Living Stones School of Worship: Lessons Learned

In the fall of 2019, I started an exciting journey into learning key fundamentals of worship ministry. As someone who has been active in worship ministry for a number of years, I felt it was important to return to the basics so I knew I was operating in the right mentality while serving. I sensed this was an inevitable journey I had to take as I believe learning is one of the most important activities a leader can be engaged in.

I’d like to highlight some of the most important lessons from the year of courses and material.

PERSONAL WORSHIP

A very strong focus was made on personal worship and abiding in Christ. Serving in worship ministry is meant to be an overflow of your personal devotion and worship. If there is not a strong pattern of abiding in Christ already in your life, your service to God in worship ministry is not as authentic as it seems to be.

The more we are intentional in pursuing Christ, the more He will give us a heart to pursue Him. We are not naturally inclined to want to spend time in His presence. Our natural and fleshly world leads us to be selfish and focused only on our internal goals. But when we have a heart to be like Christ, we develop a desire to pursue Him more and that is strengthened by God.

In our efforts to glorify God with our service in ministry, if we do so without the presence of God and that being a guiding force for us, our service will be limited in its effectiveness. We can be the most talented or hardworking team member, but if we are not regularly pursuing Jesus and seeking to operate out of the power He gives us we will be limited in our effectiveness.

EXCELLENCE VS PERFECTION

In our service of ministry is our goal excellence or perfection?

Many worship leaders and musicians get so caught up in the idea of perfection – their musical craft has to be so perfect and flawless that is what defines quality worship.

Unfortunately, this is not the biblical concept of excellence or what God desires. Ultimately, God desires a heart that is intent on pursuing Him. This involves being intentional with every decision and action you take. Is Jesus involved in your major and minor decisions? We can know we are living a life driven by excellence when we are seeking God’s direction even in minor steps in life.

There is an important truth for us to remember: We can work hard to find success in an endeavor and we can even succeed according to the world’s standards. We will achieve fame and recognition – but we still may miss the mark on achieving excellence in Christ.

Excellence is a fruit of a fully submitted life to the Holy Spirit. If you devote your life to being excellent in a Christ-like manner and seeking to exalt His name above your own, you never know how your lifestyle of biblical excellence will affect people around you.

Our purpose as ministry leaders should be singular – reveal God – and nothing less.

SERVANT LEADERSHIP

A servant is a person who performs duties for others. A leader is a person who guides or commands a group, organization or country. What is a servant leader?

A leader’s role is to serve the people under them well. When you examine your primary motivation for serving in leadership, you can get a sense of whether you are succeeding or failing in the biblical idea of leadership, which is driven by serving others not lifting yourself higher.

Paul prays this prayer for the Ephesians (3:14-19, ESV):

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

One of the hallmarks of true, lasting servant leadership is spiritual growth. Paul prays for the Ephesian believers to be filled with the fullness of God.

As leaders, it is essential to ask ourselves if we have grown spiritually or not during our time in our roles. And if we haven’t, are we taking steps to work through that?

The “serve” part of servant leadership is driven in the end by a crucial question – Do we love the people we serve? If we truly do, we will meet them where they are and help them to the next level in their walk.

DIRECTION & PRAYER

Prayer is a crucial aspect for any Spirit-driven leader. As leaders, we can often get stuck in the mud of trying to force or manipulate endeavors or projects without any foundation of seeking God for direction.

It is essential we assess the condition of our hearts. Honestly asking the question of why we are praying is essential. Are we praying out of religious requirements (to check off a list) or from an internal desire to know Christ fully and exalt His name? We should work to reveal God above all else as Christ followers.

As leaders, our most important relationship is with God. If our connection to God is strong, we won’t let distractions cloud our vision. What does your vision look like today? Are you truly aligned with God?

Worship ministry is one that requires creative strategies and techniques. But if we are not led by the Holy Spirit we will not be effective (according to how powerfully the Spirit wants to move). We will determine our work was a success by human standards but we are so limited by our lack of complete reliance on the Holy Spirit.

If the aspects above are not a focus or priority for us, we are not being effective as worship leaders or team members. When we think of worship ministry, we tend to think of the technical aspects of worship (which are essential) but true success in worship ministry comes from having these essentials first and foremost.

The Final Word

In this season of unease and increased anxiety with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many, including myself, are caught in a situation where we lost the one thing we crave: control. And that can be absolutely terrifying for a people that seem to have a hold on their lives. But I love that God has reminded me through Scripture consistently that no situation we endure is unknown to Him and He has the final word.

We read in Mark 5:21-43 that Jesus is approached by a ruler of the synagogue, Jairus, to come and heal his daughter who was almost at the point of death. As Jesus is making His way to Jairus’ home, we see a short but powerful moment where a women with a discharge of blood for 12 years touched Jesus’ garment and is healed. A brief exchange occurs and this woman, for the first time in her life, receives an identity. She had been ignored and not respected for much of her life due to her situation and she has a true moment of healing and identity revelation when Jesus calls her, “Daughter.”

As wonderful as this is, the original mission of this journey comes back to the forefront of the story and a messenger from Jairus’ home comes and declares his daughter is dead and Jesus the Teacher should not be troubled anymore.

We are often in our lives stuck in this moment in the process of our miracle. We are in the process and God is working in His ways to make His plans happen. But then someone comes or a situation presents itself and we declare there is no more hope for our miracle. In this COVID-19 virus situation, the scientific community and the government are actively working to get to solutions as quickly as possible so we can move forward past this pandemic. But there is also a sense of, “When will this ever end?” in most people.

But I love what Jesus said to Jairus following this news: “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36 ESV). And just a short while later, after seeing commotion and people weeping and wailing, Jesus says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39 ESV).

I am greatly encouraged in this: My situation may seem dead or hopeless to me, but Jesus always has the final word. A solution to our world’s issues seems improbable or impossible. But Jesus has the final word.

When the disciples were facing a vicious storm, Jesus reminded them the wind and the sea did not have the final authority in the situation.

“Peace! Be still!” Jesus said. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)

What situation in your life have you declared to be dead or hopeless? Be reminded today that your story isn’t over till Jesus has the final word in your story!

Hello, I’m Nelson.

I am an experienced communicator with digital and corporate experience. I have a passion for informing the public and specific audiences about timely and relevant information. Below are some projects I have led and participated in producing:

RESUME

Annual Report

One Pager

Press Releases

Newspaper Journalism

Seasons

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

The writer of Ecclesiastes hits a vital but often difficult to understand truth of humanity: Every season has an appointed purpose.

As a worship ministry, we have been in a transition-based season for some time now, with changes in leaders and team members. And that can be a tough time period to weather through.

But an underlying aspect of any ministry is that it, above all else, belongs to the Lord. He operates it and controls the seasons of ministry, the times of building up and the times of transition. Every moment, every transition.

Another underlying aspect of ministry is that it operates best when in alignment with the leading of the Holy Spirit. As we seek to move our worship ministry to another level, a critical aspect is every team member being plugged in to the Holy Spirit and abiding in Christ. Let us aim to be intentional in our walk with God in 2020, and see where the work of the Lord will take us if we will give Him the lead.

I encourage you to look at this ministry, as any other ministry, through the lens of what God is doing and not just what we can see what with our physical eyes.

What do you aim to see in worship moments in 2020? I want to see an environment of praise that honors God and brings people closer to experiencing God for themselves, for moments of active healing and prayer during worship times and a brand new season and atmosphere of vigor and energy in the church that elevates our church to the next level.

I want to see us go beyond striving to succeed each week to thriving on a new level – and that only happens when we yield to God.

The past season may have been difficult, but every season is preparation for the next season of what God is doing – and in the world of the Kingdom of God it is an exciting and thrilling time. Will we be part of it? What do you want to see?

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:14

SURROUNDED YET ALONE

You put on that manufactured smile and laugh at the joke you’ve probably heard many times. A youthful, exuberant student seeks your attention just for a few moments. But you are so caught up in your own sadness you can’t be fully present.

This is a reality many face on a daily, or weekly, basis. We have obligations, and we do our best to meet them. And we make sure we look okay for appearance sake.

But the truth is many people have a loneliness that can overwhelm them at times but they learn to put on a mask of happiness so people think everything is okay.

We can be surrounded by people every day whether in church or work life, and yet be more alone than ever before.

And in those moments of loneliness, it is more important than ever to activate the words of Paul to the Corinthians – “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

We are in a spiritual battle – and those moments of loneliness are moments the enemy looks to use to bring us down – first in our thoughts.

A few steps to take when those moments arrive:

  • Recognize the moment. This moment where you can go in the direction or depression or growing in your faith in the moment is such a crucial time. The enemy knows at this point more than any other point he can bring you down. But when you are aware the enemy is prowling to bring you down, you can be prepared.
  • Know your identity. In this crucial moment we are tempted to believe we are worthless or bring no value to the world around us. But it is in this time we have to remind ourselves of we are in Christ:
    1. We are adopted as heirs through the work of Christ (Ephesians 1:5). Though we were sinners, God loved us enough to accept us – just as we were, no matter how sinful we may have been.
    2. Before we were born, God knew us and set us apart for His master plan (Jeremiah 1:5). We were set apart by God before we were born for something much greater than us.
    3. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession – so we may declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9).
    4. We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). God specifically laid out plans for each of us to play a part in His Kingdom. So that thought that you are worthless or have no value – it is a lie and must be taken captive.
  • Reach out. After you recognize the significance of this moment and reaffirm your identity in Christ, it is not enough to just stop there. Take some time to reach out to a trusted friend and connect with them. We are not called to live this Christian life in isolation. Growth without community is impossible. Make the courageous choice to reach out to someone who can help build your faith in crucial moments.

The Best is Yet to Come

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“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

Tonight I stood in Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City as a stadium full of Oklahomans of different denominations and churches all stood out together and sang these powerful lyrics, in the song led by Taya Smith and Hillsong United.

I looked around the stadium and saw hands raised all over shouting this anthem.

And I considered, what if everyone actually meant these words that came out of their mouths?

If these words were meant by those in the arena, the churches represented would see revivals occurring, they would see lives being transformed by Christ in incredible ways, they would be stirred with a passion to be Christ to their neighbors and love them like they never have before. Those things start to happen when we can step out in faith and truly believe God can do incredible things through us.

In a season in America where there is much division and conflict, tonight was a powerful reminder that above all the tension America and the world is seeing right now, there is a God above the storms that has everything in His hands and that, no matter what doubts the enemy may put in front of us, the best is very much yet to come.

But this only happens when we intentionally step out in faith and trust God to accomplish the things beyond our ability. I sincerely pray and hope that many left the arena tonight with a sense of purpose and vision beyond anything they have considered before and are believing God to do things that are considered impossible through them. Then local churches will begin being stirred and passionate, and this city and this nation will begin to be transformed.

But an action is required of us in order for this to happen: we must step out in faith where God has called us and act with confidence.

What’s stopping you ?

 

Positioned For Victory

You’re not good enough. You don’t have the necessary skills to succeed. You are going to fail so you shouldn’t even try. There are too many obstacles in the way of this project succeeding.

These thoughts consistently prevailed in my mind over the course of a few days, following the previous days spent in prayer and reading, drawing closer to God.

This is a regular pattern in my life. The constant up and down of having faith in the God who created me to being depressed about not being good enough just a few days later.

But it is important to recognize what you are hearing when the spirit of discouragement hits: You are hearing the lies of the enemy, meant to tear you down and take you away from fulfilling your purpose.

In the words of Jesus, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). We are ever under spiritual attack and we must position ourselves for victory, knowing how to defeat the enemy’s tactics and stand firm knowing we have victory through the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The words of Paul to the church at Corinth come to mind: “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Without delay, you must take a thought that is a lie from the enemy captive and declare the promises of God, which will never fail.

If you are struggling with these kinds of doubts or a sense of discouragement, be reminded of the faithfulness of the God who created you:

Psalms 119:90  Your  faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But  the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against  the evil one.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

You are positioned for victory when you know who you are in Christ and you “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

Be blessed.

The Struggle for Freedom

“I thought when I drove off the property that it would sink in but it still feels weird, different,” she said about an hour after her release.

These are the words of Dana Bowerman, one of over 6,000 inmates released recently around the country as a result of the change in the way the U.S. punishes people convicted of federal drug crimes.

She was a first-time, nonviolent offender who got sent to prison in 2001, at age 30, for taking part in a conspiracy surrounding a methamphetamine ring. Under the sentence in place at the time, Bowerman had been scheduled to serve 19 years and seven months, or until 2018. (Source)

When Dana left the prison, she was freed of the physical prison walls that surrounded her since 2001. But as soon as she got out, a new sensation arose that was unfamiliar: a taste of refreshing freedom, not being stuck in a square cell 24 hours a day. She was so excited for one thing specifically, to be able to enjoy a thin-slice pizza, a privilege not given to her since she stepped foot in prison.

Most Christians face this same dilemma on a regular basis, though mostly not from being trapped in a physical prison. Many believers face the struggle of being free as a result of the work of Christ and not knowing how to handle that freedom.

As explained by Roger Olsen in “The Bonds of Freedom” (Christianity Today; October 5, 2012):

Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?

At the very heart of the Christian gospel is the strange truth that real freedom is found only in giving up everything secular culture touts as freedom. The gospel, it turns out, requires a distinction between the enjoyment of true freedom and the mere possession of “free will.” Not that free will or independence from tyranny is a bad thing; they’re just not true freedom. True freedom, the gospel tells us, is trusting obedience, the obedience of faith. That’s not exactly the image one finds portrayed in popular culture.

The great church father Augustine taught that true freedom is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be. Humans were created in the image of God. True freedom, then, is not found in moving away from that image but only in living it out. The closer we conform to the true image of God, Jesus Christ, the freer we become. The farther we drift from it, the more our freedom shrinks.

There is a great focus today on the right to do what you want, when you want to, and not being restricted in any way. But for the believer, the only way to be truly free is to become more and more like Christ in character.

This is a giant task. To become like Christ means to focus on your purpose and remove distractions that deter you from that purpose. This requires the ability to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.

A Christian is free from the bondage of the law:

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. (Galatians 5:1, NLT)

Olsen adds:

according to Luther, because of what Christ has done for her and because of her faith in Christ, the Christian is absolutely free from the bondage of the law. She doesn’t have to do anything. On the other hand, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for her and in her, the Christian is bound in servitude to God and other people. She gets to serve them freely and joyfully. A person who doesn’t “get” the “get to” part simply doesn’t know the joy of salvation.

What does this boil down to? As Christians, we must strive to use the freedom gained through Christ to reveal Him to those around us and not be caught in this stage of not knowing what to do with this freedom, as Dana felt with her new independence only an hour after being released in Texas today.

May we as believers strive to be truly free as the redeemed children of God we are. And let Christ be revealed through us.

The Urge to Lead

I made a statement in the summer of 2001, before the start of 9th grade at Mustang Mid-High School. It was primarily a statement to myself more than anything. The statement was simple: I would not aim for any kind of leadership role or spotlight among my classmates; my goal was to remain an invisible student who just made it through the four years in the suburban Oklahoma City city. More than that, it was my goal to never become a leader of any kind. I simply did not see myself in that light at all; it was my goal to blend in the background.

That changed in a big way because of one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Diane Cerny. I needed an elective, and I ended up signing up for a Marketing Fundamentals course. As I walked into what was the North building at Mustang High School in junior year, I had no idea what God would end up doing through one amazing teacher and a student organization. Because of her consistent urging, I gave in to running for a local chapter position, won and proceeded to be a state officer my senior year.

I will never forget the final assembly of the 2005 State DECA Conference at Union High School when my name was called as the 2005-06 Oklahoma DECA Reporter. As I recollect that day, I thought back to the time when I vowed to never push for a leadership role. As I walked to the stage of an auditorium of high school students from all over the state, I was amazed how God was not limited in how far He can take us, despite the limitations we place on ourselves.

Today I find myself in a very curious place, in a lead role with my local church and affiliated with several parachurch organizations in my community. I find myself in leadership roles for events I never dreamed I would be a part of back in 2001. I stand amazed every day at the journey God has put me on and the opportunities He has given me that I undoubtedly do not deserve. I continue to learn every single day that in leadership and life you never stop learning. Just when you think you’ve mastered something, you soon realize you’ve got a long way to go. Failure is that ever-present reminder that I still have a lot to learn.

I share this because there are those in our church community who are called to lead but who may not feel equipped and therefore will not step up when the time comes. I am a testimony of someone who God has blessed and used in ways I never expected to be used. Know that when you step out in faith when God calls you to lead in your local church, in your workplace or in your school, He will equip you and guide you for that season of life. But we must respond to the call and not cower in fear when we feel the call to lead.

Doubts and a lack of confidence will always come up and threaten to bring us down, but in those moments we must remind ourselves of the One who created and called us and who knows our beginning and end. Keep your eyes on your Creator, not your circumstances.

In those moments, the words from God to Israel’s new leader Joshua come to mind:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9, ESV

“Good people come and go”

Whether it’s work or school or your family life, one thing is always for sure, the best people come into your life, make an impact, then leave just when things get good and you’re used to them there.

Over the past year I’ve had the chance to become acquainted with Abel Musuka, a Zambian student at Rhema Bible Training Center in Broken Arrow, Okla. I had heard of him when he first led an original song, “Completely Anointed”, at a youth camp held in Texas. From that moment on, he became a part of the Pentecostal Malayalee community and a friend to many.

To know personally how amazing of a person he is and how he is used by God to make such a difference with his music is indeed a privilege.

In his own words, he saw a friend’s life changed when singing his song “Completely Anointed”.

The lyrics speak for themselves:
“When I look back at Life, To think of how we used to be
I can’t imagine Lord, of all the things you’ve done for me
How you picked me, how you washed, how you set me free
You sent your Son to set me free from my iniquities
Lord I love you, Lord I trust you, Lord I lift your name
As I sing this song to say what’s on my heart
Today
Today

–CHORUS
I am Anointed, Completely Anointed
I am Anointed, Completely Anointed
In Jesus Name
In Jesus Name

–BRIDGE (echo)
I’m on Fire (Im on Fire)
I’m on Fire (Im on Fire)”

This is just one of many songs that touched so many of the youth that have heard this beautifully written music. Other songs, such as “Fire Shut Up in My Soul” and “Overcomers” show how he has continued to let the Spirit lead him into writing impactful, life-changing songs.

Before he left, I had the privilege of helping him fix a small piece on his acoustic guitar. It took an hour or so of driving to and from the same places, but in the end I helped him get his guitar back to working order, and it was privilege to help such an anointed man of God and simply to be his acquaintance.

After his recent graduation, he is back in Zambia serving as a youth pastor. I will keep his ministry in prayer and encourage you to as well.

God bless!