Our worship services have a formative effect on our people’s minds and souls. With weeks, bleeding into months, into years, and ultimately decades, the habits we form in our people have a long-term cumulative effect. What we do in our services and how we do it matters.
In today’s episode, I talk with author and Pastor Zac Hics about the ways in which worship is formative and how to best utilize our gathered worship times to shape our people into the image of Christ over the long haul.
Get the free books: Tweet at @WMTpodcast and @ZacHicks
Zac Hicks Online
The Worship Pastor (Amazon)
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Amazon)
Christ Centered Worship (Amazon)
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Corporate worship is a weekly event that God uses to shape our people’s souls over the course of decades. – Tweet That!
What we do and how we do it week after week has a cumulative effect whether for good or bad. – Tweet That!
The songs that we lead are the lasting prayers on the lips of the people of God throughout the week. – Tweet That!
A good worship service tells the story of the gospel: the Glory of God, the gravity of sin, the grandeur of Grace. – Tweet That!
The words we say between songs and service elements will affect the way our people view next week’s worship service. – Tweet That!
The style of our services is not neutral. Song styles, architecture, and aesthetic all shape our people’s worship. – Tweet That!
If it sounds, looks, and smells like a rock show, then our people are going to behave like they’re at a rock show. – Tweet That!
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Alex Enfiedjian 00:00 Hey guys, if you didn’t hear yet, we had to change our name last month to the worship ministry training podcast. And if you didn’t know that you can check out last month’s episode it explains why we had to change our name and how you can help us. So go ahead and check that out. It’s a two minute episode give you a little update there. But we do record our episodes in advance. So this current episode has the forbidden phrase in it. So I went ahead and bleeped it out just for fun. So when you hear the bleeps I’m not cussing. I’m just bleeping out the forbidden phrase to keep myself out of legal trouble. Anyway, enjoy this new episode. Let’s jump in. Holy moly, our podcast is three years old, happy birthday to the podcast. Thank you so much for being a listener of the worship training podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian, your host. And it has been a joy to be on this adventure with you. If you are new, I would encourage you to go back and check out all of our previous episodes in the archives. Some of our most popular episodes are using vocal cues to help your congregation sing. What is worship in spirit and truth with Bob kauflin, recovering the Lost Art of congregational singing with Keith Getty wise boundaries with the opposite sex part one. And surprisingly, our very first episode called seven traits of a good worship team members. So if you are new again, I would encourage you to go back and check out all those episodes and all the rest of them and see if there is anything that will be helpful to you in your ministry. Well, one of the surprising joys of this podcast has been how God has used it to grow and expand me and to teach me and help me expand my view of worship over these last three years. And it’s been such a joy to be on this journey with you as God is teaching us together. Something that God has been teaching me about lately is the formative nature of corporate worship. That worship is a weekly event that God uses to shape our souls and the people souls that gather in our congregations each week. And it’s a topic that I’m just barely starting to wrap my brain around. And so I thought I’d bring on author and pastor Zach Hicks, who recently released his new book, the worship pastor, which covers a lot of these types of themes. And this book is awesome. And it should really be required reading for anyone who’s leading worship, because I think many of us worship leaders are given the chance to first start leading worship with zero training and zero guidance. It’s like, Oh, you play four chords and sing, here’s a guitar. You’re leading us in worship next week. And then we have to go figure out how to do that, you know, so I think of all these young kids who get handed a guitar, and they’re like, you’re leading worship. And so what do they do? They hop on YouTube, they find some videos, and they start copying what they see, without really understanding what it is that they’re trying to accomplish. or more importantly, without understanding how what they’re doing, and the way that they’re doing it is going to shape their people over the course of weeks, months, years, and ultimately, decades. And so what we do and how we do it week after week, has a cumulative effect that ends in specific results, whether for good or for bad. And so Zack and his book and the conversation that we have today, we dig deep into the ways that corporate worship performs people’s souls, and how to use our gathered worship times to their greatest potential. It’s a fascinating discussion, and I’m super excited for you to hear it. But first, it’s our recommended product of a month. Core sound pads. New producer bundle of core sound pads has released a new producer bundle that has eight new incredible sounding pads that expand upon the library of their first set of pads. So there are more colors to paint with more Sonic soundscape to use I really love the tension pad which you are hearing right now. It’s one of the two new minor key pads that are offered in this new producer bundle. So if you’ve already purchased the first set, and you’re looking for new sounds that are going to expand upon your soundscape then definitely check out the new producer bundles. And if you haven’t yet purchased the first set of course I’m pads core sound is now offering a combo bundle at discounted prices. And that would include both of the sets the new and the old, the producers and the regular Deluxe. So check that out. All the links are in the show notes. And as always, you can download them and try them for absolutely free. Alright, that’s it for our recommended product of the month. Let’s get into our episode with Zach Hicks.
Alex Enfiedjian 04:42 Hey, everybody, I’m here with Zach Hicks, who is a worship pastor, a blogger and the author of the new excellent book called the worship pastor Zack, thank you so much for being here.
Zac Hicks 04:52 grateful to be here. Thanks for having me.
Alex Enfiedjian 04:53 Awesome. Zach is way smarter than me and we’re going to be talking together about how corporate worship IP services actually shaped our people’s souls. And Zach recently I had two experiences that started to affect my view of the formative nature of corporate worship. Like I never really thought about it before. But two experiences, one of them was at a friend’s orthodox baptism. And I was at this church, and there’s all these people that are gathered, and they are repeating from memory verbatim, these incredible truths that they had memorized, internalize, and then repeat it to each other week after week. And I was in awe of like, the depth and the power and the beauty and the repetition of the liturgy. And it really got me thinking like, wow, they can’t do this week after week and not have these truths dramatically affect their worldview like this is shaping the way that they see everything in their lives. And so that was kind of like, experience number one that got me going, Wow, like what we do on a week by week basis really shapes our view and our heart and our mind. And then the second experience for me was standing on the stage at my new church on my first Sunday, and looking out at the sea of faces and thinking, Oh, my goodness, I plan to be here for the long haul. And how do I Shepherd all these people over the next 20 years? Like how can it move beyond just singing for songs to being something much more intentional that like, shapes them into the image of Christ over time? So as I asked myself that question, I realized, I have no idea how to do that. So that’s why I brought you on to help me and our listeners kind of figure this topic out. So
Zac Hicks 06:33 well praise God that you’re asking those questions. And I will tell you that the conversation you and I are having right now is a conversation that I have with lots of worship leaders. And honestly, I had with myself when I first started out, because at the end of a Sunday, and over the course of time, if you’re paying attention, I guess you can stick your head in the sand. But if you’re paying attention, you’re you’re doing things and making decisions that affect people’s discipleship, the way they follow Jesus, and you start to track over time, how well what you plan in lead is shaping the people. And for me, it was a lot of doing it wrongly before I realized, holy cow, I need to take this seriously. I need to start thinking more deeply about this. And reading and studying the scriptures, praying, talking to pastors, all that kind of stuff. And that’s how it started for me. So it’s neat to have this conversation with folks. I feel like I share my own biography.
Alex Enfiedjian 07:27 Yeah, well, let’s maybe just start at the very beginning of the why question like why do you think that worship services form people’s souls? And maybe how do worship services form people’s souls? Like, in what ways are people’s spiritual life formed by gathered worship?
Zac Hicks 07:44 Yeah, it kind of started with an inkling that I mean, we tend to speak about worship as music. And many of us who think about where should realize is so much more than just music. But that’s often where it starts for us as music leaders in our local churches. And so that’s where I started seeing the way that the songs that I lead, and maybe the doctrine contained within or the lyrics became the lasting prayers on the lips and the mouths, and that the hearts of the people of God throughout the week. And as I started noticing that those are the lasting prayers, I mean, someone said, and I kind of quoted it in my book, people don’t walk out of a service humming a sermon. And you’ll probably forget a sermon, largely by Monday, at least I do not to minimize this impact and not to minimize the power of the preacher word, but a song sticks with you. And I started realizing that what I give the people in my selections become those tapes that replay in their hearts throughout the week are those particular lyrical lines that stick with them. And the question became, what am I giving them? What am I giving them to meditate on day and night. And that’s a scary thought. Because when the scriptures talk about meditation, day and night, they want it to be the very word of God, they indicate that that’s the source of fruits and the abundant life as someone says, and so when we think about worship, shade me, people, for me, that’s where it started. But then it blossomed on a whole different level. When I read a book that many worship leaders have now read that I just commends to everybody called desiring the kingdom by James K. Smith. And he has a truncated version of that if that feels too heavy and philosophical, which it kind of is called you are what you love. Both of those books opened my eyes to the way that rituals and things that we do in worship, and I mean, rituals in the broadest sense, just things that we do that are repeated on a day to day and week to week basis. Those things have shaping power. And if that sounds foreign to you, check out the book and read it. Because once you do you become haunted by the fact that this repetitive thing that we call Sunday morning worship has a shaping effect and the book starts to ask the question What kind of person is being shaped by these structures of worship by the patterns that we engage in, and how is it competing with and fighting against or corroborating the kinds of things that that are the patterns in our life in the world, the very mundane things we do like going to a shopping mall or watching sports or our day to day work, or our studies and how those things are shaping us. And what kind of Christian is being shaped by corporate worship that helps to fortify someone for all the competing other ways that the other rituals, the other quote, liturgies out there are shaping us and all that opened up the world to me of how intentional I must be in thinking through these patterns of worship, and how they cause people to either follow more clearly on the path of discipleship or walk in a different direction.
Alex Enfiedjian 10:51 Yeah, I love the word ritual. And I think like, the way that you define it is just a habit, right? It’s a habit. It’s something we do on a weekly basis. And it’s like drip drip drip into the bucket. It has this cumulative effect over time. And I was listening to the Bible project podcast, I don’t know if you’ve heard them, but they were talking about how gathering together to read the word is a very formative experience as well. And they were quoting this sociologist, I don’t know if its name is Steven Berger, or Peter Berger. But this sociologist says that human beings create structures, and then those structures create us and saying how the church is the creation of a structure. And then that structure, that habit begins to shape us and I just found it so fascinating. And like you said, we have to be so intentional about our services and what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So as we think about the formative nature of worship, what are the types of characteristics that we should be trying to form in our people through our corporate worship services?
Zac Hicks 11:52 I will always answer that question, chiefly, principally with the gospel, because at least in my world, right now talking about formation, and worship is very in vogue. And therefore, we’re talking about formation largely in the sense of virtues like forming positive characteristics of us. And I think that’s important, and that’s a part of it. And even things like what my friend Glenn Packham is talking about his one of his central theses is that worship is supposed to form in us the virtue of hope, to be a hopeful people, that people who have kind of the end game of what God is up to in this world, in mind, and and I do think other things like that are important to form in us. But again, I go back to forming the gospel in us. And what I mean by the gospel is the narrative and the story and the proclamation that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, I think that is the key that unlocks all formation. And it is not just kind of the key that opens the door, I think it’s the better metaphor is fuel, it perpetually fuels our growth, or change our development as human beings as flourishing human beings as Christians. And so when I apply that to worship, I would say that one of the most important things we can think of is how the gospel is proclaimed in the worship service. And I think it happens in a variety of ways. The sort of baseline way that worship leaders often think of is I need to fill my songs with songs about this story. And so oftentimes, that’s where you start, you start to sing songs like in Christ alone, or, or songs that tell that kind of narrative about Jesus. And I think that’s important. But I also think there’s a deeper way, it’s something that Smith talks about something that people who are plugged into liturgy start to talk about, and it’s that not only is it the content of our worship, that speaks the gospel and forms the gospel in us, but it is the very shape, it’s the structure. And I do think that a good worship service tells that story, it tells of God’s granddaughter, it tells of God’s glory on the front end. And then like Isaiah experienced in Isaiah, Isaiah six, it immediately sort of moves into a time where if a human being encounters the granddaughter of God, you must stop and acknowledge the gravity of your sin, you must stop and say, God, I’m a sinner, I need you. And after that point, as in Isaiah, God swoops in and proclaims his solution to our predicament that He is holy and perfect and immortal, invisible God only wise and we are sinners, and the gap is an infinite distance. And yet there is one Jesus Christ who came and took on flesh for us, who lived the perfect life that we couldn’t live in died the death that we should have died. And that news and that reality is given to us as a free gift of grace from the Father through the Holy Spirit. And what the story I just told, I’m becoming increasingly convinced should be a part of the way worship is structured. More and more. And as I look back in church history, I see that as a repeated refrain across denominations, across traditions, that Christians, when they’re taking seriously the formation of worship are thinking through not only the content, but this very
Alex Enfiedjian 15:16 structure. What does that look like? I know in your book, you have a chapter about the liturgical architect, yes, and how we can structure our services. And I know that in different traditions, it’s going to look different. And even in that chapter, you try to cover how those different traditions can set up their service flow to tell this story, but maybe Can you give like one example of how a service could look like?
Zac Hicks 15:39 Yeah, sure. What I tried to do in that chapter is not only talk about it verbally, but give some kind of visual graphs and illustrations of this that I think helped tease out. Because I think if people can think visually about the arc of this narrative, you can start to piece it together for how it might work for your own local church, to engage in fleshing out this kind of structure. And so one of the things that I tried to do on page 164 is offer a model for a church that maybe is just you know, the structure of worship is a song set and an offering in a sermon or something like that in the song set really, is that bulk of 15, to 20 to 25 minutes, where you’ve got something to shape and something to do. And I think that’s where a lot of worship leaders live. And so I guess the question is, how does one be faithful in the selection of songs and the progressions of songs, in moving across the themes of the story that I just told, for a lot of us who are in the kind of worship set tradition, it’s trying to incorporate songs at that moment that allow us to say, I need you. I’m a sinner. In the words of our liturgy that we use at our church, I have offended against your holy laws. And I know that won’t be working for everybody in every church. But that idea that somehow, I’ve broken this relationship irreparably, and I don’t have anything that I can bring to the table to solve this problem. That’s confession. So is there a place for this confession? And then after that, is there Can we go into a song or prayer that leads us in words that assure us that in Christ, we are justified, saved, sanctified, loved, you know, can we sing about words that explicitly name, his life and his death as the solution to our problem? And all done within a song set that really doesn’t stop an end, but has an arc and a contour? I think that’s very possible. I think that’s honoring to the Christian tradition, but more importantly, honoring to the shaping structure of how the gospel bears fruit in the life of the believer.
Alex Enfiedjian 17:43 Yeah, I think for me, the thing that stood out in reading your book so far that I’ve been, like really convicted about is when I examine our churches services, right now, I don’t see a time of confession, I don’t see kind of this weekly time where we confess that we have failed to live to God’s standards, and that we call out to Him and then we receive pardon and forgiveness and we don’t have that time built into our services. So for me, I’m trying to figure out okay, well, how do I start to insert either songs or prayers, or even a time of confession into those services? And I think what you’re hitting on right now is ACC is kind of what probably many of our listeners are facing, which is like, Okay, I’ve got 20 minutes, how do I use those 20 minutes? And you’re saying, well, you can use it through good song selection. But maybe are there a couple other things that you can throw at our listeners who like things that they can insert into that time? Maybe it’s a time of a reading or creed or something like that?
Zac Hicks 18:40 Well, definitely. And I think that even then, you know, as we’re talking about this idea of confession, if you’re part of a church that isn’t used to it, you just have to be careful and judicious about the way that you proceed, because some people can have some knee jerk reactions based on our own traditions history. And I’ll tell you, I mean, just where the rubber hits the road for me is if your intuition doesn’t do it, this is the objection that I’ve gotten before that feels Catholic. Why are we confessing our sin? or certain traditions will say we don’t confess our sin, because we are already on the other side of what Christ has done and given for us at someone gave me this metaphor of why does the butterfly ever go back to talking about being a caterpillar? Right? I think that’s a fair question. The question I wants to ask in response to this is, how did your week go? Did you feel like a butterfly? Did you have any Caterpillar moments this week? And how does it feel to have to sort of shove those things aside as you come before the living God who has seen your sin? In other words, what I’m saying is that yes, we are saved and justified once for all in Jesus. It’s not like we go through some re salvation experience at the same time. Christians daily need to be honest about the fact that we need to be able to say to God, I’ve messed up, I need you the gospel. was not just some entry ticket in it is it is the constant source of life and health for the Christian and, and it’s predicated upon our ability to be honest about confession. So in those moments, we have to be gentle in the way we introduce confession. And it might start with not a prayer. You know, for me at a church where we didn’t have this as a tradition, the first song in the song said that I ever gave that was confession ish was Lord, I need you at the time, it was just a really healthy song. And it isn’t all that confessional. It’s more of a song of need. And really only the first few lines talk about confession is Lord, I come I confess, bowing here, I find my rest, and it gets to grace pretty fast. But nevertheless, it puts confessional language and a confessional tone into the service and it gives it to the people. I think it’s like a softball. It’s a softball confession. And I think that once people have a taste for that you can go to more heavy things like other songs. But you know, to answer your question, though, I do think that a great place to start because no, people might argue with like a prayer of confession from some old liturgical book, like the Book of Common Prayer. But it’s hard to argue with, say, a song because it’s scriptural. So why not try having the people read a portion of Psalm 51, together, or a portion of Psalm 130 together, and if it’s something where you feel like you don’t want to be stopped and start, maybe it’s, you know, normally where the worship leader would talk, and you got music underlaying underneath that time, use that time for the worship leader to talk and to set up and prepare people to confess and say, Let’s read together and confess our sins. And all we’re doing is reading a song, it’s hard to argue with that. But yes, inserting and going beyond if you can go into older liturgies, like the Book of Common Prayer and finding really well worded confessions of sin can be a huge gift to your church. And I think even something as simple as, you know, the worship leader, just
Alex Enfiedjian 21:53 saying, Lord, right now we just stop and confess that we fail, I have failed you Lord, and and then you just say to church, let’s just spend a few moments, you know, confessing our sin to the Lord, and then you go into a song of forgiveness. That’s right.
Zac Hicks 22:05 Totally. Yeah. And I’ve encountered that a lot to where that kind of more extemporaneous approach to just praying on behalf of everyone confession and leaving open time for people to just sort of silently say, God, I need to sort of lay this burden down with you, I need to be honest about this. And it’s really powerful when you go out of that time, and lead a song about forgiveness and grace in Christ.
Alex Enfiedjian 22:27 Yeah, Zach, I’d love to hear maybe, you know, this idea of being intentional with all the portions of our services, and you know, using each one to form our people, how can a worship leader approach each of the different portions of a worship service and be intentional about how to shape people with it? So for example, like if we could just walk through the greeting, and then the songs or exhortation between songs offering communion announcements, sermon and service clothes, like, right? Can we walk through each one? And you can kind of give a phrase or two that you say that is formative in nature?
Zac Hicks 23:03 Yes, I think I can. You know, when you think about the beginning of a worship service, I describe it as a point where we all need a kind of emotional calibration. Because everybody’s coming from all sorts of spots. Some people are like locked and loaded, they’ve been like listening to Hillsong, united in their car on the way to worship and they’re just ready to sing are ready to experience the presence of God. And then there are others who have been fighting with their spouse or had, you know, been drinking too much the night before, or trying to wrestle their kids into the kind of just come in frazzled. And so everybody’s on a different point emotionally. And so I think that a good worship leader recognizes pastorally, that this moment, as worship begins is a really tender and important moment to help get everybody as much as possible on the same page. And I think that’s done with music. Sometimes I think it’s done in some carefully chosen words. And oftentimes, what I tried to do at the beginning of a worship service, before it starts, is to offer some very brief like 60 seconds, some kind of devotional, or, you know, worship thoughts that helps everybody engage in inquiry is something as simple as like, why are we here today? You know, we come from various places, and our lives are just kind of all over the map. And I’m sure some of you have been dealing with your kids or fighting with your spouse, you know, and just naming some of those things. Contrary to what some people have said, We’re not here to lay our burdens aside to worship God, we’re actually here to bring those very things that we’ve come with into the room to the throne of God and to the feet of Jesus at the cross and to watch and marvel at what he does with it. And so I encourage you in the quietness of your heart, and as we prepare to go and to lay those things down, and ask the Lord to use those tender moments to preach his gospel into your heart today. And so and often go into a prayer and say, Holy Spirit help us in this moment. See and savor Jesus for all that he is to lay our burdens down at a find on the other side of that the glory and magnificence of Christ crucified and resurrected for us. And that that’s a real important moment at the beginning of the service. Yeah.
Alex Enfiedjian 25:13 And I would say to Zack, like, I love that you’re taking that moment and shepherding and just blasting people with the song because I know at some churches, they’re like, just start the music, right. And I’ve found that people just stare at you like blank, you know, sheep, when when you just blast them with the downbeat. Now, there needs to be this relational connection. And this moment of like, centering and gathering that can only happen when you talk. And I’m not saying that it’s always wrong to start, like, just with a song. But man, I have found worship to be more engaging and more effective when we gather and point people in the right direction with our words.
Zac Hicks 25:49 Well, I think either way, the first several minutes of worship are going to be time for everybody to calibrate. And so whether it’s going to be a song that helps people center, but you got to recognize if it’s a song, that songs kind of a wash, because people are, you know, they look like zombies for a reason. They’re kind of coming in and getting reoriented toward what worship is about. And, you know, we move into songs. And I think worship leaders need to straddle that line, if you’ve got a song set style structure to your worship of being a little too preachy, you know, we’re not there to preach the sermon, we’re there to help the liturgy and help these worship structure preach. And so sometimes we don’t need to necessarily go on and on. And I think that’s a propensity that we have is to probably say too much, but at the same time, carefully chosen words between songs, or prayers that helped transition one song to another. That’s why I say it’s not only the elements that we choose, but to transitions that also need thought pastoral care and rehearsal. I think that if we’re cognizant of what one song has said, and what another song on the other side of that is saying, a carefully chosen prayer or word in between those becomes the helpful transition that creates a sense of seamlessness to the narrative, offering offerings a big time where we put money in a plate, whether it happens at the end of your service, and back or as a ritual as a part of your service. I want people to recognize offering as a time where we’re basically saying in response to the gospel, I give myself wholly and completely to you, again, it’s like, it’s like everybody’s rededication moment. It’s a time to Romans 12. One it to offer your bodies as living sacrifices. And so I always try to encourage people as you’re giving of your money, and maybe as you’re singing this song together, that we’re singing or hearing this song, and this offering, read, use it as a time to pray to the Holy Spirit and pray to God and say, Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to the eye, as a worship leader, also try to encourage people that the sermon is a real moment of worship. It is a moment where we offer the worship of our ears, it’s a moment where we hear the Word of God preached in perfectly by an imperfect human being. But nevertheless, it’s a place where God has chosen to show up in the power and presence of the word to move among us, and to, as the scripture say, kill and make alive, you know, so it’s a powerful word. And then the service close, I would say, is a place where we, as Christians can say, now that we’ve tasted and seen a fresh this week, the work of the Lord in our lives, how can we send people on mission and so oftentimes, historically, in the church has been a benediction or blessing The Lord bless you and keep you. Or it’s been a kind of word that says, Now go forth, and be witnesses of what you have seen today. And so that worship is connected with all of life, and that as you go forth into your vocations, you’re seeing it as a kind of symbiotic relationship between what I do Monday through Saturday, and what happens on Sunday. And that’s it in a nutshell.
Alex Enfiedjian 28:55 Yeah. And I think it’s important to point out, Zach, that, like, you’re not just sitting up there with a guitar and only singing songs, your role is to teach your Yep, the words that you’re saying, at the start of the service, or in between songs or before offering or at the end have a shaping effect on how your people view the service and the next week. So a couple of phrases that I say, and you’ve kind of pointed them out, it’s like, I’ll say like, at the front, like, we’re going to worship God through singing, we’re going to worship God through giving, we’re going to worship God through submitting to his word in the sermon, and kind of helping people understand that all of this is worship. Like, if you say that week after week, it has a formative effect on their view of worship, and then for offering, like, I’ll just say, like, let’s ask us just to come forward, and we’re gonna continue worshiping by giving is also giving our gifts for the advancement of the gospel in the world, you know, and so it’s like, those little phrases that worship leaders can insert into the service flow really has a formative effect. So are there any other kind of phrases like that that you found to be particularly helpful?
Zac Hicks 29:55 I do. And you know, it is kind of interesting how the worship leader has become a kind of Surgical emcee, we’re there to sort of present the next portion of liturgy. Because, you know, we don’t have bulletins anymore. And people aren’t necessarily seeing where it’s going. And I find not only is it helpful to announce these things or to verbally talk with them, but it’s important to pray them, you know, if the offerings done and you’re, you’re the one to pray the wrap up prayer before the preacher comes up to preach, praying things like what you just said, are often really helpful. It’s like God, we, we give ourselves to you, and we thank you yet again, that your grace is sufficient for us. And we ask that you would send your Holy Spirit now to open up and unstop our ears to worship as we listen to your word to us. You know, prayers like that put on the lips of the people in the minds of the hearts of the people eventually start to reorient people to exactly what you’re saying that the worship service is just that it is worship from beginning to end and, and maybe with, with enough worship leaders doing this, and enough churches will stop having this unhelpful phrase, like, we’re gonna have a time of worship, and then we’re gonna have an offering, and then we’re gonna have the sermon. I know what they mean. And I’m, you know, I don’t want to gripe on that too much. But I do want to say, if we’re really desirous to see this whole thing, it’ll it’ll be those moments where we pray. And you know, even more so that we don’t just view what happens in worship, services, worship, so maybe it’s at the end of the service, go out and be worshipers as you witness and as you fulfill your vocations as you go in your day to day worship the Lord in your work in Jesus name, amen. Or maybe that’s a prayer so that you can connect the gathered worship of Sunday morning with the scattered worship of Monday through Saturday.
Alex Enfiedjian 31:35 Yeah, and I do want to grab on that phrase, we’re gonna worship. Like, man, if I if I would encourage our listeners, and I haven’t done this yet, because I’m pretty new to our church. But I want to talk to the pastors and say, Please don’t delineate between musical worship and the sermon. You know, like, let’s use, let’s use specific phrases like we’re going to worship through singing, and then we’re going to worship, but I probably will talk to my pastor about that. Because I’ll leave that to you. Yeah, no. And I would encourage our listeners to have those conversations with your leadership as well, you know, super important that everybody’s on board, including the senior pastors or other pastors, and even like in children’s ministry, like I, you know, we had VBS. And they’re like, are you guys ready to worship at home? Like, no, don’t say that. So I know, that’s like semantics. But but it is important, because it does shape our people’s view of it. So it does, it does. Man, I’d love to talk more about timeline, you know, because I feel like we can’t always hit all the elements needed to have like, okay, we’re going to always hit confession, or we’re going to always hit communion, or we’re going to always hit. So, you know, sometimes I just want to whip together a set that I know is gonna get people to that place of, you know, exuberant worship. And that’s okay, probably from time to time. But sure, you know, how do we how do we know, man, it’s been a while since we’ve confessed, we better do a time of confession next week. You know, I guess, in your tradition, where you have this liturgy dictated to you guys and a yearly kind of manual that covers all the bases? Like, I don’t know, I’m not really sure what my question is, but kind of speak into that a bit. How do we cover all the bases throughout a year?
Zac Hicks 33:11 I think it’s a good question, you know, and you’re right, there is a gift in being in a tradition that hands you a package of a complete annual set of services that walk you through these important things. I think the metaphor that I use, and that I really stole from other people like john wipfli, is really helpful metaphor to answer your question to think about this. And it’s a metaphor of a theological dietitian. Because if you think about a dietitian who’s trying to get an unhealthy person to a more healthy place, they’re definitely thinking about the individual meals. But they’re also thinking about the monthly meal plan. And I think that’s where we worship leaders can do a better job. And it’s actually a pastoral work to think more administratively and, and bigger picture in the way that we plan and lead worship services, if we’re stuck in the week to week grind. And we’re just sort of flying by the seat of our pants and always basing our planning on the tyranny of the urgent, we’re never going to get to the place of what you’re talking about, of lifting our head of seeing the forest for the trees, and being able to think about the broader arc of all these things that can’t possibly be done in one service. But over the course of time need to be sprinkled throughout the diet, you know, it’s like a dietitian can’t possibly put every healthy food or every food group into every meal. But over the course of a week and a month, it’s balanced, right. And so I do think that it’s important to have your worship planning in Planning Center, or whatever your apparatus is on a week to week basis, but I also to get real tangible. I also keep a Google Doc that I call my long range planner. And all it is is like the date of the service and some songs that I’m thinking of or doing or maybe offer stories that I’m planning that I want to kind of put in the queue or special themes that are coming because it’s Advent or Christmas or the preachers preaching on something and I had an idea and it’s my house. And what it does is when I jump in every week, when I’m going to plan a specific service, I jump back to it. And every time I do, I’m sort of forced to look at four or five weeks of services in a row, if not a whole year, and I’m able to kind of see, how’s the people’s diet going. And I end up having those kinds of moments where it’s like, Ah, you know, we haven’t been reflecting a lot on this, or there hasn’t been a lot of moment for people to cry out and lamentation, or there hasn’t been a lot of moments, you know, we’ve, we’ve been singing a lot of down songs, you know, mellow, introspective, and it’s time to celebrate. And it’s those lifts your head moments where I do see the forest and I say, I, we need balance. And I guess the question is, what kind of balance and so what I try to point out is be an avid reader of the Psalms, for instance, Luther called the Psalms, the little Bible, and Calvin called the Psalms and Anatomy of all the parts of the soul. And I think what both of them meant is that if we’re steeped in the Psalms, we’re going to be acquainted with this full diet. And we’re going to start to notice the kinds of theological themes or prayers that are in the Psalms that aren’t a part of our people’s weekly diet. And when you’re steeped in the Psalms, you’re going to start to be able to point out the weaknesses or gaps in your congregations diet. And so if you’ve got a long range planner, and you’re steeped in the language and theology and heart of the songs, you’re going to be someone who’s aware of of the things that might be missing on a week to week basis. And you can plan for those and think more long term and annually about those things, which is a very pastoral thing to do.
Alex Enfiedjian 36:37 Oh, man, I love that, Zach, that dietician analogy is really good. And like you said, You can’t fit everything into every meal. But if you look at the meal plan for the month, that’s a really great analogy. So thank you. Yeah, look, I’d love to ask you, you know, we’ve talked a lot about the content of our services. But does the method or the aesthetic, or the form of our services shape our people as well? So like I’m talking production. And yeah, so just talk about that a little bit? Well,
Zac Hicks 37:03 it sure does. I’m a firm believer in Marshall McLuhan’s phrase that’s become very popular and makes a lot of sense, the medium is the message, the medium is not neutral. And so musical style is pastoral. It’s a pastoral question, because it it to shapes the sensibilities of our flock, and production, the way some architecture, you know, the way or sanctuary is laid out, shapes people. And let me just give a tangible example. And it’s a context in which many of us are so even as maybe it sounds a little critical, I recognize that that’s something that we have to work with. So a lot of us exist now in sanctuaries that are built like theaters, they’ve got stadium style seating, and they’ve got a stage with a pretty significant lighting apparatus or complex of some kind. And we have to realize that because of the way people are formed outside of worship, when they enter into a theater, it predisposes a human being to think certain thoughts about what’s going to take place in that room, because we’ve been shaped by architecture of theatres. And when we go into theater, what are we there to do? Well, we’re there to be passive, to sit and receive a movie or performance, we’re there to be performed to, you don’t often go into a theater and find yourself actively participating in a lot of things. And so when you walk into a sanctuary that looks like a theater, things start to fire in your second layer of consciousness that tell you, I’m not here to participate. I’m here to be entertained, or I’m here to receive. And so that’s why you have all these people harping on kind of the contemporary church and the entertainment culture, well, our architecture, and our accoutrements have aided and abetted this kind of perception, such that worship leaders are going on, my people aren’t singing, I look out and it’s just me, and everyone’s staring at me, you know? Well, there’s a reason for that. And it’s, it’s not only maybe the way you choose songs, really the songs, but it’s the very the air that is set up by the architecture and the aesthetics of it. And you know, if it sounds like a rock show, if it looks like a rock show, and it smells like a rock show, people are going to behave as though they’re at a rock show. And there are only a few rock shows where you’ve got active participation of the congregation the whole time, you to maybe in some other place where people are singing along, but you know, you don’t always have those kinds of things going on. And so if that’s the case for us, if our music is more of a rock aesthetic, we have to realize that that’s gonna be what we’re half we’re gonna have to work against for the values of worship. As a pastor, we’re thinking through how do I sort of explain to the people it might look like you’re here to be entertained by us, it might look like we’re here to perform for you. That’s the exact opposite. You know, we’re all in the power of the Spirit, the choir today. We’re all the worship band today and we’re here to, in the Spirit through Jesus offer our offering to God. So sing hang with me participate join in. And a perceptive worship leader recognizes and begins to exegete their medium, and see what the good sides of it are, and what the liabilities are and then they begin to pastor truth into those liabilities and almost prophetically speak against them in a way that allows those values to be challenged so that people aren’t passive receptors, you know? No, I
Alex Enfiedjian 40:23 think again, it goes back to you taking that time to teach them just said what they needed to hear. So man, so helpful. Yeah, Zack, there’s so much more we could talk about. But we’re barely scratching the surface any books that you would encourage our listeners to read for a deeper dive into this topic? Definitely.
Zac Hicks 40:42 three books. So James K. Smith, desiring the kingdom or you are what you love is really shaped me. Another book that’s been very meaningful to me, has been the first few chapters, a very short book called worship community and the Triune God of grace by James Torrance. The first three chapters are just gold, I found myself weeping through them and it totally altered the way I think about Jesus involvement, his active involvement in a worship service. And the third one I’d say is Christ centered worship by Brian chapel. All three of those leak very heavily into the worship pastor in my book.
Alex Enfiedjian 41:16 Yeah. And speaking of Zach’s book, the worship pastor Zack will graciously gave me a couple copies to give away to our listeners. So here’s what we’re gonna do everybody, we’re going to ask you the first two people who tweet at me and at Zach and who promise promise to go through this book with two other young worship leaders, I will send you a free copy of the book. So tweet at me and Zach my Twitter handle is WL t podcast, and Zach’s I believe is just Zack Hicks, which is the AC Hicks h i c. k s right, Zack
Zac Hicks 41:47 Yeah. And I will give you a promise. On top of that promise. If you end up doing that and going through the couple of the worship leaders that book and you have questions. I promise to be accessible to answer those questions.
Alex Enfiedjian 42:00 Nice free coaching from Zack Yeah. So and if if you’re listening to this podcast after October 2017, then these books are probably long gone. So please don’t keep tweeting. Unless you just want to say hi. Yeah, or tell other people about my book. Please continue tweeting if you are Yeah, totally. So cool. Zack man, before we wrap up any final words for our listeners about the formative nature of worship leading?
Zac Hicks 42:26 Yeah, I would just say you worship leaders are pastoral, whether you know it or not, it’s not a question of whether you want to become pastoral. You are because simply the decisions you make have a shaping effect on people. The question is, is it going to be in a positive Christian direction? Or is it going to be Mel formative? And so I’d encourage you with that charge of being pastoral being intentional in the way that you think and lead and plan and then finally, for all the mistakes that you and I will make Jesus has died for you and Rose for you. And there’s nothing no mistake worship mistake. You could make no other sin two grand that would outpace the grace of God for you.
Alex Enfiedjian 43:07 Amen. Zack, where can people stay connected with you if they want to keep following you after this podcast?
Zac Hicks 43:13 Zach hicks.com It looks like the chicks comm ZACHICK s calm and Twitter add Zach Hicks Facebook slash z m Hicks.
Alex Enfiedjian 43:24 Awesome. Awesome. Zach, thank you so much for your time. And I hope that this episode at the very least has begun wedding people’s appetite and helping them realize, okay, I have to be more intentional with my worship planning.
Zac Hicks 43:36 What a great conversation Alex. Thanks for having me on.
Alex Enfiedjian 43:39 Thanks, brother. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope that you were challenged by this episode, I hope your mind was expanded and that you are starting to wonder and think and dream about how you might more intentionally use your worship services to shape your people souls week after week. So dig into this and check out some of those books. Definitely check out Zach’s book. And again, we want to thank our sponsor for the month core sound pads, be sure to check out core sounds brand new producer bundle eight new incredible sounding pad sets for your worship services, you can try them for free, and the links are again in the show notes. Also in the show notes. We make it very easy to share these episodes, so please click one of those links and share this episode with your friends. We really want to help as many worship leaders as possible and we are relying on you to help us get the word out to other people that they might be blessed and encouraged to lead worship better. In the meantime, we want to encourage you to visit worship training.com check out articles, resources, podcasts, and reviews for worship leaders and we will see you in a month for our next helpful episode. God bless you guys. Thank you for being a part for three years sticking in. God bless you