Every so often I like to look over the Google searches that bring people to this blog. It’s interesting what people look for, and what brings them my way. There are a few great questions, and a few ridiculous questions. What questions are people who stumble upon this blog asking? Let’s find out.

Continue reading “Q&A”

Comparisons and Dirty Little Secrets

Are you trying to keep up with the Jones? The Jones that go to the “cool church” on the other side of the city. The Jones who go to the “artsy church” in the nearest urban center or college town? The Jones who go to the big, well known church in your tribe or denomination?

Well… Stop it. Stop it right now. Stop it right now, and here’s why…

Continue reading “Comparisons and Dirty Little Secrets”

The 5 Point Band

Let’s be honest about two things:

1. Church bands tend to “overplay” and step over each other on a regular  basis

2. Church bands are often a hodge podge of who’s available instead of who is needed.

What I’m going to suggest will hopefully unmuddy the waters sonically speaking and give structure to arranging and picking your church’s band for a worship service.

When I put a band together for a Sunday or Wednesday I first look at who is available. It’s all well and good to want a thick analog synth sound on a song but if all your keyboard players are on vacation, you’ll need to rethink your plans. Once I know who is available, I start to fill roles based on my “5 point band”. I admit that I don’t always do it consciously, because I’m so used to doing it. But it’s always there in the background of my mind. So here are the 5 points that I look for to put a band together. I’m going to write them in order of importance.

Continue reading “The 5 Point Band”

The Electric: The Best Overdrive Pedal For Worship

In this series I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music. This week we’ll talk about overdrive and gain pedals worship bands.


What is the best overdrive pedal for a worship guitar player?

The question is asked constantly on Google searches, blogs, forums, and even people who find their way to this blog.

Continue reading “The Electric: The Best Overdrive Pedal For Worship”

Worship Provides Us With The Chance To Love Another

Whether you know it or not, music in the church has a long history of being a contentious subject. Younger generations think they’ve finally figured it out. Older generations forget that all the complaints they make about the young worship leaders were made about them when they were that age. Is the music of the church “worldly” or “sacred”. Did you know that all of the “church instruments” from the acoustic guitar, to the piano, to the pipe organ to the church singing all at once were at one time or another considered “worldly” or “corrupt”?

Continue reading “Worship Provides Us With The Chance To Love Another”


By and large a church’s expression in worship (song, art, prayer, etc) will tend to be monolithic. It has been established by the founding generation who see no reason to change things, and say “wrong if you think otherwise”. Perhaps the style of the church is controlled by a new generation who came, conquered, and put the old ones adrift on an ice berg.

Neither of these are good scenarios.

Continue reading “Monoliths”

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

Hymns, Choruses, What’s the Difference?

Do a Google search on the difference between Hymns and Choruses, and I’ll give you a dollar if you can find a straight answer.

According to Eastman’s Bible Dictionary the word Hymn in the New Testament is used for the benefit of Christians from a Greek Culture to understand. Musically the Jews had used Psalms in their music, whereas the Greek used Hymns. If you read the Psalms, some are long, wordy and epic. Other Psalms are short and to the point, mainly in a section called the “Psalms of Accents” which were to be sung by the people on their way to the feasts in Jerusalem. The basic structure of a psalm lyrically is one continuous thought or theme.

The Hymn on the other hand is generally centered around finishing the lyrical or musical thought at the end of the refrain. Basically in modern form we would say that Hymns are all verses and no choruses.

Then there is the modern Chorus structure: Verse, Chorus, Verse.  The verses build (both lyrically and musically) to the summation thought in the chorus. This is of course a very simplistic view of all of these types of songs but I thought it would be good to lay a foundation for this discussion.

What Type of Songs Should Be Sung In The Church Today?

If there is one thing I’ve learned in 12+ years of leading worship is that just about everyone will have an opinion on song choice.

“Hymns are too old fashioned”

“Those new songs just don’t have the same depth as the old songs”

“That’s NOT a worship song!”

And many more. The point is that there are a lot of different expressions in the history of the church, and all of them are equally valid and invalid in their own ways. Twice, both in Ephesians 5:19, and Colossians 3:16 the Bible tells us to sing in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. These verses have shaped how I see song selection and stylistic expression in the church more than just about any verse in the bible.


In the book of Psalms itself I see both hymns and choruses, but for our purposes, I don’t think I’m too far off to Insert “modern worship songs” for Psalms. I see a lot of good in modern worship songs. The bible tells us over and over to sing “a new song” to the Lord. Amazing Grace, Come Thou Fount, and Be Thou My Vision don’t make the cut for that command. New songs, express the fresh faith, of a new generation of Christians. They also lend themselves well to worship events where Words (overheads, hymnals, etc) aren’t readily available like camp fires and home groups, much like the Psalms of Accents in the Bible.

There are downsides to the modern songs. They haven’t stood the test of time, whereas generally speaking, bad hymns have been forgotten. Not just musically, but there are many modern worship songs with great music but questionable theology or that lack in depth. Many of the criticisms towards modern songs about their lack of depth, unrealistic view of the world (all sunshine, no suffering), Prom Songs to Jesus (if they mention Jesus at all) etc, have some truth to them. Another criticism of modern songs is that many are not in fact modern. What I mean is that if a bunch of musicians with little to no church background became Christians, they wouldn’t write the music that many christians call “contemporary”.


Full Discolsure: I consider myself a modern hymns guy, whatever that means. I like the hymns because they have had the benefit of time letting the cream rise to the top. Musically, I find that Hymns often lend themselves better to Modern musical expressions than the “modern songs” of the church do. I can play Amazing Grace in 10 different arrangements but I can’t figure out more than one way to play “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin. Hymns also have suffering. Suffering is a constant in life and a constant in our churches. 1 in 3 women in your church has been the victim of sexual abuse. People have lost loved ones, they’ve suffered unemployment or disability on the job. Many of the great hymns were written by people who had suffered, they knew what they were singing about. Hymns are also a great musical bridge. I’ve found that, generally speaking, older saints are often more open to a new style or expression in worship if they know the songs, and that as a worship leader, hymns have honestly allowed me to get away with more with the 65 and up crowd.

Spiritual Songs

What does this mean? Aren’t Psalms and Hymns both “Spiritual Songs” by default? I’m not sure what Paul meant when he wrote it but I’ll tell you how I apply it.

“True Love” by Phil Wickham. ‘The Pearl” by Emmylou Harris. “Come to Jesus” by Mindy Smith. “Tears of the Saints” by Leeland. They are not really worship songs. But they are songs that the church can sing together. I see these songs as useful and helpful to the church, but I do them at a ratio: Out of a 6 or 7 song set, I will probably only do 1 spiritual song, if any. I see songs like the ones I mentioned as being very good, but only in the right proportions.

Many churches would see these songs as “specials”. Which is music done more as a performance to the church than music sung by the church. There is nothing wrong with this form of liturgy, but I wouldn’t limit the work that God can do through these songs either. I remember being at a church singing “Yahweh” by U2, when the song started I thought “this isn’t a worship song,” and then in the last verse God spoke powerfully to my heart. There is nothing wrong with doing Spiritual Songs as “specials” but there is also no biblical mandate for it either.

The Real World

I said earlier that the idea of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs had shaped how I lead worship. It’s kept me from embracing just one style or expression of worship. I’m a modern hymns guy but I’ll still lead a Chris Tomlin song. It’s shown me the place for “spiritual songs” in the worship life of the church. It’s lead me to my current attempt to have a wide expression of music and style at Calvary:Arlington. Hymns are not just “the old songs of the church”, and contemporary worship isn’t as contemporary as people say it is.

Whatever songs I pick I try to follow my friend Chad’s rules:

-Well written -Glorifying to God -Somewhat predictable -Poetic and imaginative integrity without obscurity -Sung to God directly, or of His attributes secondarily -Theologically correct -NOT LAME… all to the glory of Jesus.