What We Ask About Worship

One of my favorite features of the WordPress statistics page (web hits & clicks, etc.) is the “Search Engine Terms.” This means that if you Google a phrase that leads you to my blog, I’m told what the phrase is. For instance, I once wrote a blog about getting my butt stuck in the passenger seat of my car due to a bubble gum accident. Now, I’m privy to a good amount (more than you would think) of butt-gum internet searches: butt stuck in window, butt in gum, left butt stuck, my butt is stuck, and so forth.

By far, the most common search terms that bring people to my blog have to deal with worship. Last year, I was Freshly Pressed due to my blog Confessions of a Former Worship Leader. In short, my thesis was twofold: the church encourages musicianship without calling it music, or concerts, fostering a milieu of anxiety ridden (red-headed, guitar playing) church musicians; and the church, or us, has gone overboard, or obsessed, in presenting a program-over-people approach of worship.

I don’t mean to revisit the post fully; I have no intention of that. Personally, I’m very much beyond it (admittedly, because, I don’t attend Sunday service anymore). However, since the worship blog brings droves of readers to my site—with a bevy of search terms along with it—it seems wise to share what I have learned from the people who frequent my site. (more…)

I Hate Critical Christians (and Their Skinny Jeans, Too!)

It’s best to come to terms with who you are. I’m a critical sonuvagun by nature. In the blogosphere my kind are welcome, for sure, but on Sunday, in church, it’s different. Recently, I read through Hebrews, and in Chapter 12 the writer (somewhat) says, “Pay no attention to that critical guy, stirring up trouble. He’s just a bully with a blog.” Awkward, right?

So, fellow critical Christianers, what do we do? Show up, shut up, sit down? Maybe.

SIDE NOTE: If the pastor shortened his or her sermon, then the church could afford interactive Q&A from the congregation afterwards.

The older I get, and the more I read the Bible, the more I consider the mainstream’s misinterpretation and misapplication of verses—like the one from Hebrews 12—that suggest I shouldn’t speak my mind, or be who I am, in the church (like, say, a critical, tight-jeans-wearin’ hipster).


This isn’t me, be tee dubs.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/conorkeller/4998467337/


ReLook: Numero Hill & The Sinking City

It’s my first week at the University of Rochester. Since I’m adjusting to my new schedule (and homework-work-load), I thought I’d revisit some old blog posts. Some stories deserve a second telling. Some deserve a better telling. In a happy (yet horrid) affair, I edited, cut, and rehashed this post. I hope you enjoy! 

Numero Hill & The Sinking City

Think about this: You live in a small town; you’ve been there your whole life. One day, it just disappears, vanishes (maybe “Vanish” is too much; how about this: “It drowns”). The city drowns.

The waters rise. All you can do is head uphill.


Last weekend, I was asked to lead worship in Entiat, Washington by my friend Gar Mickelson who was guest speaking. The church’s usual “worship-person” was on a retreat. I’m not sure who he was retreating from; they didn’t tell me.

Gar gave me advice to keep it simple: “It’s a small church in a small town.”

On the three-hour drive to Entiat, Gar spoke to us—us includes my wife; Josh Hardy, the guitar and piano accompaniment; and myself—about some of the history of Entiat, WA, a tiny town along the Columbia River, near Wenatchee. “In 1960, most of the town had to move and relocate to higher ground, due to the Rocky Reach Dam, built just a few miles north on the river. This dam would be so powerful and so important, it would provide power all the way to Coeur D’Alene and beyond.”

The dam fulfilled its purpose and benefited many towns, unfortunately, at the cost of Entiat. The waters rose and she was of covered. The locals who stayed had to resettle uphill.

The Number Entiat

Pulling into the church parking lot, we noticed a steep and flat cliff on the side of a big hill which overlooked the town. “Numero Hill,” said a local. (more…)

Freshly Pressed: My Favorite Comments

Last week, I found myself struggling with writer’s block. Yesterday, I was Freshly Pressed on WordPress. That kind of took care of it. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, basically, Freshly Pressed is their sort of… front page.

Alternate blog title: Freshly Pressed: How Keva Got His Groove Back

Just last week, I was telling my wife about some of my goals. Freshly Pressed was numero uno. So that’s cool. Now, I can move on to goal numero dos: hand model. Well no…

What a huge honor. The Freshly Pressed came at just the right time, too. My writer’s block has since been smashed, chopped, and blended… and digested.

Confessions of a Former Worship Leader was featured. I wrote the post straight from the heart, so it was nice to get such a wide array of feedback and responses. “Confessions…” seems to have struck a chord, no pun intended.

The internet is a strange place, and it gets a lot of flack these days (Facebook rants, mean-spirited debates and criticisms, message boards), but I’m continually impressed by the genuineness and civility of WordPress bloggers. It’s quite a special place.

Comments are still coming in (slightly overwhelming)! In truth, everyone’s comment has touched my heart. Some responses have been encouraging, some have disagreed; all have contributed towards my healing in some way. The best part is the overall, much-needed conversation of corporate worship has begun. It’s been an honor to have lead this discussion.

Here’s a few comments (from yesterday) that have, so far, stood out to me. A lot of these are just excerpts. I might add one or two more as I continue to read.

Comments, Comments, Comments,


During the few Christian services I’ve attended in my life, I’ve felt so confused and taken aback by the focus on modern music. The services were not what I imagined at all and frankly I felt more uncomfortable in those which relied heavily on the performance. Thank you for sharing the thoughts of someone behind the scenes, so to speak. It’s comforting to know that someone so involved with religion shares or at least reflects some similar input on a few of the topics I’ve been so confused by. Thank you so much.

Constance V. Walden

When people get up on a stage or stand up before the congregation and sing, with or without music, it it becomes a concert or entertainment. It becomes about them, really. Yes, they may be singing about the Lord, but, it’s really about them. When the church comes together to worship, they should sing together as one to the Lord on the same level. No one up front, no one on stage, and not drowned out by musical instruments. It’s OUR voices together in praise to the Lord. Thanks for sharing.


My heart broke last week when a dear friend told me she chose a church for the “worship experience” she told me it was “very spiritual” and that what she loved was that she could go there, feel blessed, talk to no one, and then return home, untethered to anyone in the congregation, or anything she needed to carry around with her all week. She could “just leave it there til next week.” We’ve turned worship into a gratifying experience, so much so that in “trying to serve God” in worship, we end up hurting those who come to our churches.


Hello, I quit the church for many reasons ….and the hypnotizing of the congregation by emotional music and all that goes into producing a good concert to move your feelings….it was called being moved by the Holy Spirit, but exactly the same feelings are produced at a “secular” concert. People are fooling themselves.

Carpenter’s Quill

Worship is: Dance, art, a prayer, thanking God by using our talents, helping people around us, or even singing in the shower. I agree that ‘worship’ isn’t just one singular act of service/praise. I also like your response about being ‘hurt by the church’. Too many people forget that the church is full of humans. We are individuals incapable of perfection. I’m glad it didn’t squash your faith, and that you’re uncovering hidden feelings. I think the mega church culture (as a whole) needs to get back to authentic ‘worship’


I appreciate your honesty with where you are at and think it was wise for you to pull back as you did. It seems to me, our spiritual life and our interactions with others and service ebbs and flows, inevitably produces flaws, retracts in disgust and renews itself in purity through the Spirit. It is not just this way in worship of course, but in any aspect we participate in communally. Anytime our faith goes public in service we drag along our personal spiritual fights and encounter those of others and sometimes we just need to pull back and regroup.


I sang and led worship at my church for several years and like you suffered burn out. I left the church in search of something better and more genuine for me to believe in. I can so relate to your post and agree with it all. I am attending a micro church now where the worship music is by most standards poor, but it is genuine and heartfelt and I enjoy it more than the concerts of the past.

Thanks again, WordPress! What an honor to have been considered and chosen.

Killing the Program: Further Thoughts on Worship…

Last week I posted, “Confessions of a Former Worship Leader,” which garnered quite a  bit of attention. The post deserved an immediate follow up though it seemed best to let it simmer, both in my brain and yours.

The main argument of the blog was that musical worship in church has gotten a bit out of hand. And while I don’t wish to see an end to musicianship in the church (by any means), I do think it’s healthy to deconstruct what we do, examine it and question.

The sacredness of worship is beautiful and timeless; the traditions we’ve built are what’s worth questioning.

In the days since that post, I’ve had a couple great conversations regarding church and the program—some I agree with, some I don’t. There seems to be a growing sentiment of disdain for the modern, local church. You could almost call it distrust.

I just don’t trust where the money goes…

I just don’t trust the motivations…

I just don’t trust the program…

In fewer words, the growing sentiment is this: let’s kill the program. The program (church program, that is) is, arguably, built to shuffle many people in and out of a building on Sunday. The before statement removes any spiritual aspect from the motivations of the elders and pastors, I understand that. But this is the perspective of people like me who just don’t relate to a big show on Sunday. To us, church is, and should be, nothing more than a gathering of believers.

We believe that Church can happen anytime throughout the week, and the existence of a stage feels counterintuitive to Christ’s message.

To be honest, I’ve grown past my contempt. Big church isn’t something I feel we should kill. I still have struggles, yes, but I’ve come to respect big church for who they serve and all the good that they do. Just because I don’t personally relate to the show on Sunday, doesn’t mean other people can’t. In fact, many, many people do. This was a hard realization to make.

Sometimes, I feel the criticism take over. In these cases, I’m sinning.

If we’re not careful, the distrust in our church may become just another empty tradition we wrap ourselves up in. This is why every believer needs to be in fellowship. Not in a big church, not in a little church, just in church. Other believers keep us grounded. When we have someone to bounce ideas off of, instead of the padded walls in our brain, we are given feedback and advice. Sometimes, just saying something out loud relieves the tension.

Here’s some questions to ponder:

1. How do we mend the growing sentiment of distrust between believers and the church?

2. Will there always be a gap between anti-program and pro-program believers? Is this an issue we should even try to solve in this world?

3. By respecting the program, would those in church be more willing to respect the, I hesitate to say it, “organic model”?

4. Can corporate worship exist outside of physical church walls?

5. If we’re not involved in church, do we have a right to criticize it?

What do you think?

Confessions of a Former Worship Leader

Corporate worship, about two years ago I walked away from it. Praise music on Sundays, youth on Wednesdays—after years and years, I said goodbye to it all. I didn’t loose faith, nor did I sin my way into shame, I just burned out. My feelings, my doubts, the weight of it all just bubbled up.

Like so many others before me, I was hurt by the church and left because of it. Hurt, though, is part of any relationship; it’s what we sign up for. As time went on, I realized my hiatus was less about mending hurt feelings and more about uncovering hidden ones.

This blog offers some food for thought about worship. Issues that bug me, stuff I’ve come to terms with. While I don’t wish to offend anybody, I do wish to start a conversation. So, here it goes.

This Isn’t a Concert?

Worship leaders deal with a lot of weird stuff. There’s this pressure, this weight. We’re told that God is the priority, that Jesus is the reason. “It’s not a performance,” we’re told. “It’s a Godcert.”

Then, we’re given a microphone and put under lights. We’re in a room, with a stage, built like a performance center. Songwriters exist in just about every church, yet only Top 40s worship is allowed. Keep the drums low, pick familiar songs, fill your time slot.

Isn’t worship so freeing! No, no, not really.

Since Christian musicians can’t call what they do a concert, or performance, or take any credit, they look for confirmation where they can get it. In my day, I’d count raised hands, or note those having an “experience.” Every worship leader does this. They’re lying if they say they don’t. The problem with this system is that we inevitably pander our services towards gaining such responses, both consciously and subconsciously.

Things get shallow, fast.

It’s not us, we say. It’s God. Then we pat ourselves on the back for having a good show, I mean set, I mean God is good, all the time.


This is the part of the conversation where someone reminds me that worship doesn’t have to be in musical form, in a church. I agree. In fact, I’d counter back and say that worship was never meant to be in musical form, in a church, but a life-long commitment. Singing in church, I believe, is just an act of unison between believers, an act of commodore.

Singing brings us together. It builds bridges. It reminds us of the hope we stake our claim in. It blurs out the differences and clarifies the similarities. It’s for us!

Why have we labeled it worship?

Fellowship, our meetings, is about loving and learning from each other in the name of Jesus. It’s about community, communion, and communication. It’s about learning HOW to worship.

There’s this individualistic “experience” in worship that everyone wants now. People my age flock to church in hopes of getting spiritually high so they can last another week. Ultimately, this is what pulled the plug for me.

We, us worship leaders, hypnotize our churches with chanting and self-indulgent “improvisation” until our congregations are blue in the face. We execute drum build-ups in musical bridges like clock-work—always before the last chorus—for a high user “experience” return rate. We have it down.

Then we say, “God did it,” and I punch a figurative hole in a figurative wall.

Rain Down on Me

The quality of Christian musicianship has never been better. It’s not uncommon for me to buy a CD from time to time. I’m not asking for churches to stop what they’re doing. I’m just saying we call it what it is, a Christian concert. No weird pressure, no mental breakdowns, no expectations. Let church be church and concerts be concerts. People can skip the concert if they want to and not be chastised for it.

After all, worshiping God is a life-long sacrifice, not a thirty minute music set. Washing feet, serving in love, praying for others, this worship is true.

Worship God on your own time.

What are your thoughts?

Further Reading:

Killing the Program: Further Thoughts on Worship

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