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I can understand everything but this is my own opinion that with loudness and using of instruments on guitar it is very difficult to do worship.

Thanks for this article, Diane!  And thank God for Darrell Delaney, my new friend since Synod - gifted preacher, and articulate spokesperson in deliberations.

You are right in what you've said, Betty. But I've come to really appreciate the folks who offer the copyright licensing opportunities for churches and worshiping communities (CCLI,, and LicenSing). While technology offers us the means to project and copy music, the law still has requirements and regulations attached to those acts. These copyright licensing organizations have bundled hundreds of thousands of hymns and songs and offered them under one license. If that was not available, we would have to go individually to each author, composer, or publisher for each song for permission every time we wanted to sing it. And there is no set fee that can be charged - it could be any amount, though the standard is probably between $15.00 - $40.00 for a single use.

So while it seems like a hassle and added expense, I've found that these people have a real heart for ministry, and are doing their best to assist the churches' worship in the 21st century.

Good thoughts, John.

These exercises are helpful not only in an individual context but would stimulate some good reflection in a Peer Learning Group or mentoring relationship.

Thanks for sharing.

 That's nice but I doubt that my fellow congregation members would go along gladly with this proposal.  Most of them already find the Sunday morning service too long.  On the other hand I had heard of this practice in Presbyterian circles, and if it appeals to people of Scottish descent, it might carry with those of Dutch descent since some of the latter like to brag about being cheaper than Jews or Scots.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

Interesting perspective.  Personally, as one of the "twenty-somethings" the CRC is trying to lure back, I am marriage-saturated right now.  Everyone and their mother is getting engaged or married, and I'm constantly attending weddings.  They are all well and good -- I'm very happy for those couples who have found each other -- but I really don't need weddings to invade my Sunday morning worship as well as my Facebook feed and my summer weekends.  Maybe it's selfish, but I don't go to church to celebrate and think about other people that much. I want to be spiritually nourished and refreshed, not made to feel guilty or sad that I'm single.  Weddings inevitably result in questions (from sometimes well-meaning people, yes) about whether I'm seeing anyone or when I'm going to get married. I don't need that in Sunday worship.

Also, regarding cost: often the biggest costs at a wedding don't come from the ceremony itself. It's the reception that's expensive. And I doubt that people would stop having receptions just because they got married during a Sunday service.  So the huge cost would still be there.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

It is food for thought, Sunday worship weddings. Your idea is to make the wedding ceremony much like the practice of baptism, that is Covenant, and what could be most biblically identified with the idea of covenant than a wedding. I both like it and endorse it, particularly where, as with baptism, we exhort the congregation to do their part to see this marriage spiritually prosper and succeed. It is a question the church needs to ask itself especially when the divorce rate among professing Christians hardly differs from the divorce rate among non-Christians. It is probably fair to day the church has lost the cultural war on marriage because the covenantal view of marriage has been lost to the church.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

This topic just came up at our house yesterday, as I was remembered once hearing about weddings happening on Sunday AFTER the Sunday morning service.  Everyone was invited to stay for the ceremony.  Is this done anymore and if so, is it specific to different region?

posted in: A New Way to Marry

My husband and I got married in a worship service in 1969. It was a wonderful way to start our life together.


posted in: A New Way to Marry

Twenty-five years ago, while leading morning worship in a CRC in Canada, I simultaneously officiated at a wedding. In the early days of post-World War 2 immigration to Canada among the Dutch CRCs, weddings in worship were widely practiced. I've been told that the reason was not particularly to follow an un-worldly path. Rather, people were often widely scattered around the cities or towns where they settled. Since Sunday was the only day off for most people, they used the day to gather from morning till after the second service--usually early afternoon--to worship and eat together and, when requested, to celebrate a wedding.

This practice certainly did serve a worthy spiritual purpose of placing the ceremony in the community of witnesses, who usually were asked to support the newly married couple. (There was also the possibility that someone might object to the couple marrying, as that question was routinely asked as the wedding portion of the service began.) 

Although I too would encourage re-introduction of this practice, in many--especially large--congregations in which people are no longer closely tied by nearly daily personal encounters at work or in social occasions, the promise of support might ring a bit hollow. Still, I'd be eager to see what others are thinking about this subject.

(Although I regret to note that the particular marriage mentioned above lasted only four years, the thoughtful re-introduction of Sunday weddings in worship is well worth exploring.


posted in: A New Way to Marry

Well put!  I have felt the same for many years!  And yet, my wife and I had a traditional Saturday afternoon wedding, and so did my three children.  Why is it so hard to break that tradition?

posted in: A New Way to Marry

I've heard it said that "God offends the mind to reveal the heart" (and I've found it to be true). I saw myself right there with you in this story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Great food for thought. Even if you get married on a different day, it seems the principles here are worth considering in planning the ceremony.

Has anyone been to a Sunday service wedding? I haven't, but would be curious to hear from those who have.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

Thank you so much for sharing! I love your honesty. It is amazing how God dramatically reverses so many of our preconceived notions of people. Thanks again for this. 

I love this story, Christy. Thanks for sharing it. God has his way of surprising us, doesn't he? Sometimes as musicians or worship leaders we think we have to have it all together, and we beat ourselves up for the smallest mistake. And then God shows us what's really important - his amazing love and grace!

Anyone who thinks the CRC should grow and/or needs to be reorganized should take a look at Wall Street Journal book review by Michael Shermer of "The Head Game," which begins,"

When President Bill Clinton chose to intervene in the Somali civil war in 1993, the Battle of Mogadishu resulted in thousands of Somali citizens killed, two American Black Hawk helicopters shot down, and the death of 18 U.S. soldiers, several of whose bodies were dragged through the streets of the capital. As a consequence, a year later Mr. Clinton hesitated to intervene in Rwanda despite intelligence before the height of the massacre that Hutu leaders were planning to eliminate all Tutsis. The result was a hemoclysm—a blood flood—of around a million dead. Mr. Clinton said it was one of the worst foreign-policy decisions of his eight years in office.

President Clinton might have benefited from Philip Mudd’s “The HEAD Game,” a book based on a program that the author developed during more than two decades at the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Council. The book title keys off Mr. Mudd’s acronym for his methodology: High Efficiency Analytic Decision-making (HEAD). When faced with an ocean of information or apparently conflicting data, Mr. Mudd says we—presidents, CEOs and the rest of us—need to ask a few fundamental questions. What is the problem? What are your “drivers,” the important characteristics that define your problem? How will you measure performance? What about the data collected in relation to the defined problem? Are you missing important information?"

and ends, "The HEAD Game” is not an academic work: It lacks an index and its bibliography is just a short list of related books. Mr. Mudd himself recommends Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” as the masterpiece in the genre of decision-making psychology. But the author’s many personal experiences in facing real-world threats like al Qaeda terrorists does as much to illuminate the problem of making predictions before the fact as hundreds of academic experiments on undergraduates motivated by little more than beer money. As we face new perils like ISIS, whose explosive growth serves as another example in prediction failure discussed in the book, we would do well to ask the question Mr. Mudd poses to end his book: “Can you please point out an element or two of my analysis that seems weak, or reflects some sort of bias?”

To this, I would add two more statements we all should be willing to make: “I was wrong” and, especially, “I don’t know”."

Thanks Robin!  Glad to hear you find it widely applicable!!


This is a very good, thoughtful, and insightful post, Brendan.  It is biblically rooted as well as convicting.  I can relate to this on so many levels.  You could fill in the blank with any worship art or worship function.  What kind of Christian dancer do you want to be?  What kind of liturgical artist do you want to be?  Find what God requires of you, according to the gifts that He has placed inside of you, and press in to that.  Thank you, Brendan, for such a challenging and affirming post.  God bless you!

Solid insight, Graham!  Thanks for adding that!


Brendan, thanks for this thoughtful post. I agree that it is only too common for musicians (including singers) to neglect the development of their gifts and abilities. And yes, it shows. I would add the need for spiritual development. Worship team members and leaders are, after all, not performers but men, women and children called by God to lead their congregations to the foot of the throne. We should also all be continually increasing our understanding of worship, through our Bible study (particularly in the Psalms but also throughout Scripture), through other reading, conferences, discussions, etc, and most of all through our own personal experience of worship in individual devotions and corporate settings. It is the combination of natural talent honed by practice, and spiritual depth honed by active and growing relationship with God, that makes up a worship leader or "lead worshiper". 

Welcome Brendan, hope this is a helpful community to be a part of. 


Thanks for your transparency and vulnerability.  May your words serve as a wake up call to a growing demographic in our churches. In our family oriented church culture we need to be sensitive to those who do not live within a family structure for whatever reason.  Mothers/Fathers day is only one time of many situations where the single adult is left on the sidelines or more troubling their grief overlooked. 

I wrote a blog post about this topic earlier this week. You can read it here: 

I am in a great place in my life. My post doesn't come from bitterness or jealousy or other feelings that some might want to attach to honest words from someone in the minority on Mother's Day. 

I have been in churches that have read The Wide Spectrum of Mothering prayer that has already been referenced. And, it was fine and well-thought out and inclusive. 

The phrase in The Wide Spectrum of Mothering prayer that is about me reads: "To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children - we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be."

Might I be really transparent for a minute? For a few seconds while that phrase is being read/prayed, people might hurt for me that life has not turned out the way I longed for it to be. But I have yet to feel this mourning or sentiment from those in the church at any other time - not even after the service on a hard day like Mother's Day. It is more common that my struggle is not ever acknowledged in the church.

I have attended churches all over the US so my reflection is not based on one church. Universally, there is not consideration given for the ache of those that are single and desire to not only be married and have children, but carry a child within. The church is one of the hardest places to fit in as a women in her mid-30's without children - at all times of the year. Therefore, prayers like the phrase listed above can seem trite because it isn't something actively lived out in church (at least the 10 churches I have attended as an adult).

I think most things that happen in church that cause pain are done with good intention from those in leadership. I don't think leaders try to hurt others. I would challenge, though, if your leadership is making decisions that you are aware could potentially hurt or isolate others, it might be wise to pull in a few from the minority and include them in the discussion and planning. 

Those that are mother's will likely have the opportunity to be honored and acknowledged in other ways over Mother's Day weekend without a church worship service celebration or token gift. As one of my dear friends, who is also a pastor, said on her FB page, "Be gentle with each other this Mother's Day weekend." My hope is that gentleness and thought of others before self can be present in our churches this weekend. 


Thanks for sharing this insightful, honest article. I appreciated her perspective. 


We will be printing and reading "The Wide Spectrum of Mothering" this year. Pdf download can be found at this link:


Tough one to deal with, having to draw the line between what should be volunteer and what should be paid work. This difficulty extends to any worship director/coordinator that your church may have.

One thing I think I could agree on, but still probably not clear cut depending on who you talk to (what in life really is beyond the story of salvation?), is the provision of music and other such supplies (strings, sticks, etc) to the musicians and singers. These are items that are being used in the ministry of the church and comparable supplies are regularly provided to other ministries. Although, if you're regularly demanding gold-plated guitar strings, I think we might have an issue. :) (Maybe a stipend instead?)

I personally do not expect to be paid for the amount of time I put into learning my instrument because I want to volunteer my time and do something I love to do, but I know we all come from different life experiences so not all will agree. But I am only in a worship leader role and the actual service planning is completed by another individual so if I were doing both consistently I might feel differently. (I suppose if I was paid and considered self-employed I might also be able to claim some home office and auto expenses on my tax return and donate the money I made back to the church for a tax credit...)

If there are not enough/no musicians in the church and outside musicians need to be brought in, they should be offered compensation where the church can afford it - it is up to the individual offering their "services" to determine whether they want to volunteer their time or not. But it is not nice to see churches where there are capable musicians as part of the congregation and outside musicians are always being brought in.

One thing that paying inside musicians could do is make it awkward if you have to stop paying someone because they are not pulling their weight or do not pay someone at all because their skill level is not there (not that this should be the sole reason not to pay musicians, just a musing)

Sorry for all the competing thoughts I have going on in this comment. It makes sense in my head...

posted in: Paying the Piper?

We honor all women on Mother's Day with a small gift of some sort-- a keychain, bookmark, or something like that.  We used to do flowers, but there are many in our congregation who are allergic, so now use a different token of our appreciation.  We also make sure to include compassion for those for whom the day is difficult--those who wish to be mothers, those who have lost their mothers, or those who have had difficult relationships with their mothers, etc.  We usually include this in our Prayers of the People.

Thanks for sharing, Bonnie!

I once heard a sermon on Mother's Day that focused on all the feminine images of God in Scripture (i.e. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, longing to gather his people as a hen gathers her chicks ... there are so many). It was excellent in considering the love of God, the love of our mothers, and how we reflect God's love to others.

Absolutely, Erin! Thanks for sharing what your church is doing. 

We do acknowledge Mother's Day each year, in different ways. While we try to respect those in difficult circumstances, we also feel it's important to honour the mothers in our congregation and not "steal their joy" altogether. If we hand out a special gift (flower or chocolates) we do give it to all women. This year we are doing a Mother's Day prayer we've developed using something written from Amy Young ("Shout out to Mom"). We have a few expecting mothers in our church and they are over the moon right now and it's not really fair to ignore or downplay the day either. Whether or not it's a "Hallmark" holiday, it is being celebrated all across the country and it would be weird and awkward if the church just ignored it. Our world is broken, we know that. So taking time to celebrate the good is SO important!

Great suggestion - thanks so much for sharing! 

Maybe by acknowledging that they know there are people struggling with different issues, and bringing an awareness to the fact that it is a hard day for some women. 

Thanks for sharing, Angela! Grateful that your church is so inclusive. 

Our church celebrates Mother's Day by celebrating all women. The children hand out carnations to every women during the service. We also, in our prayer, are intentional about mentioning all the various difficulties women may struggle with. 

Joyce, thanks for making the points that musicians have (almost always) had years of lessons and practice and have to put in time planning. And that they must purchase music on their own, which is very expensive. Many years ago in a previous church I would hear people argue that Sunday school teachers are not paid, so organists should also not expect compensation. That falls on deaf ears for those of us who have studied music and paid for lessons since childhood.

posted in: Paying the Piper?

One way to prepare more people is to stop using the term "liturgist".  Such a word obscures what is really being done.  To have more people pray, or bless the people, or lead the singing, or lead a responsive prayer or praise, is what is really being done.  To be a worship leader, or service leader, prayer leader, or song leader during the service... or to read scripture... or present a message...  such is what is being done.  When put in those terms, the scope of the task, and the purpose of the task is clear.  It is not about "liturgy".  


Thank you for writing this article on liturgy and liturgical training.  I agree with you: there is much to be done in terms of training liturgists for weekly worship.  To this end, we are having our first (hopefully) annual "worship workshop" at our church.  Accordingly, one of the topics we hope to address is the "in-between" words that we liturgists are called to speak between elements in the worship service. 

Thank you also for suggesting the Quentin Schultz book on public speaking.  I look forward to reading it.

Happy Easter,


The reason I prefer a "high" Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic . . . liturgy is they have been around for 100 or so years. They read well, everyone knows what the words and the thoughts behind them mean. I quit saying ad hoc liturgies because I don't always know what they are "getting at" and/or they seem semi-Pelagian at best.

Let me add a few more things that I (the pastor) learned in response to this experience.

1) This was a good decision for our music transition.  Christy did not mention that as part of our ministry overhaul we had a change in the staff leadership of the music ministry.  The staff change was hard on everyone and was made with great pain.  This music fast helped to make a clean(er) break between the two different directors.  That clean break helped set up the new person for a fresh(er) start.

2) I (or we the staff) needed to communicate the purpose behind the music fast a bit better.  We fasted for theological, philosophical, and stylistic reasons.  Our hearts were in the right place.  Yet I heard a number of people (most of whom did not attend our congregation during the music fast), "Why are you punishing us for not singing when there is a (fill-in-the-blank-style) song?"  For some, the fast felt like a punishment instead of intentional discipleship.  I don't think we could have eliminated all of that feeling, but we (I) could have done a better job communicating more frequently and more clearly the positive reasons for this fast leading up to it.  Yet I recognize that when we began my thinking on this was not as clear as it is today - experience is often the best teacher.

3) Attitudes about music have improved!  For at least a few weeks and especially during our music feast/festival, the singing was marvelous!  What powerful worship in song.  Many folks who would occasionally sing half-heartedly began to SYLO (Sing Your Lungs Out - from my days in High School Youth Ministry).  This past Sunday (April 12, 2015) was our annual youth Sunday when the youth lead the entire service.  A few people said to me things like - "I didn't know the songs that they picked and I had a hard time singing them - but the words were powerful."  That was a refreshing comment!

4)  Timing matters!  For a number of reasons we picked the right time for our congregation.  However, I may pick a more strategic time in the future.  Because it was the Summer we had a number of families on vacation during various weeks so they missed the overall experience.  One dear saint - who was initially very skeptical of our plan - said to me, "We should do this in the Fall because so many people are missing out.  Everyone in our congregation should experience this."  On the other hand some of our snow birds were back in town and one of our regular musicians (who also happens to be a snowbird) said, "It's really disappointing that I don't get to participate in music very much during my short time back in our congregation."  I'd give more thought to the when if we did it again.

Hi all! I wanted to let you know that the follow-up to this post (Music Fasting Part II) is now available. Check it out! 


posted in: Music Fasting

Christy, thank you for sharing your wife Mary and I are musicians and part of NISSI Institute, a ministry  in San Antonio Texas. Recently The LORD gave me a visual concerning using our gifts to worship and Glorify Him. The Father reaches His hand down from heaven with a lump of clay and say's here my son. I grab hold of it, being made a little creator, created in His image I mold it skillfully and fashion it with love. In my case one of the gifts he has given me was creating music, musical movements and sounds. So when I lavish love on The Lord in song, I am taking that now sculpted creation with both hands, lifting it up high to Him and saying look Daddy, LOOK DADDY I made this for you. My hope is that Daddy accepts it and hands it back to me, and the process continues.                                                                                                                                Paul Gamboa-  fb Nissi WorshipBand




Hello Todd,

Thanks for sharing and providing directions to the sermon recordings. I now know what I'll be listening to on the way to and from the in-laws this weekend.



posted in: Music Fasting

Dear Diane (and Michele)-

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of music and it's importance in worship.  That's why we only fasted from it for three weeks.  And we did it with much fear and trembling and lots and lots of prayer.  We also had the full support (at least in public) of the Elders of the church.  The fourth week we ended it with music festival where almost the entire service was music (sorry Michelle as a CRC church we couldn't eliminate the preaching of the word), but we concluded the service with a sermon from one of our missionaries.

As far as fasting from speaking.  I'd be all for a silent service of meditation and prayer.  We need space for silence to Hear God's Still Small voice in our souls - and our worlds are so full of noise.  That might be for another season, or a special service.

Music is indeed formative.  I believe that music (and the hymnal) is the most effective theology class we can take. - that's why the words of hymns and spirituals and praise songs are so important.  However, music can be divisive.  Music can also put us into auto-pilot in worship.  Taking a short intentional break can refresh it's power in our midst.  As an adult I've now listened to the lyrics of popular music I liked as a kid and teenager.  When I listened to those lyrics with fresh ears I've thought - wow, That song isn't about what I thought it was about - or Wow that song is really great.  But it took a break and fresh ears for me to hear it anew.

I'm happy to dialogue with you (plural) about any other questions you may have.  It was a risk and I think it paid off --- but I'm not sure what Christy has planned for the next blog post, I'm curious to read it myself.

posted in: Music Fasting

Dear Joyce (and others)-

Our first sermon, "It's Not about you."  The message was a study on the question, "What is Biblical Worship." It was taken from a number of texts.  Deut 6:4-6, Psalm 33, and Galatians 1:10.  Main Idea:  Christian Worship means that we exalt God because He is God.  (Not because we like the style etc ...)

Our second sermon, "It's not about one style."  The message was study on the question, "How does the Psalmist urge us to worship?"  The main text was Psalm 150 but also Ephesians 5:19-20.  Main Idea: Worship is bigger than you think.  (The Bible encourages to worship God (with music) in all possible means.)

Our third sermon, "It's not just for the mind."  The message was on the question, "How does David celebrate God's presence?"  The main text was 2 Samuel 6:12-22.  Main Idea:  In true worship we celebrate the Lord's Glory with genuine, unashamed adoration!  (Worship involves emotion not just intellect.)  

The fourth week was a music festival.  Almost the entire worship service was one big musical.  We did have a sermon from one of our missionaries who serves in Austria.

The rest of the summer we did additional services on worship and what it means.  If anyone is intrested in those, feel free to see our website:  You can listen to the messages.  If you want manuscripts, feel free to e-mail me and I'll send you what I have.  No Charge, but if you chose to borrow or simply re-use my sermons I simply ask that you would give credit for any ideas that aren't originally yours.

-Grace and Peace 

Todd Hilkemann


posted in: Music Fasting

Along with ability of music to heal, minister peace or convey emotion, it is true that words combined with music (melody, rhythm, harmony) have a way of embedding truth deep in our hearts and minds that the spoken word alone does not. Music in worship invites us to participate, which adds another level of learning (heightening the importance of the songs that are chosen). And of course, those who have studied child development know that physical activity combined with melody helps place a song into a child's long-term memory. (holding up 1 finger is naturally connected to the song, "This Little Light of Mine" for those of us who learned it as a child).

Your decision to fast from music in worship is surprising, but interesting in the fact that I'm sure you had to think deeply about how to express truth and emotion in other ways. It makes me wonder about something else thing that we take for granted in worship - the spoken word. Did you also think about 'fasting' from speaking? It would be challenging, but also interesting, to think of how to communicate the entire service using only music (sung and/or played), visual arts, and movement.

posted in: Music Fasting

Sorry, but I'm having a knee-jerk reaction.  This post freaks me out, so I'm not even near considering your congregation's motives for this fast of yours, let alone contemplating the possibility of suggesting to my church leaders that we do the same. Maybe, some people should check out the article in Scientific American Mind's April/May issue titled "How Music Heals the Brain: Its Power to Lift Mood and Build Connections," and consider if such a fast might affect some of their fellow members adversely.  Of course, I'm sure people can always listen to music at home, but it's not the same.  I often miss church services for health reasons, and watching services on TV is just not the same.  To get the same quality of preaching I'd get in church I often have to settle for a sort of performance that strikes me more as entertainment than worship.  I don't go to church to be entertained but to entertain God as it were.

posted in: Music Fasting

Love this concept - can't wait for the next post...

posted in: Music Fasting

Looking forward to reading your next post.  Would your pastor be willing to share his/her sermon outlines with us?  

posted in: Music Fasting