WEC Week Worship Short: Day 3

The following is a worship short delivered during the worship time of the World Evangelization Conference 2012 at Dallas Theological Seminary. A worship short is a brief anecdotal focusing of the worship theme, developed exegetically, and delivered during the worship time to help focus the congregation on the general theme. This is day 1 of a 4 day conference.

Worship Theme: Christ, the Sustainer

Verse: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”” Lamentations 3:22-24

I have a one and a half year old who just discovered how much fun it is to wrestle with daddy. He’ll jump into my arms and start flailing around while I lift him up and toss him around. Little does he know how dangerous what he’s doing could be if I were to let go and not be there. He feels free and fearless not because what he’s doing is safe, but because I’m there to hold him.

Christ’s love is holding us. Despite our flailings and wreckless wanderings, God’s love holds us. It sustains us. What a wonderful truth that the Lord’s steadfast love never ceases. Join me in celebrating his steadfast love and constant mercy this morning.

WEC Week Worship Short: Day 1

The following is a worship short delivered during the worship time of the World Evangelization Conference 2012 at Dallas Theological Seminary. A worship short is a brief anecdotal focusing of the worship theme, developed exegetically, and delivered during the worship time to help focus the congregation on the general theme. This is day 1 of a 4 day conference.

Worship Theme: Christ, the Source of our Salvation

Verse: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:8-9

Three weeks ago, I planted flowers in my front yard. My wife loves flowers, so whenever Spring rolls around we attempt to plant them and make our yard beautiful. Unfortunately I have the black thumb of death when it comes to flowers, so, just as it has happened in past Springs, the flowers are already dying. In the busyness of life over the last few weeks, I failed to water frequently enough and as a result, the flowers are ow wilting.

The source of the flowers life is water, without it they die. I want us to remember today that if we are not finding the source of our salvation in Christ, then we, like the flowers in my front yard, will wilt. Our hearts have a tendency to plant themselves in the toxic and stagnant waters of this world, so my hope this morning  is that we would not wilt. My hope is that we would plant our soul’s roots in Christ the living water, the true source of our salvation!

How to Have an Exegetically Motivated Worship Service

A New Approach

Unless you have had formal training at a bible college or seminary level, the word exegetical may be new to you. So let me define it:

Exegesis - A method of bible study and teaching that seeks to derive the original meaning and intention of a passage of Scripture by placing it in it’s original historical, literary, and theological context. (My own definition).

There are typically two ways to approach the Bible. We can approach it with what we think it says and use the Bible to back up our preconceived notions, or we can approach it in such a way to try and set our own presumptions aside and allow the original intention of the text to shape our understanding of the Bible.

Either we develop what we think the Bible says, or the Bible develops what we think it says.

I am a firm believer that the proper way to study the Bible, to teach the Bible, to preach on the Bible, is to do so exegetically. I would never work at a church where the preaching pastor does not hold to this approach and I would recommend you not attend a church where the preaching pastor does not hold to this approach.

I feel that strongly about this. Which is why it was so convicting when I realized I haven’t allowed this conviction to inform the way I lead worship.

My typical approach when developing a worship service was to look through songs in similar keys, maybe try and find some theme, make sure they flow together dynamically, incorporate random liturgical elements I thought fit well (communion, testimony, Scripture reading, directed prayer, etc.), and call it a day. The practical demands of a worship service would always inform the theological message made by a worship service. Because of this, the music and timing of things would flow well, but the theological point being made through the service, the directive as to what we are responding to and how we should respond, was either muddled or non-existent.

I have been deeply convicted over the last two months that this approach is irresponsible given the great influence we have on our congregations. Worship pastors have just as much if not more influence over the way the congregation thinks and feels about God as the teaching pastor. Because of this, I am convinced we need to approach worship leading differently.

The theological message should always inform our methodology. The form needs to come before the function. Below is a step by step how-to on developing an exegetically motivated worship service. I have been employing this approach in my own worship leading over the last month and the difference has been astounding.

How to Have an Exegetically Motivated Worship Service:

1. Start with a passage.

The whole point of an exegetically motivated worship service is to allow Scripture to direct the elements of the service, so the obvious first step is starting with a passage. Depending on the time of the year, I will either use the passage the preacher is using, or pull a passage from the Revised Common Lectionary. During seasons like Advent or Lent, I will rely more on the Lectionary. If you are unfamiliar with this approach, I would suggest choosing one verse and developing the service from there.

Example -  ”For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

2. Develop an Exegetical Proposition.

This will be the most challenging step at first. An exegetical proposition is a summary statement bringing out the semantic force of the verse and taking into account the historical, literary, and theological context in which the verse is found. This will take practice. We will need to ask two questions when developing this point. First: What is this passage about? Second: What is this passage saying about the subject? 

An Exegetical proposition will begin with phrases like “the result of,” “the purpose of,” “the source of”, or “The means by which.” The point is to discover the exact relationship the subject has with it’s compliment. Don’t get frustrated with this point. It will take time and practice. For a deeper explanation on how to do this, check out Haddon Robinson’s book, Biblical Preaching.

Example - The purpose of the Jesus coming into the world (Subject) is to serve others and give his own life up as ransom despite his entitlement to be served as the Son of Man (Compliment).

3. Develop a Big Idea.

Once you have developed you’re bulky exegetical proposition, we need to come up with a much shorter statement that will be the theme of our worship service. This is a phrase that will be repeated throughout the course of your worship service and will direct the song choice and liturgical elements included, so work hard on crafting this statement. Remember, it should be short and memorable.

Example - Jesus came to serve and redeem!

4. Develop a Dialectic Response.

This is a point unique to worship leading. Worship is our response to God. In a different post, I argue that worship is dialectic. This means that it is the spiritual forming response to an initiating God by his humble and grateful people. Worship is a dialogue, so if the big idea, developed exegetically from Scripture, is what God is saying to us, we need to also figure out what we should say back to him.

This statement should begin with the word “therefore”. It answers the question, “How should we respond?” This should also take into account the original context of the passage we began with and stay true to it’s intentions. With our Mark passage, the context is Jesus rebuking his disciples for arguing about who will sit at his right hand in the new kingdom, so we need to factor that into our dialectic response.

Example - Therefore, serve each other sacrificially.

5. Put the Big Idea and Dialectic Response together for your worship theme.

This step is the reward for all your hard work in the previous steps. At this point, just put step 3 and 4 together to form one complete sentence.

Example – Jesus came to serve and redeem; therefore, serve each other sacrificially.

6. Finally, pick songs and other liturgical elements to communicate your worship theme.

After doing all this work, you are finally ready to pick the songs and develop the service. It is at this point that you consider keys, dynamics, non-musical liturgy and other elements that are in your worship leading toolbox. The difference is that along with crafting a service that flows aesthetically well, you will develop a service that makes a single exegetically informed statement.

So here is the final result of all these steps:

Song 1: All Because of Jesus (C)

State Worship Theme

Song 2: Nothing But the Blood (C)

Testimony: Someone who gave up everything to serve the poor

Read Mark 10:45

Song 3: Joyful, Joyful (E)

Song 4: In Christ Alone (E)

In light of the the theme, we take communion by serving others the bread and wine.


If this looks like a lot of work, you’re right. This will take time and practice, but I assure you it’s worth it. We as worship leaders have a responsibility to be leading our congregations in worship driven by the truth of God found in the Scripture.

Up for a challenge? Instead of picking one verse from the lectionary, do step number 2 with all four verses and then develop the Big Idea from a synthesis of all of them, incorporating the Scripture into the service.

The Write-It-Down Revolution

I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but I like writing. I am a better, more refined, more articulate version of myself in the written world and would much prefer to live there…but I can’t.

I write everything down. I pre-write and outline papers before writing the maximum amount of pages for class. I manuscript sermons, write articles just for fun, plan book ideas, and even write lists for myself Saturday mornings to remember what chores I need to get done.

I’m not good off-the-cuff, so in most situations where I need to speak in front of people, I write things down. At least, in every situation except when I lead worship.

For most of my worship leading career, I have operated under the impression that writing transitions or stories down for the time of worship would make me come across as inauthentic and forced. I avoided it at all cost. I would plan out every aspect of the music and flow of the service, but I would never plan what I would say.

I wanted the Spirit to move me, to allow myself the freedom to feel out the congregation. Every once in a while, it would connect, but most of the time my transitions and anecdotes were muddled, unclear, and irrelevant.

I had a revelation a few weeks ago. I am a seminary student and worship pastor (yes, those actually exist), but I have struggled with how the two roles might intersect. I am passionate about writing, about preaching, about applying the Word of God to a culture misunderstanding it. But I never saw how those passions could be clearly articulated in the time of worship. My revelation was this: WRITE STUFF DOWN!

Just because I’ve written something down in advance doesn’t mean it is any less genuine. In fact, since starting this practice a few weeks ago, the impact of the worship time has significantly improved. Just like every note and musical transition is where it should be, every word spoken in between is now carefully thought through to make the most impact possible. I’m calling it the Write-It-Down Revolution. I write the big idea of the service (which I will explain how to develop in a blog post coming soon) so I know what phrase to repeat throughout the service. I write down the greeting. If I’m doing announcements, I write it down. When I want to incorporate Scripture or a story or a quick explanation. I write it down. The days of spontaneity are over, at least for a while.

Are you skeptical? Are you worried you might squelch the Spirit speaking in the moment by meticulously planning out what will be said and when during a service? I was too. And then I tried it.

So here’s the challenge: Try it. Join me in the Write-It-Down Revolution.

Do it just for a few weeks and tell me if you notice a difference. We need to remember that we, as worship pastors, have significant impact in the way our churches think and feel about God. Not only the songs we choose, but the words we say in between, impact our congregations. Preachers don’t walk up unprepared as to what they want to say, so why should we?

Will you join me? Leave a comment if this is something you’ve tried or something you’re willing to try? Do you think this is a stupid idea? Why?

Free Ash Wednesday Printable

Created by Cody Kimmel for services at White Rock Fellowship

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