Archive for the 'Misty Jones' Category


potential in people, not programs

I’ve seen this happen a hundred times and have been a willing participant in it as well:

A person comes up to you and says they play an instrument or sing. You instantly do that thing where you think you can tell by the way they are talking if they are any good or not. You tell them you’d love to hear them sometime and tell them more about your program to see if they’d be a good fit. You do one of the following:

1) take their number and lose it on your desk later,
2) tell them to call your office with the less-than-thrilling idea of a screening,
3) tell them to find you on Facebook and then you lose their message amongst the hundred that are already sitting in your message box,
4) have them play or sing fairly quickly for you right there on the spot and instantly realize they’re either ready for your program or they are not,
5) kick yourself realizing you need a program or a system for finding new players and singers,
6) repeat a combination of 1-5

Trying to find people who would “be a good fit” for my programs (services, choirs, orchestras, bands, etc.) can be a very dangerous dead-end street. If we are constantly focused on the potential in our program, we will only be building the kingdom of our program, and not the Kingdom of God. What about the potential of that person that came up to you? What if we shifted our focus and investment to instantly seeing potential in people instead of programs?

If we don’t have a place for people to go who have potential but are not quite there yet, how do we ever expect them to get anywhere? We send them away thinking they are going to come back six months later magically better and ready to be able to hold their own. No wonder most of them never come back – we never offered them help.

The disciples didn’t have it all together when Jesus invited them to follow Him around. In fact, they were a glorious mess. But Jesus saw the passion and potential in every one of them, and He knew that if He just gave them a place, if He just gave them a chance to learn from Him, they would grow. Never once did Jesus think about the gravity of saving the world and think, “Nah….these guys can’t cut it.” He let them follow along, fumbling a bit here and there, putting their foot in their mouth every once in a while, but they kept learning…so they kept following….and they kept learning…and kept following…do you see the cycle?

The most important students in my band development program are not the students who are already playing main stages here in our venues. They are not the ones who have the best equipment plus the ability to use it well. They are not the ones who can play blindly without charts even if I transpose on the spot. I love all of my students, but the most important students are the ones who aren’t ready yet.

The most important students are the ones who are working hard every week in small offices with coaches just learning how to sight-read rhythm charts and keep up with a song. No lights, stages, or loud amps – just hard work. They don’t know exactly what they’re doing yet, but they are learning more and more every week. And when it’s time, their coach will tell me “They’re ready,” with a big smile on their face. But those students have to have somewhere to go, and somewhere to grow. Those students have to have someone who see potential in them and believe in them enough that they will create a place where that development can happen.

They’re the most important people in my program because they are the future of The Church. Long after my programs are gone, long after I’m gone, there is a good chance these students will be somewhere in the world leading worship. If I’m really going to walk the talk and be a Kingdom Builder, I cannot see every player through the filter of the holes I need to fill in my program. I have to trust God to fill those holes at the right time. I have to have a season where maybe I don’t have a player who can pull off leads like John Mayer.

I have to get my focus off the vision of a stage that sounds perfect and instead have a vision of people simply making it to the next step in their development. Jesus never asked me to turn every student into a professional player. But He did ask me to see them like He sees them, and to help train them and disciple them and give them a chance to connect to Him in worship through their talents. And I’m finding at the end of the day it’s a much better view from up here.


Lessons from the dance floor

Had you told me 6 months ago that I would develop a love for swing dancing, I would have laughed out loud.  Here’s what happened. I’m just as shocked as you are.

I have been trying to find something to do for fun that isn’t music related, something new that I haven’t tried, some way to meet new people. I overheard a friend of mine mention that she had been going swing dancing every week, and I had thought maybe I’d give it a try. Now I have grown up being very self-conscious of dancing for the most part. Just because you are a musician and have rhythm doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a good dancer, and I’m a pretty good case of just that.  But I figured I’d give it a try.  Why not?

Being a worship leader, I am most comfortable on stage with a guitar in my hand. That’s my “safe place.”  Not that it’s about being on stage, because we all know that it’s not – but that’s my sweet spot, it’s where I feel in control, it’s where I basically know what I’m doing most of the time.  I found out rather quickly that the dance floor was the exact opposite of what I thought of a as a “safe place” the very first night.

I went to the lesson before hand, learned the basic steps, and proceeded to stumble my way through the entire evening attempting to let other guys lead while I attempted even harder to follow. It was a hilarious mess.  I had the basic steps down after a couple hours, but that was about it.  But I had fun, which was really strange to me.  And so I went back the next week…and then the next week…and the next week….and before you know it, here it is a month later and I am triple stepping, doing tandem charleston, and a bunch of other crazy dances that I have never heard of.   And I have to say, after practicing and trying and being willing to learn, I’ve actually gotten the swing of it.  Pun intended.

Here’s the point – when I’m swing dancing, I am totally out of my comfort zone – I can’t lead. I wouldn’t have the first clue as to what to do.  I am used to steering the ship, and there was an internal squirm the first night –  where is my microphone?!?  A monitor?!?  Something!! Can I just jump on stage with the band instead of dance?!?  Swing dancing forces me to follow.  In fact, if I don’t relax my frame and allow my partner to literally push me and guide me with his hand, it is one huge mess.  To take the obvious metaphor even further, I am not even supposed to look down, I am supposed to keep my eyes on my partner for the most part.

We get so used to being large and in charge on stage, sometimes I think it’s good to humble ourselves and do something that challenges us to follow and not lead for a change, and maybe learn something new.  Sometimes I get so headstrong in what I am capable of doing, I forget to relax and trust God’s leading – He is trying to nudge me along, but if I don’t let Him lead I only end up messing things up for the most part.   It makes sense to try and look down and focus on trying to figure things out, but the Word says to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust His leading first.   If we would just do that, we might find some other “safe places” in life that we never knew existed.


the underdog.

I played soccer in high school and right before any huge game we would all get together to watch one of the Rocky movies. And every time we saw him take down that huge 40-foot tall Russian in Rocky IV, we thought to ourselves, “everybody thinks we’re gonna get killed, but we know we can do this!”

Whenever you start a brand new program or implement a new system, everyone is watching to see if you can actually pull it off. Some folks are excited to see what God will do, and some folks will think you are absolutely crazy for attempting such a thing. But you know something they don’t.

When God gives you a new vision for something, remember that you are the only one He has anointed with the grace, strength, and that certain strand of fearlessness that borders on insanity to carry the vision out. And while it is your job to cast the vision to your key leaders, there is a reason no one else will ever really see exactly what you see because God gave you the vision – not them! But that’s why they need you in the first place.

I am about to start a new training program for students who want to develop their skills when it comes to playing in a worship band. We are providing an environment for students to learn, plus we have rehearsal deadlines to meet since we are backing up our youth choirs this year. I’ve got 29 students and 12 adults spread out between 2 portables. That’s a lot of teenagers with instruments in their hands. Now I have a plan, but some might think it has disaster written all over it. I couldn’t be more excited, because I can see it working, and it is glorious, loud, fun controlled chaos. God wired me with not only the vision, but the grace and anointing to handle such a three ring circus.

At the moment I do feel a bit like Rocky staring at a really tall Russian dude, thinking – “hmmm..maybe everyone’s right. maybe I am about to get clocked in the mouth!”

But I know that when God gives us a vision, He doesn’t ever drop the ball. Me getting knocked out is not part of His plan. I might find myself on the mat a few times, but I know if I keep the vision before me I will always get back up.


new level, new devil.

One of my favorite preachers says “new level, new devil;” and I suppose that is where I am finding myself right now. Like when you start a new level in a video game and you haven’t figured out all of the traps and tricks yet, and you are getting your tail kicked, and burning through all of your lives in 5 minutes. You know you can figure it out eventually, but it’s a harder level, and at first you are yelling at the screen saying “dude, no fair, there is no way I can beat this level.” But we know what happens. You eventually get it, and you beat it. Sometimes after 100 tries. You have new moves, new skills, and new weapons – which is good, because you will need them more than ever on the next level. Because there is always a next level. And it is always more challenging than the one before. Until the game is completely over.

I know as worship leaders we shouldn’t be surprised when we are attacked, especially on the day of or hours before we lead. You would think I know the drill by now, and I do, but the game has changed a bit and I am in need of a new drill.

Usually the drill is this: the day I am leading, usually a few hours before, I start to feel a certain weight. It’s actually a physical feeling, and at times I can feel it pressing in pretty heavily. And then little things here and there happen that seem to challenge my reactions and emotions. I do my best to stay focused, remind myself my battle is not with flesh and blood (people) but with the enemy, and I just keep moving forward, keeping my mouth shut, only opening it in prayer or to rebuke the enemy when it gets really heavy. I stay fairly quiet during those hours except for those 2 things if at all possible.

And then I get on stage and about halfway through the set I can feel it break off. The heaviness leaves and the enemy gives up. I go home breathing a lot easier and completely peaceful, and a little tired. That’s one level I’ve been playing over and over again, because I feel pretty confident there. But I guess I accidentally cracked some code or moved up some elevator, because I am on a new floor, and I am getting my tail kicked. I am disoriented and losing my weapons, much less learning how to use new ones.

I don’t think it’s any accident that the armor of God is depicted as just that – armor. There are chinks in armor. And I am figuring out that’s why it says in Ephesians that even after you have it all on, after you’ve done everything else, you still have to stand. Almost as if suiting up doesn’t always mean you won’t escape unscathed. Because of those darn chinks.

Lately the weight has been accompanied by personalized arrows aimed directly at those chinks. The enemy knows our weaknesses, and everyone’s chinks are in different places. And honestly, they don’t even feel like arrows. They feel like bullets from a machine gun. They are extreme and they hurt, attacking everything from small worries to huge things, going so far as to question my place in my calling, or in ministry. They incite tears and sometimes panic. Again, this is not coming from flesh and blood, but straight from the enemy. And I also know that I have control over how much I let those things hurt me or worry me. But I haven’t figured out that trick on this level yet. Because the weapons are new. The bullets are different. New level, new devil.

Recently, it was so heavy that for the first time, sitting in the service during the message waiting to go up for the last 2 songs, I thought, “this is too hard. no fair. there is no way I can withstand this.” I’ve never thought that before, and have never been tempted to meditate on it – which I didn’t, I at least figured out that feeling the pressure of that thought was okay, but meditating on it was not. It was no accident that about that time in the sermon, our pastor started to speak scripture directly related to the power of the Holy Spirit, and the counter advances of the enemy.

When he started to speak those verses out loud, I felt a shift inside my Spirit. I knew there was about to be a victory in the room, and went up to do the last songs. And the very moment I sang the first line of the song I was leading, it broke instantly. And the enemy ran. And the power of God was so strong in that room, the enemy knew he didn’t stand a chance. It had nothing to do with me or some awesome song. God needed to do something *through* that song in many different hearts. The spiritual multiplication of what would happen during that song was too big of a number apparently and the enemy was not happy.

So I had the “a-ha” moment. That moment where you go, “oh, that’s why I was attacked all day.” It has nothing to do with me being important or good at leading, and everything to do with me being an open vessel for God to work through. Because honestly, I just open my mouth and put my hands in place on the guitar and assume the stance, and God really does everything else. I wish I could describe what it feels like.

I thought that was a level that I had completed. Nope.

Today was more of the same, if not at a higher velocity and pressure. I am still not good at this level, so I am still letting the bullets rip too deep. I’m human, so I’m learning. But man, these things are firing so fast.

The other thing I’m learning is that more often than not, as the leader I am the only one that is absorbing the weight of the attack. Not because I’m some strong awesome person, but because God has called me and appointed me to do this, and it comes with a price. And most of the time as leaders we have to absorb 90% of the attack because the rest of the group doesn’t have the same grace that we do. And you don’t have to be the leader in charge to feel it – maybe you are leading a certain song that night that the enemy does not want sung. Or maybe you are about to have a conversation with someone that God will use to change a life. It’ll happen. And you will have a grace and strength on you that the others won’t have at that moment. But they will have their moments too.

At least today I figured out that I was in fact on the same level, so I had a little more of a heads up that tonight was going to be amazing. And it was.

We tried “Beautiful Things” in its entirety tonight, and I’m not even sure what happened. I didn’t even sound like myself, my voice was different. The band sounded different, better than ever – powerful yet very delicate at rare moments that we didn’t even rehearse. About halfway through the song, God started unlocking hearts in the room. One by one. I could feel it. And all of a sudden it was worth it. And all of a sudden I realized the difference between today and last Wednesday – the thought of ”I can’t handle this anymore” never entered my mind. Not once.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still bleeding and weary from this day. I haven’t figured out the recovery process yet on this level. It’s a bit messy and lonely. Doing what I know to do, staying close to the Word and close to people, doing the next right thing, putting one foot in front of the other. Watching an episode of Parks and Rec and laughing just like normal. And maybe going to bed early.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this level and I don’t want to fence myself in with my own words in that regard. This is all I know: I’m not the strong one, God is. I accept my weakness in order to receive His strength. I am not enduring this to receive blessings, because truth be told, they don’t always show up soon – I’m enduring this because I love Jesus, and it’s the very least I can do compared to what He endured for me. And no matter how much those bullets hurt, no matter how long it takes for me to learn the discipline of not letting them touch my skin, it is always, ALWAYS worth it. Until the game is completely over.


coming down from the mountain

I just returned from close to 16 days of nothing but summer camp. It was an amazing time, and many students not only came to know Jesus for the first time, but also learned how to worship for the first time. What a blessing to be there and see their faces light up for Jesus.

Camp is a huge mountain top experience for me, and I’m sure you have your own, be it a CD project, an Easter program, or anything else monumental on your desk.  I have learned that after coming down from the mountain I tend to be not just tired, but drained emotionally as well.  The influence of being drained emotionally shouldn’t be underestimated – it can be a slightly unpleasant filter that we see everything through. Here’s what I’ve learned from coming down from the mountain:

1) Don’t contemplate huge life decisions.

When I am every kind of tired, I find myself pondering life, work, and everything under the sun. I don’t know why that is, but it happens like clockwork every year about this time. If I am not firing on all cylinders, I have found it’s not a good time to obsess about big decisions or life changes.

2) Don’t panic.

Any time I finish a big project with great success, I tend to panic.  Without something huge to work on that says “look at me, I am working hard and doing a great job” in flashing lights, I tend to worry that I will look and feel like I’m being lazy and fading into the background.  We all have our high times in ministry, and sometimes we forget that it’s not that we’re being slackers, we’re just not giving 300% at the moment – we’re back to our normal close to 100%.

3) Don’t freeze up, keep moving.

There is always something on the horizon, and I have to celebrate the mountain experience, but also move on. I can think of 3-4 really big projects on my desk right now that have the potential to be just as amazing as far as mountain experiences go.  I may be tired and feel a sense of accomplishment, but there is much work yet to be done, and always will be until Jesus comes back.


it’s my most wonderful time of the year: summer

I know I promised part 3 of “training up the next generation,” but since it’s summer camp season, I thought I might interject some timely thoughts. Don’t worry, I will pick up with part 3 soon.

I am right in the middle of my busiest season – prepping to lead worship for summer camps and Vacation Bible School, all of which happen within 2 months. It is the most rewarding yet grueling time of year – so many logistics, so many cogs in the machine. Paperwork, endless set lists, entering lyrics for media folks, figuring out transportation, charts, rehearsals, making sure you have gear lined up and players ready to go, reminding your boys to pack deodorant, and troubleshooting all kinds of things. The funny thing is, once I actually get to camp, or start VBS, that’s the easy part. It’s the getting there that is so taxing. I’m in the window right now where you kind of work odd hours all day and night until things are as close to done as possible.

Whether it’s camp or any other huge event you are prepping to lead worship for, remember 3 things:
1) Don’t get surprised every year when the enemy attacks
2) Keep your eyes on Jesus, stay in worship, and the enemy will flee
3) Remember your team is watching you and following your lead

I am sure the first 2 are familiar to you and need no explanation, but let me share what I’m convicted about concerning the 3rd point.

Several years ago I was having a rough night on stage during sound check, and at the end of the night one of our sound guys said “wow, you looked like you were really ticked at us!” I didn’t even have any idea I had let it show that much. No wonder they were tense – I was leading, and they were following!

My band members and even our tech crews and media teams will always pick up on the vibe I am giving and follow my lead. If I appear panicked, stressed, rattled – especially on stage – it is infectious. So when our truck breaks down on the road, or we bust through a kick drum head, or our kazoo player misses rehearsal at camp because he slept in – no matter what, big or small, all eyes are on me. I am going to be leading them no matter what. If I can stay in an attitude of worship when things get a little tough, I am actually modeling and leading what a life of worship looks like. That doesn’t mean I never get frustrated, but I have to strive for a “spiritual override” that rises above it all.

…..Even when your truck breaks down on the way to camp, and then you get the new truck and have to move all of the gear over which takes 2 hours, and then THAT new truck breaks down….and then the guy driving the new truck that finally gets you there accidentally runs into a really huge tree as you are trying to load-in in the middle of the night, and it falls over and takes out half of the parking lot… and then the truck you rent for the drive home at the end of the week breaks down too. True story. And I hope right now you are recalling some of your own stories and laughing a little as well.


training up the next generation, part 2

In my last blog, I mentioned a revelation I had about a new training technique which involved new players shadowing older players, so this week we’ll put some wheels on it and hopefully give some practical starting points.

As quickly as possible, have younger students who have a desire to play “shadow” one of the older students in your rehearsal. They don’t even have to plug in! They can stand next to their “trainer” and get one-on-one coaching right there in the middle of your rehearsal.

They can rotate in and out, playing “live” with the other band members. By doing this, you have immediately empowered your older students, which gives them buy in, and you’ve also multiplied yourself! Now you have more time to be a pastor, and be fully present while your students handle the details.

Here’s the added bonus – when you need a player at the last minute, now you have an immediate pool of students who know your material.

If having all of this go in on the middle of your rehearsal is too stressful, your other option is to find another time. I first tried this system out in between our two Sunday morning services. We had a 40-minute block of time where we were just sitting around anyway, so we decided to have our training time then – that way it didn’t overload my rehearsals, and didn’t add another night to the schedule.

Regardless of the logistics of “when,” I encourage you to not wait and just jump in and try it on any level you are able to handle. Maybe right now you don’t have the luxury of an empty block of time, so you can only handle one player shadowing another – that’s great, start there!

In the next blog we’ll talk about some more details of what I have learned as far as what works and what doesn’t work as far as teaching methods go during those training sessions.

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