Worship Essentials

About the Book

I was excited to get this new book by Mike Harland called Worship Essentials. I always enjoy listening to Mike’s segments regarding worship on the Rainer on Leadership podcasts with Thom Rainer, and from his own WorshipLife podcast, so when I heard Mike was coming out with a book, I knew I had to read it. The title sounds good, but the subtitle was actually what intrigued me!

Worship Essentials: Growing a Healthy Worship Ministry without Starting a War is organized around four values that are necessary for any church that desires to have a healthy worship ministry.  Mike shares his wisdom from past experiences and failures, and from his time as Director of Worship at Lifeway Christian Resources.

What To Expect

Before getting into the four main values that shape the book, Mike takes one chapter of introduction. He talks about what defines true worship, and then brings up the ongoing but unfortunate topic of worship wars that have been going on in the church for far too long.

Then, Harland begins to describe the four necessary values, beginning with “Tell the Story”. First, he challenges the church to have a complete and thorough biblical understanding of Jesus, and have songs that songs that teach about Him and admonish and encourage the church from His Word. He also speaks about the importance of testimonies and stories from God’s people about God working in their lives to build faith.

The second value is to “Make True Disciples”, not only with those in the worship ministry, but with the entire congregation through the songs that we sing.  Mike described the power of music, when you combine the melody of the song with the truth of God’s Word. He stressed, though, how making disciples needs to be about more than just the music, but building into the lives of others, and making strategic decisions.

Then, in the third value, Mike gets more practical as he discusses ways to “Engage the Body” so that the worship service is not just a performance, but something where congregational engagement is valued and practiced. Mike gives some great tips for worship leaders about how to put together a worship services that doesn’t ignore or leave out the congregation, but is designed for them to engage in worship. Harland also touches on the issue of worship desecration, and why there is value in bringing the generations together.

Finally, Mike challenges leaders to “Aspire with Purpose”, by valuing excellence and eliminating distractions. He concludes by challenging leaders to lead like Ezra, to study, obey and teach.

A Must-Read for Worship Leaders and Pastors

Worship Essentials is a great resource that all worship leaders and pastors should read. Mike said that many of the calls he gets are from pastors asking for help with their worship ministry. This book is definitely a resource for senior pastors, to help them understand more about worship, and what it takes to grow and maintain a healthy worship ministry. For worship leaders, this book is a great challenge to make what you do more than just about music.

“We are not called to make music – we are called to make disciples” (p. 69). That was one of my favorite quotes from the book. It is so easy to have music be the most important thing because it is the most urgent. We need to plan setlist every week, rehearse the band every week, and that is the most visible area of our ministry to the church. But, it has to be about making disciples who use music to glorify Him.

There was only one chapter that left me with more questions than answers. That probably isn’t a bad thing, but I guess I was looking for answers in this area. In his chapter on “Worship Desegregation”, Mike describes how we ended up segregating the generations in worship, and talked about the dangers of having a service that is aimed at a specific generation with music and other elements.  He also writes about how a blended service may not be the answer, either.

In his response, I appreciate and agree that instead of having musical styles be the main concern, we need to develop a culture where we care about one another and the main concern is about developing a “healthy, disciple-making, legacy-building community of faith” (p. 121). I agree that it is better to have the generations together in the same room, instead of separated, and that music should not be the main concern. We have adopted this Unified Worship strategy in our own church in the last year, combing different types of service styles into one unified service.

I know it shouldn’t be about the music, but yet, we still need to sing songs in our gatherings. If it’s not blended, and it’s not age-segregated services, then what should a worship service look like that combines all the generations? What music should you include? That’s the only missing piece in this chapter that I would have liked further exploration and suggestions.

Over all, though, Worship Essentials is an excellent book that all should read! I finished reading the book and have a renewed fervor for implementing these four values in our worship ministry. I can highly recommend this book!

Barry Westman

Title: Worship Essentials: Growing a Healthy Worship Ministry without Starting a War
Author: Mike Harland
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group (2018)

Buy it at: Amazon

True Worshipers

True WorshipersI am always looking for great books to recommend on worship, and True Worshipers by Bob Kauflin is definitely on the list. If you have been involved with worship ministry for any length of time, you probably are already familiar with Kauflin’s previous treatise on worship, Worship Matters. Where Worship Matters is aimed more at those in worship leadership at their churches, True Worshipers can be read and appreciated by anyone, whether you are in worship leadership, on the worship team, or someone just sitting in the pew.

True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God approaches the topic of worship from the point of view of the everyman, since everyone is engaged in the activity of worship, whether they realize it or not. Anyone who is involved with music at their church in any way, whether you are singing songs in church from the congregation, on the team, or leading the ministry can pick up this book and learn something about what it means to be a true worshiper.

What To Expect

In True Worshipers, Kauflin explores many of the issues related to worship that he has seen Christians struggle with over the years, many related to our worship gatherings. Starting with the familiar passage in John 4, Bob explains what worship is, and that a true worshipper is someone who worships the Father in Spirit and truth. He explains how worship doesn’t begin with us, but that it is a response to who God is. Worship is ultimately about God, not us.

From there, Kauflin explores what worship looks like in the church, and makes it clear that worship is not only about music, but how we live our lives. We are to exalt God in both our heart and in our actions. As the church gathers, worship is both vertical, as we exalt the Lord together, and horizontal, as we build up and edify other believers.

Kauflin then goes into the very practical elements of worship, focusing mostly on singing. Why should we sing? What happens when we sing? He even addresses some of the questions that people in the congregation have about singing, like “What if I can’t sing?”, “What if I don’t feel like singing?”, “Why do we sing so many old and new songs?”, and many more practical questions.

Kauflin ends the books by talking about what it means to be in the presence of God, both here on earth, and concludes with a preview of what worship will be like in Heaven, when we are face to face with God.

A Great Resource for the Church

True Worshipers is an excellent resource all worshipers. Pastors should encourage their congregations to read this book. This would make an excellent book for a small group to go through together. Worship Pastors should definitely consider using this book with their worship teams! It would make an excellent Bible study on worship for teams to go through together. There is even a free study guide available at Crossway.org with questions for each chapter.

Bob Kauflin has once again given the church in True Worshipers an excellent resource that teaches people about a right theological view of worship, the importance of gathering for corporate worship, the value of praising God through singing in all circumstances, and the promise of worship in Heaven.

Title: True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God
Author: Bob Kauflin
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon

Next Level Worship Conference with Dwayne Moore

I know that worship leaders have so many options when it comes to conferences, especially this time of year, but I would like to invite you to bring your worship team to a conference at our church on Saturday, April 9th – the Next Level Worship Conference with Dwayne Moore.  I have known writer, speaker, and worship pastor Dwayne Moore for several years, and I’ve appreciated his teaching on worship so much! His Bible study Pure Praise is an excellent Bible study on worship, and a very practical tool for worship teams. Continue reading Next Level Worship Conference with Dwayne Moore

Worship and the Great Commission


The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, commands all believers to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Song and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Another important command in Scripture is often referred to as the Great Commandment, found in Matthew 22:37-40, which says, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” These two passages are at the heart of evangelism and of worship.

It is easy to keep these two activities of the church separate in our minds, but they actually are not separate elements, or at least they shouldn’t be. One of the books I am reading for my Personal Evangelism class is called Worship and Witness: Becoming a Great Commission Worshiper. Our main goal as followers of Christ is to glorify God. This is done as we live lives of worship individually, and as we come together corporately on Sunday mornings. However, another way we glorify and worship God is to obey His commands and live a life of obedience. Obeying the Great Commission by making disciples brings glory to God. Also, regarding the Great Commandment, the authors of Worship and Witness say, “He called us to glorify God with unyielding allegiance, but our worship isn’t complete unless we also love our neighbor. If we fall in love with Christ and seek to glorify His name, we’ll also love others and lead them to worship with us.” (1)

Coming together on Sunday mornings to express worship together as the Body of Christ is a wonderful and necessary thing. However, our worship cannot stop there. “If the heartbeat of worship is obedience, then it is impossible to be a true worshipper without being directly involved in the command of evangelism” (2) found in the Great Commission. We are called to be Great Commission worshippers. We should love the Lord with all our heart, and love our neighbors enough to tell them about the love of Christ. Great Commission worshipers are those “who are so in love with Jesus, so committed to worship Him, and so devoted to obedience of all His commands that they simply cannot restrain themselves from telling others about Him.” (3) That sounds like a great goal!

1.  David Wheeler and Vernon M. Whaley, Worship and Witness: Becoming a Great Commission Worshiper (Nashville: Lifeway Press, 2012), 12.

2.  David Wheeler and Vernon M. Whaley, The Great Commission to Worship: Biblical Principles for Worship-Based Evangelism (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011), 13.

3.  Wheeler and Whaley, The Great Commission to Worship, xi.

Sunday Recap – April 29, 2012

Contemporary Services

I had the privilege of attending the Song Discovery Creative Conference last week in Nashville, which was excellent! (If you’d like read more about my experience there, you can read my recent blog post about it) So, since I was gone all week, Zack led the team for me, and he really did an excellent job! I was there on Sunday, and it was so fun just to sit back and watch him lead the team, and see what a great job the entire team did!  Zack led from the electric guitar for the first time, instead of the acoustic, and it really sounded nice.  You can watch the video of this service and see the Planning Center details.

Cafe Connection Service

Zack led the team in this service as well. I enjoyed attending this service today, and seeing all of the healthy fellowship taking place, especially in our connecting time. So many young families with kids there, at 8:00 am; and yet also a wide range of other ages were there as well. Loved it! You can see the Planning Center details.

Traditional Service

  • Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
  • The Love of God
  • Trust and Obey
  • In the Garden
  • He Touched Me

Paul Miller led the team this morning, and he also did super, along with Janet on the piano and the rest of the team.  I heard many comments following the service about how much they appreciated his leading.  You can see the video of this service and the Planning Center details.

This post is part of the Sunday Setlist blog at The Worship Community, where worship leaders share their setlists and recaps from services this weekend.

Sunday Recap – April 15, 2012

Contemporary Services

I guess it was a Matt Redman kind of morning! I didn’t realize until I typed this all out that our second set, “10,000 Reasons” and “You Alone Can Rescue”, was written by the same duo! Jake did a great job on the mandolin solo for “10,000 Reasons”!  This was the week after Easter, and I’m not exactly sure why, but my voice was shot! For the early service there was hardly anything.  God is faithful, though, and my voice lasted through all 3 services.  I was so grateful for the rest of the team today!  You can watch the video of this service and also see the Planning Center details.

Cafe Connection Service

We had four songs planned, but ended up doing only three.  This was the service my voice was still not there, so thanks for Brenda and Denise for stepping up and taking the lead!

Traditional Service

  • “Blessed Assurance”
  • “God of Grace and God of Glory”
  • “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust and Obey”
  • “Be Thou My Vision”
  • “My Jesus I Love Thee”
  • “Rejoice the Lord Is King”

Since I was leading in the Cafe, Cherry led the team in here from the piano today. It was great to have Paul and Annette back from wintering down south! You can watch the video of this service and see the Planning Center details.

This post is part of the Sunday Setlist blog at The Worship Community, where worship leaders share their recaps and setlists from this past weekend’s services. Hope you had a great Sunday!

Sunday Recap – March 4, 2012

Contemporary Services

The message today focused on prayer, but we also celebrated communion, which is where most of the songs today pointed people.  It was great to see so much interaction on “The Stand”, with so many people standing “with arms high and hearts abandoned”!  We have been using the click regularly for a while now, and it’s great! But, on the two communion songs yesterday, I decided not to start the click at the last minute. I just felt I wanted more freedom with the tempos and flow of the songs during communion.  You can watch the video of this service and see the Planning Center details.

Cafe Connection

I always enjoy getting the privilege to lead in the Cafe service, and we had a great team today!  You can see the Planning Center details for this service.

Traditional Service

  • All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
  • I Will Sing of My Redeemer
  • My Savior’s Love
  • Beneath the Cross of Jesus
  • At The Cross

Randy led the team in this service, and even though the team was very small, only 3 people, they did a great job!  You can watch the video of this service and see the Planning Center details.

This post is part of the Sunday Setlist area of The Worship Community, where worship leaders share setlists and recaps from this past weekend.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday Recap – February 12, 2012

Contemporary Services

This was quite an eventful morning! Ever have one of those mornings where almost nothing goes as planned, yet somehow it all works out? Well we experienced that this morning. This set list above didn’t happen in either service, although  it was the plan.   We had four very beautiful baby dedications in each service, and instead of the eight minutes we had planned, it turned out to be closer to 15. So, needless to say we adjusted our service accordingly, and cut a song in each service.  How do you handle things like baby dedications in your services? Everyone did a great job today, though! We had the worship choir sing along with the team and band, so the energy level was very high!  “Great I Am” is such a powerful song! If you haven’t tried this one yet, you need to at least listen to it. We had Jared Anderson at our church last October, and ever since then our church has embraced this song as a vehicle to just bask in the greatness and power of God. “You Are Good” was a newer song for us this morning – a great new upbeat song of praise from Bethel Live. You can watch the video of this service and see the Planning Center details.

Cafe Connection Service

Marv led the team in the Cafe this morning, and picked some great songs to along with our theme of “The Grace Factor”.  Pastor Tim had an excellent sermon on grace, and we even had our own baby dedication in the Cafe – a first!  You can see the Planning Center details for this service.

Traditional Service

  • This Is My Father’s World
  • Fairest Lord Jesus
  • Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
  • All That Thrills My Soul
  • Grace Greater Than Our Sin
  • Wonderful Grace Of Jesus

There are so many great hymns about God’s grace that it was hard to pick, but I had to include the last one – so fun to sing!  You can see the Planning Center details and the video for this service.

This post is part of the Sunday Setlists blog at The Worship Community, where worship leaders share their setlists and service ideas from today.  I included a pic below that I took this morning before everything got started.  Thanks for reading, and I hope your services went great today!

My view for this morning.

“I Have A Dream” – An Appropriate Song for Today

With today being Martin Luther King Day, I thought this would be an appropriate song to promote! It’s by The City Harmonic, recently named “New Artist of the Year” by GMA Canada, and source of other great songs like “Manifesto” and “I Am”.  This song was partially inspired by Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech! Quite interestingly, there were two other sources that provided inspiration for this powerful song. Can you guess? To find out, you should check out the interview with The City Harmonic on the latest All About Worship podcast, a great resource for worship leaders!!  Enjoy!

Who pushes your buttons..?

This may or may not be what you think it is…

We recently started using click tracks and loops with our worship team, and let me say so far it’s been an “adventure”! I just switched to Mac from PC, though, and purchased Ableton Live. I’ve tried it out a few times, and saw it on display at a workshop recently. Looks like it will make things much easier!

But, my question – who is the one in your team who starts the click track from the computer. Is it you as the worship leader? The drummer? Someone else?

I’d love to get this poll out there and hear your responses!

Who pushes your buttons!?

I’d also love to hear how you incorporate click tracks/loops in worship! Do you use just a click (not linked to any specific arrangement), loops or both?