Church Worship Music You Need to Know About

Music headphones

Often I get asked by a pastor or worship leader what I’m listening to and worshiping with. They realize that I travel the United States doing church secret shopper consultations and that I probably experience music and worship in more churches yearly, than just about anyone else to be honest.

So I hear a wide variety of styles and song selections. But I do have my personal preferences and songs that really move me and help me to connect to God. I bet you do, too. I’d like to introduce you to some that are my favorite (if you’re not already aware of them).

For the past 2 to 3 months, I’ve put YouTube on my TV and watched 2 artists, which I consider to be the best worship music in the United States. I think Elevation Worship is the best worship music in the US. I think Bethel Music is a close second. And they are very different, but I love them both.

Here are the songs that God has really used to minister to my heart and soul. I hope you’ll worship with them personally and consider them for corporate music.

Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music
*** My current favorite song! This song is brand-new and isn’t even on iTunes yet.

Call Upon the Lord – Elevation Worship (My current 2nd favorite song)

Resurrecting – Elevation Worship

Here As in Heaven – Elevation Worship

O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship (great response song after the message)

King of My Heart – Bethel Music (I know Saddleback Church has done this several times recently)

Ever Be – Bethel Music

No Longer Slaves – Bethel Music

It is Well – Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music (for more traditional churches that want to breathe new life into an awesome hymn)


*** I’d love to hear from you. What’s playing in your earbuds these days? What songs move you?

99 Questions When Hiring a Worship Pastor


I met a pastor this past week at a conference for church planters. He told me he was searching for a worship pastor. I told him I would help. What I have found over the years through consulting and numerous conversations with senior pastors and executive pastors is that they simply don’t know what to ask when hiring a worship pastor (when it comes to music and if he or she can do the job).

Of course you will have your basic questions on theology, your particular church denominational beliefs and basic things we all look for like the 5 C’s: Character, Competency, Chemistry, Collaboration and Catalytic. Every leader should embody the 5 C’s.

Why do I feel qualified to write these questions? I think I offer a unique perspective as a boss, Campus Pastor and friend to numerous worship pastors. I’ve spent the last 22 years in worship ministry, producing worship experiences, serving as a Worship Pastor, Creative Arts Pastor, Tech Pastor, Director of WorshipHouse Media and consultant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country.

I’ve had the privilege and honor to consult with some amazing churches, including some of Outreach Magazine’s Fastest Growing Churches in the Country. I’ve also consulted and helped churches where Lincoln Brewster, Shane and Shane, Desperation Band/Jon Egan and the lead singer for Building 429 were leading worship. So, I know and have seen worship and the arts done on a high level and I have a true appreciation for what a worship pastor does, as well as a heart for worship.

So, for the rest of you that will be hiring a worship pastor and don’t have a background in music and worship, what questions do you ask when hiring a Worship Pastor? I have some thoughts, such as:

  1. What is your definition of worship?
  2. Describe what worship looks like and why it’s more that music.
  3. What does it mean to live a lifestyle of worship?
  4. Do you have a theology of worship?
  5. Do you have a personal mission statement?
  6. Explain your call to ministry.
  7. Explain your specific call to be a lead worshiper.
  8. Have you studied at a Bible college or seminary? (this can be both good and bad – as far as seminary)
  9. Do you have a good grasp of the Bible, theology and consider yourself to be of sound doctrine?
  10. Do you agree with our Statement of Faith?
  11. Do you agree with our denominational beliefs?
  12. Do you play an instrument?
  13. Do you lead from an instrument?
  14. The Bible instructs us to “play skillfully.” Do you work hard at your craft?
  15. Do you exercise your voice and practice your instrument daily?
  16. How often do you introduce a new song?
  17. Do you write any of your own songs?
  18. Do you arrange songs?
  19. Do you arrange old hymns and breathe new life into them occasionally?
  20. Do you even like and know hymns?
  21. Can you chart out music for your band? Can you listen to a song on the radio or iTunes and chart it out by ear?
  22. What are some of your musical influences?
  23. What are you listening to in your car, office and iPod?
  24. Can you coach a worship band and get the most out of them?
  25. Can you coach vocalists?
  26. Can you harmonize?
  27. Can you teach others to sing harmony?
  28. Do you know how to give professional musicians direction?
  29. Do you know how to give weak or poor musicians direction?
  30. What are some of your core or favorite songs these days?
  31. Who are some of your favorite Christian songwriters?
  32. Who are some of your favorite non-Christian songwriters?
  33. How familiar are you with media, tech (sound, video and lights)?
  34. Are you comfortable and competent recruiting and building a team of musicians?
  35. Are you comfortable and competent recruiting and building a tech team? (Some churches will have staff over tech, some will need the worship pastor to oversee this)
  36. Flat out: Are you a team builder?
  37. Are you an equipper or a doer?
  38. Can you work hard and play hard?
  39. What are your hobbies?
  40. Do you have a sense of humor?
  41. Can you handle pranks?
  42. Are you engaging in worship and do you connect well with people from the stage?
  43. Do you engage and connect well with people off the stage?
  44. Can you administrate and schedule musicians and tech team members weekly?
  45. Are you comfortable using software like Planning Center Online?
  46. How far out do you plan?
  47. How would you describe your abilities when it comes to creative worship planning and brainstorming?
  48. Do you plan worship in solo or are you a part of a creative planning team?
  49. Are you more creative or administrative?
  50. Are you a people person?
  51. Are you in a small group?
  52. Could you lead a small group?
  53. Would you disciple your worship team and volunteers?
  54. Are you comfortable in a multi-site environment (if your church is multisite)?
  55. If your church is multisite, can you collaborate with the worship leaders at the other campuses?
  56. Have you taken the StrengthsFinder2.0 test? If so, what are your top 5 strengths?
  57. What are you top 3 Spiritual Gifts?
  58. Where are you on the DISC profile?
  59. Are you looking to settle down and invest in a community for a long time?
  60. Are you passionate about reaching the lost?
  61. Are you comfortable with an externally-focused church?
  62. Read through the 3 Lost Parables in Luke 15 and share with me what you think God was trying to get across about His heart for the lost.
  63. Will you do whatever it takes to reach people for Christ?
  64. Are you a team player?
  65. Do you have a strong work ethic?
  66. Are you driven? What drives you?
  67. Are you an intentional and strategic leader? Explain.
  68. Do you have a mentor?
  69. Do you mentor anyone else?
  70. How long have you been leading worship?
  71. Do you get pure joy in leading people into the Presence of God?
  72. Are you a Mac or PC person?
  73. Do you use tracks?
  74. Are you comfortable playing with a click?
  75. Explain your struggle with pride. I ask because I’ve yet to meet a pastor (worship pastor or senior pastor) that doesn’t struggle at least a little at some point with pride.
  76. Do you struggle with porn?
  77. What are your greatest strengths?
  78. What are your weaknesses?
  79. What would your wife say is a weakness for you?
  80. What are the last 3 books you read?
  81. Who are some of your favorite authors?
  82. Do you know who A.W. Tozer is? Have you read any of his work?
  83. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
  84. What is your favorite leadership book?
  85. What is your favorite book on music and worship?
  86. Who are some of your favorite preachers?
  87. What’s your favorite movie?
  88. What’s your favorite sport?
  89. What makes you laugh?
  90. Who is the greatest boss you’ve ever had and why?
  91. What conferences do you go to?
  92. Who do you think are the leaders in design today (name companies that have a strong brand)?
  93. Who is your personal favorite worship leader?
  94. What is your current favorite worship song?
  95. Tell me about your family.
  96. Tell me about your friends. Are they all the same ethnicity?
  97. Tell me about your childhood?
  98. Tell me about your testimony. How did you come to faith in Christ?
  99. Why are you looking for a new church?
Don’t let the first few questions intimidate the candidate – just ask them for their honest answers.
These are just the first questions that popped into my head. What are some questions you’d add? What did I miss? Help me out, friends.

How He Loves Music Video

I’ve mentioned to several worship leader friends that my favorite worship song right now is “How He Loves”. I got introduced to it via Kim Walker of Jesus Culture and love her version of the song. As a guy, I also love what David Crowder did with it and his version. Yesterday, I got introduced to John Mark McMillan’s version of the song. Check out this video of him leading it live (via Relevant):

Death Cab for Cutie Gets It

I promise (I think) this is the last one. I do have a blog prepared on a totally different subject tomorrow (leadership). The last 2 posts (Lifehouse and this one) have come from your comments. I thought your suggestions were too good to go unnoticed.

In today’s video/song, one of my favorite bands, Death Cab for Cutie, ends their live concert with Transatlanticism. Thanks to Michael for reminding me of this piece of musical genius. Notice that the electric guitar plays his first soft strum at 1:50 in. The drummer sits with his arms in his lap for the first 3 minutes! At 3 and 1/2 minutes in he starts to lighting play his cymbal and kick.

At about 4 and 1/2 minutes in, the lead singer (Benjamin Gibbard) switches from keys to guitar. At about 5 minutes in you get to experience a band truly letting a song breathe – it’s wonderful. If you’ll notice: from about 4 minutes to 6 minutes there are no vocals – just instruments building (this is what I was referring to in my post about Owl City and the future of worship music – Selah moments).

At about 7 minutes in the drummer builds to where he’s beating the fool out of the drums and then right at 7:36 he drops out – again reinforcing what I said here about players knowing when to drop out. Watch and enjoy!

My hope is that worship leaders will drink this (and the last 4 posts) in. Wrap your brain and heart around the philosophy of letting music build, breathe and taking dynamics seriously. Send my blog links to your band members. Ask them to watch the videos, take notes and use it for a launching pad of discussion that you can have at your next rehearsal.

If you’re a band member in a local church band, show this to your worship leader and other band members. If you’re a pastor or church leader, pass this on to your worship pastor. Let’s raise the bar in our worship leadership and strive for a creativity and beauty that is worthy of our Creator.

Lifehouse Gets It

Today’s example of great musicianship is brought in part because of one of the comments made by Trae earlier in the week. I absolutely love this song and love using it in worship, but it had slipped my mind. Trae brought it back to my attention.

This will close this week out. This is Lifehouse singing/playing “Everything” live in Amsterdam. Please notice how long the song takes to build. The band doesn’t come in strong until 4 minutes in!

As Trae said, one of my friends and favorite worship leaders, Michael Bleecker of the The Village Church (where Matt Chandler is Lead Pastor) does this song the best of anyone I’ve heard lead it. I used to play this song with a band I was in every Tuesday night that led worship for 20 somethings/singles and college age. I would often request that we play this or just start playing the intro and let the band jump in with me. Enjoy!

Not sure how this translates to worship? Watch this video of a drama performed to Lifehouse’s “Everything”. I’ve blogged about this before. I can not watch this without crying every time – it’s amazing.

Phil Collins Gets It

The first time I realized the power of withholding the drums until just the right moment was in Phil Collins’ genius song “In The Air Tonight”. That’s when I “got it”. The following is a video of him playing this live in his Farewell Tour (I have this DVD – because Phil Collins is a musical hero to me). You know you love it! Is there anything cooler than when the drums kick in?

I hope the point is getting across. Let music build. Let it grow. Let it breathe. Leave space. Know when NOT to play. The musicians and bands that I’ve featured the last few days get it – it’s time the Church got it. I know some of you get this – but unfortunately, the majority of the Church (big “C”) doesn’t.

Do you have any other great examples? And yes, I know Mercy Me opened their Live DVD concert with their arrangement of “In the Air Tonight”. I loved it. You can watch that HERE.

Coldplay Gets It

Yesterday I expressed my personal opinions about music, dynamics and letting a song build. I said that the quickest way to spot an amateur player is to see him playing the whole song. A real musician knows when to not play.

One of my favorite bands is Coldplay. Today I thought I’d show you Coldplay playing “Fix You” (one of my favorite songs) Live from Tokyo. In this video, notice the bass comes in at 0:51, the guitar comes in very lightly at around 1:20 and drums come in with a driving electric guitar at about 2:44 (like yesterday almost 3 minutes into the song!) . You’ll notice the drummer often has his arms crossed or his hands in his lap – again a sign of  a pro. Like yesterday, both bands also know when to drop out at the end. Enjoy!

I can’t embed it, but also check out the same song (“Fix You”) Live from Austin City Limits HERE.

How I Teach Dynamics in Music to Church Praise Bands

Continuing with the theme of worship music (yes, I’m focusing on worship leaders for a bit), I’d like to talk about one of the most beautiful parts of music: dynamics. Dynamics are the ebb and flow/highs and lows of music.

As you know, I travel quite a bit and visit/work with a lot of churches. One of the most common problems with church praise bands (and also easiest to fix) is this issue of dynamics. Most church praise bands play too much. They play all the time (from beginning to end) – which is another way of saying they’re too busy – and they don’t let the music build. Like I said yesterday, music needs space – it needs to breathe.

If you’re  a worship pastor that leads a band and you let your musicians play 100% all the time, you’re dropping the ball (you know I like to shoot straight). I mentioned that when I visit churches I often look for a laptop on stage. But one of the first things I look for is who is not playing. The difference between an amateur musician and a professional is knowing when not to play. It’s the whole “less is more” thing that I always preach.

Maybe this is something that your church band struggles with. Maybe you have a pianist that used to be “the band” and is used to playing the full 100% of the music. Now that a guitar, bass and drums are added in, she doesn’t know that her role must decrease and she must adjust the amount of action or busyness that she plays with in order to allow the other instruments to equal to 100%. This is what I call the 100% rule. You only have 100% to divide up – any one player can’t play like the 100% is up to him/her.

Let’s get practical: Often to make a point, I will go to the extreme. I used to do this with my camera operators and video directors all the time. When working with church bands, I will often ask players to “sit out” or restrain from playing for a LONG period of time – in order to get the point across.

One of the best songs I’ve used to teach this to countless people is “My Immortal” by Evanescence. I want you to watch this video twice. The first time just enjoy it and be moved by the song. The second time, look at it more technically.

As you’ll notice, the high-hat comes in at about 2:43 and the full band kicks in (hard) at about 3:07. If you missed that, the band doesn’t come in until 3 minutes into the song. This is a song and video that you can download from iTunes and play for your church band in order to drive this point home. The song is moving and powerful because of how long the rest of the band waits to come in. The song would be ruined if the band was playing the entire time (which again, is what happens with most church bands).

Take this lesson seriously. Learn and grow from it. Go to extremes with your band if you have to. Let the music build. Your congregation will thank you.

The Future of Worship Music?

I’ve been listening to Owl City ever since they splashed with their hit “Fireflies”. After first downloading that song, I went back and downloaded the whole album.

I was on a road trip and driving listening to my iPod and the Owl City album came on. It got to song 07 “Meteor Shower” and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – it was a song of worship. I replayed the song and was amazed that in the midst of their album they had put in an obvious worship song. (You can hear it at the bottom of this post)

Now I listen to the song and truly worship. I find myself wondering if this is the new sound of worship music. It reminds me of 2 landmarks in music that changed the game – the first time I heard Jars of Clay and the first time I heard SonicFlood. Both changed the worship music landscape and we have never been the same.

When I visit churches now (and I visit a lot) – I find myself looking for a DJ or at least a Mac or laptop on the stage. I look for who is controlling the loops and tracks. When I go see various concerts, I look for laptops on the stage. I’m curious – if I came to your church, would I see a laptop on the stage? Let me know.

So friends, go to iTunes, pay the $0.99 and check out “Meteor Shower” by Owl City. See what you think – I’d love to hear your opinion. I’m not sure, but I think he could be on to something new. Like Jars of Clay and SonicFlood, could Owl City be a game changer?

Owl City – Meteor Shower

Worst Seat in the House

It never fails, everytime I visit a church, I notice the senior pastor sitting in the worst seat in the worship center. I experience this weekly at my home church (Fellowship Dallas) and used to experience it weekly at Bent Tree.

In each case the senior pastor would sit on the side, front row (right in front of the subs and closest to the drums). Then they will say it’s too loud (when it sounds fine out in the house to the other thousand or three thousand seats). The sound engineer then feels his hands are tied as he tries to mix for 1100 seats (at Fellowship Dallas) or 33oo seats (at Bent Tree) or whichever church I’m visiting – the audio guy has to adjust for the person in the worst seat and thus has a bad mix for the majority of the room. How backwards is that?

My suggestion to the pastor sitting in this worst possible seat – trust your people and tech team out in the house and let them mix for the entire room. Don’t ask them to adjust things to your liking – it’s not practical. How about you? Have you experienced this in your church?