the people at that church, and God is pleased by that. And the guy is loving it. He loves music, and he loves worshiping God, and he loves the people that he's been called to reach, and he'll be happy if he stays there singing "I Love You Lord" for ever. No question in my mind about that.

But some music pastors are not happy where they are at, for better or for worse. Yes, we need to be content in all circumstances. But sometimes we're not, and that can be a problem. It can be tough when everything inside you is crying out for the freedom to express yourself naturally through music, to worship God in a way that allows you to offer your best sacrifice, to give it all you've got, to take the best lamb from your flock and lay it on His altar. If you've ever led worship music in a church where the music was not really your style, you know exactly what I mean. "Yes, I CAN play piano, but...".

So the point I'm getting at is that everyone has a unique personality and style. And I think God uses that to reach out to as many people as possible. Paul was all things to all people.

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Paul was culturally multi-lingual. And Paul worked in a vacuum. Many times he was the ONLY Christian missionary in a particular city, or even in an entire region, or he was one of only a handful. Paul HAD to be culturally multi-lingual. Today there are thousands of churches in every city in America, yet they are very homogenous. Many of them are speaking the exact same cultural language, and this is a problem. There are literally millions of people in our country that don't speak the languages that our churches speak. Is this a generational thing? Is postmodernism the problem (or the solution)? Can I put a finger on it? No. But what I have become conviced of is the need for church planting, and the need for church planters and their teams to speak their native languages, to seek out that unique cultural/generational cohort that they belong to and whose language they speak, and win those people for Christ!

On the one hand, large existing "mega" churches are probably the most able to follow Paul's example of being all things to all men. They are the churches with the resources to hire additional staff, add extra services, and to learn to speak different languages to reach new and different people. On the other hand, existing churches are probably the ones that find change the hardest, that have the most difficult time with tradition and history. But church plants, and specifically church plants that are part of a church multiplication movement, don't need to change. They are what they are, and next year they'll partner in planting a church that is different. A church participating in multiplication planting will see daughter churches and granddaughter and great-granddaughter churches all being born of the unique personalities and cultures and languages of their planters, all reaching new and unique sets of people who relate to those personalities and belong to those cultures and speak those languages. For me, this is an incredible vision for the Church (capital C) being "all things to all men" by committing to the planting of a diversity of churches (small c) that each is uniquely one of those "things" Paul was speaking of to the Corinthians.

So I think I need to go on and distinguish the differences between carrying this approach out on a personal evangelism level, on a local church corporate level, and on a wider Church/Kingdom level, and how this is differentiated among those who find themselves in church leadership positions as opposed to the average church attender/consumer. But this is enough for now. More later.

Voodoo Lab Amp Selector

Goodness gracious I have GOT to get this pedal.

I am currently using a Tophat King Royale, a great sounding amp that I have posted on previously. It has two channels, each with a high and low input, and no channel switching. So that's four potential inputs on the amp, but no way to remotely switch between them without an a/b. This Voodoo Lab Amp Selector looks like the ULTIMATE A/B switch. It will allow me to run my guitar output (or in my case my pedalboard output) to all four amp inputs and switch between them. Cool! Plus I can set the signal level of each send independently (look at those four volume knobs!). Think of the possibilities!

I am thinking about dragging out my Marshall TSL602 combo and using it as a hi-gain lead sound or for brutal palm muted rhythms! Then I would be switching between three inputs on my Tophat and sending the fourth to my Marshall. Heck, I could even blend in my California Blonde and see what that does.

Here's what the geniuses at Voodoo Labs have to say about this simple "why didn't someone do this before" solution.

The Voodoo Lab Amp Selector is the ultimate stand-alone tool for switching your guitar into multiple amplifiers. It lets you use up to four amps simultaneously without added hum or loss of tone. You can switch between or layer amps in any combination. The switching is absolutely silent with no clicks or pops.

The Amp Selector fulfills several indispensable real world applications for guitarists. Each of the outputs can be directly switched, allowing you to layer any combination of amps simultaneously. It can also be configured as an A/B/C/D box for selecting between up to four amplifiers with a single button press.

The Amp Selector features a buffered tuner or split output for slaving additional devices without loading down your pickups or muddying your tone. A second input can be used for a stereo signal path, or to switch two instruments into different pairs of amplifiers.

Oh, the Difference a Decade Can Make

Has the Republican Party lost its way? Ten years ago Dick Cheney defended the decision to not invade Iraq. He said that overthrowing Saddam would require a "U.S. occupation" and would become a "quagmire". Prophetic! He also said that Saddam was not worth very many American casualties. Here he is in his own words.


Just a thought. I am assuming most of you have cable or satellite television. Let's say you have a typical package and have somewhere around 100 channels to choose from.

What if your cable or satellite company told you that in order to provide you this television programming, 12 of the channels would have to be pornography channels? So you'll have the Playboy Channel, the Penthouse Channel, the Hustler Channel... and NINE MORE sex channels, twelve in all.

No they can't scramble them or filter them out or turn them off for you. That would infringe free speech. No you can't opt for a different channel selection. It's all or nothing. Take it or leave it.

Would you allow this in your home? Are the benefits of cable television really worth that?

Well, you may have figured it out all ready, but this is EXACTLY what internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast are doing to you. Twelve percent of all websites are pornographic in nature. There are approximately 420 million pornographic web pages on the internet. So if you want Gmail and Wikipedia, you've got to have Playboy and Hustler too. Take it or leave it.

Well, but you say that its a matter of choice. One doesn't HAVE to go to those sites. Yes, you are right. But the same would be true of television. Just because it is being piped into one's television doesn't mean one has to turn to those channels.

Give me a break. The point is: I DON'T WANT IT PIPED INTO MY HOME!

Why won't Verizon or Comcast provide filtered service to those of us who want it?? Call them and ask them about it. They won't provide it. They're not even considering providing it. WHY?? Why do they force these porn channels into our homes? Why do they eschew the profits they could make from filtered services that THEY COULD CHARGE MORE FOR?

Call them and ask them. The number is on your bill.

Delay Pedals

Diamond Memory Lane... the greatest analog delay pedal!

TC Electronic Vintage Delay

TC Electronic ND-1 Nova Delay... NEW!

Eventide TimeFactor... NEW!

Electro Harmonix Stereo Memory Man With Hazarai... NEW!

Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler

Boss DD-5... Discontinued!

What do all these pedals have in common? TAP TEMPO! If you ever thought to yourself, "I wonder what delay pedals Ken likes?"... now you know.

Is Going to Heaven the Point?

"For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race..." Romans 9:3

I made a suggestion in one of my comments from an earlier post that the point of following Jesus is not avoiding hell. Is going to heaven the point? Why would Paul even suggest such an idea as willingly being cut off from Christ for the sake of others? This seems even more radical than laying down one's life for friends, as Jesus suggested:

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" John 15:13

Is giving up one's eternal salvation for someone an even GREATER act of love?? Why would Paul even suggest the idea of this? It seems like blasphemy. Of course, it is a completely different topic as to whether it is even possible to cut yourself off from Christ in order to bring others to Christ. On its face it seems absurd. Paul is making an extreme statement here about his love for the Jews. Extreme indeed. What is he saying?

Cash Out

I have been working this one over in my head for quite a while now. I've introduced the idea to several of my pastor type friends. I had another great discussion about it this afternoon. So here goes.

I am making a call. It is time to cash out.

This is not for everyone. Some people may not really be in a position to do it yet, but this is what I am thinking...

God has blessed me and my family greatly over the last several years. At the risk of sharing too much, let me just say that the real estate market has boomed the last 3-5 years, especially so in Portland. We received an inheritance around the time that the boom was starting, and we decided to take that money and upgrade to a nicer home. Since then we have seen our investment appreciate significantly. God has been good to us.

Lately I've been thinking, if I were to cash everything out, sell everything, the house, the cars, the furniture, the music equipment, etc... cash out the retirement accounts, the brokerage accounts, the mutual funds... then pay off all the bills, the mortgage, everything... what would I be left with? One way of thinking about this is "net worth", but I prefer to think of it as "CASHING OUT".

So what if I cashed out? How much cash would I be left with? Is it a significant amount? I'm sure the answer is different for everyone. For us, again at the risk of sharing too much, we could probably reach almost $250,000. So here's my idea.

What if I cashed out and moved my family to Africa? What could $250,000 do in Africa? Would it build a small school that my family could live and teach in? I bet it would! And then some! But then think about this...

What if you cashed out too? What if you came with us? How much cash could you and your family bring to this? We could build a bigger school building. What if TEN families cashed out? We could rebuild an entire community!

Is this a radical step? Is there risk involved? Uh, yeah.

A friend of mine shared a vision with me today... Imagine God's people rushing together toward a cliff... Now imagine a line of strong men standing together with arms linked, standing between God's people and the cliff's edge, protecting them from the fall... What do you see? Would you stand in the line of strong men? Would you join in prayer with them for the protection of God's people? What if God were to tell you that those strong men are the enemy, and that He WANTS His people to run off the cliff? What if God were waiting at the bottom, just longing to catch us??

Something to think about.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21

"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33

Joel Osteen vs. Switchfoot

I've been thinking a lot more about Joel Osteen. My last post got several great comments and they've had me on my toes thinking about this. One of the thoughts I had the other day about Joel is that in my mind he is sort of like a Christian rock star. He leads the biggest church in the country, and there are a great many people listening to what he is saying. His ability to please them all is limited just as yours or mine would be. He cannot meet everyone's expectations.

Take Switchfoot for instance... a Christian rock band, or a rock band of Christians? They have been selling records since 1996 and have released at least six full length albums and one EP over the course of their career. I love their music. In my opinion "The Beautiful Letdown" was one of the best albums of 2003, regardless of genre, and perhaps one of the best of the decade so far.

But of all the great songs on "The Beautiful Letdown", of all the beauty and meaning and inspiration, there is not one mention of Jesus by name. In fact, Jesus is never mentioned in ANY Switchfoot song. 72 tracks on 7 CDs... I searched all the lyrics to all the songs... Jesus is never mentioned.

What are your expectations of Switchfoot? Is it okay that they never mention Jesus by name?

And then there's Joel Osteen. He mentions Jesus in every message. He points people to Jesus BY NAME every week. He believes that Jesus is the only way, and his actions and words week after week support that.

So what are your expectations of Joel Osteen? Do you want him to take it upon himself to announce the eternal damnation of a billion muslims on international television? If so, why?

Off The Map Live

Hey! I am on my way in the morning to Off The Map Live in Seattle. Perhaps I will see you there? Can't wait!

OOPS! I didn't make it! I planned to go, but I procrastinated on buying the tix until thurs night (planning to go Friday) and they were no longer on sale. I debated about just driving up and seeing if I could get in. But I had a hard time justifying the gas money against the possibility of not getting in... so I bagged it. Oh well, maybe next year!!

Buy Me A Latte'

Thanks to Makeesha Fisher and her blog "Swinging From The Vine" for this great idea. If you like my blog or a particular post, click the link below and "Buy Me A Latte'". When I looked around for the code for this one, I discovered it is a Wordpress plugin originally started as "Buy Me A Beer". Makeesha (who might not be the first) converted this to "Buy Me A Latte'". So I stole the idea from her. Check out her blog at Thanks Makeesha!

ATV Trip

Here I am in all my glory! What an awesome trip. We went to Coos Bay on Friday, Winchester Bay on Saturday, and had a blast. Six guys on ATVs riding the dunes. Hill climbing, trail riding... and of course JUMPS!

Here I am with our Lead Pastor Steve Brooke out on the beach relaxing after a ride. I am offering the cameraman a Mountain Dew of course!

Is It In You?

The Gatorade tag line... "Is It In You?" reminds me of Colossians 3:16.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Is it in you?

Leave Joel Osteen Alone, RIGHT NOW! I mean it!

He's a human!

OK, sorry for the Chris Crocker reference, but it sure seems like everyone is piling on Joel Osteen. OK, I take that back. I'm not sorry for the Chris Crocker reference. That video was hilarious!

Anyway, back to my point. Everywhere I turn people are bashing poor Joel. Mark Driscoll practically did a whole sermon on him. I say stick to preaching about Jesus and quit maligning others. The media LOVES it when we argue amongst each other. Thanks Mark.

First, I think the people who accuse Joel of spreading a health and wealth prosperity gospel are really not listening closely. You have to read a LOT into what he says if you want to throw him into the same pot with the word of faith types like Kenneth Copeland and others. His positive message is VERY mild and not full of a bunch of empty "sow a seed and reap a hundredfold" promises. In fact, he never solicits money on television. Let me say that again. He never solicits money on television.

Second, why does every preacher have to be a deal closer? Joel has a sinner's prayer at the end of every broadcast, but why should he have to? To combat accusations that his messages aren't strong enough? Again I say, "So What?" His teachings are not false. They are not wrong. But for some people they are incomplete. Some would say he is not preaching the whole truth. Well I disagree with the assumption that an incomplete gospel is a false gospel. Is there a shortage of preachers in America willing to teach that Jesus is the only way and that you must accept him as Lord in order to get to heaven? Joel is part of a kingdom of priests. He does not stand alone. His message is heard in concert with thousands of other preachers and pastors every week all over this country. God is not sitting by helplessly watching people go to hell because Joel Osteen taught them a watered down message. That is absurd.

Larry King tried to get him to say that people of other faiths are going to hell. Joel was not willing to say that, and of course the critics piled on. Some people LOVE to say who they think is going to hell. It's a sport. Erwin McManus has said that some Christians see hell as a "value added". It's as if it makes them feel good to point fingers and condemn other people to hell. Hey, that's what being a Christian is all about, right? Avoiding hell?? (No.) I agree with Erwin. I HATE that there has to be a hell. I wish there wasn't a hell. So why would I categorically condemn a billion people to burn there in eternity on national television? Like that would make one bit of difference? Come on. All it would do is appease Christian fundamentalists and further alienate Muslims. Good call Joel.

Let me be clear. I am not saying that the gospel is unimportant. I'm just saying leave Joel Osteen alone. He is teaching 47,000 people a week how to live more like Christ. He values orthopraxy over orthodoxy. What do you think God values more?

Library Posters

This is a series of three posters I saw at my local library the other day...

Awww, isnt Dakota cute? And what an appropriate book for someone her age. She even starred in the movie.

Here is Margaret Cho holding a book about an innocent man on death row. She has an interest in the case and has cited it in her writings.

And here is Denzel holding Green Eggs and Ham.

What does this communicate to you? I have to admit that the thing I thought when I saw these three posters together was "There they go keeping the black man down again! How come they gave him the Dr. Seuss book?"

Oh Denzel, what a Stepin Fetchit grin you have.

Portland Emergent Cohort

Here are the details for the newly formed Emergent Cohort in Portland. I hope to see you there!

What: Portland Emergent Learning Community (Cohort)

Where: Bella Espresso - The Meriwether West, 3550 SW River Parkway, Portland, OR 97239

When: First Tuesdays, 2pm - 4pm (November 6, December 4, etc.)

Topic: Emergent Diversity (or lack thereof); escaping the bowels of the white patriarchy!

Future Topics?? You come, you call it!

Here is some additional information from Emergent Village:

What are Emergent Cohorts?
One of the dreams of Emergent Village for the next several years is the development of local/regional learning communities in strategic locations around the country, which we call cohorts . We hope to do this because:

* We are eager to identify and assist a new generation of leaders.
* We desire to promote and enhance the local participation and the grassroots nature of the emerging church conversation.
* We hope to encourage and continue this kind of theological dialogue in many different strategic locations.
* We hope to utilize these cohorts through the hosting of local/regional mini-conferences.

What is a learning community?
While being a place of connection and support, an Emergent learning community (cohort) is primarily a place of communal exploration, theological and professional reflection, honest connection, and strategic collaboration. These learning communities are geared toward post-critical, constructive conversation, rather than deconstructive rants about the current state of the Church.

Why learning communities?
Local (Intrinsic)
* To enhance the local participation and the grassroots nature of the emerging church conversation.
* To generate new forms/ideas of the Church.

National (Extrinsic)
* To identify/support a new generation of leaders.
* To host regional gatherings.

How will learning communities function within Emergent?
Within the four emphases of Emergent (Explore, Belong, Resource, Communicate), cohorts have one foot firmly planted in "Belong" with the other foot dipping into "Resource" and "Explore." Learning communities are primary space for belonging to Emergent on the local, face to face level. Beyond the books they have read or the conferences they have attended, cohorts are places where people can gather who desire to continue this conversation. Yet, the effects of these learning communities will be felt within the areas of Resource and Explore. Our hope is that these local learning communities would begin to hold larger regional events (Resource), which might showcase some of what they are reflecting upon (Explore). These types of exchanges will create a transfer of ideas from the local to national level, and will also assist in identifying and raising up a new generation of leaders.

Emergent Village Gathering Review

I thought I would post a few more thoughts on the recent Emergent Gathering. Here are the Conversations that I attended:

5pm What the bleep are we here for??? w/Mark and Damien: a broad discussion about what's emerging in the world, how it's affecting us, and how our tribe fits into this story.

This was a fairly interesting Conversation. It was my first introduction to Mark Scandrette who I very much enjoyed. My main take away was that there are many who are disgruntled with the institutional church (duh!). I made a pitch for church planting as the bridge between the IC and emerging communities. There was a good comment about the high failure rate of church plants, which started discussion about the definition of failure. What I have seen and heard over the years is that church plants "succeed" or "fail" based on leadership. Any discussion about church planting statistics has to involve a discussion of leadership. However, I failed to make that point at the Conversation! :-)

10am The Multi-Job Pastor w/Doug P.: A discussion about $, jobs, and pastoring in the local community. Other options than the full-time pastor? What are the real-life implications of this?

I arrived pretty late to this Conversation. In fact, I missed most of it. But my gut tells me that the more that the "church" moves in the direction of organic missional communities, the less likely it is that the traditional role of FT Pastor will continue to exist. Small, loosely organized groups focused on relationships and community do not usually generate finances on a scale that can support traditional church notions of Property, Personnel, and Programs (PPP). So it seems to me a foregone conclusion that bi-vocational pastoring is going to play a larger role in the future.

3:30pm Experiencing God Holistically: beyond trinity w/ Michael Toy

This was a fascinating discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Michael and hearing his thoughts on the trinity. He had a very interesting point of view regarding the trinity as a sort of vending machine (I am paraphrasing from memory, please forgive me Michael!) where each "person" is a dispenser of particular items. For example, if you want forgiveness, you ask Jesus. If you want healing, you ask the Holy Spirit. If you want protection, you ask the Father. I agree with Michael to a large extent on this point. It seems a bit contrived, but unfortunately we often do approach God as this compartmentalized entity where each part gives us different things, instead of having a holistic "oneness" approach.

10am Utopianism, Isolation, and Communities of Justice w/Mike Clawson: Discuss what emergent engagement with politics and justice should or could look like in coming days.

I definitely enjoyed meeting Mike as well. In the past I have been very careful to avoid being explicit about my political views, at least in regard to party affiliation. I have usually found that once someone thinks they know your political views, then they feel comfortable dismissing your views in general if they happen to disagree with your party affiliation. For example, if someone is a democrat, then perhaps you would not be willing to truly listen to their views on poverty or welfare because you would assume they are just spouting democrat rhetoric. Even if their views are valid. Politics is such a divisive topic. And this conversation was essentially dominated by fairly liberal points of view, but it turned into some very lively debate and discussion with the conservatives in the group. Of course, much of the content revolved around Iraq ("It's the war, stupid!"). It reminded me of a classic song by The Clash...

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble.
And if I stay it will be double.
So come on and let me know.

1:30pm Emergent Women's Discussion:

I loved this discussion perhaps most of all. This is an area where I have definitely been shifting over the last several years. It was amazing to listen in on a group of women discuss their experience as second class citizens in church. I heard so many stories of how the church had hurt them by making them feel that they had less to offer than men. Leslie, an Episcopal priest who was part of the discussion, made a comment regarding her recent participation in a Doctoral program at George Fox University as being "trapped in the bowels of the patriarchy". It was such a good comment, because I think there is so much unconcious and unintended discrimination against women in the church that we don't even realize because we are trapped by it. Being an Episcopal priest I think helped Leslie see it better, because she is not usually surrounded by such blatant male dominance.

3:30pm Art Walk w/Damien: Visit Santa Fe Art Museums...

I had a great time on the Art Walk. Santa Fe is AMAZING! Some of the galleries there are world class. I just recently read an article about the Top 10 streets in America for art, and Santa E is on the list. We got there a little late, so I didn't get a chance to see all the galleries, but what I did see was wonderful. I think the Santa Fe arts district is a slight step above anything we have here in the Portland area. Don't get me wrong, I love Portland arts, but Santa Fe was something special. If you get a chance, you should definitely make a trip!

Ok, those are my thoughts for now. I am in the midst of a spiritual journey regarding public prayer and will be posting on that when I have some clarity. Right now it's a big muddle of conflicting views in my head. Stay tuned!

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
*Sent via BlackBerry

Ron Paul 2008

I usually avoid combining religion and politics. But I have been following Ron Paul for many months now, and its starting to look like he may have a shot. Ron Paul is pro-peace and pro-life. Watch the video below to learn more about this fascinating Republican candidate.

Grand Canyon

We left the Emergent Gathering last night around 11pm and drove overnight to the Grand Canyon. I will post a few pictures when I get home. It was incredible. I did not expect to be so surprised by the sheer magnitude of it. In a word... Grand.

Emergent was grand as well. I had such a great time, made many new friends, and I can't wait to go again next year. Its quite a forum of forward thinking and artistry. To listen in on the heart and mind of emerging peoples from many walks of life... Heartfelt and convicting discussion on diversity, prejudice, inclusiveness, equity, justice, politics, and practical jesus-centric intentionality toward those issues. Wow.

Like everything in life, we take the good with the bad. There was talk of the "enemies" of emergent. The cries of heresy. The attacks. I am WAY more interested in partnering and learning than dividing and disrespecting. "Can't we all just get along?" Does everyone have to be a deal closer? Know what I mean??

Anyway, we're on our way to Sin City. I have never been outside of the airport in Las Vegas, so I expect to have a good time and see some sights before heading home. I miss my wife. I miss my kids.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
*Sent via BlackBerry

Emergent Gathering

Hello from Glorieta, New Mexico!

The Gathering has been a lot of fun, the conversations have been meaningful and fulfilling. It has been good to develop new relationships with like minded (and not so) people from around the country. I should have gone to this a long time ago. I am about to head to the "Utopianism, Isolation, and Communities of Justice" conversation this morning.

Yesterday I participated in a conversation where I was able to share some of my frustrations with public prayer, and there was a group of people who actually "got it"... That our prayers together as christians so often turn into a round robin of personal theological treatises and a "who can sound more holy" contest. It was so refreshing to get an authentic response from people who have the same frustrations, as opposed to the pat christian counseling answer I so often get in other circles.

Anyway, I'm having a great time. Steve and Greg and I are hanging out and talking deeply and genuinely growing closer. Mission accomplished.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
*Sent via BlackBerry

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Here's a new mix of an arrangement I did a couple years ago for Christmas. Its my rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful, which will appear on the upcoming Carols For Kids 2007 benefit project for Emanuel Children's Hospital. It features the ISing Community Choir and the worship band at Our Place Christian Church.

O Come Le Us Adore Him

We are finally reaching the end of mixing this week and will be going to mastering soon. The CD will be available at Christian Supply in early November, so be on the lookout!

The World's Most Important Six Second Drum Loop

This fascinating 18-minute video narrates the history of the "Amen Break," a six-second drum sample from the b-side of a chart-topping single from 1969. This sample was used extensively in early hip hop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music -- a six second clip that spawned several entire subcultures. Nate Harrison's 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.

A couple of the hip hop audio clips used in this video have some coarse language. So watch out!

Beef With The Bible

Warning: DO NOT watch this video if you are sensitive to offensive language or topics.

Why am I posting this? I found it to be very thoughtful and thought provoking. Maybe its a fake, like a LonelyGirl15 thing? You can never be sure with YouTube. Nevertheless, the commentary is realistic. It goes sort of along the lines of Dan Kimball's book "They Like Jesus But Not The Church".. Why would someone have a beef with the Bible? Watch and see.

An Emerging Approach to Children's Ministry

A friend of mine recently encouraged me to write something about my approach to Children's Ministry, really my approach to organizational structure in general. So I thought I would give it a shot.

When I graduated from business school in 2000, I left there convinced that flat organizational structures are more effective and efficient than vertical ones. I am a huge fan of empowerment, of giving the workers on the ground floor the power and resources to make decisions. They are the ones in the trenches, working with the customers, with their hands on the equipment. Sometimes it is possible to eliminate entire levels of middle management by simply empowering the employees to do their jobs.

For many years I had been advocating this type of approach for our Children's Ministry at Our Place. My idea was to do away with the traditional Children's Director position. For us it had been a middle management position between the teachers in the classrooms and the pastoral staff. And the primary role for the position was as a volunteer coordinator and supply purchaser. Children's Ministries almost universally suffer from a volunteer shortage, and much of the Children's Director's time was spent recruiting and scheduling volunteers to teach and help in the classrooms each week.

I proposed that we do away with the Director position all together and use the freed funding to hire multiple part-time Teachers. The idea being that each teacher would be in charge of their own classroom, would have their own budget for supplies and decorations, would do their own volunteer recruiting and scheduling, and would teach in their classroom each Sunday and Wednesday. They would meet regularly as a team with our Equip Pastor for planning, big picture decision making (like curriculum, events, etc.), and training.

In 2006, our Children's Director left for a calling with our latest church plant, Church! at Bethany. So that Fall we were able to hire five teachers to work in our Children's Ministry. Here are the raw numbers:

Salary per teacher: $500 per month
Supply budget per classroom: $100 per month
Payroll expense estimate: 10% of salary ($50 per month)
Total monthly expense per teacher: $650

5 teachers hired at $650 per month
= $3,250 per month
= $39,000 per year

This amount is right in the ballpark for what we might pay for an experienced full time Children's Director, and it includes the Supplies budget for the entire ministry!

These teachers work a six hour day on Sundays, from 8am to 2pm. They work a three hour day on Wednesdays from 6pm to 9pm. That's roughly 40 hours per month of "in classroom" work.

Here are some of the benefits:

1. VOLUNTEER RECRUITING. There are no more struggles for a Director trying to schedule teachers each season. We have a paid teacher in each class each week. That is huge! The teachers then schedule additional volunteers in their classrooms as needed to help with ratios and to provide some teaching support so that they can attend a worship gathering each week. In the past there was one key person developing relationships with potential volunteers, the Director. Now the volunteer recruiting and scheduling is divided among five teachers, creating five relationship pools from which to draw on.

2. CONSISTENCY. Each class has the same teacher each week. In the past it was VERY difficult to get volunteers to commit to teaching three gatherings a week for a full school year. Now the kids have the same teacher each week. Even if their parents don't consistently attend the same gathering, their kids have the same teacher from week to week. Relationships develop between teachers and children like they never could before. And even more so, relationships between teachers and PARENTS also develop. And the dividends from growing these relationships are immeasurable. Communication, connection, involvement... all at a higher level than was ever possible before.

3. OWNERSHIP. Teachers own their classrooms. They decorate them. They clean them. They stock them with supplies. They rearrange them as they see fit, for what works best with their teaching style. It has been awesome to see the amount of work and effort that is now put into our classrooms. And the perceived quality level of the classroom experience has gone up enormously. Parents and kids notice the difference.

4. ACCOUNTABILITY. Paid teacher are held to a much higher standard of training and availability than unpaid volunteers. Team meetings are actually attended! Leadership and risk management training sessions are much easier to implement. The classrooms are staffed on time. No more waiting for late volunteers who sometimes never show or call.

Perhaps the best outcome of this shift for us has been moving away from the typical bloated middle management church structure toward an "empowered team" approach. I have been doing this for years now with my ministry teams, which I will probably blog more on later. Anyway, this is my first crack at writing up a description of what we're doing with our Children's Ministry at Our Place. I hope you find it useful.

The Worship Industry

This video addresses some of the problems with worship that I work hard at Our Place to overcome. I have been speaking each week about our worship time as a time led by the Holy Spirit... that we on the stage are not worship leaders... that what we do on the stage is only one small part of what the worship time should include. We have offering, communion, prayer, baptism, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, and oh yeah, we'll be singing and playing music too.

I feel very strongly that it is not my responsibility to create a "worship experience" for people (as Brian alludes to in this video). I create an environment where opportunities for worship abound, and I leave the leading and the experience to the Holy Spirit.

From This Day On

Here's a new upload for you. Bill Krause recorded this live at Our Place earlier this year, and it had dropped off my radar for a while. But I was going through my old Gmails and found it. And the recording actually sounds really good! Thanks Bill.

This song is based on Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (NIV)

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (KJV)

I'm giving all that I have to give
I'm giving all that I am.
I'm giving all that I have to give
I'm giving all that I am

And from this day on my life has changed
And I will not look back
For my former self has passed away
And everything is new
I belong to You

I have been crucified with Christ.
And now it's He who lives, not I.

Celine Dion covers AC/DC

I could NOT believe this until I saw it for myself. Listen for the Antares Autotune all over Anastacia's vocals. They even added a cowbell.

Wow. I'm speechless.

Open Letter to the Christian Subculture

There is a song by Ross King that I have been listening to for many years now. I guess its old or whatever, and he's not like a superstar worship guy or big CCM artist, but every time I hear the song I am again reminded of the incredible responsibility of religious leadership and the role that we Christians play in the spiritual lives of others. When I am met by a seeker, or a sojourner, or whatever it is hip for us to call them these days, what do they see? What do they perceive? Do they see something "real" in me?


(Ross King's comment: "How do I explain this song? Well, let me hasten to say I am not trying to offend anybody, but I am concerned about the trend-riding, trinket-selling, convention-dependent, mega-church, coffee house-hippie culture that we have created for ourselves here in the world of American Christianity. Its time for us to start reading our bibles more then we read ABOUT the bible, and learn to worship at all times, not just when there's a really hip band around playing the latest really exciting song about rivers and fire and mountains and dancing things that have more to do with FEELING spiritual then they do with adoring and loving Jesus. I don't know if any of this will make sense, or if it will just sound cynical, but I just wonder what those who are outside looking in would ask if we ever talked to them this song is just a guess....")

If I tap your shell will I find it hollow?
If I look to close will I see right through?
And if I break your spell what then will I follow?
Are you willing to show me how to get there without you?

Is there something more than what you've been telling?
Or maybe you've been telling more than what you know?
And I've been buying all this stuff that you've been selling
Now I'm wondering where all that money goes.

I want something real, and I don't think that you can give it to me
You don't know how I feel; you're too addicted to your life
I'm making my appeal can you take the time to listen to me?
Or are you blinded by the light you never shine?

I really like the music and the songs your singing
But it sounds like something that I've heard before
And you're saying so much so fast and your not explaining
Don't you realize that some of us have been ignored?

There's some guy quoting answers from a book of guesses
He's a pseudo-student of a brand new art
But he's the expert here among the wide eyed masses
He has unchecked power over every little heart

I want something real, and I don't think that you can give it to me
You don't know how I feel; you're too addicted to your life
I'm making my appeal can you take the time to listen to me?
Or are you blinded by the light you never shine?

If I were a death row inmate praying for a pardon
And you had the only saving proof
Would you come down from your party just to stop my execution?
Or would you just keep dancing on my roof?

If your Jesus really is the only answer
Why do you find answers in the people you're around?
You've got the latest CD, you read the hottest authors
But you cannot tell me where the scripture verse is found.

I want something real, and I don't think that you can give it to me
You don't know how I feel; you're too addicted to your life
I'm making my appeal can you take the time to listen to me?
Or are you blinded by the light you never shine?

Are you blinded by the light you never shine?
Won't you please just shine the light that I can't find?
Please don't move so fast that I am left behind.

Experiential Easter

Here is a video about our 2007 Passion Week gatherings. It shows scenes from all seven days, starting with Palm Sunday and ending on the Saturday night before Easter. It shows all the tangibles we used and has some music and painting and candles and incense thrown in... if you've heard about our Passion Week gatherings but have never been able to make it to participate, this video will give you a glimpse of what we do.

Thanks to Mark Inman for putting the video together for us!

Our Place Building Purchase Video

Here is the video of our Overseers and Business Team talking about the recent decision to purchase the building we have been leasing for the last 3+ years.

Quantum Physics Double Slit Experiment

So it's taken me about a month to fully digest the info in my last post. I am becoming more and more convinced that quantum physics is going to turn materialist monism on its head. Check out the video below.

Is matter made of particles or waves? Well, both. This video does a decent job of explaining that. But even more intriguing is the evidence that observation (a nonphysical phenomenon) can collapse the wave function of matter! Dualism is steadily regaining its standing in academia on the strength of these sorts of discoveries in quantum physics and cognitive research. And with dualism comes the destruction of materialist atheism. There is more to our environment than mere physical matter. There is consciousness, observation, uncertainty...

This will blow your mind:

Quantum Interactive Dualism: An Alternative to Materialism

Here is the abstract of an awesome paper I just read. It was written by Henry P. Stapp of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California. It was originally published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, but you can find an online version of it here:

"Materialism rest implicitly upon the general conception of nature promoted by Galileo and Newton during the seventeenth century. It features the causal closure of the physical: The course of physically described events for all time is fixed by laws that refer exclusively to the physically describable features of nature, and initial conditions on these feature. No reference to subjective thoughts or feeling of human beings enter. That simple conception of nature was found during the first quarter of the twentieth century to be apparently incompatible with the empirical facts. The founders of quantum theory created a new fundamental physical theory, quantum theory, which introduced crucially into the causal structure certain conscious choices made by human agents about how they will act. These conscious human choices are “free” in the sense that they are not fixed by the known laws. But they can influence the course of physically described events. Thus the principle of the causal closure of the physical fails. Applications in psycho-neuro-dynamics are described."

If you are familiar materialist philosophy, then you know it provides much of the underpinning of modern atheism, especially the extreme reductionist materialism of Richard Dawkins and others. I am fascinated by the role that quantum mechanics will play in our growing understanding of the Universe!

Bands or Teams?

I was thinking today about the idea of worship teams. I don't really like that word "team" when it comes to music. I can't think of very many instances where the word team is used in relationship to a group of musicians? Isn't band a better word? I like it better. Here's why...

At Our Place, I have a worship band. It is a group of musicians who always play together. Week after week we rehearse and play on Sundays together. We have a distinctive style. We are very used to playing with each other. We gel. We work out new material together and introduce it over time. We jam together and collaborate. We have a catalog of music that we play very well together. Other things we are still working on and improving together. We have a creative direction. We know what we like. We know our limitations. We have experienced a lot of music and worship together...

That is what a band does.

The word team brings other thoughts to my mind. Perhaps it is a group of people who only play together occasionally, perhaps on a monthly rotation, or even less. Perhaps there are a few key players, but others may rotate in and out as their schedules allow. The team therefore never really gels together. It is always a new set of people, usually based on who the leader can get scheduled to show up that week. The music always seems new, even if it isn't, because the new team members that week need to rehearse more repetitively than those who have played it before. And the drummer this week isn't playing it the same way as the drummer last week did, so the bass player has to figure out a slightly different groove. And no one knows where the accents are, where the stops are... when is the bridge again?

However, a team can involve more people. If the goal is to get more people involved, then a team approach can work well for that. However, quality may be sacrificed in the process.

How important is quality to you? How important is involvement? How do you balance the two?

For me, I try to allow for more involvement by working at developing MORE BANDS.

Rather than have a pool of musicians to pull from and then schedule a different team of them each week, I would prefer to have a pool of bands to pull from. For one thing, it makes each band that much better because they can improve from week to week as they play together. But also it removes me from monopolizing the music and worship leadership role. When my band plays on Sunday, WE lead. When a different band plays on Sunday, THEY lead. So in this sense, a band approach creates MORE involvement, and involvement on a higher level, on a leadership level. It allows me to raise up and send out music leaders by providing opportunities for those potential leaders to actually do some leading on a regular basis. That's huge!

Plus worship band just sounds cooler than worship team.

Asian Master Plan

Is there any reason to watch television anymore? Sorry to keep posting videos, but I've been watching a lot of YouTube lately.

To set this up, you should be aware of the Rosie O'Donnell "Ching Chong" Incident. This caused a number of Asian video bloggers to respond. This video is "The Asian Response to Asian Responders". Smart!

Beyond Intelligent Design

I was very impressed by this video... a different approach to the question of existence, not just creation vs. evolution. Take 30 minutes and watch it...

The Ooze

The Ooze is posting an article of mine this Thursday, March 29. Go check it out.

You'll find it on the front page under the Culture section. It's called "Music As Language". Give me a good rating if you feel it's deserved!

If you haven't been to The Ooze in a while, you should get on their forums. The conversations are very lively regarding all things "emerging".

Emerging Worshiper

Is God Green?

Conservative Evangelicals DO believe in global warming.

I have this program saved on my Panasonic Replay. If you want to watch it, just come over to my house and we can have a party. I showed it to our small group. We had a great discussion afterward. Here's a clip

Emerging Worshiper

I have recently redesigned my old website and updated the look to match more closely with this blog. I am getting somewhat better with my web design skills, so give me some feedback and tell me what you think.

I have a bunch of my songs posted on there, along with PDFs of the lyrics and guitar chords. I am just getting that all started, and there hasn't been a lot of recording done yet, but here's a tidbit for you... I am planning a recording project with Qitros Ministries for sometime next year. A live worship concert, video recorded, and released completely for free under Creative Commons Licensing. We're planning to create a lot of collateral content for lead worshipers and facilitators, including instructional videos for how to play the songs, PowerPoint, SundayPlus, and MediaShout files, and more...

I've had quite a struggle internally over the last couple years about how to go about recording and releasing the music I have created. I wrote a big long post about it HERE.

The awesome thing about Qitros Ministries is that they are a NONPROFIT record label. Which is awesome! So I plan to make ZERO dollars from this project, and the label plans to make ZERO dollars from this project. Its like an open source approach to music.

Anyway, go check out the new and improved and let me know what you think.

Emerging Worshiper

King of the Hill

I love this episode. It touches on SO MANY topics.

The set up: Hank and Peggy are upset because a new family has taken their spots in the pew on Sundays and the pastor has refused to ask the family to move.

Once the Hills start attending the mega church, Hank gets over committed. The church gives him a pager and he is constantly on call for all the events. He doesn't even have time to drink beer on the corner anymore because he's too busy with church. This clip is good, but you have to see the whole thing. It's hilarious!

Emerging Worshiper


This is a song about being in prison. It's not really a worship song in the sense that it doesn't lend itself well to leading others in worship. But it certainly has led others TO worship (that discussion is a whole post by itself, the idea of songs that lead people TO worship and songs that lead people IN worship). The metaphors here are really strong, that prison is a valley, and from the valley its sometimes hard to see the mountaintop, especially when you're surrounded by negativity.

It's been said before, Jesus is in the business of changing lives. He changed mine.

"Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me." Psalm 142:7

From the valley the summit seems so far
And clouds of sin block the view
And those around me deny that it exists
They just say that I'm a fool
To try and climb away

I've fallen further than I ever thought I would
But now I know what I must do
Serve my God like I never thought I could
But they still say that I'm a fool
To think I could ever change

Let them say what they will
I know the change inside is real
And today's my chance to rise above my Circumstances
They won't define who I am, or how I feel

There's more to the story. Check it out HERE.

Emerging Worshiper

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

This is one of the best worship songs I have ever written. I kept being drawn to the idea that Jesus is much more than what we think or believe. He is described so beautifully in the Bible and in our theological traditions. But postmodernity confronts me with the inherent limitations of language, even the Bible's language. We sometimes reduce Jesus to a catchphrase, but feel good about it because we are quoting the Bible. So many songs about the names of Jesus spring to mind (emmanuel, wonderful counselor, prince of peace, lamb of god, lion of judah... I've written a few myself!). What are they really saying?

There are those who call for deeper and more accurate theology in worship lyrics. There are those who rightly criticize contemporary worship music as shallow, self centered, and cliche'. But the answer to campy Jesus tunes is not always to incorporate stronger theological precision. Instead, this song strikes directly at the language of the Bible, its descriptions, narratives, and metaphors of Jesus, and our theological interpretations of them, saying "Yes, all good, but..."

The bottom line: whoever you think Jesus is, He is More.

He’s more than a father, more than a friend
More than a Saviour whose love never ends
He’s more than a prophet, more than a priest
More than religion, and more than beliefs
He’s more than the life and the truth and the way
He’s more than forever, He’s more than today
He’s more than me, and He’s more than you
He’s done more than the whole world together could do

He's more than a servant, more than a king
He’s more than a word in the songs that we sing
He's more than a lion, He’s more than a lamb
He's more than divine and He’s more than a man
He's more than opinion or history or fact
He's more than the stripes and the scars on His back
He's more than a cross, and He's more than the nails
By His blood is the holy of holies unveiled

He’s more than I hoped for, more than I dreamed
He’s all I could want, and He’s all that I need
So I won’t look for glory or fortune or fame
I’ll look to the heavens and call on Your name

So I turn my eyes to You Jesus
I look full on Your wonderful face
And the things of earth have grown strangely dim
In the light of Your glory and grace

All my thanks and love to Russ Waldron, who recorded this live at an acoustic concert at Our Place, and to Phil Cazella of Qitros Ministries for mixing it.