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Written 20 years ago, this article is still very relevant today! Yes, Faye still sets up all the Christmas trees too!
ARTICLE NUMBER 12 DECEMBER ISSUE SINGING NEWS
CHRISTMAS ISSUE 1993
By Mike Speck
I love the Christmas season! It is the one time of the year our family loses their senses concerning food, presents, food and more presents. It’s also the time of the year when the family of God have a wonderful opportunity to remind the entire world of the reason for this holiday season.
There are so many memories connected with Christmas. I can still remember my first Christmas cantata: “Night of Miracles” by John W. Peterson. That was about 30 years ago. My, my we’ve come a long way since then. We now have “cantatas” with live animals (camels, donkeys, sheep), complete dramas (with authentic costumes) and full orchestras. Some churches begin the preparation for their “Christmas Musicals” sometime in August. It has become a major undertaking that requires thousands of dollars, hundreds of people and hours and hours of planning, promotion and preparation. Of course, there are degrees of this scenario but more and more churches are attempting to do things in a big way for the Kingdom of God
I’m for anything and everything we can do to expose a lost, hurting world to the Prince of Peace. Singing in a major production is one of the most exciting ways to fulfill the great commission; not to mention the blessing it is to those of us that are saved. Hundreds and even thousands of people will attend our drama/musicals this year. Think of the great opportunity we have to give them more that just a “good” feeling. Wouldn’t it be great if they came to hear little Johnny sing but left with Jesus in their heart? All that we do should be redemptive in it’s motive and essence.
I also want to encourage you to remember that all the labor and hard work shouldn’t stop when Christmas is over. In fact, it’s sad when choir attendance doubles just on special occasions. It is an awesome thought to consider what our worship services might be if we had the same kind of intense promotion, planning and preparation week to week as we do for Christmas and Easter.
Some may feel that we are being too extravagant with all these Christmas musicals and dramas. Well, what’s excessive to one might be normal to another. During the 21 years of our marriage, my wife has accumulated 6 Christmas trees and she puts all of them up before Thanksgiving. Is that wild or what? My wife claims there is a scripture for this. Collosians 3:21 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord”. Well in that case, where is that divinity candy and give me another slice of fruit cake….. May each of you have a wonderful Christmas and may 1994 be our greatest year for the King!
ARTICLE NUMBER SEVEN
(FOR NOVEMBER 1993)
By Mike Speck
I believe there are four basic parts to what we call a “worship service”. They are
celebration, participation, proclamation, and inivitation. We have already dealt with
celebration and participation. Celebration and participation is where the music part of
the service primarily takes place. The third basic area of worship is PROCLAMATION.
Proclamation is when the man of God stands to deliver the message from God. Most
times this will be from the pastor. Hopefully, he will not just preach a sermon, but will
deliver a message from the Lord–a message that God has burned into his heart, that
will minister life to the body of Christ.
The proclamation of the word of God is an important part of worship. We have an
opportunity to hear our Heavenly Father’s divine plan for peace, health, joy, prosperity;
everything we need to be overcomers and victorious in this life. Proclamation or
preaching is sometimes challenging and confrontational. It reveals what we really are
compared to what we should be.
When we worship the Lord, we have the glorious privilege and opportunity to hear God
speak. Someone once asked if I ever heard God speak out loud. I told them it was
louder than that! In fact, I can’t remember a time when the Lord did not speak to me
when I was in a “worship service”.
Finally, preaching is the means by which most all of us were saved. The scripture says,
“the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that perish, but unto us that are
saved it is the power of God…”. It is the preaching and proclamation of the Gospel (the
death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) that changes lives.
You are probably asking, “what does this have to do with me, the music minister or
choir member. I’m glad you asked because the way (attitude) you “celebrate” and
“participate” in worship is in direct proportion to the anointing that is on the
“proclamation”. We’re talking about the anointing of God on the messenger, the
message and most important, the hearers. You see, our responsibility as worship
leaders is every bit as important as the preacher’s. Celebration and participation
should create such an atmosphere of Jesus that the preacher, as well as everyone else
in the house, is ready to hear and obey God. Want to see your preacher preach the
paint off the walls? Sing with all your heart to the Lord whether you feel like it or not!
Choose to praise Him and watch the Spirit of the Lord come and do what can’t be done
by the manipulation of preachers and singers.
ARTICLE NUMBER SIX
(FOR OCTOBER 1993)
By Mike Speck
This article is a continuation of the four basic parts of a “worship service” . We’ve
already discussed the importance of the first part: CELEBRATION. After we have had
a time of rejoicing and praising God with alive, exciting music we should start to turn the
focus toward the second critical part of our worship time: PARTICIPATION. The pace
and tempo of the music begins to slow somewhat and the hymns, choruses, scripture
songs along with those singing special music enters a time of more intense worship
and adoration of the Lord. During “celebration” we sang and testified about the Lord.
During “participation”, we begin singing more to the Lord. In other words, the
congregation is not the audience and we are not the entertainers. We sing to our
Heavenly Father; for He is our audience.
It is incredible to be in a “worship service” where everyone there is “PARTICIPATING”
in praising and magnifying Jesus. Don’t misunderstand; we all praise Him a little
differently. Some will weep when they walk in to His presence. Others will lift hands;
signifying they surrender to the Spirit of the Lord. Still others will have the peace and
presence of God all over their face. I have been in churches where this special time of
intimacy with the Spirit of God caused supernatural, unexplainable things to take
place. People immediately began to get right with God and each other. I have seen
immense joy break out and countless lives restored and refreshed. The scripture says
“In His presence, there is fullness of joy”.
There are thousands of congregations and churches that have never experienced what
I’m talking about. Hundreds of choirs and ministers of music know how to perform, but
never have this kind of overwhelming glory in their “worship services”. I want to remind
you again that I am just learning about this myself. I have tasted of heavenly things
and can no longer be satisfied by the husks of entertainment and talent. I personally
need that divine interrruption of a Holy God that happens when I truly worship Him. I
think there are many hungry Christians, especially worship leaders, that know there is
surely more to this thing called worship than what we have experienced. Praise His
Holy name, there is!
In the past 22 years of our ministry, I have seen Christianity change dramatically. Yet,
one thing has remained constant–God has, and always will have, a remnant of people
that will worship and praise Him. Why not take a moment today and sing to the Lord a
song from your heart.
ARTICLE NUMBER FIVE
(FOR SEPTEMBER 1993)
By Mike Speck
“Let’s put our hands together, we’re gonna celebrate Jesus’ name”. That’s the
beginning line of a song that Janet Paschal made popular. It is also where every
church worship service should begin.
We do have a reason to celebrate. How about starting by praising God for forgiving us
and giving us eternal life. Or how about praising Him for all the ways He blessed us
this week. What about being able to see, walk, talk, hear, taste, ……….. Boy, do we
ever take for granted all we have in Jesus. He is forever faithful and gives us peace in
the midst of our storms. He is the God of all encouragement. We could go on and on.
“Hallelujah, what a Savior”.
As I shared with you previously, there are four parts to our worship services. They are
celebration, participation, proclamation, and invitation. Let’s take a moment to talk
about celebration. I’m talking about a congregation or choir that sings rejoicing, alive,
exciting up tempo songs that blesses the Father and encourages the saints. I’m talking
about music that makes us look forward to going to church. Nothing lifts the spirits or
changes the mood of a person like celebration in worship .
Can celebration get too wild? I think it is possible, but I have never personally seen it.
Someone once said, “I’d rather cool down a fanatic on fire than resurrect a religious
corpse. Celebration is not just emotionalism or entertainment. It is the reason some
churches are filled with people and some aren’t. I get to wondering if we can’t stand
praising God for an hour or two a week, how will we stand an eternity of it. All that
have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb along with all the angels in glory, will
celebrate and praise the King of Kings forever and ever.
If only we, who lead in worship, could get a grasp at how our Lord loves to hear His
children singing, rejoicing and praising His name. As you well know, He inhabits our
praises. There are scriptures all through the word of God that reveal this great truth.
Still, there are those who look upon clapping and raising hands, along with certain
styles and tempos of music, as disrespectful and irreverent. In our next article we will
talk about the second phase of worship; participation. We will discuss the need to get
quiet and intimate with our worship of the Lord.
ARTICLE NUMBER FOUR
(FOR AUGUST 1993)
By Mike Speck
There are four basic parts to what we call the “Worship Service”. They are
CELEBRATION, PARTICIPATION, PROCLAMATION and INVITATION. Many believe
that PROCLAMATION (preaching) is the main reason for “having church”. According to
the word of God all four are equally and distinctly important to the body of Christ. I
don’t want to minimize preaching in any way, but, we must come to realize that music is
not like a pre-game warm up for the main event. Music is not something tacked on to
the service to get people ready to hear the preacher. It is so much more than
something to fill up time and show off talent. God Himself has ordained that we should
sing. In other words, our Heavenly Father likes it. It is an important, powerful force in
our lives that I’m just now beginning to understand. When the people of God come
together and begin singing from their heart to the Lord, something unexplainable
begins to happen. Like a mighty wave in the ocean, the Holy Spirit shows up.
Sometimes it’s like a gentle breeze that bathes, refreshes, and renews the spirit of the
How ever you describe it, every one of us need it. Once you’ve experienced the joy of
being ushered away into the presence of the Lord, you will never be satisfied with
dead, cold, formal religion.
For the next few articles, I want to share some insights to these four areas of the
worship service. The first is CELEBRATION.
There must be a time in the service when the saints of God celebrate and rejoice. The
bible says to enter His courts with praise and to come before His presence with singing.
I’m talking about alive, exciting, emotionally charged music that creates an atmosphere
of celebration. Many churches are fearful of starting out a service with such excitement
and rejoicing; however, people in the pews are starving for it. They’ve been in heated
spiritual conflict all week and have come to be encouraged and restored by the mighty
presence of the Lord. The last thing they need is to sit in a church listening to music
found at the funeral home. Someone has said that on every church steeple there
should be a sign saying “HAPPY HOUR 11:00 AM THIS SUNDAY”
Start the service with songs like “Power in the Bood”, “Victory in Jesus”, “New name
written in Glory”. Or choruses like “What a mighty God we Serve”, and “I’m Saved to
the Uttermost”. Be careful! Somebody might get happy!
ARTICLE NUMBER THREE(FOR JULY 1993)
By Mike Speck
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Boy, does that ever ring true when it comes to
choral music. I’ve seen choirs and choir leaders murder a great song because of how
they sang it. I was in Greenville, South Carolina and flipped on the TV on a Sunday
afternoon. I grabbed the remote control and began doing one of my favorinte things–
watching 12 TV channels at once. I was having a blast with the remote control until my
wife grabbed it from me. While going through the channels I caught one of the local
church services being broadcast. The minister of music stood stone faced (along with
the other ministers on the platform). They were singing “What A Day That Will Be”.
One of the men on the platform was not participating at all. I wondered what folks
thought of them as they were flipping through the channels like me that afternoon.
What makes the difference in a worship service? I believe it’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy
Spirit is powerful, alive, exciting, supernatural God doing what only God can do. Most
churches have a form of godliness with no power. Like Samson who went out to do
battle with the emeny. He was completely unaware that the power and anointing of
God had left him.
You show me a church filled with the Spirit of God and I’ll show you an alive, exciting,
energetic, unpredictable supernatural worship service filled with expression and
passion for the Lord Jesus. I fear we are singing the right songs and preaching the
right message without the power and anointing of God. We are just earthen vessels;
cracked and broken. But when these vessels are filled with the Spirit, Jesus flows out.
And the Spirit of Jesus is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness and self-control. You don’t work these attributes up or learn how to possess
them. They are the natural expression of the Holy Spirit manifested in and through
your life. When you squeeze a spirit filled Christian, all that can spill out is the Spirit of
Revival is simply getting full of Jesus. That means swallowing our religious pride and
admitting our religion is dead and dry. Our prayers are cold and hearts have become
hard. Our singing is to impress each other and has become powerless and fruitless
performance; unmoving the sinner to Jesus. When a person or choir is experiencing
genuine Holy Ghost revival, it will manifest itself in the way they sing. They will be
singing the same old songs but they are miraculously fresh and exciting. A church in
revival is a happy, singing church. It will also be a sensitive, compassionate church.
For instead of thinking of only themselves, they will think of others first and foremost.
Their hearts will hurt with the hurting and will weep with those that are weeping. The
church becomes like Jesus.
The difference is the power of God. When the glory of God is on a life or on a church,
it’s not what they sing as much as it is how they sing it that comminicates Jesus to a
ARTICLE NUMBER 2 (FOR JUNE 1993)
By Mike Speck
Before the service starts Danny Deadhead has already manned his pew. He has his
arms folded, a scowl angry look on his face. He’s not going to sing, he’s not even
going to act interested. In fact, he’s going to look and act miserable. Do you have any
people like this in your church? Sure, you do!
It is now a proven fact that at least 14% of the folks in your congregation are going to
be against anything you do. If the rapture was up for vote, they’d vote against it. For
years I let those characters keep me from praising God. That sour, critical look on their
face was such a blessing. They are in every church. If you let them, they will grieve
you to the point of discouragement and frustration.
One Sunday morning I stood to lead the music and decided I wouldn’t pay any attention
to Charlie Criticizer and Susie Sourface. I looked toward heaven and sang to the Lord.
Then I sought out folks in the service that were singing from their heart with joy on their
face. It was amazing how I had let those 14% rob me of my joy and praise to Jesus.
As I began singing to the Lord, I found myself praising God and having the time of my
life. Eventually other folks started joining me. I determined then and there that if no
one else praised God, I would.
Do you know that can make all the difference in your church service? Stop focusing on
the 14%! The bible says, “he that doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ is none of His”. The
Spirit of Jesus is sweet, loving, kind, gracious and humble. Folks that are not saved,
along with backsliders, are negative, critical, sharped-tongue, hateful and even cruel.
The prince of the power of the air (atmosphere) is the devil. He’s created an
atmosphere over the entire world that makes it easy to sin and be rebellious against a
Holy God. We that sing in the choir and lead music are responsibel for shattering that
atmosphere. It is when we come together praising, rejoicing, and exalting our great
God that the sweet Holy Spirit invades our house of worship and dead, cold religion
becomes alive by the fire and power of that Holy God. Suddenly there is an
atmosphere that makes it easy for men, women, boys and girls to respond to the Lord
Jesus. Christians are refreshed and revived.
As worship leaders, we are to be thermostats and not thermometers. A thermometer
reacts to the temperature in the room. For several years I was a thermometer, reacting
to people in the Sunday morning service. A thermostat is different. It sets the
temperature in the room. When I made the choice to praise the King of Kings, no
matter what, the room temperature definitely changed. I had become a thermostat. It
changed my entire ministry!!
Leave old Danny Deadhead alone. Don’t try to blast out the old stumps, just plow
around them and keep singing and praising the name of Jesus. It really does work!
Last week we had an individual ask for several of Mike’s old Singing News Magazine articles. He wrote this article monthly from 1993-2006. Although I realize some of it may not be as current…a lot of the content written here is still very relevant. By the way, my versions are unedited too! I will post these here and please follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mikespeckministries to find out when.
ARTICLE NUMBER 1 (FOR MAY 1993)
By Mike Speck
The first thing the congregation sees every Sunday morning is the countenance of the
choir. Believe it or not, the entire atmosphere of a service is dependent on this simple
thing. The choir will either minister life or minister death. The reason they sit facing the
congregation is so they can be the worship leaders. As they worship, the congregation
It was last spring that I was in an area-wide crusade in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.
The crusade began Sunday evening. That gave me an opportunity to slip in on a
Sunday morning worship service at one of the local participating churches. I ended up
at Binghamtown Baptist Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky. The folks were so friendly to
me as a visitor (not knowing who I was). I sat down on the first pew just in time for the
choir to march in. The pianist and organist had been playing some great alive pre-
service music ( we’ll talk about that later) and I watched the choir file into the loft. They
looked like they were excited and glad to be in church. All of a sudden they broke out
singing “Here I am, here I am, I’m the one the Shepherd left the fold and found. There
were ninety and nine but He left the fold to find, one little lost lamb and here I am”.
Their faces lit up with joy and excitement. I found myself weeping with joy and praising
God. Suddenly one of the ladies in the choir took a microphone and began singing
“There is peace in the midst of your storm tossed life…”. Some in the choir were
weeping, others had their hands raised (and this was a Baptist church). By this time I
was on my knees worshiping with the choir. I wasn’t alone, for immediately folks
began to leave their seats and find their way to an old fashion alter.
Dear brothers and Sisters, I wanted to move my membership to that church. What had
happened to us? At least three things—first, the choir sang from their heart (a song
from your heart can’t help but end up all over your face). Second, the choir was
singing with all their heart. Nothing was held back. Their faces and body language
expressed more than their voices. The shear volume of their singing said, “I mean
every word of this”. Third, they were unashamed and unafraid of emotion. (This is an
entire article within itself.) So many churches are afraid things might get out of control.
I’m always hoping things do get out of our control and in the control of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is a perfect gentleman. He will do everything needing to be done in
the lives of people when we allow Him to.
It all starts with the countenance of the worship leaders. We must choose to praise
God above what we think, feel, or see.
If you have the courage, video tape your choir without them knowing it and play it back
to them at choir practice. What a shocker that will be!! The old saying is still true–it’s
monkey see, monkey do. Don’t be afraid to let your face reveal your love for Jesus.
This Article will appear in an upcoming Lifeway publication but I thought I might share it here. Enjoy….
PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
By Mike Speck
The Olympic games have always been fascinating to me. Every four years countries of the world send their finest athletes to compete for the “Gold”. I remember the old days as the judges held up the white cards with a number on it, signifying their rating of an individual’s execution of a dive, a vault, or some other athletic competion. There were always lots of fives, sixes, and sevens on the card. Rarely do I remember seeing a person receive a “10” – the score of perfection. I have often wondered how you or I, as worship leaders, might rate if we were put to this kind of rating system? On second thought, let’s not think about that!
If I had only one opportunity to share a word to those in ministry, it would be to encourage each of us to pursue excellence. I truly believe every worship leader, choir member, and musician has within them a deep desire to be useful vessels for our Lord. We all want to make a difference… in the end, to have “mattered,” and to “finish well.” Let me share three simple things that have helped me.
1. Pursue excellence in our personal journey.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
This Scripture reveals the 4 major areas that each of us must chase in our quest for excellence: mental, physical, spiritual and social. In short, we all need to be stretched, challenged, willing to adapt (not compromise) and change for the sake of the Kingdom. Remember our race is a marathon… not a sprint. We can never, ever stop growing in knowledge and wisdom. We must keep on asking… keep on seeking… keep on knocking (Matt. 7:7). We are dead-in-the-water if we don’t have a healthy, vibrant, intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father… and we will be less effective in life if we fail to better hone our social skills and human relationships.
Tyrese Gibson, upon accepting his 2012 Trumpet Award said something I have never been able to get away from, “I want to show up being the best version of me that I can be. You can’t get points today for yesterday’s game – so every single day I am on a mission to be bigger, better and closer to God.”
2. Pursue excellence in our position in ministry
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord.”
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.” We who lead the music portion of worship are vital to the local church but we play “second fiddle”. We are the harmony! In our pursuit of excellence, we must remember that we are always subordinate to the main shepherd of the flock: our senior pastor. That is not always an easy thing. One more thought: to be successful and effective in a local church, we must know its history and personality: it’s DNA. As worship leaders, we’d better be careful about cutting into the DNA of the style or the “order of things” too quickly. I was interviewing Travis Cottrell about this subject and he said, “Many worship leaders are standing on the other side of the river from the congregation, motioning for everyone to come over to their side…when the leader should go across the river to where the people are, take them by the hand and lead them gently to Jesus.” Serving our Lord is not about our personal preferences in music or manner of dress and/or appearance. It isn’t about what we personally like or want. Oooh, did I really say that? Our pursuit of excellence is tied directly to becoming humble servants to the church family: leading worship through love and inspiration, rather than arrogance and intimidation.
3. Pursue excellence in our presentation of music
We must always strive to raise the bar of quality in our singers and musicians. We must never settle for mediocrity or doing enough “just to get by”. We should never be satisfied with half the congregation engaged in worship. One of my favorite verses is II Chronicles 2:29.
“And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued…”
I believe our task as worship leaders is to present (and offer) God-anointed, spirit-filled moments of worship that will give the congregation the opportunity to walk in Heavenly places. You see, my brothers (and sisters)… worship is not taught as much as it is caught. Give me a choir that’s ablaze with passion, well-prepared and ready to sing with all their heart, and something wonderful is bound to happen! It’s hard work to present all we do with excellence. It costs much, but oh, the difference it makes!
I leave you with this thought…
”Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 “LET’S GO FOR THE GOLD” A few more days to run, my friends, and the race will be over…and at the finish line…to hear “WELL DONE.”