The Worship Team

I’ve had the pleasure of working among musicians and worship teams in a variety of contexts. One of my favorite roles is actually as a coach rather than as a team member.

If someone comes to me asking for my help with their worship team, many times, in their minds, they have this idea of a new, dynamic worship leader, coming in, taking the captain’s wheel, setting a new course, and saving the day — creating a fresh and exciting worship environment. This is not the way I approach coaching worship teams.

When I sign on to work with a team, my primary objective isn’t actually to make them better — competence comes in time — but there’s another place I prefer to begin. I’ll gather this team of musical people and ask them who plays what. I’ll listen to them as they share their favorite bands and music styles and help navigate the right people into the right places. And, I’ll take a little time to observe the feel of their community. And then… my job is to affirm them. A worship team needs to hear that the sound they create together is meaningful to the Lord and that they are who their community needs. If a team is comprised of an acoustic guitar and a washboard, praise God. What a gift to a community of believers. If a team happens to be made up of professional musicians, fantastic. What a gift they are as well!

There’s a pressure in America, to always be the biggest and the best, often at the expense of authenticity. The worship team of the western Church is by no means shielded from this pressure.

The small rural church community doesn’t need to feel pressure to have the Nashville rock band — pull out the acoustic guitar and the banjo and let’s do this! And on the other hand, for the the Nashville rock band, playing in clubs six nights a week and dragging out of bed after a late Saturday night to worship Jesus with spiritual family on a Sunday morning, beautiful!

Communicating to a worship team that they have everything needed to lead their community in worship is one of my favorite moments. Sure, there are places we can all improve, there are wild musicians to reign in, there are quiet bedroom musicians to infuse with boldness, there are stray notes and wrong chords, and all kinds of other things. But, let’s make sure that we are starting with who we are and with what we have. And let’s commit to growing from that place.


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember


excerpt from On Trusting God – Isaiah 43

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God… (Isaiah 43).

Read through this passage several times in a quiet, undistracted space. Fear not — I have redeemed you — I have called you by name — You are mine — I will be with you — [waters] shall not overflow you — fire shall not burn you — I am the Lord your God. Allow the reality of each phrase to wash over you.

Allow yourself to visualize the most challenging thing in your life right now [repeat where necessary]. Thank God for these promises surrounding your specific hardship. Thank him for his command to fear not. Thank him for the promise that this hardship will not overtake you or destroy you. YOU ARE MINE. Thank him for this reality.


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Let’s do what we’re best at — laying down the turnkey church

Thoughts continued from Organizational Turnkey and Church and Turnkey organization and the great American detox

In my previous post on the topic, I presented the thought that we, as local parts/expressions of Christ’s body, his Church, have an opportunity to focus on our strengths/identity and journey alongside others with other strengths — walking in dependent, functional unity [friendship].

Journeying more deeply into the question, what would it look like to do what we are best at?

What if we shared our best with other parts of Christ’s body in our city and region? What if the group that felt predominately called to mission, mobilized the majority of the missional endeavors and service to the city for the greater community of believers? What if the group with the biggest prophetic impulse shared their prayer gatherings with the larger body of Christ in the region? What if Young Life became our predominant youth ministry or Campus Crusade our citywide college ministry?

What if we came to one another with humilty, not only for input, perspective and prayer requests, but for a regular seat at one anothers table.

This is not about outsourcing.

If Christ did not call us — all of us — his [one] body, then we could call this outsourcing. But we are his body. His one body. This is not outsourcing. This is walking in dependent, functional unity — friendship and connectedness.


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Revelation 4

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come (Revelation 4)!

He is the one who was and is and is to come. God, our anchor, has always been, is with us now, and will always be. His depth is our foundation. His being is our stronghold.

Take a moment to set aside distraction. Turn your phone on silent… or even… put your phone/computer/tablet elsewhere. Find an undistracted place and contemplate this attribute of God — the one who was and is and is to come. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding of this reality, the vastness of it, even the implications of this reality. Ask him to give you understanding on how the scope of this attribute enables you to trust God more deeply.

Take as much time on this session as you need. Feel free to revisit it for several days if it feels helpful.


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

Turnkey Church?

Thoughts continued from Organizational Turnkey and the Great American Detox

I think the turnkey approach can be incredibly helpful in many industries and organizations… but in my opinion, local church is not one of them. To reiterate, this is my opinion, and I’m voicing it, hopefully, to relieve some pressure that many of our local church communities can so easily begin to feel — finding themselves taking on things they were never meant to take on, carrying things they were never meant to carry, and trying to be something they were never meant to be. Because of the way we, the church, have looked to marketing and business as the way we build, organize, and strategize [which are, at times, incredibly helpful tools], we have unfortunately also taken on this pressure to offer every spiritual service imaginable — often for the sake of marketing or more simply, appeasement — going back to our turnkey definition from my previous entrya complete product or service that is ready for immediate use. Is it necessary [or healthy] for a local believing community to be a spiritual one-stop shop? Is there a subtle cost that we are paying for over time?

For the body does not consist of one part, but of many… If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Corinthians 12).

Paul’s admonition has often been directed toward the individual, but not typically toward the local congregation of believers. Yes, each community of believers is made up of many gifts. But to say each groups is to carry the fullness of the glory of Jesus [his entire body], would not be correct, as it’s missing entirely the purpose of the whole, universal, catholic body of believers — the one body of Christ. There are not local bodies of Christ… There is only one body and He, the head, has invited us to be part of what He is doing.

Despite this reality, our churches and leadership teams feel pressure to be the best in every area — Hollywood caliber teaching, rockstar worship experience, over the top youth and children programs, small groups geared toward the older generation, the newly married, the not married, the young families, the empty-nesters, the un-nested. What we do in the name of excellence, if we are not careful, becomes an aside that distracts us from the very identity the Spirit of God has spoken into each distinct expression of his body — communicating a unique piece of His heart and character.

So where do we go from here?

We have each been uniquely created. We have each been uniquely gifted. Would it not also be true that each community of believing people would also be unique in composition? It takes courageous leadership to communicate this is who we are, this is what we are best at, this is our contribution.

Let’s courageously ask ourselves… What is my contribution? What is my part? Where do I come alive and how do I bring God glory from this place? How does he want to impact my world? 

And leaders, let’s ask the same of our local expressions… How has the Spirit of God identified us? Who has he called us to be? — And taking it one step further — What areas are we weaker in? — And another amazingly courageous step forward — What other groups, communities, organizations are strong in these areas and how has God invited us to join together in order to further his kingdom in our region?

Instead of reinventing the wheel — the wheel that we really don’t have time, energy, vision, capacity, to build anyway — what if we walked out of our house and looked down the street to see if anyone else had already built it. What if, when we do find someone with the wheel we are missing, we ask them if we could come down to their house to use their wheel too?

It could really position us to keep doing what we do best. And, you know what? As we get to know the folks who’s wheel we are using, we might even become friends.


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember