Tools for Worship Ministry

Here are some options for worship ministry. I’m familiar with some of these tools and would love to hear your thoughts or critiques.


Websites to assist in planning, organizing, and implementing worship services:

Computer Programs for displaying media in worship services:

Live Worship
Easy Worship
Sunday Plus

Websites with video clips that could be incorporated in worship services:

Bluefish TV
Highway Video
Integrity Media
Midnight Oil
Sermon Spice
Work of the People

Pipe Organ in Worship

A friend recently emailed me a question: “Is there a place for the Pipe Organ in a worship service consisting of praise and worship, and contemporary hymns?” Here are some thoughts.

Unfortunately, people tend to hold their affinity for music more dearly than doctrine. We must guard ourselves from this tendency. Church music based on truth is a good tool for teaching and for assisting folks to engage in worship, but nonetheless, music is merely a tool. It is God alone and His Word that are central to worship, are absolute truth, and are to be held in highest honor.

There is no style of music that is inherently good or evil. In regard to music style in the church, the question is not “Is it right or wrong (or good and evil)?,” but rather, “Does it edify or is it fitting in our given context and culture?”

Warren Wiersbe has compared songs and music to clothing. Some old clothes don’t fit any more, so we throw them out. Some we dust off from time to time for certain occasions. Some classic clothes we wear quite often.

Amusingly enough, much of our preferred music and instruments today were frowned on in church history. Musical notation of chant began in the 900’s in Europe. Chant progressed to 4-part harmony in France in the 1200’s. John Wycliffe complained that only choirs were involved in church singing in the 1400’s. Martin Luther introduced congregational singing with popular German folk tunes in the 1500’s. Benjamin Keach introduced psalm and hymn singing to English baptists in the 1600’s. Ira Sankey’s pump organ and solo singing were seen as worldly in the 1870’s and 1880’s during D. L. Moody’s revival meetings. The piano was controversially introduced to the American church in 1910 by Charles Alexander. Guitars were fought over in the 1970’s Jesus movement and are still seen as controversial in some circles today.

Pastors and worship leaders need to take stock of their people. If you have guitarists, utilize them. If you have folks that play orchestral instruments, find a way to utilize them. If you have talented organists or pianists, utilize them. Even if it’s not every week, at least find some way for people to serve in the church and utilize their gifts and abilities. Otherwise, we are saying, “We don’t like your gift and ability, so just stay in the pew and be quiet.” I have a worship pastor friend who rotates his church worship styles every 6 weeks or so. It’s a great concept, and the variety is nice. Over the time span of 2 months, there is something there for everyone.

Ultimately, people are priority and not one certain instrument. How often we are guilty of abusing the word NEED (I NEED a pianist, I NEED a guitarist, I NEED a drummer, etc.). Sure, we may really desire certain instruments and some are probably more crucial than others in a given context, but we must not make an idol of one preferred instrument.

As for the question of using a pipe organ, it just depends on your culture and context. In a grass hut church in Africa, no, the pipe organ is not practical nor edifying. For a cathedral in Europe, maybe so. Even in Southern Baptist life, this may vary from church to church. I know of a SBC church that recently spent several million dollars to purchase a pipe organ from Europe. This decision really limits this church in priorities and finances and locks them into one worship style. Spending several thousand dollars on a good keyboard with organ sounds/pads is probably more practical for most churches than spending millions on a pipe organ. We must also recognize that it is much easier today to find a skilled pianist than an organist. The times have changed.

For our church worship context, we use a pipe organ pad on our keyboard several times a year for a hymn or worship anthem. To borrow the clothing analogy from Wiersbe, the pipe organ is a nostalgic outfit we like to wear occasionally.

Bible for your iPod or iPhone


An iPod edition of the ESV Bible is available for free at: This works for Nano, Classic and Video iPods thru the Notes application.

An iPhone or iPod Touch edition of the Bible is available for free at: There are multiple versions of the Bible available thru touchbible with internet access. For the occasions when you do not have internet access, you can download and store the KJV Bible in your Touch mail application. I also recommend the site:

Pray for Coldplay

Coldplay’s new album Viva La Vida is musically excellent and creative. In the past decade, this UK piano-driven rock band has grown in popularity and been known to give much to charity. The lead singer Chris Martin writes most of the band lyrics and is married to actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Bill O’Reilly recently called Martin a pinhead for his criticizing and making cheap shots at the FOX News Channel. I have followed Coldplay since their 2000 album Parachutes and have really enjoyed their music.

While former Coldplay albums may have slightly touched upon religion, the new album clearly portrays that Martin is searching spiritually: he feels lost, he is waiting, his heart is not open to God, and he is crying out for the church to love. He seems to be disillusioned by the dishonesty, hypocrisy, and violence seen in religion, wants to escape, and concludes with sadness. This absolutely grips my heart.

Martin was raised Roman Catholic. In a Rolling Stone interview he comments on religious themes in 2 of his older songs: “A Message” and “Til Kingdom Come” both come from having quite a religious upbringing. “A Message” is taken from a hymn we used to sing called “My Song Is Love Unknown,” and we’d say “kingdom come” every week in the Lord’s Prayer. One of the great things about being forced to go to church services is that we’d sing all these big songs. That’s partly why I’m obsessed with getting everyone to sing along at our shows. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something.

Dr. Bill Brown, president of Cedarville University, urges Christians to pray for actors and artists because of their potential to spread philosophical ideas, shape cultural thought, and influence people. My friend and colleague Wesley Price prays often for musical artist Sting.

I ask that you would join me in praying for Coldplay, and specifically for Martin: that the Lord would “open his heart” to the Gospel, that his eyes would see truth and understand there is “something more,” that he would cross paths with genuine Christians who would show visible love and share the truth of Christ, and his life would be invaded by the Triune God. I pray Coldplay will soon arrive confidently on what Francis A. Schaeffer called “true truth” and will find fullness of joy in the presence and reality of Jesus Christ.

You can listen to the entire new album at:

You can preview all Coldplay lyrics at:

“Cemeteries of London”

God is in the houses and god is in my head
And all the cemeteries in London
I see god come in my garden but I don’t know what he said
For my heart it wasn’t open
Not open


I just got lost
Every river that I’ve tried to cross
And every door I ever tried was locked
Ooh-Oh, And I’m just waiting till the shine wears off…


Those who are dead are not dead
They’re just living in my head
And since I fell for that spell
I am living there as well

Time is short and I’m sure
There must be something more

You thought you might be a ghost
You thought you might be a ghost
You didn’t get to heaven, but you made it close
You didn’t get to heaven but you made it close

“Viva La Vida”

Hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

“Violet Hill”

Was a long and dark December
From the rooftops i remember
There was snow
White snow

Clearly i remember
From the windows they were watching
While we froze down below

When the future’s architectured
By a carnival of idiots on show
You’d better lie low

If you love me
Won’t you let me know?

Was a long and dark December
When the banks became cathedrals
And the fog
Became God

Priests clutched onto bibles
And went out to fit their rifles
And the cross was held aloft

Bury me in honor
When i’m dead and hit the ground
A love back home unfolds

If you love me
Won’t you let me know?

I don’t want to be a soldier
With the captain of some sinking ship
With snow, far below

So if you love me
Why’d you let me go?

I took my love down to violet hill
There we sat in snow
All that time she was silent still

So if you love me
Won’t you let me know?
If you love me,
Won’t you let me know?

“Shout to the Lord” on American Idol

It was interesting to hear “Shout to the Lord” on Fox TV’s American Idol last week on April 9-10. It was also peculiar to hear them replace “My Jesus” with “My Shepherd” the first night and revert back to “My Jesus” the next night. Christians should be neither ecstatic nor distressed. I planned to write an essay about this, but then decided it unnecessary after reading the blog entries of Bob Kauflin and Josh Harris (see below). I appreciate their thoughts.

Check out the following articles:

Here’s another perspective from Catholic columnist Michael Giltz, who is offended that American Idol made all 8 of the contestants sing the song. He feels the group sing-along is an attempt of the show to evangelize or convert people. While I don’t agree with Giltz, it is an interesting read:

Finding Hymn Stories

I recommend, which has over 6,400 Christian hymns & Gospel songs from many denominations. You’ll find lyrics, scores, MIDI files, pictures, history, & more.

Worship Leader magazine each month features a new song-writing story for worship songs and modern hymns.

I mainly use books to find older hymn stories. Here are some recommendations.
Then Sings My Soul, Book 1 by Robert J. Morgan (Thomas Nelson, 2003)
Then Sings My Soul, Book 2 by Robert J. Morgan (Thomas Nelson, 2004)
O Worship the King by Tada, MacArthur, Wolgemuth (Crossway, 2000).
Amazing Grace by Kenneth W. Osbeck (Kregel, 1990).
101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck (Kregel, 1982).
52 Hymn Stories Dramatized by Kenneth W. Osbeck (Kregel, 1992).
The Book of Hymns by Ian Bradley (Testament Books, 1989).
Hymns of Faith and Inspiration by Pamela J. Kennedy (Ideals, 1990).
How Sweet the Sound by George Beverly Shea (Tyndale, 2004).

Modern Hymns of Keith Getty


I was blessed this week by the ministry of Keith and Kristyn Getty as guests on the Southeastern campus. Keith is a prolific modern hymn-writer and Kristyn is a truly gifted singer. Some of their most familiar songs are: In Christ Alone, The Power of the Cross, and Speak, O Lord. I thank God for this couple and His blessing on their ministry.

Keith says there are two reasons he writes modern hymns. “First, it’s to help teach the faith. What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and ultimately how we live, so it’s so important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us. The second reason is to try and create a more timeless musical style that every generation can sing, a style that relates to the past and the future.”

For more info, check out: